How to Create a Capsule Wardrobe When You Have No Idea Where to Start

Flying back from Las Vegas last week we had a comedian Southwest flight attendant. Instead of asking us to place our valuables under the seat, he said “make sure you get everything jammed crammed and stuffed where we can’t see it.”

Most of the time I do have a full carry-on and purse, but for this flight I had one small purse. It felt great to stretch my legs out under the seat, free from thoughts of other baggage.

But as the flight attendant walked down the aisle, closing the bin doors, I noticed that they were indeed ALL jammed, crammed and stuffed with stuff! Which is exactly what happens to our brains, to our homes, to our closets.

Having “too much” is deeply ingrained in our culture.

Evidence that people desperately want to shift is found in popular books (Essentialism and The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up being two of the most popular) and articles on paring down, and the growing tiny house movement.

Even with this plethora of information, we aren’t sure where to start!

I read an article recently that made the scary prediction that soon the sheer quantity of available information will double every 12 hours.

Even in the face of this sobering statistic, we continue to add to our lives things that make it harder and harder to reset, to grow and to be creative.

If you want to pare down but aren’t sure where to start, I want to give you the opportunity to find 2 pieces in your closet you can use to make a small cluster of clothes called a capsule.

With a little practice you can create an 8-piece capsule wardrobe that gives you a minimum of 20 outfits that you love and want to wear.

By doing so, you will pare down your wardrobe, reset your brain to think differently about your wardrobe and increase your ability to be creative and have fun with your clothes.

So here goes:

Step 1:

Find 2 pieces in your closet that you love. And I mean love as in you would wear them every day if you could. The pieces can be two pairs of pants, two shirts, a shirt and a pant or a dress and any other item. Just 2.

Step 2:

Find 2-3 colors that you want to use for your capsule from the items selected. If, for example, you choose a pair of jeans and a t-shirt, you could have navy and grey as your color scheme for the capsule. If you choose jeans and a patterned shirt, you could have navy, coral and white for a color scheme.

find2-2 find 2-1

Step 3:

The other 6 pieces need to be specifically chosen by you, and they need to be done according to this chart. There are 2 bottoms, 4 tops and 2 third layer pieces for each capsule. Here is a chart to help:

Screen Shot 2016-04-24 at 9.31.46 PM

capsuleStep 4:

Using the color scheme you have chosen, you can add the other pieces by shopping at the store or in your closet. Please stick with the color scheme you have chosen, and make sure each piece fits into the capsule first by color, then by style (do I love it), and then does it fit?

For example, let’s take this skirt from Tory Burch and a pair of jeans, and see what we can come up with:

Here are the garments in this catalog.  Some of the affiliate links may generate commissions for Your Authentic Image which helps support the time spent creating these very unique recommendations.

Leave a Comment:

Bonnie Dickss says January 27, 2017

After looking at this article, I think I have plenty of clothes. The problem is I keep reaching for the jeans instead of the my dress pants because I don’t want to feel like I’m going to work. (I’ve been retired now for several years). I’ve got to get rid of that mind set and also get in the habit of reaching for something other that jeans and a tee.

Kathleen Audet says February 1, 2017

Yes, Bonnie, it is definitely out of habit that we reach for the same things every day. This is not necessarily a bad thing and can save us a lot of time in the morning. However if we want our clothes to serve us — give us joy, happiness, no frustration — we can reach for the dress pants or even a new pair of pants that is somewhere in between dress and jean — like a loose, full-leg pant or a ponte-knit legging, and then grab a top that we love, and our thought pattern around our image will be different. That change is ready for you. :)

holly peet says February 20, 2017

such good information. i think i have too many choices even though my wardrobe isn’t that big. i get overwhelmed and can’t figure out how to narrow it down or put outfits together. every time i get dressed to go somewhere, i end up trying on a TON of stuff and since i am getting ready to leave, i don’t put stuff back which leaves me with a disaster when i get home (clothes in piles everywhere) you are helping me get started, any ideas on how to pick different bottoms and narrow down tops (or vice versa)? i need all the help i can get! thanks

    Kathleen Audet says March 8, 2017

    Holly, I am not sure what you mean by “pick different bottoms”, but if you are looking for a new style for spring — the wider leg pant is in and it’s very comfortable. You can pair it with a simple t-shirt in a color that matches your eyes, or you can narrow down your tops to only those that you love and want to wear. If you create a few capsule wardrobes, you will see where the gaps are in each one and then you can purchase only what you need to complete each one – which is hopefully only a piece or two. Try weeding out anything that doesn’t fit well, is stained, torn, shrunk, and then look for those pieces that have colors that you love on you.

Patricia says March 4, 2017

I am a natural redhead with very pale skin, and now some gray threaded through my hair. Before I retired, I was usually a mid-range manager in hospitality and retail, so I represented the company and showcased their products and designs. I wear more black clothing basics than anything else with either a clear red or green as accents with silver jewelry.

My main issue is getting rid of multiples such as six pairs of black pants or four or five long sleeved tees in black or gray. Since I retired, I rarely wear more than dark blue or black jeans. I’ve gotten rid of my tees as they no longer suit but I don’t know what to replace them with?

    Kathleen Audet says March 8, 2017

    Patricia, with red hair and pale skin — grey and black will be a very difficult colors to wear. Try brown, coral, red violet, and maybe even orange. I would experiment with gold jewelry which will harmonize with your hair. Try replacing your tees with blouses instead. This spring there are some beautiful florals with lots of warm colors at places like Soft Surroundings and Banana Republic. You can also try simple tees in solid colors OTHER than black or grey — again coral, lt olive, gold or peach. I hope this helps :)

Ellie says February 27, 2019

Love your article! I desperately need to do this… I have whittle down my wardrobe so it is very small but I still spend too much time figuring what to wear each morning. My question is “does every item need to go with every other item in the capsule?

    Kathleen Audet says February 27, 2019

    Hi Ellie, the criteria for the capsule is that each of the 4 tops need to coordinate with the 2 bottoms and the 2 third layer pieces. Choosing no more than 3 colors for the capsule makes putting it all together much easier. Narrower = easier :)

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