Some sources suggesting basic capsules

Having at last made my final Index page 5 which lists posts on co-ordinates and capsules, here are some other capsules which could be the starting point for a basic wardrobe.

There must be thousands of attractive inspiring outfits on the web. Apart from all the style blogs, Polyvore is set up to devise them, and there are multiple Pinterest pages.

A capsule is more than an outfit – a small group of co-ordinated clothes which can be interchanged to make several outfits.
Perhaps (2 tops, 2 bottoms) to make 4 outfits.
Or (jacket, shirt, 2 tees, pants, jeans) which together make 12 outfits to cover many situations.

Here’s my post on basic capsule options : building your wardrobe in small groups. Start with one capsule and simply add another similar.

There’s so much advice available on capsules and wardrobes, I’m amazed how many people aren’t aware of the idea 😀

Judith Rasband’s college textbook Wardrobe Strategies for Women bases wardrobe building on capsules.

Once you set up the basic pieces, every time you add a co-ordinating item it can double the number of possible outfits. See my post on the power of the boring.

There’s a discussion on minimalist wardrobes at You Look Fab.

Project 333 allows a free choice of what to include in your wardrobe, but to a limit of 33 items including : clothing, accessories, jewellery, outerwear and shoes. As many wardrobe planners suggest a basic group of 5 – 12 garments, that’s quite a generous allowance really 😀

If you find it easier to take inspiration from specific capsules or to react against them, rather than devising your own starting point, here are some of the many possibilities.

Some are specific enough to show a particular style. Some are just numbers of garments. Though even numbers have style implications. Most for example include 0 or 1 dress – no use if you love dresses.

Some of these groups just count clothes, some count both clothes and accessories. If you’re allowed infinite numbers of accessories, you can make infinite numbers of outfits with very few clothes, see the Uniform Project.

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Here’s an 8-item weekend travel capsule consisting of 4 garments, 4 accessories.

Or here’s a group of 6 garments – jacket, 3 tops, skirt, choice of 2 pants : The Kit (click on the photo for more detail about each style).

In style contrast, Perfectly Packed has a classic business wardrobe of 8 garments, which can be copied easily using two wardrobe patterns, see my post on classic style.

Tim Gunn’s 10 essential elements
His 10 items are clothes only, add accessories.
For example variants of this, see the middle of my post on your personal wardrobe plan.
And Imogen Lamport’s thoughts on this list and her own version.

Imogen has several suggested capsules for different lifestyles, mostly about a dozen items. Here’s her post on a capsule wardrobe of 12 items. And here’s her post on combining colours and combining prints, very ‘this season’ co-ordination.

Stylist Angie Cox also has a few posts on capsules at YouLookFab, and now has a section called Ensembles. (She uses the word ‘outfit’ for groups of clothes on a specific person.)

Elizabeth (ejvc) suggests a 12-item group, and prices it (about $225) for sewing. If you want natural fabrics, you need to use just one pattern magazine, and mainly black fabric, to get the cost that low. Much cheaper if you’re comfortable in polyester. I would probably use a wardrobe pattern book (see Index page 3), about twice the price of a pattern magazine.

This list from the Nate Berkus Show
has 12 basic items including accessories, plus 8 add-ons : 20 in all.

Wardrobe Oxygen list updated
23 items including underwear and accessories.
I still disagree with nearly very word of this, see my post, but many people working in a very classic environment love it.

Nancy Nix-Rice builds up from 12 basic garments to 23 garments in all, plus suggestions for minimum accessories. She claims to get nearly 100 different outfits from her 12 garments. See Index page 4 for my posts on her scheme, with links to her lessons, and suggested patterns.

Seasonal 6PACs : 24 garments in all, organised in 4 seasonal groups of 6. Here’s a list of relevant posts from ejvc, who started the idea. There’s always a sewalong for the current season at Stitcher’s Guild.

Oprah Winfrey’s dream closet checklist
32 items including shoes.
(Useful tips there too on clothes that flatter different body shapes.)

Many of Janice’s posts at The Vivienne Files are suggestions for capsules, showing the different outfit combinations you can make. And most of her other posts show how to take a single garment or outfit and make many different looks by using accessories.

And here’s a whole pinterest page of capsule suggestions.

For real-life inspiration, see :
Sewing With A Plan 2013
Sewing With A Plan 2012

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What about some patterns ? Most of the capsules don’t suggest specific styles. So here are my current personal easy sewing ‘Key 3’ patterns. Sewing Workshop Hudson top and pants, Indygo Junction Origami wrap.


Add intermediate sewing skills, and make the Sewing Workshop Tribeca shirt and Indygo Junction Silhouette vest (close the vest up to the neck). My current ‘Vital 5’. In quality fabrics for Relaxed Luxe style.


Very different in spirit from many wardrobe plans. My needs are most like the Sewing Workshop wardrobe, see my post on Linda Lee’s layering wardrobe.

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I groaned recently about some wardrobe styling advice which suggested what were supposed to be different style capsules, but were actually all variants of blazer, knit top, jeans. As I don’t wear any of those. I’m glad I’ve done all the work on identifying my own style and wardrobe needs, so I can just move on from unhelpful advice. People who love dresses probably feel equally ignored by most wardrobe suggestions.

If your personal style is ‘modern classic’ and you feel happy in blazer, tee, jeans, then good luck to you. Prefer different types of top, bottom, layer, or dresses ? Best Wishes to all the people who have to find their own capsule scheme.

Is it because I don’t match any of the simple advice on fit, colouring, style, body shape, that my blog is helpful 😀

I think most wardrobe lists need to be adapted to your own personal style, colouring, body shape, lifestyle.
(All that black and classic shapes – aargh. . .)

Hence my post on your personal wardrobe plan.
See Index page 4 on wardrobe plans in general.
Also your personal style preferences.
And Index page 1 on personal style.
There are some links on the other ways to look your best, in my post on So many choices.

If you haven’t got a good starting point for your own wardrobe group, have a look at patterns that are supposed to take less than 2 hours sewing time – Index page 8.

See Index page 5 for comments on co-ordination, and posts which include specific capsules.

Starting with a small capsule and building on it isn’t the only way to get a basic wardrobe. There are many books and websites with wardrobe plans with other approaches – see wardrobe and capsule planning references thread at Stitchers Guild. Each writer has their own scheme.

If you still think planning a wardrobe is frivolous, here’s an excellent piece by The Dashing Eccentric.

As usual, have fun with it all 😀

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P.S. Several people have commented that we haven’t got to develop capsules and wardrobes. Just have good outfits, if that’s what works well for you. No need to worry about co-ordination if you don’t want to. Just avoid ‘orphans’ – clothes which don’t go with anything else. You don’t even need to worry about them if you only wear dresses 😀

Or have several different small groups of clothes, which co-ordinate within one capsule but not with others. I should think there are very few people who have a wardrobe in which everything co-ordinates with everything else. Would that only be possible if you led a very limited life ? I haven’t got clothes wearable for both sailing and a black tie evening.

My clothes are in a limited range of colours and shapes so many, though not all, are interchangeable. Not so with accessories – some of my outfits are enhanced by scarves, some by necklaces.

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Links and patterns available March 2013

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Explore posts in the same categories: specific capsules, wardrobe planning

12 Comments on “Some sources suggesting basic capsules”

  1. Vildy Says:

    I may be an anti-capsule gal – though I love to read about it! But Jennifer Skinner’s mini-capsule type of idea really got through to me. Her blog is long gone but she suggested picking 6 bottoms and then two tops each. This was a small enough project that it let me focus on what really went well together and pleased me. As you know, some things only go together theoretically. 🙂 I also like Simple Isn’t Easy’s idea of a series of very best outfits – in other words, if you pick out the best outfit you can make, wouldn’t you tend to want to wear it that way? I tend to do this in real life. Jennifer’s idea is half way between one best outfit and mix and match capsule.

  2. Vildy Says:

    I’ve been rereading the wardrobe and planning references in Stitchers Guild and in the second part I was struck by something you’d said that is exactly my dilemma:

    “I think one of the reasons these books usually focus on “work wear” is that work is really where the rubber meets the road for many people; it may be the first time that they realise their dress is “holding them back.” But in our everyday life, many people don’t worry about it at all. I don’t have trouble picking things that are “me” when shopping, whereas when sewing I find it considerably more difficult (getting things that fit is vice versa!). What I love about shopping is that you can enter the store with a vague idea, wander around, and (on a good day) find something that will likely be on trend (because stuff in shops is) and that you’ll like (because you can try it on and see).

    Contrast that with all the aging fabrics and patterns in our stash – we sewists can produce some stuff that we’d never wear in a million years, and all because we can’t “see” it until it’s done. ”

    That’s exactly how I express what my problem is. It’s true for the extensive alterations I do : I don’t know until it’s done and I see how it hangs and behaves, whether it’s a keeper. And even more, I recently added some of what I’ll call faux sharkskin faux denim, which is fabric I’d been wanting something out of for some time. But what? It looks to be enough for a skirt or a top or a close fit, 3/4 sleeve jacket or a sheath…. I can picture pencil skirts and the kind of short sleeve cut with the bodice top I am wanting some of. Sheaths. Skirts have me completely stumped otherwise. I’ve been very dissatisfied with my skirts.

    I figured that after all your research you would intuitively know what you want to sew, what the fabric is calling out for. Back when I used to sew a lot of my clothes as a young woman, I would invariably start out by choosing a pattern. In fact, in those days the pattern books provided what little I knew about style and trends. Starting out from having chosen a fabric is quite perplexing to me!

    • Vildy Says:

      oops, I’m sorry, that comment wasn’t by you, it was to you and it was from ejvc

      • sewingplums Says:

        Thanks for the interesting comments Vildy. Yes, many people find outfits easier than capsules. If that’s best for you, why not 😀 I like things to co-ordinate, but increasing the number of different outfits I can make is not very important for me.

        In some ways shopping is easier to get right than sewing – except it’s close to impossible for me to find anything in the shops that is the right fit, colour, style, fabric, quality for me ! Catalogue shopping is not much better – a wider range of styles than we have in shops here, but the final test is trying something on. . .

        I actually wrote a whole post in response to Elizabeth’s comment. I think there are many ways we can improve the amount of success we have with our sewing, see Improving sewing success.

  3. PhilIppa Says:

    Thank you for this post. I am re-evalutating my ‘style’ after 3 years of being too ill to care. I have been colour analysed and feel that having a palette has been very helpful, but I am no longer sure what to sew. I think I am leaning more towards soft casuals like you, as I only need to look ‘professional’ occasionally now and have lost all I interest in looking ‘powerful’! As I am trying to make as many of my own clothes as possible, I need them to work together. Going on a shopping spree is out of the question for many reasons, so I will enjoy looking up all the links and getting some ideas for co-ordinates. Thank you!

    • sewingplums Says:

      Good points Philippa. Best Wishes for your explorations and your renewed health ! In my experience it isn’t possible to get personal style right all the time. So it helps to enjoy the process rather than aiming for a single perfect end point. One step at a time 😀

  4. Ruthie Says:

    I’ve concluded that I do need to have some outfits I know work properly, espeically for work, and since I have a lot of clothes making outfits seems to work better, and reduces stress in the morning.
    For travel though, espeically recent ‘hand luggage only’ trips I have found my growing collection of Craghoppers clothing invaluable, and a capsule approach is essential to get everything in the bag. I keep this stuff on a separate shelf in the wardrobe to make packing easier. I’ve also split off ‘ok for work’ stuff, from more casual stuff, and keep short and long sleeved tops separate as well.
    Last May I attended a course where they asked for business dress. I took various tops and trousers, but only one neutral oatmeal coloured jacket which worked well with everything.
    I always think now about what other items a garment would be worn with, and when I get a new item to work with one or more outfits i am very pleased.

  5. Oh for goodness sake!

    I’m reading along, nodding my head and thinking how brilliant you are, Lisanne, for reading my mind and consolidating all these great capsule resources – a project i’d just been thiking i Really Should take on since i would get so much out of it…..what a treat and how useful to have this information already laid out so thoughtfully and concisely…..

    and then i got the kicker! Thank you so much for linking to that post of mine 🙂 I consider your site the one place on the web with the most valuable wardrobe planning information on it, the one site i’d recommend people take to a desert island for their wardrobe planning needs (well, that makes no sense at all but i hope you get what i mean!). So – whewff! Flustered but happy!

    And timely as well, as i just bought a nice down, wind-breaking coat for that one or two months a year around here when i REALLY need it! Bit by bit we chip away…

    Enjoying the process really helps – i think we’re always learning and refining, except maybe people who wear a uniform. And re: Vildy’s dilemma about starting from a fabric. Maybe you can visit a store with the pattern catalogues and flip thru to see which patterns recommend the type of material you bought? Or noodle around on the pattern manufacturer’s websites? Being able to visualize is so very helpful in all of this that i think it is worthwhile to try to develop that skill, if you have any desire to at all (and/or if the idea doesn’t frustrate you completely! 😉

    Thank you again Lisanne for all you do!!!! steph

  6. Robyn Jorde Says:

    What a meaty post! It is going to be lots of fun following up all the links you have provided. I’m another one that’s moving to sewing outfits rather than wardrobe. When I was working, the wardrobe was priority. Outfits don’t require you to define a personal style – you can have a classic outfit for the days you want it, an arty one, a dressy one, and so on. So they’re useful for those of us with multiple personalities.

    • sewingplums Says:

      Thanks Robyn – useful comments. My personalities change more quickly than once a day, and I’m not sure I want to look like some of them 😀

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