How to build a capsule wardrobe 2024 - according to style experts

Here's how to build your own capsule wardrobe - from what to buy and how to style it

How to build a capsule wardrobe 2023 - according to style experts
(Image credit: Future/Brands)

It's likely you've heard the term capsule wardrobe many times, particularly as it is loved by the fashion industry. But without the fundamentals, building a capsule wardrobe can feel like an intangible goal. However, we're here to show you that it's easier than you might think. An edit of pieces that mix and match with one another, putting a capsule wardrobe into action will revolutionise your style choices.  

A capsule wardrobe has long been thought of as a minimalist or stripped-back wardrobe, but in actual fact, at its core, it's simply just about ensuring that all your clothing works together. Although fashion rules often dictate that a capsule wardrobe must contain certain essentials, such as great jeans, a cashmere sweater or a well-tailored coat, it's important to think about your own personal style and what underpins most of your outfits when building your own capsule wardrobe. If you live in jeans, then an edited selection of denim will likely form the basis of your capsule wardrobe, but if you largely wear dresses, then your capsule wardrobe will look very different. 

In this feature, we will look at the varied basics in a capsule wardrobe and discuss how to tailor it to your style. Regardless of whether your cupboard is full to bursting or stripped back, you may also want to understand how to organise your closet to create a space that makes it easier to get dressed in the morning. There is no set number of items that belong in a capsule wardrobe, but learning to curate is certainly key. And creating a capsule wardrobe won't just make putting outfits together that much easier, but it can help you make more informed and smarter shopping decisions and subsequently spend less money. Who doesn't want that?

Items from Zara demonstrating a capsule wardrobe

(Image credit: Future)

How many items should be in a capsule wardrobe?

When it comes to numbers, there are no set rules and a capsule wardrobe can consist of anything from 10 pieces to 80. If you're looking to create a minimalist capsule wardrobe you are more likely to select fewer pieces to keep a tighter edit.

“The rule of owning just 40 pieces might work for some people, but maybe it’s 80 that works better for you - there’s no perfect number that everyone should be aiming for. Take your time with it and don’t feel pressure to do one big purge of clothing and start from scratch, it’s overwhelming and expensive,” explains Anna of The Anna Edit.

Some schools of thought suggest that 50 items is the maximum you should have in a capsule wardrobe. This rough estimate works because you should be realistic about how many items you will wear over a given period of time. The idea of a capsule wardrobe is to make your clothes work harder and smarter. By the time you've finished curating, you should be wearing everything in it, and do you really have time and occasion for more than 50 items?

Remember you may also wish to create several smaller capsule wardrobes to work for different seasons and occasions, for example, you may have a winter capsule wardrobe, a spring capsule wardrobe, a summer capsule wardrobe and a capsule wardrobe for autumn; you may also decide to have some pieces kept aside specifically for a capsule wardrobe for travel or borrow from other seasons accordingly. It's important to revisit your capsule wardrobe before the start of each season to make sure everything still works and is relevant for your lifestyle. Our tastes change as we get older too and an over 50s capsule wardrobe will likely look very different to a capsule closet of a 30 year old.

The items you need in your capsule wardrobe

Your capsule wardrobe basics are the building blocks of your wardrobe. These are the pieces that underpin all the trend-led pieces you might inject within a season. They are the staple styles that hold your wardrobe together. Your building blocks might include an array of well-cut jeans, tailored pants, a sharp blazer, and the best leather jacket you can afford; alongside a failsafe evening dress and your party-ready jumpsuit. These are the items you might want to invest a little more in as you are likely to wear them on repeat and they're the pieces that always make you feel good. Items like a striped top will also work for a multitude of capsule wardrobes, including a French capsule wardrobe, so it's worth investing in a high quality piece. 

Cos, Karen Millen, M&S models wearing various tops

(Image credit: Cos, Karen Millen, M&S)

The tops you need in a capsule wardrobe

When it comes to choosing the right tops for your capsule wardrobe many of these decisions will in large part be down to your particular body type and the silhouette of top that works best for you. 

If you have a larger bust, you will be more likely to opt for a scoop or v-neck over a boat or high neck top as it helps to balance your proportions. Likewise, if you are a pear shape, you may want to emphasize your shoulders to balance out wider hips, meaning that puff sleeve heads or a shoulder-padded top could work best for your figure. 

The types of tops you need in a capsule wardrobe include: round/scoop neck, V-neck, Breton top, camisole, wrap top, sweatshirt.

Ted Baker, Cos, River Island models in various knitwear

(Image credit: Ted Baker, Cos, River Island)

The knitwear you need in a capsule wardrobe

You might automatically associate knitwear with winter months, but must-have knitwear can play an important role in your capsule wardrobe all year. While heavier knits you might only pull out on the iciest of days, lightweight cotton iterations make a great basic building block in spring and summer months. The exact shape of knitwear you opt for, like with tops will depend on your body type. If you're looking for the most versatility stick to neutrals and block colours that will remain timeless. 

The types of knitwear you need in a capsule wardrobe include: Breton striped sweater, cashmere sweater, fitted roll neck, cable knit sweater, V-neck sweater, loungewear hoodie, sweater dress, short cardigan, long cardigan.

shirts for a capsule wardrobe

(Image credit: M&S, Lilysilk, Omnes)

The shirts and blouses you need in your capsule wardrobe

When it comes to the best shirts for your capsule wardrobe there are a few different silhouettes to consider. Opt for classic styles from quality brands to ensure these pieces last. Inject your capsule wardrobe each season with new trend-led prints and colours to refresh your look, but always make sure you have the building block basics covered.

The types of shirts you need in a capsule wardrobe include: White shirt, silk blouse, pussy-bow blouse, statement collar shirt, denim shirt and striped shirt.

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Very, Lucy & Yak, Everlane models in jeans

(Image credit: Very, Lucy & Yak, Everlane)

The jeans you need in a capsule wardrobe

Curating your jeans collection for your capsule wardrobe does require some thought. Notoriously tricky to buy, finding the best jeans for your body type can be a nightmare. But, once you do, we advise you exercise some brand loyalty, as it will, in the long run, make your life easier. 

It's also good to remember that when it comes to jeans shapes, not every shape will work for you and that's ok. Like to feel sculpted and shaped? A the best high waisted jeans are what you're after. If you're balancing out a larger bust, look for the best wide leg jeans. Meanwhile, everything from kick flares to full flares will draw the eye away and down your body. 

When it comes to how many jeans should be in your capsule wardrobe, there really is no set number. If you live in jeans, you may want two or three of the same cut so you don't wear pairs out too quickly and can rotate. Equally, think about what colours of jeans you need. Lighter blue washes are always seen as more casual, deep indigo without any distressed elements can be worn smartly, but very black jeans will always be the smartest. 

When it comes to buying trend-led jean shapes, these can be injected as and when and are unlikely to form part of the building blocks of your capsule wardrobe. For these pieces, look to straight-to-market brands for cheaper options rather than investing in branded styles. 

The types of jeans you need in a capsule wardrobe include: straight jeans, flared jeans, skinny jeans, ankle cropped jeans, dungarees, kick flare jeans.

Seasalt, John Lewis, Mango models wearing various skirt

(Image credit: Seasalt, John Lewis, Mango)

The skirts you need in a capsule wardrobe

Having a selection of skirts in your capsule wardrobe will help you to maximize your tops. Essentially, building a capsule wardrobe is all about getting good basics together that you can mix and match as this increases the number of possible outfits you can create. 

A bit like with jeans, you want to make sure you've got your basics covered, but after that, you can look for more trend-led iterations to mix up your wardrobe. 

Opting for neutral block colours will always be more versatile, but if you love colour and print, you should certainly add these into your building blocks too. And of course, whenever looking to purchase new items, make sure they go with at least three existing pieces in your wardrobe. 

The types of skirts you need in a capsule wardrobe include: Leather skirt, denim skirt, slip skirt, pleated skirt, tulle skirt, maxi skirt, pencil skirt, knitted skirt, midi skirt. 

Zara, Whistes, Warehouse models wearing various trouser styles

(Image credit: Zara, Whistes, Warehouse)

The pants you need in a capsule wardrobe

Curating the best pants for your capsule wardrobe is not too dissimilar to sourcing the right jeans. You'll want a selection of styles that work for different occasions and pair them with the existing separates in your wardrobe. The exact cuts you opt for will depend on your body type, but when looking to gather a selection of building blocks for your wardrobe, there are a few key shapes and styles that are useful to have. When you find a great fitting pair of trousers, it's a good idea to get a couple of pairs, as brands change styles regularly and you won't want to be left disappointed. Opt for more neutral hues that will work with lots of items, injecting colour and trend-led styles as and when. 

The types of trousers you need in a capsule wardrobe include: Tailored pants, tuxedo pants, leather leggings, wide leg pants, cargo pants, pajama pants (not for sleeping in). 

Mango, M&S, AllSaints models in various styles of dresses

(Image credit: Mango, M&S, AllSaints)

The dresses you need in a capsule wardrobe

Dresses are the simplest way to feel put together. While a wardrobe of separates requires some styling, the best dresses and flattering jumpsuits are a full good-to-go outfit - just add shoes and jewellery. When it comes to building your capsule wardrobe of dresses, consider your body type and the shapes that suit you. If you're looking for dresses to highlight an hourglass shape, look for fit and flare or belted silhouettes. Want stylish dresses to hide a tummy? High-waisted styles or ruched iterations will look fantastic. Learn how to wear a wrap dress - to nail one of the most universally flattering fits, while the best shirt dresses always look smart. You might also want to consider the best shapewear under a dress to help sculpt and smooth your silhouette. 

The types of dresses you need in a capsule wardrobe include: Shirt dress, midi dress, little black dress, slip dress, knitted dress, leopard dress. 

three models wearing different Levi's, Selfridges, AllSaints jackets

(Image credit: Levi's, Selfridges, AllSaints)

The jackets you need in a capsule wardrobe

There are three key jacket shapes you should consider for your capsule wardrobe. All three can be worn in warmer months as outerwear without a coat on top, but in cooler months don't be afraid to wear them instead of a cardigan for extra versatility. When purchasing a jacket it's good to think about how you will wear them. Traditionally bikers, denim jackets and blazers are often left undone, so don't worry too much about being able to fully do them up. The best way to judge the fit is how it feels across your back, shoulders and arms. You want the jacket sleeve heads to sit correctly on your shoulders and you want to be able to freely move your arms. A jacket that is too tight will be uncomfortable and might also rip.

The types of jackets you need in a capsule wardrobe include: Leather jacket, denim jacket, blazer.

Burberry, Reformation, Hobbs models wearing various coats

(Image credit: Burberry, Reformation, Hobbs)

The outerwear pieces your need in a capsule wardrobe

When it comes to the best coats for your capsule wardrobe, there are a few wardrobe essential styles that will stand the test of time. A good camel coat in a cosy wool will be a piece you can turn to as soon as the winter chill hits and fall outfit ideas take center stage. Wool coats are the perfect way to sharpen up any look, as they will instantly make an outfit look smarter, from your best jeans to a tailored outfit. Puffer coats are definitely for more casual moments, but the best puffers offer unrivaled warmth, giving you ultimate protection against the elements. Meanwhile, trench coats offer fantastic weather protection and the smartest iterations are a straight swap for your best-tailored wool coat as soon as the sun starts to shine. These three key styles will take you through the year with ease. 

The types of outerwear you need in a capsule wardrobe include: Trench coat, wool coat, puffer coat. 

Mulberry, Selfridges, Accessorize models with various handbags

(Image credit: Mulberry, Selfridges, Accessorize)

The bags you need in a capsule wardrobe

As with shoes, if bags are your way of injecting personality into your look, don't feel you need to be confined to just a couple of items, however there are some key styles that should be in your capsule wardrobe, both for their timeless design and their practicality. 

The types of bags you need in a capsule wardrobe include: Crossbody bag, tote bag, clutch or evening bag