1 garment + x others = a capsule wardrobe

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1 garment x X others = capsule wardrobe

It might sound like fashion algebra, but we’re not actually going to do math here.

I just want to talk about the concept of a capsule wardrobe. Or, to be more precise, concepts plural since the term can be used to mean a couple of different things.

What both concepts have in common is the idea of concentrating your wardrobe on the fewest number of items that can then be combined to create multiple outfits. The goal is minimal pieces, maximum mix and match.

So instead of owning, say, 20 things that can only be combined into that many outfits because many of them are wardrobe orphans, you have 20 things that can be mixed into twice as many combinations (or more).

Not only is a capsule wardrobe smaller in size, but out of necessity its items are in a style and fit that you love best. If you’re going to wear it over and over and over, you should feel fabulous when you put it on.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, then, the capsule wardrobe concept is often followed when building a whole new wardrobe. Starting over is easier when you start small.

Capsule wardrobe: Hardcore edition

The classic (and more hardcore) definition of the concept is to trim your entire wardrobe down to just a capsule collection of a few, hard-working items.

This doesn’t mean your whole wardrobe is 30 items. I’ve yet to come across anyone that zen or minimalist! Rather, you might have one capsule for each season, or possibly one per level of dressing, e.g. a casual capsule, a career capsule, and so forth.

When following this method, especially if you’re building from scratch, go for quality. Fewer pieces means you can spend more on each.

Masters of this method: Unfancy, Kendi Everyday

Capsule wardrobe: Gentle edition

There’s also a gentler variation in which you take one garment, like a shirt, then match it with a small set of other coordinating items to make a whole bunch of new outfits. From one wardrobe, you might have multiple capsule collections; many of the items in each will overlap.

This can also be a useful method for building a new wardrobe, too. Once you’ve edited out the pieces that no longer fit, take a look at what’s left. What can be added to create capsules out of the items you love?

This type of capsule wardrobe also makes a great packing list; you can make weeks’ worth of outfits from 10-20 items, a perfect size to fit in a carry-on.

Masters of this method: Wardrobe Oxygen, Une Femme

Capsule wardrobe: Hybrid edition

You can also do both.

My version of a hardcore capsule is the Core Wardrobe and it contains the basic wardrobe foundation items most everyone can build on: classic, timeless pieces that should last for years.

From this foundation I create capsule wardrobes of additional items around individual Core pieces.

Once you get the hang of it, the capsule wardrobe concept helps you shop better for things to go with what you already own, makes packing a little easier, and boosts your ideas for outfit creation.


Learn how to use the Core Wardrobe to build outfits for all occasions in “No More Yoga Pants: How To Dress Better, Shop Smarter and Reclaim Your Style,” the step-by-step style workshop that takes you from frantic to fabulous. Get started today!

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