How To Create a Capsule Wardrobe
We here at VETTA are passionate about helping you build a more thoughtful wardrobe, so in addition to creating mini capsule wardrobes each season, we've also developed some resources and worksheets to help you create a wardrobe you'll love.
Building a capsule wardrobe can be intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be! Take the steps below one at a time. You can even bookmark this page and come back once a week to work on the next section. We recommend setting aside an hour or so for each step. Make a cup of tea, put on some music that makes you feel energized, and dive in!
These steps are meant to accompany our capsule wardrobe guide, which you can download below.
This exercise will help you identify your style and envision the direction of your capsule wardrobe. Don’t worry about what you already have – this step is all about dreaming.
Make a Pinterest board for your capsule wardrobe style inspiration. You may already have one, but we recommend starting fresh: what inspired you a few years ago may not be quite right for you anymore. Next, pin tons of outfit inspiration photos that you like, and don't hold back. Pin anything you like, but try to focus more on the outfits than pretty pictures! Just because an Instagram influencer looks amazing in a picture doesn’t necessarily mean it’s your style, so watch out for that.
Some tips for finding inspiration are:
- Check out our Pinterest style boards! We’ve put together inspiration boards for different styles (like “bohemian” or “edgy”). Most people won’t be purely one style, so feel free to pull from multiple.
- Think about the items in your wardrobe that you wear frequently or really love. Search Pinterest for those words (i.e. striped top or long vest).
- Pin from the website or Pinterest page of a brand you already love.
- Think about celebrities or bloggers whose style you like. Search their name, or pin straight from their blog!
- Go down a “related pins” rabbit hole. If you find something you particularly like, click into that pin + scroll down. You’ll see similar or related photos, which might lead you to something new or unexpected.
Take a look at your inspiration board and see if you notice any patterns. Look for recurring themes in these categories:
- Style - do the images you pinned lean towards a certain style, like bohemian or minimal?
- Colors - are there certain color palettes or patterns that you gravitate towards, like black, jewel tones, bright colors, or florals?
- Individual Pieces - do you have multiple versions of certain items, like turtlenecks or denim skirts?
- Outfits - Do you have certain outfits that you're drawn to, like a tshirt + jeans or a printed dress + denim jacket?
Make a note of any themes that you see in your Capsule Wardrobe workbook.
NAME YOUR STYLE
The next step is to give your style a name or a short description (i.e. “french-inspired classic” or “relaxed minimalist”). Did you pick out a ton of bright colors and stripes and collared shirts? Maybe your style could be called "bright menswear-inspired prep." Did you select a bunch of feminine pieces but with simple clean lines? Try “refined romantic.” Sometimes it's hard to immediately name the themes you’re seeing, and you don't have to rush to a phrase. Just let the words flow, writing down everything that resonates with you. Then try and narrow it down to a short phrase or sentence.
Here are some descriptive style words to get your creative juices flowing:
CREATE YOUR STYLE GUIDE
Now make a new Pinterest board! This one is going to be more specific, now that you've narrowed in on your style focus, and will have actual "outfit recipes" that you can use.
Go back through the first board you made and repin images to the new board if you can answer yes to the following questions:
Does this represent my style?
Would I feel cute in this? Would it make me feel stylish/like myself/confident?
Would I be comfortable in this outfit?
Only things you could actually see yourself wearing belong on this board. You can also go back and search for new pins using the some of the words you identified in step 3.
This board doesn’t need to have a million pins. Aim to have under 50, so that it’s focused enough to help you get dressed in the morning. This can be an ongoing resource for you, and it should evolve as your style changes! Add things if you find new looks you love, and delete things that no longer inspire you. If you’re ever feeling stuck getting dressed in the morning, reference this board!
P.S. If you haven't already, download our workbook on building your capsule wardrobe! You'll need it for the next step ;)
The first step is to observe the colors that you already gravitate towards. Start with your closet: observe if there are any colors that you already own lots of. Then go to your Pinterest board and see if there are any additional colors to add. Your closet speaks more to what you've worn in the past, and your Pinterest board helps give insight into colors you’d like more of in your capsule wardrobe. Seeing all of the clothes/images at once should help you to get a feel for what colors and patterns you're drawn to.
BASE COLORS + ACCENT COLORS
Start with a few base colors and then add accent colors. The base colors will be the basics that will make up the core pieces of your wardrobe (the things you wear the most). The accent colors will be for adding pops of color and interest. It's best to focus on just 6-9 total colors at first so your closet can be really versatile. Later on, you can thoughtfully add more color, but we recommend starting small.
It's helpful to build your capsule wardrobe around either cool tones (such as blue, grey, and black) or warm tones (such as camel, ivory, and burgundy). All of the basics (such as black, white, grey, navy, and ivory) will make a minimal color palette. If you love color, you can also try to identify a certain type of color (like jewel tones or bright colors) so your pieces all pair well. You can get creative, just make sure that you would want to wear each color with the other colors.
If there’s a color or print you love that doesn’t work with your color palette, you can still keep pieces in that color! Leave it out of your main palette but look for stand-alone items (like dresses or jumpsuits) that you won’t need to mix and match with the rest of your capsule wardrobe.
PRINTS + TEXTURES
Think about the different prints and textures that you would want in your ideal closet. Solids are the easiest thing to mix and match, but this is about building a wardrobe you love, not limiting yourself to a palette you’ll be bored of. If you can choose prints that mix and match, it makes your wardrobe much easier to wear. Think about the way the patterns you’re drawn to work together: for example, floral prints and stripes can pair well, if they're in the right color palette. Focus on the patterns you know you’ll be able to wear with everything else (and if you aren’t a fan of pattern-mixing, try to limit yourself to just one or two).
Lastly, it can be helpful to do two color palettes per year (Spring/Summer and Fall/Winter). For example, in the winter, you may wear less white and more deep/dark colors. You’ll get the most use out of your wardrobe if there’s a lot of overlap between your seasonal palettes, so keeping your core colors the same and swapping out accent colors mean you’ll be able to keep many of your pieces in rotation year-round. Once you've finalized your colors + patterns, add them on page 4 of your capsule wardrobe workbook.
Creating a cohesive color palette for your capsule wardrobe will help you get the most out of each item in your closet. With time, getting dressed will be a breeze!
Below are a few examples of color palettes to give you some inspiration.
Finding clothes that fit well and make you feel great can be a challenge. It's easy to buy something because it looks good on the hanger or the model, and not realize that you wouldn't really like it on you. Over time, you usually become aware of some of the things in your wardrobe that don’t flatter you and other things that make you feel confident. If you can identify those patterns, you can stop buying those items and build a wardrobe that makes you feel comfortable and confident.
For example, maybe low necklines make you feel too exposed, or flowy tops make you feel like you’re wearing a sack. Maybe you look great and it’s all in your head, or maybe that style just isn’t flattering for you, but what matters most is how you feel. Follow the exercise below + on page five of our free capsule wardrobe workbook to build a fit guide to keep your capsule wardrobe filled with clothes that make you feel amazing.
IDENTIFY HEROES + VILLAINS
Take a moment to browse through the list below. Identify the heroes and villains in your closet, so you can be aware of them when you shop. There will probably be some “trouble fits” or “ideal fits” that you already know about, while others will surface while doing this exercise.
There’s no need to have a super specific opinion on each of these categories, but we created a comprehensive list so that you can scan it and see if there’s anything that stands out to you. You may just have one or two items on your “avoid” list, and that’s fine! There’s no need to create superficial boundaries. But identifying things that really irk you or things that absolutely make you feel like a babe will help you build a capsule wardrobe that you feel confident wearing.
CREATE A LIST
Finalizing your fit guide is simple. Make a note with two lists somewhere easy to reference, like the Notes app on your phone or in your capsule wardrobe workbook.
List #1: “I need to stop buying so many…”
List #2: “I need to buy more…”
Here’s an example:
If you have this in mind when you shop, you will find that with time your closet will be filled with more and more of the things that make you feel beautiful and confident. Yay!
Sometimes the reason for that “nothing to wear” feeling isn’t that you don’t love the style, or that your color palette is too undefined. You could have the perfect wardrobe in theory, but if it doesn’t suit your lifestyle, you’ll still have trouble getting dressed every morning.
That can happen when you go through major changes (like going from an office job to being a stay at home mom). It can also happen if you gravitate towards a style that’s dressier or more casual than the places where you spend the most time. If you're a new mom and you have 20 pairs of stiletto heels and no easy flats you can just slip on, you’ll probably end up being frustrated when you get dressed. It doesn't mean you can't buy the stilettos, or cute party dresses, it just means they shouldn’t take up the majority of your closet space. Set an intention to buy more of the things you'll enjoy wearing every day, and you'll get the most out of your closet.
YOUR CLOSET VS YOUR LIFESTYLE
Take inventory of how you spend your time compared to the clothes you currently own. Use page six of your free capsule wardrobe guide to write down the percentage of your week you spend on the activities below, compared to the percentage of your clothes that work for that activity, to get an idea. It doesn’t have to be exact, but just play around with it until you get to 100%.
Casual (working from home, hanging out on the weekends, running errands)
Active (working out, hiking, walking the dog)
Professional (corporate jobs, business meetings)
Business casual (9 to 5 jobs, more casual work meetings)
Semi-dressy (dinner dates, going out with friends)
Dressy (special occasions, a nice date night)
Formal (weddings, galas)
In the example below, you can see an example of a mostly-casual lifestyle compared to a fairly dressy wardrobe. If this is how your pie chart looks, you’d want to focus on adding comfortable, everyday wear to your closet while paring down the formal and dressy options.
Thinking about your lifestyle vs. your actual wardrobe, ask yourself these questions:
What would make my wardrobe more practical?
What are the key items that would make my life easier?
What items would make my existing wardrobe pieces more functional?
Maybe you work from home, and you have a bunch of cute simple tops - but you usually wear them with either uncomfortable jeans or skirts. You hate wearing tight uncomfortable jeans when you work from home, and you’re not going to get dressed up in a skirt at home, so maybe you need to find some comfortable pants that you can pair with your existing tops. Or you can invest in a couple oversized, long sweaters that you can wear over leggings.
WORK ON YOUR LIST
Go back to the list you made in your phone or workbook from step 3. Add to or edit it based on what you’ve realized from this exercise.
If you shop with your lifestyle in mind, you can get the most out of your closet and enjoy getting dressed more!
Based on the past exercises, you should have a style guide Pinterest board made up of outfits you love and could see yourself wearing. Based on these images, you can create "outfit recipes" that will turn into your capsule wardrobe.
FIND CORE ITEMS
See if the outfits on your board are using the same item in multiple outfits. For example, you could have a collared white shirt with jeans, with a midi skirt, layered under a dress, etc. This should usually happen naturally, since we gravitate towards certain items more than others. However, if you don't have many repeat items, pick out five items you really love and that are really versatile, and go back into Pinterest and find different outfits that incorporate those items (that you would like to wear) and pin them to your board. They don't have to be the exact same item, but can be something general like a "bright cardigan" for instance.
MAKE A LIST OF "OUTFIT RECIPES"
Next, go through your Pinterest board and make a list of the outfits (using page seven of your capsule wardrobe workbook) that you would really feel great wearing every day. Write out 20-30 outfits that are versatile and that use your repeat items. You can also write out just 15 outfits from Pinterest images, and then use the items in those outfits to create new outfits for your list. So, if you have written "culottes + white tee + leather jacket" and "floral dress + sandals," you can add "floral dress + leather jacket." But only add outfits that you would actually want to wear! Here are a few outfit recipe examples:
- Culottes + perfect white tee + leather jacket + white sneakers
- Vintage jeans + perfect white tee + flats
- Culottes + cropped sweater + booties
- Culottes + off the shoulder top + heel
- White lace dress with sleeves + leather jacket + black booties
- Black boho dress with sleeves + sandals/booties
- Faux fur coat + perfect white tee + vintage jeans + booties
WRITE OUT YOUR CAPSULE ITEMS
Now, write out every item from that list individually on page 8 of your workbook. You will probably have about 20-40 items listed. If you have a lot more, cut some out and try to make more outfits using repeat items.
Separate the list into categories (i.e. outerwear, tops, sweaters), if it isn't already. See if there’s anything you missed, or if you need to add more tops or bottoms, etc. You can also add in some key accessories at this point. Focus on accessories you’ll wear regularly that work with the outfits you’ve chosen.
Now you have a master capsule wardrobe list!
Here's an example of an all-seasons capsule:
- Perfect white tee
- Black off the shoulder top
- Long sleeve floral bell sleeve blouse
- Wine colored silk cami
- Black vintage band tee
- White crop top
- Black and white striped 3/4 sleeve tee
- Dark denim skinny jeans
- Black skinny jeans
- Black culottes
- Medium wash vintage Levis
- Leopard print a-line skirt
- Pleated peach midi skirt
- Navy wrap skirt
- Black boho dress with sleeves
- White lace dress with sleeves
- Black printed long sleeve dress
- Black tshirt dress
- Floral print wrap dress
- Grey cropped sweater
- Black cropped sweater
- Black slouchy cardigan
- Oversized grey sweater
- Grey long cardigan
- Vintage leather jacket
- Taupe faux fur coat
- Black wool oversized coat
- Black puffy coat
- White sneakers
- Black booties
- Nude stacked heel
- Nude sandals
- Black flats
- Leopard flats
- Wine colored boho printed blanket scarf
- Long gold tassel necklace
- Dainty layered gold chokers
- Geometric stud earrings
- Silver & turquoise stackable rings
- Black thick sweater infinity scarf
With a capsule like this, you can build dozens of outfits you’re excited about. They aren’t just individual pieces you love; they make up a cohesive capsule wardrobe that’s built on your style, lifestyle, and color preferences. Since it’s so easy to mix and match, getting dressed in the morning is far more enjoyable!
Once you’ve designed your ideal capsule wardrobe, the next step is to clean out your closet. Normally, closet cleanouts are item-focused (“Do I want to keep this item?”) without a more holistic vision. A wardrobe-first closet cleanout thinks about how all the items in your closet work together (“Can I pair this item with other things in my closet to create outfits I will love to wear?”. This way you’ll have a closet that’s not just less cluttered, but also more functional.
Set aside 3 hours or so, so that you're not rushed. Bring your laptop into the room and pull up your Pinterest board and your list of outfit recipes.
SEPARATE INTO GROUPS
The first step is to go through each item one by one and assign them to one of three groups: yes, no, or maybe. Yeses stay hung up in the closet, maybes go on the bed (still on the hanger) and the no pile goes on the floor (off the hanger).
IT’S A ‘YES’ IF
Go through each item and ask yourself, "Would I want this in my ideal wardrobe?" If the answer is yes, then leave it on the hanger. If the answer is no, move it to the maybe pile. Don't try to talk yourself into anything. The only things left in your closet after the first round should be items you really love that also work with the capsule you’re envisioning. The maybe pile isn't going anywhere yet, so you can put anything that isn’t perfect there for now.
IT’S A ‘NO’ IF
If you haven't worn the item in over a year, it's not flattering, it's falling apart, or you don't like it anymore - anything that's a clear no - throw it in a pile on the floor.
IT’S A ‘MAYBE’ IF
If it's not a yes or a no, then it's a maybe! Keep it on the hanger and lay it on the bed. This will probably be your biggest group. Most of us have a lot of things in our closets that we're not sure we want to keep, but we're not ready to give away.
If there are any items in drawers or hanging in other closets, make sure to include them in this process as well.
'MAYBE PILE' SORTING
Now look at your closet. All the things left in there should give you a happy feeling. But there's probably not much in there! As you go through the ‘maybes,’ keep these three things in mind:
Fit: there are certain silhouettes that really work for you, and others that you're not a huge fan of. Keep your fit guide in front of you!
Lifestyle: depending on what you do every day, you will need more dressy vs casual clothing, so keep that in mind as well. Reference that lifestyle vs. wardrobe pie chart you made!
Outfits: Most importantly, keep your "outfit recipes" in mind. The perfect piece is useless if you can’t make an outfit out of it!
Go through your 'maybe' pile one by one, trying them on with 'yes' items to make outfits and using your Pinterest board as a guide. This will either give you new inspiration for the item, or make you realize that it just doesn’t work, no matter how you wear it. Throw it in the 'no' pile or hang it up in the closet, depending on what you think.
If you still can't definitively say yes or no, put it in a box labeled 'store.' Don’t put something that isn’t working back in your closet! The goal here that every single thing hanging in your closet can make an outfit that you feel good in. So if this item isn't cutting it, but you're not ready to give it away, then store it. In a couple of months, go through the box and see if you've missed wearing anything. At that point you may be ready to give more of these items away or introduce them back into your closet.
'NO PILE' SORTING
Now, everything should either be hanging in your closet, in the 'no' pile, or in the store box. For the no pile, take out any item that can't be resold (items in really bad condition, underwear, old gym clothes). Put it in a bag labeled 'recycle.' Google "fabric recycling + [your city/state] to find a drop off bin nearby or go to DonateStuff.com to donate your fabric by mail. They'll send you a pre-paid UPS bag, and in certain areas can even provide home pick-up.
For the items in good, sellable condition, you can either sell them in a consignment store, sell them online, have a clothing swap party, or donate them to a charity. Our guide can help you decide what to do with particular pieces!
P.S. Want a printable version of these tips? Check out page nine of our capsule wardrobe workbook!
Half the battle when getting dressed in the morning is just being able to see everything you have in in your closet, to create an outfit. If your closet is unorganized or cluttered, you may have all the building blocks of a great outfit right in front of you, but you won't be able to identify them. By organizing your closet, you can take the stress out of getting dressed and instead feel relaxed and even excited when you go to put on something to wear.
Here are three ways to organize your closet, so that it's beautiful and easy to find things.
The ultimate wardrobe goal is to be able to reach into your wardrobe blindfolded and pull out something that you will love to wear (right now). If it's winter and you have a bunch of linen pants and bright maxi dresses cluttering your closet, store them away in a dresser or under the bed. If you can't do that, give them their own separate section in your closet. This will keep you from standing in front of your closet every morning, hopelessly waiting for inspiration from a bunch of seasonally inappropriate pieces.
ORGANIZE BY CATEGORY & OCCASION
It's easy to look into your closet, see a sea of clothes, and not know where to start. By organizing everything by type (i.e. tops vs dresses) and occasion (i.e. dressy vs casual), you can find what you're looking for faster.
One way to organize tops as follows: tank tops first, then t-shirts, then casual short sleeve tops, then dressy short sleeve or 3/4 sleeve tops, then long sleeve tops. That way you can see them all, because the smallest tops are in front, and everything is easy to find. For bottoms, keep jeans in one stack in a drawer and dressier pants in another stack (or hanging). For dresses, organize by casual first, then dressy, then formal.
You can also organize by color if you prefer. Whatever helps you find things faster, see everything in your closet, and get dressed more easily!
BE CREATIVE WITH ACCESSORIES STORAGE
If you have accessories like scarves, hats, or shoes taking up closet space or drawer space, use some of these closet hacks to free up that space. Some of our favorite ideas are:
- Store seasonal accessories under the bed (like scarves, beanies, or flip flops).
- Create a DIY jewelry hangeron the wall. It frees up space and looks cute too!
- Put a shoe rack or belt organizeron the back of the door.
- Install a sliding belt rack.
- Create a scarf hanger using shower curtain hooks or a towel bar.
To visualize these ideas and more, check out our Closet Organization Tips Pinterest board.
Often we buy clothing on a whim, if we happen to find something that we like or if something is on sale. But these seemingly harmless in-the-moment purchases could be the one thing keeping us from loving our closet.
CREATE A BLUEPRINT
If you're going to create a wardrobe that works, you need to think of it as a whole. You don't want to buy random things that don't go together, even though you may like the pieces individually.
By taking the time to dream up your ideal capsule wardrobe, like we did in step 5, you are creating a blueprint for a closet that you'll love. Then, if you create a wish list for the items that you don't have yet, you can reference it when you shop and make sure that you're buying the things you need (and ultimately want!) the most.
Make a list of all the things in your ideal capsule wardrobe that you don't currently have (you can use the last page of your capsule wardrobe workbook). Since we usually don't have an unlimited budget, it's important to prioritize these items. The order will be based on how much you will wear them, how many outfits you can make with them, and what the holes are in your closet. So if you need to decide between black jeans and a striped tshirt, think about whether you have a larger/more versatile collection of pants or tops. You’ll know what to do.
Write out your list in order of priority or put an asterisk next to the items that are the most critical. This way, you'll be on your way to your ideal wardrobe the fastest way possible!
KEEP THE LIST WITH YOU
Reference this list whenever you go to shop to help rein in your impulses. Let's say you have $100 to spend this month on clothes, and you can either buy two neon tank tops and a faux suede skirt that are on sale (that don't really go with your closet), or you can save that money and buy your dream leather jacket that you will wear forever. If you make a list and keep it with you, you'll be shopping smarter and getting dressed every day will start to become a breeze!
Once you go through a capsule wardrobe exercise, you will have a better idea of what you want in your closet. Here are some ideas for shopping thoughtfully – considering how the things you buy work into your dream wardrobe, and also how they affect people and the planet.
DON’T SHOP. No, we don’t mean forever! A (temporary) spending fast is a great way to see the ways you aren’t using your closet to its full potential. Taking a month or two off from shopping (especially right after a big wardrobe purge) can help you be creative with what you already own. It can also be fun to document your journey on social media – there are tons of ladies who have shared their spending fast journeys on Instagram, and it’s a great place to find inspiration and encouragement!
FOLLOW THE 30 WEARS RULE. Whenever you are thinking about buying something, ask yourself “Will I wear this at least 30 times? ”This might sound low, but some studies have shown that the average is closer to 7. Buying staples that you know will hold up for years and only investing in things you truly love mean you’ll waste less and wear more.
THINK IN TERMS OF COST PER WEAR. Cost per wear is really simple to calculate: how much you spent on the garment divided by the total number of times you wear it. That fast fashion sweater may seem like a better deal at first, but it’s more likely to fall apart after just a few wears. A well-made investment piece that you can wear for years will have a far lower CPW than a piece that just lasts a month (and is less likely to cause an embarrassing wardrobe malfunction).
RENT/BORROW ONE-OFF PIECES. There are some things that it’s nearly impossible to get 30 wears out of (like formalwear, in particular). Renting or borrowing anything you don’t think you’ll be able to wear over and over means you can dress to the nines without paying for something that will just gather dust in your closet. Rent the Runway has dresses to cover all your wedding/special event needs, or you can even borrow a dress from a friend!
SHOP SECONDHAND. Buying used pieces can actually mean you get better quality for less! The average thrift shop has it’s fair share of junk, but if you know what to look for, there are hidden gems to be found. You can even find like-new items in consignment shops and online resale sites like ThredUp and Poshmark! Our thrifting guide can help you find quality pieces for less.
SHOP RESPONSIBLY. When you know what you want out of your wardrobe, you can buy less items that are better quality (and ethically made). That allows you to not only look good in what you wear, but feel good too – knowing where your clothes came from, who made them, and what their impact is on the planet. We have articles listing our favorite conscious accessories brands that we’ve put together for you, and of course VETTA makes responsibly made, super-versatile pieces that would be perfect for rounding out your capsule (we’re not biased at all). You can also check out our article about how to shop sustainably, to learn more about what to look for.
Creating a thoughtful capsule wardrobe can make get dressed easier, help you save money, and also allow you to make a difference in the world. You don’t need to do it perfectly, or have only 20 items in your closet. There are no rules, and the process will look different for everyone. What matters is being intentional and creating a wardrobe you love, that works for you. We hope this article has helped move you closer to the capsule wardrobe of your dreams!