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Less is more: your capsule wardrobe in five easy steps

Reducing your clothing collection to fewer than 50 items might seem like an impossible task, but it really isn’t as hard as it appears. In fact, we’ve found a way to do it in just five easy steps! So if you’re wondering how you can start a capsule wardrobe, read on … 

What is a capsule wardrobe?

First conceived by designer Susie Faux in the 1970s, a capsule wardrobe is a paired-down collection of interchangeable essentials. Or, in other words, a minimalist wardrobe with fewer than 50 pieces, all of which can be inter-paired to create various outfit combinations. Sound good? Here is our simple five-step capsule wardrobe guide to transforming your clothing collection.

Step 1: Define your style

Since a capsule wardrobe begins and ends with you, briefly define the types of clothes you need. Do you work in an office? At home? In formal situations? Write out a category list. For example:


  • Office
  • Weekend/Park
  • Dinner/Drinks

Next, follow our decision tree (below) with each category to determine your style pairings.

A decision tree that helps you to define your style for optimal capsule wardrobe planning

Combine the two to create style modules. For example:


  • Office – Classic and elegant
  • Weekend/Park – classic and elegant
  • Dinner/Drinks  – edgy and trendy

These are the building blocks for your new minimalist capsule wardrobe.

Step 2: Reduce your items

A close-up of a woman stacking a pile of jeans – reducing items is an important step in building a capsule wardrobe

Before you can start styling your capsule wardrobe, you need to assess what you have. Here’s how: 

Get visual

Empty your entire wardrobe onto your bed where you can see it.


Divide everything into five categories:


  • Tops
  • Bottoms
  • Outer layers
  • Shoes
  • Bags/accessories


Donate anything that doesn’t make you happy! Store items that you’re unsure about for six months. If you don’t think about them, donate.

Sort and store

Divide the rest of the clothing into seasons and store non-seasonal clothing – sorting through it will be a future task.

Step 3: Find your hero

A woman examining blouses in a minimalist wardrobe

Sort the remaining clothes into the modules from step 1. Starting with the most important module, select a hero item to build your capsule around. Don’t limit yourself – bright pattered blouses work just as well as demure trousers.

Step 4: Divide and conquer

A flat-lay of coordinating capsule wardrobe basics

Beginning with your hero, curate the first module by selecting six capsule wardrobe basics:


  • One outer layer
  • Three tops
  • Two bottoms

There is a twist: all of the pieces (including the hero) need to pair well with each other. If you manage to do this, your six-piece module will create 12 possible outfits.


Repeat the steps with the rest of the modules, ensuring that the items not only work with each other, but also across the other modules. The more cross-module pairings you achieve, the greater your outfit selection will become. If you manage to pair all items across three modules, for example, you will have created 216 possible outfit combinations from 18 pieces!

Top tip!
As a rule of thumb, it’s always good to include neutral basics in your capsule collection: a white shirt, pair of jeans, denim jacket, simple black T-shirt and so on.

Step 5: Fill the gaps, bring the fun

A woman determining which items work well together in her capsule wardrobe

Look at the items that don’t yet have a place – dresses, scarves, hats, bags, shoes – and pick the ones that complement your capsule wardrobe. Try them together and pick the best looks. Notice any gaps? Make a list and go shopping, considering sustainability and quality – look to slow fashion brands and second-hand stores.

Capsule wardrobe tips for first-timers

  1. Create a capsule catalogue: Take photos of the outfits you wear, add them to a dedicated album on your phone for capsule wardrobe inspiration.
  2. Accept that mistakes are part of the journey. Don’t feel guilty about donating items you never wore – they’ve taught you a lesson and helped to refine your style.
  3. Repeat the capsule wardrobe process every season. Over time, with practice, you’ll become much more attuned to your style.  

Image credits

Header image: Shutterstock
Image of a close-up of a woman stacking a pile of jeans: Stocksy
Image of a woman examining blouses in a minimalist wardrobe: Stocksy
Image of a flat-lay of coordinating capsule wardrobe basics: Shutterstock
Image of a woman determining which items work well together in her capsule wardrobe: Stocksy