Build Your Own Capsule Wardrobe

My recent post about changing our shopping habits has struck a chord with a lot of you, it seems I’m not alone in thinking the time has come to change how we see our wardrobes and how we shop.

Brilliantly, quite a few of you got in touch asking for advice and suggestions, and even gave some of your own – it’s great to hear from you and to hear your thoughts; I love writing this blog but when you take the time to get in touch and join in, it’s even better so thank you!  The most popular question asked was how you create a capsule wardrobe…it turns out that a capsule wardrobe is like the holy grail of styling!

So, what is a capsule wardrobe and why is it worth investing time and money in one? A capsule wardrobe is a hard working collection of clothes consisting of timeless staple pieces that fit beautifully and mix and match to create outfits for any occasion.  These pieces cannot be high trend items that will date quickly as they need to form the foundations of your wardrobe for years to come.

Get it right and you will be able to build and develop your style effortlessly and will find yourself spending less money on fewer items, yet will have many more outfits to wear – sounds good, right?

It all started back in the 1970’s, when Susie Faux (the founder of Wardrobe) came up with the concept of a capsule wardrobe.  The idea was then championed by Donna Karan in the eighties when she launched her 7 Easy Pieces collection which consisted of staple pieces that could be layered over black body suits and opaque tights to create outfits for a variety of occasions.  It was pretty radical at the time and a rather more conservative approach to styling and shopping than had been seen previously.

Today I feel the idea of a capsule wardrobe has been lost slightly.  There is so much cheap clothing available on the high street and so much choice that a capsule wardrobe containing only a few key pieces is so far from many people’s minds.  Why would you only buy one pair of trousers when you could afford to buy three cheaper pairs?

The reality is that while you might think that having a wardrobe bulging with clothes will give you more options, it won’t.  If you keep adding pieces to your wardrobe without much thought or because you don’t have anything to wear, you’re not solving the problem, you’re only making it worse.

How many of you have a wardrobe full of clothes but have found yourselves saying ‘I’ve got nothing to wear’?  See, it’s not the quantity of clothes in your wardrobe that matters; it’s the quality and versatility.

So, where do you start?  I don’t really like to give too many rules or constraints when advising my clients on their wardrobe and style, but I think that as I’m discussing how to pull together a capsule wardrobe, it is probably beneficial to have some kind of guidelines to go by. After all, the concept has been covered by many of the top stylists out there – so it is well thought out.

  1. Spend more, on less.  I’m not encouraging you to spend above and beyond your budget; I’m just suggesting that you should invest in the best quality that your budget will allow, rather than spending it on lots of cheaper, poorer quality items that won’t last and will need to be replaced often. 
  2.  Invest some time in finding the right items. We’re often so busy that buying clothes becomes something that we have to do quickly. This combined with such affordable prices probably means you make the decision to buy with little thought – does it matter if it’s not quite right when it’s so cheap?  Doing this will mean you’re compromising on an excellent piece for your wardrobe that WILL be right and will last longer.  Putting the time aside now to find the right pieces will save you time in the future.
  3. Think about your lifestyle and how you split your time.  For example, do you work full time or are you a full time Mum? Maybe you’re a combination of both? Now ask yourself if your wardrobe is proportioned accordingly?  When you’re building your capsule wardrobe it’s important to make sure you’re building a collection of clothes that suit you and your lifestyle – there’s no point in having is a wardrobe full of clothes waiting for an event that may never happen. 
  4. Choose only the items that fit beautifully otherwise you will have spent money on items that you’ll rarely wear and will end up needing to replace. We’re all guilty of purchasing an item because it looks nice on the hanger, is a gorgeous colour or (probably the most popular reason) because we saw a friend wearing it and loved it.  But even if you love the item, if it doesn’t look quite right on you…put it back.   
  5. Invest in a good selection of base layers; the items that are essential for layering, such as camisoles, tights and jersey basics.  It’s a good idea to have a variety of neutral colours that match your trousers and skirts
  6. Consider sticking to a colour theme.  Choosing neutral colours will give you the most versatility, but if you’re more into bold colours and strong prints then choose some staple pieces that are just that.
  7. Consider your style – there is no point in adding items to your wardrobe that you’re just not going to wear.  The magazines may be telling you that a pencil skirt is this seasons must have wardrobe staple, but if you’ve never worn one and aren’t too keen then don’t touch one.  Choose something that represents your style instead.
  8. Try to avoid items that are very on trend as these will date far too quickly.  The key to getting a capsule collection of clothes that lasts, is to choose items that will stand the test of time, after all, if you’re going to be spending a little more on these items then the last thing you want is for them to look out of date any time soon. Once you have a strong foundation of staples you can start to add the trend pieces, quirkier items and jewellery to add even more personality to your outfits and develop your style.
  9. Don’t forget about the accessories!  These are one of THE most important parts of any wardrobe and are often an afterthought.  I have a couple of scarves and a collection of necklaces that I will always wear no matter what the trends are…they are my fall backs.

Your capsule collection.   I’ve mentioned already that you need to pull together a capsule wardrobe that works for you.  My capsule wardrobe is probably going to look very different to yours, and that’s okay. It is very much down to the individual but in general it makes sense to have the following items:

  1. Jeans
  2. Smart trousers
  3. Casual trousers
  4. A skirt
  5. Day dress
  6. Something for the evening
  7. A tailored jacket
  8. A winter coat
  9. A lightweight coat or Mac
  10. A blouse
  11. A shirt
  12. A jumper
  13. A cardigan
  14. Camisoles
  15. Shoes –both flat and heels
  16. Tights
  17. Jewellery,
  18. A belt
  19. A bag

Once you have your capsule wardrobe sorted, this will form the foundations of your entire collection.

These pieces will be the items that you can rely on to create any outfit you need and will be able to be built on year after year.

You’ll be able to add the less expensive, on trend pieces to this each season, safe in the knowledge that you will always have something to wear with them.  And, as for it being boring?  Not a chance!  You’ll be able to pull together so many different outfits…it might even be fun 😉

So, how does your wardrobe weight up?  Do you think you can start to figure out what your capsule collection will look like?  Maybe you have some suggestions for us or have found some great items?  Make me smile and join in the discussion by commenting below…