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How to create a capsule wardrobe

These are the essentials you need to create a series of chic, ultra-wearable outfits

Assortment of classic wardrobe staples
Orin Carlin
Content Writer
Updated: July 11, 2024
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Perseverance and patience are two of the major prerequisites required for building a stellar capsule wardrobe.

Perhaps you're more prone to an impulse buy than you'd care to admit, or can't bear to part with pieces that have seen better days? We all have our vices. 

But shifting your shopping habits towards a classic, less trend-centric approach is a seriously great idea, especially on days when you need an outfit that looks put together without any thought.

READ: How to layer clothes: 7 easy steps to maximise your style impact 

What is a capsule wardrobe?

Woman wearing white shirt dress over black polo neck © Getty
Copenhagen Fashion Week AW23

For a wardrobe to be considered 'capsule', in essence it needs to be a compact edit of quality pieces that all work well together.  A selection of timeless pieces that lend themselves to endless mixing and matching is the aim. 

A traditional capsule wardrobe usually leans into a neutral colour palette - grey, tan, charcoal, navy, black, white and the like - but this is not a hard and fast rule, by any means. 

READ: How to organise your wardrobe in 7 easy steps for a fashion reset

MORE: Jackets to wear with dresses: the failsafe outfit combos

What are the rules?

There are no fixed rules, but the idea is to think about which pieces will go the distance and elevate your wardrobe year upon year. Make no mistake – we can appreciate a killer trend with the best of them. But you want to avoid buying pieces that could quickly appear dated once next season rolls around.

The key here is knowing your body shape and sartorial tastes inside out. Consider which pieces you are naturally drawn to (give me a 1960s-inspired A-line mini or sleek high-waisted flares and I'm head over heels), and the silhouettes that you know suit you best. 

One watertight way of getting this right is by hitting the shops - think upper end of the high street or, better still, a designer boutique as they will have expertly trained staff to advise you. Take the time to try on different styles of separates. Arduous in the moment perhaps, but it will truly serve you well as you'll find out which cuts are most flattering. 

How many pieces do I need?

Woman wearing knitted vest over black dress© Getty
Copenhagen Fashion Week AW23

How long is a piece of string? The amount of clothes in an individual capsule wardrobe completely depends on your budget, as well as how much space you have available. 

The idea behind the concept is based around a modest (whatever that may look like for you) selection of pieces that work well with one another.

Basically if you dump your capsule wardrobe in a suitcase and unexpectedly jet off somewhere, you should be able to create several stylish outfits, all by the magical powers of mix and match.

Where do I start?

Back to basics is always a good place to start when it comes to compiling a capsule wardrobe. Think flattering racerbacks, bum-sculpting jeans, and scoring the perfect white T-shirt is also an excellent shout. 

Focus less on trend-based pieces and more on timeless shirts, chic knits and the all-rounder trench. When it comes to fabrics, opting for those that can help you nail the potentially tricky transitional (between seasons) dressing period is the way to go.

How we chose:

  • Style: When combing through the internet's top fashion sites for the best capsule wardrobe pieces, we made sure that each of our picks felt both classic and flattering.
  • Versatility and enduring appeal: The idea of a capsule wardrobe centres around timelessness and longevity. We've gone for a generally understated colour palette and chosen pieces – ranging from high street brands to luxe designer labels – that could easily be worn together or incorporated into your existing wardrobe.

Hello! Fashion shares the pieces you need to create a capsule wardrobe: 

  • The Polo Neck Knit

    Black polo neck knit top

    Merino Wool Roll-Neck

    Why it's an essential...

    A classic black polo neck knit is worth its weight in style gold. Chic and unfussy, it goes with everything and looks great layered under a round-neck coat.

    Arket's slim-fit version is created from a sumptuous merino wool and even features super cute thumbholes if you prefer a longer sleeve length.

  • The Leather Coat

    Brown vegan leather trench coat

    Elicia Double-Breasted Vegan Leather Trench Coat

    Alice + Olivia

    Why it's an essential...

    Make no mistake, we love a high-octane faux fur just as much as the next fashion fanatic. But a sleek leather coat simply oozes chic in a more understated way.

    Alice + Olivia's 'Elicia' trench is cut from polyurethane, meaning it is suitable for vegans. The chocolate brown hue feels indulgent and earthy, and I love how the finish reenergises a coat classic.

  • The Timeless Crossbody

    Cream bag with black strap and gold hardware

    Chain-Embellished Leather-Trimmed Canvas Shoulder Bag

    JW Anderson

    Why it's an essential...

    A cool-girl crossbody is always a good idea, especially in winter when you need a versatile piece that can slip over several layers without disrupting the silhouette.

    JW Anderson's signature chunky chain is the focal point of the canvas bag and we're totally here for the hardware drama. The combination of the cream, black and gold feels fresh, and super wearable.

  • The Pointed Ankle Boots

    Everlane burgundy croc-effect boots

    The Banana Heel Boot

    Why it's an essential

    Ankle boots are a cold weather footwear classic, but those with a pointed silhouette can feel more sophisticated and evening-appropriate.

    Everlane's Banana Heel boots cut from soft Nappa leather feature a classic croc-effect finish for a sense of texture, and we love the interesting curvature of the heel.

  • The Dark Denim Jeans

    Reiss Dark Blue Juniper Jeans

    Juniper Flared Front Seam Jeans

    Why it's an essential...

    Jeans are suitable for every season, but for winter, dark denim feels elegant and a 70s flared silhouette will never wane in its ability to flatter.

    Reiss excels in well-cut jeans, and this season I'm eyeing up its Juniper style. Dark denim feels more polished than lighter washes - better suited to a smart-casual 'fit - and I love the detail of the visible topstitching. 

  • The Crisp White Shirt

    White Shirt

    The Boyfriend: Tencel, White

    Why it's an essential...

    A pristine white shirt will never go out of style. The hue can make the skin appear brighter and it is a seriously versatile layering piece. 

    Cut from 100% tencel (a fabric derived from wood pulp), this piece by elegant shirt purveyor With Nothing Underneath has a fluid, silk-like drape and a relaxed silhouette.

  • The Everyday Gold Chain

    Gold T-bar necklace

    Gold Lariat Necklace

    Why it's an essential...

    An unfussy chain necklace is a super easy way of making your outfit feel more polished. 

    Crafted from recycled sterling silver with 18kt gold plating, Tilly Sveaas' Lariat necklace combines a chunky belcher chain with a focal point T-bar and feels endlessly wearable.

  • The Investment Belt

    Celine Tan Belt

    Medium Triomphe Belt In Natural Calfskin Tan

    Why it's an essential...

    Designer belts just hit different, especially when it comes to instant elevation.

    Featuring the house's Triomphe emblem, this belt by Celine feels elegant and subtle, unlike other more overt designer versions. It's giving 'Old Money', and we're here for it.

  • The Platform Trainers

    White Platform Trainers

    Orbit Vintage Sneaker

    Why it's an essential...

    Fresh white kicks are in a league of their own, and those with platform soles are great with wide-leg trouser silhouettes.

    Axel Arigato's Orbit trainers are set on a thick rubber platform, and I love the indentation detailing along the sides of the soles. Minimalist and cool, these would look great with heaps of different ensembles. 

  • The Oversized Blazer

    Hush belted blazer

    Esmae Checked Blazer

    Why it's an essential...

    A neutral blazer with a relaxed shape is a key layering piece.

    This classic check pattern on Hush's Esmae blazer feels understated and wearable, and I love the addition of the belt for the option of a more cinched silhouette.

Why you should trust me: 

Orin Carlin is Hello! Fashion’s SEO Content Writer. Promising to leave no stone unturned in the name of fashion and beauty journalism, she is the proud creator of our ‘Try The Trend’ series. With a particular interest in formula innovation, microtrends, royal and bridal beauty, perfume, rituals, treatments, fashion history and vintage icons, she can either be found interviewing major industry names (previous subjects include Georgia May Jagger, Mary Greenwell and Sam McKnight) or scouring the internet for must-have pieces. It's not just a job; it's a personal quest to unearth noteworthy pieces that resonate with style and beauty enthusiasts.

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