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Minimalist Fashion: Create an easy capsule wardrobe

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Creating a minimalist capsule wardrobe makes choosing outfits and mornings easier, and helps keep your closet neat, tidy and decluttered.

Minimalist fashion is a simpler way to approach fashion, clothing and moving through your week. A capsule wardrobe allows you to easily match almost all of your clothing. A capsule wardrobe often contains much less clothing than the normal wardrobe and is a bit more curated.

Let’s dive into how to make a fashionable minimalist capsule wardrobe.

Table of Contents
Declutter first
Build your wardrobe
Planning your outfits

White Long Sleeves Shirts on Brown Wooden Clothes Hanger combined as a minimalist fashion capsule wardrobe

Declutter: start with fewer clothes!

You’ve got to make room for your Having a minimalist closet does not mean paring it down to only neutral colours. You don’t have to only wear black like Steve Jobs. It means only having clothing you love and not feeling bad when you open the door or drawer. It takes time to get there, but you can do it!

Where To Start

The first step of any project is to pick a place to start – in this case, a drawer or closet – and remove what doesn’t work.

1. Anything that does not fit. Are you going to be that size in the next six months to a year? And if you reach that size, will you want to wear these clothes or will you want to buy something new?

2. Anything damaged or stained. It probably shouldn’t have made it back to your closet in that state anyway. And if you were going to fix it, you would have done that already.

3. Anything that does not belong to you. If you borrowed it, put it elsewhere to be returned to its proper home.

4. Anything that really doesn’t belong with your clothing. Set it aside to be relocated where you would look for it next time.

5. Anything you never wear. Is it too high maintenance and you don’t want to deal with it? Colour or fit wrong? You’ve already made the decision by passing it over again and again.  

6. Anything that doesn’t feel good when you wear it. Try to identify what it is you don’t like so you can avoid that in the future. Are you in a hot climate and it’s a fabric that doesn’t breath? Do you hate high-waisted pants, but at the time it was the only jeans they had in your size in store? 

7. Anything sentimental that you aren’t going to wear. That stack of concert shirts you want to have made into a quilt can go to your sewing room to remind you to get it done. The shirt with your child’s kindergarten handprints should go into your memory bin. The closet is for clothes you wear!

Did that give you a little breathing room and a little more space for your current wardrobe? 

How do you feel about it? I hope you LOVE it! 

If you want more tips on how to declutter, check this blog post out
How to Declutter A to Z

a hand decluttering a grey scarf into a cardboard box

How to Build Your Minimalist Capsule Wardrobe

At this point, you might want to do a little rearranging to put like things together. This will help identify duplicates and your own personal trends.

Assess what you have:

What colors dominate your closet? 

Do you favour a lighter palette or do you lean to darker ones? What colors make you feel great because I bet that influences your clothing choices.

Do you have balance? 

Is your wardrobe overwhelming work clothes? Mostly gym clothes? Or do you have a little bit of everything from work to play to dress-up?

What are the workhorse pieces?

These essentials are the ones you reach for most. This might include your little black dress, tank tops, your favorite pairs of jeans or a white t-shirt you love for layering. Sometimes these are the most versatile pieces you own.

Do you have a lot of older clothing or a lot of newer clothing? 

Shopping habits are always a consideration when moving toward a capsule or more minimal wardrobe. If your closet is a lot of older clothing, you likely trend toward classic pieces that stand the test of time. If you have a lot of new clothes, you may enjoy the hunt more and may not mind the search for missing pieces.

Do your clothes match your current season of life and location? 

Be honest. Did you move and now live in a warm climate but are holding onto winter gear? Do your corporate day-to-day uniforms not match now that you’ve transitioned into a remote, work-from-home job?

Do you keep all seasons in one spot or do you tuck away off-season clothing?

If you change your closet with the seasons, you may find you need to revisit this process as different seasons arrive. A capsule wardrobe might be an option for you if you like to keep only the current season accessible.

For many of us, it’s hard to identify what our personal style is, but hopefully, those questions help you focus on what your personal style is as you create a minimalist capsule wardrobe. 

Organizing Your Closet

There are many ways to arrange your closet — sorting by colour, frequency of use or outfit – but, for this, you may want to break your closet up into different categories. 

Most wardrobes consist of :

  • Pants, skirts, shorts. (Denim can be included here or as a separate category.)
  • Tops, blouses and sweaters.
  • T-shirts and tank tops.
  • Dresses.
  • Coats and jackets.
  • Undergarments, socks, tights, etc.
  • Accessories. This will include scarves, belts, etc.

Within each category, you may want to divide into sub-categories as well. In addition to dividing bottoms as listed above, you might also divide them into formal and casual wear. If you don’t have space to put out-of-season clothes elsewhere, you may also sort by fabric weight or season. 

Do any obvious duplicates jump out at you now? Are they essential items of clothing you keep because you use them so often and don’t want to do more laundry? Or did you buy new pieces and didn’t remove the old ones? 

Are any of those categories almost empty? If you decluttered your last pair of black pants because they had faded in the wash to a muted charcoal, it’s okay to put them on the list for future replacement. Consider clothing made with sustainable materials as they last longer and have less impact on the environment in manufacturing.

Also keep in mind that some pieces, like bras and underwear, will need be replaced more often than anything else. These essential pieces have a huge impact on how your clothing fits. Don’t neglect them!

Now Do Some Planning

One of the best ways to make sure you love your wardrobe is with a bit of planning.

Grab a camera and take some pictures, or grab a notebook or journal to take some notes you can refer back to.  

It’s time to match some clothing.

minimalist capsule wardrobe with clothing on bottom right, bags on bottom let, necklaces top left and handbags top right

Tips for designing outfits

* Remember tees and tanks are perfect for layering. 

* Sweaters are great for not only winter but that transitional times as seasons change. 

* Dress for your body type; if you don’t know your body type, there are lots of resources online. 

* Pick the accessories, jewellery and shoes to match each outfit.

* Focus on color. Pick all the matching and complimentary colors that match the piece you started with.

* Try pairing things you haven’t put together before.  Some combinations you try might not work, but celebrate that you tried.

* Be open to trying anything. Don’t save something because it’s only for special occasions. A dress can be made more informal by pairing it with a leather jacket and casual shoes. 

Shop in Your Closet

This might feel awkward the first time, but it will get easier. If you have a trusted friend, ask for help.

Pick out your favourite pair of pants or shirt. Now design an outfit around that favourite piece. Let’s see your unique style!

You can lay the clothes flat on your bed or get dressed. If you opt to dress, you will be able to discard anything that you realize doesn’t fit or isn’t comfortable. Take a photo of each outfit. 

Return all the pieces to the closet or the dresser drawer. For anything hung up, turn the hanger around the other way to indicate you’ve used it already. If it’s going back to a dresser, either set it off to the side or on top to be able to see what you used or not.

Now design another outfit with those same pants or shirt.

Try to see how many different looks you can come up with. 

Repeat this process until you can’t think of anything else to do with that one starter piece. If you find it is the basis for a wide variety of outfits, great! 

Then start again with another favourite.

Remember, the overall number of outfits is not important. You are creating a catalogue for your closet.  When you’ve found all the combinations for the last pair of pants or last skirt, you can tuck it all away. 

Nice work! 

Low Angle View of Shoes bag, glasses, camera combined as a wardrobe or outfit

Reviewing Your Minimalist Capsule Wardrobe Outfits

When you look through the photos, are there any surprises? You should be able to pick out the key pieces you like to build the rest of your outfit around. Your base colours will likely be obvious as well. 

Did anything surprise you and get used only once or twice? Or maybe not at all. You have a choice here — keep it and find more uses for it or let it go. 

Do your outfits match up with your lifestyle? Don’t get caught up in the “must-haves” if they don’t suit your life. A white button-down shirt might be timeless, but if you run a daycare, it might not be practical.

Do your outfits match your style? Something might look great together, but if you aren’t comfortable wearing it, that outfit is never going to leave your closet. It’s okay to say no to an outfit you made. 

Is there anything missing that you wanted while you were putting outfits together? Similar to the way tucking a shirt in can change a whole outfit, sometimes you need one more thing, like a belt to pull it together.

Check Your Closet Again

Now that you’ve created those outfits and hopefully fallen in love with your wardrobe again, take a few minutes to review your clothing. Part of having a minimalist approach is having fewer pieces overall, but more versatile pieces to mix and match.

Get comfortable with repeating outfits. It is going to happen and that’s okay. We’re trying to create a minimalist, easier way of life with a capsule wardrobe.

The ones that did not get their photo taken today or get noted on your list, need to come out. You can’t keep them. You can donate them or sell them, but move them out of your closet. Alternately, if it really breaks your heart to take it out today, give yourself a deadline — one week or maybe two — and if you haven’t put them into an outfit, they have to go. 

If you were overwhelmed trying to put things together, that’s okay. Like the decluttering and decision-making muscles, this will get easier the more you do it. 

And there may be some future shopping lessons in there. 

Folded Assorted-color Shirts

Shopping for a Minimalist Closet

At some point, you will have to go shopping. Here are a few capsule wardrobe tips to make it easy to stay with a more minimalist closet. 

Focus on high-quality pieces over fast fashion brands. 

You’ll pay more upfront, but the clothing will last longer. 

Consider getting pieces tailored if the fit is not quite right. 

The investment is worth it. Fix something you already have or a new piece to make it a perfect fit.

Buying a belt or scarf in the must-have seasonal color may be a better investment than buying a jacket. Obviously, this is not a hard and fast rule; if that jacket is a great piece, think about how much use you would get out of it. 

Keep a list of items that will need to be replaced 

(and be specific about colour, fabric and cut) so you can take advantage of sales when you come across them in your daily life. This will make you more mindful of what you bring home and reduce impulse buys.

Learn about thrift stores and how to identify quality items. 

(It’s in the fabric and stitching.) Compare notes with friends to find out where the really good stores are.

Don’t buy clothing that you don’t love. 

It sounds simple, but if you try it on in-store and aren’t sure, that’s a no. And yes, trying it on in the store is important; if they have a change room, use it!

Can you borrow it? 

If you only need the piece for one event or one day, do you have a friend or family member who would lend it to you instead of buying it?

With a small collection, you will have fewer decisions when you get dressed in the morning. You know what to put together because you’ve got the pictures. This will free your energy for the important things! 

Your minimalist capsule wardrobe isn’t going to happen overnight, but you know what the goal is. Love the clothes you have and be content with what you need!

Video: Closet Makeover Tips

Video: How to declutter clothing

Blog: Ten Minimalist Rules that Changed my Life

Ultimate Minimalist Packing Guide


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