Understanding The Capsule Wardrobe Trend

Capsule wardrobes are wildly popular right now and for good reason. What began as a niche practice has been pushed into the spotlight alongside Marie Kondo’s decluttering guide and a general minimalist aesthetic. What is this phenomenon that keeps the fashion industry reeling?

It all started when wardrobe consultant and author Susie Faux coined the capsule wardrobe concept in the 1970s due to her frustration with the lack of well-made clothing. (Sound familiar?) Then, a decade later, the idea went mainstream when designer Donna Karan created the first capsule collection, called ”Seven Easy Pieces.”

“The idea was to create a capsule wardrobe that features only the most essential or influential pieces from a collection,” explains Business of Fashion. “[It] is essentially a condensed version of a designer’s vision, often limited edition, which transcends [fashion] seasons and trends by being functional.”

A More Sustainable Way To Think About Clothing

Capsule wardrobes are about personal style, but they are also a more mindful and sustainable way to think about clothing. Fast fashion and our consumerist culture have tricked us into believing that we must own everything, and the result is a stuffed closet full of clothes that we may never wear.

Capsule wardrobes push us to think more about whether we truly need each piece in our closet.

While capsule collections originally produced an air of exclusivity and a designer’s artistic expression, most of the individuals who have now become capsule wardrobe experts got into the game because they are tired of “decision fatigue,” and also because they want to be more sustainable.

Capsule wardrobes push us to think more about whether we truly need each piece in our closet. Buy less, wear more, and find high-quality—that’s the motto here. And one of the early adopters of this method, Caroline Joy of Unfancy, describes the concept this way:

“[A capsule wardrobe is] a practice of editing your wardrobe down to your favorite clothes (clothes that fit your lifestyle + body right now), remixing them regularly, and shopping less often and more intentionally.”

Because that’s what this practice really comes down to. Capsule wardrobes are all about practicing mindfulness and intention when it comes to shopping for clothes. When we really consider what we need (and how much we need), the process slows down and becomes much more conscious.

How To Create Your Capsule Wardrobe

Now that you know the history and the why behind creating a capsule wardrobe, let’s go over how to build one. To help us out, I’ve enlisted the help of Courtney Carver of Be More With Less. She’s made intentional shopping her mission through her own journey with capsule wardrobes and now helps others in their own journeys.

There’s no right or wrong way to start a capsule of your own.

She has even gone a step further and created an outline called Project 333™, which urges participants to choose 33 different items to wear during three-month increments.

Project 333 focuses on seasonal capsule wardrobes instead of an overall minimalist lifestyle. Carver suggests picking 33 items (yes, including shoes, accessories, and jewelry) for spring, summer, fall, and winter. This type of capsule wardrobe helps to declutter your life and encourages intentional styling throughout each season.

Of course, this doesn’t work for every region, so be mindful of what you actually need based on your climate and lifestyle. Los Angeles, for example, has maybe two seasons (sweltering and less sweltering), so one larger capsule wardrobe and a smaller “winter” one could be implemented in place of the three-month practice.

Not ready to completely overhaul your wardrobe? That’s okay, too! Lee Vosburgh of Style Bee created the popular 10×10 Challenge™, helpful for dipping your toes into capsule wardrobe waters. The challenge consists of 10 days and 10 items (not including accessories), and Lee breaks it down so you can easily try out a minimalist wardrobe. She hopes to inspire her readers to have fun and not “take it too seriously!”

Finally, remember that your clothing is for you—even if you parse it down. Personal style allows us to find confidence in ourselves.

Finally, remember that your clothing is for you—even if you parse it down. Personal style allows us to find confidence in ourselves. Capsule wardrobes may seem like they only include a minimalist aesthetic full of neutrals, clean lines, and simple patterns—but that doesn’t have to be the case. There are no rules for what you can and can’t wear!

Take Elizabeth Cline, author of ”Overdressed,” as an example. She started the Glam Capsule Challenge in 2018 to promote bright colors, bold silhouettes, and lots of accessories. She asked her Instagram followers to join in on the fun and do it their way. The exercise proved that all you need to enjoy a less hectic closet is thoughtful curation and consumption.

Just remember: There is no universal capsule wardrobe, and it can be what you want and need it to be—there’s no one way, or right way, to attempt a capsule collection. All of these variations are simply tools for each individual to find who they are, what they like, and what clothing makes sense in their life. Sometimes, limitations are the very thing we need to spark amazing creativity!

Ready to create your own capsule wardrobe? Here are our selections for every season: winter, spring, summer, and fall.


Audrey Stanton was born and raised in the Bay Area and is currently based in Los Angeles. She works as a freelance writer and content creator with a focus in sustainable fashion. Audrey is deeply passionate about conscious living and hopes to continue to spread awareness of ethical consumption.


Feature image from MerryThought