FAQ: Capsule Wardrobes – What are They, How Can They Work for ME?

Today’s post is going to be a Q&A session focusing on Capsule Wardrobes – a topic I get quite a few questions about. Below you’ll find my answers to some of the typical questions I receive on four particular aspects of Capsule Wardrobes:

  1. What a Capsule wardrobe actually IS
  2. Its relationship to the rest of your wardrobe
  3. How to start building one – either from scratch, or one that harmonizes with your existing wardrobe.
  4. I don’t want to be restricted to a “uniform” and want to incorporate more variety in my clothing. Can I still build a capsule wardrobe?

If you’d rather watch than read, you can access a video version of this post on my YouTube channel by clicking HERE.

Feel free to email me or send me a message on Facebook should you have additional questions.

1. I’ve heard different definitions of a Capsule Wardrobe – what exactly IS it, and how does it relate to the rest of my wardrobe?

A Capsule Wardrobe can be defined as:

A collection of a few essential items of clothing that don’t go out of fashion, such as skirts, trousers, and coats, which can then be expanded with seasonal pieces.

I further refine that definition by specifying that a core capsule wardrobe contain 10 garments in 3 complimentary colors, thereby creating a wardrobe of 20 different outfits. A well-planned core capsule wardrobe can help you be stylishly and appropriately dressed for an entire working month without repeating an outfit.

Your Capsule Wardrobe can form the foundation for building the rest of your wardrobe, or can work as the starting point around which you’ll add additional colors, variations in fabric, and accessories to help expand your options.


2. Surely you must own more than 10 garments! What proportion of your entire closet is a capsule wardrobe supposed to represent?

I do own far more than 10 items, but my essential core capsule wardrobe is only 10 pieces strong. The idea of creating a capsule wardrobe is to  make sure you have a solid foundation of key pieces that represent your style, incorporate colors that flatter your coloring, honor and express your authentic personality, and that provide you with enough good outfits to carry you through a working month without you having to spend thousands if you choose not to.

Although it can be developed to work on its own – particularly if you are working in a conservative industry – you can also combine a Capsule Wardrobe with other garments and accessories to give you the freedom to switch things up periodically. You can also add mini-capsules of just a few garments in a special favorite color, or the hot new color of the season to add versatility.

If you are working with a Capsule Wardrobe, in addition to your core foundational pieces, you’ll also have some extra items and subsections in your wardrobe for underwear, lounge wear, special occasion attire, etc. Those subsections are not a part of your everyday wardrobe, but they can be just as essential!

If you are just starting out I would recommend you focus on building a strong core Capsule Wardrobe first before you start purchasing a lot of garments that are best suited for the rest of your wardrobe. After you’ve covered the foundation and essentials, you can tackle any needed subsections, add more colors, or expand into special fabrics if you want to.


3. My wardrobe is an absolute mess but I can’t afford to throw it all out and buy a whole new set of clothes. How can I build a Capsule Wardrobe without spending a fortune?

First of all, you need to investigate what it is about your wardrobe that makes you feel it is an ‘absolute mess’.

Do you have:

A) A few single items you really like ==> Meaning that your wardrobe does not reflect your personal style?

B) Lots of items that you like but that don’t mix well and can’t be combined into many outfits ==> Meaning you have no real wardrobe structure?

C) A lot of outfit options but only for a few rare occasions, not your everyday life ==> Meaning your wardrobe does not reflect your lifestyle?

If your main issue is B), your first step should definitely be a thorough Image & Style analysis to help you identify over- and under-represented areas in your wardrobe. If you feel like you have some individual items that represent your style, but that somehow don’t work well together, you need to bring a bit more structure into your wardrobe, for example by developing a “uniform”.

Now don’t panic – a “uniform” doesn’t mean you’ll wear the same things all the time…what it does mean is that you’ll identify your main wardrobe categories (i.e. Skirt suits vs Pant suits) or that you’ll focus on one or two methods for creating outfits.

The trickiest scenario is A): If you don’t feel inspired by the majority of your clothes, chances are your wardrobe just does not match your Authentic personal style. If that is the case, the only solution is to start from the very beginning: find your best colors, analyze your body frame and proportions, determine your dominant and secondary personality types, and use the information to find and analyze inspiration, pick out themes and specific elements and bit by bit create a new Personal Style concept.

Depending on the specific issue (s) of your wardrobe you might not have to buy a lot of new items to make it work for your Personal Style. If your wardrobe has a weak structure for example, rethinking the way you build outfits, identifying your main categories and a few new basics might be all you need to rediscover the wealth of options your wardrobe has to offer.

However, if your wardrobe really does need a considerable amount of work and you don’t have the budget to do it all at once, aim for a smaller, but still coherent set of key pieces first and expand it item-by-item. Instead of 10 pieces, try to acquire or re-purpose just 3-5 pieces that truly fit your style. That way you will always have at least a few outfits and perfect items at your fingertips to combine with less-than-perfect items, until you have the budget to replace those as well.


4. I don’t want to be restricted to a “uniform” and want to incorporate more variety in my clothing. Can I still build a capsule wardrobe?

Yes, although a “uniform” is a great starting point for a Capsule Wardrobe, if it doesn’t fit your authentic personality or your style, you do not need to start there. You can build a DivaStyle wardrobe – Dynamic, Intriguing, Vivacious and Audacious – within the characteristics of a Capsule Wardrobe without building a “uniform”.

You will need to develop some sort of framework that will give your Capsule Wardrobe structure and ensure that your clothes support the way you build outfits. Even if you don’t consciously follow a certain method, you will probably employ a few different techniques to pair individual items, for example – you may be most comfortable when you balance out a colorful piece with a more neutral one, or a piece with a lot of texture that is balanced out by smoother fabrics in other pieces.

As a second step you can then decide on an overall structure that will support the outfit-building methods you prefer: for example –  if you prefer a basics/statement pieces approach you could try a three-fold combination of basics, mid-range and statement pieces. Then, use your favorite proportions, color, and your Authentic Personality to determine the what item categories and specific pieces to acquire.

Item categories can be detailed (e.g. skinny jeans or loose-fitting, button-down shirt) or more general (e.g. long sleeved top or flat shoes). Broad item categories will allow you to create a greater variety of outfits, because you can choose a wider range of items for each, for example ‘flat shoes’ could mean sneakers, loafers, boots, sandals, etc. Feel free to use fairly broad categories to build your Capsule Wardrobe, but make sure that your structure and final set of items actually succeed in giving you the ability to build the number of outfits you set as a goal.