How To Build A Capsule Wardrobe: A Guide For Women

Stay true to your own personal style with these tips for how to build a capsule wardrobe. These clothing items will stand the test of time, and will soon become your favorite pieces!

What Is A Capsule Wardrobe?

A capsule wardrobe is a collection of versatile pieces featuring neutral colors that can be mixed and matched to create several different outfits. This approach focuses on minimizing the quantity of items in your wardrobe to include only those that you truly love and wear regularly. The ultimate goal is to create a wardrobe that works for you, and by doing this, you will lessen clutter and stress. This wardrobe needs to be in tune with your lifestyle and preferences.

*Affiliate links included. See my disclosure statement. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

What Is The Magic Number?

If you are putting together your first capsule wardrobe, it’s very easy to take the minimalist approach, and start small. There’s no rule as to the specific number of pieces you need, but for this list, I’m suggesting eleven interchangeable items. I tried to keep this collection to ten pieces, but I felt that it needed both a denim jacket and a sweater, so I increased the number to eleven. Remember, this is just the beginning, and new clothing elements can be added as time and your budget allows.

There are many ways to build a capsule wardrobe. This is just one way, but it’s very easy, and so basic that anyone can do it. Make sure to check out the shopping guide at the end of the post. I included various brands and price points, plus more choices.

Things To Consider

  • Your Body Shape: first, it’s important to have a clear understanding of your body shape. If you have a “rectangle” shape, where everything is straight up and down, you should look for pieces that create the illusion of curves. If you have an hourglass shape, where your shoulders and hips are about the same size but your waist is smaller, draw attention to that waist with high-waisted pants and belted jackets or sweaters. By dressing in a way that flatters your natural shape, you’ll not only look your best, but you’ll also feel more comfortable.
  • Your Base Color: the best way to end up with a cohesive color palette is to identify your base color at the very beginning. The obvious choices are black, navy blue, or gray. For this collection, I chose black as the base color because it’s universally used by women of all ages. If you prefer navy blue or gray, simply switch out the black items in the list for your color of choice.
  • Trendy or Classic: when selecting pieces for your capsule wardrobe, choose classic items that offer timeless appeal, and that can be mixed and matched across seasons. Opt for neutral colors that serve as a foundation, and add the trendy items through accessories rather than your core garments. Remember, classic pieces are investments in your personal style. They will outlive every trend that comes and goes, and provide a better value over time.
  • Is This Really For You? The capsule wardrobe concept doesn’t work for everyone, but it definitely allows you to spend less time deciding what to wear. Less clothing means fewer options, which lightens the decision-making process. A smaller wardrobe is easier to manage, which can lead to a more organized living space and mindset.

What I Left Out

Because I wanted to concentrate on building a true capsule wardrobe, there were things that I left off the list. We all need the following categories included in our closets, but they aren’t technically needed for a capsule wardrobe.

  • workout clothes
  • seasonal pieces (shorts, capris/crops, winter coats, boots, etc.)
  • lingerie
  • dresses (although a little black dress is always a good idea, I had to draw the line somewhere!)

The Capsule Wardrobe Checklist

The list below is comprised of eleven essential items, and everything is a wardrobe staple.

  • one or two pairs of jeans
  • white t-shirt (sleeve length is a personal choice)
  • crisp white blouse
  • black pants
  • black leggings
  • denim jacket
  • black sweater
  • black, gray, or white sneakers
  • black flats or mules
  • black/white tunic or knit shirt (stripes, checks, floral, etc.)
  • black handbag

How To Add Accent Colors

Adding accent colors to a neutral capsule wardrobe can really elevate your signature style and give you so many different looks. Here are some tips to consider:

  • Choose Your Accent Colors Wisely: pick 1-3 accent colors that reflect your personal style and complement the neutral palette of your own capsule wardrobe. Consider colors that you’re consistently drawn to or that make you happy.
  • Start Small: begin by introducing accent colors through small items like scarves, belts, and jewelry. This allows you to experiment with colors without a big commitment.
  • Invest in Statement Pieces: once you’re comfortable, consider investing in high-quality pieces that make a statement in your chosen accent colors. A brightly colored bag, shoes, or a gorgeous jacket can become the focal point of your outfit.
  • Consider Seasonal Hues: pick your accent colors so they align with the seasons. This is an easy way to make your neutral capsule wardrobe look current and fun. For example, add some pastels for spring, brights for summer, earth tones for fall, and jewel tones for winter.
  • Mix Textures and Patterns: just like in decor, introducing textures and patterns in your accent colors can add amazing interest to your outfits. A patterned scarf or a textured + chunky knit item can break up the monotony of neutral pieces.
  • Layering: use layering to gently introduce accent colors. A peek of a brightly colored inner layer, like a tank top or camisole, can add interest without taking away from the classic appeal of your neutral pieces.
  • Balance Your Outfit: before adding accent colors, make sure to consider the balance of your outfit. If you’re wearing a bold colored top, you should keep the rest of your outfit more subdued to let the color stand out.
  • Don’t Forget About Prints: if it makes you nervous to add solid blocks of bright color, find prints that incorporate both your neutral shades and your chosen accent colors. This will introduce color and personality, without being overpowering.
  • Pay Attention to the Material: different materials reflect colors in various ways. A silk blouse, in a bright and saturated hue, might look more sophisticated than the same color in a cotton t-shirt. Choose materials that complement your lifestyle and the season.
  • As your style evolves, so will your accent colors. Don’t be afraid to update your go-to outfits by phasing out colors, and introducing new ones as your tastes change. Your wardrobe should be a reflection of you, at your current stage in life.

I waited a long time to build a capsule wardrobe, but now that I have a good base, finding the perfect outfit is so simple. Even more important than that, I finally feel comfortable. I spent years and years wearing what I thought was expected of me, and now that I’m dressing for myself, I’m so much happier. When it’s time to leave the house, I’m confident and secure in my choices. That is your goal. Build your capsule wardrobe with pieces that make you feel good about yourself…and have fun!

Shopping Guide

*Affiliate links included. See my disclosure statement. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

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13 Comments

  1. All your choices are so cute AND stylish! LOVE IT!

  2. Susan, I’m 73, and I remember “Color Me Beautiful” from many, many years ago…probably 30 years. It was a big trend, and I had my color analysis done by a professional. However I didn’t fit any of the four categories in the book…turns out that there were subcategories. I was officially classified as a Vibrant Summer….the classic Summer pastels wash me out and are a definite no-no for me. Black is not in my color range but I have lots of black pants and bottoms. I just have to make sure I have vibrant colors close to my face…hot pink, red, etc. And yes, the right colors close to the face make all the difference. In my color analysis I was given swatches of fabric that were “right” for me….it gives me such confidence when I make a purchase.

  3. This is great! I love your choices, have looked them all up, studied them all and tried but failed to implement! BUT I did go through my closet and get rid of everything that doesn’t fit or work for me anymore! We do share very close ideas on wardrobe and though mine is more colorful and for warmer weather I switch to wide legged, linen style pants. I just love this idea! Thanks for all your hard work gathering all these great options! 💕

    1. Clearing out what doesn’t work for you anymore is an excellent way to get started! Just take it one step at a time.

      1. Hi just like to know how you got the right sizes on the Walmart sized on the internet my order did not turn out good order my user regular size and they dont fit

        1. Hi Eva…it did take me a little trial and error. With Time & Tru, I have found that most everything runs big. With other Walmart brands, I sometimes order two sizes and then return what doesn’t fit. Their brands are budget-friendly, but they all run different. Hope you try again, Ann

  4. Ann,
    this is a good basic clothing plan. However, the basic colors don’t work for warm golden skin tones. I was introduced to a book called “Color Me Beautiful” that addresses four skin tones; warm and cool. Being a Autumn with red hair means dark warm browns and beiges. Fall colors like oranges, rust, warm greens and aubergine (warm plum) bronzes and copper compliment warm skin tones. I love classic clothes; a warm tan trench coat is always in my closet! I go trendy with scarves, jewelry and boots. A pretty color next to the face makes all the difference in the world!

  5. Ann, thanks. Your post reminds me of how I first learned about the capsule wardrobe…when I read Lessons From Madame Chic by Jennifer Scott (c2012). Jennifer was a CA exchange student who spent the school year living with a Parisian family, and the book chronicles all she learned about art, cooking, and French fashion. The French strictly limit you to 10 garments…something I’ve tried but failed to achieve!!!!! The book is a GREAT read…very enjoyable and a must for a Francophile!!!!!!

  6. Black easier for base color because of shoe and handbag choices. Also plays well with more colors!

  7. I also love a capsule wardrobe when traveling. Makes it so much easier to pack less!

  8. I’m in the process of editing my closet,not easy for me.Your post is very helpful.I love all of the items you picked.

  9. Patti Wallis says:

    I love this style guide! I’m disabled now and sometimes get into a rut with what I wear. I always wore dresses and high heels when I worked. I want to be more stylish and this guide is perfect!. Thank you!

  10. I have tried to build a capsule wardrobe, but I can’t seem to get rid of all that’s left. The “what ifs”, and “maybe” hold me up every time.😩😬 But this post is a great guide.