Building A Capsule Wardrobe {But Which One?}

Author: Miranda Eason

After KonMari-ing my closet I’m left with a selection of clothes that I love but my ultimate goal is to have a wardrobe of clothes with some sort of overriding signature style that mix and match together to create outfits that will work for every occasion, eliminating “I have nothing to wear!!!” meltdowns. A capsule wardrobe of sorts. A quick Google revealed five different approaches.

The Five Piece French Wardrobe

Five pieces? Sounds amazing/impossible right? But hold on, this isn’t about having just five items in your wardrobe, it’s about starting with a list of quality basics, then adding five non basic items per season (once in Spring/Summer and again in Autumn/Winter). The list of basics is quite lengthy: 3 tees (black, white, grey); 3 tanks (black, white, grey); a silk blouse; a white button up; a black dress; a blazer; a cashmere sweater; a leather jacket; a trench coat; a black suit; a seasonal coat; a pair of black trousers; a pair of skinny jeans; a pair of trouser jeans; a pair of leather trousers; a black skirt; a pair of black shorts; a pair of black stilettos; mid-heel ankle boots; a pair of flats; a pair of summer sandals; a pair of sneakers; a gold watch; a leather bag; a clutch; an everyday ring; a pair of diamond earrings and a silk scarf. Read more here.

Project 333

I was introduced to Project 333 by RMS reader Siobhan last week. How it works is that every three months you choose 33 items including clothing, accessories, jewellery, outerwear and shoes. Jewellery you never take off (such as your wedding ring), underwear, sleepwear, lounge wear and workout clothing don’t count. You box up everything else and put it out of sight. As a bonus you can put three additional items in your wardrobe and rotate them in during the next three months.

The Unfancy Capsule Wardrobe

Lauren was an early adopter of Caroline’s Unfancy 37 piece capsule wardrobe (read her posts about it here, here, here, here and here). You start by paring down your clothes to 37 pieces including tops, bottoms, dresses, outwear and shoes. Workout clothes, jewellery, accessories, bags, swimsuits, pajamas and underwear don’t have to be included in your 37 pieces. For Caroline this meant 9 pairs of shoes, 9 bottoms, 15 tops, 2 dresses and 2 jackets/coats. The 37 pieces are all you wear for a three month season, and then you switch it up. Caroline explains that the 37 pieces is what worked for her and says that if 37 doesn’t feel right for you, find your own number.

Into Mind

Berliner Anuschka’s Into Mind blog on personal style, minimalism and the perfect wardrobe was one of the inspirations behind Caroline’s Unfancy Capsule Wardrobe (along with Project 333). There is so much advice on the blog for building a hardworking wardrobe and signature style, I feel like I need to read the entire thing. For Anushka a capsule wardrobe is a selection of 20 to 30 key pieces that express your personal style and work for your lifestyle, so you can quickly pull together an outfit for every occasion.

The Uniform

Matilda Kahl wears the exact same thing to work every day. Yes, the exact same thing (before you’re all like ‘ew’ she has multiple versions). After experiencing wardrobe paralysis and arriving late to an important meeting feeling inappropriately dressed, the New York based art director decided the solution was to start wearing a uniform to work. She invested in 15 white silk shirts, several pairs of trousers, added a personal touch with a leather bow around her neck and in winter throws on a black blazer. Although her uniform meant a considerable initial outlay in the long run she reckons it’s saved her both money and time. Read more here.

Make Up My Mind Time…

I like the idea of a uniform but wearing the same thing every single day feels way too restrictive. The French wardrobe makes sense but there’s something about it that feels a little bit joyless. Plus there are items within it that are just not me – the silk shirt, white button down, leather trousers, trench coat and silk scarf for starters, although obviously it would be perfectly possible to pick more me alternatives. However sticking to a colour palette of mostly black, white, grey and blue denim appeals. And having somewhere between 20 and 30 items with a couple of seasonal additions feels doable. So basically I plan to pick and mix between all five approaches to build my capsule wardrobe. For work a selection of dresses is my take on the uniform approach (plus it’s easy – you don’t have to think about putting two or more items together, you just throw on a dress, tights in Autumn/Winter and a pair of shoes or boots and you’re out the door). And for the rest of the time a mixture of tees in black, white and grey, jumpers in black, navy and grey, plaid shirts, a blazer, a couple of skirts, jeans in blue and black or grey and a couple of pairs of shoes and boots should do it. What this whole exercise has made me feel is that weirdly, having less stuff, as long as it’s the right stuff, actually makes you feel as if you have more. and that it’s worth taking your time to think about purchases and perhaps even spending a little bit more on quality items, such as a great blazer or the perfect pair of trousers. With that in mind, below is everything I would very much like to add to my capsule wardrobe right now (although one or two is more realistic tbh!).

Are you working the capsule wardrobe approach? Do you have a work uniform? Or a weekend uniform? And what great purchases have you made lately? Do share below!

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17 thoughts on “Building A Capsule Wardrobe {But Which One?}

  1. How I dream of achieving a capsule wardrobe! After spending another morning rummaging around in the dark for something to wear to work I’ve decided this weekend is where I begin to organise my wardrobe. I’m not sure I could restrict myself to a work uniform but I like the idea of limiting the choices I have so that it’s easier to pick my work outfits, my going out outfits etc. I’d also like a magic laundry fairy to make sure I have all my clothes clean, ironed and put away at the start of each week but I may have to wait longer for that one!

    1. I couldn’t do the work uniform either Sophie but having fewer things to choose from to make life easier is so appealing. I need to make an effort to think about how everything works together, so not buying a pair of trousers that will need a new top and a pair of shoes to make them work as an outfit!

  2. I love the idea of a capsule wardrobe and have been trying to pare down my wardrobe over the last year or so without much success as I get so sentimental about clothes. Over the weekend though and inspired by your post last week I filled 2 bin bags and sent most of my clothes to the charity shop and it felt great! I do have a capsule wardrobe for work though which can be added to as the season progresses. At the moment I have 2 smart tees, a knit, a shirt, a pair of smart black skinny trousers, 2 skirts and 2 dresses. It doesn’t sound like much but it’s plenty to mix and match over 5 days. Now that it’s getting cool I will be adding a black blazer/jacket and another knit. It makes the morning so much less stressful and I never feel under or overdressed as I have less choice. When buying separates I always make sure that they will go with at least 2 of the other pieces so that 2 outfits can be created.

    1. Yay, hurrah for your big clear out Caoimhe! Your work wardrobe sounds really well thought out. And what a great rule on buying separates, it’s one I’ll definitely be adopting from hereon in!

  3. Is it just me or is this all becoming way too complicated!!! I’m trying to save time and reduce clutter but to do so need to read 5 books and fill my book shelves…..

    Haha!! I think it’s all delaying tactics, I can’t get rid of that cute blouse I bought 3 years ago but never wear because I haven’t read the right book so not sure how much I love/need it….

    1. Haha, I know, I was very surprised to discover how many different approaches there are to the capsule wardrobe out there. I was exactly the same as you about getting rid of things, until I read MK! Right now I’m not buying anything because I’m not sure what my capsule wardrobe approach should be!

  4. So, even though I already do a capsule wardrobe (actually two, one for work and one for casual), I find myself leaning more and more towards the idea of a uniform for work. Even though I have a capsule, I *still* find myself leaning towards the same things every day. If I could, I’d wear the same Cos dress all the darn time!!

    I think the ironic thing is, especially if you’re going the Unfancy route, its designed so you can spend LESS time thinking about clothes whereas you can find yourself going into a rabbit hole of searching for the perfect t-shirt, or skirt or blazer or whatever and spending even more mental energy on it than you were before.

    I say just start somewhere and you’ll figure it out as you go along. After 2 years, I find that I need way fewer clothes in both capsules when i have two so I focus on better quality pieces that I love rather than filling a quota.

    1. I can see how that would happen Claire, I’ve spent a lot of time this past few weeks looking for the perfect, well, everything, perfect grey trousers, perfect black books, perfect blazer… it has been very time consuming! I haven’t bought anything for several weeks because nothing is perfect, which is saving me money if nothing else!

  5. I would love a capsule wardrobe! I hate how long it can sometimes take to decide on an outfit to go to work. I think I might start with a capsule work wardrobe as that’s where I seem to struggle the most. I already have a relatively simplified casual wardrobe already, so quite like the idea of a work uniform of sorts. I doubt I’d stick to the same thing every day, but I think I could easily cope with having say 3 or four outfits that I wear in the same rotation. Would save me so much time in the morning and would mean I was much calmer leaving the house in the morning. As someone who lives in London, I’m sure you understand how important this is when navigating the underground in rush hour! Loving all your posts about streamlining and tidying Miranda. Have definitely taken some of these tips on board recently

    1. Aw, thank you Amma, so lovely to hear you’ve been enjoying my posts! Totally understand where you’re coming from, anything that can help bring a sense of calm when I have to deal with the Central Line AND the Northern Line at rush hour on regular basis – bring it on, basically. I think a simplified work wardrobe is key to a calmer Monday to Friday, but maybe five outfits, so you don’t have to do any washing or ironing during the week!

  6. I haven’t gone as far as to say I have a capsule wardrobe but recently I’ve simplified things massively.

    The best thing I did was to give myself a sort of work uniform and this takes care of five of the seven days in a week. I have two pairs of black trousers (both the same), two black pencil skirts, a few black cardigans, black blazer (for important meetings) and then a selection of tops (in various colours to brighten up the black-ness and provide a bit of variety). I have one pair of black heels and a pair of black flats that stay at work as I walk to work in my trainers.

    I’m not a morning person so this means I definitely have a smart outfit to wear to work without having to think too much about it.

    1. Your simplified work wardrobe sounds like you have every eventuality covered Sian and I like the inclusion of tops in a variety of colours to break up the blackness (especially as the days are getting shorter and the sky is grey more often than not, anything for a bit of colour!). I think that’s part of what put me off the French Five Piece Wardrobe approach, it just seemed so, colourless!

  7. I can easily do a work capsule wardrobe, but fail miserably at all other clothes. I work in an office which is fairly relaxed so I don’t have to be super smart every day. I find the following works well: 2 pairs of black trousers, 1 pair of grey trousers, 1 grey pencil skirt, 1 black A-line skirt, 2 cardigans (light colours in summer, darker in winter), 1white blouse, 5 coloured tops (short sleeved summer, long sleeved winter), 2 shift type dresses, 1 black heels, 1 black pumps, 1 neutral pumps. This takes up little room in a wardrobe but makes me feel like I can mix and match everything and not like I’m wearing the same thing everyday.

    1. That really does sound like a very versatile work wardrobe Claire, with everything mixing and matching, I can’t do the maths – well I probably could but it would take me AGES – you have lots of different outfit combinations with 18 items. On a weekend I’m guilty of wearing my current fave top and jeans combination or yoga pants and a sweatshirt, which suits me just fine, but I need to try harder for weekend nights out!

  8. Well I was doing quite well on my unfancy style capsule wardrobe and then you go and head this post with Carrie’s closet! That, teamed with a night in watching Confessions of a Shopaholic last week and suddenly I’m craving ALL THE CLOTHES IN THE WORLD again!
    Seriously though I do love the simplicity of the capsule and how tidy my room feels. I don’t miss the floordrobe one bit and feel like I can treat myself to some occasional nicer bits and pieces now I have much less, especially as I know I’ll wear them more.
    I also favour the unfancy 37 because of the whole ‘find your ideal number’ clause… which justifies the new dress I am wearing from Zara, and my new boots… and I may be a bit closer to 45 ish… basically I am a cheat.

    1. Haha, Carrie’s wardrobe definitely doesn’t come under anyone’s definition of a capsule wardrobe Amanda! I love how much tidier my bedroom and spare room feel now (my clothes were pretty much evenly split between the two!). 45 pieces isn’t cheating – Caroline says find your own number!

  9. I can’t speak to the work uniform portion since my work uniform is literally a uniform: navy blue scrubs. But, I do have a capsule wardrobe for my off-duty days, and – get this – I have absolutely NO black, white, or grey at all. Those colors don’t suit my coloring or my personality. Instead, I have based my color choices on brown, wine, dark teal, oatmeal, and olive and can mix them up in virtually endless combinations (well, not really endless, but who wants to do that sort of math?)

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