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Wardrobe Building: The Case for a Capsule Wardrobe

The term capsule wardrobe was coined in the 1970’s by a London boutique owner to describe a collection of a few essential clothing items that have a timeless¬†style. ¬†It became popularized in the US in the mid-80’s when Donna Karan released a seven-piece work wardrobe collection. ¬†Most recently, the term capsule became reinvigorated¬†with the launch of Project 333, a fashion challenge that invites people to dress with 33 items or less for 3 months.

Capsule Wardrobe: Donna Karan 7 Easy Pieces
Donna Karan’s 7 Easy Pieces

The Capsule Concept

Essentially, the capsule concept entails clearing your closet aside from a set number of pieces for each season of the year.  There is a heavy focus on versatile items that you really love to wear with a few seasonal garments worked in for variety.  Some foundation pieces can be used every season, others are switched out.

Capsules typically¬†include clothing, shoes, outerwear and accessories. They usually¬†don’t include: undergarments/sleepwear, workout wear/sports activity clothes, at-home lounge wear and¬†special occasion pieces.

As an example, Project 333 suggests 33 pieces per capsule.  This usually breaks down to 15-20 clothing items and 10-15 shoe/bag/accessory pieces. A combo like this has the potential to create 70 unique outfits.  The 4 by 4 Wardrobe, another capsuling method, focuses on 16 clothing pieces but leaves shoes and accessories open.

Personally, I don’t think there is a¬†magic number. ¬†Different people will have different requirements based on their lifestyle. ¬†The key is to pare down by season, reduce redundancies and wear and enjoy your best clothing more!

Capsule: 4 by 4 Wardrobe Grid
The 4 by 4 Wardrobe Planning Grid
Capsule Wardrobe Pros and Cons


  • You will look better and¬†be less stressed and overwhelmed.
  • You will have more closet space and be able to see what you have. ¬†No more “tons of clothes but nothing to wear” syndrome.
  • You’ll end up wearing your greatest pieces and will ditch those one-offs that never coordinated¬†with anything else.
  • You will get ready more quickly as there are fewer choices and most pieces work together.
  • You’ll save¬†money because you’ll stop buying pieces that aren’t well thought out.
  • Your creativity will be inspired.


  • Capsules can takes some initial planning and a bit of editing each season. E-books like those written by Leanne Blackmon and featured on my site (see Affiliate Policy here) can make it easier to identify essentials based on your lifestyle (essential, career, stay-at-home mom, French minimalist) and offer lots of ready made outfit ideas!
  • Capsules can become “too basic” if you aren’t careful to incorporate some color and pattern.
  • Capsules can be a challenge in climates that experience a wide range of highs and lows within one season.
Capsule Wardrobe: Pinterest Results
Results of a Quick Search on Pinterest for Capsule Wardrobes – clearly a hot topic!

In the coming weeks we’ll go over some minimalist/capsule wardrobe basic building blocks and the steps to take to create your own functional capsule wardrobe.


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