How To Create The Perfect Capsule Wardrobe

These days, the idea of creating a capsule wardrobe is more appealing than ever. Countless blogs have covered the subject but Rosie’s take on paring down stood out. Her blog The Capsule Project offers in-depth explorations of how to choose items and includes excellent examples of how to remix your wardrobe. We asked her about why you should consider creating a capsule and how to get started. Read her advice below!

SB: What is the biggest benefit of starting a capsule wardrobe?

R: More time and less stress. OK, that’s two, but they work together. Having fewer items and go-to outfits means decision paralysis is practically non-existent in the mornings, and getting dressed is so much easier. No more piles of clothes on the floor and rushing out the door frazzled. We could all handle more time and less stress these days!

SB: Could you quickly break down the process of starting my first capsule wardrobe? 

R: I like to start with creating what I call “Style Intentions”, which help you figure out how you want to look and feel in your clothing. Once you have your intentions set, you’ll be able to figure out which items in your current wardrobe don’t measure up, and which pieces might be the best new additions. For example, if you want to look approachable and feel relaxed, that stiff white button-down shirt you have never felt comfortable in should go in the donate pile. A suitable replacement might be a grey button-down shirt in fluid, silky fabric. At this point, purge what really isn’t working for you, but keep a couple pieces you wear a lot but plan to upgrade, like slightly worn-out black pants. Plan out your capsule wardrobe based upon the goal you have set. Include at least 2 (ideally 3) tops for each bottom, and try to mix in easily layered pieces. As you are planning, spend some time creating outfits (the Stylebook app is great for this!) to make sure you are selecting versatile pieces. Shop to fill major holes and upgrade as needed, then purge anything you no longer need.

SB: What is a good number of pieces for my first capsule wardrobe?

R: It is important to think about the goal for your first capsule when deciding on the right number of pieces. If you want a year-round capsule wardrobe that you can mix and match with a few seasonal pieces, then 50 items with 5-10 seasonal pieces can cover all your wardrobe needs. If you prefer to dress seasonally, keeping out-of-season clothes in storage, you could still have hundreds of outfits using 30-40 pieces. Frankly, even with 30 items of clothing you’ll find that there are some items you wear a lot more than others. If you want specific, function-related capsules for work or special events, your capsule can be much smaller: 15-20 pieces for a work capsule and 5 pieces for special events would do the trick. If you aren’t ready for a full capsule overhaul, creating a capsule of 15-20 items for 30 days can be a terrific introduction to the capsule wardrobe process and mindset.


SB: What’s a good method for coming up with good outfit combinations using the pieces I selected for my capsule? Any styling tips?

Although everyone chooses outfits differently, for capsules I like to start designing outfits around the tops. Select a top and pair it with the first bottom that comes to mind – likely a combo you already wear. Add in shoes, an optional layering piece and/or outerwear, and any bags or accessories you like. Then, think about whether another pair of shoes will give the outfit a completely different vibe, and make that swap. I create foundation outfits in Stylebook and then clone them and swap out specific pieces one at a time – it makes this process so easy and keeps a record of all the different choices.

SB: How can I find pieces that will make well proportioned outfits when I mix and match them?

R: Stylish and well-proportioned outfits are often put together in 1:2 or 2:1 proportions, and they pair slim with a bit of volume. Good illustrations of these guidelines are a slim-fitted, tucked-in (or cropped) top with a voluminous midi skirt,  or a longer, comfy sweater over a tighter above-the-knee skirt. If you love particular combinations, select items that maintain the right proportions – know what works for you. If you prefer mixing it up, make sure to include different lengths and volumes for each kind of clothing.

SB: Is it better to find my capsule wardrobe pieces in my existing wardrobe or should I buy new items? Maybe both?

R: Both! First, select as much of your capsule from your existing wardrobe as you can, but make sure these items “spark joy” as Marie Kondo says! You should buy items that fill real holes in your wardrobe, but try not to look at a seasonal capsule as a chance to purchase a brand new wardrobe just because certain trends are in that fall. Remember: a capsule wardrobe is not a punishment; it is a strategy designed to pinpoint your style and hopefully improve your life a bit.

SB: Do you use your capsule as a way to reduce your clothes shopping?

R: Definitely. After years of purchasing items that did not really fit with my lifestyle or style followed by constant purging, I now only buy what really works for my life and integrates into my current wardrobe. Ok, I still buy a few things I don’t “need” now and then, but most of my purchases are very well-considered and planned.

SB: Will I have to constantly do laundry when I make my capsule? Can this be avoided?

R: If you have selected pieces carefully, you won’t have to be doing laundry any more frequently than before. Choose items you know wear well, not ones that lose all shape after one wear. Take good care of them in-between wears by hanging them to air out and pressing as needed. I have found that dry-clean and hand-wash items often wear much better betweens washes, so don’t discount them because they take a bit of extra care. Sweaters, jeans, and leathers are great because they can be worn quite a bit before washing is required.

SB: How do I keep my looks interesting with out individual pieces standing out in a bad way?

R: Keep a stable of neutral solids in your closet that you can add interest to with a couple different prints, brighter colors, and myriad jewelry. People honestly don’t really keep a tally of what you wear, but space out your notice-me ensembles just in case. Layering is also your best friend. Can you wear that shirt under a dress? What about over with a belt? I love perusing Pinterest, Instagram and magazines for styling inspiration, particularly for great layering ideas!


SB: Should I have a separate work capsule or is it better to integrate my weekend and work wardrobe?

R: This honestly depends on your work environment. If you work in a corporate setting, your clothes may not carry over to weekend wear. However, even if you wear suits on a regular basis, buying contemporary, tailored styles will make them more versatile as separates. A black pencil skirt is perfect for nights out, and a blazer in stretch cotton twill would look great with jeans and a tee. No matter the work environment, if you shop strategically for versatile separates, you can minimize the number of items that only serve one function. If you work in a more casual or creative environment, it is a lot easier to have a capsule that crosses over from work to play.

SB: How do I update my capsule wardrobe when something wears out or goes out of style? 

R: When a foundational item wears out, definitely spend time to find a suitable replacement. Before you buy, think about whether you wore this piece a lot. If you loved it and wore it all the time, reflect on what you loved about it and try to find a similar item in a classic yet contemporary style or fabric. If you realize you never really wore it, hold off on buying! When something goes out of style, stash it if you absolutely love it and think it will come around again. If not, then consider replacing it with a timeless item or an updated style. In either situation, don’t buy immediately unless you must; if you reflect on your wardrobe and wait a bit, the right replacement will come to mind and you’ll know just what you need.

SB: What challenges did you encounter when you started capsule dressing and how did you overcome them?

R: The most challenging thing about capsule dressing initially was curbing my desire to shop. It took a little while, but now I find more of a thrill in hunting down just the right item for my cultivated, curated wardrobe than I did buying the first thing I saw in the store, regardless of whether it really worked for me. Rosie of The Capsule Project - Advice on Capsule Wardrobes

To read more of Rosie’s fantastic advice on capsule wardrobes, visit her blog The Capsule Project


  1. Francine said:

    Where can I purchase that grey cardigan?

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