Capsule Wardrobe

Building a functional wardrobe from scratch is no easy task.  The professionals make it look so simple and when you try doing it yourself, it’s always a failed mission.   Not everyone needs a white shirt and black pants in their closet.    So how do you go about building a capsule wardrobe for your lifestyle, needs, and comfort level?  

The good news is, building a wardrobe is not an impossible task, but it takes some work.  There are a million wardrobe variations because we are all very unique and no one closet fits all.  That is why following someone else’s taste most times leave you with nothing accomplished and nothing to wear.  In this post I would be providing some tried and trued  guidelines in helping you build your wardrobe and maintain it;  these have worked for me over the years and I still continue to follow the same rules.

If you are like me you want to reduce your shopping to the bare minimum, but have the basic wardrobe essentials in your closet that you can mix and match a variety of ways and look amazing all the time.  You want to be able to put together an outfit in 5 minutes or less and always have appropriate outfits for every event in your life.  You want to be comfortable in your clothes and make every piece in your closet a favorite piece that you reach for over and over again.  You want your closet to be minimal and clutter-less but have quality pieces that fit you to perfection, so that strangers come up to you and ask you ‘where do you buy your jeans from’;  well that may not be for everyone.    But if someone does come up to you and ask about your outfit, it is because it looks great on you, and that is an awesome feeling.   Here is an AllSaints Dress that I have featured in a post that is a good example of getting dress in 5 mins and looking great.  Over the christmas holidays I wore this dress everywhere and felt amazing and comfortable.  And the fabric held up great with multiple wearing and washing.

Here are 8 Steps to Building a Wardrobe

Lifestyle Needs – Over the next week or so, make a list of places that you go and make a list of the ideal outfits that will fit these outings and to match your comfort level.   That is, are you a jeans and T-shirt/sweater person, or Tights with long sweaters (more my taste), etc.?  Those of us living in multi climate parts of the world will need a few lists; it’s just a fact of life.   Making this list will be your starting point to identify what are your needs and what will work for you.   Without this list, you wouldn’t know where to start.   To simplify it for you, here is my list for my lifestyle:

  1. work (semi professional, smart casual)
  2. traveling
  3. dinners/brunches
  4. meeting friends/family for coffee/movies
  5. appointments and running errands
  6. grocery shopping
  7. walking my son to school
  8. special events such as weddings, birthday parties, etc.
  9. seasonal outfits: Christmas holidays, etc.
  10. seasons:  summer, fall, winter, spring

Each of us would have our own unique list that will be suitable to our lifestyle and climate.  But understanding your needs is the first step in building your wardrobe.  Another positive note on this exercise is that you will start to recognize that some outfits will be able to be used for multiple outings which we will get to later in this post.

Do Not Shop For The Sales Items –  We have all purchased items on sale, then looked back and wondered ‘what was I thinking’?  Seeing huge mark downs is hard to walk away from especially when there are big savings involved.  But because these decisions become emotional, all we see when buying a huge mark down item is the amount we will be saving and not if the item will really work for us.  I have purchased items that I couldn’t pass up and convinced myself that I would make it work, only to find out later that it never worked and I had to toss it because there would never be an opportunity to use it.  Buying items when they are on sale is an excellent notion, except the items on sale are not what you need but want.   We even settle for a bigger/smaller size because our size was not available or sold out; consequently, the fit is off and it never looks good or is comfortable, or it does not work with anything in your closet.  How often do you buy sales item that it becomes one of your favorite pieces?   In the long term it would be much cheaper to pay full price for an item that works for you than to buy 5 sales items that do not work for you.

Buy Quality – This is probably the most important factor that will help you achieve your goals.     Quality items have a unique look and feel, and they add to your overall appearance (at the expense of your wallet); at least in the beginning.  Great quality pieces can be worn  over and over, seasons to seasons and they will last a long time.   Most importantly, it would allow you to minimize your purchases and hence, reduce clutter.  But very importantly, great quality doesn’t necessarily mean expensive, or expensive doesn’t necessarily mean great quality.  You still need to do your home work to find great quality pieces.   The bottom line is try buying quality instead of quantity and you will be on your way to building a great closet.  I have owned pieces that I have worn season after season that still looks amazing and was worth the investment.

Versatility – buying clothes that can only be worn one way is not a good investment for your money or time; not unless its a gorgeous piece that you fell in love with; we all have those moments and are allowed some guilty pleasure, right?  But when buying pieces to add to your collection you need to be able to pick pieces that can easily mix and match with other pieces in your closet, layer easily to adopt to more than one season and can be worn to multiple outings from your list above.   As an example, if buying a dress, ask yourself, ‘can I make this dress work as a work-dress by adding a cardigan etc, or can I pair it with sneakers in the summer for a more casual vibe for coffee dates, or can I add a pair of heels and make it work for an evening out with my hubby, or can I combined it with a T-shirt and make it look like a two piece outfit (Skirt & T-shirt) for a totally different look?’  If these questions are too complicated when shopping, be sure to ask about the return policy so that it can be easily be returned.  Buy the piece and then bring it home and spend sometime trying the piece on with various pieces in your closet and see how many different outfits it can make, and how many places you can wear it to.  Be sure to take pictures of these outfit so that you will remember how to wear it.

Buy Pieces that Fit your Body Perfectly –  This one can be challenging because how can you decide within five minutes of trying on an outfit, that it fits perfectly?  The bad new is clothing are basically made to fit the supermodel image of a woman, and not all of us are made that way.  This means that some of us have to work extra hard in sieving through the billions of pieces of clothing to find the pieces that fit us just right.  The clothing that fits you to perfection would always be your favorite piece that you reach for over and over.  Without this step you will end up with an overstuffed  closet full with pieces that does not fit you properly that you will  likely not wear.  The objective is to buy clothing that is flattering on your body that would give you that chic look at all times.  Many times when you notice a woman that is nicely dressed, it is mostly because her clothing fits her well and flatters her body type.  Here is an example; every woman needs a cardigan or two (long and short) in her closet, but not all cardigans on the market will fit you the same way.  To select a short cardigan, it will depend on the length of your torso.  If you have a shorter torso then you may may need to try a petite cut (not that you are petite), to ensure that it falls perfectly in all the right places.  If this does’t work, continue to search and try on various brands until you find that the one that will work for your style.  In my case, I mostly use a cardigan to pair with a work dress or evening dress….so the style of cardigan will be on the shorter size.  Alternately, if I had purchased any random cardigan in my size that doesn’t necessary fit well, then my outfits will be unflattering and just mediocre or average;  it needs to be shapely and flattering.    You will know when you are on the right path when people come up to you and want to know where you buy your clothing.  Invest the time in searching and finding the right pieces for you; this would NOT be accomplished with one shopping trip and do not just settle for anything.

Comfort – Comfort for me means soft and smooth, and nothing that is itchy, scratchy, tight or constricted, etc.  Although sometimes I still buy an item that does not fit this criteria because I am too obsessed with the piece to walk away, I eventually rarely wear these pieces because they are uncomfortable.  I gravitate towards stretch material especially elastic waist that allows for extra eating without the discomfort :). So spend your money on pieces that you will enjoy wearing.

Buy Classic and Timeless Pieces –  The objective of buying timeless pieces would allow you to wear your closet over and over when compared to trendier items that are seasonal, short-lived, and can be costly.  Trends come and go out of style very quickly, while the timeless pieces are here to stay.   Investing in these timeless pieces will earn you a good return for your investment; meaning that you will be able to wear them forever.  Buying timeless pieces also means that you will reduce your need to buy more often and subsequently save money in the long run.  Buying trendy pieces also means clutter as you will be stuck with pieces that you may never wear again.

Just remember, buying timeless and classic pieces doesn’t have to be boring either.  Use your own intuition to determine what you consider timeless and classic.  Read this post on The 5 Classic Pieces to Elevate your Wardrobe

Wow Factor – Last but not least, try to select  pieces with a wow factor.  Some people may use other words for it such as flare,  stylish, eye-catching etc.  Adding these pieces will help to elevate your outfit and grab attention.  See this post Sandro Mina Top for a wow factor.


Building a closet can be overwhelming and stressful, but do not be deterred, because following these steps will get you closer than you were before.  However, although the foundation can be achieved through this post, it would take a whole lot more to get you where you want to be.  Remember that a perfect wardrobe cannot be accomplished with one list or one shopping trip.  I would like to invite you to explore my blog where I have done reviews and provide inspiration to help you with your mission.  Also, please check back for future posts on this subject.

The amount you spend on your closet is optional and debatable.   But basically what I have learned is that you get what you pay for.  Building a closet with high end, great quality, and timeless pieces will cost a fortune that you do not need to invest in all at once, but it would last you a very long time, and you will enjoy them a great deal.  It will last longer, look better, and reduce your need to clutter.

I would like to invite you to please share your tips that have worked for you so others can learn.

Here is a checklist to keep in your wallet when shopping:

  • where can I wear this piece to
  • is it a trendy or classic item
  • How is the quality
  • Is it on sale
  • Does it fit perfectly
  • Is it versatile; how many outfits can I make
  • is it comfortable
  • does it have a wow factor