Building Your Capsule Wardrobe

Posted on February 23, 2017 by Lindsay

Just the other day I gave a brief introduction into capsule wardrobes and why the idea is so appealing to me. Over the last few months, I’ve been slowly attempting to declutter my life in an effort to lower daily stress and switching to a capsule wardrobe is a huge part of that process. If you’re already on board, then I’ll show you how to take some time and game plan before you jump into creating your perfect closet.

In this post, I’ll dive into the introductory elements to building your capsule wardrobe and walk you through how I started putting mine together. Let’s go!


Editing an entire closet can feel like a monumental task for some of us. But if you take each step one by one and do a bit of planning, it will ultimately help you from feeling overwhelmed by the process. Here’s a good breakdown on how to get started:

1. Declutter your wardrobe

Start by tackling your existing wardrobe. Gather all of your clothing items together and then start going through each piece. Consider the following:

  • Does it have any issues with how it fits?
  • Would you happily wear it within the next week?
  • Was it purchased with a specific intention that it was never actually used for?
  • Seriously, do you ever wear it?

Try to look at your clothing objectively and determine if you need it in your life. Try to be as brutal as possible. When I did this, I created three piles: (1) Donate (or throw away if it was completely damaged) (2) Hold – reserved for items I was on the fence about tossing out and (3) Keep. If you go through everything and find that you didn’t want to part with a lot of your clothing, try editing again with a tougher eye. It’s okay to have a huge “Hold” pile if you feel more comfortable.

2. Inventory your items

Now that you have eliminated unwanted items in your wardrobe, the next step is to take stock of what you have left over. Organize your items by clothing type and jot down or type out exactly what you have. You don’t have to be super specific but it helps to take note of some defining characteristics like color or style. When you start itemizing your inventory you may find there are duplicates of some items which you can toss.

3. Define your personal style

The first two steps are designed to help you get over some of the more daunting aspects of the planning phase. I think it’s important to start with declutting before focusing on your capsule list because it helps you understand exactly what you like about your closet as well as what you should avoid. This next step is where creating your capsule starts to get fun.

Defining your personal style can be a strange concept to a lot of people, especially if you have a hard time narrowing down the right terms. All you really need to do is ask yourself a few questions:

  • What fashion decade do you gravitate towards? Do you like modern trends or timeless classics? Are you into the more structured looks of the 50s or loose-fitting garments of the 90s? This will help you think about a type of silhouette your into even if you don’t wear it every day. Are you interested in styles from every decade? No worries, just call your style eclectic.
  • Do you like a certain type of pattern? Are you all about floral or loud prints? Maybe you are really into stripes or plaids? This will help you think about what accents your wardrobe well. Even if you aren’t a pattern fan, knowing that will help you keep your wardrobe functional for you.
  • What do you find attractive? Of course there are plenty of different styles you might enjoy seeing on others, but what do you personally feel best in? Maybe you love the way you feel in a dress or perhaps you prefer a buttoned up blouse. It doesn’t matter what it is, just how it makes you feel.

Now you have a clear idea of the types of clothes that appeal to you. Expand on that idea further (and continue to narrow in on your core wardrobe) by defining your favorite color palette. Remember, this is for what colors you like to wear on your body and not just general colors you like.

SO if I was taking my own advice, I would now have a nice snapshot of my personal style: Retro-inspired androgynous basics, mainly black or grey with accents of dark green and shades of red. See, that wasn’t so hard.

4. Define your lifestyle

This next step involves a similar exercise to the last one. Here you want to forget about special events and focus on what your daily life is like. Besides the occasional wedding, my wardrobe can broken down into the following categories:


After you breakdown your lifestyle categories, think about what you do during these times and how it relates to your clothing. For the capsule I’m creating here, I’m going to focus on fall and winter items. Here is my personal list with explanations for an example:

Relaxed but professional dress code. I also walk my dog every day for lunch. Comfortable shoes are a must. Straight up comfort. Sweat pants, t-shirts, over-sized sweaters.
Casual. Jeans and a tee (+ graphic tees) Lots of hiking, some bike riding and camping.

So if you look through my example, a few things are easy to pick out. I don’t dress up very often, even for work, so I should have no problem narrowing down my dresses/skirts. I’ve listed t-shirts in more than one category so I know they will be a priority and so on.

Also technically, work out gear or in my case hiking clothing, doesn’t need to be considered in your capsule. I labeled it here just to give myself perspective on what (if any) items can overlap and be multi-functional.

5. Determine what you need

At this point, you should have a much better idea on what your capsule will look like. You know what clothing you feel best in and what you prefer to wear day-to-day. If you still feel like you have too many items, go through each category and determine what you can let go of by asking yourself if the item fits into your lifestyle or personal taste. Anything that doesn’t fit with your day-to-day can probably go. Same rules apply to similar shirts in the same color or styles you never find yourself comfortable enough to wear. It’s also okay to give yourself a little leeway with certain items that you’re having trouble parting with. Try putting them in the “Hold” pile for now.

Once you have reevaluated your wardrobe you may find that there are styles you love but don’t have a great piece for. Write down all of these items so that you can shop for replacements. For me, this included a few things: a versatile coat, quality tennis shoes, a well-fitting black cardigan and a sensible boot option. I researched each item looking for the exact traits I wanted before deciding on the “perfect” pick. By adding these 4 pieces to my wardrobe, I was able to get rid of so many unnecessary items. The more versatile the piece, the less you will need overall.

6. Organize

If you’re onto this step then you have pretty much made it! Now you know what you want your clothes to do for you and how to get there. Hopefully, you don’t have too many items left in your arsenal and you have a good handle on what you like to wear every day. If a few months have passed, it’s a good idea to do a quick edit of your wardrobe once again. Find out if there are pieces you still didn’t wear, ones your really missed having in your rotation or if you’d like to replace any items with something more versatile.

Just this past week, I went through this last step and discovered a few things. I have a problem with t-shirts. Yes, I know that they do cross multiple uses, but I hardly think I need so many. I also learned that I really enjoy wearing chunky sweaters in winter so I added a few from my “hold” pile back into rotation and got rid of some of my button-ups and cardigans. As for the final tally, this is what my capsule breakdown looks like (reminder: this does not include work out clothing, pajamas or special occasion wear):

  • PANTS: 2
  • T-SHIRTS: 10
  • DRESSES: 2
  • SKIRTS: 1
  • SHOES: 6
  • COATS: 2

I think that for the winter/fall season, my capsule looks and more importantly, feels great. I can pick out an outfit in seconds and I also have WAY less laundry to manage. This definitely deserves MISSION ACCOMPLISHED status.

As a final note, remember not to be obsessed with the numbers. The main goal of creating a capsule wardrobe should be all of the benefits it provides you so stressing out about having a certain number of items is silly. If you decide to go down the path to creating a capsule wardrobe, hopefully you will find yourself living a happier and less-stressed life as a result!

Would you be willing to try a capsule wardrobe?

Let me know what you think in the comments!


1 Comment

  • Rebecca February 24, 2017 at 12:57 pm

    I love this so much, I’ve been trying to cut down my wardrobe for years and swap for more versatile items but I don’t think I’ve quite got there… You’re totally right, having colours and things that match make packing SO much easier. I think it might be time to follow your lead!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.