Building a wardrobe capsule

A ‘capsule’ wardrobe is a small group of co-ordinating clothes that can be mixed and matched to make different outfits.

If you only have a small number of clothes, you want to be sure they all fit the needs of your lifestyle. And that they’re all items you love to reach for in the morning – they suit your personality and make you look and feel good. Hence the whole area of ‘wardrobe planning’.

There are many on-line style advisors who suggest the items to make a capsule. For example, Leanne Blackmon at Classy yet Trendy suggests seasonal capsules in 6 different styles.
The styles are mainly ‘normcore’ so it’s easy to find patterns to copy the suggestions.

These stylists have good success because some people find it daunting to make a capsule for themselves.
But actually doing-it-yourself is not difficult.

Wear what makes you feel special

It’s not difficult so long as you have some clothes that you love, and feel good when you’re wearing them.

If you haven’t got about 20 items you feel like that about, then finding some clothes that warm your heart and lift your spirits has much more priority than developing a capsule.

Only follow style advice that makes you feel life’s possibilities are expanding.
The important thing is not to wear any garment (or follow any style advice) that pulls you down, makes you feel lesser or uncertain, diminished or defensive.

As April Grow of Stunning Style says : “If you’re trying to talk yourself into anything you don’t genuinely love, just put it away.”

Another similar saying seen on an FB board : “In case of doubt, there is no doubt.”

Tips for building your capsule

A ‘wardrobe’ capsule is about 25-30 items, which could provide you with enough different outfits for an entire season.
Some stylists insist a true capsule is smaller, see later about a travel capsule.

Go through your current clothes and pick out items that you love wearing : 7 tops, 5 pants/skirts, 5 layers, 5 shoes, 3 bags.
If you can’t find these numbers, then find one less. Or pick items that are okay – not ideal, but not ones that make you feel or look bad !

Next remove any item that cannot be worn to make a good combination (one that you are comfortable with) with at least 3 of the other items (not all at the same time!). E.g. does this skirt look good with at least 3 of the tops, at least 3 of the layers, at least 2 of the shoes, at least 1 of the bags ? If not, replace it with something else you like.

If you find combining difficult, consider simplifying :

– choose one main neutral, such as :
– – black or navy if your skin colouring is blue toned,
– – brown or beige/tan if your skin is yellow toned.
– – grey may be either blue or brown toned.

A colour is called ‘neutral’ if it’s a colour that can be worn with everything else in the capsule, so makes a good starting point for many outfits (so your starting point colour could be shocking pink if your other colours are lime green and purple 😀 ).
Another criterion for a ‘neutral’ is that you would be willing to wear pants in this colour.
And your ‘neutral may depend on what you are choosing your capsule for – so shocking pink for a holiday trip but not for a business one !
You’re always wearing this colour, so it needs to be flattering and well-loved.

– add a lighter neutral – how much lighter could relate to the natural level of contrast you have in your colouring.
– add not more than 2 accent colours or prints.

– choose everything with the same silhouette, such as :
– – top and bottom the same width,
– – wide tops over narrow bottoms,
– – narrow tops over wide bottoms.

Imogen Lamport has written a whole range of posts on issues that may come up in choosing items for a capsule wardrobe. But try to keep things simple. And :

Hey Presto, your first capsule 😀

Some comments

Trying to build a capsule for the first time is not something that’s instant. Make small steps and enjoy your discoveries.
No need to get an ‘ideal’ capsule from the start. It will gradually ‘improve’ as you try things out.

Of course different stylists have different criteria for what a capsule should be like. Imogen Lamport of Inside-Out Style has fewer layers (she lives in a warm climate) and insists that everything co-ordinates.

This capsule idea doesn’t work for everyone. You may be someone who needs to choose an outfit on the day, whatever feels right at the time. What felt right yesterday evening when you were planning may not feel right this morning !
But you can pre-plan outfits, take photos of them, and choose which suits your current mood. Many people find it useful to take selfies of successful combinations, so they don’t have to do much experimenting in the morning.

Even a few steps towards achieving a part capsule can be useful and interesting. A ‘learning experience’. There’s no need to rush.

As you make progress, and learn more about your favourite garment colours, shapes, styles, co-ordinates, many people find that new items fit in without having to give it much thought.
Or if they don’t, don’t buy them !

Put these items at the front of your closet, so they’re the only ones you choose from when you’re getting dressed, and see if you find the capsule idea helpful.

If you love wearing makeup or jewellery, sprinkle on your favourites for even more joy and fun 😀
You could include them in try-out sessions too.
Or would you like to add into the mix : 5 hats, 5 scarves, 5 belts, hair ornaments, gloves ?

A small travel capsule

Choose 3 tops, 2 bottoms, 2 layers, 2 shoes.
In 2 different styles, such as casual + evening out, or work + dressy evening out.
With such a small number of items, it’s best if every possible combination looks good.
Take heavier items with you by wearing them for travel.
Jewellery, scarves, make-up are small light-weight ways of adding more looks.
And if you’re away for more than a few days, what about clothes care – do you mind hand washing in a hotel room ? If you would hate that, add more light-weight non-bulky tops.

In this post, Imogen Lamport insists a true ‘capsule’ is less than a dozen items.

I’ve mentioned a few capsule stylists I’ve enjoyed following. Many more come up if you do a web search.
Enjoy your discoveries 😀

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Explore posts in the same categories: co-ordinates, wardrobe planning

6 Comments on “Building a wardrobe capsule”

  1. Vancouver Barbara Says:

    It’s always so good to see you again. Thank you for this. I love capsules, the idea of capsules or anything to do with a capsule. When I sew, I’m always thinking of a capsule. Vivienne Files is a fabulous blog that deals with capsule wardrobes and how to build one and her writing is delightful. She writes an enchanting scenario for each heroine. She is definitely worth reading. Thanks again.

  2. Brenda Says:

    Thank you for highlighting Stunning Style. I was not aware of this resource and she pushes all the right style buttons for me. Imogen Lamport I have followed for a while but unlike Stunning Style, Imogen encompasses all styles whereas Stunning Style looks at the categories within only the Classic style. I appreciate your comment about creating a capsule wardrobe is not instant especially in the current shopping climate. Thanks again.

    • sewingplums Says:

      Thanks Brenda for the comment. Yes, April Grow makes Stunning Style an excellent service if your style is Classic, she provides much advice and many extra resources. But if your style is not a bit Edgy and your colouring is not Winter, it is less helpful 😀

  3. Towanda Says:

    I use the app “my bodymodel” to make a croquis. I copied pattern images and added them to a powerpoint slide. Cut everything out and played with them as paperdolls. I started with 9 garments and stopped at 30 outfits. It helped me define what I want to sew.

    • sewingplums Says:

      Thanks Towanda for the marvellous idea – good support for sewists. Excellent to test pattern images against your body shape. Any help with making style decisions is welcome ! and with narrowing down the possibilities. Another way of having fun and being creative 😀

      MyBodyModel doesn’t work well for me. But a personal croquis can be an eye-opening tool, and there are several other ways of getting one in my post on them. You do have to take photos of yourself in undies or close fitting clothes, so those methods are not for everyone.


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