14 Quick Tips to Building a Capsule Wardrobe

June 18, 2015 By Leslie Willmott

Capsule Wardrobe

More Than One Way to Build a Wardrobe

Usually when we talk about building wardrobes here at Contempo Space, we’re talking about transforming raw materials into closet furniture for your bedroom. Here we have some actionable tips from wardrobe expert Leslie Willmott for building or rebuilding a wearable wardrobe that isn’t overwhelming to look at every morning: a capsule wardrobe.

Leslie is an author, professional image and wardrobe consultant and the founder of Smart Women on the Go, where she helps women develop wardrobe strategies that support their lifestyle.

The Capsule Concept

Building a workable wardrobe is easier when you think in terms of “closet capsules.” This simply means building groups of 5-12 related pieces that can be worn in a number of combinations. There is no single formula for a capsule, but here are some guidelines:

  • Solid-color pieces mix more readily than patterned ones.
  • A few print pieces can be the links between diverse solids.
  • Simple, untrimmed styles are the most versatile, and their classic lines won’t look out-of-fashion next year.
  • Year-round or season-spanning fabrics will give you the most use.
  • No two items in a capsule should be the same style. You won’t get bored if your capsule has trousers and knit pants; or a short pencil skirt and a longer fuller one.
  • A piece does not need to work with every other piece – but you should insist that each piece work with three other pieces.
  • Every item should be in your most flattering colors and styles. Versatility is worthless if all those combinations don’t flatter YOU!
  • Solid colors do not need to match exactly. If their undertone is the same you can blend two browns, two blues, two reds, etc.
  • Don’t chose stand-alone items, such as a jacket with high contrast buttons…they usually do not work well with multiple pieces.

Start In Your Closet

How do you start to build a capsule? How do you know what you should buy next? Do you need to start from scratch – NO!

Ideally, you start with the items already in your closet … and after a closet “clean out” or audit.

  • Start with a grouping of four core pieces: skirt, pant, blouse or shell, and jacket. They will be more versatile if they are in the same neutral color.
  • You can go beyond neutrals: Suppose your closet audit turned up a pair of black trousers and a red suit. You could wear the red jacket with the pants and now you have two looks with one jacket. Other solid colors that would work with the red could also go with the black.
  • Shop your closet first for new wardrobe combinations before you hit the store.
  • A two-piece dress (blouse + matching skirt) is a great wardrobe extender. Wear the pieces separately to build upon a capsule.
  • Accessories are the glue that holds your wardrobe together, linking separate items into new ensembles. Use them to update wardrobe classics and old standbys, or change an outfit instantly from a day to evening look.
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