Coined by Susie Faux and popularized by Donna Karan, the concept of a capsule wardrobe has taken flight again with the recent revival of minimalist fashion.Timelessness is a quality we look for in everyday items, from interior decor to computers. Yet when it comes to wardrobe, we value trends over longevity.
Proponents of capsule wardrobes urge us to think differently. The fact is that trends are constantly changing. Vintage pieces certainly have their charm, but there’s a reason those Juicy Couture velour tracksuits have stayed in the back of your closet since 2005. Looking back at mid-2000s trends like pop-collared polos, fedoras, and shutter shades, we scratch our heads wondering what went wrong. At the end of the day, generation-defining trends are almost always guaranteed to fade into the cringe category.
Instead of putting yourself at risk of looking back at old photos with a twinge of embarrassment, start building a capsule wardrobe that stands the test of time, year after year.
So, what is a capsule wardrobe, what are capsule wardrobe essentials, and what makes them so ageless? We’ll give you the rundown on how to build a capsule wardrobe and how to fine-tune your staple and statement pieces to survive the four seasons.
What is a capsule wardrobe?
Rewind to the 1970s, the birth decade of the capsule wardrobe. London boutique owner Susie Faux made it her mission to help women manifest confidence through style and elegance. Having built a name for herself through her collection of minimalist styles her concept of the “capsule wardrobe” had truly taken off. By 1985, American high-fashion designer Donna Karan launched her first line called Seven Easy Pieces, a selection of pieces inspired by Faux’s capsule wardrobe concept and the contemporary working woman.
The capsule wardrobe put minimalism on the fashion industry's map. And during a time as colorful, dimensional, and dynamic as the ’80s, the sheer simplicity of a capsule wardrobe was moving enough to warrant Donna Karan’s catapult into household name fame.
Characterized by three key rules, the capsule wardrobe is a careful mixture of versatility and sophistication.
Rule #1: Pick a color scheme and stick to it.
Though it may sound restrictive to pin a color scheme and be beholden to it for the rest of your capsule wardrobe days, it’s not nearly as intimidating as it sounds. Easily pairable colors like black, white, grey, and navy blue are all excellent options that are probably already sitting in your closet. Choose two or three base colors and two or three accent colors that pair well together no matter how you interchange pieces.
Rule #2: Opt for high-quality fabrics and materials
The current state of the fast fashion industry has likely made you more accustomed to cheap materials that shrink, shred, and degrade with every wash and dry. High-quality clothing is built to last and crafted with durability in mind.
Rule #3: Keep it classic.
To assure your fab pieces don’t turn into drab pieces in a matter of years, stick to classic cuts, shapes, and patterns that can weather the changing tides of the fashion industry. We’re talking dark wash jeans, basic blazers, simple LBDs, and round toe flats.
Capsule wardrobe essentials.
So you’ve nailed down your desired color scheme and know exactly which pieces and accents will look best on you for date nights and workdays. Now you’re probably wondering how to build a capsule wardrobe. Breaking your wardrobe down by category helps to visualize the many ways you can assemble outfits for any and all occasions. These closet essentials are must-haves, and will give you all the inspiration needed when building a capsule wardrobe.
- Relaxed cotton tee
- Cozy sweater
- Silky blouse
- Dark wash jeans
- Pixie pants
- Black jeans
- Pencil skirt
- Crossbody bag
- Dainty necklace
Building a capsule wardrobe for any season.
It’s finally crunch time. All of the working parts are there, and now you just need to figure out how to assemble your denim, cotton tees and loafer-style flats in a sophisticated way. Luckily, you’re more than halfway there. One of the most attractive draws to cultivating a capsule wardrobe is how outfits can basically make themselves. Since you’re working with a limited color palette and incredibly versatile garments, pairing becomes virtually painless.
For the ladies out there looking to bolster your all-season capsule wardrobe, we’ve got you covered. These seasonal outfit ideas are basically your one-stop-shop answer to “what is a capsule wardrobe?”.
Summer capsule wardrobe outfit ideas.
Summer is all about soaking up the sun and finding any excuse to stay out for a few minutes more. Longer days leave more room for outfit changes, and when you’ve got a busy schedule filled with things to do and people to see, the timely garment swaps are necessary.
For a seaside stroll with the girls, a flowy A-line skirt pairs perfectly with an off the shoulder top. No funky shoulder tan lines to cramp your time in the sunshine. Finish this adorable ensemble off with a pair of strappy sandals for the breeziest feel.
A warm summer night date under beer garden lights is made unforgettable when paired with a little black dress. Look good and feel good as you chat the night away. Be sure to bring along a lightweight statement jacket in case the wee hours of the night come with a little wind chill.
Autumn capsule wardrobe outfit ideas.
The changing leaves are the first signs of fall, signaling time to overhaul your wardrobe. Earlier sunsets and cooler temps mean it’s finally time to break out the boots and cozy sweaters.
Pumpkin patch visits are an absolute must on any fall festivity calendar. Prepare for some muddy walking and excellent Instagram photo-ops with a pair of flattering black jeans, a simple white v-neck cotton tee, and an oversized denim jacket. A simple delicate necklace and a pair of brown ankle boots tie everything together for a cute and casual look.
If autumn means it’s time to get back to the grind, prepare yourself for some killer business-casual looks with a pair of pixie pants, a youthful silk cami, and a chic blazer. A pair of Rothy’s slip-on flats are the ultimate everyday work flat to complete your outfit.
Winter capsule wardrobe outfit ideas.
Don’t let the cold weather put a damper on your style. Just because you have to cake the clothing layers on, that doesn’t mean the layers have to be drab or dowdy.
For a fancy holiday dinner, consider matching up your favorite black pumps with a structured A-line skirt and a cashmere turtleneck sweater. A simple belt makes for the cherry on top for your festive ‘fit.
Headed to the great outdoors for a family ski-venture? Between hitting the slopes and tackling black diamonds, you’ll need a functional lodge-lounging getup that works for the fireside or some outdoor window shopping. A pair of dark wash jeans and a wool sweater paired with a pair of tall boots is our go-to selection. Keep warm with an insulated puffer jacket that’s simple to pull off and on whenever you need to shed the extra layer.
Spring capsule wardrobe outfit ideas.
Just like the blossoming tulips and lilies, you feel a sense of rejuvenation as the days start to get longer and the weather gets warmer. Springtime is all about lightweight pieces that let you feel bright and joyful.
A simple flowy skater dress is a timeless classic that can be dressed casually with a pair of white trainers or dressed up with a charming pair of pointed flats. Accessorize with a chic crossbody bag for a more youthful look.
A lakeside picnic is one of the best ways to welcome the season, and what better tote to bring than a basket filled with fresh strawberries and gourmet sandwiches? Enjoy your time with your gals or with your significant other in a pair of black leggings, a slouchy sweater, a denim jacket, and your favorite white sneakers. No worrying about gusts of wind blowing your cover as you lay down on the picnic blanket.