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I’ve been wanting to put together this post for some time now. I’ve had capsule wardrobes on my brain for the last couple of months, and now that I’ve finally taken the plunge with the Project 333 capsule challenge, it seemed as good a time as any to share a few tips on how to build a functional – and seasonal – capsule wardrobe.
Most of the guides that I’ve come across tend to be geared more towards freelance living – which is great, however it doesn’t come even close to fitting my own personal situation. I work in a corporate office, which means I have to look and dress professionally; there’s no getting away with a pair of drop crotch fancy track pants with high heel booties (not that I could pull this off anyway…). Given that I spend five days out of seven at the office, I needed to reflect this in my own capsule, meaning that a large proportion of the items chosen needed to work for the office, or be able to do double duty for work and play.
I’ve spent the last couple of years building up my wardrobe with high-quality basic pieces, so, when it came to building my Fall capsule wardrobe, I was already completely stocked up with all the pieces I could possibly need for the next three months. All I had left to do was to whittle it down to a cohesive and functional capsule of 33 items, to meet the specifications of the Project 333 challenge. Just keep in mind that your capsule can be any size that you like. I haven’t included shoes or accessories in mine, which gives me a lot more freedom however this might be something you want to do. You might want to have a capsule of 25 items, of 40 items – ultimately, it’s up to you, and the climate of the country you live in.
Climate will also play a huge factor in what will and what won’t work. For instance, Sydney has quite mild winters (in comparison to Wellington, say), so I know that come winter time, I probably won’t need to include a heavy duty coat as it will seldom be worn. In somewhere like the like UK where it snows, during the winter you’ll probably be relying on a thick parka jacket, leather leggings, and oversized knitted sweaters (oh, and lots, and lots of thermals). It’s a good idea to have a think about what you were wearing the previous year as that should serve as a good indicator to what types of items you’ll need to include in your seasonal capsule.
Step 1. Identify your core, must-have pieces
This is likely to be a mixture of pieces you already own, or pieces you wished you owned. For the latter, I’d recommend taking a weekend to go out shopping to find the right pieces for you. My core items are a classic black blazer, tailored cropped trousers, a sleeveless button up blouse, a pencil skirt, a cotton or a silk tank, a drapey cardigan, and a simple pair of skinny denim jeans. With these pieces I’m able to form the foundation of an outfit to suit most occasions, while knowing that I’ll look put together and feel comfortable in what I’m in.
Depending on your own personal circumstances, your must-haves or core pieces might be dramatically different. This all comes down to lifestyle. As I mentioned earlier, mine is a 70/30 split between work and play, so I’ve geared my core piece to fit this ratio for my most recent capsule. Have a quick think about what your dress code is for work (if you have one), what activities you suspect you’ll be doing over the next few months, and ultimately what you think you’ll feel most comfortable in.
Step 2. Choose a colour palette
Once you’ve identified and picked out your core pieces, you can start to decide on a colour palette. If your core pieces are items that you already own, then the colours of these should be loosely incorporated into your palette just to ensure that your capsule is cohesive and that you can put together various combinations. If your core pieces represent a ‘shopping list’ of items you still need to buy, then you can base this palette on the colours of the season if you’d like it to be trend driven, neutral shades (as I’ve done), or a mix of shades from within the same colour family (ie. light blue, medium blue and navy).
Depending on how many items you have in your complete wardrobe, you’re going to be placing a slight restriction on how much of it you’ll have access to. By selecting a colour scheme, you work with your wardrobe, rather than against it, and it will make getting dressed in the morning so much easier – trust me.
My colour palette is driven by neutral shades, with a small pop of colour. There’s white, grey, navy, black, blush, and a little bit of yellow. These are colours that I know will work well together, and are also colours that I feel comfortable in. I’ve mostly shied away from prints as I find these can be a little more difficult to work with and quite often make a strong statement. This is down to personal choice – I’ve seen plenty of girls pull of prints (and print mixing) with such aplomb, so if that’s you, then go for it!
Step 3. Pick items to complement your core/must-have pieces, and round out your capsule
Keeping in mind your work/life balance, this is where you really start to bulk out your capsule. Think about all the pieces you might possibly need – layering pieces, skirts, jackets and shoes or accessories if you’re choosing to include them.
For me, this is where I add in the sleeveless silk tanks, a second blazer, a few knee-length skirts, long sleeved blouses, sweaters, and a few more casual items like shorts, comfortable skirts and Breton striped tees.
My own particular split tends to be more top ‘heavy’, as these need to be washed more frequently than skirts (I find anyway). Keep in mind that you won’t want to include too many items that are dryclean only (and for those who take a ‘throw everything in the washing maching kind of approach, anything handwash only) as the upkeep is time consuming and can be costly. In my capsule wardrobe, I’ve included a few silk pieces from Everlane, although I find that these are pretty low maintenance. I can pop them in a delicates bag on a cool cycle in the washing machine without any visible wear and tear; which let’s admit it, is so much easier than dropping it off at the drycleaner (and parting with all that cash!).
Step 4. Review, review, and review some more
While a capsule isn’t ‘set in stone’ – you can always alter it at any point if it isn’t working for you – the final step is to take a look at the items you’re planning to include in your capsule, and scrutinize each and every piece.
Does this work with the rest of my capsule? Do I think I’m going to get a lot of wear out of this? Does this suit the climate for the next three months?
You might have what looks like a perfect capsule, only to realize that perhaps you won’t wear that leather skirt as much as you thought, or perhaps the print on this blouse won’t go with as many bottoms as initially anticipated.
It can be a work in progress – my own capsule still is, and there’s the odd piece which I’m already considering swapping out for something a little more appropriate given how humid and warm March is (funny how much you forget in a year!). A capsule should be fun; you should be looking forward to wearing the pieces in it, and you shouldn’t feel restricted or hindered by any rules. I like to think of it as a guideline to streamlining your closet for the coming season, and a useful tool to maximize the wear of the pieces you already have.
The final step, if you’re so inclined, is to pack away *most* of the items that you won’t need for the season. I say most, because if you’re as fickle as I am, having the option to switch up your capsule if necessary is a welcome thought, and it takes a little bit of the pressure off.
I will be sharing a bit more on the theme of ‘minimalism’ (well, as minimal as I get, that is!) and wardrobe capsules over the next few months, so if this is something that interests you, then keep your eyes peeled. I’ve also shared a video where I talk a little bit about how I put my Autumn capsule together over on Youtube. If you’re starting your own capsule wardrobe from scratch, I’d love if you could share your thoughts or any questions that you had in the comments below. Oh, and good luck, of course!