Capsule Clothing 101: Cluttered Closet to Stylish Outfits

If you’re like most women you wear 20% of your wardrobe 80% of the time.  Crazy, right?  You also likely have an overstuffed closet but often complain about “nothing to wear.”  My clients too (and sometimes even me too!)

As a Chicago wardrobe stylist that has been outfitting, styling and shopping for over a decade my clients have come to love capsule clothing collections for their ultimate versatility so I wanted to show you too, the start-to-finish of capsule clothing.

black and white capsule image of clothing

Here are 7 steps to go from cluttered closet to stylish outfits.

Please note, this is my signature system when creating a capsule clothing collection with clients, so of course you can skip what you feel doesn’t resonate but I highly recommend walking through each step.


Benefits of a capsule clothing collection:

  • Save hundreds if not thousands of dollars
  • Avoid that dreaded grab-and-go shopping
  • Save 10+ hours monthly NOT thinking about what to wear because everything will mix and match

What is a capsule clothing collection?

According to Wikipedia, Capsule wardrobe is a term coined by Susie Faux, the owner of a London boutique called “Wardrobe” in the 1970s. According to Faux, a capsule wardrobe is a collection of a few essential items of clothing that don’t go out of fashion, such as skirts, trousers, and coats, which can then be augmented with seasonal pieces.[1] This idea was popularised by American designer Donna Karan, who, in 1985, released an influential capsule collection of seven interchangeable work-wear pieces.[2]

1. How do you want to feel in your wardrobe?

Equally important, let’s chat how you want to feel.  How you want to feel can and does correlate with how you dress (whether you like this or not).

Choose three words here. Write them down. Post-it note them on your mirror. Make it artwork. Whatever you need to do to refer back to it often when you’re shopping and create the wardrobe of your dreams (effortless easy dressing).

In the same way you set intentions moving forward each new year or resolutions, think of this as a new wardrobe resolution (this doesn’t mean you’re going to buy an entirely new wardrobe. Don’t fret!)

How do you want to show up in the world? What do you want your wardrobe to say if you couldn’t speak, what would your wardrobe communicate?

Afterall, whether we like it or not- our wardrobe speaks volumes.



Fashion matters. It’s an undeniable fact of our culture. Humans are sensory creatures and the way we suit up and show up speaks volumes.”


Carrie McCarthy & Danielle LaPorte, STYLE STATEMENT



Okay, you’ve got a sense of how you want to feel and show up. Now, let’s get a sense of your style. 

2. What is your style? How to define it:

In the same way you want to know how you want to feel in your wardrobe, you also want to know your style.

Rocker chic and classic comfortable.

For instance, when I said these two styles I assume you had images pop into your head, right?

And I imagine they’re quite different, right?

That’s the point.  Different styles conjure different images and thus, result in different clothing brands. 

Furthermore, most clients I work with have a beautiful sense of their style. And, if you don’t, don’t worry.

Check out the following styles and see what images resonate with you.  For instance, most people have a dominant style and then two subsets of styles.

In fact, you can refer to these often when you start auditing and shopping.

collage of casual clothing and casual brands

Click on each icon to discover more styles.

Together with knowing how you want to feel and knowing your style, we can move on to the audit and closet clean out.  

3. Closet Audit and closet clean out: 7 questions to ask yourself

Third in our steps to capsule collections and getting rid of closet clutter is the closet clean out (otherwise known as a closet audit). 

Here are 7 easy questions to ask yourself. 

  1. Does it fit? Here’s a cheat sheet here.
       Denim: does it fit
  2. Does it mix and match with my existing wardrobe?
  3. Do I feel comfortable in it (if you keep *trying* to  make a piece work- ditch it! It’s a sign it’s uncomfortable)
  4. Would I buy this right now if I were out shopping?
  5. Is it damaged? (and worth the repair if so?)
  6. Is it reflective of me?  My personality?

P.S- For most women, this section will take some time, so I recommend grabbing my free guide and taking your closet clean out in time chunks of two hours.

closet clean out free guide picture

Given these points, if you’re running into common audit pitfalls, head over here and how to conquer them.

Furthermore, if you want a pretty little postcard, check out my FREE Guide here when you sign up for my weekly newsletter with stylish tips and tricks. 

4. Organize like a pro: three simple steps to organize your closet.

image of organized clothing

Additionally, getting organized allows you to capsule and get dressed easier.

  1. Use identical hangers, this makes a huge difference! I recommend the skinny black ones.
  2.  Hang by category (blouses,tanks, blazers, jackets, pants, skirts, sweaters)
  3. Sort by color (light to dark) within each category.

For instance, if you have black, green and white tanks. Start with white, then green and finish with black.

 

5. What should be in a capsule wardrobe?

Consider your wardrobe life in a pie chart, this can help building your capsule-whether from your own existing wardrobe or from a new wardrobe you’re going to shop. 

If you spent 80% of your time in work wardrobe and 20% in casual/ play/ weekend capsule clothing, then you know where to spend more time and money curating your work capsule collection.

They can be as small as 21 pieces, see the checklist below.

Some women don’t fixate on a number but focus on mix and match qualities, which I recommend starting out with because concentrating on a number can be overwhelming.

checklist for instantly outfitted

6. How to plan and build a capsule wardrobe:

Coupled with with should be in a capsule collection is shopping for your capsule. 

You can hire me for that whether you’re in Chicago or not (curating a clothing capsule collection for you). Discover a complete capsule done for you here. Or choose the intermediate level where I capsule what you already own and then fill in a few recommended pieces for you to purchase.

Consider capsule-ing from what you already own or if you’re starting fresh, I’ve got some tips for you.

Pretend you’re a clothing designer for a day

 Pretend you’re a designer for a day and you’ve got a capsule collection walking down the runway. 

As has been noted, since capsule collections mix and match easily, they should have a similar color palette that can mix and match easily.

Let’s say you have a core base of black neutrals and you have two pop colors including teals and purples. When you start shopping with these colors in mind, it becomes easier and easier for pieces to mix and match.  

Of course, I’d be remiss if I didn’t share my love of vests with you.  They are SUCH a great addition to any capsule clothing collection because they truly add depth and interest to any outfit!

 To see some visual inspiration, please see Vest outfit ideas live here or this one (Why I cut the sleeves of a Chanel blazer)

7. How to put together an outfit: 3 simple steps to putting together an outfit

Here’s a three piece outfit formula you’ll love:

O: Choose the main part of your /core of your outfit you want to dress around, it could be a standout piece or even all black. 
U: Use your accessories
T: Third piece (layer like a vest, blazer, cardigan, swazer etc.)
F: Fit. Make sure it fits and flatters
I: Integrate YOU. Does it feel like you? Are you comfortable and stylish?
T: The whole look.  We’re not talking beauty pageant hair and makeup but small things make a difference even like a great lipstick! 

 

If you want outfits from your existing wardrobe or want me to capsule your wardrobe for you from your existing wardrobe, Check out Instantly Outfitted!

 

Finally, here’s an example of wearing a piece (the shirt dress) differently. This is another benefit of capsule collections! As a result of having a capsule collection, you’ll become creative and wear your pieces differently.

 

image of shirt dress with denim and tshirt wearing shirt dress as jacket
How to wear your shirt dress over and over again

In the same way with the shirt dress, you can layer easily with a little black dress.  I do suggest a black dress in your capsule. It’s easy and if you want extra versatility, choose a sleeveless option so you can layer under and over it! 

Black dress picture summer
summer black dress layered to be fall-ready
summer black dress layered to be winter ready
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