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How to Build a Capsule Wardrobe (Plus a Capsule Wardrobe Checklist)

Are you interested in building your capsule wardrobe but aren’t sure where to start? With so many benefits, capsule wardrobes are quickly becoming a favorite among minimalists, cost-conscious fashionistas, and anyone exhausted from outfit planning! 

Nearly everyone appreciates the time and money savings along with the stress relief that comes from building a capsule wardrobe, and with the help of our easy-to-use capsule wardrobe checklist, you can build a wardrobe you’ll love for every season. 

The good news is, to start your capsule wardrobe, you don’t need to shop until you drop. Instead, start with what you have in your closet. The purpose of creating a capsule wardrobe is to pare down what’s in your closet until all you have left are the capsule wardrobe essentials.

In this chapter of our guide, we’ll cover what capsule wardrobe essentials are and take you step-by-step through how to build a capsule wardrobe (capsule wardrobe checklist included!).

Selecting Your Capsule Wardrobe Essentials

A capsule wardrobe relies heavily on foundational pieces that are outfit essentials. To include these essentials in your capsule, they must also be pieces you love. 

Depending on how large you want your capsule to be, you may want to tie in more basics until you reach your desired number. Most capsules are between 25 and 50 pieces, but you can play around with that number until you reach a capsule size you like.

When building your capsule wardrobe, while swimwear and outerwear do count as part of your capsule, loungewear, underwear, and workout wear do not count. This might bring you some relief when trying to narrow down pieces.

When you select your capsule wardrobe essentials, keep an eye out for pieces of clothing that can be multipurpose. A single article of clothing that works well in a variety of ways expands your wardrobe options. Look for pieces that can be dressed up or down or can be styled in different ways. 

When creating a capsule wardrobe, you should aim to include one or two of your favorite items from each of these categories: 

  • Blouses
  • T-shirts
  • Sweaters
  • Blazers
  • Jeans
  • Pants
  • Skirts
  • Dresses
  • Jumpsuits
  • Swimwear
  • Outerwear
  • Shoes
  • Accessories (handbags, sunglasses, hats, scarves, etc.)
  • Jewelry

Of course, feel free to omit any categories that don’t apply to you. A capsule wardrobe is all about feeling good in your clothes, so only include clothing that fits that description for you! If you’re looking for inspiration, here is a sample year-round capsule wardrobe checklist to help you get started. Of course, you can create fun seasonal capsule wardrobes as well!

  • Tops & Blouses
    • 2 solid tops
    • 2 patterned tops
    • 2 blouses
    • 2 button-up shirts
  • Sweaters & Blazers
    • 2 sweaters
    • 1 blazer
    • 1 cardigan
  • Jeans
    • 1 dark-wash jean
    • 1 light-wash jean
    • 2 denim shorts
  • Pants
    • 1 dark-wash pant
    • 1 light-wash pant
  • Dresses & Jumpsuits
    • 1 occasion dress
    • 2 casual dresses
    • 2 jumpsuits
  • Swimwear
    • 2 swimsuits
  • Outerwear
    • 1 heavy coat
    • 1 light jacket
    • 1 leather jacket
    • 1 denim jacket
  • Shoes
    • 1 pair sneakers
    • 1 pair sandals
    • 1 pair flats
    • 1 pair neutral heels
    • 1 pair boots
  • Accessories & Jewelry
    • 1 pair sunglasses
    • 1 small purse
    • 1 large purse
    • 1 clutch
    • 1 leather belt
    • 1 scarf
    • 1 hat
    • 1 pair gold earrings
    • 1 gold necklace

Now that you understand what capsule wardrobe essentials and have seen a capsule wardrobe checklist in action, it’s time to learn how to build a capsule wardrobe easily and effortlessly. 

Step 1: Analyze Your Style & Lifestyle

To create a capsule wardrobe that will really work for you, the first step is to look at your style and lifestyle to understand what outfits will meet your needs. Ask yourself questions like:

  • What do I spend most of my time doing?
  • What staples take up the majority of my closet?
  • What styles do I gravitate toward?
  • What styles do I think I like but never actually end up wearing?
  • What pieces do I feel most confident in?
  • What pieces do I wear repeatedly?

You may have a general idea of what your style is, but when you ask yourself these questions, you’ll have a clearer picture of the type of wardrobe that fits you and your lifestyle. Capsule wardrobe essentials are different for everyone, and there’s really no wrong way to create a capsule collection.

Step 2: Audit Your Current Clothes

The second step to building a capsule wardrobe is to audit your current clothes. Chances are you have accumulated far more clothes than you even wear, and now is the time to look at your current clothes and accessories and audit what you have. Anything that you haven’t worn in a while should be donated.

It may feel difficult to let go of certain items of clothing but if they no longer serve you, it’s time to part ways. Remember that a capsule wardrobe should only consist of pieces you like, and that fit you well. So, there’s no reason to hold onto that pair of jeans you haven’t worn in years or the dress that’s never left its hanger because you’re waiting for the perfect occasion to wear it.

As you’re going through your closet, separate items into the following categories:

  • Year-round basics
  • Fall/winter
  • Summer/spring
  • Donations

As the seasons change, so will your capsule wardrobe checklist. By organizing your clothes by season, you can easily store items that belong in the spring capsule wardrobe when your closet is filled with clothes for your fall capsule wardrobe.

Step 3: Pick a Palette

Choosing a simple color palette is an important step when learning how to build a capsule wardrobe because it ensures everything in your wardrobe is complementary. First, you’ll want to choose your base color, which should be either navy or black.

Next, select neutral colors that coordinate with your chosen base color. Neutral colors include gray, white, cream, denim, or chambray.

After you’ve chosen your neutral colors, it’s time to choose one or two accent colors to add depth to your capsule. Depending on the season, these accent colors will vary. You may opt for rich purples or deep blues for your winter capsule wardrobe, while corals and reds may resonate better with your summer capsule wardrobe.

Step 4: Map Your Capsule Wardrobe

Now for the fun part! At this point, you will only have your essentials left and everything else donated, making room for what you love. Go through your essentials and begin mapping out outfits. Make a note of items that are missing and jot them down so you can start filling in the gaps.

While there may be some foundational pieces or accessories that you need to complete certain looks, you’re bound to be pleasantly surprised at how many different outfits can be made from the same capsule wardrobe.

Set your creative spirit free and mix and match tops with bottoms that at first glance you might not have seen as a match. Tie outfits together with the right pair of shoes, a complementary handbag, or jewelry that polishes your look. Most importantly, have fun creating each look!

Step 5: Repeat the Process and Buy With Intention

Each capsule is designed to wear for 3 months, or one season. At the end of each season, repeat steps 1 through 5. Continue to practice intentional purchasing by only buying specific pieces you need to complete outfits in your capsule or to replace articles of clothing that no longer serve you. 

The beauty of a year-round capsule wardrobe checklist is that it ensures you have all the pieces you need for every season, but also allows you the freedom to add seasonally specific pieces to your capsule for a well-rounded, customizable wardrobe. 

When you do buy new items for your capsule, remember the phrase quality over quantity. Quality is essential to capsule wardrobes as you’ll wear each piece over and over again. Intentionally shop for high-quality, long-lasting pieces you love that also fit in your capsule. 


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