The Truth about Capsule Wardrobe Essentials

I’m sure you’ve scrolled through Pinterest looking for capsule wardrobe inspo and found tons of those images for “capsule wardrobe essentials” with a page full of about the same 30 simple, neutral pieces, right?

I want to share what is probably not the common opinion on the subject — I think those essentials lists are TOTAL BS.

The point of a capsule wardrobe is not for every persons closet to have the same 30 pieces like those pins make it seem. This is not a “one size fits all” kinda thing.

We all have different needs from our clothes, and I hate that if someone tries to look into starting a capsule wardrobe, THOSE images are all they see. Many people probably think something along the lines of “that’s too plain for me” or “those clothes don’t suit my lifestyle”. And they’re right!

The goal of a capsule wardrobe is to have a closet full of pieces that are functional and personal to YOU.

It will take time to build your closet to how you want it, and there will be a lot of trial and error, coming and going of pieces. But don’t feel the need to build a capsule around what you THINK you should have!

I want to share a few things to think about instead when you’re building your own capsule wardrobe that will hopefully inspire you more than those 30 piece infographics.

Think outside the box

I personally have about 150 pieces in my closet total. That’s year round and includes outerwear, shoes and accessories. I don’t count my lounge/PJs/workout stuff in there because they’re not things I wear daily.

I don’t keep count of my clothes. If I love something, I buy it. If I no longer love it, I sell or donate it. I do follow the one in, one out rule to make sure my closet stays to the point where I can wear everything multiple times a season, but I try not to limit myself otherwise because it’s MY closet, and it needs to be functional for ME.

When I started downsizing, I tried to do Project 333 and only have 33 pieces at a time, but that wasn’t functional for me. I also tried to minimize my wardrobe to only have 100 pieces TOTAL. AKA everything: lounge, PJs, undies, bras, socks, you name it.

But once I started, I knew that was too extreme for me. I was trying to put myself in a box and fit to a standard that I didn’t need to.

When you’re downsizing your closet, I do think it can be helpful to start out with a number goal in mind if you’re the kind of person that finds that helpful. But if that stresses you out, just go for what suits you. Get things down to where you feel it’s a solid foundation to build on and go from there.

Focus on your lifestyle

This is YOUR CLOSET! You don’t need to fit it to what anyone else says it should be. You need to make it what you NEED it to be. To suit your lifestyle.

If you’re a stay-at-home mom, your closet will be very different from someone who works in the corporate world every day. That’s 100% to be expected.

Everyone has their own unique style, and I think that’s part of what makes fashion so fun. It’s our own way to express ourselves to the world. One of many.

Don’t feel obligated to have pieces in your closet that aren’t your style just because you think you should.

Think about what you spend most of your time doing. These can be things like going to work, the gym, lounging, going to church, running errands, etc. When you’re figuring out what you want to keep in your closet, think about if your clothes fit those activities you do all the time.

Obviously special occasion pieces are a big point of contestation here but my thought is this: how likely are you to want to wear the same thing more than once to a big event?

If you don’t mind wearing the same dresses to multiple things, keep them! But if you know you’d rather get something new than wear something you already have, let the old ones go and maybe keep 1 go-to. A really great option for special occasion pieces is to rent them or get them second hand.

Also, be prepared that letting things go can be painful! Letting go of things that don’t fit that we’ve held onto believing one day they will is hard. Or those dresses we used to wear to the bars in our early twenties (yikes. those aren’t so hard). My sister had trouble giving up her work clothes when she decided to be a SAHM. But I can promise it will be worth it!

Those things we hold onto but don’t wear usually make us feel bad in some way. Guilty for spending so much on something that’s so uncomfortable, sad that we can’t fit into something anymore, too old because we aren’t out on the town every weekend like we used to be. Let them goooo, ladies!

Don’t follow the trends if they don’t suit you

I used to feel this insane need to own a jean jacket. Everyone has them and they’re so popular right now. But every single time I’ve gotten one, I brought it home to try on with different outfits and never liked how it looked. Maybe I just haven’t found the right one, but I think it’s just not my style.

Just because everyone else has it, doesn’t mean you need it.

Trends come and go all the time. What’s big one season will probably change the next. Right now, snake skin and tye-dye are huge. I can’t stand either one lol. But some people love them, and they work for them!

If you don’t like a trend, don’t feel obligated to wear it just to be “trendy” or “relavent”. If you do like it, go out and rock it to your hearts content! Although I do recommend not splurging too much on trendy pieces as they’re likely to change from year to year.

Basics vs Essentials

If you look at the lists of “essentials” as a solid list of basics, I think that’s a more realistic way to put it. You want to get your closet down to pieces that you love and feel great in that can be built upon later.

When you begin your capsule wardrobe journey, you’re setting the foundation initially for what you’ll later build into your perfectly curated (to you!) closet.

It is a good idea to have a few basic pieces in your closet like a little black dress, dress shoes, a great pair of jeans, and a good jacket. But those things should be YOUR style, not what you think your style should be.

Little black dresses can be sexy and alluring or modest and classic. Do you prefer heels or flats for dressy occasions? Skinny or bootcut jeans? Moto jackets or utility jackets? Or both 1 of each?

My point here is yes, there are some “essential basics” it’s nice to have in your closet, but don’t go buy a moto jacket just because you feel like you should have one. Only if you really want one.

I say all this because I was that person in the beginning! I literally did exactly what I’m advising you not to do. I got a suede moto instead of leather, and thankfully I actually ended up loving it. But I originally got it because I felt like I should have it, not because it was something I thought would be a great addition to my closet.

Don’t fall for the Quick Fix

Those infographics are a “quick fix” for when we’re tired of looking at what’s in our closets every day.

We think by getting these items we see that that will somehow fix our problem of not liking anything else currently in our closet. But THIS is where most people make all their mistakes!

They buy things based on emotional impulse instead of really thinking about what they want in their closet. They don’t think about if this will go with things they already have, or if they really LOVE it and feel great in it instead of just getting it because it feels like such a great deal.

YOU are the curator of your closet. I love to think of my closet like an art gallery. Curators are so particular with what they decide to showcase. Your closet should be the same way.

Everything you have in there should make you look and feel amazing. If you don’t LOVE a piece of clothing, what is the point of owning it?

When you start thinking about your closet this way, you won’t look for those “quick fix” pieces as often, or eventually at all. You’ll be picky with what you add in because you want it to feel cohesive and you’ll plan what you’ll wear it with.

Your closet will be a showcase of your own style and make you feel amazing when you get dressed every day. You just have to adjust your mindset that your closet is a place for things you love and feel great in, not just a blackhole for things you got a great deal on but didn’t fit quite right.


I hope these tips help you to see how much of a fun and wonderful opportunity it is to simplify your closet, and more importantly, that your closet should be whatever YOU want it to be.

We’re constantly being sold to everywhere we look, but it’s up to us to filter and CHOOSE how we receive that information. It’s also up to us how we choose to express our style to the world, so lean into what feels good and avoid what doesn’t and LOVE what you wear!

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a life + style blog dedicated to helping you love everything in your closet and create simple & affordable looks with a capsule wardrobe.

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