How to create your own Capsule Wardrobe Collection

capsule wardrobe

What is a capsule wardrobe collection?

A capsule wardrobe collection is a specific number of clothes which are able to be worn interchangeably and which reflect your personality and lifestyle in such a way that the item combinations are appropriate to wear every day.

Hello everyone!  We are preparing a short series of blog posts for you, to show you how you can incorporate a capsule wardrobe collection into your life with minimum hassle and maximum benefit.  Here at Working Frocks we believe that a capsule wardrobe should help you look your best.

We have written other posts on the subject of the capsule wardrobe collection so be sure to check those out too:

Creating a capsule wardrobe – a short read, but it will get you thinking about how to create your own.

Create your own French style capsule collection – release your inner Parisienne and dress with style

The Microcapsule wardrobe – a wardrobe within a wardrobe, how it will benefit you

Our capsule wardrobe collection ethos

So many articles and images for capsule collections are all about leggings and tee shirts.  While there is definitely a place in our lives for that type of clothing we think that a capsule wardrobe has a much more interesting role to play in your life. After all, if you are going to wear a limited selection of clothing each day would leggings and a tee shirt really be your choice?

At Working Frocks we thing that a capsule collection should be one where you wear the distillation, the essence of who you are within a small collection of items.

Capsule Wardrobe Collection - image of a tidy wardrobe and a velvet stool Working Frocks

History of the capsule wardrobe

Donna Karan is the American designer who coined the term “capsule wardrobe”: a selection of a limited number of garments which coordinate with each other and which are worn the majority of the time to the exclusion of other garments in your wardrobe.

Donna Karan created the original capsule wardrobe collection out of a selection of seven garments including the now ubiquitous “body”, that leotard-like garment with added poppers (like a baby-grow), enabling ease of wear and practical use.

Karen created the capsule wardrobe and catered to the needs of the growing army of professional women who were joining the workforce, appointed to roles and achieving positions in companies and industries which were either previously held by men, or in a field predominantly dominated by men.

In an age of female emancipation and of the women’s lib movement, women needed clothes to dress the part.  Gone were hours spent shopping, pouring over magazines, hairdresser appointments and leisure time changing outfits three times a day.  In came the filofax, packed diary schedule, senior responsibility at work and a wardrobe to match.

Paring down the working wardrobe to a single figure of 7 items was an empowering gesture to and for  women.  It mimicked in some way the simplicity of a mans’ staple suit, shirt and tie working wardrobe.  It gave women a serious presence in the work environment without taking away their expressed femininity.

The appeal of the capsule wardrobe collection

Since Donna Karan’s introduction of the capsule wardrobe collection, much has changed in retailing.

Fast fashion has taken over the high streets and the shopping malls.  Innovative manufacturing techniques have enabled the production of beautiful clothes for a fraction of the price of previous years.  Moving manufacturing to the emerging nations has enabled employment in those countries but also enabled poor wages, sub-standard working environments and a poverty/time trap that hits women with children particularly hard and impacts detrimentally on family life.

The overwhelm of ‘too much’ and the rise in popularity of ‘paring back’

With this super-abundance of garment production, women’s wardrobes are now often packed with clothes to the point of being crammed in and it being impossible to find anything or to have the clothes in order.  Whereas once clothes were a carefully considered investment, these days clothes can be purchased on a whim and are bought as much to fill an emotional “need” as a wardrobe necessity.

The term retail therapy was first used in print in 1986.  Of course it’s not so much therapy as a plaster or band-aid.  Nevertheless the accumulation and growth of the number of items on sale led to a rise in purchasing for purchasing’s sake, rather than out of need.

Put in this context, the recent rise in the appeal of the capsule wardrobe collection is understandable.  How do we make sense of and order/deal with/cope with this overwhelming number of images, garments, collections and fashion styles? How do we simplify our lives to edit out all that we do not need?  How do we find ourselves when swimming in a sea of clothing?

Capsule wardrobes call us to remember that we do not need lots of clothes in order to live a life that we want to live.  The discipline of a capsule wardrobe calls us to remember that there is much freedom to be had in restraint.

Why restrain yourself to just a few items in a capsule wardrobe collection?

Put simply, clothes are great servants but dreadful masters.  Wearing a capsule wardrobe puts clothes back in their place, they become a tool to be employed to help one live one’s life.  They do not any longer take over that life or become the reason for that life.  We live in a fashion environment where planning ahead with one’s wardrobe is often overlooked in favour of dashing to the shops or trawling online shopping retailers for a particular outfit for a particular event.

We plan for the rest of our lives: our homes; our holidays; our finances.  Maybe planning our wardrobes should receive an equal amount of consideration.  Perhaps instigating a capsule wardrobe collection protocol into one’s wardrobe and one’s life gives a woman a sense of order and planning that has been missing in recent years.  We have various blog posts and styling tips on planning and the benefits of planning.  You could try:

Plan your style

Plan well

Get your wardrobe organised and achieve a better work/life balance

Capsule wardrobes restore order to our lives

Capsule wardrobes help restore calm to your world.  No more wardrobe drama. Wardrobe drama has previously been a theme on this blog Do you have wardrobe drama.  Not only is wardrobe drama unnecessary, it is also completely avoidable.  Have a capsule wardrobe in one’s closet helps to avoid any unnecessary wardrobe drama.

Capsule wardrobes restore order by being planned in advance and not being subject to “whim”.  Not being subject to whim is one of the most relaxing disciplines you can instigate into your life in all aspect, especially clothing choices.  I first noticed my predilection for whim in my food choices.  I would plan, say soup, for lunch.  When lunch came around I would prefer a salad so I’d make a salad instead of eating the prepared soup.

Even though the choice was healthy, the problem wasn’t the choice, it was the decision-making process.  I had already made one decision.  And then, instead of staying with that decision I changed to another decision.

Reducing your decision making

Changing decisions gives additional work and stress to the brain, causing a huge amount of energy to be used up.  But is also indicates a lack of promise to oneself and being able to keep the promises you make to yourself is a big part of character development and maturity.  When you learn to keep a promise to yourself in one area of your life, you will find that it spills over into another area of your life.

If you learn to keep promises to yourself in terms of what you wear every day you will soon find that this discipline will spill over into other areas of your life.  But even without this additional benefit, the prime benefit will be that you keep promises to yourself.  This builds a bond of trust with yourself which will spill over into new levels of self confidence and self-esteem.

Capsule Wardrobe Collection - image of a tidy wardrobe and a velvet stool Working Frocks

How to go about creating a capsule wardrobe of the clothes you already have

So, if you want to give a capsule wardrobe collection a try and see how it works for you what are the steps you need to take to do that.  Of course it is very simple, you just select a few items, say between seven and ten and then wear them.  Well not so fast lady!  There’s many a slip ‘twixt cup and lip.  So we have put together a quick guide to help you on your way.

For a simple 7 piece capsule wardrobe we recommend the following combinations as a starting point:

One floaty dress, one little black dress, one top, one skirt, one jacket, one oversized top, one pair of trousers, or

one little black dress, one jacket, one floaty dress, one structured dress, one oversized top, one unexpectedly bold top, one pencil skirt

The skirt, top and jacket need to coordinate

The trousers, top and jacket need to coordinate

The skirt should look good with the oversized top

The floaty dress needs to be paired with the oversized top

The lbd and the structured dress should look good with the jacket

Bonus points for any other winning style combinations eg lbd, oversized top with trainers for a very ‘now’ look.  Additional bonus points for a skirt that has day/night potential eg a black pencil skirt that you could wear into the evening with the jacket and a change of jewellery and shoes.

If you want a larger capsule wardrobe, say 14-20 items, simply double the number of each item with the exception of:

the jacket – you may want one jacket and one coat for a 14 pieces capsule wardrobe.  For a 21 piece capsule wardrobe you could have two jackets and one coat

the little black dress – you can definitely have 2 LBDs for a 14 pieces capsule wardrobe, and 3 LBDs for a 21 piece capsule wardrobe.  Just make sure they are different in style: the first can be a daytime LBD, the second could be formal and the third could be totally informal.

Capsule collection variations

You can have a capsule wardrobe collection for work and you can have another collection for home too.  You can keep the same combinations or alter them to fit you.  If you do create your own lists then try and make sure that you don’t veer towards just one type of clothing, try and mix it up a bit.

As you may know I always incline towards a dress (or frock) so to have a skirt in the mix and a pair of trousers just keeps things fresh for me.  I would happily create a capsule wardrobe from dresses alone, in fact I will probably do that at some point so watch this space anyone who is as enthusiastic about the dress as I am!

The microcapsule wardrobe

In a previous post, The microcapsule wardrobe, I have written about the benefits of a microcapsule wardrobe.  To recap, the microcapsule wardrobe is a selection of pieces within your capsule wardrobe that are authoritative in that they are made in really good, even luxury fabric, will be designed in a unique way and distil the essence of who you are.  They will be pieces that you absolutely love to wear.

Microcapsule pieces are a statement to the world.  They state who you are more clearly than any other pieces in your wardrobe.  Your microcapsule pieces give you confidence.

Proportion of microcapsule pieces to capsule wardrobe pieces:

for a 7 piece capsule wardrobe, try and have one microcapsule piece (I recommend one of the dresses)

for a 14 piece capsule wardrobe, have two microcapsule pieces (skirt and jacket or dress and jacket/coat)

for a 21 piece capsule wardrobe you can have three microcapsule pieces (skirt/dress/jacket would be fabulous).

It is really important with a capsule wardrobe collection that you include only items that you love and want to wear and discount anything that doesn’t fit, doesn’t suit you and that you don’t like.

It is also really important to exclude clothes that are boring.  You may want to wear practical clothing and forget about what you are wearing each day so that you can get on with running your life.  I’m all for that.  But I’m not for boring.  If you are going to the trouble of organising your clothes, create outfits that you want to wear and that give you great joy.

One of the delights in reducing the number of garments that you are going to wear on a regular basis is that you no longer need to put up with clothes that aren’t the best of what you could wear every day.

Putting your capsule wardrobe collection together

Give yourself a challenge.  Try it for a month.  Put together a small capsule wardrobe collection, maybe of 21 pieces?  Don’t be afraid.  If you only have 14 pieces in your wardrobe that you really love, then go with 14.  Don’t include anything you don’t love.

So, a quick summary of how to go about creating a capsule wardrobe collection of your own:

Decide on the number of garments
Decide on which type of garments and in what proportions (dresses/skirts/tops/jackets)
Try and include microcapsule items
Keep a log of what you wore each day for a month
Exclude any items that you don’t love

Finally, let me know how it goes!  Leave me a comment below or get in touch via facebook  or Instagram where I’ll post links to this blog.

So there we have it, the capsule wardrobe collection and how to create your own.  I hope you enjoyed the post and feel motivated to create your own capsule wardrobe!

If you liked this post you may also like:

20 simple reasons to improve your looks

The best version of you

Self creation: 2 stages to looking good. Which stage are you on?

The Stylish Wellness Institute

Join us in the Stylish Wellness Institute. The SWI is our women-only members club where you learn how to create your own unique style. Whether you are bored with your current style, in need of a sartorial refresh, have lost your unique style or have been so busy with life that you’ve lost track of yourself, the Stylish Wellness Institute is perfect for you.

The Stylish Wellness Institute is about so much more than just your clothes, though. It took me a long time to understand that self-care and radical self-love is what our bodies and minds need. Introducing that self-care and self-love into our lives is also a core part of what the Stylish Wellness Institute is all about.  The SWI is about combining the outer appearance with the inner experience to create balance. We call that balance the zone of peace. You can find out more about the Stylish Wellness Institute and the Zone of peace here.

Wardrobe Journaling

Finally, let me tell you a little bit about Wardrobe Journaling. It is the process I have created that helps you understand yourself better through journaling and through thinking about the clothes you wear and your own unique personality. There are Wardrobe Journaling blog posts over at the Wardrobe Journaling website. There is also the entirely unique Wardrobe Journaling course. If you want to take a step further into your own self development and self care this is a great, gentle but powerful course to take.

Have a great day!


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