I’m sure at some point you’ve heard the phrase ‘capsule wardrobe’ or ‘minimalist wardrobe’. But what’s the difference? How to know which one is for you? Well, today I’m going to explain everything I know about each and share some pieces that will help you start to build a closet that’s functional and timeless.
The more clothes you have, the less you will enjoy them and believe or not, the less outfit options you have too. You can apply minimalism to every aspect of your life, and your closet is a great place to start. After you start downsizing, you’ll free up so much space from your mind that you will want to do it for every aspect of your life. And who knows? Maybe you’ll even sell everything and start living in Airbnb’s full time like me and my husband did last year!
Pin this post! – How to build a minimalist wardrobe
In a hurry? Go straight to the answers you are looking for:
- Why I created a minimalist wardrobe
- What is a minimalist wardrobe?
- What is a capsule wardrobe?
- How to know which one is for you?
- Step by step – How to build a minimalist wardrobe
- Spring capsule wardrobe
- Summer capsule wardrobe
- Fall capsule wardrobe
- Winter capsule wardrobe
- Important things to remember
- Final thoughts
- Related style posts you may also like
Estimated reading time: 15 minutes
How and why I started building a minimalist capsule wardrobe
We had to cut down on our spending at the end of 2017, when we made the decision to travel the world full time (More on that here) and try to make a living while at it. Of course, that meant we had to save a lot of money to give ourselves some time before we could make any real money while traveling.
We had to adjust to the idea of being happy with less things and saving money became a priority to us. I had to create a simple wardrobe for myself and my husband did the same. Let me tell you, it’s the best decision we’ve ever made! I love not having a massive closet. It makes life so much easier.
If you look at my Instagram, you can notice that I wear a lot of the same basic pieces in many different ways and it has a lot to do with the fact that without even noticing, I’ve been building a minimalistic wardrobe for the past 2 years.
Life update in 2021: Last September we sold everything we owned and started living in Airbnb’s full time. We haven’t left for our trip yet, but hopefully we will soon! It’s been 6 months since we started living out of a suitcase and love it!
Let’s start learning about having a minimalist wardrobe VS. a capsule wardrobe.
What is a minimalist wardrobe?
A minimalist wardrobe is a closet filled ONLY with things you love and wear consistently (and it all fits too!). Ideally good quality pieces. It’s pretty simple. Believe it or not, by having less things you free up space in your mind. We experienced this when we sold everything we owned.
Have you ever looked at your closet and said the words ‘I have nothing to wear’? This is exactly what we want to avoid by building a minimalist wardrobe.
What is a capsule wardrobe?
A capsule wardrobe is even smaller than a minimalist wardrobe. I’d say your whole closet can be minimalistic (100 pieces or so) and you can have seasonal capsule wardrobes (25 pieces per season).
I don’t have just one capsule wardrobe yet, but it is my goal to get there one day.
I created a list of 25 pieces to build a Summer Capsule wardrobe and a list of 25 pieces to build a Capsule Wardrobe for Fall. I think that’s a good start. I plan to have two different capsule wardrobes (no more than 50 pieces total) and I’ll get creative using all of those pieces all year round. I can call it maybe a minimalist capsule wardrobe? LOL who cares!? I’ve sort been doing it already because I have been living out of a suitcase for the past 8 months, but I need to get it together and make a final post about it!
How to know which one is for you?
This depends on what you want to achieve. Today, I can confidently say that I have a SMALL minimalist wardrobe and not ONE capsule. My goal one day is to only have 40-50 pieces and that’s it, but I must confess I’m not there just yet.
You have to sit down and think about what you want. Where you live also plays a big role. If you live in a 4 season city, it’s unrealistic to spend the whole year with only 30 pieces of clothing, unless you always want to wear the same things. Which is fine too. You just have to sit down and think about what would make you happy.
If you work from home permanently and live in a place like South Florida, then by all means I think it’s possible to build a capsule wardrobe and look cute throughout the year without looking the same every day.
So think about your lifestyle, personality, what you want to achieve and work from there. What matters is that you start owning things that fit you, that you use all the time and if possible, were made ethically (Check out my ethical brand clothing guide here).
How to build a minimalist wardrobe? – Step by Step
Step 1 – Go through your closet (all of it!)
This is where it all starts. Please don’t go out there and shop for anything just yet.
If you can, take everything out of your closet and lay all your stuff on your bed. Create piles of all the different categories. Here are some ideas:
- Tops (t-shirts, casual, going out, long sleeves, short sleeve, sleeveless, turtle necks, button downs, etc)
- Bottoms (work pants, comfy pants, denim, shorts, skirts, sweatpants, etc)
- Dresses (cocktail dresses, casual, sweater dresses, button downs, beach cover ups, etc)
- Jackets & Outerwear (blazers, coats, raincoats, moto jackets, casual jackets, etc)
- Activewear (tops, leggings, shorts, hoodies, etc)
- Sweaters (statement sweaters, crewnecks, V-necks, for going out, hoodies)
- Shoes (heels, boots, flats, sandals, sneakers, etc)
- Accessories (jewelry, hats, scarves, tights, bags, etc)
- Bathing suits
- Intimates (Underwear, bras, socks, workout tops, sleepwear, etc)
*I’m linking some of my favorite sustainable brands for each type of piece. If you click on it it will take you to their site and you can browse some VERY CUTE options. This should be your last resource JUST IN CASE you need to shop for something.
Step 2 – Get even more specific:
You can get as specific as you want. It will depend on how many things you have.
Lets say you have all your tops together right? Then break them into even more specific categories (T-shirts, dress tops, long sleeves, short sleeves, etc). This will help you visualize what you have of each piece. Do you really need 6 black t-shirts? Nope.
Do this for everything. You don’t need more than one of the same piece. In some rare cases with really basic pieces, you can have a couple of options. For example, I wear a lot of white t-shirts, so I decided to keep 3 (I should have just 2). I wouldn’t do this for anything else. In most cases, you only need one of each.
This is the not so fun part, but you have to get picky! After Step 2, you’ll be able to easily visualize the type of clothes you have a lot of and how many. Ask yourself these questions in order to decide if you’ll keep it or not:
- Is it outdated? If it’s from a weird trend from 5 years ago, please say bye to it.
- Is it in good shape? Check every piece for stains and how the fabric looks like.
- Is it flattering on you? If you are not sure, try it on. Does it work for your body shape?
- Can you style in different ways?
- Is it a high quality piece?
- Can you wear it for most seasons? Ideally you should be able to style it for all 4 seasons if you are creative. 3 seasons is a good number too.
- When was the last time you wore it? If it’s been more than a year, then you don’t like it that much.
- Did you know that particular piece existed in your closet? If the answer is no, get rid of it. You’ll survive.
- Does it fit?
Keep in mind that your lifestyle and your personal taste will help you decide if it’s a yes or a no.
Step 3 – Get rid of the things that no longer fit
I know from experience this is a tricky one. But please, think about the things that don’t fit you. Are they goal pieces or are you just keeping them because one day they will fit you? There’s a difference.
Goal pieces are those $300 jeans you bought one time and it’s been 2 years since they last fit. Keep those and 2-3 more. That’s it.
If it’s a fast fashion item that you wore 5+ years ago and doesn’t fit, then definitely get rid of it.
Be honest with yourself. I wouldn’t try to fit into something I wore in my early 20’s you know? It’s been a while.
After you pick your 2-3 goal pieces, try them on and see how far or close you are from your goal. Put them somewhere visible and make a plan to make your goal a reality. Otherwise, it will stay collecting dust in your closet and taking some serious space off your mind.
What to do with the things you get rid of?
I usually donate everything. But if you have expensive and high quality pieces that are in good shape, try to sell them to your local thrift store or on ThredUp. They make it super easy! It’s not a bad way to make some extra cash.
Minimalist wardrobe essentials
Now I’m going to share some basic pieces you can start with. I organized them by season. I’m also sharing some looks to show you how much you can do with some of them.
Notice that I’m mix & matching the pieces too. Pay attention to the looks.
I’m using a lot of the same pieces for different seasons as well. Please keep in mind that these photos are from the past 4-5 years. So, if you see that I have 3 different bags, it doesn’t mean you need 3 bags, it means I had each of those bags at different times, because you do replace/update things with time. These are just for inspiration. You’ll still see a lot of the pieces on repeat. For example: denim jacket, some dresses and white sneakers.
Spring Capsule wardrobe
- 3-5 T-shirts
- 2-3 versatile dresses
- 1 pair of comfy/casual pants
- A Denim Jacket
- One Long cardigan
- 1 pair of White Sneakers
- 1 pair of Espadrille Wedges
- White denim
- Chambray shirt
- Trench coat
- Spanx Leggings
Summer Capsule Wardrobe (25 pieces)
- 3 plain t-shirts
- 2 button down shirts
- 1 denim jacket (Also read: 70+ outfits with a jean jacket for every season)
- 1 long cardigan
- 1 long vest
- 1 cami (printed one)
- 1 going out top
- 2 pair of shorts
- 1 mini/shorter skirt
- 1 midi OR maxi skirt
- 1 pair white jeans or pants
- 1 pair of Jeans
- 1 pair of chic/comfy pants
- 1 black dress
- 1 printed dress
- 1 other color of your choice
- 1 jumpsuit
- 1 beach cover-up
- White sneakers
- Slide sandals
- Espadrilles or sandals (neutral color)
- 1 Flannel Shirt
- 3-4 sweaters (make sure they are different from each other)
- 1 going out top or sweater
- 2 Long Cardigans (How to wear a long cardigan)
- 1 Moto Jacket
- 1 Faux Fur Vest
- 1 Puffer Vest
- 1 Coat or Trench
- 1 Blazer
- A good pair of jeans or cords
- Black skinny jeans
- 1 Midi Skirt (More midi skirt outfits here)
- 1 Faux Leather Skirt (more leather skirt outfit ideas)
- 1 Maxi Skirt
- Spanx Leggings
- 1 Sweater dress
- 1 going our dress of your choice
- 1 pair of casual booties
- 1 pair of going out booties or OTK boots
- Rain Boots
- 1 Hat
- 1 Scarf
Winter Capsule Wardrobe
- A nice coat (yes, you only need one)
- Faux Fur Vest
- A sweater dress
- Flanel shirt
- Snow boots
- OTK boots
*Note: A lot of the Fall pieces and outfits you can also wear for Winter. Just need to add warmer boots, a hat and a coat.
Things to remember about building a capsule/minimalist wardrobe
As you can see, you don’t need to add 20-30 pieces to each season. With just a few intentional add-ons a couple of times a year you will be just fine. The same sweaters you wear for Spring, you can wear for Fall & Winter too. A denim jacket, LBD or black skinny jeans you’ll wear all year round. Same for shoes. You can wear a good pair of white sneakers all year round.
Again, remember that these photos are just for inspiration. They were taken in the past 5 years, so if the black booties are different it just means that that was the version of black booties I had in the moment. I’ve changed the style once I replace them.
So, now go and check your closet. Check which of the pieces I mentioned above you already have and try them on. Keep what fits and get rid of what doesn’t.
All of these piece together make your minimalist wardrobe.
Final thoughts about minimalist wardrobes…
As I said before, a decent minimalist wardrobe would contain around 100 pieces (MAX!) for all seasons (if you live in a city with 4 seasons). If the weather where you live is nice (lucky you!) there are so many of these you can skip. Once you’ve built your closet with all these basics, you’ll see the benefits of having less stuff.
Ideally, you would refresh your closet a couple times a year by intentionally adding 4-5 new pieces (yes that’s it!), and these would usually be tops and dresses (Maybe a pair of pants/shorts). Remember that if you buy high quality pieces (they don’t have to be expensive!), they will last you for multiple seasons and since they are so classic, I promise you, they will never go out of style.
Hope this post helps you to build a minimalist wardrobe and one day maybe even a capsule. I hope you are able to make better choices next time you have to shop for something, it doesn’t mean you have to get rid of everything you own. Remember that by having less things you are helping the planet, you’ll shop less (which means saving money for traveling and important stuff!) and it will be less difficult to make the decision of ‘what to wear’ every single day.
Simplify your life. I assure you will be a lot happier with less.
PS: Some direct links to my favorite sustainable stores are detailed above (at the beginning of the post). If you want more, check out my ethical brand clothing guide. In that blog post I detail all my favorite sustainable brands and they are organized by category.
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Related posts you may also like:
- How to build a Summer capsule wardrobe with just 25 pieces
- How to build your own capsule wardrobe for Fall (25 pieces)
- A 7-item capsule wardrobe checklist + 25 outfit ideas from our 3-month trip to Turkey!
- How to create a capsule wardrobe for travel
- Sustainable brands organized by category – Your ethical clothing brand shopping guide
- More outfit Inspo for basic pieces:
- Spanx Leggings review + how to style them
- Outfit Ideas for the office
- How to wear a white tshirt
- What to wear with leather Leggings
- How to style a black dress.
- How to style white jeans
- How to wear a long cardigan
- How to wear a sweater dress
- How to style a white blazer – 10 stylish white blazer outfits for 2021
- What to wear on a first date (or for every type of date night)