Capsule wardrobes are already super popular for obvious reasons. But the main reason is that they make life easier! When your closet has limited items, you save time. Not to mention you can avoid overthinking about your outfit early in the morning. You can also save money because creating outfit combinations with fewer items can make you super creative. You won’t even need to buy more things! But what are the capsule wardrobe basics?
Choosing your capsule wardrobe basics
Before creating all those amazing styles, you need to actually choose what items will be part of your capsule wardrobe. There are a few easy ways to decide what to wear.
Let's get down to the capsule wardrobe basics so you can get started creating your very own capsule wardrobe!
So, you need to stick to just a few colors for your capsule wardrobe basics because the whole point is that it all goes together. That means you’ll probably want to start with some neutrals like white, grey, cream, or black.
After that, add a few accent colors, depending on what you have in your wardrobe. That way, you can keep things matched and interesting, but without overdoing it.
This is a huge part of the capsule wardrobe. Colors that don’t match can be forgiven, but matching styles is pretty important. Think about your lifestyle and personality to decide this. For example, do you spend the whole day in a business office and go out a lot? You’ll need a business dressy or business casual style.
Or maybe you work from home. Comfortable chic could be your thing. There are many outfit styles, including casual chic, bohemian, formal, travel style, and more. Or you might create your own unique style based on what you like to wear. So, it doesn’t have to be something that already exists.
Versatility is super important because this enables you to create more looks with fewer items. Every item in your small capsule wardrobe must be versatile. So, this means that it is easy to pair it with other things, and it can help create a casual, business, or dressy look. You want pieces with simple designs that are both fashionable and timeless.
To see if an item is versatile, try pairing it up in several combinations with other clothes and see how it looks. If most of the looks turn out well, you’ve got a versatile clothing item.
How many capsule wardrobe basics do you need?
So, how many items should you have in your wardrobe? Though no one can tell you exactly how many items to keep in your closet, somewhere in the 25-50 range is popular.
This amount will give you enough options that you won’t look like you’re wearing the same thing all the time. But it can also keep you from having so many options that you become exhausted from choosing your clothes.
Key capsule wardrobe basics for your closet (30 items total)
So, if you're going from a closet full of clothing down to a minimalist style, we found that 30 capsule wardrobe basics were the sweet spot. Of course, you can always adjust to your lifestyle but this is a great list to get started! So, here are some suggestions for your capsule wardrobe:
A stylish skirt
Any type of skirt is acceptable, but it should be versatile, and it’s a good idea to pick a neutral color. Also, pick a style that suits you. There are mini skirts, midi skirts, full length, etc. Find a comfortable one that you like wearing.
Black and denim jeans (2 pairs)
You need some basic jeans in your wardrobe. They can be casual, but they are also easy to dress up with heels. Having a blue denim pair and a black pair gives you more outfit options.
A little black dress
Oh, little black dress, what would we do without you? It’s the all-occasion, perfect clothing item that saves the day. Every capsule wardrobe should contain this so you can be ready for a wedding, the office, or a night out.
Kaitlyn Wells discusses the best options for this item in this New York Times Wirecutter article. Since this is a luxury item, check sites such as Poshmark and ThredUp to save money because they can get costly.
1 pair of pants
Pants mean corduroys, linen, or any other material that isn’t denim. However, these pants must be versatile, and a neutral color is best. These should be office-appropriate but also fun enough to wear out. For instance, a slim, black pair of slacks is a good choice.
1 dress for the current weather (summer or winter dress)
Choose an extra dress depending on the weather. For example, a long-sleeved, thicker option for winter or a light dress for summer. It’s nice for this dress to be a fun color or have a pattern to spice up your wardrobe.
Black leggings are versatile, and you can wear them with skirts and dresses for colder weather. They are also a comfy and simple solution for casual days. You can also dress them up with a cute top, which is why it makes our capsule wardrobe basics list!
Tank tops or camisoles (5 items)
These can be worn as extra layers or under cardigans or sweaters. So try to have some that are neutral and then maybe a couple of fancier ones in various colors. This way you can mix and match as you need them.
T-shirts (3 items)
You’ll need a few basic tees to wear with pants, skirts, dresses, and as casual wear. Black, grey, and white are good choices for these basics.
Blouses (4 items)
Blouses are shirts you can wear to work or when you go out. So find four blouses that are stylish yet versatile. For instance, a structured, striped blouse can work well as a staple, as can a white or black button-down. Find a few favorites that go with a lot of things.
1 pair of shorts
Unless it’s winter, a good pair of shorts is essential. Aim for something that will match blouses and tees. A black linen pair or denim usually works.
A sweater is useful for at least three seasons, and sometimes even in the summer if you’re indoors a lot. Try for a few different styles like V-neck, cardigan, etc.
Jackets (1 trench coat and 1 trendy jacket)
A good trench coat or longer jacket is a good idea for winter and fall. Choose something warm that is made of wool or other comfortable material.
It should be in a neutral color that looks good with everything. Next, a trendy jacket is suitable for fall and spring. A great solution is a leather jacket in black or brown, but you might also opt for a blazer.
Shoes - low heels, tennis shoes, flats or sandals, boots (4 pairs)
Low heels are ideal for parties and events but can also be worn with jeans or to the office. They are true capsule wardrobe basics. Next, a comfortable and durable pair of tennis shoes. You can use these to work out, hike, or complement a casual outfit.
Then, depending on the season, you’ll need a pair of flats or sandals. Flats work well for winter because they can look professional but still keep your feet warm. On the other hand, sandals are a great spring and summer choice.
Last, you need a pair of boots to complete your capsule wardrobe basics. Knee-high boots in a neutral color are good, and ankle boots look good with most outfits, as well.
Capsule wardrobe basics checklist
- Skirt in either black, navy, or grey, knee or midi length: 1 pair
- Black skinny jeans: 1 pair
- Denim boyfriend jeans or straight-leg jeans: 1 pair
- Little black dress, knee-length and with short or mid-sleeves: 1 dress
- Slacks or business casual pants, neutral color: 1 pair
- A summer or winter dress, depending on the season. For winter, a long-sleeved dress in any color or pattern. For summer, short sleeves or tank top style, any design or color: 1 Dress
- Black leggings with thicker material for winter, lighter for summer. 1 pair
- Tank tops in grey, white and black: 3 items
- Tank tops or camisoles, any color or pattern: 2 items
- Tees in white or cream, navy or blue, and black or grey. Comfortable material is vital: 3 items
- Any color or pattern blouse that matches the rest of your capsule wardrobe basics: 4 items
- Shorts, black or denim material. Simple design, not too fancy: 4 pair
- A mix of sweaters with various colors and patterns is fine, but try to have one neutral color at least: 4 items
- A trench coat or winter jacket, neutral color: 1 item
- A neutral-colored structured jacket that is made of leather or a blazer works: 1 item
- Low heels (1-2 inches), black or nude color: 1 pair
- Tennis shoes, whatever is comfortable and suitable for walking: 1 pair
- Flats or sandals. Neutral color, flats for the cold season, sandals for the warm season: 1 pair
- Boots in a neutral color.: 1 pair
Be sure to use our capsule wardrobe checklist if you are adding items to your closet. That way you don't overspend on items that you don't need.
You can also avoid feeling like you have nothing to wear. Be sure to check your current wardrobe to see if you already own some of these pieces so you can save more money!
Examples of capsule wardrobes
So, now you know what the capsule wardrobe basics are. While it can be fun to create your own style from scratch, sometimes it’s nice to have an example. Check out these ideas for great capsule wardrobes.
10 Piece capsule wardrobe
This is a minimalist’s dream! The ten-piece capsule wardrobe will work well for those who hate taking the time to come up with outfits and love getting ready quickly.
You may want to switch out some of these items based on the season and remember that it’s essential to stick with neutral colors for this to work.
While it may seem like ten items isn’t enough, you can actually make a lot of combinations with just these if you get creative.
- Slim-fit black or denim jeans: 1 pair
- Neutral color, business casual pants: 1 pair
- A versatile black or grey dress: 1 item
- White cotton and blue striped blouse: 2 items
- Tees in black and cream or white: 2 items
- A neutral-colored sweater or jacket: 1 item
- Flats in a neutral color: 1 pair
- Tennis shoes either grey, black, or white: 1 pair
20 Piece capsule wardrobe
The 20-piece wardrobe will give you a little bit more creativity and some more outfit options. So, you won’t run out of choices as quickly, but you can also keep things simple.
You should choose three or four colors that match each other and make those the capsule wardrobe basics. While we still advocate for mostly neutrals, you can add a fun color or two and still create fabulous outfits.
- A black pencil skirt goes with everything: 1 item
- Comfortable slim-fit blue jeans: 1 pair
- Skinny black jeans can be worn with a lot of outfits: 1 pair
- A comfy but work-worthy pair of trousers in tan, grey, or black: 1 pair
- Black joggers that can be worn when running errands or hanging out at home: 1 pair
- A versatile dress, preferably a short-sleeved, fitted one that you can wear to events but also dress down with sandals: 1 item
- Blouses for whatever complimentary colors you are including with your look: 4 items
- Tees in neutrals like cream and grey: 2 items
- Camisoles or tank tops in neutral colors, though you can add some color if you want: 3 items
- A chunky, comfortable sweater: 1 item
- Flats in a black or nude shade, that way you can wear them with jeans or a dress: 1 pair
- Tennis shoes, for walking and casual days. A dark grey will go with everything: 1 pair
- Heels or boots! A Chelsea boot is always stylish and works with nearly every outfit. Heels are fabulous if you want something dressier: 1 pair
- A fitted but warm jacket: 1 item
Rather than changing your wardrobe every season check out this year-round capsule wardrobe example on ownmuse.com
Casual capsule wardrobe
This is for those that like to wear primarily casual clothing. These ideas will keep you both stylish and comfy. There are old standby options like joggers and T-shirts, but you still have the chance to dress things up a little.
Try a classic jumpsuit with boots or skinny jeans and a blouse for a night out. Here are some capsule wardrobe basics for a more casual style:
- Joggers, a dressy sleek black pair, and a casual pair: 2 items
- Classic denim or black skinny jeans: 1 pair
- Boyfriend jeans in light or medium denim: 1 pair
- A versatile neutral color jumpsuit without patterns: 1 item
- Long and short-sleeved tees, any colors that match: 5 items
- A few blouses that can be dressed up or made to look professional: 3 items
- A comfy sweatshirt that’s made of quality material. Something easy to wear with jeans or joggers: 1 item
- Cashmere sweatpants if you want them to be super comfortable but still something you can wear out: 1 pair
- Black leggings that can be paired with just about anything: 1 pair
- Utility or bomber jacket: 1 item
- Sneakers or running shoes that are comfortable for walking: 1 pair
- Chelsea or knee-high boots: 1 pair
- Ballet flats in black or tan color.: 1 pair
- A few cute bangle bracelets: 3 items
- A chic watch: 1 item
- Statement earrings: 1 pair
Get a simple and stylish look with this casual capsule wardrobe featured on Who What Wear!
Business capsule wardrobe
Business wardrobes are great time-savers. You will have some idea what you’re wearing to the office each day. Since it’s a business look, stick with neutrals. So navy, black, grey, cream, and other muted hues will be best.
- High-quality trousers in neutral colors that will go with all your shirts: 2 pair
- Black or denim jeans, depending on how casual your office is. Go for a slim or skinny fit: 1 pair
- A structured and professional blazer: 1 item
- A knee-length, midi, or pencil skirt: 1 item
- A midi dress and an A-line dress. They should be professional enough for the office but easy to dress up for a night out: 2 items
- Silk button-down shirts: 2 items
- A striped button-down shirt: 1 item
- Silk camisoles that can be worn with a blazer: 2 items
- Heels, black heels, or nude, depending on the rest of the wardrobe. 1 pair
- Ballet flats, comfortable enough to walk in and wear to work: 1 pair
- Mules, suitable for cooler weather while also adding style: 1 pair
- A black or cream cardigan: 1 item
- A couple of simple yet stylish sweaters: 2 items
- An elegant dress watch: 1 item
- Earring studs: 1 pair
- Pendant necklace: 1 item
For more inspiration and ideas check out Lauri Loo's business professional capsule wardrobe.
Travel capsule wardrobe
You can look great every day and pack efficiently with a travel capsule wardrobe! It also gives you plenty of outfit options. So, try this out for your next vacation.
- A romper, colorful is fine, but a simple look can be elevated with accessories: 1 item
- A fancy jumpsuit for nights out on the town: 1 item
- Sun hat, straw hat in a light color: 1 item
- Swimsuit, avoid patterns and go for a solid color: 1 item
- A few dresses that can be climate-specific, summer dresses for hot weather or long-sleeved, warmer material for cold weather: 3 items
- Shorts only apply if you will be in a warm climate: 2-3 pair
- Neutral tees that go with everything and are lightweight: 3 items
- A few cute blouses—1 white cotton button-down, 1 colorful, 1 neutral color: 3 items
- A black or brown leather jacket: 1 item
- A cute scarf, any color, silk is always nice: 1 item
- Turtleneck sweater for colder climates: 1 item
- Long sleeve shirts, striped and solid-colored: 2 items
- Walking shoes, comfortable and neutral color: 1 pair
- Ballet flats, preferably black or nude color: 1 pair
- Sandals or boots depending on climate: 1 pair
- Statement necklace: 1 item
- Statement earrings: 1 pair
- Stackable bracelets: 1 set
- A versatile watch: 1 item
Classyyettrendy.com features an adorable minimalist summer vacation wardrobe that covers all your basic needs!
Dressy capsule wardrobe
This is an excellent example if you need to dress up regularly for work or prefer a formal look. A dressy capsule wardrobe is great for the office and special occasions. So give this example a try if you want to class up your personal style!
- One midi, and one full-length skirt: 2 items
- A few dresses—one semi-formal, one for everyday wear, and one formal: 3 items
- Some classy silk shirts in neutral colors: 3 items
- Trousers or slacks in a silk material for a touch of elegance: 1 pair
- Black skinny jeans, suitable for casual days or can be dressed up: 1 pair
- A few luxury sweaters such as cashmere, or other high-quality material: 3 items
- A few professional-looking, button-down blouses: 3 items
- Navy or black, fitted blazer: 1 item
- A neutral-colored structured jacket: 1 item
- Pearl necklace: 1 item
- Statement earrings: 1 pair
- Dress watch: 1 item
- Classy bracelets: 3 items
- Stilletos - can be a few inches high if you like: 1 pair
- Pumps, just one or two inches tall: 1 pair
- Ballet flats, comfortable and neutral color: 1 pair
So if you are ready to add some pizzazz to your style check out this dressy capsule wardrobe by wardrobeoxygen.com!
How to use accessories
Accessories can really change an outfit because you can add a touch of class to a casual outfit with just a few pieces.
For instance, you might be wearing a T-shirt and jeans, but put on some statement earrings and bracelets, and the whole look is much more intentional and stylish. Or a nice luxury belt might pull the whole outfit together.
New York Style Guide discusses how glasses, handbags, and belts as accessories can completely transform your look!
So, it’s good to include a lot of accessories with your capsule wardrobe. Using different ones can even make the same outfit look like two completely different looks.
Some people like to wear the same accessories all the time as a statement, which is part of your "style uniform." For example, you can find a signature necklace and bracelet combo to compliment your outfits.
Or you can switch it up all the time to keep things interesting. Changing out accessories is probably the best option for a capsule wardrobe since you’re working with all the same clothes all the time. So, save up some cash to invest in a few luxury accessories to create a fabulous look!
What to do with extra clothes
When you decide on the clothes for your capsule wardrobe, you will likely have some more that didn’t make the cut. But you do not have to get rid of these! You can stick with a capsule wardrobe forever, but it’s a good idea to keep some of your other wardrobe essentials around. Who knows, maybe you could upcycle a few items to make a new fresh look.
So, try this if you have clothing that is not part of your capsule wardrobe but you don’t want to get rid of it. First, place all of your capsule wardrobe clothing together at the front of your closet. Then put the rest of your wardrobe at the back or in drawers. That way, it’s still there, but it won’t get in the way of your system.
However, if you go through your closet and decide that there are some items you want to part with, try giving them away to friends and family. That way, they will still be used. Or if you have designer items, you could sell them for extra cash and make more space in your closet. Elizabeth Larkin also gives some great ideas for what to do with unwanted clothes in this article on The Spruce.
Transform your style with these capsule wardrobe basics!
Using these suggestions will make resetting your wardrobe easy and fun! Remember to choose a neutral color palette, pick out versatile wardrobe items, and accessorize to make your outfits have a fresh new look. Capsule wardrobe basics are a great way to save time and money while also appreciating what you have.
Learn how to be fashionable without blowing your budget by creating a budget that includes your fashion items with our completely free budgeting course! Also, tune in to the Clever Girls Know podcast and YouTube channel for great tips on all things personal finance!