What is a Capsule Wardrobe?

A Capsule Wardrobe is a collection of clothes that contains about 30-40 items or less (the exact number is up for debate, and seems to be somewhat flexible), with each piece fitting interchangeably with the other pieces. For example, you may have a pair of jeans, a pink blouse, and a white cardigan. You can wear them together, swap the pink blouse for a blue one, swap the cardigan for a long sleeve denim shirt, or perhaps wear the blouse alone. I will include some pictures in this post to give you a better idea of how to do this. (Note: Yes, guys can have capsule wardrobes too! For this post I’ll just be giving examples for women’s clothes though.)

In the picture above there are six pieces of clothing, arranged in two outfits. But since they are capsule wardrobe items, you can rearrange them into fourteen different outfits! Can you make fourteen with these? A little puzzle for you, heh-heh! (Hint: I’m counting the blouse and tank top alone with each bottom, as well as paired with the cardigan and flannel shirt)

Capsule Wardrobe History

The original “Capsule Wardrobe” was created by Susie Faux, a London boutique owner in the 1970’s. In 1985, Donna Karan, an American designer, popularized the capsule method of clothes organization, and recently it has again come back into popularity. (Source). However, it’s important to note that not everyone who says they have a capsule wardrobe actually does. Its easy to like the idea of it and use its principles, but actually have a rather bloated version of a Capsule Wardrobe. That being said, it is your closet and you can do what you want with it. Personally, I have a few more items than 30 (I just counted and there were 35, plus a few items in the wash).

Now, you may be wondering what exactly counts as an “item.” Good question! I was a little confused about this when I heard about the idea. The most extreme versions of the Capsule Wardrobe include everything that can be worn (except socks and underwear), including accessories. That’s a little too minimalistic, even for me! Some people don’t include shoes, work-out clothes, coats, or anything but shirts and pants. If you go too far that way, you can’t really call it a capsule wardrobe anymore (Although the idea behind it may still be quite helpful to you).

Also important to note is whether to count all the clothes you own, or whether its on a per-season basis. The original Capsule Wardrobe was designed so that the clothes didn’t go out of season or style, and that’s mostly how I organize mine. Some people really like to have a new set of clothes for each season. There is nothing wrong with that, its just not the original Capsule method. Though I don’t wear sandals or shorts in winter (I live in Alaska – brrrr!), there is plenty of space in my closet so I don’t change them out seasonally.


So, what are the benefits of having a Capsule Wardrobe?

1. It is much easier to keep everything tidy. With a well organized, efficient set of clothes, they don’t tend to get strewn around so much, and there aren’t “extras” cluttering things up.

2. You have less laundry. Believe it or not, a well-organized closet usually leads to a lighter laundry load. This is because only what’s dirty gets put in the laundry hamper, not the extras that somehow end up laying around.

3. You’re not overwhelmed by all the clothing choices. Most people have favorite clothes that they wear consistently, and the rest just sits there and accumulates. Its not uncommon to only wear about 25% of a wardrobe! If you’re in a hurry, it’s easy to just grab something you know fits, even if its not your favorite. With fewer items in there to begin with, the possibilities seem more apparent, though there are still plenty of ways to change it up.

4. It saves you money. If you can choose the clothes you like and stick with them, you’ll never have that feeling of “having nothing to wear”, and end up going out in a panic to buy more.

Here’s most of my wardrobe at the moment. Nice and simple! A few of the tops I just wear at the farm, and at the end of the summer I plan to donate and replace them with tops that go better with the rest of my clothes.


How to create your own capsule wardrobe:

Depending on how much clothes you have, it may take a while. Set aside some time for yourself and enjoy the process!

First, go through your closet and sort into three piles: “Keep,” “Maybe,” and “Donate/Sell”. Your keep pile will obviously depend on your style and the climate you live in, but it should look something like this, as far as approximate numbers: 3-4 pairs of pants, 2 pairs of shorts, 2-3 skirts, 3 dresses, 5 tank tops, 5 t-shirts or blouses, 5 cardigans or long-sleeve buttons ups, 1 light jacket or sweatshirt, 1 rain coat, 1 winter coat, 1 pair boots, 1 pair flats, 1 pair heels, 1 pair casual shoes.

Second, look at the clothes you’d like to keep. Try to decide on a color scheme: This will make it easier to match different clothes to make varied outfits. After doing this and analyzing what you have, you may choose to put some of these into the “maybe” or “donate” pile.

Third, go back through your maybe pile. Be honest with yourself, and let go of the pieces you don’t really love and feel good in. If you didn’t have enough of something in your “keep” pile, add to it from the “maybes”.

Here are a few of my favorite pieces combined as an outfit. They’re favorites because:

Jeans: They go with anything, always look good, and can be casual or slightly dressy.

White top: It just goes with anything.

Plaid/flannel shirt: I love these because they look “country” but sharp, and I can wear them buttoned down or open with an undershirt.

Hooded vest: This vest is great because it is down-insulated and hooded to keep me warm, but I can change its look easily by wearing different long-sleeve shirts or light coats underneath it.


That’s all there is to it! Here are a few FAQs:

Q: What if I have a lot of shoes or dresses that I like and don’t want to part with?

A: First, try putting some of them on “probation”. Box them up and put them at the back of your closet or in the garage. If you don’t end up missing them or wearing them in a month or two, it’s probably safe to send them to a new home. If you really, honestly wear and love them, put them back into your closet! The Capsule Wardrobe isn’t for everyone, so enjoy your shoes 🙂

Q: How can I keep my closet from becoming cluttered again?

A: My favorite way to manage clothes after I have them organized is the “One-in-one-out rule. If you find a piece you love, buy it and replace one that you don’t like as much or is getting worn out.

Q: Can I do a Capsule Wardrobe for babies and kids?

A: Yes! Click here for the article. 

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