How to Build a Capsule Wardrobe: 10 Timeless Items That Will Last a Lifetime

Mix and match your way to a wearable wardrobe.
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If you’ve found yourself sitting in front of your overflowing wardrobe, uttering the immortal words, “I have nothing to wear,” you’re not alone. It seems the only people who don’t suffer this are those with a capsule wardrobe.

According to data from True Fit, Brits amass a whopping £32,000 of unworn clothing over a lifetime.

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Even as a stylist, I’ve struggled with what to wear when faced with the items hanging in my closet.

How to build a capsule wardrobe

Over the years I’ve played with trends, celebrity style inspiration, what’s on the catwalk and in the shops, but without fail, I’ve always returned to my old favourites – those go-to pieces that I know will make me feel stylish, happy and comfortable without even thinking about it.

My capsule wardrobe, which I admit has taken me years to perfect, has saved me on many occasions, such as rushed mornings, days when I feel unsure about what to wear, and when I simply don’t want to think about the way I’m dressed but know it’s important to look my best.

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What is a capsule wardrobe?

A term coined in the 1940s and then revisited in the 70s and 80s, the capsule wardrobe is a collection of undateable pieces working together in harmony that can be mixed and matched to create multiple outfits.

Why everyone needs a capsule wardrobe 

Saving you time, money and effort, the capsule wardrobe simplifies the way you dress without compromising on style.

Once you have the basics you can begin to build the looks that will give you the confidence to get dressed without having to think too hard about looking good in what you wear.

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How to build a capsule wardrobe

Choosing your colour palette is key to creating the foundations of your capsule wardrobe.

Aim for one or two base colours such as white, black, grey, brown or navy, adding accessories in accent colours to give depth to your looks.

Buying quality over quantity will help increase the lifespan of your pieces. Look for well cut items made from durable fabrics that will keep their shape and wearability.

This doesn’t have to mean buying designer. There are many high street brands that pride themselves on the quality of their clothing that won’t cost you a fortune.

Stick to classic shapes and prints. The capsule wardrobe can always be updated with trend led extras, but the key is to have a stylish core collection of pieces that can be updated when needed but never date.

10 Must-Have Pieces For a Capsule Wardrobe

It doesn’t take much to create multiple looks with just 10 key pieces.

With a little mixing and matching, you’ll be amazed at how many outfits you can create with so few items.

The Trench Coat 

Worn over an evening dress at night, teamed with trainers and jeans at the weekend or draped over suiting for work this iconic coat, the trench coat is one of the most reliable items you’ll ever own.

First designed by Aquascutum in the 1850s and recreated by designers everywhere, it has the versatility to be worn for every occasion, making it an item worth investing in.

Relaxed beige belted trench coat from & Other Stories

Relaxed Trench Coat, £135, & Other Stories – buy now

The White Shirt

The white shirt is a great base layer for both work and play.

Worn buttoned up under a blazer for smarter wear or slightly open with jeans for a more casual affair, the white shirt is invaluable to the capsule wardrobe.

Crisp white oversized shirt from Marks & Spencer

Shirt, £25, M&S Collection at Marks & Spencer – buy now

Blazer

Whether it’s oversized or tailored, the blazer will add an air of sophistication to your outfit in seconds.

Double breast black blazer with gold buttons rom Zara

Blazer, £59.99, Zara – buy now

Knitwear

From polo necks to pullovers, wearing knitwear is a great way to add depth to your look.

Polo necks look stylish under open or closed shirts or on their own.

Cute cardies and fine knit v-necks are also a great way to layer and add warmth in the winter months.

Whichever one you choose, make sure to keep it tonal for an effortless way to mix and match.

Soft grep roll neck jumper from Reiss

Roll neck jumper, £98, Reiss – buy now

The Skirt

It’s important to find a style that not only suits you, but you feel comfortable in when looking for skirts.

Some may opt for their legs being the focus and wear a short skirt, those with hourglass figures will love the pencil skirt, and for many it’s the midi. Once you’ve found your perfect shape, the rest will simply fall into place.

Brown pleated midi skirt from H&M

Skirt, £29.99, H&M – buy now

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Dress

Aim for a mix of statement and subtlety when it comes to picking your capsule wardrobe dress. This stand out piece still needs to work with the others.

If a structured shape is your preference, try and keep it simple when it comes to print and texture.

If a more relaxed fit is your preferred style choice, play around with details but always keep colour and tone in mind.

Black sleeveless midi dress from COS

Dress, £79, COS – buy now

T-shirt

This all-year-round favourite is the simplest of the capsule wardrobe.

Keep it smart casual under a blazer, jeans and trainers, or super chic worn slightly on show under a shirt.

White cap sleeved t shirt from All Saints

T-shirt, £37, All Saints – buy now

Jeans

Denim will never date as long as you find the fit and colour that’s right for your style.

Perfect with a blazer, über cool with trainers or oh-so-90s worn with a white shirt, the denim jean is your fashion best friend for life.

Hi Rise skinny jeans from Levis

Jeans, £95, Levi’s – buy now

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Bright White Trainers

With so many trainers on the market, it can sometimes become overwhelming but you will never go wrong with a bright white trainer.

They look great with everything: trousers suits, a midi skirt, summer dress, jeans, you name it, the white trainer will be the perfect fit.

Bright white lace up trainers from Kurt Geiger

Trainers, £119, Kurt Geiger – buy now 

Block Heel Boot

The comfiest of heels, the block heel boot is a step in the right direction.

Worn with skirts or trousers, day or night, this sturdy staple can be worn all year round.

Block heel black ankle from River Island

Boots, £58, River Island – buy now