7 steps to work a capsule wardrobe and still have plenty to wear

10 January 2019
By Fashion Quarterly

We’ve all felt that sense of impending doom; staring into our closet willing the perfect date-night-top or first-day-at-work-dress to call out from a line-up of fading fashions.

The baby doll top you now wouldn’t be seen dead in and the uncomfortable jeans you can’t even attempt to pull on are no help to you now, as they bow under the weight of an over-stacked clothing rack. As you cry ‘I have nothing to wear’ the epiphany hits: The fuller the wardrobe, the emptier you feel.

What is a capsule wardrobe?
The capsule wardrobe is a response to a creeping sense of buyer’s remorse as increasing accessibility to trending and affordable clothing tempts too many ill-thought out transactions. Essentially, it is an edit of one’s wardrobe down to versatile staples, and a few fun pieces, that encapsulate your personal style.

“…today’s capsule wardrobe is typically 50 or fewer garments.”

The term was coined by boutique owner Susie Faux, who created her magic formula in the ’70s. It goes: find your basics, throw in a few statement pieces and give or take when the seasons change. While there are no strict rules, today’s capsule wardrobe is typically 50 or fewer garments, which can be swapped out for others when the time feels right.

While it may sound daunting at first, taking the time to work out what styles really work for you will make it easier to get dressed with less and ensures you’re wearing something you love every day. A capsule wardrobe will give you the confidence to pull a look together in next to no time, meaning you can concentrate on the rest of your busy day without worrying about what you’re wearing.

7 Steps to Create Your Capsule Wardrobe:

Step 1: Cull

Empty everything out of your closet and drawers so you can survey the spoils and asses each item properly – you’ll likely find things jammed away that you haven’t worn in years!

You will need: A good friend – to keep you honest, and a glass of wine – to keep you strong.

Step 2: Critique

It’s easy to get swept into the fantasy of fashion but a capsule wardrobe must be practical. Example: How much time do you really spend traipsing across fields in whimsical dresses as you’d daydreamed in the changing room of David Jones? Ensure your maxi dresses are appropriate for your place of work as well.

Ask yourself: Would I buy this garment if I saw it in a shop today? Does it still fit well? Will I wear it in the next three months or so? How often would I wear it in one week? Is it versatile enough to wear in a few different scenarios, from work to the weekend?

Step 3: Categorise

Based on your critique, sort your clothes into three categories: ‘Love’, ‘Maybe’ and ‘Donate’. Don’t panic: Loungewear, activewear and underwear aren’t included in the capsule wardrobe – you can keep as much of those as you want.

“Loungewear, activewear and underwear aren’t included in the capsule wardrobe – you can keep as much of those as you want.”

The ‘Love’ pile will form the basis of your capsule wardrobe, with some ‘Maybes’ thrown in to make up the rest. This doesn’t mean you have to gift your unwanted clothes right away. Storing them somewhere safe, in case you change your mind, makes it much easier to let go.

Step 4: Colours

To ensure you’ll be able to mix-and-match your new wardrobe, choose your favoured shades for the main colour groups:

The neutrals: Plain colours that will go with all your other options.
The core colours: The complementary tones that always make you look and feel better.
The accent colours: Used to enliven and brighten outfits from time-to-time.


Step 5: Clarity

By now you should be starting to see some patterns – do you gravitate to soft, layerable fabrics or have a penchant for vibrant patterns? It’s good to note these nuances in case you have a missing piece of your capsule wardrobe to fill. Because guess what? You are still allowed to go shopping.

With impractical, impulse purchases put aside, you may find you’re missing a crucial item, like a smart blazer, to pull many of your outfits together. As you’ll be wearing the items in your capsule wardrobe more than you would those crammed in a full closet, investing in high-quality, intentional pieces is highly recommended.

Step 6: The Seasons

Many capsule wardrobers swap garments each season to cater to the elements and inject some newness. As we live a transeasonal lifestyle at Fashion Quarterly (and often experience four seasons in one day in New Zealand) we’d suggest doing a refresh once a month, especially when first embarking on the capsule challenge, so you can keep things interesting without worrying too much about the weather.

Step 7: Enjoy!

Last but by no means least, remember that developing a capsule wardrobe is a learning process. Its purpose is to make things easier and bring joy to women’s lives, so if you’re struggling to stay on the straight and narrow with your prescribed outfit options, cut yourself some slack. There is no right way to capsule. Being more considered and conscious of your shopping habits, and what’s already hanging in your wardrobe, is the most important part of the process.

Words: Jessica-Belle Greer
Photos: Getty Images

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