The Capsule Wardrobe: How to Reduce Your Closet to 37 Pieces

How to Build a Capsule Wardrobe



Is it us, or does it suddenly seem like less is so much more? While a minimalist lifestyle has been gaining traction for a while, it seems the trend has recently narrowed in on an area dear to our hearts: the closet. Whether it's Marie Kondo's often wardrobe-focused tidying technique or Matilda Kahl's choice to wear one outfit to work for three years, many are looking to edit down their closets. We know we're guilty of stocking a few unworn or low-quality items, and we'd like to change that.

One closet-reducing program that's especially buzzy as of late is the capsule wardrobe. While many have jumped on the clothes-purging bandwagon, the authority on capsule wardrobes is Caroline Rector of Un-Fancy. Below, we explore what a capsule wardrobe looks like, Rector's methodology, how a capsule wardrobe has changed her life, and how you can start your own capsule collection.

Scroll down to see our how-to and review what the capsule wardrobe looks like so you can start simplifying your closet and your life.

What Is a Capsule Wardrobe?

what is a capsule wardrobe, woman wearing minimal black dress



Rector describes a capsule wardrobe as "a mini wardrobe made up of really versatile pieces that you totally love to wear." Each season, you clear your closet, leaving only a set number of pieces in your capsule wardrobe. Rector's golden number is 37 items, but it varies by season. Your capsule collection is made from a combination of items you already own and love to wear, plus new quality items you can shop for once a season. Learn more details about how it works on Un-Fancy.

The Benefits of a Capsule Wardrobe

According to Un-Fancy, a capsule wardrobe represents more time, money, and energy for the things in life that really matter (i.e., not your clothes). By shopping only once a season, you save money by not buying frivolous clothing items that can add up. Rector also says that by narrowing her wardrobe, she was actually able to define and understand her style more. Plus, she always feels like she has something great to put on, as every item hanging in her closet is something she'd love to wear right then.

How to Start a Capsule Wardrobe

Rector has a five-step approach to building your own capsule wardrobe.

1. Pare down your closet to 30–37 items.
2. Wear only those items for three months.
3. Don't shop for clothing during the majority of the season. 
4. During the last two weeks of the season, plan and shop for your next capsule.
​5. The amount you buy for the next capsule is up to you, but less is more.

Check out Rector's additional tips and rules for paring down your closet.

What to Include in a Capsule Wardrobe

Wondering what to include in a capsule wardobe? Keep scrolling for a list of staples we swear by.

1. Trench Coat

Not only is it practical for inclement weather, but a khaki trench coat is a true wardrobe classic that will never go out of style. 

2. Blazer

How to Capsule Wardrobe: woman wearing a blazer



Blazers can add polish to even your most basic jeans and tees. It's always a smart investment. 

3. Tank Top

How to capsule wardrobe with minimalist fashion, woman wearing tank top



A great tank top is a perfect layering piece for fall and winter. In the spring and summer, it's fantastic for staying cool and showing off some skin. 

4. Denim Skirt

How to Capsule Wardrobe: woman wearing a denim skirt



Denim skirts are a timeless staple that can be dressed up or down based on your personal preferences. 

5. White Button-Down

How to Capsule Wardrobe: woman wearing a white button-down



What's more classic than a white button-down? Whether you're at work, at the bar, or running errands, it never looks out of place.

6. Tailored Trousers

When in doubt, a pair of tailored trousers are never a bad purchase. These pants will become a star player in your wardrobe, as they can be dressed up for formal settings or down for the weekend. 

7. Pointed-Toe Slingbacks

Pointed-toe slingbacks are a great addition to any capsule wardrobe as they can be worn to the office, for date nights, or other special occasions. Simply opt for a pair in a neutral hue to ensure their longevity. 

9. Work-Ready Dress

For those who work in more formal office settings, having at least one modest dress is a must-have. Opt for one with a higher neckline, subtle tailoring, and a longer hemline to ensure it's appropriate. 

10. Double-Breasted Coat

capsule wardrobe ideas, woman wearing a long wool coat



A classic outerwear piece, a double-breasted coat is a layering must-have for cold weather. In mild climates, you can get away with opting for a version of this coat made from lightweight fabrics, but for colder climates investing in a coat made from wool, mohair, or other dense materials will ensure you stay warm. 

11. Striped Sweater

How to Capsule Wardrobe: woman wearing a striped sweater



The amount of wear you can get out of a Breton-stripe sweater feels endless. You can style it almost year-round with everything from denim to shorts to skirt and beyond. 

12. Simple Belt

How to Capsule Wardrobe: woman wearing a belt with tailored shorts and blazer



A belt is the perfect finishing touch to any outfit. It can make your look feel twice as expensive. Plus it can operate as a cost-effective solution to ill-fitted trousers and jeans. 

13. Polished Jeans

How to Capsule Wardrobe: woman wearing jeans



There's something about a good pair of jeans that can take you so far. The opportunities are endless.

14. Ankle Boots

How to build a capsule wardrobe: woman in black ankle boots



You can not go wrong with investing in a pair of ankle boots. The versatility of this style is unparalleled as you can not only style it in numerous ways (e.g., with jeans, trousers, dresses), but they come in so many variations that it makes them the most functional footwear you can buy for your fall wardrobe. 

15. Classic Sunglasses

How to Capsule Wardrobe: woman wearing black sunglasses



We can't talk about capsule wardrobes without mentioning a classic pair of sunglasses. They are the accessory that keeps on giving. Plus, the cost-per-wear stats can be quite convincing.

16. Denim Jacket

Does this really need an explanation? Denim jackets will always be a smart investment. 

17. Maxi Dress

How to Capsule Wardrobe: woman wearing a maxi dress



A minimalist maxi dress is a must-have for the summer, spring, and early fall because it will keep you looking polished sans effort. 

18. White Sneakers

Minimalist Wardrobe for women:  woman in white sneakers



When it comes to footwear, nothing is more timeless than a pair of white sneakers. They go with absolutely everything and are never a bad investment. 

19. Cozy Cardigan

How to Capsule Wardrobe: woman wearing a white cardigan



No matter the season, cardigans are the staple that you'll turn to time and time again. It's a sweater style that can take you from day to night with ease, as it can be paired with jeans in the daytime or a dress at night. 

20. Pleated Skirt

How to capsule wardrobe: woman in pleated midi skirt



A pleated skirt is the updated wardrobe staple we all need right now. It looks equally chic styled with knee-high boots as it does with sneakers. 

21. Loafers

How to Capsule Wardrobe: woman wearing loafers



Looking for a pair of shoes you can wear year-round and walk for miles in? Loafers will never fail you. 

22. Shoulder Bag

How to Capsule Wardrobe: woman wearing a shoulder bag



It's rare to visit the Who What Wear office and not see a slew of fashion editors with shoulder bags. Why? It's a timeless style every fashion person wears on repeat.

23. Minimalist T-Shirt

How to Capsule Wardrobe: woman wearing a black t-shirt with jeans



You don't know true happiness unless you've found the perfect T-shirt. Comfort, fit, color, and style can make a huge difference.

24. Slip Skirt

Investing in a good slip skirt will continue to pay itself forward over and over again. Having this in a capsule wardrobe is crucial as you will likely be invited to a beautiful soirée.

25. Ballet Flats

How to Capsule Wardrobe: woman wearing ballet flats and short suit



If you love to wear heels everywhere but need to be able to actually walk, then ballet flats are a great alternative. They're low-key a game changer.

26. Leather Jacket

How to Capsule Wardrobe: woman wearing a leather jacket



Leather weather is year-round for fashion people. We'll always find a way to put a leather jacket on top of any outfit in our closet because they're that good.

27. Sophisticated Jewelry

Jewelry can make an outfit, and you'll never regret curating a striking collection. Whether you're ready to spend $20 or $2000, you're guaranteed to find something special. 

28. Tailored Vest

A tailored vest is a low-key game changer in your closet. When styled correctly, it can take any suit to the next level, so naturally, it is an ideal addition to any capsule wardrobe. 

29. Pleated Shorts

How to Capsule Wardrobe: woman wearing pleated shorts and button down



For warmer days when you don't want to wear trousers or denim, having a pair of pleated shorts on hand will be your saving grace. Besides being ideal for the heat, this bottom makes for a great longterm investment because they can be paired with just about any other item in your closet. 

30. Little Black Dress

As Karl Lagerfeld famously said, "One is never overdressed or underdressed with a little black dress." It's the perfect addition to any closet as it can be worn for various occasions and will stand the test of time. 

This post was originally published at an earlier date and has since been updated.