Raise your hand if you’ve ever stood in front of your closet tearing through your clothes trying to find something to wear only to come up empty handed. We like to call it dresser’s block (like writer’s block, but for dressing yourself), and trust us, we’ve all been there. But what if we told you that there’s a solution that can end wardrobe frustration once and for all? Allow us to introduce you to the art of the capsule wardrobe, the minimalist fashion approach that will make your life so much easier.
Now, taking a minimalist approach to fashion is nothing new. But having spent countless months indoors has made more and more people evaluate what they actually need versus what they don’t, and nothing is more applicable to this than your closet. For most of us, the pre-pandemic relationship we had with fashion has ended. No longer curating looks to go out or head to work in has put a spotlight on our consumption of fast fashion, forcing us to reevaluate the need for sustainability. This is where capsule wardrobes come in.
Curious? Scroll down to see some of our tips on how to get started, plus what a capsule wardrobe looks like IRL, so you can start simplifying your closet and never have to say “I have nothing to wear” ever again.
Think of the process of creating a capsule wardrobe like a detox for your closet, with the end goal being to save you time getting ready in the morning and to save you money. A capsule wardrobe consists of a set number of versatile pieces that can be easily mixed and matched with one another—basically you can reach into your closet blindfolded, pick different items out and they’ll match perfectly regardless of what you’ve selected. But beyond that, it allows you to have a new approach when it comes to shopping because of the structure it provides. Knowing that you have a set style amongst the pieces in your capsule helps deter you from impulse buys that end up collecting dust in the back of your closet.
A capsule wardrobe typically consists of 37 different clothing items (although it can be more or less): a certain number of dresses, shoes, tops, bottoms and outerwear. As the seasons change, so should your capsule wardrobe. For example, during frigid winter months, you’re most likely going to have more sweaters and coats in the mix, whereas with summer it’ll consist of flowy sundresses, shorts and tank tops. However, if you’re not sure how many you should have for each category, aim for about five pairs of shoes, three pieces of outerwear, two dresses, nine bottoms and 18 tops.
Step one is pretty obvious: Clean out your closet. And by clean it out we mean literally take every single piece of clothing and lay ‘em out so you can see it all better. Slowly but surely, make your way through each piece, keeping what you want and donating (or discarding, depending on condition) what you don’t. (Hint: If you can’t remember the last time you wore something, toss it.) Take note of the pieces you’re OK to get rid of and which you truly love—or as Marie Kondo would say, which pieces spark the most joy. Is there a consistent aesthetic with them? Similar colors or textures? Find the common denominator between what you’ve decided to keep and ta-da, you’ve found your personal style. From here, start to curate different pieces that fit within your newfound aesthetic, making sure everything you select has the same vibe and overall style.
With jeans, trousers, flowy skirts or denim shorts, a white T-shirt will, quite literally, never let you down.
Product we love: A Day Made It T-Shirt ($88)
For when it’s too hot to wear your white tee, of course.
Product we love: Everlane the Ribbed Cutaway Tank ($30)
Not only is this cut super-flattering, it’s also a fabulous layering piece when you don’t want to add too much bulk.
Product we love: Everlane the Ribbed Mockneck Tank ($30)
It doesn’t have to show your midriff: Paired with a high-waist silhouette, a crop top can be totally elegant.
Product we love: Lulus One Shoulder Crop Top ($38; $25)
We love linen for how lightweight and breathable it is. No to mention that it goes with everything.
Product we love: A Day I’m Flaxible Linen Crop Top ($115)
Crisp, clean, versatile and guaranteed to become one of your most used pieces.
Product we love: Madewell Painter Shirt ($80; $57)
Leave this baby unbuttoned and pair with a white crop top and some denim.
The subtle micro-gingham and bow tie straps makes this a sweet and simple neutral top.
Product we love: Everlane The Flowy Cami ($40; $20)
A classic basic that goes with just about everything.
Product we love: Bayse Deep V Crossover Bodysuit ($80)
This baby comes in three muted, neutral hues, making it an ideal snuggly sweater for fall.
Product we love: Everlane The Oversized Stroopwafel Turtleneck in ReCashmere ($165)
Suffice to say that we are thrilled sweater vests are trending. Keep warm and layer this over one of those aforementioned button downs.
Product we love: Madewell Cropped Sweater Vest ($68)
Have you ever seen a more autumnally appropriate shade for fall? Didn’t think so.
This tan blazer is one of those pieces that effortlessly brings a whole fit together.
Product we love: Madewell Lightspun Dorset Blazer ($138)
An oversize denim jacket is always a must.
Product we love: Madewell The Oversized Trucker Jean Jacket in Hunton Wash ($128; $110)
Beloved for adding an edgy touch to any fit, a leather jacket is a timeless closet staple every capsule wardrobe needs.
Product we love: H&M Leather Shirt Jacket ($35)
A warm chocolate toned puffer that couldn’t be more perfect for the upcoming fall season if it tried.
The quilted stitching adds the ideal amount of texture to this stark, crisp jacket.
We simply cannot resist the Bridgerton vibes this breezy maxi gives off. *Adds to cart immediately*
Product we love: H&M Voluminous Maxi Dress ($35)
No closet is complete without a satin slip dress and this black number certainly fits the bill.
Product we love: Dannijo True Black Slip Dress ($295)
A little black dress is a timeless staple for a reason. Pair this baby with with your fave outerwear and sneaks and you’re good to go.
Denim shorts are the unsung heroes of capsule wardrobes everywhere. Whether you’re pairing them with a white tank and oversized blazer or a flirty blouse and some sandals, these blues go well with everything.
Product we love: Topshop A-Line Mom Shorts ($58)
These are going to be your next favorite pair of jeans. Just trust us.
Whoever said you can’t wear white after Labor Day was fooling themselves. Just think of how cute these would look with a warm-toned crewneck and some Chelsea boots.
Product we love: Reformation Cynthia High Waist Relaxed Straight Leg Jeans ($138; $82)
These have that ideal straight leg fit that is so flattering.
Product we love: Madewell Roadtripper Supersoft Pull-On Jeans in Brendan Wash ($98)
This dusty rose shade works wonderfully as a neutral base that also gives a slight pop of color.
Product we love: NONchalant Fabi Pants ($284)
The cinched waist and zipped front on this little number gives the classic overall silhouette a modern and sophisticated upgrade.
Every capsule wardrobe needs some high-rise shorts in a warm-toned neutral.
Layer this over any tank or top to give your fit an extra boost of cozy.
Product we love: The Knotty Ones Jurgis Cardigan ($150)
The raw hem on this mini adds a cool, textured touch.
Product we love: Free People Bea Cutoff Denim Skirt ($78; $47)
Don’t be afraid to incorporate pretty patterned pieces into your collection.
Product we love: Reformation Bea Midi Skirt ($128)
If tan isn’t really your vibe, these sky-high mules come in plenty of other shades, so you’re bound to find a pair that matches your vibe.
These bad boys are so cool, we won’t blame you when you wear them every single day.
From a midi slip dress to some jeans and a white tee, these sporty sneaks complement any fit.
Product we love: Veja V-10 Sneakers ($150)
If you haven’t hopped on the loafer trend, what are you waiting for? Snag this chunky iteration and step up your shoe game.
Product we love: Sam Edelman Laurs Platform Loafers ($150)
These platform thongs can easily be dressed up or down to your heart’s desire.
Product we love: Vince Nell Platform Flip Flop ($195; $117)
Ballet shoes are making a comeback and what better way to incorporate the trend into your wardrobe than with this pair of simple yet chic tan flats.
Without a doubt, these boots were made for walking.
PureWow may receive a portion of sales from products purchased from this article, which was created independently from PureWow’s editorial and sales departments.