How to Build a Capsule Wardrobe for Summer 2018

July 02, 2018

How to Build a Capsule Wardrobe for Summer 2018

The capsule wardrobe became popular with Caroline Joy’s 2014 experiment of reducing her closet to 37 pieces. While this might seem a bit drastic, the concept of a minimalist wardrobe, and her method of decluttering her closet are incredibly relevant and useful.

Joy started her experiment out of frustration with her shopping habits, and wanting to reduce her waste and shop more mindfully. This is all too relevant today, with the clothing industry, fast fashion in particular, producing a staggering amount of textile waste and water pollution.

If you are looking to edit down your wardrobe and start buying clothes with a more mindful approach, then why not start this summer? Follow our guide to learn how!

What’s a capsule wardrobe?

Let’s start from the basics. A capsule wardrobe is a small collection of clothes that is composed of great basics and a few statement and seasonal pieces that can all go well together in order to have a functional closet that will make getting dressed faster and our lives easier.

The term was coined in the ‘70s by Susie Faux, owner of a boutique in London called Wardrobe, then became popular again with Joy’s blog Unfancy and her capsule wardrobe experiment. The goal of the capsule wardrobe is to have a minimal wardrobe of essential items that don’t go out of style and a few seasonal items that can easily be mixed to create many outfits.

You don’t need to have a specific amount of clothes and shoes, but keeping your collection to 50 items or less is a good place to start.

The objective of the capsule wardrobe is for you to have a well-organized and functional wardrobe that will make getting dressed a breeze and that will only contain clothes that make you happy and that really match your lifestyle.

How do you get started?

1. Pare down your wardrobe to 50 items or less

Capsule Wardrobe how toPhoto by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

It’s time to declutter! As Joy suggests, start by emptying your closet completely and start going through each and every item in it. Then divide them in piles: Keep, toss (try to donate or repurpose as many items as you can), put aside.


These are the items you LOVE and wear all the time. They are the clothes that define your style and you would wear them right now.


These are the clothes you don’t wear that often (or never!). Maybe you even like them, but there’s something off – the sizing, the fit, the color, or you’ve worn them so much you are tired of them. Maybe it’s time for someone else to give them some love!

Put aside

These might be items that are off-season right now but you want to keep them for fall/winter/spring, or you are just unsure about where to put them but can’t really commit right now. That’s ok! Put them all in a box away from your closet for this season, and if by the end of summer you haven’t given them a thought maybe they weren’t so important for you, were they?

Need help through this step? A wardrobe stylist can help you declutter your closet and build your capsule wardrobe!

2. Create your capsule wardrobe

Capsule Wardrobe how toPhoto by Priscilla du Preez on Unsplash

Now according to Joy’s guide you would have 9 pairs of shoes, 9 bottoms, 15 tops, 2 dresses and 2 jackets.

We would encourage more flexibility in these numbers (and she does too!) and see what works for you, but just to give you some guidelines, try to start with:

20 tops

5 dresses

10 bottoms

4 pairs of shoes

2 jackets

This way you would have a 41-piece wardrobe, which is not bad at all – still minimal yet more generous. You don’t need to include underwear, workout clothes and accessories in your capsule, but we encourage you to keep the same minimal approach to them. Then you can adapt this to your style. Maybe you are more of a dress person than a top and jeans kind of gal, or you’d rather have 10 pairs of shoes but can live with 5 bottoms. Find what works for you and see what you come up with. This should be fun, not stressful. And remember, you can always try this lifestyle without throwing all your clothes away. Just store them in a safe box and see what it feels like to dress this way for a season.

This experiment might also reveal something about your style you never noticed before. When I tried this myself, I realized all shirts and dresses with prints ended up in my toss pile while the monochromatic pieces were in my keep pile. I’d never realized that until then, and now I avoid buying prints because I know I won’t wear them that much.

Your keep pile should have some great basics for the season and a few statement pieces. Put together your capsule wardrobe thinking about your lifestyle and the outfits you are going to need throughout the following months. Write down whatever is missing from your capsule.

3. Choose a color palette

Among your keep pile, and the items you have selected for your capsule, what colors stand out? You should determine 2 base colors and 1 or 2 accent colors for your palette.

The base colors are going to constitute the majority of your wardrobe and are likely going to be neutral colors (black, brown, blue, white, beige, gray, etc.), while the accent colors can be brighter and contrasting colors (red, yellow, turquoise, green, etc.)

Having a color palette will help your wardrobe pieces go well together and will help you shop for your missing pieces.

4. Shopping time: Buy only what’s missing from your ideal capsule wardrobe

Capsule Wardrobe how toPhoto by Cam Morin on Unsplash

Now this is key: Every time you go shopping, you are only going to buy what you actually need to complete your capsule wardrobe. No impulse buys, no but-it’s-on-sale purchases! Your shopping during the summer is going to be strategic and mindful.

Joy suggested a schedule when you would only shop during the 2 weeks before the beginning of the season. I’ve tried this the first time I built my capsule, but I’ve found it very restrictive. First of all, it was very expensive, as I often take advantage of the sales to buy from my favorite brands. Secondly, I found myself to rush to find everything I needed during those 2 weeks, while I would have liked to buy the same items but without the time constraint.

We suggest you buy throughout the season – of course the earlier the better as you’ll have more time to enjoy the pieces during the summer – but always sticking to your initial shopping plan.

Another important point here is: Shop for high-quality clothes and staple items. The advantage of a capsule wardrobe is that you can focus your purchases on fewer and better pieces. Think of your buys as investments. They should be high-quality essential items that you can wear for years. We are not saying to go and buy a Birkin, but maybe instead of buying 5 $40 shirts you can buy 1 $200 beautifully tailored pair of pants.

5. Enjoy your capsule wardrobe!

See what difference it makes in your everyday life dressing from a curated small collection of clothes. When I did this myself, I noticed it took me 5 minutes rather than 15 or 30 to get dressed in the morning, and I also defined more my personal style thanks to it. I had my go-to outfits and my “signature” looks, which I loved! I felt like my wardrobe, and therefore my style, wasn’t all over the place anymore but had a clear identity and finally reflected my real style.

Are you thinking of giving this a try? If you do, we’d love to hear how it goes!

- Elisabetta Silvestro

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