So, What Exactly Is A Capsule Wardrobe?

Hey everyone! When I started this fashion thing, trying to figure out what looked good on this middle-aged body, I kept reading about “capsule wardrobes”. I didn’t really get what it meant until it talked about “orphan” pieces, meaning an item of clothing that only goes with one thing. “What?”, I thought, “Isn’t that all of my clothing?” Oh no. A capsule wardrobe means a few items of clothing that all go together and can be mixed and matched interchangeably to create a lot of outfits.

So, I’m definitely not starting out anymore, but if you are, this is a great way to build a foundation wardrobe and keep the costs in check. Here I’m showing a capsule wardrobe with only 10 items (not including shoes and accessories). Be prepared at how many outfits we can create from 10 items!

Capsule Wardrobe Mixing and Matching -

The first decision you have to make is whether to base your wardrobe on black or brown. My wardrobe is based on black because it goes well with my coloring, but for many of you, brown may look better. If you’re not sure, look at your shoes. If you have more brown shoes, go with brown or if more black shoes, go with black. As you can imagine, this wardrobe has to be pretty neutral. So, since I chose black, gray and white would go well. Then if I want to add some color I just need to think about what would go with black, gray and white. I added blue and green. If I had brown, I’d probably choose maroon, khaki, olive and navy blue. Color is one of the most important considerations when starting out.

Anyway, let me show you in pictures. Let’s start with the white jacket with the green skirt in the picture above.

Capsule Wardrobe Mixing and Matching -

Now change out the skirt for a gray dress, but keep the white jacket.

Capsule Wardrobe Mixing and Matching -

Change out the white jacket for a black long sweater.

Best sweater for an apple-shaped, over 40 woman -

Wear the blue dress with the black sweater now.

Capsule Wardrobe Mixing and Matching -

Pull out a black top with black pants and top with a blue jacket.

My work "uniform"

Trade out the black pants for a black skirt.

Capsule Wardrobe Mixing and Matching -

Now, back with the green skirt and a black and white print top.

All told, this wardrobe consists of:

  1. one black pair of pants
  2. one black skirt
  3. one green skirt
  4. one black top
  5. one black and white print top
  6. one blue dress
  7. one gray dress
  8. one white jacket
  9. one blue jacket
  10. one black sweater

As you can see, with these few items there are lots of possibilities. In fact, besides the seven outfits above I can still think of more. Like:

  • the white jacket with black top and black skirt or the black pants
  • blue dress with the white jacket or the blue jacket
  • black and white top with the black skirt and the black sweater or the white jacket
  • black pants with black and white top and white jacket or black sweater
  • green skirt with black top and blue jacket or black sweater

That’s 17 outfits there. Over 3 weeks of work clothing! Then imagine if you threw in a black leather jacket and white jeans! The possibilities are blowing my mind!

So, if you didn’t know what a capsule wardrobe was or how it worked or how to get started, I hope this explained it and made you feel like you don’t need to spend a lot of money to rock every outfit because, yeah, we rule!

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  1. I think this will sound ridiculous, but I swear, one of my greatest ah-ha moments in life was asking and answering the “black or brown” question. Duh! My color is black! Why in the world would I have brown shoes? Instead, knowing my color is black, I’ve added gray shoes, navy shoes, and the occasional pink, red, or turquoise shoes. My orphaned brown, tan, and beige shoes now live happily at my sister’s house. All is well!

    I have a capsule wardrobe but only b/c shopping is so frustrating. Knowing black is my color (!), I have several black sheath dresses, a purple sheath dress, and a bunch of quality cardigans in complementary colors, esp charcoal gray. I add black shoes or black ankle boots, my light gray coat, and I’m good to go.

    1. Yay! Sounds like you could have written this article and used your own photographs Bette! For whatever reason, no one tells you to choose between black and brown with the capsule wardrobe articles and I remember I kept thinking “how do I start?” I’d love to see you in one of these outfits at the blog birthday party (she sneakily adds…)!

  2. I’m here via “Discover,” and I’m glad to have found you! There is not a lot out there for us short, round, big-“girled” gals. 🙂

    I gave up wearing black a couple of years ago after deciding that it made me look tired (and this meant replacing a lot of stuff!). However, the ease of knowing that everything in my closet goes together cannot be denied — my brown/tan basics and colorful tops and sweaters have earned me more compliments over the past year or so than I’d gotten in the previous decade!

    Thanks for this article.

    1. Great! Sounds like you figured that out on your own. I kept buying brown things (purses, shoes, jackets) but never wearing them. I finally figured it out, but it took longer than it should. I’m so glad you found this blog and commented! I hope you find some helpful hints and come back lots!

  3. I have to tell you, Julia…that the idea you’re spouting is fabulous. But I know most of the time when I read capsule wardrobe, it means minimal—and that’s totally not me–ha ha!!
    But making sure that everything goes together is smart. Of course, when you have as many clothes as I do (confession–ugh), there’s always something that goes with something!!

  4. “The Vivienne Files” is a style blog that you might enjoy looking at. There aren’t pictures of women in clothing, but the blogger experiments with color and basic pieces in a way that you can imagine yourself in them. She sometimes “starts with art,” writing a post where she takes a famous painting, focuses on the colors in it, and then plays around with a wardrobe palette based on it. She has written a bunch of posts on assembling capsule wardrobes and how to expand them. Here’s a link:

  5. Where can I get this magic belt. I feel like there’s hope for me after seeing the outfits you put together. Thank you and please add me to your list!

  6. Yes! I recently made this change and it has made my life easier in the morning getting ready for work. I have a very eclectic style so it makes it hard sometimes because I’m drawn to ‘orphan’ pieces; but it feels great focusing on quality pieces over quantity, and it’s a step towards being a more conscious shopper- it’s like transitioning to a vegetarian/vegan diet.. you cut the junk and eat more ethically as well. In shopping with a capsule closet mindset, you cut the junk and shop more ethically; I’ve made an effort to stop supporting big corporations such as H&M and Forever 21… this consumerism mindset is hard to get out of, and this is a great first step.

    1. Yes! I love your analogy being a vegetarian myself. I have more clothes than just the capsule wardrobe (I’m a fashion blogger, it’s my job!) but most things go together so I can pop on an outfit in 5 minutes and look put together. I totally remember being a teenager and everything I owned was out of style year after year. At least now I can recognize trends and classics!

      1. I’m a vegetarian, too! Yay for us.

        I realize, I have a capsule jewelry collection. I had the same kind of “black or brown” revelatory moment when I realized I never wore my gold jewelry, only my silver. Another duh! Silver looks best on me. I gave away the gold and now own only silver (and pearls). The metal on my accessories is silver, if at all possible. This cohesion adds to the ease of getting dressed — everything goes with everything.

    2. To Darin Marie — for those with an eclectic style, I think you can consider your orphan pieces your “hero pieces” if you love them and wear them. Seriously, smeone with an eclectic style needs variety. Whereas I, who loves simple, have to really work to find even one piece of interest!

  7. Thank you for your blog. I am tall with and apple shape. I really have to fight it to have any kind of a waist. Bras are difficult as well as blouses. I will be checking in to see the next ”episode”.

    1. Hey Kathryn! You have found the right place! Pretty much forget blouses — they do not appreciate our shape! And bras –there are many out there that fit our dimensions but you definitely have to say goodbye to the mall stores. You need to find a local, specialized bra store to fit you correctly and it will change your outlook like crazy! Seriously!

  8. Julia, this was such an excellent post! Very informative and visual. Thanks so much! You’ve blown my mind today and I can’t wait to apply what you’re teaching me! And just as a side note: You might remember that you told me to ease in to wearing my style changes by wearing them to lunches or dinners. That was the best advice. I’m feeling much more comfortable and today I’m actually wearing wearing one of my outfits to work for the whole day! So far so good. Thank you, Julia! I feel like It’s liberating to let go of being self-conscious!

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