How to Build Your Capsule Wardrobe This Year

If you spend as much time on Pinterest as I do, you’ve probably heard of capsule wardrobes: the narrowed down selection of products designed to help you shop and dress smarter. I was intrigued by the idea of putting more planning into my wardrobe but I wasn’t sure if I could handle the limitations.

I recently took off on a five-week work trip to Egypt and I was forced to pack the bare essentials. I stuck to versatile separates that could be mixed and matched into a smorgasbord of combinations. The contents of my suitcase literally took me from plane to factory, to a trip to the opera. I realized that the limitations were actually empowering, and that the lack of choice made me dress better. I was hooked and ready to make this philosophy part of my daily life. The thing is, there’s no perfect formula. Back home in Canada, having four coats in my capsule (including an incredibly warm vintage fur) is deemed necessary.

The trick is to pick what works for you and edit ruthlessly.

Here are a few tips for creating your own capsule wardrobe, and my example capsule that I’ve put together.

Step 1: Reference

Whether I’m designing a new collection at work, buying furniture for my apartment, or working on re-defining my style, pulling reference images is always the first step. Go to Pinterest or Instagram and start saving images of outfits that you like. It’s usually easiest to plan based on a season, so try to narrow your image search to what is relevant. For me, this would be casual work attire, hanging out with friends and family on the weekends, girls night/date night, and holiday events. Try dividing up your reference images into the different categories.

Step 2: Wardrobe Refresh

If you’re thinking about adopting this mentality, you are probably interested in developing your personal style and shopping more sustainably, so editing your existing wardrobe is important. Start by donating anything that you no longer or rarely wear. With things that are harder to part with, look at your reference images and see if those items fit within your new aesthetic.

Once you’ve cleared out items into the donation pile, pull out your old faithfuls: your favorite pieces that you wear most often. These pieces will form the all-season core of your wardrobe.

Think about color palettes and layer in favorite season-specific items. Again, look back at your references and see what colors you gravitate towards, and try to pull out items from your own wardrobe that fit within that. For this winter, I went with accents of warm camels, creams, and pops of red.

Bring items to the cobbler or tailor that need to be repaired. This is an essential part of keeping a sustainable wardrobe. Investing in quality items and making sure that you take care of them from season to season.


Step 3: Wishlist

I think a thoughtful wishlist is the most important tool in helping you shop smart. After analyzing what you already have in your closet, think about what might be missing, or what new pieces you might want to add to your wardrobe. If you are more intentional about what you want to purchase, avoid that impulse Zara buy. This also helps me to make smarter choices about investment pieces. If I find something I love, I will add it to a Pinterest wishlist and then re-visit it a week later to see if I still feel the same way about it.

It’s important when building a sustainable wardrobe to focus on investing in well-made items that will last longer.

Purchase pieces that will last from season to season without going out of style. Look to second-hand items made of high-quality materials. It’s also important with these investment pieces to have them tailored and professionally cleaned (try “wet cleaning” instead of “dry cleaning”!) to get the longest life out of them.

Accessories are the best way to add flair to a minimalist wardrobe. Think about colors that pop but are still neutral in what palettes they can sit with, like reds, cognacs, and dark greens. Animal prints can also be great neutrals and automatically make your look more stylish.

Step 4: Outfit Planning

You can plan outfits by trying on and photographing them or doing digital layouts. I like to just snap a selfie in the mirror before going out when I find an outfit I like. That way when I snooze my alarm and wake up having no idea what to wear, I can go through my phone and find an outfit to repeat.

As a busy entrepreneur, simplifying certain areas of my life has helped me to have some peace of mind. I’m inundated with hundreds of decisions to make every day, so limiting choices in my wardrobe is a way to keep my decision fatigue at bay. If you plan correctly, creating capsule wardrobe can make rushed mornings easier, and help you shop, dress, and pack more sustainably.


Mackenzie Yeates

Mackenzie Yeates is the Co-Founder and Creative Director of Kotn, a direct-trade premium clothing brand ethically made in Egypt from authentic Egyptian cotton. Mackenzie started her career in Fashion Direction and Brand Strategy at Holt Renfrew before moving to New York to work as Brand Director at luxury creative agency, Watson & Co.