How to capsule your wardrobe

How to capsule your wardrobe

On my blog, I like to use capsule as a verb. Because even though I love capsule wardrobes (all day, every day), we’re making a capsule of your entire wardrobe—not just a small capsule for a season, style, trend, etc.

If you’re serious about simplifying your closet (and life), then here is your guide to paring down your closet. I’m not going to lie… it takes work. But it’s worth it. Check back often, as this guide will evolve over time. Keep in mind that I’ve put this together based on a combination of my own experience as well as research.

  1. The purge

If, like me, you found yourself with nothing in your closet because you had to get rid of it all, then you’re in good shape. But if you’re like most people, then you probably have that one sweater/skirt/dress/etc. that you love but that no longer fits/is broken/stained/etc. I know it’s hard, but we really don’t need it anymore.

To start this process off, we’re going to get rid of what we don’t need.

To begin, let’s analyze what you have. Start by going through your wardrobe, perhaps a bit a day. Identify the following:

  • anything that no longer fits
  • anything you hate
  • anything too old (threadbare) to continue wearing
  • anything that needs replacing (bras are typically guilty of this)

Next, casually jot down what you have that you actually use. This might look like:

3 pairs of pants/trousers

2 sweaters

1 skirt

5 pairs of shoes

8 tops


We’ll need this information later.

This is also a great opportunity to identify anything that can be repaired. No need to throw away a beautiful dress or those sleek trousers if you’ve lost a few pounds. Yelp your nearest trusty tailor and they’ll be good as new. Replace those missing buttons, repair that ripped seam. You get the picture.

Please, please, please donate to charity anything that is still wearable and can be used by someone else. Obviously, if something has served its purpose and now resembles Swiss cheese, the trash bin should be its next stop.

  1. Create a wardrobe map

This is the fun (or possibly nerve-racking) part. If you go about rebuilding your wardrobe with a purpose, your end result will be more you. Plus, you’ll probably have saved some cash in the process.

If you’re already in tune with your own style, then you can start planning straight away. If not, I recommend some of the following:

Go to the mall. Or a department store. Somewhere with a large selection of items. Grab a coffee or tea if it makes it more palatable. But its best to do this in brick-and-mortar establishment.

Start taking note of what you see: do you like crew-neck cardigans? Studded belts? Faux fur vests? Jot down or take a quick snap of things that strike your fancy. Try to get 30+ items on your list or photo album. We’re not looking to buy all these items, we’re simply trying to determine what you like. Also, don’t stress at this point. We’re just establishing a baseline.

Afterwards, get a second coffee (…what? I need caffeine), sit down and then look at your items. Lots of white? Snap 10 different types of jeans? Look for a few themes, concepts, or colors that repeat. A small suggestion: for many people, I don’t think labeling your style has the desired effect, e.g. classifying what you like into categories like “Preppy,” “Conservative,” or “Boho Chic.”

I think it’s more useful to break it down two ways. Writing it down might be useful if you’re new to this.

Make two columns on a piece of paper (I’m old school). In one column, you’ll be writing down colors and patterns that you like. In the other, you’ll be keeping track of what types of styles and details you like.

Colors and patterns I think are self-explanatory. Your style list might look something like this:

High necks

Button-down shirts

Wide-leg trousers

A-line dresses and skirts


Flounced hems

Floaty tops

Embellished collars


As far as I’m concerned, there’s no need to pigeonhole yourself into one image. We all have different interests and tastes, so get rid of the idea that you need to have one homogenous style. It’s ok to shop at J. Crew and wear metallic blue lipstick. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

You might be wondering why I didn’t recommend browsing online. You certainly can, if you’re a Pinterest master with laser focus. But for us mere mortals, I find the Internet can at times be overwhelming with its vast variety of choice. Plus, seeing things in real life puts a more concrete spin on them. How many times have we fallen in love with something online, ordered it, and it arrived, only to leave us wondering what were we thinking in the first place? The choice is yours, in the end, but for beginners I strongly recommend the in-person route for inspiration.

After we’ve gotten an idea about our preferences and style, it’s also good to consider our lifestyles. A woman with four children who works from home will require a vastly different wardrobe from a lawyer or fitness instructor. Give some thought to the types of items you currently wear. Are you reaching for athleisure pieces during the week to run errands during the day? Need five different professional outfits for the office? Stuck in scrubs six days a week and itching for something lavish on the weekend? All good things to take note of. Make a list of outfits or occasions for which you most often need clothing. Someone with a casual office job might have a list like this:

Five days’ worth of business casual outfits

2 days’ worth of casual outfits

Some workout/yoga gear

An occasion dress

A few accessories for dinner and drinks

There’s no right or wrong here, we’re simply trying to nail down exactly what you need.

In summary, at the end of this step you’ll have an idea of exactly what you like and exactly what you need.

  1. Colors and style

Here’s where things can get a bit tricky. In terms of style, by this point you should have identified a number of looks that appeal to you. The next step is to pick a color palette that you can work with. Now, before you start to worry, I don’t advocate that you pick five colors and never deviate from them for the rest of your life. However, if you want your wardrobe to work for you, having a palette in mind means that you can add to it seamlessly in the future.

Four main colors with three or four accent/secondary colors is something that I’ve found to be useful. Use Google for this. I’ve seen lots of people dedicate entire blogs to wardrobe color palettes. I’ll certainly be posting on this topic in the future, but for now, I recommend the following as a starting point:

Four/five main colors

These colors are what most the items in your wardrobe reflect. Not including denim. Neutrals tend to work here and are classic, but if you like purple so much (*raises hand and shouts “Me! Me!”*) you need it as one of your mains, go for it. For me, my main colors are black, nude, olive and gray. They should fit with one another so you don’t have to think about what matches what.

Secondary colors

These are your fun colors. Need some sunshine for the summer? Add some yellow. They can be incorporated as accessories as well. For your secondary colors, just note down a few extra colors you love and want to incorporate. Really don’t stress about these. The purpose of thinking about them is simply to have an underlying awareness of what you should look for when adding to your wardrobe.

By this point, we should have the roadmap to our wardrobe. We should know our needs, our likes, and our colors.

  1. Almost there

Here, my friends, is where I take a step back. I’ve helped you create a basic map of what shape your wardrobe can take.

This step is more personalized because it will so heavily depend on your lifestyle. Sure, I can tell you to get the following:

4 pairs of pants/trousers

1-2 skirts

4 tops

1-2 jackets

4 pairs of shoes

3 bras

This list works for me. But guess what? You’re not me.

So, how do you really figure out what you need?

When we started sorting through your current wardrobe, we casually jotted down what you had. Take that list out again and give it a cold, hard critique. Do you have enough pants? Too many tops? Not enough shoes? What can you really do without?

Simplifying your wardrobe (and your life) means that less is more. I truly believe we can all do with some paring down. So think about your life habits and those unspoken thoughts about what you have. You probably already know that you need fewer tops, fewer shoes, more sweaters, etc.

So take stock of what you’re keeping post-wardrobe-purge, and get ready to shop!


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