Capsule Wardrobe Unpacked!

People of the internet, social media and the gorgeous morning show TV presenters, enough with your bloated versions of the ‘capsule’ wardrobe!  I keep hearing people using the term and everyone appears to have a varied example of what it means!  So what does it mean, then?

In the 1970’s, ‘Capsule Wardrobe’ was a term coined by Susie Faux, owner of a London Boutique called ‘Wardrobe’.  According to Faux, a capsule wardrobe was a collection of a few essential items of clothing that didn’t go out of fashion, such as skirts, trousers and coats, which could then be augmented with seasonal pieces.  It really caught on in the 1980’s in America when designer Donna Karen released an influential capsule collection of ‘seven interchangeable work-wear pieces’.

At this time, a capsule wardrobe was defined as a minimalistic wardrobe made up of approximately 30 staple pieces or fewer, in a coordinating colour palette.  This included shoes and even sometimes accessories!  One might update the wardrobe with a couple of new ‘on-trend’ or seasonal items two or three times a year, but that was it!  The goal was to have a streamlined wardrobe of high-quality investment pieces that could be worn often and were interchangeable, thereby saving money, wardrobe space and time.

There are many misguided approaches to the capsule wardrobe kicking around the world wide web.  Retailers and Fashion Bloggers are suggesting starting with a collection of 33 classic staples and adding five new ‘trending’ items of clothing every season.  That’s 20 new pieces per year.  Hang on a minute!  Why is the capsule wardrobe suddenly about shopping?  The whole point of a capsule wardrobe is for people who are on a budget, have minimal wardrobe space or are quite simply not interested in spending a lot of time and money on fashion, to be able to STOP making multiple purchases every few weeks and still have a serviceable wardrobe.

Peta Preston’s definition of a capsule wardrobe

If you are someone who is intrigued by the capsule wardrobe idea but can’t possibly imagine trimming your entire wardrobe down to fewer than 30 items, don’t despair!

According to an article by the Wall Street Journal, only about 20% of clothes in the average person’s wardrobe are worn on a regular basis.  Factors such as impulse buying contribute to this statistic but the fact is, the ideal wardrobe is deemed difficult to curate.  Curation is a refined skill that requires careful consideration and planning.  Let’s face it…. the average busy person doesn’t have the luxury of time and the patience to achieve this.

In my humble opinion, a well curated closet is necessary.  My definition of a capsule wardrobe is simple!

Break down your wardrobe into three categorised sections;

  • Wardrobe Staples
  • Investment Pieces
  • Fast Fashion Items


Wardrobe staples serve as the foundation of a wardrobe and act as the blank canvas to build outfits from.  These are the reliable go-to items that can be used on a rotating basis season after season.  A neutral colour palette is the best option.  Think white, cream, beige, grey and black.  Each item compliments each other and allows for constant mix and matching, which keeps your wardrobe feeling fresh and updated.


The phrase ‘quality over quantity’ is applicable to choosing investment pieces.  These are items that will be worn in the years to come as they defy fashion’s ever-changing landscape.  They should always be wearable and very versatile as they are used to transform wardrobe staples to adapt to any occasion.  As an example, a simple tee and jeans are always a safe combination, yet ordinary and casual.  If an investment piece such as a well-tailored blazer is added, the outfit is instantly elevated and becomes appropriate for semi-formal occasions.  The basic tee and investment jacket has also just enabled you to dress for any season!


Fast Fashion items are those that move from catwalk quickly to capture current fashion trends.  Fast fashion clothing collections are based on the most recent fashion trends presented at Fashion Week and quite often all the images we see in ‘street style’ on social media.

Fast Fashion items are not essential for everyone!  However, they are a fantastic and in-expensive way of keeping your ‘capsule wardrobe’ on-trend and fresh.  Think Zara!  Think cheap and cheerful scarves and accessories in current season colours!

Purchase a bright ‘Gucci Inspired’ floral top for example and style it back with a pair of your staple jeans, or black pants and heels.

Yours in style x