The capsule wardrobe, the goal of all environmentally conscious fashionistas and minimalists alike, is characterised by using as few pieces as possible to create a wardrobe that will lasts years and fulfil all your sartorial goals. What you need is up to your lifestyle – someone who works from home will have entirely different needs than a jet setting businesswoman who needs to go from the boardroom to industry events. Its popularity shows the cultural shift away from fast fashion, but it’s harder than it looks. It takes time, money, and knowing yourself and your body; no one has the capital to completely buy a new wardrobe in one swoop, and many of us need time to remove ourselves from incessant advertising to find out where our personal style and what flatters us overlap. I’m still in the process of building mine, but these are the top pieces of advice I’d give to someone looking to start.
1. Find Your Lifelong Aesthetic
This might seem like an obvious step, but it’s worth stating emphatically. A capsule wardrobe isn’t buying exactly what your favourite #minimalist blogger wears or the result of a Pinterest mood board filled with your lifestyle goals. It’s deeper than that. It’s finding pieces that make you feel amazing, the kinds of pieces you’re tempted to wear two days in a row because you look so great in them. It’s a wardrobe made entirely of your favourite pieces, and to do that, you need to know what it is you like and who you are.
2. Avoid Trendy Pieces – Unless you love them
Look, if you love trendy style so much that you can see yourself wearing it in years to come, then go for it. Your capsule wardrobe doesn’t need to be all black or classic pieces if you’re an eccentric to your core. If your heart burns for a harness or creeper shoes, then they belong in your wardrobe. The question you need to ask yourself is whether you truly think a piece would fit with the outfits you build, and if you see yourself continuing to love it once none of your favourite fashion bloggers or celebrities wear that style. You need to find clothes that express your personality instead of trying to define yourself with your clothes. We’ve all done it, imagining an ideal version of ourselves would wear a certain style, or trying to emulate someone you admire with new pieces, only to find out you don’t feel confident in them. Really think about who you are and what you’ll like 5 years from now.
3. Figure Out Your Needs
Like I mentioned earlier, think about what you wear in a week. For me, I’m a freelance writer, blogger, entrepreneur, and graduate student, which means I have some flexibility with my wardrobe now, but once I graduate, I’ll be working in politics. So, I need clothes for the office, for meetings, for events, for nightlife, and for lounging and exercise. I need a few business-appropriate tops, trousers, a dress or two, and a blazer, with a belt or two thrown in there. Then add in cocktail attire and black-tie attire, and I’m pretty much set. That may sound like a lot, but the point of a capsule wardrobe isn’t to limit yourself, but to fulfil your needs with as few pieces as possible. I too often hear of people who try to be minimalist and miss the point, getting rid of their beloved graphic tees for plan white ones, when that’s not who they are. They get depressed; they give up.
4. Develop a “uniform” for work
This has the bonus effect of making mornings easier for you. I’d recommend maybe two trousers and one or two skirts which can then be recycled using different tops. With three bottoms and, say five tops, you have 15 outfits to choose from, three weeks’ worth of options. Stick to a similar color scheme so each top can be paired with each bottom, and accessories can be used interchangeably for each. No matter what you do, a few well-made, flattering pieces will help you look great and put together every day with minimal effort.
5. Separates are your friends
Dresses great because it’s an entire outfit in one piece, but separates will be more flexible for you when trying to get the most mileage out of your wardrobe. I’m partial to basic bottoms because they can be dressed up or down by the top you wear, and it’s easier to get away with wearing the same jeans two days in a row than it would be with the same shirt.
6. Research and Wait
Now that you have an idea of the style you’re after and what pieces you need, you need to buy them. Look for well-made pieces from brands that treat their workers well and use sustainable practices. This will be expensive, but that’s the point of a capsule wardrobe – buy one nice thing that you feel good about once rather than multiple sub-par items. This will take time, and I recommend using resources from well-researched blogs and eco-publications to start your portfolio of brands you think fit your look and meet your standards. Don’t just buy the first piece that sort of suits you because you want it sooner. I’ve sometimes spent months looking for specific things like jeans that fit well or tall walking boots.