How to Create a Capsule Wardrobe
Clothing available from MartinPatrick3. Adam Lippes Sailor Pant in Washed Denim, Adam Lippes 3/4 Sleeve Henley in Silk Cashmere. For details: 612.746.5329
Hardly a new concept, the capsule wardrobe seems to have gained traction over the past few years—and for good reason. Built around a set of key pieces, these collections of well-made basics enable effortless dressing. Recently, we asked four scouted style experts to break down this approach to wardrobe curation—its benefits, the main building blocks, and how to keep your well-edited closet anything but boring. Here, they share their recommendations, and for more specialized guidance, we recommend visiting your locally owned boutiques. Find scouted shops in your area by browsing The Scout Guide Directory, and enjoy having a local expert help you create the stylish and functional wardrobe of your dreams.
Gray Aspen Fireside Turtleneck in Otter.
Remember it’s not one-size-fits-all, but it works for everyone. According to our experts, anyone can benefit from a classic capsule wardrobe. “It’s for the person who wants to look pulled together effortlessly, for those that are busy and need to throw something on quickly without a lot of thought, and also applicable for people who have the time but love having a foundation to their look,” Sarah Gercke Cyr, designer at Gray Aspen in Aspen, Colorado, says. Carrie Fryman, director of buying and marketing at MartinPatrick3 in Minneapolis, Minnesota, explains that a capsule wardrobe will look different for each individual, and evolve over time. “If you have a very classic aesthetic, your go-to blazer might be a single-button, single-breasted black wool blazer,” she says. “But if you are a little edgier, maybe your blazer will be a double-breasted black leather blazer that’s oversized.” Both are go-to pieces, but done in very different ways.
Think about your lifestyle. The key element to building a capsule wardrobe is defining your needs and the way you live, Maura Conine, owner and buyer at Capsule Woman in Cincinnati, Ohio, reports. To do this, assess your daily activities and wardrobe needs. For example, if you work out of the home and don’t have a lot of formal meetings or obligations, there will be little need for dressy pants and suits in your wardrobe. You can still have a pulled-together and stylish wardrobe, it will just be different from someone who is in and out of boardrooms.
Let your go-tos guide you. “Think about the silhouettes and pieces of clothing you wear the most and measure how well your wardrobe supports that,” Fryman says. For example, if you wear denim 90% of the time but don’t feel you have the perfect-fitting jean that you can dress up and down, then she advises going on a hunt for that specific piece of clothing. Additionally, if you never wear dresses, then you don’t need one for your capsule wardrobe. Sub in another pant, skirt, or whatever you wear more of to create that versatility.
Just Female Noria Shirt featured on Capsule Woman.
Stock up on the basics. Capsule wardrobes can vary depending on locations and lifestyle. However, Conine does have a list of essentials: denim, white button-down shirt, black pant, pullover sweater, cardigan or duster, blazer, t-shirt basics, day dress, soft blouse, skirt, white tennis shoe, comfortable flat, and ankle boot. Personalization can then occur when selecting each item. “These are such classic pieces, but based on the customer, the black pant could be a skinny cigarette ponte pant or a high-waisted trouser. The blazer could be a more fashion-forward, relaxed check or a classic, fitted camel,” she explains. Cyr recommends rounding out your collection with a go-to outerwear piece, and voila—you’re ready for anything.
Trina Turk Kick Back Pant available from By Request.
Have the right quantities on hand. It turns out that having a well-edited closet is a bit of a numbers game. In order to have flexibility in mixing up your wardrobe, Monica Terminella, owner of By Request, in Fayetteville, Arkansas, advises having three to five tops per bottom. With this formula, you will have many looks that you can create through mixing and matching, which is the whole objective of a capsule wardrobe.
Choose a base color. Building a capsule wardrobe around a base color helps the pieces coordinate seamlessly, explains Terminella. Black, navy, grey, and skin-tone shades all work well, and a variety of shades within your chosen tone will all meld together nicely. She also notes that white essentials, such a button-down shirt, t-shirts, and tanks, will always work within any color scheme.
Know that there is room for colors and prints. Lots of people think a capsule wardrobe can’t include pattern or bright hues, but Fryman disagrees. And a capsule collection certainly doesn’t have to be boring or lacking in self-expression. “You need to edit here, but having a classic striped tee or striped poplin shirt, or that green dress that can be worn with your denim jacket or blazer, will make things a little more exciting,” she says. And of course, if you have a favorite color, Cyr recommends weaving it in throughout your wardrobe.
Choose fabrics wisely. “Fabrics are now more advanced and refined,” Cry says. “Finding luxe, comfortable, breathable, anti-wrinkle fabrics that are essential for a capsule wardrobe is much easier.” Capsule pieces are the staples you always want to throw on and wear, so they should be soft, comfortable materials. According to Terminella, think lightweight crepe and cashmere, as well as silk. Steer away from anything you don’t want to live in every day.
Aim for a wardrobe that is seasonally adaptable. All of our experts believe the goal of a capsule collection is for it to be multi-seasonal and able to be styled a multitude of ways. Conine points out that while there will be items that are taken away for some season, based on fabrication and function, “There are some pieces, like a day dress, that can be styled and layered to create a new look for a new season,” she explains. “During the summer, you can pair the day dress with cute espadrilles. For fall, layer that same dress with ankle booties and a relaxed blazer.”
Make room for trends. While trendy pieces will not be a part of your capsule collection per se, weaving them into your wardrobe is a great way to bring fun to your closet, Conine notes. “With a base foundation, you can dress it up with prints, jewelry, bags, and shoes,” Cyr says. “I love a basic t-shirt and jeans with some great, colorful heels!”
TSG Tip 404 from Sarah Gercke Cyr, designer at Gray Aspen in Aspen, Colorado; Carrie Fryman, director of buying and marketing at MartinPatrick3 in Minneapolis, Minnesota; Maura Conine, owner and buyer at Capsule Woman in Cincinnati, Ohio; and Monica Terminella, owner of By Request, in Fayetteville, Arkansas. Gray Aspen appears in The Scout Guide Aspen. Martin Patrick3 appears in The Scout Guide Minneapolis. Capsule Woman appears in The Scout Guide Cincinnati. By Request appears in The Scout Guide Northwest Arkansas.