The Capsule Wardrobe

Have you heard of the capsule wardrobe?  It’s the silver bullet for looking good, reducing “what am I going to wear” frustration and keeping to a reasonable clothing budget. 


I’ve always been envious of traditional cultural dress for women like the Indian Sari, Asian Kimonos, or Kenyan Kanga.  Women have a few pieces or sets.  Some are casual and some are more formal, but they always know what they are going to wear and that it will look beautiful and be functional.  I’ve often imagined myself wearing a beautiful Sari to work or to my kids school events, but the happiness is cut short when I think of the strange stares or questions I’d get too because I don’t look remotely Indian.   I’m not that brave.  We in American have too many clothing choices and I admit sometimes I have made poor ones. 

A capsule wardrobe is basically Garanimals for adults, only you get to keep your style and avoid the polyester.  Creating a capsule wardrobe is fairly simple.  You need to assemble versatile sets of essential pieces of clothing that are color matched.  A good example of this for your average working woman would be the following 27 pieces plus shoes:

4 pairs of pants:  black, white, cream, blue

2 midi length skirts:  black, cream

1 midi length black dress

1 white blouse or tunic

3 camisoles: black, white, cream

4 cardigans: black, white, gray, pink

4 knitted long sleeve shirts: black, white, gray, pink

4 short sleeved shirts: black, white, gray, pink

2 pairs of jeans

2 jackets/blazers

Shoes: Black ballet flats, cream colored flats, black heels and black boots


Keep in mind whatever colors work best with your style and skin tone.  Good color choices are the classics; black, white, cream as well as the current popular pink and gray.  Pops of red or stripes or very colorful selected pieces all work well with the proper baseline.  Add turtlenecks in the winter and change a few pieces in your palette to include warmer colors; burgundies, greens or spice tones.   

Once you’ve got your capsule in place, feel free to accessorize with scarves, bolder jackets, bracelets, handbags and shoes. 

In general, this simple list will work in warmer and cooler months, but of course fabric and materials matter. The key is layering.  Remember that these are your basics.  Of course you are free to buy those special pieces that are beautiful or you need for a formal event or special nights out, but keep those purchases limited.  Don’t fall into the trap of overbuying!  I think about how much time and money I have wasted after bargain hunting at a discount store.  I’d find a stunning pair of unique designer pants for $30 and then spend hours or days looking for the perfect top, only to have to spend $200 to find a match.  Ouch!  And when something looks that fabulous, let’s get real- you can wear it only very occasionally.  It’s sadly, our social norm.

Your basic capsule wardrobe is very affordable.  For example, Target has great camisoles and cardigans for $12 to $25 each.  Old Navy has in my opinion the best versatile pants: The Pixie.  They are made from cottons and twill, are stretchy (you can gain or lose a few pounds in them) and low or higher waisted as you prefer.  They come in regular or ankle length.  These magic pants look good on everybody and are priced at about $35.  They also come in a wide array or colors and fun patterns.

I’ve noticed some clothing companies who are on to women’s desire for the Capsule.  Although at a higher price point than just mentioned, these two companies have got it right.   

COS   This minimalist, artsy store in NYC has clothes that range from $19 to $190.

MM LaFleur   “Live with purpose, dress with ease”.  Pants range from $195 to $225. Their “Bento box” is a nicely put together set of essential clothing and a good start for a capsule wardrobe.

Getting started on creating your capsule wardrobe may seem daunting at first.  Of course, I recommend going through your current wardrobe and discarding all of your older, outdated and unloved clothing first.  From there, identify your favorite color palettes.  Please have a look at my Pinterest page for more great capsule wardrobe ideas. Need help on your transformation to an easier life?  Contact me to set up your appointment!