Is a Capsule Wardrobe Worth it? Use this Guide to Know for Sure
Capsule wardrobes are a minimalist’s dream… but they come with so many rules! Follow this capsule wardrobe guide to understand how they work so you can determine if a curated closet would improve your life (or stress you out).
I’m a minimalist AND I hate making decisions.
Therefore, capsule wardrobes make sense.
If you’re new to the capsule wardrobe concept, you choose 30-40 strategic clothing pieces that mix and match to create an abundance of outfits.
The capsule wardrobe:
- Eliminates clutter (you don’t have endless clothing options taking up space in your closet—I travel full-time in an RV so this is especially helpful!)
- Streamlines decision making in the morning
- Encourages you to invest in quality pieces that last
- Simplifies shopping (you go straight to the colors that work and ignore the ones that don’t)
- Gives you confidence that what you’re wearing looks good together because everything is coordinated
Sounds worth the time invested, right?
That’s what I thought… until I started building one myself.
Flashback: I actually wanted to create a capsule wardrobe a few years ago. But I’d always push it down the list in lieu of more important endeavors. I’m also not crazy about clothes shopping and coordinating outfits unless I’m at REI and want to look cute for a hike.
But late last Fall, I concluded that this goal wasn’t going to complete itself. My top tip to eliminate procrastination is to turn your goal into a Six-Week Sprint.
So that’s what I did!
Buckle up, because this is a looooong post. I share all the details of my experience, what I hated, what I loved, where I went wrong, and what I got right.
If you’ve ever thought about creating a capsule wardrobe yourself, hopefully this guide helps make that endeavor easier (or convinces you to let the idea go. 😆)
The Part Where I Tried NOT to Reinvent the Wheel
After filling out my initial brainstorming pages in The Six-Week Sprint Goal Planner, The first things I needed to do was research capsule wardrobes.
I knew there were already a TON of info out there about how capsule wardrobes work, as well as shopping guides featuring outfit formulas with exact colors and style are already picked out for you.
But before I purchased one of these shopping guides, I accidentally discovered color seasons.
I was scrolling on Instagram and stumbled upon an account offering color analysis consults to help people discover and wear their best colors. I had no idea there was such a thing!
Apparently, color analysis started back in the 1950’s and was SUPER popular in the 80’s. Well, three hours later, I was draping my shoulders with different colors and snapping a bunch of photos so Joseph could tell me whether I was a Summer, Fall, Winter, or Spring.
Why Knowing Your Colors Can Be a Problem
Most capsule wardrobe guides promote neutral colors: white, black, brown, and denim. Some throw in an accent color or two.
After assigning myself a season (Soft Summer if you’re curious), black and white and browns were a NO-NO. The “color experts” said these colors were too harsh for my “soft complexion” or something like that.
And when I looked at photos of me draped in black especially, I saw what they meant.
So my “accidental discovery” of color seasonal analysis made my capsule wardrobe journey that much harder, because now I was starting from scratch. I couldn’t just buy a guide and follow the formula.
I had to create my own.
How to Create a Capsule Wardrobe (Step-by-Step Guide)
I won’t lie. This was my most stressful Six-Week Sprint to date.
At the end of it all, I don’t know if I created a capsule in it’s entire definition, but I weeded out clothes I didn’t love in colors that were not flattering to me and created 32 everyday outfits out of 36 pieces, including shoes, but NOT loungewear.
I got through it, I’m glad I did it, and I’m excited to share with you my process in case you want to minimize your wardrobe too.
Here’s the perfect “capsule wardrobe creation formula” from a gal who stumbled her way through the process.
1. Decide on a color palette
When building your capsule wardrobe color palette, you’ll choose your colors in this order:
- First, you’ll decide on a base neutral in either black or navy. As a Soft Summer, I chose navy, which coordinates with a LOT!
- Then you’ll add some coordinating neutrals. These are colors you can wear with your base neutral AND accent colors, like taupe, brown, charcoal, light grey, white, denim, off white, etc. Depending on your season, you will be warm or cool, so choose neutrals that either have a warm hue (like ivory) or a cool tone (like grey).
- After that, you’ll choose 1-2 accent colors. I separated mine into two seasons—darker colors for fall/winter and more cheery colors for spring/summer with a color in between to help with the transition. But they all feature a cool tone because that’s what looks best against my skin.
I probably added more colors than what’s considered “acceptable”, but I wanted a capsule wardrobe that would last me all year long instead of just 1-2 seasons!
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2. Look for outfit ideas and inspiration
Years ago, I bought an eBook of Outfit Formulas through an Ultimate Bundles sale (currently available on Amazon). I dug this PDF out of my digital archives and scrolled through, looking for outfits that were similar to my style.
When I found one, I took a screenshot.
Getting this book is not a requirement (although I found it really helpful!). But you can also look for outfits on Pinterest using terms like “outfits with grey jeans” to find combinations that use clothing you already have, or you can find a fashion blogger on Instagram that dresses similarly to how you would like to dress.
Fashion influencers I enjoy following are:
The point is to capture 10-15 outfit ideas that you can “dissect” to see what types of clothes you need to buy. Save these in a separate album in your phone, or create a Pinterest board! I added mine to Milanote, right underneath my color palette.
For example, I found a lot of outfits that used a grey, short-sleeve top. So that meant I should have a short-sleeve grey top in my capsule wardrobe, because it will coordinate with a lot.
3. Create your capsule wardrobe essentials clothing list
Steps 2 and 3 will be done fairly simultaneously, because as you are clipping inspiration and noticing the clothing types that are used, you’ll begin to understand what types of clothes (style, color, etc.) you’ll need to build your capsule wardrobe.
This was probably the most overwhelming part for me!
But after going through all that work, I found that your wardrobe should include at least:
- A short-sleeve top or tank in your FIVE neutral colors and at least TWO accent colors/patterns (7)
- A long-sleeve top or sweater in FIVE neutral colors and at least TWO accent colors/patterns (7)
- Layering pieces in TWO neutral colors and at least ONE accent color (3) (these are cardigans, utility jackets, moto jackets, etc)
- Pants in THREE neutrals (gray, navy, denim, etc) and ONE color (4)
- Shorts and/or skirts in THREE neutrals and ONE color (4)
- Shoes (a casual sneaker, couple of flats, sandals, booties, etc) (6)
- Belt and scarf for accessorizing (2)
That’s a total of 33 pieces, give or take what you have which fits perfectly in between that 30-40 range!
Create a checklist in your planner or on your phone so you can easily do this next step.
HEADS UP: This capsule is just for everyday wear. It does not include any loungewear or work clothes. You’ll need to create additional capsules for those!
4. Declutter your current wardrobe (and match items to your list!)
Once you have your list in hand, pull out EVERYTHING from your closet and drawers and separate them into three piles:
- Declutter Pile: You don’t love this or you don’t feel great in it or it’s not your color
- Keep Pile: Items that match up perfectly with your list
- Unsure Pile: Clothes that are maybe not the right color, but you don’t want to get rid of just yet. This pile is helpful if you struggle to part with items and can’t make a hard and fast decision about them.
During this process, I kept three pieces in my unsure pile (including a black tank!) because I couldn’t part with them right away. But I stashed them at one end of my closet and I’m going to see how much I reach for them.
If I don’t wear them much at all this year, to the thrift store they go!
Related: The Root Cause of Clutter (and How to Stop it Now)
5. Buy new clothes!
Your capsule wardrobe checklist should now feature a mix of clothing items you already have and clothes you need to buy. This is your Wish List.
If you’re anything like me, you want to finish this project as soon as possible, which might instigate a flurry of packages arriving outside your door.
But it’s actually better to take your time. You want to buy clothes you LOVE and will last (and for the best price!).
I made the mistake of buying a bunch of clothes from Amazon just to check them off my list. A few days later, I had to return almost all of them because I rushed the process and chose items that weren’t exactly what I wanted.
6. Organize your clothes in the Stylebook app (optional)
As you start creating outfits with the items you already have (and supplementing with what you buy), you may want a better way to organize your clothes so it’s easy to know how many outfits you can actually create.
The Stylebook app is perfect for this.
Not only is this app free to use, you can:
- Import photos of your clothes (or find something similar online) to organize each clothing item by type (pants, shorts, tops, sweaters, etc).
- Create outfits out of those pieces to see how they look together.
- Integrate clothes you want to buy so you can “test” how well that piece goes with the rest of your closet before purchasing.
- Assign an outfit to a calendar day so you know when you last wore that item.
- See the cost per wear of an item to know if your purchase was a good investment or not. For instance, if you buy a sweater for $49 and you add it to the calendar 7 times, it’s about $6 per wear. And the more you wear that item, the less it costs!
This app sounds like another DIY project on it’s own—and it is—but when I was finished, I knew exactly how many pieces I had, how many outfits each of those pieces could make, and I can keep an updated wish list of future clothing purchases all in one app.
It was the missing piece that made the entire capsule wardrobe come together and make sense.
What I Wish I Had Known Sooner
This is already a really long post so I won’t take up too much more of your time!
But if I were to distill down this post into three main takeaways, it would be:
- Only keep and buy clothes you absolutely love and wear over and over again
- Know your colors so it’s easier to coordinate outfits (and shop!)
- Don’t stress if you buy a sweater that only goes with one other item in your closet.
In fact, perhaps what you’re creating is not so much a capsule wardrobe, but a curated closet. (Similar concept, but less rigid rules.)
Either way, your closet doesn’t need to be an exact science.
As long as you’re happy with what’s inside, that’s all that matters.
Join the Conversation
Have you ever tried to create a capsule wardrobe? Did this post convince you to try it?
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Thank you Kalyn! I’ve been struggling with updating my wardrobe so this is excellent info to get me started. Much appreciated!
You’re most welcome! Glad you found it helpful!
Such great information. I’m going to be sorting through my closet tonight.
Reading others’ capsule journeys really inspired me too! Have fun with it!
Curious how this works with office wear? I’m not sure I can commit to only 4 pants for work and non-work! My office is business casual, but no jeans.
I would definitely add in 2-3 more pants, tops, and shoes for work. This capsule is more for everyday wear (no lounge, no work), so I should have been more clear on that. You could create a capsule JUST for work if that was easier!