When it comes to “capsule wardrobes”, women usually fall into one of two camps:
1. The ones who make it their life’s mission to create the perfect 37/52/60-piece wardrobe – women who yearn for peace, calm and order in the closet and in their lives; or
2. The ones for whom the mere mention of the phrase brings them out in a cold sweat, panicking about the lack of choice and the possibility that they will spend the rest of their days wearing the same pair of black pants, white shirt and camel trench coat.
Well, to the first kind of woman, I say “you’re in the right place – let’s figure out what you need together”. And to the other women? Don’t worry; there IS a happy medium between a monochrome minimalist dream (or nightmare) and meters of overflowing closets containing outfits of every shade, shape and size under the sun.
And that’s because I don’t believe in universal rules when it comes to building a capsule wardrobe.
Sure, there are rules that I consider in terms of dressing for your body shape or finding flattering colors and matching them in the way that works best for you, but we are all different, so therefore a capsule wardrobe should be unique to you too.
When it comes to building YOUR capsule wardrobe, you have my full permission to ignore all of the “rules” you’ve read about how many pieces you should have, what kind of items it should contain and which colors you should choose.
The only rule that you should follow is, “What works for YOU?”
As a style coach, when I work with my clients the thing I focus on is what works best for them. I let go of trends and my personal preferences and put myself in their shoes entirely.
Many of my clients want to look more stylish and more feminine, but that’s not always the case. However, ideas of style and femininity are extremely subjective. What’s stylish for me isn’t necessary stylish for you, and even if it is, it’s not something that will necessarily make you feel good about yourself.
What is my goal with my wardrobe?
When it comes to building a functional capsule wardrobe, the first question to ask yourself is, “what do I need from my wardrobe?”
For example, say you work in an office with a set dress code during the day. But you’re also a mom and a wannabe entrepreneur planning to work from home once you’re ready to go full time with your business.
Therefore, when it comes to designing your wardrobe, you need to get strategical. In an office setting, you usually need to look smart, so you definitely want to have some good basics such as a crisp white shirt or a pair of black trousers. However - since your plan is to go solo soon - instead of buying a classic button-down, go for an off-white silk blouse maybe with some frills or ruffles. Equally office appropriate yet casual (and romantic) enough to use it for clients meetings or even date nights. The same goes for the pants. Instead of choosing the usual boring slacks, get yourself a pair of simple black skinny jeans or chinos.
If you’re curious about the kind of “style swaps” you could make with the staple pieces in your wardrobe, post your question in my private Facebook group, The Stylish Female Society, and I‘ll give you personalized advice!
Things to consider when building a capsule wardrobe
Consider your lifestyle, your job and your personality. Don’t try to force anything that feels off. If you love a romantic style - pastels, florals, flowing fabrics, frills and ruffles - then don't try to build a neutral wardrobe just because “according to the rules” you shouldn’t have too many patterns in your wardrobe. Instead, find a way to match the patterns so that they can easily work with the other items in your wardrobe.
Declutter and ditch anything that’s not functional. Don’t stay attached to items that don’t fit you anymore, don’t match anything else, or simply are no longer your style. Let them all go!
Decide on your color palette. Feel free to go wild and include any items that are flattering yet making you feel happy to wear. But focus on the match! If your favorite color is pink and you love wearing it in every shape and form (and it’s also flattering for you!), then go ahead and make it part of your base colors. Don’t overdo it though. If you choose pink as the highlight of your palette match it with more subtle colors such as light grey, white, navy, or even black. There’s no reason why you shouldn’t pick an unusual color as a base, however, you need to be great at matching it to other items.
Identify the pieces that serve you the most. Once again consider your lifestyle and choose the items based on that. Even though for many people it can be a great addition to their wardrobe, not everyone needs a classic camel trench coat. If you never really dress smartly, it’s likely that you will never wear it. Focus on functionality and versatility. As a general rule, every item in your wardrobe should match with five other pieces both style-wise and color-wise.
Quality over quantity! Although there isn't a one size fit all number that works for everyone, your aim is to limit the amount of items that you have in your closet to only those that truly serve you. No old, washed-out, shabby pieces, clothes that you never wear, or even items that still have their tags on. Only include pieces that really work for you and can be worn on most days.
Shop ‘til you drop. If you have planned well, you should have identified the functional pieces that are missing from your wardrobe. Let’s say you have the right pants, but you’re short on tops and shoes because you ditched them all. When you’re shopping - don’t even look at pants in the stores, focus on finding the things you need. The goal is to balance out your wardrobe and have the right mix of items, colors, styles and accessories.
Dressing up - and down.When it comes to special occasion outfits, activewear or holiday items that you don’t wear all year round, there’s no need to get rid of these, however, make sure that everything still fits you and that they match your current style. Try to review this section of your wardrobe a couple of times a year.
Use Polyvore, Pinterest or even wardrobe planning apps to have a visual reminder of your ideal wardrobe (see my blog HERE). Also, make a habit of taking selfies (even when you shop) so that you can create your own look books with the outfits you already own or you need to shop for. It helps you to remember how to mix and match the things you own and makes it easier to shop for new items.
Building a capsule wardrobe is not for a style “beginner”. Before you can get rid of any items out of your closet – or buy new clothes to replace them – you need to have a good understanding of the message that you want to communicate with your style, start to release the negative “stories” that are holding you back, and set your style intentions.
If you’d like some help working through this process, why not schedule a no-obligation complimentary Image Evaluation with me today? Together we’ll uncover your true style and the real you!
Veronika Nemeth is a Personal Branding & (Life)Style Coach, based in Milan, Italy. Her mission is to inspire and empower women to live their own truth and become the best version of themselves inside and outside.
She works with women who are ready to step into their power, break free of old limitations and create a life and an image that is true to them.