retro-inspired capsule wardrobe : 24 pieces

I hesitated to call this a “capsule wardrobe” – partly because there’s been a bit of a backlash against capsule wardrobes lately, and I know some of you absolutely hate them (I’m hoping the title of the post will give those people a heads-up that this one’s not for them!), but also because it’s not really a capsule wardrobe: or not in the way people tend to think of that term, anyway.

Despite the backlash, though, I’m still fascinated by the idea of capsule wardrobes, and, as I said in this post, I recently decided to create one myself. Now, I’m WAY too much of a shopaholic to ever want to restrict myself to wearing the same five items over and over again, so the my aim definitely wasn’t to pare down my closet to the bare minimum and then never buy anything else again. I mean, AS IF. No, my capsule, you see, is what I think of as a capsule within my wardrobe: it’s my attempt to solve the perennial “I have a closet full of clothes, but nothing to wear!” problem, by making sure that I have all the items I need to get dressed every morning without having to give it too much thought. It was also a way to attempt to really define my personal style by creating a capsule of basics, all of which can be combined to create the retro-inspired look I like, with minimum fuss.

These aren’t the only clothes I wear every week, of course, and they’re definitely not the only clothes I own.  Instead, they’re basically just the building blocks on which the rest of my wardrobe is built: that’s why there’s very little colour, and a lot of the same kinds of style – so that everything works with everything else, and nothing requires too much thought. With these basics – and they are very basic! – in stock, I can go ahead and add in as much colour, print and other ‘fun’ pieces as I want, knowing that at least I’ll always have something to fall back on for those “nothing-to-wear” days.

If this was a real capsule wardrobe, of course, I’d probably have included a bit more variety: I mean, I probably don’t need four striped tops, for instance. This is my actual wardrobe, though (or the “basics” section of it, anyway!) and, as I say, the point of it isn’t to force myself to try and get by on a limited amount of clothing, so I’ve given myself a few different choices, while sticking to the same basic theme, which, in case you haven’t guessed, is a classic/retro palette of black and white, with a splash or red and a LOT of stripes. Oh, and my beloved Hell Bunny cardigans, obviously. Those won’t actually work with every other item in the capsule, but they will work with most of them, and I included them anyway because, well, I actually don’t know how I got dressed before I owned them. No, seriously: what did I wear before I bought those cardigans?

As I said, creating a capsule wardrobe definitely isn’t for everyone, but I’ve found it really useful in helping define my style and starting to work on the old “I have a closet full of prom dresses, but nothing to wear to a casual lunch” problem. As you can see, I haven’t included outerwear, shoes or accessories, all of which can be used to make things a little more interesting, so hopefully these 24 items (excluding the sunglasses!) will keep me going for a while!

(I did my best to try to find images of the actual items for this graphic, but some of them are older and out of stock, so I had to use other images to represent them instead!)

IN THE CAPSULE WARDROBE:

Top Row L-R: Hell Bunny ‘Paloma’ cardigan x 3; Boden cashmere cardigan x 2

2nd row: Boden ‘Marion’ top; Zara stripe top; H&M breton top; H&M tank tops x 2

3rd row: Unique Vintage sunglasses; Collectif ‘Greta’ blouse; Collectif ‘Cordelia’ top; H&M short-sleeve Bardot tops x 2

4th row: Lindybop ‘Tiffany’ dress; H&M stripe t-shirt; H&M white t-shirt; Collectif Alison skirt; Collectif ‘Liesel’ skirt

5th Row: Collectif ‘Bonnie’ trousers; Dorothy Perkins ‘Lyla’ trousers; Collectif ‘Fiona’ skirt x 2; F&F gingham skirt

In conclusion, you COULD call this a “capsule wardrobe”… but you could also call it “the contents of the Collectif website”: either one will work. Also: I like stripes. Can you tell that I like stripes?

Anyone else got a capsule wardrobe? What kind of items you have in it?

Related: Capsule Wardrobes and Style Essentials | Maternity Essentials

19 Comments
  1. Goodness, I can’t think of anything worse than having to limit myself to a capsule wardrobe. What if I need that dress I bought years ago and never had an occasion for until now? I do, however, find that I lack basics in my wardrobe. Everything is patterned or printed, which is generally OK as I like to clash prints but sometimes the more grown-up situations can mean I need a plain top and I don’t tend to have anything suitable.

    1. Me neither – like I said, this is really a capsule within the rest of my wardrobe: I still wear all my other stuff, but I like knowing I have the basics to fall back on!

  2. I’m really into ALL of these skirts (but particularly the two in the second to bottom row) and the trousers you’ve got going on here!
    I pretty much work with a capsule wardrobe anyway because I’ve spent the last 3 years living out of a suitcase for the most part! I usually have to re-pack everything every few months and I always end up with staple favourites that I’ve had forever or replacing one thing for another. It’s such a simpler way to do things!

    1. It really is – I wouldn’t want to restrict myself to JUST these items, but I do keep them separate from the rest of my closet, and it makes life a whole lot easier!

    1. I actually wouldn’t class them as “basics”, because they don’t go with a ton of other stuff – like I said, I don’t have any plans to just to wear the stuff from this capsule, though, so they’re all still there 😉

  3. I count 78 basic (i.e., “I’ve not left the house in my pants”) outfit combinations, not including the cardis, which would, I assume, be a second top layer, not a first, so mileage wise, this is pretty good. A lot of stripes, as you mentioned (i’m a little surprised no dots), a touch chilly for the bleak midwinter, and probably not functional for beach vacations, but as a three-season go-to for don’t-want-to-think-about-clothing-today days (which is what I think people actually do with capsule wardrobes, forget the minimalism battle cries and the exhortation to own only one pair of socks), I really like it. I may emulate it for teaching.

    1. As I said, it’s not supposed to be a restrictive capsule which will work for every single situation, just the basics that I can add things to when needed – like snow days or trips to the beach!

  4. While ‘minimalism’ can be great and life changing for some people, I don’t think that it’s for everyone; some people – like me – really enjoy the variety in their wardrobe! That’s why I don’t get articles that state ‘Declutter NOW! Objects OWN your soul! Just own 40 garments and you’ll see how amazing your life will become!’. I mean, for some people it’s like that, and that’s ok, but for me it could never work; if I were to purge everything from my wardrobe and retain only, say, 50 high-quality basic items, and wear them for months on end, I would end up bored to tears. Also, I like shopping and renovating my wardrobe seasonally (S/S, F/W), so a sensible but small wardrobe is definitely not my cup of tea.
    That said, I really like the idea of a capsule within your own wardrobe! I’ve been working to update my basics (in fact 2 pairs of plain, basic trousers arrived today) and I can honestly say that I’m all set now… To go shopping for nice, particular things now that I have the basics to go with them! 😀

  5. Lately I’ve had trouble getting out the door on time because I’m trying to find pieces of clothing
    to go together. I really need to go through my wardrobe and do this. Thanks for the ideas, Amber!

  6. This is great idea! I’m always trying to build capsule wardrobes because I never have anything to wear but then I’m like “Ooh, lookit this top that go with anything! I must have it.” I love the idea of a capsule within your wardrobe. A framework on which to build a collect of green polka dot skirts…

  7. … But none of it is green…

    I have that too though, a wardrobe within a wardrobe. Actually, I’m so OCD that I have 12 capsule wardrobes (one for each month, but there is overlap between the months for some basic things). I get the best of both worlds, always having something to wear, AND lots of variety. I could probably do 4 (for the seasons), but it sort of grew this way, and I like it!

  8. I love the idea of capsule wardrobes, and I do incorporate some of its guidelines into my closet, but it’s definitely very limiting. Multiple capsules (work, casual, etc) seems much more feasible.

    I think the important thing is finding the right balance between paring down your wardrobe completely and allowing yourself to try out a new piece every now and then. I love buying new clothes as much as the next person, but purchasing does have repercussions not just for me personally (finances + did I really need it) but for other people too (resources and unfair labor used to make something I might not have needed).

    Those are things I weigh on heavily when I want to buy something, so motivating myself to simplify my wardrobe (and my life in general) makes me feel a little better about purchasing something I really, really want occasionally.

  9. I keep trying to do the capsule wardrobe but can’t restrict myself either. I think your idea though of a capsule within your wardrobe is great! X

  10. Your capsule wardrobe reminded me of my Zara basic trousers buried underneath one of the piles of clothes. I’ll dig them out this weekend. I also need more hangers so that I won’t keep stacking up the clothes and totally forget about them.

  11. I have this weird thing (I have SO MANY weird things, really) where when I go to a seaside locale, the beach, the lake, anywhere vaguely nautical, where suddenly I am a very preppy dresser, and my wardrobe is almost entirely red, white and blue, and my accessories are all nautical or straw-based (straw totes, espadrilles). This is very, very different than my workaday wardrobe which is either business casual or sort of edgy/punk rock, with lots and lots of black. On the one hand, sticking with one color palette for swimsuits and coverups and vacation clothes has made it easier to pack for vacation. On the other hand I have this whole, well… capsule wardrobe of clothes that don’t go with the rest of my wardrobe! I feel stupid wearing anchor accessories to the office, and I literally have items that I only wear on vacation. Which seems a bit of a waste of closet space. But, basically I continue buying in this pattern for vacation because it makes things easy. Perhaps I am preparing for the version of my life where I live at the shore and only ever wear vacation-wear.

  12. In reference to the previous mention on this topic, I never said I hated capsule wardrobes, I said I didn’t like boring capsules. I also indicated that yours wasn’t due to the colour and patterns, unlike most of the others I see roving around the net. I like this version

  13. Thank you so much! I am right now rearranging and changing my wardrobe to finally find my own style. These basics are helping me a lot to start fresh and add later on more stuff. 🙂
    Cheers, keep up your great blog

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