How To Create A Capsule Wardrobe

Everyday Outfit Ideas

Fall outfit ideasWhen you get dressed, do you find yourself reaching for those items that you love to wear and feel great in? Do you have a few items that are your favorites that seem to go with just about everything? Do you keep a capsule wardrobe and always include a few items that you know will look great with everything? If you want a wardrobe that will really works for you, where you can get dressed effortlessly everyday and have many outfit possibilities, you need a Core Closet.

How To Create A Core Closet

Core Closet Items:

striped top // gray tee // denim jacket

chambray shirt // black jeans // leather jacket

white tee // black dress // ivory sweater

indigo jeans // black skirt // black ankle pants

peacoat // white shirt // sneakers

black heels // black loafers // black ankle boots

What is a Core Closet?

Clothes that are mostly solid colors, in basic styles that never go out of style are “basic essentials”. I talk about basic essentials a lot here on the blog! They make up the core of our closet…the foundation in which we build a wardrobe upon.

Basic essentials are always in style and are the core of your outfits. Tees and jeans are the most basic essentials you can have. They can be worn casually with loafers or dressed up with a leather jacket and black heels. If you are needing to dress up a bit, wear an ivory sweater with a black pencil skirt or ankle pants. Everyone needs a black dress in their closet. Even though it’s the most basic dress, it will look great at any function you may attend. Did you know the only top in the collage above that has a pattern is the striped top? Because the stripes are black and white, they are neutral colors and it’s a simple pattern. The striped top will coordinate with all the items in the collage.

A core closet is also the foundation of a “capsule wardrobe“. I’ve been using a capsule wardrobe system for my closet for about 2 years now. It helps me keep my closet organized naturally, everything coordinates with each other and I can get dressed in about 2 minutes! I’m so passionate about capsule wardrobes, I create several Capsule Wardrobe e-Books every season and have helped over 11,000 women, children and men streamline their closets, get dressed quickly and look great! Plus, you can create your perfect custom wardrobe with The Essential Capsule Closet: The Complete Capsule Wardrobe Guide.

How many items are in a Core Closet?

You’ll need 18 items: 6 tops, 4 bottoms, 1 dress and 3 jackets and 4 pairs of shoes. These core items will not only coordinate with each other giving you several starter outfits, but with each additional item you add, you will gain even more outfit possibilities!

When you have your core closet in place, you can start adding items to it, like cardigans, vests, other colors of jeans/pants, additional skirts and a few more shoes, depending on the season. Here’s a tip in adding more clothes and shoes: make sure whatever you add, make sure they all coordinate with your core closet items. That way everything will match each other and you’ll have many outfit combinations!

Can I use another base color?

Black is the most popular base color when building a core closet, but navy blue is also popular. Some people prefer navy blue over black, so you can certainly customize your core closet with navy. For most of the black items, just substitute them for navy ones. Instead of the black leather jacket, you could include either a brown or other neutral color, like taupe. Instead of the black jeans, grey jeans would look great. For the shoes, nude heels, brown or taupe loafers and ankle boots would be perfect. To find any of the items you need, just go to shopstyle.com to find them. If you prefer another base color, rather than black or navy, you could also use a brown color, such as cognac, taupe or tan. Also see my blog post, How To Start a Capsule Wardrobe: A 5-Step Visual Guide, where you can use black or navy as your base color for a capsule wardrobe.

Here’s a few tips in building a core closet

1. Buy quality items: Make sure the item is made well and the fabric is of quality. If you buy a quality item once, it will last for a long time. If you are on a budget, check the consignment stores and thrift stores. You may be surprised at how many basic essentials you will find there!

2. Always try on clothes and shoes: To make sure everything fits properly and is comfortable, always try them on. You’ll see first hand how everything looks on you. If you like how it looks on you in the dressing room, you’ll be pleased with it for a long time.

3. Stick with mainly neutral, solid colors: Having your core closet items in neutral colors like black or navy, white and gray, will ensure that when you add accent items (like a floral top or a patterned bottom), they will go well with all your core items.


I’ve been using the capsule wardrobe concept for about two years now…and, I have saved $1,000’s each year from buying unnecessary clothes! I rely on my capsule wardrobe every season to get dressed quickly, always wear my favorite clothes, have a neat closet, have many outfits ready to wear and save money too.

How To Start a Capsule Wardrobe-5 Step Visual Guide

To start a capsule wardrobe, pull everything out of your closet so that all you see are the walls of your closet. Set everything from your closet aside for now. If you use a clothes rack, take everything off the rack and set it all aside. Without having anything in your closet, you can easily put together your capsule!

Here’s the exact steps to use when creating your capsule wardrobe:

Step 1: Select “Navy” or “Black” As Your Base Color

capsule wardrobe - navy or black

First, you’ll need to decide if you want to use navy or black as your base color. If this is your first capsule wardrobe, you may want to choose navy OR black, just one base color. It’s easier to learn the concept if you use just one. You’ll see why it’s easier when we get further in this tutorial. Black and navy are the two most commonly seen colors in capsule wardrobes. Black is an all-around great base color to use because it goes with so many other colors. If you would rather not use black, then navy goes well with several other colors as well. If you don’t like navy or black, you can use a shade of brown as your base instead.


Step 2: Select Your Neutral-color Coordinating Essentials

You might be thinking, “what are neutral-color coordinating essentials”? Let me first explain what “essentials” are. They are tops and bottoms that are solid colors, like black, white, gray, chambray and beige, that are classic pieces that never go out of style. Examples of essentials are a white button-up shirt, gray short sleeve tee, beige sweater, white long sleeve tee, black skirt, etc.

When you select these essentials, make sure they are all neutral colors, like black, white, gray, chambray or beige. Chambray is a type of material that looks like denim but is soft. It comes in light blue, medium blue or dark blue shades. All these colors coordinate well with each other.

Note: When selecting your essentials from the list below and you select any navy or black items, be sure and use the same as your base color you chose above. Navy and black looks awkward when worn together. For example, a navy top with black pants doesn’t coordinate well, but a black top and black pants look great together. A navy top and navy pants also coordinate well.

create a capsule wardrobe - neutral bottoms

I chose 5 bottoms: slim boyfriend jeans, denim skirt, gray skinny jeans, black ankle pants and black pencil skirt.

create a capsule wardrobe - neutral tops bottoms

I also chose a gray short sleeve tee, gray cardigan, white short sleeve tee,
white button-up shirt, chambray shirt, beige cardigan and black dress

Things to consider when adding or replacing items in your capsule:

The key to a functional closet is to make sure everything coordinates together. If you are missing any items, know what you need before you go shopping. Try to avoid browsing the sales and give yourself time to think about a new item before you buy it. When I’m considering a new purchase, I ask myself these questions. This helps me stay focused on what will work in my wardrobe and avoid useless spending. These questions are:

1. Does it go with 3 other items in my capsule?
2. How many outfits can I create with this item?
3. Does it fit with my personal style?
4. Does the fit and fabric work for me?
5. What this work with my lifestyle?

You may like these blog posts:

How To Create a Core Closet
How To Create Outfits With a Core Closet
The 10-Item Wardrobe: Makes 48 Outfits

Choose a few neutral-color coordinating essentials. You may already have a few of these in your closet !
(Select 5 or 6 tops, 5 bottoms and 1 or 2 dresses):

Tops:

white button-up shirt
chambray button-up shirt
gray short sleeve tee
white short sleeve tee
black short sleeve tee
gray long sleeve tee
white long sleeve tee
black long sleeve tee
white blouse
beige blouse
gray sweater
beige sweater
navy or black lightweight sweater
navy or black cardigan
beige cardigan
gray cardigan

Bottoms:

blue denim jeans
gray denim jeans
white denim jeans
blue denim skirt
black ankle pants
gray ankle pants
navy or black skirt
gray skirt

Dresses:

black dress
gray dress
chambray blue dress

Note: If you want an all-neutral minimalist capsule, then you can resume with Step 5 to choose your shoes and accessories. Otherwise, continue on…


Step 3: Choose Your Accent Color (optional)

Here’s where it gets fun! Is your favorite color blush pink, olive, royal blue or red? Go ahead and add a few tops or bottoms in your favorite color to your closet. Use the Wardrobe Coordinating Color Chart Make sure your accent color coordinates with your base color.

Wardrobe Color Coordinating Chart

create a capsule wardrobe - accent color

I chose blush (above) and light blue (see below) as two of my accent colors.


Step 4: Add A Few Patterned Items & Layers

Now, add 1, 2 or 3 patterned items. They can be tops, bottoms, skirts or dresses. The most popular patterned item that’s even called an “essential” is a horizontal striped tee (see the picture below). This type of top is usually either navy stripe or black stripe. This type of top will go with nearly everything in your wardrobe. Other patterns that coordinate well with other items in your wardrobe is polka dots and floral fabrics. If you choose a floral top or pants, make sure the colors in the top, pants or skirt coordinates with your accent color and your base colors.

Add a Patterned Item

striped top | polka dot top | floral top

Also, a couple of blazers, jackets and/or coats if the weather-permits. This is a way to add texture and color to your wardrobe!

Add Blazers, Jackets & Coats

black blazer | trench coat | utility jacket | denim jacket

create a capsule wardrobe - patterns

I added a striped top and light blue striped top as the patterned items.


Step 5: Choose your Shoes and Accessories

Now, that you’ve completed creating the majority of your capsule wardrobe, you can add your shoes and accessories. For the shoes, you can add a pair or two in the same base color, navy or black, add a nude neutral pair of heels or flats, add a casual pair, like sneakers, add boots or sandals. The number of pairs of shoes your choose and the types of shoes depends on your lifestyle.

For accessories, choose one or two handbags. A black or beige handbag is always a great addition to your wardrobe because the colors go well with your outfits. Add a statement necklace or one or two scarves to complete your capsule.

create a capsule wardrobe in 5 steps

The finished capsule wardrobe!
kate spade black crossbody | blush/black flats | black heels | leopard flats | blush patterned scarf

Your capsule wardrobe is complete!

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