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How stylists create a capsule wardrobe in 6 easy steps

The term capsule wardrobe is thrown around constantly, but what is it? And how easy is it to create one? A capsule wardrobe is the holy grail because it streamlines your whole dressing and shopping process and guarantees you will always look effortlessly stylish. The definition is a limited collection of interchangeable pieces that create perfect outfits for your shape, colouring and lifestyle, every time. Essentially it is your day-to-day uniform pieces – skirts, day/work dresses, trousers etc. that can easily glide between work and play. How easy? It’s pretty easy to create, if you accept that it’s much more about planning and restraint, than trend-hopping and impulse shopping! Follow these steps and you should be on your stylish way.

1. Choose your colour palette

Choose a handful of neutral colours that work best for your skin tone and stick to them.

For instance, if you’re on the cool side of things like me, I tend to stick with grey, navy and white

If it’s the warmer side of things go with brown, beige and gold and if you can wear black and white, go with that.

The strategy with colour is to buy the core pieces of your capsule wardrobe in these neutral colours and then choose tops, scarves and some statement pieces in accent colours that make your outfit pop. Key ‘pop’ colours for Spring ‘13 are emerald-green, pastels and sunset colours.

2. Pick a theme

Your chosen theme can often determine your colour palette, so it’s often more practical to lightly choose a theme to work in with your chosen palette. This year for instance, the monochrome theme could also double up as your colour palette of black and white.

The naval theme is always a fresh classic that you can’t go wrong with for Spring.

Some theme ideas for Spring ‘13  are stripes which can work with any palette and the minimal theme which is also more about cut and block colours, so will go with any palette.

3. Your wardrobe checklist

Go through your existing wardrobe and tick off what you have on the list, tick if it is good quality, well-tailored and flattering to your shape.

Is there a predominant theme? What is the colour palette emerging? If there is more than one colour palette, group your items into each palette.

  • Jackets x 2 (1 blazer, 1 casual)
  • Skirts   x 2  (1 pencil skirt, 1 casual skirt)
  • Trousers x 2 (1 wide leg, 1 slim leg)
  • Dresses x 2 (1 casual, 1 smart)
  • Cardigan x 1 (multi-purpose)
  • Shirts x 2 (1 blouse, 1 shirt)
  • Jeans x 1 (perfect fitting, flattering)

Based on the how much you already have from this list, if you have more than one colour palette, choose one and go in that direction. So next time you go shopping it will be a breeze, you’ll know exactly which items you need and what colour options you can select from.

4. Capsule wardrobe shopping strategy

Based on your existing pieces, what are the obvious gaps?

If there is a gaping hole in the tops section or bottoms section or jackets section, then you know where your shopping list needs to start.

Capsule wardrobe shopping can be broken down into 3 phases:

  • Phase 1 is to have 1 decent piece of every item on the above list.
  • Phase 2 is to have 2.
  • Phase 3 is about getting all the fun pieces we call “wardrobe changers/outfit makers” – see below.

5. Wardrobe changers/outfit makers

This is my term for the statement pieces that make clothes into ‘outfits’. Whether it’s statement jackets, jewellery, fur gilets, scarves, belts, it’s the ‘fun’ stuff. If you’re trousers flatter you beautifully and your shirt is cut perfectly for your proportions – you may only be wearing black and white, but you can simply add any number of colourful scarves, bags, shoes or jackets to create endless possibilities and look different each and every time. This is a fail-safe way of playing with the latest trends too, by using accessories to work the trend, it allows your key pieces to glide effortlessly into the next season.

To keep with the limited pieces element of the capsule wardrobe idea, which is after all why it is so effective in time-saving and ease – we suggest you aim to keep to 2 statement jackets, 4 scarves, 2 day bags and 2 dressier bags, 2 statement belts and a pair of gorgeous knee-high boots. This is much more at your discretion, just remember the key is to keep the quality up and the quantity down.

6. Build over time

If you want to save time, money and enjoy that feeling of having a perfectly functioning and stylish wardrobe that works every time, then create a hit list and get one great quality item at a time. Think price-per-wear, quality over quantity and get the very best quality pieces you can for your neutral key pieces.

We would love to hear your feedback as always and any additional tips you might have.

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5 Comments
  1. Ntathu Allen says

    Wonderful advise and just what I was looking for to guide me into time saving and still looking gorgeous when out and about. Off to do my inventory. Hugs and thanks

    1. Evelyn says

      Thanks Ntathu – that’s the aim of the game, style made quick and simple! Glad you found it useful. Enjoy x

  2. Zena Fisher says

    Good advice. One comment though- these sort of articles always focus on people who work in a business/smart environment- its harder to follow if no dress code applies to you and if you wanted to you could live in jeans….as I do. I’d love to create a smart/ casual capsule wardrobe. Also…what about shoes and coats!!?

  3. Michelle says

    Very helpful article! I’ve been searching day and night for simple, articulate and well-written tips to help me improve my wardrobe. Thank you so much

  4. Evelyn Cotter says

    Michelle – many thanks. Glad you liked it.

    Zena- smart casual is the real challenge, I cerainly agree with you there and most of our personal shopping clients use us for exactly that. It can be a bit of a minefield.
    Perhaps a new article is in order to give tips on where to start. Thanks for the suggestion.