fashion

How To Build A Capsule Wardrobe And Banish Outfit Anxiety Forever

05/01/23

Author: Courtney Kruk

DOCUMENTED BY: ESSE STUDIOS

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Our style sensibilities have changed. We’re consuming less, making more informed purchasing decisions and reassessing our relationships with our wardrobes.

This has seen us shift away from fast fashion and throwaway trends. We’re less impulsive and more considerate, treating our wardrobes as lifelong companions, rather than short-term flings. (What can we say? We’ve matured.)  

This maturation has given us the chance to celebrate great style and define a personal look. It has also steered us in the direction of one slightly elusive, but highly relevant, concept: the capsule wardrobe.  

What is a capsule wardrobe?

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Documented By: Arnsdorf

What is a capsule wardrobe?

The concept of a capsule wardrobe dates back to the 1970s and was first introduced by wardrobe consultant and author Susie Faux. At the time, she had noticed people “were spending far too many resources on multiple fashion items that weren’t well-made, didn’t fit right, and would likely be out of season by the following year”. Frustrated by these impracticalities, she came up with the capsule wardrobe to hero essential, high-quality pieces that could stand the test of time.   

It would take another decade for the idea to really enter the mainstream. Designer Donna Karan ushered in the shift with her iconic collection Seven Easy Pieces. These now seminal garments were designed to be interchangeable; able to be worn together and separately to create different looks and outfits.   

Over 40 years later, the Seven Easy Pieces collection is still viewed as a fashion ideal. It’s come to define the notion of a capsule wardrobe: prizing functionality, quality, wearability, timelessness and mindful consumption above crashing trends.   

What a capsule wardrobe can do for the environment

This is all great from a fashion (and time-saving) point of view. But, increasingly, capsule wardrobes have also been celebrated for the role they can play in reducing the fashion industry’s harsh environmental impact.  

For starters, the whole movement is an antithesis to trends. You’re looking for timeless, seasonless, long-term investments – not the latest item to be replicated by every second retailer at the shops.  

Secondly, the strong focus on high-quality garments acts as a deterrence to buying cheap, poorly made clothes. There’s no point in adding a piece to your capsule collection that will wear quickly or is likely to be discarded. It’s all about finding items that will last and hold enough personal value to be repaired or altered, should the need arise. It’s worth noting that, since these items are designed to be bought once, you might end up paying more upfront. But remember, investing in quality will save you more money in the long term and will give you the freedom to shop with brands whose values align with yours.   

How to build a sustainable capsule wardrobe

Clean out your closet

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Documented By: Fredric

How to build a sustainable capsule wardrobe

Clean out your closet

Let’s face it, you’re probably overdue for a bit of a wardrobe audit. Before you start adding anything to your capsule collection, work out what you’ve already got and cleanse your closet of the things you no longer wear. It will also help you figure out what you need to invest in. Our editor-in-chief recently wrote an excellent guide on how to tackle this mammoth task.  

Get reacquainted with your style

You probably already know what you like wearing and what looks good on you. But life rarely remains stagnant: perhaps you’ve started a new job that requires different clothes or your body has changed over the last few years. Or maybe you just feel like shaking things up. Before you start building your collection, spend some time really considering your style and picturing the kinds of things you want in your wardrobe in 10, 20 or even 30 years time. Though we’ve highlighted that circumstances can change, when it comes to a capsule collection, try to put a long-term lens on each item. What do you see your future self wearing? That vintage Burberry trench? Yes. That low-rise revival skirt? Probably not.   

Finding visual style references can simplify this step. Screenshot photos, make a collage, start a Pinterest board – really map out what your capsule wardrobe (and you) will look like.   

Actually do some planning

The closet audit should have revealed what is missing from your capsule wardrobe, so now is the time to map out what you need to source. There’s no fixed number of items to have in a capsule wardrobe; some put a number around 30 while others go as high as 50. (And let’s not forget Donna Karan nailed her capsule collection with just seven pieces.) Be More with Less founder Courtney Carver created a minimalist fashion challenge called Project 333 which encourages participants to choose 33 different items to wear during three-month periods (so a seasonal capsule wardrobe). This approach has been popular, but it’s really an individual decision. Your lifestyle, your activities and the seasons where you live should give you an idea of the quantity you actually need.   

Don’t be afraid to wreak organisational havoc on this step: write lists, break your wardrobe into categories (work, events and going out) and itemise garment types (pants, jeans, jackets, shirts, etc.). Some pre-planning here will make it easier when the time comes to start shopping as you will know what you’re looking for, in what colours and in what style.   

Look for brands doing good and shop second-hand

If you’re buying new items, we suggest first finding brands you like and want to shop with. We’ll suggest a few at the end of this article that have passed our climate credentials and are doing good for the planet.  

One of the things that you might not realise is that brands lowering their environmental impact tend to design timeless, seasonless garments – excellent for capsule wardrobe building. They also tend to use higher quality materials that are better for the environment and the longevity of your clothes (think organic cotton and linen).   

Your capsule wardrobe absolutely doesn’t need to be filled with new clothes though. Second-hand stores and online vintage accounts are bursting with things like blazers, jackets, suit pants and designer pieces. They also do well to highlight styles and pieces that have never gone out of fashion, which is exactly what you want for your capsule wardrobe. If you’ve put in the hard yards during the planning stages, the preloved search will also be much easier as you’ll know exactly what you’re after.   

Take your capsule wardrobe for a test drive

Once you’ve built your capsule wardrobe, spend some time experimenting with outfits. See how your new staple pieces work or can be styled differently. Take photos, create new looks and model outfit options for your housemates. This will also help future you fight decision fatigue and the stress of getting dressed because you’ll already be familiar with your capsule wardrobe and the items you want to wear for all sorts of occasions. 

Get your capsule wardrobe started with...

THE DRESS

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Tulip Dress

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Eucalyptus Tie Front Midi Dress

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Marta Mini Dress

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Kaspara Dress

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Valdis Dress

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Tulip Dress

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Valdis Dress

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THE SHIRT

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Dominique Silk Shirt

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Dominique Silk Shirt

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Vago Unisex Shirt

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Alice Shirt

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Jane Shirt

Jillian Boustred

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Relaxed Long Sleeve Silk Hemp Shirt

Olga Joan

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Relaxed Long Sleeve Silk Hemp Shirt

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Loopa Silk Shirt

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Luna Bra Shirt

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Cruise Shirt

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Linka Silk Shirt

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Evie Scarf Shirt

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Linka Short Sleeve Silk Shirt

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Classic Silk Satin Shirt

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Classic Silk Shirt

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Classic Silk Shirt

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Classic Sheer Silk Shirt

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Organic Cotton Shirt

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Organic Cotton Shirt

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Long Sleeve Silk Shirt

Olga Joan

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Long Sleeve Silk Shirt

Olga Joan

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Jane Shirt

Jillian Boustred

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Flametree Backless Shirt

Madre Natura

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Relaxed Long Sleeve Silk Shirt

Olga Joan

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Relaxed Long Sleeve Silk Shirt

Olga Joan

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Poppy Shirt

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Everyday Shirt

Kowtow

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June Shirt

UNIKSPACE

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Elvis Shirt

Fredric

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Dominique Silk Shirt

Hyde & Stone

Dominique Silk Shirt

Hyde & Stone

Vago Unisex Shirt

OpéraSPORT

Alice Shirt

OpéraSPORT

Jane Shirt

Jillian Boustred

Oscar Oversized Cotton Poplin Shirt

UNIKSPACE

Relaxed Long Sleeve Silk Hemp Shirt

Olga Joan

Relaxed Long Sleeve Silk Hemp Shirt

Olga Joan

Loopa Silk Shirt

Esse Studios

Luna Bra Shirt

Jillian Boustred

Cruise Shirt

TERRY

Linka Silk Shirt

Esse Studios

Evie Scarf Shirt

Esse Studios

Linka Short Sleeve Silk Shirt

Esse Studios

Classic Silk Satin Shirt

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Classic Silk Shirt

SAINT

Classic Silk Shirt

SAINT

Classic Sheer Silk Shirt

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Organic Cotton Shirt

SAINT

Organic Cotton Shirt

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Long Sleeve Silk Shirt

Olga Joan

Long Sleeve Silk Shirt

Olga Joan

Jane Shirt

Jillian Boustred

Flametree Backless Shirt

Madre Natura

Relaxed Long Sleeve Silk Shirt

Olga Joan

Relaxed Long Sleeve Silk Shirt

Olga Joan

Poppy Shirt

Kowtow

Everyday Shirt

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June Shirt

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Elvis Shirt

Fredric

THE T-SHIRT

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THE SKIRT

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Wray Skirt

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Bella Skirt

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Wray Skirt

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THE JEANS

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Wide Jean

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Wide Jean

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THE TROUSER

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Delphi Drawstring Pant

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Linka Silk Pants

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Knit Pant

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Classico Waist Tailored Trouser

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Knit Pant

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Silk Pant

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Eclipse Pant

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Drawstring Silk Pant

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Drawstring Silk Pant

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Drawstring Silk Pant

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Astral Pant

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Astral Pant

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Di Morra Silk Pant

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Ida Pant

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Ida Pant

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Ida Pant

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Eclipse Pant

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Wide Jean

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Rune Pants

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Jonathan Pant

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Jonathan Pant

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Wide Track Pant

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Slim Track Pant

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Slim Track Pant

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Wide Track Pant

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Wide Track Pant

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Slim Track Pant

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Relaxed Hemp Lounge Pant

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Hemp Jersey Lounge Pant

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Hemp Jersey Lounge Pant

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Capri Pant

TERRY

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Stella Trouser

Jillian Boustred

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Studio Trouser

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Classico Silk Pants

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Zoe Silk Pant

Dominique Healy

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Tailored Pant

SAINT

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Audrey Trouser

Hyde & Stone

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Delphi Drawstring Pant

BONDI BORN

Linka Silk Pants

Esse Studios

Knit Pant

BEIJE

Classico Waist Tailored Trouser

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Knit Pant

BEIJE

Knit Pant

BEIJE

Silk Pant

SAINT

Eclipse Pant

Del Villar

Drawstring Silk Pant

Olga Joan

Drawstring Silk Pant

Olga Joan

Drawstring Silk Pant

Olga Joan

Astral Pant

Del Villar

Astral Pant

Del Villar

Di Morra Silk Pant

UNIKSPACE

Ida Pant

UNIKSPACE

Ida Pant

UNIKSPACE

Ida Pant

UNIKSPACE

Eclipse Pant

Del Villar

Wide Jean

Arnsdorf

Rune Pants

UNIKSPACE

Jonathan Pant

UNIKSPACE

Jonathan Pant

UNIKSPACE

Wide Track Pant

JH Lounge

Slim Track Pant

JH Lounge

Slim Track Pant

JH Lounge

Wide Track Pant

JH Lounge

Wide Track Pant

JH Lounge

Slim Track Pant

JH Lounge

Relaxed Hemp Lounge Pant

Olga Joan

Hemp Jersey Lounge Pant

Olga Joan

Hemp Jersey Lounge Pant

Olga Joan

Capri Pant

TERRY

Stella Trouser

Jillian Boustred

Studio Trouser

Jillian Boustred

Classico Silk Pants

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Zoe Silk Pant

Dominique Healy

Tailored Pant

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Audrey Trouser

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THE JUMPER

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Crew Sweater

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Luxe Hoodie

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Crew Sweater

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Crew Sweater

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Crew Sweater

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Luxe Hoodie

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Crew Sweater

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THE BLAZER

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