How to Create a Capsule Wardrobe in 6 Easy Steps (Free Checklist)

Creating systems is the best way to make life easier.

When you optimize tasks, even seemingly simple ones, you can save yourself a ton of time and energy in the long run.

That’s why I decided to create a capsule wardrobe (also known as a capsule collection).

Fewer clothes means less laundry to manage, things to organize, and overall decision fatigue. That means more time, energy, and focus for the people and projects that truly matter.

A sample capsule wardrobe including jeans, t shirts, sweaters, dresses, and accessories.

Like all systems, though, creating a capsule wardrobe took a bit of work upfront. But now that I’ve gotten my own capsule wardrobe in order, I thought it’d be a good idea to put together a step by step guide to teach you how to create a capsule wardrobe from scratch.

Scroll down to learn:

  1. What a capsule collection is and why it’s so beneficial.
  2. How to build a capsule wardrobe from scratch.
  3. Where to find high quality, yet affordable essential pieces.
  4. How to download my FREE capsule wardrobe checklist.

What is a capsule collection?

A capsule wardrobe is a strategic styling method where you invest mainly in good quality, classic pieces – those tops, bottoms, jackets, shoes, and accessories that never go out of style.

Each season, you add a few of these wardrobe staples to your collection, keeping in mind how they’ll integrate with what you already own. The goal is to edit your closet until almost everything can be mixed and matched, creating a bunch of different outfits. And, ultimately, helping you to create your very own signature style.

The perfect capsule wardrobe will make getting dressed, doing laundry, and organizing your belongings easier. It’ll also save you money, allowing you to do more with less. 

How to build a capsule wardrobe from scratch:

Before we get into the nitty gritty, there are a few things I want you to know.

First, know the season that you’re creating for. This will narrow your options while ensuring you have everything you need for the 3-month(ish) period ahead. When the next season approaches, you can go through this list again and continue building.

Second, you don’t need buy all new clothes for this! The capsule wardrobe checklist you can sign up for below will help you to audit your closet and figure out what gaps you truly need to fill. You can create a shopping list and build from there as you’re able! Please, I beg you, do not go into debt for this. The goal is to eliminate unnecessary stress and anxiety, not create it. Just do what you can, when you can. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.

Here’s where you can subscribe to receive that free capsule wardrobe checklist…

Now let’s jump into the capsule wardrobe process…

Step 1: Pick a capsule wardrobe base color: black, navy, or brown.

Base colors are the core of the capsule wardrobe. Your options are three neutral colors – black, brown, or navy. And it’s important you only choose one.

If you have a hard time choosing, a great place to start is in your closet. Do a quick inventory of your current wardrobe and go with whatever color you own more of. That way you’ll have less to buy.

As a reference for the photos you’ll see, I chose black. And I’m planning for spring/summer. Here in Ohio, the seasons sort of just mesh together, lol, which is why you’ll see sundresses and sweaters.

Step 2: Pick a few basic color pieces that fit the categories bulleted below – and only these categories for now.

These pieces should match your base color. Some could be in your base color, as well. Basic, neutral prints are fine, too (like polka dots and stripes; they never go out of style).

  • Tops: t shirts, tank tops, sweaters, sweatshirts, cardigans, button ups
  • Bottoms: jeans, leggings, slacks, skirts, capris, shorts
  • Dresses: t-shirt dresses, shirt dresses, sundresses, satin dresses, sweater dresses
  • Jumpsuits and rompers

Note: The quantity of pieces you choose will be unique to your needs (the environments you dress for) and budget. Remember, basics never go out of style.

Here are some sample pieces. You can click the product pictures for details and/or to purchase!

A sample of neutral-colored capsule wardrobe basics including tops, bottoms, dresses, and jumpsuits.

Step 3: Pick 2-3 accent colors, then add a few items in these colors to your collection. 

Capsule wardrobes don’t have to be boring! This is where you’re able to start adding some personal style and diversifying your capsule wardrobe color palette a bit.

Your accent colors should be colors that you love to wear. Oftentimes, they’ll also colors that look really good on you. Personally, I’m more into earth tones. I think they look best on my skin tone. But if bright colors look good on you and you never get sick of them, go for it!

While the pieces you choose can vary (tops, bottoms, dresses, rompers, or jumpsuits), they should still be classic in nature (think versatile pieces vs. fashion trends) for the sake of longevity.

As you can see, my accent colors are light blue, olive green, and a rusty red orange. These are colors I love all year long, even when I’m pale in the winter, lol.

A sample of some great capsule wardrobe accent colors.

Step 4: Pick 2-5 patterned pieces to spice things up – tops, dresses, slacks – whatever you feel you’ll wear most.

Here’s another opportunity to show off your individual style!

Again, keeping longevity in mind, I recommend choosing patterns that are more timeless, like leopard print, plaid, stripes, camo, snake print, window pane, polka dots or gingham. Floral prints could work, too, but remember that floral trends can change pretty drastically from season to season.

I personally love the challenge of finding prints that are in my accent colors. I feel like that alone gives my wardrobe some personality, without making it overly trendy. 

Here are some sample pieces. You can click the product pictures for details and/or to purchase!

A few patterned pieces from my personal wardrobe capsule.

Step 5: Pick some capsule wardrobe layers.

Now it’s time to add some outerwear to your capsule wardrobe! Here are some ideas to consider:

  • Blazer
  • Utility jacket
  • Trench coat
  • Denim jacket
  • Faux leather jacket
  • Top coat
  • Wool dress coat
  • Puffer jacket
  • Puffer vest
  • Cape and/or shawl

Here are some sample pieces. You can click the product pictures for details and/or to purchase!

Some great capsule wardrobe outerwear samples.

Step 6: Pick some shoes and accessories.

Choose options that will allow you to take your outfits – and especially those wardrobe essentials you’ll be wearing on repeat – from day to night. Here are some options to consider:

  • Jewelry: dainty necklaces, earrings, and bracelets (Gorjana has the best options!! Their quality and price points are incredible, too!)
  • Shoes: white sneakers, printed sneakers, simple heels, flats, mules
  • Hair accessories: headbands, scrunchies, and barrettes

Here are some sample pieces. You can click the product pictures for details and/or to purchase!

Some great capsule wardrobe accessories.

And that’s it!

Repeat these steps seasonally over the next year and you should have a solid capsule wardrobe foundation. From there, it’s all about maintenance. 

Where can I find high quality, yet affordable essential pieces?

So you’re ready to buy some new items to add to your streamlined collection of clothes – great!

Truth be told, you can build a successful capsule wardrobe with items from Target and even WalMart. It just might not end up being the best quality, so you might end up having to replace items sooner. For this reason, I recommend buying higher quality pieces from the stores I’ve recommended below. IF, of course, you’re able.

I can’t stress enough that you should do what you can with what you have. The fact that you want to learn how to build a capsule wardrobe from scratch says a lot! And having fewer pieces that actually get used is a great starting point. Plus, some pieces at Target and Walmart ARE pretty good quality, so I can’t discredit them. I’ve definitely purchased some goodies at both stores myself!

All that being said, here’s the best way to approach shopping for your new wardrobe…

For the seasonal pieces you plan to wear most often (like your basics):

Try to avoid anything made of 100% synthetic materials. Items made with natural materials like wool, cashmere, and cotton, will wash better. They’re also more likely to last longer.

For the statement pieces that you’ll wear less often, and even workout clothes:

Opt for pieces that are made of blends (like a cotton/polyester blend, for example). These items are typically more affordable, and they will hold up decently in the wash!

As promised, here are the stores I frequently shop for essential items:

If you’re pregnant, you can check out my maternity capsule wardrobe post for a list of places I shopped for versatile maternity clothes.

Truly, filling my closet with key pieces that allow me to create different looks with minimal clothing options has helped me to create a happier life, and I wholeheartedly believe it will do the same for you.

Like I said, fewer options means less time, money, and energy wasted on things that don’t truly matter. And who wouldn’t want to get on board with that?

Before you go, be sure to check out mywardrobe essentials shop page. That’s where I share a small collection of my favorite neutral pieces every season.

If you don’t want to hunt down every single piece for your capsule wardrobe on your own, that’s the easiest way to find great options in little time.

Also, you can peek at my outfit ideas page for seasonal style inspiration. In my spring capsule wardrobe post alone I provide 31 different ways to style 25 wardrobe staples!

If there’s anything specific you’d like to see, please comment below to let me know!

Thank you from the bottom of my heart for reading. Come back soon!