How to build a summer capsule wardrobe 2024: These are the pieces you need

A summer capsule wardrobe will help hone your style and save money - here's how to build one

A mixture of clothes for a summer capsule wardrobe
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The sun is here, signalling it's prime time to curate your summer capsule wardrobe! This streamlined collection of interchangeable pieces is the key to effortless style and eliminating those mornings where you stare into your closet with a ‘nothing to wear’ panic.

When thinking about how to build a capsule wardrobe for summer, light layers remain key to the mix, meaning that some of your spring capsule wardrobe can double up for summer too. While spring can be temperamental - we're looking at you April showers - summer generally offers a couple of months of sunny days and rising temperatures, so we need to adjust our wardrobes to match.

“Creating a capsule wardrobe for spring is about finding the right balance between functionality and personal style,” says fashion stylist Saffron King. “By choosing a cohesive colour palette and including a mix of versatile pieces, you can create a wardrobe that not only looks great but also makes getting dressed each morning easier and more enjoyable."

The speediest way to enact this change is to lean towards breathable, natural fabrics advises Megan Watkins, head stylist at SilkFred.

"Fabrics such as linen, satin and cotton are essential to any summer capsule wardrobe. These are the fabrics you'll naturally gravitate to year after year. I would avoid water-resistant fabrics such as polyester and rayon, which will trap sweat and make you feel hotter than you already may be!"

As with other seasons, there is no restriction on the number of items you choose, but it’s wise to use this opportunity to think about how much you truly need and wear. And that doesn't mean you can't add trending pieces each season, even a minimalist capsule wardrobe needs refreshing with directional items to keep it fresh and timely.

How to create a summer capsule wardrobe

Your summer capsule wardrobe should contain versatile pieces that will work for a host of occasions, for example, linen trousers with a cotton blouse, or dressed down with a t-shirt for weekend strolls. As the summer is the main wedding and event season, having a pretty, floral printed dress that works for friends' nuptials as well as solving what to wear to the races means that last-minute party invites won't cause a sartorial meltdown.

Some of your summer capsule wardrobe will also automatically double up as capsule wardrobe for travel to sunny destinations, offering excellent cost per wear. T-shirts, maxi skirts, and dresses, as well as oversized shirts and denim cut-offs, are all great for hot holidays. But these will also save you on those sky high temperature days, meaning no more wondering what to wear in the heat.

While neutrals are always a good idea for any capsule wardrobe, Megan says that for summer, you can opt for a lighter palette than your winter or autumn capsule wardrobe.

"The summer months favour lighter, airier and paler hues,” she says. “Not only do these colours look great next to a tan, they also make us feel cooler, which is essential especially if you're off on holiday. Don’t dismiss pastels either. Although it may seem cliche, there's a reason why pastels are a perennial favourite, especially during the warmer months."

With this in mind, here’s a list of what you need for your summer capsule wardrobe:

Tops

Stock up on the best cotton t-shirts to instantly give your wardrobe a summer refresh. White reflects the sun, so in theory, a white t-shirt will keep you cooler on hot days. Opt for a mix of fitted t-shirts to layer under slip dresses or tuck into skirts or trousers, as well as more relaxed fits for breathability.

“I like to look for garments with unusual seam detailing or something which stands them out from the crowd,” says stylist Gina Dowle, founder of Flaaunt. “I recently bought a white shirt for a client which was beautifully tailored around the shoulders but was extra-long. It looked great over a pair of jeans and layered under a leather jacket. On a summer’s day, the shirt could also be used as a dress - I applaud garments with multiple uses!”

Dresses and jumpsuits

The best midi dresses are a summer must-have, particularly in a figure-flattering A-line shape, as the floatier silhouette is ideal for the summer and great for a boho capsule wardrobe. "For summer, slip dresses, shifts, bandeaus and of course the sundress are essential,” says Megan. “They can be dressed up for events such as weddings, with some strappy heels and statement jewellery, or dressed down with flat shoes and straw hat."

Outerwear

As it's summer we'd like to say banish all outerwear until at least September, but even the summer months can suffer from a downpour. To that end, we suggest ensuring you've got one of the best waterproof jackets, such as a pac-a-mac, particularly ideal if you're planning what to wear to a festival, as well as one of the best denim jackets as an easy summer layering piece. It's unlikely you will need anything heavier than this, but you may want to keep your best trench coat to hand just in case.

Denim

In peak summer months, jeans for many can be too warm, if that's you, you might want to switch up your look and embrace the denim trends of 2024 and invest in a denim skirt. Other jean-based options for the summer months include white jeans outfits and much-loved denim shorts.

“Would it really be summer without some denim shorts?” asks Megan. A great option for weekends or as one of the best beach cover-ups over your swimsuit or bikini, denim shorts, if you're comfortable getting your legs out, are a must.

Trousers and skirts

Shoes

The sun is shining, so it's time to let your toes see the sun. The summer season is all about investing in the best sandals, from flip flop styles to embellished strappy designs that are ideal for weddings and summer parties. “Neutral colours offer maximum versatility but consider one pair in a statement colour or pattern,” advises Saffron.

For summer work outfits, opt for on-trend loafers, smarter sandal designs (depending on your job), and the best white trainers for a fresh feel. Megan says: "A pair of classic white tennis shoes will get you through a long hot day of sightseeing in comfort without the fear of getting your toes stepped on."

Accessories

Your bag won't necessarily change in the summer, particularly if you've invested in one of the best designer bags that will work all year through. “As a shoe and bag person myself, the sky is the limit with how a shoe and bag combo can transform an outfit,” says Gina. If you often travel abroad in the summer or spend days down on the coast, make sure to add one of the best beach bags to your wardrobe mix, opt for on-trend raffia and fabric tote designs.

Largely the same as spring jewellery, you'll want to maintain boho-inspired stacking necklaces, rings and possibly slide an anklet into your collection, as these pair well with new season sandals. "Chunky gold jewellery is a great way to pull a basic look together and looks great on sun-kissed skin,” says Megan. If you have quite a tightly edited, minimalist wardrobe, you may want to use the latest jewellery trends as a way of bringing older pieces up to date.

The best designer sunglasses really come into play from mid-may onwards. An easy way to add a statement finish to your ensemble, there are plenty of sunglasses trends, ensuring there is a design for every face shape.


light colored summer clothes

(Image credit: Getty Images)

How to start a summer capsule wardrobe

Before you can create your summer capsule wardrobe it's wise to think about how to organise your wardrobe and have a thorough clear out. This will help you assess what you have and what you still need. We would recommend doing this seasonally, so before you move summer pieces back into your wardrobe, you declutter your clothes and work out what still suits your lifestyle and get rid of anything that no longer feels relevant or doesn't fit.

Keep to one side items that have sentimental value and pack these away in storage, preferably with a picture of you wearing the item as part of that cherished memory, but these items shouldn't be in your functional wardrobe.

Put to one side anything that needs fixing or dry cleaning and deal with this as soon as possible. Finally create a pile to give away, recycle or learn how to sell clothes online to help fund your new summer wardrobe.


Capsule wardrobe: Investment styles

The idea of your summer capsule wardrobe is that these are the pieces that will be with you for several seasons so spend as much as you can on good quality basics.

These pieces will form the foundation for your summer outfits and while you can ask yourself what colour suits me, very often, core basics are best in neutral colour ways as it means they will pair easily with trending styles. This means that while you might have black, navy, white, beige pants, you can style them up with any of the latest fashion colour trends to add newness to your look.

Saffron also says don’t be afraid to choose colours that you are drawn to.

“While it's important to have a cohesive colour palette, your wardrobe should also reflect your personal style,” advises Saffron. “If there are colours you love and feel confident in, make sure to include them. This personal touch will ensure your capsule wardrobe truly represents you.”

You may not want to spend as much on trending pieces as these may not have the same lifespan in your closet. For inspiration on luxe basics, look to this season's popular Quiet Luxury, upper east side grandmother look or Rich Mom trends for how to look expensive dressing simple but stylish.


Is a summer capsule wardrobe a good idea?

Gina believes there are many benefits from curating a summer capsule wardrobe. Firstly, it allows you to invest in breathable fabrics, such as linen, which will make you more comfortable in the heat.

"You also have the opportunity to play around with new colour palettes," she says. "I am a fan of using bright colours all year round but any opportunity to mix things up a little is always welcomed."

A summer capsule wardrobe isn't just about looking your best though; it's a win-win for your wallet and the environment.

By focusing on a curated collection of interchangeable pieces, you'll resist impulse purchases, freeing up your budget for all those fun summer activities. Plus, you'll be a more conscious shopper, opting for quality pieces that stand the test of time. This not only reduces clothing waste but also minimises your environmental footprint.

Remember, reducing, reusing, and recycling are key. Don't forget to donate or sell unwanted items to give them a second life with someone else.

Megan Watkins
Megan Watkins

Megan Watkins is head stylist at online fashion destination SilkFred, overseeing photoshoots and carefully selecting the best styles from over 900 independent brands that sell on SilkFred. Megan began working with SilkFred 9 years ago and has 15 years of styling experience under her belt, where she worked with many celebrities such as Jessie J, Amanda Holden and Kylie Minogue for a range of events, TV and music videos.

Gina Dowle
Gina Dowle

Gina has been a stylist and makeup artist in the fashion, film and tv industry for the past 20 years. She has worked with A-list actors, famous sports personalities and music stars. She started her career as a fashion buyer in London then swerved into a new lane when she realised she wanted to be more hands-on and creative with her work. She launched her agency, FLAAUNT so she and her team could channel their expert knowledge and help private clients with their personal styling and makeup needs.

Saffron King

Saffron is head fashion stylist and merchandising at one of Australia's favourite women's clothing boutiques, Blue Bungalow.

Jayne Cherrington-Cook

With over 22 years’ experience in journalism, Jayne has written about a variety of subjects. She spent the start of her career within the world of film, interviewing Hollywood stars, attending premieres and lusting after red carpet outfits, and then moved into fashion, launching websites for big magazines such as Look, Woman’s Own and Wedding and working with top fashion brands such as Westfield, LK Bennett and Hunter. 

Career highlights include dressing up as Kylie (in gold hot pants!) for a national newspaper and working on big fashion events alongside Giles Deacon, Henry Holland and Naomi Campbell. 

With contributions from