8 Essential Pieces for Your Capsule Wardrobe


When I was in high school, I was all about clothes. I mean, I simply couldn't get enough of different shapes, colors, and textures. Buying new clothes at the mall, finding unique pieces at thrift shops, and eventually directing my efforts online was a complete rush for me. Over time, my wardrobe ballooned to epic proportions. And you know what? There weren't enough days in the year to wear all that stuff. Many — if not most — items collected dust in my dresser drawers.

Now that I'm older and wiser, I've flipped my perspective to a less is more approach. I've learned to embrace the capsule wardrobe, which is a fancy term for a lean collection of essential pieces that are timeless and mix and match. This concept was first popularized in the 1970s and again in the 1980s. The idea is back again, and making your own minimal closet isn't just following one of the latest trends. Instead, it's a smart way to really use the clothing you own and get the best return on your investment. You'll do fewer loads of laundry, too! (See also: You're Washing Your Clothes Too Often — What To Do Instead)

Here are some basics to build your capsule wardrobe. Pair these with a few other seasonal duds, and you'll be dressed in no time.

1. Dark Jeans

Whatever cut you choose, make sure your jeans fit your body well. The wash is what's more important when you're thinking of paring down your closet. Dark indigo or other washes without fading or distressing can be dressed up with a jacket for the workplace or dressed down for an evening out with friends. Of all my clothing, my jeans get the best wear by far.

2. Pencil Skirt

This classic silhouette combined with a bolder neutral, like black or navy, makes the pencil skirt a perfect addition to any minimal wardrobe. You can pair it with a bright blouse and jacket for a job interview or even a t-shirt for a last-minute date downtown. Think fabric when it comes to the season. Tweed and wool are solid choices for the colder months; 100% cotton or stretchier blends are better bets when it's warm. (See also: 7 Style Secrets For Women That Flatter Every Shape)

3. Cardigan

The versatile cardigan can be worn buttoned or open. Belted or not. With a skirt or with pants. It's a hardworking piece that will keep you warm and comfortable in the winter chill and the summer air-conditioning. While I always try to keep my colors muted, I do tend to choose brighter shades for cardigans to make things fun.

4. Button-Down

The rule when I was younger was to always have a white button-down shirt around for work or random occasions. Now? I'm not so stuck on the specific color, but having a shirt with some structure is a great idea. You can wear it under a dress, tied over a maxi skirt, tucked into a pencil skirt, underneath a sweater, and in many more ways.

5. All-Occasion Dress

I like the classic little black dress idea best when choosing a single frock, but if that's not your style, choose another color that plays well with your other items. The idea here is to find a dress in a quality fabric that is suitable for more formal events (weddings, funerals, work dinners) but can go the distance for more casual occasions, too. I tend to choose dresses that hit at or just below the knee because that length is appropriate for all without being dowdy. In a pinch, you can even wear a shirt over the dress so it doubles as a skirt.

6. Jacket

A crisp jacket or blazer is a wonderful addition to your capsule wardrobe, especially if you work in an office. If you're not sure about this classic staple, consider picking one up second hand at a consignment or thrift shop. Fit is especially important here, so be sure to choose a cut that flatters your shape and isn't too tight around the shoulders or bulky around your waist. I also love pairing blazers with jeans for a put-together weekend look when I'm out and about. (See also: 50 Ways to Update Your Wardrobe on the Cheap)

7. Denim Shirt

If a jacket doesn't fit your lifestyle, try a structured denim shirt in its place. I wear mine — with snap buttons — most days of the week in one way or another. I like it open over t-shirts or closed with my pencil skirt and a scarf. Unlike with my dark jeans, I choose lighter colors for my denim shirts. That way, you can do the jean-on-jean look (try to mix somewhat compatible tones, though). (See also: 20 Simple and Stylish DIY Clothing Projects For Women)

8. Fitted Pants

Over the years, the style for pants has become straighter and tighter. While you're not looking to create a spandex-style look, a skinnier pant can go a long way in your everyday wear. I have a pair of fitted black pants that are stretchy and partner well with longer tunic tops and jackets for work. And they marry wonderfully with plain t-shirts when I'm dressed down. Comfort is crucial, so choose fabric blends that conform to your shape but let you breathe all at the same time.

Anything missing? What goes into your capsule wardrobe? Please share in comments!

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