How to choose the right essential items for your capsule wardrobe

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May 18, 2023

Essential items form the skeleton of your closet.  They are the foundation of your capsule wardrobe, and your personal style, and are what will make it easy for you to build outfits.

When your collection is missing those key pieces, it prevents you from wearing the outfits you want to wear and you end up wasting time trying to figure out alternative outfits, rather than spending time doing what you actually want to be doing!

But how do you know which essential items you should have in your closet? How do you figure out what those key pieces look like for you?

Well, I've spent the past 17 years creating capsule wardrobes for my clients that fit and suit them, and create a whole host of fail-safe outfits that reflect them!  And while each collection is unique to each client; each one is created from a tried and true 10 piece template that I adapt to suit each clients needs.

In this post I'm sharing my tips and advice to help you figure out what your unique wardrobe essentials are, so you can start to build a capsule collection of clothes that is right for you.

So, if you're ready to create a versatile, easy to use collection of clothes that aligns with your tastes and makes getting dressed easy and fun, scroll down!

How to choose the right wardrobe essentials for your capsule wardrobe

figure out what you need your wardrobe essentials to do for you

Assembling a strong collection of essential items isn’t a cut and paste process.  We're all different with different shapes, tastes and lifestyles.  And that means that we all need a different set of wardrobe essentials.

So the first step to uncovering what those wardrobe essentials should be, is to figure out what you need them to do for you.  And the best way to do that is to think about the 4 following things:


Your lifestyle

The clothes you have in your collection should work for your lifestyle. There’s no point in 20% of your closet being dressy, if you only need to wear dressy outfits 5% of your time.  Think about what you do day to day, and proportion your closet accordingly.


Your shape

You want the clothes that form the backbone of your collection to fit you really well, and flatter you as much as they can. If they don’t, you’ll not want to wear them and on the odd occasion that you do wear them, you’ll feel crap in them.  So it’s a good idea to keep your shape in mind while you create your list of essentials.  If you're not sure what your shape is, take my FREE body shape quiz to find out!


Your personal style

You’ll want your essentials to align with your personal style if you want it to reflect you.  So have a think about your style and the clothes that align with that and make you feel like you.


Your likes and dislikes

This might seem like an obvious one but with social media and retailer newsletters ramming the current popular styles down our throat every. single. day. you can be forgiven for succumbing and purchasing something you might not usually buy. Put the latest trends to one side and remind yourself which shapes, styles, colors and prints you really like, and then add more of this good stuff to your collection.

Download my FREE workbook to help you find the right essential items for you?

Find out what wardrobe essentials you should have in your closet

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How to choose the right wardrobe essentials for your capsule wardrobe

3 exercises to help you work out what your unique wardrobe essentials look like

It can be a bit overwhelming trying to decipher what your essential items  might look like so here are 3 exercises that will help you?


Document your daily outfits

Keeping a record of what you wear day to day will help you uncover which pieces you wear the most.  Once you've identified which clothes you enjoy wearing the most, take a closer look at them and try to work out what it is about them you like - is it the style, the colour, the type of clothing, etc... Your key pieces need to be clothes you will want to wear again and again, so it's  good idea to make sure they include some of your favorite elements.


Look for the gaps in your closet

Do you have clothes that you like, but never wear because you don't have quite the right thing to wear them with?  That missing item might be an essential, that if added to your collection, will create a whole host of other looks.  I wrote a post HERE that will help you identify what the gaps are in your closet


Look for any themes in your current collection

Head to your closet and look for themes  Maybe you have a thing for striped tops, or skinny jeans, or white shirts…  When you like something, you tend to gravitate towards it when your shopping and end up buying more of the same.  Now yes, if you have a penchant for all 3 of those things, they could definitely be 3 of your essential items, but the key to versatility is having different styles to choose from so think about other versions of these pieces you might add to your collections.  For example, rather than yet another pair of skinny jeans, you could add a pair of cropped kick flares

create your list of wardrobe essentials

Once you've got a clear idea if what your essential items need to do for you, and what they should look like, you can start to think about what those key pieces might be.  

There's no right or wrong essential item...just what's right for you, so try not to get too bogged down in researching 'the must have wardrobe essentials' or what every women should have in her closet' -

Use the info you gathered from part one to guide you instead, along with my very general list of 10-12 items, below to start you off.  

And remember, you're not trying to build your entire wardrobe here, just the key pieces that will hold all your outfits together, so your list doesn't need to be big!

10 essential items to consider

  • 2 to 3 items for your bottom half
  • 5 tops
  • 1 dress
  • 1 light weight jacket
  • 1 heavier weight jacket

There's a more detailed list for you to use as a template, in the workbook, so if you want more guidance make sure to download HERE.  But PLEASE use it is a guide, and tweak and adapt it to suit you. 

Once you have your list, head to your closet to see which of those you already have, and then add the rest bit by bit.  

If you build your capsule collection around those key pieces you’ll find you wear more of what you have as it will be much easier to put outfits together.

Imagine that! No more staring into an uninspiring collection of clothes wondering why you can’t find anything to wear, wishing you could be more deliberate and cohesive with your style!

If you found this post useful, you might like these:

How to make the most of your existing wardrobe and make new outfits with old clothes

the 4 steps to making better use of your closet

There's lots of potential hanging in your closet, you just can't see it at the moment! This post shares the 4 steps that will help you unlock that potential and turn your jumbled closet into an easy to use, versatile collection clothes

8 Simple Tips To Help You Put Together New Outfits With Your Clothes

8 tips to help you build more outfits with the clothes you have

These tips will help you to be more creative with the clothes you have, so you can make more outfits and stop saying you have nothing to wear!

find out your true body shape

This post will help you find out which body shape aligns with your shape the most, so you can dress to show it off to it's best, and put a stop to disappointing outfits that steal your confidence!

Hi, I'm Niki

author and personal stylist

Over the past 18 years I’ve freed thousands of women from the frustration of disappointing outfits, by showing them how to dress to make the most of their shape, and helping them build a closet that's easy to use and fun to wear.  My blog shares the tried and true tips and knowledge I've developed, to help you stop wasting money on disappointing clothes, and build a closet you enjoy wearing.

You can find out more about Niki here

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