Readers Digest
Magazine subscription Podcast
HomeLifestyleFashion & Beauty

How to build the perfect capsule wardrobe

How to build the perfect capsule wardrobe
Wondering how to build the perfect capsule wardrobe that will offer an outfit for any occasion? We've got you covered!
In a world of fast fashion and cycling trends, it’s easy to find yourself looking at your wardrobe and seeing clothes that you bought on a whim but never seem to reach for. Whether it’s because you’ve fallen out of love with the style or because they don’t go with anything else you own, it can be frustrating to feel like you have a million clothes but nothing to wear. A capsule wardrobe could just be the perfect antidote!

What is a capsule wardrobe?

A capsule wardrobe refers to a small but versatile collection of clothing items that all work together in various formations. Building a capsule wardrobe will pare down the sheer volume of clothes in your wardrobe while increasing the amount of outfits you can create.
"Building a capsule wardrobe will pare down the sheer volume of clothes in your wardrobe"
The concept has existed for a while now, but it really took its place in the fashion world in 1985 when Donna Karan released her collection “Seven Easy Pieces”. Pretty much what it says on the label, this was a collection of seven timeless pieces that capture “the versatile beauty of the modern woman and the streamlined spirit of the urban lifestyle.”
The idea of having a small amount of clothes that can be used to build countless outfits sounds pretty great, both for the environment and for your wallet. But where do you start?

How to build a capsule wardrobe

Look at what you already have
Before you rush to the shops, first take a look at what you already own. Chances are you already have a lot of capsule wardrobe essentials! For example, you probably already own a plain white t-shirt or a simple pair of jeans. Take stock of the timeless pieces you have and see how many outfits you can create out of them.
Older woman going through her wardrobe - how to build a capsule wardrobe
Take the opportunity to declutter your wardrobe
This is also a good time to declutter and get rid of the things you never wear. A simple way to test how much you really wear an item is to turn all your hangers so that the hooks face outward. After you’ve worn an item, turn the hanger round the other way to mark that it’s been worn. After a few weeks, you can see which hangers are still facing outward, and you’ll know which clothes you just don’t wear. Why leave them taking up space in your wardrobe? Get rid!
Pick a colour palette
When creating a capsule wardrobe, it’s a good idea to have a colour palette so that your pieces will complement each other. This doesn’t mean sticking to neutrals if that’s not your thing! 
A good place to start is, once again, looking at what you already have and taking note of the dominant colours in your wardrobe. Then, if you have to buy new pieces for your capsule wardrobe, you can keep this existing colour palette in mind and ensure that what you are buying will work with what you already have.
"It’s a good idea to have a colour palette so that your pieces will complement each other"
To build your colour palette out, pick some base colours. These are the colours you turn to again and again. Black, blue and neutrals are often the natural base colours that will turn up in your wardrobe, but there’s no reason brighter, bolder colours can’t be your base if that’s what you’re drawn to!
Next, pick some complementary neutral colours that go with your base colours. These might be taupes, olives and browns—generally fairly muted colours that will mix and match easily. Then pick some accent colours that will inject a bit more of your personality into your wardrobe. 
Now that you have your colour palette, keep it in mind when buying new pieces. That’s not to say you can’t treat yourself to a statement piece every now and then, but when buying clothes it’s good to know that they’ll work as hard as possible. Keeping your colour palette in mind will ensure that you’re buying pieces that go with what you have. 
Capsule wardrobe essentials
It’s all well and good to look at what you have and think about a colour palette, but what are the capsule wardrobe essentials? 
Donna Karan’s seven easy pieces were a bodysuit, a tailored jacket, a cashmere sweater, a dress, something leather, a white shirt and a skirt. These items could all be combined in various formulations to create outfits suitable for anywhere from the a day at the office to a romantic dinner date.
"Build yourself a timeless capsule wardrobe and you’ll be well-dressed for the rest of your life!"
Capsule wardrobe essentials won’t necessarily look the same for everyone. For example, if you spend a lot of time in an office, your essentials may look a little different from someone who works entirely from home
Clothes on a rack - how to build a capsule wardrobe
With the right staples, you can build any outfit
However, there are a few safe bets for your capsule wardrobe:
  • A white t-shirt
  • A white button-up shirt
  • A simple jumper
  • A simple pair of jeans
  • A pair of smart black trousers
  • A black dress
  • A pair of smart black shoes
  • A pair of white trainers
Once you have a selection of essentials that works best for you and your lifestyle, you’ll be able to mix and match endlessly to create an outfit for any occasion. Build yourself a timeless capsule wardrobe and you’ll be well-dressed for the rest of your life!
Keep up with the top stories from Reader's Digest by subscribing to our weekly newsletter

This post contains affiliate links, so we may earn a small commission when you make a purchase through links on our site at no additional cost to you. Read our disclaimer

Loading up next...
Stories by email|Subscription
Readers Digest

Launched in 1922, Reader's Digest has built 100 years of trust with a loyal audience and has become the largest circulating magazine in the world

Readers Digest
Reader’s Digest is a member of the Independent Press Standards Organisation (which regulates the UK’s magazine and newspaper industry). We abide by the Editors’ Code of Practice and are committed to upholding the highest standards of journalism. If you think that we have not met those standards, please contact 0203 289 0940. If we are unable to resolve your complaint, or if you would like more information about IPSO or the Editors’ Code, contact IPSO on 0300 123 2220 or visit