Capsule Wardrobes and Style Essentials
Capsule Wardrobes are big news right now, but I realised a long time ago that the classic, 33-item capsule wardrobe just wasn’t for me – and it doesn’t work for a lot of other people, other.
Instead, for the past few years, my focus has been firmly on building a wardrobe that works with both my personal style AND with my lifestyle. That doesn’t mean I don’t love capsule wardrobes, by the way: far from it – I’m actually kind of fascinated by them, and have even attempted a few of my own. I firmly believe that you can have the best of both worlds, though: by taking the best bits of the capsule wardrobe philosophy, and using them to create a core wardrobe, filled with the kind of closet essentials you’ll want to wear on repeat, you’ll make sure you always have something to wear, no matter what the occasion.
Why stop there, though? Look, capsule wardrobes are awesome, and the ones I’ve created for myself have really helped me define my style and eliminate that “hundreds of clothes, but nothing to wear” problem that so many of us face every morning. Where capsule wardrobes fall down (for me, at least), however, is in failing to realise that some of us genuinely enjoy shopping. We love to collect beautiful items of clothing, and if we find an item we really, REALLY love, well, we’re probably going to buy it, regardless of whether or not it’ll work with the rest of our wardrobe.
For people like that, capsule wardrobes just don’t work, which is why I’ve spent the last couple of years working on building that core wardrobe of basics – but allowing myself to add to it whenever I find something I just HAVE to have.
I might not want to stick to a capsule wardrobe religiously, but, as I said, creating one has really helped me start to create a wardrobe that really works for my lifestyle. Before I got interested in capsule wardrobes, I was something of a compulsive shopper: the problem was, although I had mountains of clothes to show for it, I constantly felt like I had nothing to wear. My main issue here was that I just wasn’t shopping for my lifestyle: buying tons of summer clothes when I live in a country that barely gets any sunshine; snapping up prom dresses and stilettos, even although I work from home, and rarely go anywhere even remotely “dressy” – you get the idea. My interest in capsule wardrobes, however, prompted me to put together one of my own, which forced me to really think about what I actually NEEDED to buy – as opposed to what I WANTED to buy. After a few months of buying only those items that fell into the former category, I ended up with a closet of basics, all of which work for the life I have, as opposed to the life I just WISH I had. What’s more, now that I have the basics down, I no longer feel guilty about buying something totally impractical from time to time, too: although, it has to be said that focusing on the items I need for my capsule has made me much less likely to spend money on things I know I won’t wear.
Here are some capsule wardrobes I’ve put together over the past few years:
This small wardrobe capsule was designed for classic dressers, and will work best for spring, early autumn, or even summer, depending on your weather. Classic nautical pieces, plus fun prints combine with all-time essentials like a trench coat and blazer to create the kind of capsule that will last for years, and never really date.
Although the individual items in this particular capsule are no longer available, you should easily be able to find similar items on the high street: I recommend stores like Boden and Zara for this kind of style, although the trench coat and jeans should be available just about everywhere.
Sticking with spring, and also sticking with the classic/nautical theme (Because if it ain’t broke… No, seriously: capsule wardrobes are not the time to go for fast-fashion or fleeting trends – they’re best filled with classic basics which you’ll still want to wear year after year, so don’t be afraid to pick a style you love and stick to it…), this sample capsule wardrobe is based along the same lines as the one above it, but with fewer pieces. For that reason, it could also work easily as a travel wardrobe.
It also goes without saying that although I’ve called this a “spring capsule,” many (although not all) of the items it contains will work year-round, thus saving you even more money, and making your closet work even harder for you.
I know it’s a complete cliche, but I love Audrey Hepburn’s style: which is handy, really, because Audrey’s is a style that really lends itself to capsule wardrobes. Although the actress wore these styles in the 1960s, they look just as good now as they did then – and they’ll probably continue looking good for a long time to come, too.
As this is a very minimal-style capsule wardrobe, you don’t need too many pieces either, as they’ll all effortlessly mix and match, to create a range of different looks, albeit within the same, very distinctive, kind of style. Again, the exact items I’ve used in all of these capsule wardrobes have long-since sold out, unfortunately, but it shouldn’t be too hard to find similar pieces: try sites like Lindy Bop for retro-inspired pieces that don’t cost the earth, or check out my post on how to dress like Audrey Hepburn for more inspiration.
This capsule wardrobe was originally designed to be a packing list: it was put together in response to a question from a reader, who wanted to know what to pack for a trip to Edinburgh in the spring, but it could just as easily work for other places/situations, too. One of the great things about capsule wardrobes is that they make packing a breeze, as once you’re used to getting the maximum use out of a small amount of clothing, you no longer have to worry about what to pack for a week away!
(Also, I really, really want that trench coat. I can’t be the only one, surely?)
Most of the capsule wardrobes I put together tend to be seasonal ones -partly for practical reasons, but also because I find it keeps things interesting if you can switch things up at least once a year! If you do want to put together a year-round capsule, however, this one consists of all of my ultimate wardrobe essentials, which, put together, will give you an outfit for almost any occasion!
For obvious reasons, most capsule wardrobes tend to revolve around fairly neutral colours, which are easy to mix and match. If you’re a fan of colour, though, fear not – it is possible to inject some brighter shades into your capsule, as long as you make sure to include a few “grounding” colours like black and white, too.
Finally, I discovered that pregnancy was the perfect opportunity to try living with an actual capsule wardrobe, consisting of a very limited number of clothes. These are the actual items I wore throughout my pregnancy – and yes, I was very, very bored with all of them by the time my son was born!
Building a wardrobe
Of course, the process of building a wardrobe is one that never really ends. Every month I’m refining my wardrobe, getting rid of items that no longer work, and, of course, shopping for things to replace them. I document what I actually wear in my regular outfit posts, but here are some more specific posts on the process of building a wardrobe here.
Related: How walk in stilettos