Top 5 Things to Know to Build a Capsule Wardrobe

PoshMom Editorial Team

Anything to shave off a few minutes of getting-ready time is something any mom can get behind, especially during the morning craziness that typically rules all of our households. Add on to that being less stressful, more efficient, super chic and uber sustainable and we are hooked. So just what is this concept that’s got us all excited? A simplified capsule wardrobe that makes getting dressed (and shopping) an easy-peasy and positive experience. We think this is a perfect New Year’s resolution if you’re having a hankering to head off the clutter in your life. Here, the top 5 things you need to know to build a capsule wardrobe.

What is a Capsule Wardrobe

Even those of us who are veritable clothes horses have many a day standing before our closets thinking “I have nothing to wear.” Well, if you haven’t been living under a rock (or your kids backyard play equipment), you may have heard about the concept of the capsule closet: paring down your wardrobe to the most essential and simple pieces that can be interchanged to create multiple fashion-forward outfits. The pieces are typically classic, less fast-fashion trends, high quality so they last for years and in neutral colors (and solids rather than prints), like beige, camel, black, navy and white. Essentially mixing and matching these select staple pieces makes for a variety of different outfits. Then, of course, you accessorize.

Where did the Capsule Wardrobe Come From

This fashion concept predates its latest trending moment on TikTok—maybe your pre-teens/tens have heard of the newest iteration? In fact, building a capsule wardrobe became popular in the UK in the seventies when store owner (now famed author and fashion expert) Susie Faux offered her customers neutral high quality items to counter them having to purchase big wardrobes that didn’t last more than a season. Obviously she is a mom and got the idea of less is more for our precious time, focus and budget! American designer Donna Karan adopted this concept in the 1980s with her Seven Easy Pieces line—models walking the runway for this show were dressed in the seven pieces in a variety of ways. It was a super success and pretty much made the argument that less is more when it comes to fashion. Three cheers for a minimalist interchangeable closet!

First step: Cleaning Out Your Closet

One of the most important of the top 5 things you need to know to build a capsule wardrobe is to get rid of what you don’t need. Two key things here: Don’t be too hasty in getting rid of what you think you don’t need. Like when you’re planning brown bag lunch menus for the week, be methodical. Start pilfering the pieces that you haven’t worn for 6 months or more. No deliberating. These pieces are gone, unless of course they are favorite shoes that you know are cyclical or a special item handed down from grandma that you can’t part with. Totally fine. Remember, the point of a capsule closet is to open in the morning and choose from stuff you absolutely adore—so keep the items that make your heart go pitter pat! The rest, though, are history. And continue to take note of what you are not wearing and pack those up. But don’t throw them away. Items that no longer work for you will be much appreciated to spots that welcome donations like Dress for Success, women’s shelters or other local organizations that collect clothes for those in need.

What to Keep or Bring in

Yes the idea of a capsule wardrobe is to pare down, but to do so, you might have to first purchase those key pieces that will endure. Less is only more here when you have the right pieces to play the game. So go through what you’ve got that qualifies, set them aside, wash or get them laundered so you are all set up. Then fill in with high-quality pieces (hit those post-Christmas sales when you are returning that upteenth baby doll your little one received from far-flung and seemingly childless relatives) that will last you for years. Everyone’s list will be different in terms of what you’re dressing for—whether work in office, work from home, casual or any other style you’re sporting. Here, some basics we find work well:

 

1. White button down

 Whether oversized or fitted, this shirt is an absolute staple to wear with anything from leggings to denim, under a blazer or stand alone. We like the ones from Vince and Zara.

2. Silk blouses

 These pieces can take you from work day to night out with a flip of a jacket and accessories. Look for some like these from Frame and & Other Stories.

3. Tees and Tanks/Camis 
 

Good quality tees (short and long sleeved) in white, gray and black. Ditto with the cami’s. These can be worn alone, under a jean or leather jacket or a blazer or layered under sweaters on cold days. We like pieces from brands Citizens for HumanityAritzia and BP Nordstrom.

4. Sweaters
 

Have a few “perfect” cardigans and pullovers in your closet—the neck style (v-neck, crew, turtleneck, mock) should be whatever you feel flatters most like these from SaksFifthAvenue and Ralph Lauren.

5. Pants
 

Jeans in flattering cuts (skinny, boot, etc) and washes from best-fitting brands including Mother, AGolde and Levis. One or two pairs of trousers, a pair of leggings rounds out this selection. Kick it up with a pair of leather pants that you’ll grab for more than you can imagine.

6. Dresses/Skirts
 

Keep a little black dress on hand that can be dressed up or down (take a page from your tween’s Converse in the closet). A leather skirt is also a must, like this one (or a mini) from Good American. A classic T-shirt or tank dress is also key.

7. Outerwear
 
This can vary, depending on your climate. That said, it typically gets cold at some point everywhere so you’ll want some combination of: A blazer, jean jacket, leather jacket, puffer, rain/trench coat and long wool coat.
Finally, Making Your Outfits

Now the fun begins. Hanging up your minimal closet and seeing all of the amazing possibilities! See how much easier it is to picture without all of those wayward pieces thrown into the mix? Think of it like you tell your toddler when they can’t decide what to play with: Choose one toy at a time—looking at all the possibilities together does get overwhelming and impedes already delicate decision making abilities. One tool that is at the tip top of the top 5 things you need to know to build a capsule wardrobe: the Capsule Wardrobe app. Download this and you will be as obsessed as we are, we promise. The app has you take pics of each clothing item—no need to style or make the perfect set. The app silhouettes the piece (just make sure it’s laying flat so you can see what it is) and lets you organize by category. Then…it lets you create outfits by scrolling top, middle and bottom feeds to mix and match. Could anything be more perfect? We literally feel like we are in Cher’s (Alicia Silverstone) closet in Clueless. Admit it, it’s like a dream come true. The difference? We are way pared down—no need for all of the extra for us. As if!