Capsule Wardrobe: beginner’s guide

 I like this definition of a capsule wardrobe: “a practice of editing your wardrobe down to your favorite clothes (clothes that fit your lifestyle + body right now), remixing them regularly, and shopping less often and more intentionally.” –from The Good Trade

For me, a capsule wardrobe is NOT about a certain number of items. My capsule wardrobe is about what fits comfortably in my storage space, works well for my lifestyle, makes the best use of my budget, creates less work for my life, and makes me feel my best.

The beginner's guide to getting started on a capsule wardrobe. Beat overwhelm, save money and energy, and look great!

Most capsule wardrobes are designed for a 3 month season. Summer, winter, fall, and spring capsules. Here in MN, that works well for me.

I store summer items, fall items, winter items, and spring items and keep basics in use most of the year long.

Each time you make a capsule wardrobe for the season you will have learned a bit more of what works. Adapt and adjust accordingly. A capsule wardrobe is intended to make things easier; being stuck on rules at the expense of creating something you love and serves you is silly.


Do you need mostly office clothing or athletic gear? Plan accordingly.

Do you often go out on weekends and need cocktail dresses? Keep that in mind.

Make a list of the type of clothing you wear in a month and put a number next to each type & for how many days you wear them. Design your wardrobe to have more items for what you ACTUALLY wear.

This isn’t the time to pick out clothing. Don’t look at your wardrobe. Now is the time to simply look at your lifestyle and what your lifestyle requires from your wardrobe.


Now that you have an idea of what your wardrobe needs to do for you you can plan the number of clothing pieces you are going to stay within.


I generally can wear jeans and tops for all of my work. The only exception is when I go to an event, cocktail party, or convention and it is necessary to wear cocktail dresses or something similar. These happen about once a week, for me. What I wear to these varies based on the event. I tend to wear a more traditional dress or slacks. But, when I am representing NellieBellie at an event or speaking event I wear a bit more unconventional cocktail wear. So, I have a traditional cocktail outfit as well as a more unconventional cocktail outfit.  

I have chosen to include my shoes and bags into the number of items I try to stay within. This is a personal decision, I know that I will willingly buy shoes and bags every day of the week. Limiting how many I have has forced me to only buy what I love and dramatically reduced that urge.

I have not, however, included accessories in my number. I am a girl with simple tastes in accessories and don’t have a lot, as it is. I have about a dozen necklaces, earrings, and bracelets as well as a couple scarves.

Do NOT get stuck on a number. Start with more items, if you need to. Just get started, somehow. You’ll be glad you did.

Some of you should scrap a number and try to keep your favorite wardrobe pieces. ie., olive pants, black pants, khaki pants, 2 dark jeans, 1 dress pants.

Rarely will you need TWO olive pants, regardless how much you try to rationalize it :).

Not everyone wants or needs to have a capsule wardrobe. But, if you have been thinking about it or wondering what it is... here are my reasons.


Now that you know what you wear the most often, you can decide how many of each type of item you will need. Remember the seasonal needs when making this list.

This is an example of my summer capsule list:

1 party purse
1 everyday purse
1 Laptop/Camera Bag
3 dresses (1 traditional cocktail, 1 non-traditional cocktail, 1 basic)
1  floral skirt
1 jean skirt
2 traditional jeans in different washes
2 shorts/capris
1 ripped/faded jeans
1 colored pants
1 dress pants
2 light sweaters/cardigans
1 light jacket/blazer
2 tanks
1 button down white shirt
1 chambray shirt
1 basic t-shirt
3 Shirts
1 Sweatshirt
2 casual shoes/flats
2 heels (1 patterned, 1 traditional)
1 boots
1 booties
1 sandals
1 swimsuit
1 sarong

37 pieces.

I’ve included a printable for my upcoming fall capsule wardrobe check-list. This is what I will be using coming up in a couple of weeks. I hope it’s useful to you. Click on the image below to get to the printable…

A printable checklist for the fall 2015 season capsule wardrobe.

In your capsule wardrobe, choosing a pallete of colors to use for everything makes it more streamlined as well as easier.


The very first thing I do for each season’s capsule is plan my colors. My personal preference is to stay with neutrals for the majority of my clothing pieces and choose a couple coordinating colors for accessories or a top or two.

Keeping your closet within color combos eliminates having to “match” your clothing, it allows each of your pieces to work together, and it keeps shopping more streamlined.

For instance, my spring wardrobe is jean, white, gray, and mint green for accents. I also use my colors in varying patterns to give me even more variety and fun.

Look in your current wardrobe at the colors you already are wearing all the time. Those are probably the colors to go with. Just be sure you have at least one neutral color to allow mixing and matching easily.


How to update your current wardrobe:

It can be tempting to decide to just get an all new wardrobe with pieces that “work”. Don’t do it. Until you have used a capsule wardrobe for a while you won’t know enough about what works for you and will absolutely make poor choices initially. Your best plan is to use what you already have, as much as you can.

  1. Go through your wardrobe and put everything you DON’T love with a big love in one pile. Let’s not use those, if we can help it. Mmmm-kay.
  2. Go through the remaining wardrobe and put everything that doesn’t look FANTASTIC on you in another pile. Let’s try not to use those either.
  3. Go through the remaining wardrobe and put everything that isn’t in the right color scheme that you have chosen into another pile (this is why I recommend you choose colors you already tend to wear often or you’ll be getting rid of a whole lot more clothing than necessary). Let’s try not to use those either.

With the remaining pieces, look through your list and see if you can fill some of those items with the clothing you have left to choose from.

If you have multiple pieces for one item on the list choose the item that is material that withstands wear, a color/pattern that matches easily, doesn’t require special undergarments, and/or is a great brand.

Go ahead and stash extras in a box in the closet, if you like. You can use them to update your wardrobe, later. Eliminating them from your closet and putting them in storage will free your space, your brain, and time.

If you find you are missing an item or two… yay! If you can afford it, go shopping. If you can’t afford it … go ahead and look through the items you set aside from your wardrobe to see if there is something as close as you can possibly get to the item that is missing. And keep your eyes out for a budget-friendly replacement.

Now that you have followed those steps you have a capsule wardrobe. Go you! With this first capsule wardrobe it’s all about adjusting, learning, and testing. Don’t spend alot of money or time. Expect to have items you don’t wear as often as you thought, or items you wear out. Remember these things for next time.

Accessories to make your Capsule Wardrobe perform BIG found HERE

For why I’ve chosen to have a capsule wardrobe go HERE.

For more info about our sensible/minimal lifestyle go HERE.

For more info about Janel go HERE.

And don’t forget to pick up your Fall Capsule Wardrobe Checklist HERE.

Hey, it’s kind of like a choose your own adventure :).!!

About The Author

4 thoughts on “Capsule Wardrobe: beginner’s guide”

  1. I like your point about you counting lounge wear! I think this is where I feel capsule wardrobes can be too rule oriented for some and need to be adjusted based on each person. For me, lounge wear isn’t a problem but shoes and bags can be. So, I include those things in my numbers. It’s all about understanding the purpose of a capsule wardrobe and making the rules meet those purposes. Thanks so much for contributing such a great perspective! I appreciate it!

  2. I love your capsule wardrobe posts! Interesting how you choose to include shoes and purses but not accessories because I use the same strategy. Except I don’t count shoes, bags, or accessories because those are areas I don’t tend to over buy. In fact, last year I was being too minimalist when it came to shoes and that was causing problems. Getting older helps since at 43 my large flat feet cannot tolerate uncomfortable shoes so I end up spending quite a bit of money on the few pairs I have. However, during the fall and winter months I count lounge wear because if I’m not careful I will end up with way too much in my closet!

    As a professional musician I have a separate capsule of concert black items: four pants, one long skirt, three short sleeve shirts, three long sleeve shirts, one shell, one flowy jacket, and two lightweight sweaters. Only three of those items are utilized in my daily capsules. Black performance clothes are such a pain in the butt to find I don’t over buy those either.

    Great blog! I’m so glad I stumbled across it.

  3. I was spending the weekend with my kids for their birthday (I have an 18 year old and a 13 year old now!!) and came back to your great comments :). You are so fun!! I use PS and love it. Took a bit to learn but it was well worth it. Cold is absolutely a relative word, isn’t it. Today it is about 25 degrees and utterly lovely. One can only use that sentence when they live in MN, I’m thinking :).

  4. Marisa Franca @ All Our Way

    I am going to have to put this on my save and study list. Right now I’m studying how to use LR and PS as well boning up on my ITalian. Now it’s wardrobe learning 101. Our problem is right now I need to seasons in 1 and I only brought clothes for one season :-(. Yes it’s cold here and it’s supposed to be warm. Now cold is a relative term. It certainly isn’t sub-zero like it is at one of my favorite blogger’s state. Stay warm and I’ll keep studying. I’m saving your posts!!

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