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How to Build a Capsule Wardrobe for all Seasons

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A “capsule wardrobe” is just a mini wardrobe consisting of versatile mix and match pieces that you love to wear. While many people insist you need to create a new capsule wardrobe for each season of the year, I am a firm believer in creating a single cohesive wardrobe that you can wear all year long.

capsule wardrobe

I live in a very mild climate, so I get a lot of skepticism from friends and clients that have frigid winters and scorching hot summers who claim it may be easy for me but it’s impossible for them. Not so! While I will admit that it’s certainly easier to create a year round capsule wardrobe in California, I can assure you it’s entirely possible to build a capsule wardrobe that can transition from season to season no matter where you live!  It’s really just a matter of investing in versatile pieces, learning to layer, and redefining what you consider essential. Let’s break it down:

Invest in Timeless and Transitional Pieces

As you’re building your capsule wardrobe make sure to be selective about style, fabric, cut, and color. Consider versatility before you invest. My wardrobe building blocks consist of items I can wear all year round like jeans, simple blouses, and classic sweaters in neutral colors.

If your goal is to own fewer but better things, you’ll need to invest in quality pieces that will stand the test of time. Instead of owning thirty-six mediocre sweaters, what if you owned 2-3 beautifully made, well constructed sweaters? Most people wear only a small fraction of their wardrobe anyway. Go for quality over quantity and timeless over trendy. Less to store and more to enjoy, I say!

capsule wardrobe

Get Creative with Layers

One of my favorite things about having a minimal wardrobe is that it forces me to get creative and resourceful. I love challenging myself to build new outfits without buying a thing! Recently I discovered I could layer a chunky sweater over my favorite summer slip dress and wear it with boots to create an entirely new look that could transition into fall and winter. Then I realized I could also layer the same slip dress over a fitted white t-shirt for spring and fall. The possibilities are endless!

I encourage you to throw out the rulebook and challenge yourself to create new outfit formulas using the items you already own. Who says white pants can only be worn in the summer? Add a white sweater and a long coat and boots for a chic, monochromatic look you can wear all winter – think outside the box and get creative with layers.

Redefine “Essential”

Once I got into a heated debate with a family friend who claimed she needed five types of boots (five!) to survive in New York during the winter. While I will admit that some climates require both a rain and a snow boot, I’ve also lived in Chicago and London and was able to function just fine with a single waterproof boot that could stand up to both snow and rain. I know it’s easy to subscribe to the idea that you need a full and elaborate wardrobe for every season of the year, but I can assure you that it’s totally possible to lighten up if you’re willing to question and redefine what’s truly essential. Even when I lived in Chicago, I just added a handful of seasonal items and accessories to my lightweight California wardrobe – a heavy coat and boots for winter, a few light dresses and sandals for summer, and the same basics all year round. Think about your most extreme seasons and jot down the items you require to feel prepared and comfortable – I promise it’s less than you think.

Create Seasonal “Kits”

I have a basket that contains my few winter accessories (gloves, warm hat, scarf) and another for my summer staples (swimsuits, jean shorts, sandals). In addition I also have one long winter coat and a pair of winter boots I store in my daughter’s closet when they’re not in use. I can pull out these seasonal kits whenever I need them for travel or more extreme days, but they don’t take up valuable real estate in my closet. Identify the essential seasonal accessories you’d like to keep and consider storing them in two labeled bins – one for winter and one for summer.

capsule wardrobe

A Sample Year Round Capsule

There is no one size fits all solution, or perfect number, but since I get so many questions about how to realistically create a year-round capsule wardrobe, I’ll give you a simple breakdown that has worked well for me. This list doesn’t include basics like socks, underwear, pjs or workout gear, or accessories like jewelry or hats.

5x Jeans / Pants

2x Shorts

5x Dresses

5x Sweaters / Cardigans

10x Blouses / Tops

1x Warm Winter Coat

3x Lighter Jackets

1x Winter Boots

1x Warm Hat, Gloves + Scarf

1x Summer Sandal

2x Swimsuits

8x Year Round Shoes – flats, sneakers, heels, etc.

3x Bags – clutch, tote, crossbody, etc.

Feel free to use this list as a guide (it’s under 50 pieces total), but make sure to build a wardrobe that is customized for your personal style, lifestyle, and climate. Happy capsule-ing!

Sticking to a minimal wardrobe has enabled me to spend less time and money shopping, and it has encouraged me to make more conscious choices about what pieces I invest in. While it seems paradoxical, a pared down closet has actually made it feel like I have more options and has helped me dress better, and it can do the same for you. File that under win-win.

Photography Credit: Vivian Johnson for Shira Gill 

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7 comments on “How to Build a Capsule Wardrobe for all Seasons

  1. I 100% agree with quality over quantity. So many times when I’m doing decluttering sessions with my clients, we’re getting rid of what I refer to as fast fashion (cheaply made masses, think Target,
    Forever21, etc.). Quality pieces look better and last longer. Also, layers!

  2. I also live in a mild climate, Pleasant Hill, California. Today, getting ready for work, I opted for a t-shirt and cropped pants sweat pant because I have “nothing to wear” due to not doing laundry last night.

    There are so many different outfits in my closet right now. It is amazing to me what I’m not willing to wear to work, dresses, skirts and yet and sitting in sweat pants and a t-shirt (I work alone, but still).

    I really needed this post to rethink what is acceptable to wear out and what is acceptable to wash my car in (my current outfit).

    Thanks Shira for the reality check!

  3. I found your post is very informative. I am currently on a weight loss journey, so this is good for me to build capsules for my weight loss. I am hoping to use this in the future as I have spent waaayyy to much money on clothing that I never wore or rarely wore.

  4. thanks for this post, shira! you are wardrobe goals. i especially appreciate the itemized list so i have something to goal toward.

  5. Thanks Shira
    You are insightful as always!
    I do only wear a fraction of what I own. Now to get rid of all the items I never wear!

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