A Beginner's Capsule Wardrobe

January 21, 2020

A Beginner's Capsule Wardrobe

Over the last year, I've found it really useful putting together a capsule wardrobe for each of the seasons. It has helped me to identify which items in my wardrobe I pick out time and time again, and which ones I leave on the hanger. It's enabled me to create a functional wardrobe that's compatible with the season, my lifestyle as well as my personal style, without compromise. I've had an all seasons wardrobe for several years now but putting together seasonal capsules has really helped me to identify what I want and what I need from my choice of clothes as the seasons change.

There are so many articles online about how great having an all seasons wardrobe is or why you need a capsule wardrobe can be with examples of what "the essentials" are. I can't tell you what your wardrobe should look like, nobody can. There are too many factors - lifestyle, work, hobbies, personal style, travel - that will put demands on your style, which can make it difficult to know where to start.

My suggestion to you, if you're just starting out and what to create a minimal wardrobe, is to do the same as I did. Take the time to properly declutter your wardrobe then spend a year working out seasonal capsules (using the wardrobe you already own) and figure out what works for you and what doesn't. Pay attention to what you wear and why, whether you enjoy wearing certain outfits or feel you have to because they're practical/functional/comfortable. Identify any issues that prevent you from enjoying what you own, such as clothes that don't work well together. This will enable you to figure out all the bases your wardrobe needs to cover and fix any problems you have with your wardrobe. Putting together a capsule using what you already own will give you a starting place to start building out a versatile wardrobe you enjoy wearing.

While I can't tell you what you should choose for your capsule, I can share what I'd pick for mine and why. It will show you what a working capsule should look like and hopefully give you a few ideas for how to put your own together. I build each of my seasonal capsules around specific groups and I pick three items for each (because that works for me): outerwear, knitwear, dresses, tops, bottoms, shoes, and accessories. For this capsule I'm picking items that work for all seasons and I suggest you do the same. If I were to put together a basic all-seasons capsule from scratch, these are the items I'd pick.



A Beginner's Capsule Wardrobe

Outerwear

A Double Breasted Camel Coat. This is a classic for me and the coat I reach for when I want to elevate my almost exclusively black outfits. I have an old gifted one from Great Plains but these styles of coat are easily thrifted in second-hand stores or online. It's one of those timeless, easy-to-wear coats that goes with everything, which is why it's one of my staples for a capsule wardrobe.

An Anorak or Rain Coat. A coat that can protect you from the wind and rain is pretty essential if you live in the UK. I have an Everlane Anorak (affiliate link) and a Stutterheim Moseback Rain Coat (gifted). If I had to pick between the two to buy, I'd opt for the Stutterheim Rain Coat because of its sleek style. It protects you from light rain showers and heavy downpours without compromising your outfit.

A Duster Jacket. My duster is from Elizabeth Suzann, a very old gifted piece in my wardrobe that has gotten excessive wear over the few years I've had it. The thick cotton (the updated version is made from linen) gives it a lovely drape, combining a classic trench with a minimal, relaxed fit; great for transitional periods of the year. The Long Haiku Jacket made by Nadinoo is very similar is style.



Knitwear

A Fitted Cardigan. Classic, perhaps a little preppy, but a great knitwear piece if you want to smarten up your outfits with minimal effort. I opt for a slightly cropped fit too as that suits me better. I purchased the Boden Cotton Crop Cardigan
second-hand and they fit perfectly. There are plenty of barely worn cardigans to be found online and in second-hand stores too so look there first before buying new.

A Chunky Cardigan. For keeping warm without losing your style in winter, a chunky cardigan is the perfect solution. I have the Everlane Texture Cotton Crop Cardigan (affiliate link). Look for something that's thick and warm enough to be worn alone on warmer days or worn layered over tees, buttoned or unbuttoned.

A Simple Jumper. Vintage is best, in my opinion. Whether you want a classic black jumper or something a little more interesting, knitwear of all kinds can be thrifted online or in charity shops for very little money. Almost all the knitwear I own has been purchased second-hand, I find the fit is better and the quality to be superior.



One-Piece

An A-Line Dress. The little black dress is the ultimate wardrobe piece, capsule or not. I've worn the same Monki dress for years and it's my go-to option whenever I'm stuck for something to wear. The best kind of little black dress is easy-to-wear and comfortable. You want to be able to dress it up as much as you want but also throw it on (and not look out of place) if you're in a rush. The People Tree Charcoal Linen Dress or Gathered Smock Dress are great options if you're looking for a new wear everywhere dress.

A Sleeveless Dress. Simple, versatile, effortless. A sleeveless dress, particularly a midi length one, can be worn all year round; on its own in summer or with layers underneath in winter. I have a sleeveless linen dress made by MUJI, which has seen me through many years. If gingham is your thing, this Nadinoo Shinrin Yoku Dress would be perfect. The People Shop has a similar Linen Top as does Nadinoo with the Easy Breathe Tee.

A Jumpsuit. Finding the right style for you is essential for making this work in a capsule wardrobe but a jumpsuit can be one of the best versatile pieces you can own. I chose one with a relaxed fit that I could cinch in the waist to create more shape and no sleeves so I could layer pieces over or under it. Gifted to me by Avec Clyde, my Easy Jumpsuit quickly became a favourite in my wardrobe.



Tops

A Boxy Top. I've found relaxed tops easier to style than fitted ones so I opt for boxy shapes with quality fabrics so that they can be worn loose, tucked in, or layered over other items in my wardrobe. My most favourite style is a Cotton Blouse made by MUJI. It has a lovely drape and slightly structured style making it both easy to wear and sharp.

A Classic Shirt. An all-round great choice for a capsule wardrobe because of how effortless and smart a black shirt can look even as part of a simple outfit. I've picked up shirts from thrift stores as well as buying new when I want a particular style or fit. If you can't find what you need second-hand, I recommend Everlane - in particular their Collarless Shirt (affiliate link) - for the simplicity and quality.

A Polka-Dot Shirt. To add a little interest to an otherwise quite bland capsule wardrobe, I'm including a polka dot shirt. You might want to opt for stripes instead. Either way, a simple pattern is the fool-proof way to mix up outfits without stepping too far out of your comfort zone. I wear my vintage dotted shirt layered under a dress or jumpsuit or tucked into culottes and skirts. If patterns aren't really your thing, opt for a block colour instead.



Bottoms

Culottes. For those of us who don't like trousers, culottes are an excellent option. Comfortable, elegant, and ever so versatile; I have a pair of MUJI Cotton Trousers that I wear to death. Another great option would be the Nadinoo Breath Easy Trousers made from midweight linen.

A Midi Skirt. Tricotage no longer make the midi skirt I own, which is a shame because it's utterly perfect. Made from thick linen with a paperbag waist,this skirt is ideal for hot summer days yet it's easily adapted for wearing in autumn too. An alternative that is equally lightweight with a relax style, is the Seasalt Castle Bryher Skirt.

A Maxi Skirt. Super versatile, a simple black maxi skirt can be worn with a loose-fitting top in summer and knitwear in winter. It can easily be turned into what appears to be a full length dress, giving it a dressier appearance. I tend to wear my MUJI maxi skirt (no longer available as it was purchased in the sale) on casual days with loose-fitting tops layered over it, and worn with a shirt tucked in for a smarter look on evenings out. If you're looking for something similar, the Son De Flor Frida Skirt is similar.



Shoes

A Pair Of Shoes. Classic Dr. Marten's shoes are a solid choice if you want a pair of shoes that can be worn anywhere with anything. I've had my pair for years and they're still going strong with no signs of wear. I honestly can't think of a better choice of shoe for a capsule wardrobe and if I have to pick only one pair, this would be it.

A Pair Of Sandals. Nothing beats the practicality of a pair of Birkenstock sandals although you might feel differently about their style. I find these work with most outfits, can be worn in spring, summer, and autumn, and are as reliable as they are comfortable. Alternatively, if you want something considered a bit more stylish, Po Zu have lovely sandals.

A Pair Of Loafers. For occasions when I need something dressier than my Dr. Marten's, I reach for a pair of loafers. I have a pair of Wills classic t-bar loafers (which they sadly no longer make) but these Ribbon Loafers are just as smart. Alternatively, a pair of Smart Derbys are a great dressy shoe option especially if, like me, you never wear heels.



Accessories

A Beret. A simple classic that looks fantastic particularly when you have a monochrome wardrobe. There are plenty of brand-new looking berets in a variety of colours in thrift stores so there's never really any need to buy one new. If berets aren't really your thing, I'd swap this option out for a sun hat. Again, well-made hats can be picked up in thrift stores for great prices so look there first before considering buying new.

A Backpack. I'd opt for a Kanken or Kula backpack depending on your needs. The Kanken Mini is a great little backpack for day trips; I've even managed to fit everything I need in it for a weekend away! If you need more room, try a Kula Bag. I have the Bridgewater Backpack (gifted), sustainably-made from reinforced waterproof paper.

Jewellery. I wear a mix of vintage pieces from my late grandmother and jewellery made by myself from Oh My Clumsy Heart. I prefer to keep things simple with minimal necklaces and stacking rings, that I wear alongside my wedding band made by Victoria Delany.



I don't include essentials (like lingerie and socks) or base layers (like tees and bodysuits) in my all-seasons capsule wardrobe. But I do think mentioning where the best places to buy these from would be if you're in need and want to stock up. Whenever I need socks, plain tees, or base layers; these are the brands I rely on to produce responsibly-made clothing that lasts.

Everlane (affiliate link) - for their ReNew range
Organic Basics (affiliate link) - particularly their tees and socks
The White T-Shirt Co. - their long-sleeve bodysuit and classic tees are wonderful



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