How to Create a Capsule Wardrobe and Streamline Your Closet

Not so long ago, the fashion world was buzzing about the concept of a capsule wardrobe — the kind of compact closet that only held a bare minimum of pieces that all perfectly matched each other with great ease and much time saved in the morning. Perhaps because the economic downturn was ramping up at the same time that a furious decade of fast-fashion shopping was taking its toll on the capacity of our closets, the capsule wardrobe appeared to be the solution to everyone's fashion woes.

Around that time in 2014, Caroline Rector, a Texan and fashion lover who'd had enough of the chaos, began to whittle down her closet to a mere 37 pieces, documenting the process. Everyone paid attention to her method.

A few years later, we thought it time to catch up with the capsule wardrobe guru for a refresher course. Times change, trends move on, and so do these tidy solutions, and it turns out maybe we took the capsule wardrobe approach too literally and could do with easing up a little.

"Before I started my capsule, I'd noticed that I had a bad habit of going shopping when I needed to jolt myself out of a bad mood. Hard day at work? Shopping! Not feeling very pretty today? Shopping! Frustrated with my family? Shopping!" explains Caroline, who has since curbed her emotional spending habits by creating enforced shopping "fasts" and focusing her attention on seeking out top quality, long lasting pieces. These factors have meant that all the while she's really found her style. "I'm much better at dressing for the life I have, rather than a fantasy life," she says. "My closet matches my lifestyle now." It's more about mindfulness than having some majorly strict rules you feel bad about breaking.

Does that sound like a stylish setup you'd like for yourself? Thought so. Then read on to get Caroline's top capsule wardrobe-building tips.

  • You don't have to have a number, but aim for 50 or fewer pieces.

 "I think mine is now somewhere around 50 pieces, but I actually don't keep a numerical count anymore. Instead, I go with what feels right. That's actually one of the biggest changes I've made to my capsule. After a year of living with a strict 37-piece wardrobe, I felt that it was time to let my 'capsule diet' melt into my real life. I let go of some of the structure, like going on strict shopping fasts and limiting my closet to a specific number of pieces. But I carry the heart of it with me—smaller closet, intentional purchases, less shopping and more joy."

  • Treat the idea like a game.

"Keep a playful, open attitude, and treat it like a game. You'll encounter a few frustrations along the way, but a capsule isn't about suffering. It's about trying something new and learning more about yourself."

  • Begin with a simple clear-out.

"At first, limiting your wardrobe to a specific number might help you. But after a while, it might not serve you anymore. Give yourself the freedom to evolve over time as you learn."

  • Take a timeout before refilling your wardrobe.

"Instead of buying new clothes right away, give yourself some breathing room and live with your wardrobe as is for a week or a month or however long you like. Just see what it feels like to live with less clothing."

  •  Don't worry about making it perfect.

"Let it be imperfect. I've been at this for [a few] years now, and my wardrobe still isn't perfect. I've realised it never will be, and embracing that truth has helped me find peace—in my wardrobe and in my life."

Ready to get your capsule collection together? Go through the gallery below to see the kind of classic pieces that will hold anyone's closet together:

Shop a Capsule Wardrobe

#1: A Forever Biker Jacket:

Biker jacket  

BELTED AVIATOR JACKETS | The Look Edit

#2: Statement But Wearable Trousers

 

LOOSE WIDE LEG TROUSERS | The Look Edit

#3: An Easy Sweatshirt

sweatshirt 

 VOGUE SWEATSHIRTS | The Look Edit

#4: A Smart Skirt

skirt 

VINTAGE MIDI PENCIL SKIRT | The Look Edit

#5: A Laid-Back Sweater

sweater 

EMBROIDERED FLOWER JUMPERS | The Look Edit

#6: Black Ankle Boots

ankle boots

BLACK CHELSEA ANKLE BOOTS | The Look Edit

#7: Relaxed True-Blue Jeans

jeans 

STRAIGHT CUT BOYFRIEND JEANS | The Look Edit

#9: A White Blouse

 

CASUAL BUTTON DOWN SHIRT | The Look Edit

#10: Fancy Flat Shoes

 

ADELINE LUXURY POINTED SANDALS | The Look Edit

#11: A Flattering Wear-Everywhere Dress

 

MEREDITH SWEATER DRESS | The Look Edit

#12: A Posh Carryall Bag

 

HOLLY TOTE BAG | The Look Edit

#13: A Slick Coat That Smartens Up Every Outfit

 

NATALIA LUXURY TWO TONE MAC | The Look Edit

#14: Mid-Heels That Go With All Outfits

 

SATIN GLADIATOR HEELS | The Look Edit

#15: A Traditional Trouser Suit

 

KALLANI TWO PIECE GREY SUIT | The Look Edit

#16: A Plain Crossbody

 

KRISTA THICK CHAINED CROSSBODY BAGS | The Look Edit

#17: A Basic Belt to Cinch 24/7

 

LARGE GOLDEN BUCKLE BELTS | The Look Edit