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How to have a capsule wardrobe: essentials checklist

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How do you make a minimalist capsule wardrobe?  There are many benefits to having a capsule wardrobe to save yourself time, money and to be more sustainable.  But how to get started with a capsule wardrobe when you already have a full wardrobe of clothes?  Do you really need to go and buy new pieces to get started?  And what are the essential items that you need to include in a capsule wardrobe.

The truth is, there are no rules to having a capsule wardrobe. You can create your own system, or follow one that already exists. However for inspiration for how to start a capsule wardrobe, remembering the essentia items you need, and a reminder of the benefits of having less clothes, read on.

A quick reminder: what is a capsule wardrobe?

A capsule wardrobe is a collection of clothing that is limited in number and contains a collection of clothes, shoes, and accessories that are carefully curated to match one another. It is a way to simplify your life by choosing clothes that are versatile. The idea behind this concept is that by having less clothes, you will be able to get more wear out of them. You will also be able to find what you are looking for with much greater ease because there are fewer items.

You will save money on clothes because you won't need as many items in your closet. You will save time as there are less outfits to choose from, plus everything should mix and match. You will also be kinder to the environment as you buy less clothing and stop contributing to the needless production of clothes by wearing outfits numerous times instead of just once or twice.

A capsule wardrobe can be made up of luxury items or High Street women's clothing depending on your budget.  It's about sourcing the pieces that will stand the test of time and you won't get bored of after a couple of wears.  It's also about picking the pieces that are of the best quality and can therefore be laundered numerous times and worn for months, or ideally years.

How to have a capsule wardrobe essentials checklist

How to have a capsule wardrobe: getting started

One of the main ideas behind the capsule wardrobe is to reduce the amount of clothing you have and therefore the amount you buy.  You do this by choosing mix and match pieces of women's clothing to create a variety of outfits from a small amount of garments, rather than buying one-off garments that creates an entire wardrobe full of mish-mash clothing that doesn’t go together.

By opting for a capsule wardrobe, you should invest in high-quality clothing that stands the test of time to help reduce your expenditure on clothing in the longrun.  It’s also about being more sustainable and stopping the mass production of fast fashion.

So the big question now might be: what if you already have a lot of clothing?

If you already have a lot of clothing then there are two ways to go about simplifying your wardrobe to create a capsule collection. 

The first is you can declutter what you already own by picking a capsule wardrobe from your existing collection.  Choose the essential items of women's clothing you want to keep from your wardrobe and either sell, donate or recycle the rest. Read my blog post how to get rid of clothes without sending to landfill to learn how to never throw any clothing in the bin, even if its ruined.

With the first option, you will have to replace any ruined clothing by buying new, which brings me onto the benefits of the second option.

The second option is to create a capsule wardrobe out of your existing collection, but rather than getting rid of the rest of the items, you keep them.  Store them out of sight in an organised manner in your attic or elsewhere.  You can use your simplified capsule wardrobe to make getting dressed easier every day with fewer options, but when it comes to needing to replace an item then you can source it from the stored clothes instead of needing to buy.  

If you have enough suitable items for a capsule wardrobe already then you don’t need to actually buy more clothing to create one!  You just need to work with what you already have.

It’s counterproductive to throw away or get rid of everything you already own to start from scratch creating a capsule wardrobe and not within keeping of it’s ideals: saving money and being more environmentally friendly.  Instead create a capsule wardrobe from what you already own and if you need to buy a few pieces to complete it, that’s fine.  Going forward as pieces wear out, you can gradually build a capsule wardrobe you love.

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How to have a capsule wardrobe: essentials checklist

A capsule wardrobe is a collection of items that are edited to create a versatile outfit. It is the opposite of having a closet full of clothes, with nothing to wear!

To make your capsule wardrobe work for you, you need to have the right items in it. The key is having a capsule wardrobe that can serve as the foundation for all of your outfits. This means having enough pieces in neutral colours so you can mix and match different items with different colours and patterns, but not too many that it becomes overwhelming or difficult to maintain. 

It’s about choosing items you will wear time and time again, hopefully never getting bored of them.  It’s a more mindful way of curating a wardrobe as you limit the collection to a few key pieces that really suit your style and figure.  You should never buy anything on a whim, only when an item is needed to keep the capsule wardrobe substantial for your clothing needs and not overwhelming.  A successful capsule wardrobe includes having the right colours and styles in your clothing, as well as keeping them in good condition.

The quantity of clothing is really up to you.  To be very minimalistic you might want only 15 items in your capsule wardrobe, but to get started and not be too extreme give yourself around 30 to 50 items.  It might sound a lot at first, but go and count how many individual items of clothing you currently have.  You might be surprised!

So what should you include in your capsule wardrobe?

One way to build your capsule wardrobe is by following an essentials checklist. This will help you with what items are essential for your lifestyle and what you need to add in order to complete the capsule wardrobe.  Let’s take a look at a list of the essential items you should include in a capsule wardrobe.

Daywear / casualwear to include in a capsule wardrobe

  • 1-2 pairs of your favourite fitting jeans, jeggings or slacks.  Whatever you are most comfortable wearing on your casual days.  It’s a good idea to have two pairs for when a pair needs washing, especially if these are your go to trousers most days.

  • 1-2 skirts or dresses, if worn.

  • 3-5 t-shirts or blouses that can be worn with your favourite daywear trousers and/or skirts.

  • 2-3 sweaters or cardigans that can be matched with all of the above.

Total items: 7 to 11 pieces

While trousers can normally be worn for a few days at a time, most tops may only be worn once or twice before going in the laundry pile.  Therefore make sure you have extra tops so you don’t run out before laundry day.

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Workwear capsule wardrobe items

Depending on your job, you may need some smart clothes.  If you have a work uniform then great, your clothes are chosen for you and you don’t need to decide on them each day!  Otherwise if you work from home or with a casual dresscode then you can use the above daywear clothes.  If not, you’ll need some smart workwear if this is expected at your job.  You can still keep workwear to a minimum by implementing the capsule wardrobe method.  Depending on your style, your workwear items may need to include:

  • 1-2 blazers

  • 3-4 smart blouses or shirts

  • 1-2 smart trousers or skirts

  • 1 smart coat

Total items: 6 to 10 pieces


This will depend on whether you need eveningwear or not, depending on the types of activities you take part in and whether they require a more formal dress, or even if you like to get dressed up on occasion.  You may only need one outfit, or if you regularly dress up and go out then you may need a few items that can be mixed and matched, or to suit all occasions. Here are some ideas to create an eveningwear capsule wardrobe with minimalism in mind:

  • 1x long dress or jumpsuit

  • 1x short dress or jumpsuit

  • 1x evening trousers

  • 1x evening skirt

  • 1-2 evening tops that can be mixed and matched with the trousers and skirt

  • 1x evening jacket

Total items: 6-7 items

Loungewear suggestion for a capsule wardrobe

  • 2 loungewear sets or pyjamas

Total items: 2 items

Activewear suggestion for a capsule wardrobe

Obviously this depends on how active you are and whether you need to wash your activewear after every workout, or whether you can reuse more than once.  Here’s a starting guide:

  • 2x leggings, shorts or jogging bottoms

  • 2x activewear tops

  • 2x sports bras

  • 2x swimsuits

Total items: 8 items

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Outerwear for a capsule wardrobe

  • 1x warm autumn/winter coat

  • 1x lighter rain jacket for spring/summer

  • 1x scarf

  • 1x hat

  • 1x pair of gloves

It may also be a good idea to have one extra coat if you regularly walk outdoors and get soaking wet coats that need time to dry before being worn again.

Total items: 5 items

Footwear to include in a capsule wardrobe

  • 1x casual trainers

  • 1x casual pumps

  • 1x winter boots

  • 1x activewear trainers

  • 1x wellington boots

  • 1x sandals

  • 1-2x eveningwear shoes or boots

  • 1-2x pairs of smart work shoes

Total items: 10 items

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Grand total number of garments in my capsule wardrobe suggestions

The minimum suggestions here would total 45 items and they are flexible too as you may not want to count shoes in your capsule wardrobe, or you may need to add some more items, or you may not require some of the items.  But it’s a good starting point to see how minimal you can be.

How much underwear should I include in a capsule wardrobe?

I’m not going to include a total items of underwear here, but the trick is to buy exactly what you will use and need.  Take into account trips away and holidays when you might be away for a week or two and won’t be doing any laundry.  Therefore, don’t go too minimal on undergarments and ensure you have enough to last the duration of the longest holiday you will likely take, plus a couple of spares just in case.

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Final word

As you can see the above list is flexible and a good starting guide for creating a capsule wardribe based on your needs.  For those who do not require smart workwear and do not need eveningwear, the capsule wardrobe contents can be very minimal.

It’s all just a suggestion and you can work out what is most suitable for you and adapt as you go along.  If you find you are not doing laundry so often and running out of garments, then you may need a little extra clothing added to your collection.  Likewise, if you find you are not wearing all the clothes in your capsule wardrobe and it’s still overwhelming then perhaps you have too many garments and need to reduce your collection.  Take out the items you don’t wear and put them into storage as spares for when you need new items.  Or donate or sell them.

Ultimately, a capsule wardrobe is perfect for people who don't want to spend too much time deciding what to wear each day, or who want to save money by not buying clothes that will go unused.  The aim is to save yourself money and time by stopping unnecessary clothes shopping and to actually get the most out of all the clothes you do buy.  There are no hard and set rules when it comes to creating your capsule wardrobe, it’s about doing what is right for you.  


Related reading:

Keep your clothing costs down with subtle fashion

How to shop ethically + sustainably for clothing


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