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If it were possible to make everything in your wardrobe work together, make dressing easier and much faster, reduce spending, and make fashion more sustainable would you be interested?
It may seem an overstatement, but discovering how to build a capsule wardrobe could actually transform the way you dress. Both how you approach dressing and the outfits you create.
Whether you’re a minimalist, love contemporary style, or even take a more avant-garde approach the basics of what is in a capsule wardrobe don’t change much. The style would, but not the fundamentals.
You collect pieces that work well together, won’t date quickly, and make dressing and creating an assortment of outfits easier.
They’re not the only pieces you should have but are the core building blocks for your wardrobe.
Keep scrolling to find out how to build a capsule wardrobe and discover my checklist to help make doing so way easier!
For a lover of fashion finding new pieces for your wardrobe can be quite a thrill. Having something fresh to choose from next time you
dress and seeing new outfits to create with that piece, it’s enjoyable.
However, buying without much consideration or purpose is not sustainable, for your wallet or the environment. This habit can result in ever increasing debt or simply an inability to make savings, plus excess manufacturing, chemical and waste pollution, and landfill, to name a few.
These issues are at the forefront of a capsule wardrobe and were key to the idea developing back in the 1970s.
So what is a capsule wardrobe?
Based on slow fashion principles building a capsule wardrobe is about investing in timeless, functional pieces as the foundations of your wardrobe and making more with less.
Eva Astoul from Sustainably Chic explains the capsule wardrobe well.
‘A capsule wardrobe is a limited selection of interchangeable clothing pieces that complement each other. These are often classic pieces that do not go out of style and are primarily composed of neutral colours. A capsule wardrobe allows you to create a variety of different outfits with a small selection of clothes.’
This doesn’t mean you have nothing other than these essential pieces, but encourages creating the foundations of your wardrobe with versatile fashion that won’t date for many years.
Meanwhile, you occasionally add a trend-led piece that doesn't share the same longevity, but excites your styling and keeps your capsule current.
As mentioned above a capsule wardrobe is the foundations of your closet, not the sumtotal. It’s the key pieces that add
versatility, longevity and reliability to your wardrobe, ensuring you can easily create outfits that work for you.
What is in a capsule wardrobe will differ depending on your lifestyle, your personal style and where you live.
If you’re living somewhere where winters are very cold then you’ll certainly need more warm woollies than someone like me living in Queensland, Australia where winter is pretty harmless.
Or if you much prefer an androgynous look to a more feminine one then you might not see the need for many skirts or dresses.
And if you have a lifestyle that involves a lot of socialising then you’ll probably look for more pieces that work for parties and dining out.
Basically, a capsule wardrobe is the collection of essentials that support your lifestyle as well as your personality.
Image: Hanna Lassen/Getty Images
To begin with, the capsule wardrobe isn’t just some transient fashion trend created by a marketing team to improve sales.
Instead, this idea began back in the 1970s when Susie Faux, the owner of a London-based boutique, Wardrobe, coined the term.
Her concept was to have a streamlined wardrobe, consisting of quality clothes, in colours and styles that were interchangeable and timeless. Her reasoning was to reduce buying and make wardrobes more coordinated.
Over 40 years on, those benefits are still significant, however, with the situation we face regarding climate change and the impact of the fashion industry on the environment, the idea has even greater relevance and significance.
One of the side effects of the short-term trends and relentless new seasons promoted by fast fashion is the waste that accumulates due
to endless manufacturing and continuous buying by customers.
With a capsule wardrobe this cycle is reduced significantly, as we reduce our concentration on trends and instead focus on making the majority of our wardrobe long-standing.
Although if we’re buying trends we’re probably finding them through low-cost fast fashion, this spending still accumulates
significantly over time. Especially if there’s no end to this sort of buying.
While one of the keys to creating a capsule wardrobe is investing in well-made fashion that will keep in shape for years to come this doesn’t mean you’ll be left spending more.
Instead accumulating a collection of timeless pieces that work so well together means you’re less likely to feel the need to grab ongoing quick fashion fixes and therefore reduce your spending.
Another benefit of building a capsule wardrobe is that it becomes much easier to create an outfit. Rather than being met by chaos and
overflow when you open your wardrobe and instead finding a healthy collection of well organised, well coordinated pieces, creating an
outfit is quick and simple.
No digging around, trying on endless outfits and disliking them all. You already know exactly what’s available, what works together and a variety of outfits you enjoy that can be made with each piece.
There wouldn’t be many people who’ve never had a negative experience when it comes to getting dressed.
Whether you’re trying to create a simple relaxed look or something more formal you’ve probably experienced your own negative banter regarding how you perceive your look when trying on what’s hanging in your wardrobe.
Removing pieces that lead to this self criticism and replacing them with pieces that complement you is a much healthier choice.
To begin with it may seem difficult to conceive what you’ll want in your wardrobe in the long run. But in no time this will
become clear and makes shopping much simpler as you learn exactly what you’re looking for to complement your key wardrobe pieces and
support your lifestyle.
Images: Hanna Lassen/Getty Images
To begin with building a capsule wardrobe can seem rather overwhelming. Where should you start? What’s involved? How do you choose the right pieces?
But really, it’s very practical and there are some basic steps to follow when you decide to take on this handy fashion challenge.
See below for the 5 most important tips when you’re learning how to build a capsule wardrobe.
When you set out to create a capsule wardrobe the first thing I would suggest is a closet
This means removing everything from your wardrobe and ruthlessly separating the pieces to keep for your capsule wardrobe from those
pieces your rarely, or never, use.
Just as keeping your work space tidy can help you be more productive, downsizing you wardrobe can help you create outfits more quickly and easily. It means less time standing in front of your wardrobe overwhelmed by the quantity and confusion of what’s there and struggling to create an outfit.
There are some simple questions to ask yourself when it comes to deciding if a piece is worth keeping:
Once you’ve separated your pieces there are a few options for making use of them rather than sending them to landfill or
stashing them in a cupboard somewhere.
When it comes to pieces that are in good condition you could try selling them through the growing number of second hand stores available online or good old eBay. Or you could offer them to friends and family or take them to a non-profit organisation like Lifeline.
For pieces that are no longer in great condition they could become household outfits or, if they’re really old, you could cut them into pieces to use for cleaning. No waste.
When you're returning the pieces you're keeping to your wardrobe after reducing your collection, try reorganising them into
groups - for example, jeans together here, pants there, tops - making it even easier to see what you’ve got to work with
whenever you go to dress.
As mentioned above, your lifestyle and the climate you live with are major factors when determining your capsule wardrobe essentials.
So it’s a good idea to stop and think about what pieces could be most useful.
I search for outfits on Pinterest that suit me and my lifestyle and save these ideas to help me decide what I'll need for the long-term.
Once you’ve cleaned out your wardrobe and have a clear idea of what you’d like to have, it’s time to keep an eye out
for the pieces you need for building a capsule wardrobe.
There are plenty of minimalist fashion brands offering timeless pieces and looking through these stores can be helpful, just to see what’s out there and what you’re drawn to.
Again there are some questions to ask yourself to help you make a decision when looking at new pieces:
When I recommend 14 pieces, I’m not suggesting that accounts for everything in your wardrobe, although you’re welcome to try! This number refers to the core of your wardrobe, the building blocks.
Your capsule wardrobe is a bank of clothes to draw your daily outfits from to which you add the occasional unique or trendy piece for more flavour.
My suggestion would be investing in pieces with classic shape and colour that have longevity as a major benefit.
To help you decide on the key pieces when you’re planning and investing, I’ve put together a capsule wardrobe checklist for you to refer to.
These are the pieces my personal experience has helped me decide are essentials. But as I’ve mentioned before, you’re free to adapt this list for your personal needs.
With these things in mind checkout the list I’ve put together to find the 14 most worthwhile capsule wardrobe essentials.
Let’s face it, there’s nothing like buying new clothes, awaiting their arrival and then imagining all the places you’ll wear them.
But it can happen in a less consumptive and more considered way, helping to reduce excess manufacturing, waste, landfill and overspending.
I hope you’ve found some really useful ideas here for how to build a capsule wardrobe, using my checklist to help you reduce over consumption. It’s totally achievable!
Happy downsizing and let me know how you go.