How to Build a Capsule Wardrobe: The Complete Master Guide
We don't mean to brag but...
We hope it's helpful in your journey towards simplicity and empowerment. If you'd like our help building your sustainable, ethical and cruelty-free capsule wardrobe, we'd be honored to style you.
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CAPSULE WARDROBES 101
THE HOW TO GUIDE
What is a capsule wardrobe?
A capsule wardrobe is made up of essential clothing items that are styled together so they can be mixed and matched to create numerous outfits with ease.
Check out a curation of Our Favorite Capsule Wardrobe Looks.
History of a capsule wardrobe
Earlier this year, capsule wardrobes became extremely popular on social media. However, the idea was developed decades ago. In the 70s Susie Faux opened a boutique “Wardrobe” in London where she sold minimalist looking apparel that could be easily combined to make numerous outfits. She hoped to give women greater confidence and ease in styling themselves. The capsule fashion concept was subsequently transported to the U.S. as designer Donna Karan introduced the collection Seven Easy Pieces in 1983. Her models all wore bodysuits and showed off seven outfit styles for each.
What are the benefits of capsule wardrobes?
We have gathered the best upsides from our own experiences, including owning capsule-worthy clothing. There are many reasons to consider creating a capsule wardrobe.
When you have high-quality, essential pieces that pair well with each other, you no longer need to spend time rummaging through your closet, wondering what to wear. A functional wardrobe help you get the most out of your clothing with the least amount of effort. Spending up to 15 minutes deciding what to wear can add up to nearly 100 hours per year.
When you focus on being intentional about purchases with the goal of building and maintaining a capsule wardrobe, you will no longer be tempted to spend money on clothing you don’t need or love. A wardrobe that lacks focus tends to include pieces that don't pair well with each other, go 'out of style' or get damaged easily. Conversely, capsule pieces can be mixed and matched so you create exponentially more outfits as you build it. Capsule-worthy styles that are made with our planet, people and animal welfare in mind are better quality and last longer. An investment-worthy style that's built to last ends up costing less than several fast-fashion pieces. By replacing impulse purchases with intentionality and focus, you save money in the long run.
Save Mental Energy
Science has proven we have limited decision-making energy each day. The more decisions we make, the less will power and cognitive strength we have. Many of the world's most successful individuals (like Steve Jobs) use a capsule wardrobe to remove unnecessary daily decisions, so they can focus on what's most important to them.
Fewer items also requires less space — in your closet and your luggage. Capsule wardrobes are ideal for people that travel or prefer an essentialist lifestyle because you are able to use fewer items to create numerous outfits.
Keep Your Space Tidy
By maintaining a tight edit of styles, keeping a closet tidy won't feel like a part-time job.
Skip that last minute scramble
With so many go-to outfits in your capsule closet, you need not scramble for something to wear or race to the store to search for a new outfit for an interview or event.
Protect the planet
Purchasing fewer items that are higher quality and built to last (and made of eco-friendly fabrics) puts less strain on the planet, too. When you make more intentional purchases, less resources are required and less waste results. Our capsules meet all three criteria - sustainable, ethical, and cruelty-free.
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The Comfy Dress Shirt in Sapphire Blue by Encircled
What’s the difference between a minimalist and capsule wardrobe?
How They're Similar
When researching and building a capsule wardrobe, you may come across the terms “minimalist clothing” and “minimalist fashion.” These terms describe a conscious consumerism mindset applied to fashion — keep it simple: focus on items you really need, be intentional with your purchases, and choose versatile items that create multiple outfits. We've curated pieces that can be worn many ways here.
How They're Different
'Capsule wardrobe' refers to the way a closet functions together while the word 'minimalist' is often used to describe clothing. Minimalist style often involves clean lines, classic cuts, and a neutral (or grayscale) palette.
You can still have a high-functioning capsule wardrobe without having a minimalist style. If you prefer color or less traditional silhouettes, you can still apply a minimalist mindset to your closet by committing to a capsule wardrobe of pieces that are versatile, high-quality and express your personal style. We can help you build it.
Start your capsule wardrobe that reflects your personal style: 5 easy steps
Here is a basics 101: capsule wardrobe edition.
1. Determine your aesthetic and style goals
Although there are some commonalities amongst capsule wardrobes, the specific pieces you will need depend largely on your individual style, goals, profession, lifestyle, and budget. A first capsule wardrobe for a person with a very active outdoor lifestyle and a love of bold colors who also works from home in a creative industry, for example, will likely look different than that of a person that works in a formal office environment and prefers neutrals. If you aren’t sure what your individual style aesthetic is, you can peruse Pinterest, create a personal style board, and “pin” the styles that appeal to you. You can also search Pinterest for “bright capsule wardrobe” and “neutral capsule wardrobe” to get a feel for the variety of ways to build a capsule wardrobe. See “Understanding color” section below for tips on color.
Veneka's style quiz takes into account your style, lifestyle, color palette, and closet goals. Start a Veneka capsule and complete the quiz.
The key to making your capsule wardrobe work for you is to begin with a clear understanding of how it will support your best life.
2. Assess your current closet
To create a capsule wardrobe, remove all your clothes from the wardrobe and set aside some time to evaluate what's in your closet. Separate out items that don't fit well or don't suit your style goals. Also, consider Marie Kondo's question and ask yourself 'does this spark joy'. If you haven't reached for or worn a piece in 6-12 months, it's probably time to let it go. If it doesn't add value or joy to your life, we suggest letting it go.
Donate, gift, sell, upcycle, or recycle clothing that you no longer wear. Keep an eye out for staple pieces that you do wear often — such as a white tee shirt, tailored blazer, little black dress, or favorite pair of jeans; these will make a great base for starting a capsule wardrobe.
3. Consider budget, number of pieces, and timeline
Before you purchase any pieces for your capsule wardrobe, think about approximately how many pieces you’d like to have, what your budget is, and a timeline for reaching your capsule wardrobe goals. You don’t have to buy everything at once; you can, for example, plan to buy 2-5 pieces per season in order to build your capsule wardrobe gradually over time. Check out our Sale Favorites for building a capsule wardrobe on a budget.
4. Learn your accurate size
It’s important to take accurate measurements of at least your bust, waist, and hips before you purchase any items for your capsule wardrobe via e-commerce. Your sizes may have changed since the last time you shopped and knowing your accurate measurements will ensure you find and buy items that celebrate your shape.
5. Shop the basics first
No matter what your aesthetic and budget are, there are a few classic pieces that fit most every capsule wardrobe. See the next section called 'What pieces should I include in my capsule wardrobe?' for some suggestions for staple items for a capsule wardrobe or view Our Favorite Capsule Wardrobe Looks. We suggest focusing on high-quality pieces that are built to last and can last several decades. Capsule styles are designed for repeated use and there will be little need to replace them.
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What pieces should I include in my own capsule wardrobe?
Staple tops include camis, basic tees and tanks, blouses, and sweaters that can be layered under jackets and paired with casual or professional bottoms, depending on your lifestyle, location, personal aesthetic, professional dress code and the weather. Opt for breathable, eco-friendly fabrics and avoid clingy materials or synthetics (such as polyester). Even if you love color, we recommend at least 1-2 neutrals for classic pieces that are easy to wear everyday.
Blazers, trench coats, casual jackets (such as denim), and cardigans provide more than warmth; they can help you create a variety of looks. When chosen correctly, these can transform an outfit from casual to professional and vice versa. They will work hard for your capsule wardrobe and are worth investing in. Shop our favorite sustainable outer layers & jackets.
Well-fitting bottoms make a solid foundation for your capsule wardrobe. A great pair of jeans can be dressed up or down for work and weekend. It’s also helpful to have a couple of athleisure bottoms — such as leggings and joggers — to create comfy chic outfits for errands, working from home, and travel. You may consider incorporating relaxed fit, maxi, and denim skirts as well. Shop our top picks for eco-friendly bottoms.
If your work requires professional pants, choose high-quality sustainable fabrics with a flattering fit. Think skirts that retain their shape or structured pants with extra stretch. Preferably, these fabrics are stain and odor resistant. More durable bottoms that require less frequent washing save time, money, and resources.
Pops of personality
Your essential pieces are like a canvas upon which you add your personality. Dresses are a great way to incorporate bright colors, prints and fun. Pair colorful or printed tops with a neutral palette of bottoms and layering pieces. Incorporate accessories, such as scarves or jewelry, to splash on pops of color or more of your individual aesthetic.
How many outfits should my capsule create?
Your own high-functioning, versatile wardrobe should be filled with enough versatile pieces to give you 50 outfits. This equates to nearly two months worth of looks that can be easily mixed and matched, dressed up or down, worn to different events and remove decision fatigue. Timeless pieces that can be paired with seasonal styles will support this objective.
Rainbow Skirt in Pastel by Em & Shi
Colors can be categorized into warm, cool, and neutral. A common misconception is that a capsule wardrobe is made up of only neutral colors. This is not true; a capsule wardrobe should reflect your individual personality, so if you love color or florals, for example, you should incorporate them.
Keep in mind: Skin tones vary widely and fall along a spectrum so the below information is general and you may find you fit more than one category… and even if you fall perfectly into one of these categories, you may still rock any color! You should love your wardrobe. Rules are made to be broken.
If you have fair skin that burns easily, you are likely cool-toned. Cool colors, such as emerald, sapphire, and magenta tend to be flattering.
If you have brown or hazel eyes, dark hair, dark or olive skin, and tan easily then you are likely warm-toned. Colors that will compliment your look include red, orange, cream, and gold.
Neutrals often become the base of your capsule, but not always. Sometimes a set of cool or warm jewel tones, brights or pastels can work just as well while neutrals turn into your pops. However, neutrals as a base are the most common way to start a capsule. We recommend choosing between cool neutrals (pale grays and whites) and warm neutrals (sand dune, eggshell, etc). Navy and black will suit any of these bases to add more depth to your palette and they have become the most common colors for the capsule wardrobe.
Accent Colors (optional)
This is where your creativity and fun can come in. Chose accents that align with either your chosen warm or cool palette. For a capsule of fifteen items, we recommend at least three accent pieces.
Patterns can help give your outfit texture and vibe. Pick patterns for pieces like a dress, top or statement jacket. The most commonly used pattern that has been called an essential classic capsule piece is a vertical striped shirt. These tops are usually either navy stripes or black stripes. Other styles that work with any almost any capsule include floral patterns. Ensure that the color of your top pants corresponds to your accent and the color of the base garment.
Dressing for the seasons
To maintain a versatile wardrobe, your current wardrobe should be updated with seasonally relevant pieces, but this does not require buying new outfits each season. A capsule wardrobe consists of staples you'll wear year round and can add to — with layering pieces or the occasional statement or trend piece. Cardigans, scarves, jackets, tights, and boots can all help transition tanks, tees, and skirts to colder weather. Another factor to consider when dressing for the seasons is investing in prints and colors that work in any season.
Ensure that the new pieces you bring into your wardrobe pair with your current capsule seamlessly. Your new pieces should help continue to take the work out of getting dressed. If something doesn't blend easily into your capsule, we don't recommend buying it.
shop capsule-worthy styles
Which sustainable fabrics should I include in a capsule wardrobe?
When building a capsule wardrobe, choosing the right fabrics is key. Durable and breathable fabrics ensure a more comfortable fit and a longer life for your clothing. High-quality, sustainable materials — rather than fast fashion fabrics — convey your attention to detail and your values. Here are tips about some common fabrics you should consider (and a few to avoid):
Fabrics made of bamboo are sustainable, flexible, durable, soft, hypoallergenic, moisture-wicking, and naturally antimicrobial. Clothing made of bamboo tends to be buttery soft, last longer and require less washing.
Tencel, or lyocell, is a sustainable material made from gum trees. It is biodegradable, soft, lightweight, absorbent, and wrinkle-resistant — so it is both comfortable and it saves time and energy on steaming and ironing. Plus, this material is moisture-wicking and flexible, so it’s great for people who are active, on the move at home or work, and traveling.
Cotton is a comfortable and common fabric. Unfortunately, pesticides and harmful chemicals used in conventional cotton production make farmers sick and cause premature death. These chemicals also pollute the planet and may be transferred to our skin during wear. Choose organic cotton whenever possible.
Only 1% of the world’s clothing is up-cycled or recycled. In choosing clothing made from recycled materials, we help give new life to materials that would have otherwise created more waste.
Avoid synthetic fibers
About 60% of the world’s clothes are made of plastics and synthetic fibers. Low quality, fast fashion clothing is often made of synthetic materials such as polyester, nylon and acrylic. When these fabrics are sent to landfills, they can’t be naturally broken down and, instead, emit harmful toxins.
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What's the easiest way to build a personalized sustainable, ethical, and cruelty-free capsule wardrobe?
A capsule wardrobe helps you do more with less, saving you time, money, and space in your closet and luggage… while also reducing consumption and waste.
You can take it a step further and commit to only purchasing items that are made from eco-friendly fabrics by companies with ethical labor and cruelty-free animal welfare practices. It can be challenging and time-consuming to find brands that uphold these standards. Veneka stylists take the guesswork out and save you time by curating capsule wardrobe pieces that meet all three standards: sustainable fabrics, ethical labor, and cruelty-free practices.
The fashion industry is among the top contributors to climate change and the greatest exploiter of women. A complete capsule wardrobe with fewer clothes and high quality pieces that rejects fast fashion will create a positive ripple effect across our planet. Everyone deserves essential items in a curated wardrobe that takes the work out of outfit ideas. Try your first capsule wardrobe with us.
How do you build upon capsule wardrobes over time?
A complete capsule wardrobe is intentional and minimalist by design. If you are building a curated wardrobe, you can do so gradually over time while keeping in mind the goals of saving time, space, money, and resources.
A capsule wardrobe should help you create more outfits out of less pieces. So, when adding new items to your wardrobe, consider how they fit in with what you have and how many different ways you can wear them.
Rather than shopping sporadically, it can help you stay organized and focused on your wardrobe goals if you opt to add pieces seasonally or quarterly, when you may need a new layering piece for colder weather or sleeveless blouses for summertime. You can also think about adding new items to your capsule wardrobe on special occasions — choosing a statement piece for your birthday or a holiday, for example. We put together looks that are capsule-worthy treasures to give & covet for special occasions.
Ensure any new treasures you bring into your wardrobe pair with what you already own. Test out different outfits from your capsule with that piece included. It should seamlessly integrate and add to the number of outfits you create. If it doesn't, skip it. You'll be grateful to own less clothing.
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