What is a capsule wardrobe and why create one

Even though it may sound like a bit of a millenial buzzword, the concept of capsule wardrobe has actually been around since the 1970s. However, it wasn’t until after the global economic crisis of 2008, which saw us tightening our belts (and not for the sake of fashion), and the growing environmental awareness of the last decade, that the concept had its full revival and entered the mainstream.

If you’ve perused an online lifestyle magazine or entertained the idea of slow fashion and a minimalist lifestyle, chances are you will have stumbled upon the term capsule wardrobe. But somehow you’re still not quite sure what it is and how to create one? Read on, as we’re about to reveal what it’s all about, why it’s a great idea (especially if you live in a shared flat and are trying to maximise your use of space), and how to go about creating one that is right for you.

What is a capsule wardrobe?

Put simply, a capsule wardrobe is a small collection of clothing items you love and wear repeatedly, regardless of current trends or fashion. Blinded by the glitz of the fast fashion world, most of us end up stuffing our closets with countless items we wear only a handful of times before abandoning them to oblivion. You’ve probably been there – you love the idea of looking like Meghan Markle, all sleek and chic in your perfectly tailored pencil skirt, but the truth is, a pair of stretchy yoga pants and a comfy chunky sweater fit your working-from-home lifestyle much better (and feel infinitely more snuggly).

First steps to building a capsule wardrobe
Creating a capsule wardrobe allows you to take a good look at which items fit your lifestyle and which simply don't

That’s what a capsule wardrobe is all about – finding what fits your lifestyle and what feels great, and getting rid of anything else. And it’s not because someone said that you should put a number on it and turn it into a minimalist trend, but what fits your lifestyle and feels great is likely to be a small number of items. After all, we’re creatures of habit, and especially when we feel comfortable and happy, we realise we don’t need that much. That’s why a capsule wardrobe is, in essence, a minimalist approach to clothing.

How does a capsule wardrobe work?

The concept of capsule wardrobe revolves around reducing your clothes down to the classic essentials, which you can endlessly mix and match and which you’re likely to wear for many years, rather than throw them away after a season.

But how do you achieve this minimalist dream while still feeling satisfied? Here are some basic principles of keeping a compact closet:

1 Decide on a colour palette 

Always wanted to curate a sleek, Pinterest-worthy outfit where every piece perfectly complements another? Now is the time. A successful capsule wardrobe contains items in complementary colours, which are easy to mix and match.

The best way to go about it is to choose a few base colours that go with everything, such as navy, tan, grey, or the good old black or white. These work particularly well for shoes and jackets or coats.

A capsule wardrobe should start with a neutral base colour
Choose a base colour that goes with everything and allows for mixing and matching

You can then blend in one or two accent colours, to add some character to your look. And while it’s true that complementary colours mean more combinations, it is probably even more important that you pick colours you love and which reflect your personality. No amount of newfound space in your closet will make you happy if you’re not feeling great in what you’re wearing. Which brings us to…

2 Choose items that fit your lifestyle

This should be your actual life, not the one you dreamily imagine as you flick through spotlessly curated Instagram feeds. A blazer may be a timeless staple item, but if you’re a stay-at-home parent or you spend your days coaching teen football teams, it hardly belongs in your capsule wardrobe.

3 Invest in high-quality items

When your goal is to give your clothes a lot of wear, you want to ensure they can take it, which is why it’s worth investing in higher quality items that will last. By prioritising quality you will also be contributing to the wellbeing of our planet, as you will help reduce waste and pollution resulting from fast fashion practices. So investing a little in higher quality fabrics really goes a long way.

4 Base your collections around seasons

This will greatly depend on where you live, but you will typically want to have a winter and a summer capsule wardrobe, and another collection for spring and autumn, which will borrow items from the previous two. So no, you don’t need to live on two T-shirts and a pair of ballerinas the whole year.

Summer and winter capsule wardrobe
Make a capsule wardrobe collection for each season

How many items should go in a capsule wardrobe?

You will have inevitably seen capsule wardrobe linked to some pretty strict numerical prescriptions. Some recommend as few as 27 items per season, including the accessories. However, most people who are happily practising a capsule wardrobe lifestyle are a lot more relaxed about the number, and they suggest leaving underwear and accessories out of the count. On average, a sensible capsule wardrobe will contain between 40 and 50 items. If you’re just starting out and have a tendency to hoard, then it may be a good idea to set yourself a target number to begin with.

However, it all boils down to your lifestyle, once again. Do you have a hobby that requires special equipment and gear, like trail running or ballroom dancing? Then your shoe collection is likely to be somewhat more numerous than what typically goes into a capsule wardrobe. It’s essentially about taking a sensible approach to the whole thing.

Why start a capsule wardrobe?

If you’re attracted by the idea but are feeling discouraged by the thought of splurging out on high-quality basics and reducing your precious shoe collection down to a few pairs, consider the many benefits of trimming down your closet:

  • It reduces clutter and saves space, leaving you feeling more calm in return.
  • It saves you time. The math is simple – with fewer options to choose from, you’ll be able to trade those 20 minutes staring at your wardrobe for at least two snooze cycles in the morning.
  • It saves you money. Buying cheap doesn’t necessarily mean getting the best value for money. Not only do cheaper items get worn out more quickly, but you’re probably not even aware of how rapidly your cheap but mindless purchases add up and start burning a whole in your pocket.
  • It helps you live more sustainably. Did you know that the fashion industry is one of the world’s main pollutants? By making more mindful purchasing choices, you help curb the waste it produces.

Putting together your own capsule wardrobe

Inspired to give it a go but not sure how to actually go about it? Follow our four simple steps to creating a capsule wardrobe from scratch and you’ll be living a more minimalistic and purposeful life in no time. And don’t stop there – get your flatmates on board to serve as accountability buddies for each other. And once you’re done decluttering your wardrobe, check out more advice from the Badi blog on how to live more sustainably and make the most of your flatshare.