A step-by-step guide to starting a capsule wardrobe

If you’ve read our guide on the basic principles of a capsule wardrobe, you’re likely keen to take the next step – put one together from scratch. You know that your goal is to curate a small collection of clothing items you love and wear repeatedly, regardless of current trends or fashion, and you’re well familiar with the basic rules:

  • Choose a colour palette;
  • Allow for plenty of mixing and matching;
  • Pick items that fit your lifestyle;
  • Invest in high-quality pieces;
  • Base your collections around seasons.

But how do you go about actually creating your very own capsule wardrobe?

How to create a capsule wardrobe, step by step

The decision is made – you want to save some money, maximise your closet space, and be more intentional about your purchases. But right now, your wardrobe is overflowing with bags, scarves, and blouses in every colour of the rainbow and you don’t know where to begin. The veterans will tell you that starting a capsule wardrobe is awfully like deciding to swap potato chips for kale – similarly to other big lifestyle changes, it starts with a detox.

Step 1: Detox

Clear out your wardrobe Marie Kondo style. Take all of your clothes out of the closet and onto the bed. Summer, winter, in-betweens, all of it. Then go through the items, one by one, and ask yourself the questions: Do I love this? Does it fit? Have I worn it more than once in the past year? 

When creating a capsule wardrobe, only keep the clothes you repeatedly wear
Take a long hard look at what's in your wardrobe and how you really feel about each item

Take your time to hold each item and pay attention to how it makes you feel. Then assign the item to one of the following categories:

  • Love it: Reserved for items you truly love and wear time and time again. This will be the basis of your first ever capsule collection!
  • Meh: You know those items that you don’t exactly feel an instant pull towards, but you’re not quite ready to say goodbye to? These are often items with some kind of sentimental value, like that disco skirt you wore to every party in your twenties. Keep them in a separate box and any item that doesn’t get worn more than once next time it’s in season, it gets transferred to the “toss it” pile.
    Pro tip: if you find yourself putting two many items in this category, it may be a good idea to set yourself a number limit, to help you stay on track. 
  • Toss it: As you rummage through your pile, you will surely encounter items you don’t even remember buying. All those impulse purchases and clothes meant for your imagined lifestyle that never materialised – they all belong here. Mind you, don’t actually throw them away – look up your neighbourhood clothes collection centre or find somewhere else to donate them.

Step 2: Organise

Look back at the items from your Love-it and Meh piles (keeping them strictly separate the entire time), and organise the items based on their use:

  • Tops
  • Bottoms
  • Skirts and dresses
  • Jackets and coats
  • Shoes
  • Accessories
Organise your capsule wardrobe items based on use
Organise your capsule wardrobe items based on use: tops, bottoms, dresses, jackets, shoes, and accessories

Now look at each of these categories and organise it even further. What may look like capsule wardrobe inception is actually a really useful step that will help you later on when it’s time to build on your existing items. Look at the items in each category and arrange them according to their style:

  • Basics
  • Essentials
  • Accents

In a capsule wardrobe that is sufficiently minimal and still meets all your needs, you will typically have around 50% of the basic items, 35% of essentials, and only about 15% unique items that serve as accents or special occasion pieces. Don’t stress if it looks like you have too many unique pieces right now – as you embrace the capsule wardrobe lifestyle, you will naturally start trimming down your collections as you go. Give yourself some slack, and just keep going.

Step 3: Fast

If you thought a detox alone would cut it, you may be surprised to see that what follows is a fast. Letting go of your old things can be unexpectedly emotional, so give yourself some time to process it before you start refilling your wardrobe and putting together your capsule. Don’t buy any new clothes for some time – relying on fewer items for a while will allow you to identify the gaps you truly need to fill.

Step 4: Grow

It’s time to build your capsule wardrobe! You will typically have one for every season, so start with the upcoming season. Take the items you’ve previously organised and assign them to your season capsule. Remember to pick items based on their use (tops, bottoms, etc.) and keep those basic principles in mind, like creating a colour palette that allows for mixing and matching.

Minimalist capsule wardrobe
Make sure to include items from each category that allow for plenty of mixing and matching

You can buy additional items if you see you need them, but if this is your first time and you have a track record of owning too many clothes, it may be a good idea to restrict the total number of items in your seasonal wardrobe to around 40, including the accessories.

Pro tip: Remember to keep the “meh” items separate within your capsule. The rule still applies: anything you don’t wear more than once in a season is out!

Why do a capsule wardrobe?

If all of this sounds like a lot of hard work and sacrifice, you may be asking yourself why on earth go through it all, only to end up wearing the same T-shirt every day. Admittedly, it is not an easy feat if you’re just making the shift, but there are numerous benefits to it:

  • You will save up on a lot of space and generate less clutter. Especially if you’re flat-sharing, you’re probably keenly aware of the importance of saving space.
  • You will save money. Yes, some capsule wardrobe items will be a little pricier because you’re looking for quality pieces to last, but you’ll overall probably still be spending less. It’s shocking how much money we spend on seemingly cheap items that we keep mindlessly accumulating and throwing away after little use.
  • Perhaps most importantly, you will save time – picking an outfit to wear in the morning suddenly becomes a breeze.
  • You will be helping the environment. By not supporting the fast fashion industry and not discarding as many items as often, you will help reduce waste and pollution.
  • Ultimately, you will develop a healthier relationship with shopping and owning things, and will likely find more joy and calm in your new, clutter-free life.

Be sensible about it

So yes, it may not be easy, but we think it definitely pays off to invest some time and patience into taking a more mindful approach to your clothing if you aspire to live more sustainably and purposefully. And after everything we’ve already said, perhaps the most important piece of advice is to be sensible about it. As with most things, this is not a one-size-fits-all solution. Don’t get discouraged by all the “rules” – take them as guiding principles instead, and test until you find the formula that works for you. And if you need a helping hand, why not make your flatmate your accountability buddy?

To find a flatmate who shares the same values and interests as you, head over to Badi and embark on your new flat-sharing experience.