The Three Kinds of Capsule Wardrobe

what to wear?
and I still have nothing to wear…

I’ve already mentioned that I have a cold, and am flat-out (like a lizard drinking) trying to get my book Build Your Signature Wardrobe finished so just a very quick post today to share what I have learned about the three kinds of capsule wardrobe. That is, that there is more than one kind of capsule wardrobe, but they are all confusingly called capsule.

1. a small set of themed clothes

This concept has also been described as a “clothing cluster” or a “clothing unit”, and is the approach used by Imogen Lamport’s Inside Out Style. This method offers you the option of creating a large and varied wardrobe over time, and depending on how you put them together, each one offers the start of the next. In general, each cluster contains five to twelve garments plus accessories in colours that flatter you and can be mixed and matched to create a number of outfits. It is not necessary that each garment matches every other garment, but it should work with at least three others. Some advocates specify exactly how you should put them together, and tell you that this nine piece capsule comprising three jackets, four bottoms (skirt and/or pant) and two tops will create 41 outfits. Once you have completed your first cluster, you can start building a second in a different colour combination. According to the limits of your budget, and need for variety you could create a completely new and separate cluster, build a semi-separate cluster from one or two garments in your first, or expand your existing capsule by incorporating another colour.

2. the basis of your wardrobe

This is a small collection of good quality garments that will meet your daily needs for the next four or five years. It has variants in the “ten item wardrobe” advocated by Jennifer Scott , or if you are hard-core the “five item wardrobe”. This small number tends to freak people out a bit, but you could think of these items as being like your family, with your other pieces (extras) being your friends – if chosen well, your friends will fit in with your family for a long time. In reality your X item wardrobe will be as big or small as you need. For example, a capsule of three bottoms, three dresses and four tops (or three pants and seven tops for men) will be supplemented by your extras – more undergarments, outerwear, shoes, other accessories and evening wear. Or if you prefer to wash your clothes once a fortnight you might prefer six bottoms, six dresses and eight tops. Some advocates specify exactly what should be in it down to shoes and accessories, it’s up to you to pick which version works for you.

3. your complete wardrobe

This is more of a minimalist approach as exemplified in approaches like Courtney Carver’s Project 333. While I call this a minimalist approach, it is minimalist in the sense of a small collection of clothes, not in the sense of clothes that are plain or neutral. This approach requires that each garment is carefully considered according to its appropriateness and stylishness. You would only buy it if you really loved it and were prepared to take such good care of it that it would make you happy for a long time.

My Combination Approach

I don’t see why you can’t take a combination of these approaches and make them work for you – if you have summer and winter clothes you are already doing it to an extent anyway. You still need to plan your main wardrobe, whether that’s minimalist or X items, but why not develop an outerwear cluster, or evening wear, or sportswear, or whatever it is that is significant for you?   How do you build your wardrobe?


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