Summer Capsule Wardrobe

Photo by  Jordi Pujadas

Photo by Jordi Pujadas

Is this a wardrobe in a pill, you might ask? No, but it is a wardrobe packed with possibilities (and an abundance of outfits).

Photo by  Amanda Vick

Photo by Amanda Vick

The Swiss army knife of wardrobes

The point of a capsule is to make an entire wardrobe out of the least number of clothing items you can so that you still have a wide variety of outfits but with less volume of clothes. Which means choosing pieces that can mix-and-match with a number of other items.

Where did this idea come from? Here’s a quick history of the capsule, gleaned from the Washington Post’s article Life is easier with a capsule wardrobe:

  • Susie Faux, a London boutique owner, started it in the 1970s.

  • Donna Karan revitalized it in the 1980s.

  • Those of us who want to simplify our lives are revitalizing it today!

Capsules have 50 items or less

The numbers vary on what exactly makes a capsule. The most quoted number out there is 37 (for some reason). However, some people go as high as 50, others as low as 10.

Some factors that might affect your final number are:

  • The season we’re in (summer is probably the easiest)

  • Your work attire and type of job

  • Your personal aesthetic (if you wear a wide variety of colors and patterns, you may have a higher number to accommodate your color palette)

How to make your capsule

Start with your absolute favorites

Pull out the things you always wear. Put them on your bed (or a clear surface) and sort them by bottom and top.

Add bottoms first

Next, add things like jeans, pants, and skirts.

Add tops second

Then, add tops you love wearing.

You want to add tops you not only love wearing, but can go with nearly all bottoms. Aim for tops that can go with 75% of the bottoms. If you notice you have a mish-mash, here’s where you can decide if you need to exchange a bottom for another that might work better with your tops selection, or a top that goes better with your bottom selection.

You can figure this out based on how strongly you feel about certain pieces. Always choose clothes that make you feel good wearing them. Choose what feels the most comfortable.

Add outer layers third

These are things like cardigans, button-up shirts, and jackets.

Don’t forget shoes

Pick out the shoes you are most likely to wear for your most common daily activities: work, casual outings, going to dinner, etc.

Does underwear count?

What counts toward your capsule wardrobe

The things I’m not counting are:

  • Underwear

  • Athletic or sportswear

  • Pajamas

  • Jewelry and accessories

  • My t-shirts, which I’ve Marie Kondo’d

What about special occasions?

I wouldn’t worry about including attire for special events, such as black-tie events. There’s no harm in having an outfit for this type of occasion in your closet, but I wouldn’t count it in your capsule.

Is this wardrobe meant to last the whole year?

No. The capsule wardrobe is meant to last you for one season. Right now it’s summer, which I think might be the easiest season. We wear less clothes.

However, there are many items I've picked for my summer capsule that will probably go into every capsule, like my 3 pairs of jeans. Likewise, there are summer-only type pieces, like summer dresses, that will probably only go in my summer capsule (maybe fall and spring).

Once the seasons start changing and it gets cooler, I’m going to exchange summer dresses for sweaters, and sandals for boots.

I’ll have a fall capsule wardrobe, then a winter, and then a spring one. That’s not to say you couldn’t make a capsule that lasts all year if you really want to!

Can a capsule wardrobe fight the patriarchy?

If you think about it, men commonly wear the same thing to work. It’s called a suit. And nobody questions their style or appearance. Meanwhile, women are expected to wear glamorous outfits everyday, and certainly different outfits everyday.

Or are they?

Read about these women who have decided to wear the same thing to work every day, how their coworkers responded, and how it became a statement of leadership, if not utter empowerment for them:

Do you get rid of things as you go?

Making my capsule wardrobe actually helped me feel freer to let go of things I’ve been holding onto. Particularly things I like but haven’t worn in years and years. For things I bypassed for my capsule, it made me realize they need to go into the “sell” bin or “donate” bin.

Essentially I’m ranking my clothes, and if I’m not moved to add something to one of my top 30 slots, then that’s a good sign I have no intention of wearing it.

How do you use your capsule wardrobe?

I’m putting my summer capsule wardrobe all together in one place. Everything else that’s out-of-season, I’m putting into my dresser drawers or hung separately from the capsule.

How many pieces are in my summer capsule?

Right now I have 33. This number may go up by a few however. I have a couple things I’m undecided on that, if I keep wearing them consistently, I’ll officially add them too.

My summer capsule wardrobe

Bottoms (7)

  • 3 pairs of jeans

  • 1 pair of capris

  • 2 knee-length skirts

  • 1 long skirt

Dresses (7)

  • 3 knee-length dresses

  • 4 maxi dresses

Tops (15)

  • 2 cardigans

  • 2 dressy camis

  • 1 dressy short sleeve

  • 4 tees

  • 2 tank tops

  • 2 short sleeve sweater tops

  • 2 jackets

Shoes (4)

  • 2 sandals

  • 1 heeled shoe

  • 1 walking shoe