Building a capsule wardrobe, or a minimalist wardrobe as many like to call it, is all about doing more with less. Having versatile pieces you can mix and match—that’s the name of the game. However, the most important rule is to personalize your wardrobe for you. If you don’t like to or don’t need to wear skirts and dresses, don’t buy them just because every guide to capsule wardrobes says so. This is about two things: You and your style. So, where do you start? Here are a handful of categories you may want to fill.
On The Top
From the waist up, you’ll want a variety of basic tops you can layer with, as well as jackets that help complete your looks for various occasions. It doesn’t hurt to have one or two extras like a chambray top, but here are some basic pieces to consider adding to your new minimal collection.
Plain tees and tanks
Plain tank tops in a few different colors seem like a simple buy, and they are, you’ll get a lot of use out of them. You can pair one with a denim jacket on a summer day or a blazer when you need to look professional. Same drill for t-shirts and a set of blouses. Consider these your basics that will match any fun, printed jacket or pants you want.
Narrow down your sweaters, but don’t feel like they all have to be the same. Your capsule wardrobe can still have some fun. You might want one sweater with stripes and color pops but another neutral chunkier, oversized sweater for colder days. A simple cardigan always makes a great pullover that goes with everything.
Jackets (denim, blazer, trench coat)
This is one area you don’t need to go crazy. Pick out a few types of coats and jackets you’ll need for different occasions and seasons. For example, a denim jacket or a cargo jacket are both great for casual looks. A trench coat may come in handy during fall, and of course, your winter coat is a must if you live in snowy climates. Meanwhile, picking out one go-to blazer should come in handy year-round.
On The Bottom
Now for the bottoms. Keep in mind that one way to keep your capsule wardrobe interesting is to have a few pieces with fun prints. You can always pair fun, printed pants with a basic tank and jacket. Vice versa, a bold printed top looks chic and classic with your best, basic jeans. Capsule wardrobes don’t have to be boring wardrobes.
Different types of denim
You don’t want to throw every style in every wash (this is a capsule wardrobe after all), but you may want two different pairs of jeans that serve different purposes. A dark skinny jean is great because it can be dressed up or down. However, what about days where you want something even more casual and laid back? A worn-in boyfriend jean could be just the thing.
OK, so they don’t have to be traditional slacks. Let’s call them your “other” pants. It could be a cozy pair of linen or cotton pants that look great with both a dressy blouse and a casual t-shirt. It could be a pair of high-waisted, striped dress pants. Maybe you want floral print pants, or maybe basic is your thing, and just want a couple of pairs of classic slacks. Either way, think about how you’ll pair each pair with everything else in your minimalist wardrobe.
Shorts and skirts
To add a touch of variety to your capsule wardrobe and make sure you cater to all seasons, you’ll likely need a couple of pairs of shorts and skirts. Again think about what you’ll wear most. Denim? Linen? It’s your call. If you have an office job, throw in a pencil skirt or mini skirt for working occasions.
On Your Feet
Shoes can be tough to condense for a minimalist wardrobe. Just one pair of boots? It’s hard to fathom for some. But you’d be surprised at how far one pair of shoes in each category can go.
Tennis shoes or slip-ons
You gotta have something causal. That’s where sneakers come in. A cute pair of Keds (or another basic slip-on sneaker) look great with everything from denim to slacks to skirts. You may also need one pair of training shoes for the gym.
Pretty pumps and basic boots
One pair of basic black heels and one pair of basic brown boots will go with everything. A pair of two-tone heels may help you match them to even more outfits. But if you’re not a heels kinda gal, wedges or booties may step in as your go-to instead. It’s all about what you need and what you’ll wear.
Finally, a pair of casual strappy sandals will round out your shoe collection. You can keep it neutral, or you may want something with a pop of color. Take it a step further by opting for a funky, printed pair of sandals. Wear them with your skinny jeans and a cotton t-shirt and you’re ready to tackle the weekend. Add a blazer and swap in some heels, and you’re all set for Monday’s meeting.
See how a few basic pieces can all work together? It’s as simple as swapping out one or two pieces of clothing or accessories to totally change your look. Of course, you may want to include a few wildcard items in your minimalist wardrobe, like a jumpsuit or a formal dress. Jewelry will help you inject personality and also look more polished when you need to. Ultimately, creating a capsule wardrobe means choosing a few items you love and wear all the time versus owning tons of clothes you only wear once in a while.
Shop the capsule wardrobe essentials here:
- Chambray blouse
- Plain tank top set
- V-neck t-shirts
- Pastel blouses
- Striped sweater
- Cozy, oversized sweater
- Essential cardigans
- Trench coat
- Go-to blazer
- Levi’s skinny jeans
- Boyfriend jean
- Cotton pants
- High-waist pant
- Floral pant
- Pencil skirt
- Mini skirt
- Tennis shoes
- Black pumps
- Brown riding boots
- Two-tone heels
- Neutral strappy sandals
- Blue strappy sandals
- Animal print sandals
Prices are accurate and items in stock as of time of publication.
Catherine Conelly is a former beauty and health editor turned freelance writer and digital marketer. She’s written for Shape, Thrillist, PopSugar and StyleCaster. Her work has also appeared on Forbes, Entrepreneur, the Glassdoor blog, and Adidas Game Plan A.