Building a capsule wardrobe is not something you can do one Sunday afternoon. In fact, if you’re very demanding when it comes to fashion shopping, it will take a while but eventually, you end up with a wardrobe that consists only of pieces that clearly reflect your style. If that sounds good, here are a few steps to follow.
Start with a style concept. You might have a clear idea, a vague one (where you’d use certain meaningless words like ‘casual’ and ‘classic’ to define it) or you might be looking to create one from scratch. My favourite way to do it is write down ten pieces that you’d want in your closet if you had nothing else. Consider the occasions and the versatility of these pieces. How many complete outfits can you create? If you’re lucky, you’ll already own a few of them. Also, if you want to completely re-vamp your wardrobe but are on a budget, these ten pieces are the ones to focus on. Most likely you will end up with a general idea of your signature look (say you’d basically wear jeans and tee everyday). Feel free to have a look at your wardrobe at this point and if you need to downsize, get rid off all the items that you wouldn’t buy again if you lost them. Only leave behind the pieces you love or need for now (to have enough clothes to wear).
Talking numbers, there is a bunch of approaches. There is Project 333 (33 items every 3 months), 30×30 (a good beginner’s challenge is you’re not ready to fully streamline your closet yet) or even Ten-Item Wardrobe (which includes 10 core pieces but not basics). It is your wardrobe so don’t feel like you can’t go over the 33 limit. It really doesn’t matter as long as you structure your wardrobe properly. In terms of seasons, I’ll personally switch turtlenecks for tank tops and so on but the core of my wardrobe remains the same (since my uniform is either a suit or a dress).
Most of capsule wardrobes I’ve seen people show are quite casual. Now, it is obvious everyone will have different needs and so that will reflect the ratio between casual and formal pieces in their closet. It’s not a deal-breaker. I dress formal most of the time. The other time I’d wear something more paired down but by my standards, it’s still quite smart. If you spend most days in a corporate office it’s probably a good idea to allocate most of your pieces there and then leave the rest for casual pieces. Even if you like those more, the reality is you need more formal wear. Or you have casual dress code at work but a wardrobe filled with fancy dresses. Once you realise that, you become more aware of what you actually need.
Find versatile pieces that you could wear to multiple occasions but most importantly pieces you feel comfortable wearing (or if dress code is in question, you’re within it). Because the idea of capsule wardrobe is primarily to create a selection of pieces that will all go well together, keep in mind that you need enough pairs of tops, bottoms, cardigans. Don’t just go having two pair of trousers and twenty tops. Although, I might be guilty of that but ideally, get some balance in different categories. With 18 tops, 9 bottoms, 4 dresses and 4 jackets, while the balance might not be ideal, it works for me and my lifestyle.
If you get your 10 core pieces down, you’re really half-way there. You have an image of your closet. And from there evaluate what you already have and what you’d like to have. Write a list of things you want to buy. You don’t have to buy them at once. Take your time and wait till you find the right piece. I’m still looking for the perfect black dress but every time I find one, I don’t think it’s quite right. That’s okay, you don’t want to buy something and then just have it collect dust when you finally find the item that meets your expectations. If you’re having trouble identifying those pieces, write down what you need for different times (work, weekends etc.) or maybe there is a particular style you like (leather trousers, pencil skirts etc.). Build your capsule around your core 10 and those pieces (if they’re different).
I’d also say, hang up as much as you can. When it’s hung up, you can easily see how many choices you have as opposed to a bunch of stuff folded up which just results in you picking up the piece that you can see on top. To quickly sum up: evaluate your content, create a style concept, indentify your core pieces, shop mindfully. My key rule for capsule wardrobe are balance, quality, versitality, no second-best buys and organisation.
If you end up stuck at some point trying to ‘complete’ your capsule, don’t worry. Wear the pieces you already own and don’t feel pressured to buy something just to cross it off your list. The key here is very simple. When in doubt, don’t buy.