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How to Build a Capsule Wardrobe

By Habitat Staff Writer
Share to PinterestHow to Build a Capsule Wardrobe

Your closet is so full of clothing you can barely close it. So why do you have nothing to wear?

If this sounds familiar, you're not alone. Most of us have far too many clothes that don't fit our needs, leaving us with decision paralysis (and regret) every time we look at them. Capsule wardrobes offer a simple, sustainable solution to this daily wardrobe dilemma. Limiting yourself to a carefully curated selection of outfits that mix and match takes all the stress out of getting dressed. It's also better for your wallet -- and the environment!


The philosophy behind a capsule wardrobe

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In short, a capsule wardrobe puts an end to that dreaded "nothing to wear" feeling once and for all. Minimizing your clothing options to what actually works for your lifestyle will maximize their wearability and close up any "holes" in your wardrobe. Instead of feeling overwhelmed by a closet full of impulse buys and wardrobe orphans, you'll have a smaller selection of carefully curated outfits ready to go.


Assessing your current wardrobe

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The first step toward curating the perfect capsule wardrobe is to audit your closet.

Start with the items you wear all the time -- your "wardrobe workhorses" -- and set them aside. Then, evaluate the lesser-worn (or never-worn) items at the back of your closet. There are reasons you rarely reach for these pieces, so now it's time to sell or donate any item that

  • Doesn't fit
  • Doesn't "spark joy"
  • Doesn't work for your body type or skin tone
  • Are duplicates or very similar in color and style to something else you own

Finally, give yourself permission to toss any items that are stained or damaged beyond repair -- or demote them to loungewear.


Understanding your personal style

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If you're overwhelmed by a closet full of mismatched aesthetics, the "three-word method" is a foolproof way to streamline your style. Created by New York stylist Allison Bornstein, this TikTok-famous concept gives you a short but sweet tagline to guide you in your wardrobe curation process.

The first word defines the kind of clothing you wear all the time — not necessarily what you love the most. Examples might include classic, sporty, or minimal. The next word is more aspirational, inspired by the outfits you save to your Pinterest boards — anything that makes you think, "I'd wear that!" (Sultry, retro, or powerful are good examples.) The final word is the vibe or emotion you want to communicate when you wear your wardrobe — such as elegant, whimsical, or enigmatic.

Once you've figured out your three words, you can be far more intentional about what you're adding to your wardrobe (and what you're willing to part with.)


The basics of building your capsule

Share to PinterestHow to Build a Capsule Wardrobe

First and foremost, your capsule wardrobe should serve your unique dressing needs. Consider your lifestyle -- your real lifestyle, not your fantasy lifestyle.

Do you have a 9 to 5 with a commute, or do you WFH? Do you live in a walkable city, or a rural area? Do you live in a place with four distinct seasons or balmy weather year-round? If you're a stay-at-home parent with a toddler, you won't get much use out of a closet full of dressy date night outfits, no matter how curated they are.


Seasonal considerations

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If you live in a place with weather extremes that swing from sweltering summers to snowy winters, a year-round wardrobe isn't practical. Instead, curate a separate capsule for each season to rotate in and out as the weather changes. Proper storage in sealed garment bags is key to keeping your off-season items fresh and ready to go when the climate calls for them.


Investing in quality over quantity

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Ideally, your capsule wardrobe should be a long-term solution to your "I have nothing to wear" woes. But if your clothing is mostly throwaway fast fashion that falls apart after a few wears, you're back to square one.

You'll get many more seasons of use out of timeless, well-made pieces, preferably made from natural fibers like wool, leather, silk, or linen. Although durable clothing tends to be more expensive, the savings you'll make by not impulse shopping can help you invest in quality over quantity over time.


Incorporating color and patterns

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Having a capsule wardrobe that mixes and matches might take all the guesswork out of getting dressed, but that doesn't mean you have to limit yourself to blacks, whites, and shades of beige. Instead, decide on a palette of "nearly neutral" colors you look (and feel) good in. These are colors that go together harmoniously -- like camel, blush, burgundy, olive, charcoal, and navy/denim.

If you want to go bolder, you can also stick to neutrals in your basics but incorporate statement pops of color and patterns with your accessories -- think scarlet tights or a polka dot silk scarf.


Care and maintenance

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Getting more use out of what you have in your wardrobe means more wear and tear on your clothing. You'll wear each item more frequently, so you'll be doing more laundry. Learning how to care for your garments properly can expand the lifespan of each item, which is easier on your wallet and the environment. Pay close attention to care labels. Washing your clothes in cold water on a gentle cycle and hanging them to dry keeps them looking as good as new for much longer.

Remember, you've already narrowed your wardrobe down to what you like wearing the most, so treat what you have with love. Does your T-shirt have a hole at the seam? Instead of tossing it out, get out that sewing kit and start stitching. Instead of stuffing your off-season items in a pile under the bed, fold them neatly and store them with care.


Mindful shopping habits

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The key to maintaining your capsule wardrobe is to be intentional with what you allow into your closet. Resist impulse buys by staying away from seasonal sales unless you have a gap in your wardrobe to fill, and never browse clothing websites out of boredom. No-buy or low-buy months are a great way to stick to your "slow fashion" goals.


Evolving your capsule wardrobe

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A capsule wardrobe may be limiting, but that doesn't mean you're stuck with it. Allow yourself to swap out items that no longer work for your lifestyle, fashion preferences, or body. Curating your capsule is an ongoing process, so if you're no longer happy with something, feel free to change it up.



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