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How to Create a Capsule Wardrobe in 3 Simple Steps

Have you thought about trying a capsule wardrobe? Here's what it is, why it's great for the planet, and exactly how to build one.

Written by
Anna Shuster

We've all been there: a growing mountain of clothes on the bed and stress levels soaring as you're trying to pick out an outfit.

At this point, you probably can’t begin to count the number of times you've been late because "you had nothing to wear"—and you're not alone. Enter the capsule wardrobe: a sustainable fashion trend that's most definitely worth trying.

What's a Capsule Wardrobe?

The horrors of repeating outfits are well-documented—perhaps most famously in The Lizzie McGuire Movie, when when the classic high school mean girl, Kate Sanders, calls Lizzie out for being an "outfit repeater." Well, joke's on Kate, because being an outfit repeater is one of the best things you can do for the planet.

A capsule wardrobe is quite the opposite of the fashionista consumerist dream that many of us grew up with. Instead of filling your closet with hundreds of items, a capsule wardrobe consists of a limited selection of essential pieces (including tops, bottoms, dresses, shoes, and beyond) that can be easily mixed and matched.

These pieces tend to be classic, high-quality items you'll be able to wear for years to come. By doing so, you're also saving yourself money—as well as all the time and energy spent trying to get dressed in the morning. With a capsule wardrobe, you could pull pieces with your eyes closed and they'd all look great together.

Capsule Wardrobe Basics

So, how do you go about building your own? Caroline Joy, the creator of Un-Fancy, has been credited with creating the modern concept of the capsule wardrobe. But how did she do it?

A great capsule wardrobe starts with utilizing clothing you already have. After going through her closet, Joy says she found 37 well-made pieces she gravitated toward and genuinely liked. Together, the items created a color palette, making it possible for her to create an infinite number of outfit combinations.

Joy committed herself to these items for a period of time and found that getting dressed became more innovative in this way. She was stylish, but in a way that didn't require purchasing fast fashion or going shopping every week. Instead, she was able to create an endless number of chic outfit options from just those 37 pieces.

If you're interested in creating a capsule wardrobe of your own, keep reading for the next steps on how to get started.

How to Build a Capsule Wardrobe

Step 1: Smart Small

Building a capsule wardrobe can seem intimidating, but it doesn't have to be. In fact, you don’t even have to get rid of everything in your closet. A fun way to kickstart a capsule wardrobe is the 10x10 Wardrobe Challenge created by Lee Vosburg of Style Bee. It’s quite simple, and you can do it seasonally.

The 10x10 Wardrobe Challenge is a way to experience a capsule wardrobe for a short, non-commital period of time: 10 days. For those 10 days, you aim to not stray from any 10 desired clothing articles and find new ways to mix and match. Accessories and jewelry aren’t included in your capsule quota. 

Vosburg suggests choosing two pairs of shoes, four tops, one dress, two bottoms, and one top layer. She even offers a worksheet clad with journal space to help you plan it out. The whole point of the challenge is to have fun and see what happens next: i.e. no pressure. What you find might surprise you!

Step 2: Declutter and Swap

If you loved the 10x10 challenge, a capsule wardrobe is definitely for you. And now it's time to take things up a notch.

Give yourself time to go through your closet and identify pieces that don’t match your personal style anymore. Put them to the side to sell online, give to a thrift store, or bring to a clothing swap with your friends.

And if you still need to supplement your wardrobe, go for it! We love Vetta for its innovative capsule wardrobe pieces that follow a color scheme and can be worn in multiple ways.

Step 3: Keep Taking Small, Sustainable Steps

You don’t have to do all of this at once. The stereotypes of fast fashion connoisseurs and eco-friendly enthusiasts are part of a spectrum, so fashion mindsets truly look different for everyone.

Even the smallest sustainability-centered step—like asking yourself "Am I really going to wear this?" before taking an item to the check-out—will make a difference.

If your favorite thing to do with your friends is go shopping, go to a thrift store instead every now and then. You can create a capsule wardrobe out of a sense of excitement and innovation—not dread.