A denim capsule wardrobe will see you through every season, here's how to build one

A fashion expert talks through compiling a denim capsule wardrobe

denim capsule wardrobe: White Stuff, Zara, Mango, Gap, Everlane, Boden, Scamp & Dude, Hush
(Image credit: White Stuff, Zara, Mango, Gap, Everlane, Boden, Scamp & Dude, Hush)

A denim capsule wardrobe feels like the ultimate in outfit building blocks. Packed full of wearable pieces that you can turn to for a host of occasions, our breakdown tells you every jean fabric item you may want to include.

Putting together a denim capsule wardrobe will see you through each season with ease. An edit that can slot in with autumn capsule wardrobe too, this collection is about nailing those key jeans pieces that help to give every outfit a cool, and casual spin. 

When it comes to the types of jeans you should have in your denim capsule wardrobe, while there will be a certain level of tailoring to your taste and the best jeans for your body type, we've opted for three key silhouettes that work for pretty much everyone with the right styling. But it isn't just jeans that should find their way into your denim capsule wardrobe. This season's denim trends addresses all kinds of jean separates, including denim skirts, jackets, dresses and shirts, that will help to create a well-rounded aesthetic. 

How to create a denim capsule wardrobe

While you may want to embrace the double-denim life, this edit of pieces should be peppered with items from your main capsule wardrobe. The pieces you pair your denim with will heavily depend on the season. Each item in this list will work with tees, sweaters, blouses, sandals, trainers or boots, depending on the end aesthetic you're looking to deliver, making this one of the most versatile selection of outfit builders around. 

As denim is considered a neutral, for the most part, denim will go with almost any colour, keep it neutral and contrast indigo and mid-blues with white, or go bold, embracing the fashion colour trends of the season with a pop of brightness.

  • Straight jeans: The best straight jeans are key to a denim capsule wardrobe. This polished style works for all silhouettes, offering a slender leg shape without being too clingy. Smarter than skinnies, a darker blue or black pair can often be worn as part of your work capsule wardrobe for slightly more informal offices - just add a tailored blazer to finish the ensemble. 
  • Skinny jeans: Back for the autumn/winter fashion trends 2023, the skinny, which looked like it might be fading in terms of popularity has returned with a bang. Opt for sculpting and contouring styles to help smooth your silhouette. A perfect partner under longer line tops or tunics, skinny jeans are more casual, but are great for those looking to show off curves, but with some added support. 
  • Wide leg or bootcut jeans: This one does come down to shape preference and while the best wide leg jeans are popular right now, if you're after a smaller flare through the leg, then starting with a bootcut might be wise. A wide leg jean is great for creating the illusion of an hourglass figure, particularly in high-waisted styles, as this nip you in, before flaring wide at the hem. The wider bottom, naturally creates a triangle shape, creating a smaller waistline. While heels or platforms will add height, you can wear wide legs or bootcuts with flats or smaller heels, just be careful not to drag your hem on the ground. 
  • Black jeans: While jeans are most associated with light, mid and indigo blue hues, a pair of black jeans automatically adds a polish to any outfit. Helping this casual style to smarten up, black jeans, without any distressed details can easily take the slot of a pair of trousers. When it comes to what to wear with black jeans for your 9-5, add a floaty blouse, or a tailored blazer to keep these on the right side of workwear. 
  • Blue jeans: The spectrum of blues that jean washes come in is never ending. We love a dark blue for a more polished, date night look, with acid, mid or light blue washes reserved for weekend outfits. 
  • White jeans: White jeans outfits shouldn't be reserved for summer, with this style working well as part of a winter capsule wardrobe too, thanks to that winter white aesthetic. For cooler climes, keep your outfit tonally neutral, adding texture through knits and one of the best camel coats for a super chic look.
  • Denim skirt: This '90s fashion trend made a triumphant return to the runway last season and shows no sign of disappearing anytime too. As with black jeans, a denim skirt feels a little smarter, with many iterations wearable for smart casual outfit ideas - in this iteration, jeans can be business casual. Go for a midi or longer length hem and A-line cut for the most directional. 
  • Denim jacket: A versatile piece, never fear when it comes to how to style a denim jacket. A great layering option, particularly for autumn and spring capsule wardrobes, treat this lighter layer as you would a cardigan.
  • Denim shirt: Nailing how to wear a denim shirt will solve multiple sartorial meltdowns. Adding a little bit of cool Western chic to any ensemble, heavier versions can be worn in place of your best denim jacket, while lighter versions can be buttoned up or slip over tees for a laidback look. An item that will never date, a mid blue wash is the most versatile.
  • Denim dress: One of the best autumn dresses to invest in, the mid weight of the denim fabric offers warmth as temperatures start to cool and is ideal for an autumn capsule wardrobe. The dress silhouette delivers a smarter look than a jeans and top combo, making this a great option for when you want to feel just a little more dressed up (but not over done). Look for button fronted designs, ranging from form fitting to A-line cuts, depending on your style preference. 
  • Denim shorts: Don't worry, no Daisy Dukes here. While denim shorts are one of the key items of a travel capsule wardrobe, they don't have to be super short to make the cut. There are plenty of slightly longer, thigh covering styles that give you the look without feeling too revealing. Great for packing for beach vacations, or days out in the summer, they're a great addition to a denim capsule wardrobe.
  • Dungarees: A slightly more controversial pick to end off our list, this is the jumpsuit of the denim world that made its way back into fashion a few years ago and has become quite the staple. While some might relegate these simple as 'overalls' when enjoying a spot of gardening or DIY, these can instantly be 'fashioned-up' with a little clever styling. A full sleeve, floaty blouse, a pair of heels or a cool pair of the best black boots, give this look instant style points.

How to start a denim capsule wardrobe

Using this list as a guide, drag out all the denim from your wardrobe and assess what you have. This is a perfect opportunity to declutter clothes, discarding, donating or reselling any jeans that no longer fit, or are past repair. Once you've worked out what pieces you have already for your denim capsule wardrobe, assess what's missing and make your shopping list accordingly. 

As you can mix your denim capsule wardrobe with your main collection for the season, try styling up pieces and taking photographs of outfits as a record. This way you'll have an index of outfits ideas and understand the possibilities, ensuring you'll never have a 'what to wear moment' again.

Is a denim capsule wardrobe worth it

We're all guilty of impulse purchases and if you have a penchant for denim, you may find you've got jeans aplenty languishing in your wardrobe. Creating a denim capsule wardrobe offers the opportunity to truly assess what you have and organise your closet in such a way that you utilise more of your clothes. A great way of exploring how to style jeans, a denim capsule wardrobe is an edit that runs parallel to your seasonal edit. This is because many denim pieces can be worn throughout the year and it means you have a clear idea of what you still need and what you have. 

In the long run, a denim capsule wardrobe should stop you buying jean items you don't need, and aim to create a collection of the long lasting jeans, saving time, effort, money and the environment. 

Rivkie Baum
Fashion channel editor

Rivkie is a fashion editor, writer and stylist with twenty years' experience in the industry. Rivkie studied design and pattern cutting at the London College of Fashion, and fell in love with styling and journalism, and has covered fashion weeks in London, Paris and New York, as well as shooting editorial all over the world.

Specialising in plus size fashion, Rivkie has long championed that style is for everyBODY and has appeared on a host of radio stations and television shows, pushing for greater representation for plus size women and fashion throughout her career.