Capsule Wardrobe – Choosing Minimal Clothing for Big Living

The capsule wardrobe is one that consists of the essentials specific to one’s lifestyle and work.  As part of the minimalist lifestyle it’s the definition of function over fashion, as there’s just not room for the unnecessary stuff!

A capsule wardrobe consists of essential pieces for work, play, and casual wear and nothing else. It can be created using a list or planner. Types range from affordable to premade capsule wardrobes. For men or women, and according to season, there are essential wardrobe items that everyone needs.

How does your closet look-is it overflowing with clothing items you don’t need?  Are you interested in paring it down to only the essentials and saving some space?

What Is a Capsule Wardrobe?

Minimal color wardrobe - Capsule Wardrobe - Gone Minimal
Minimal color wardrobe

A capsule wardrobe is a set of only the essential clothing pieces that every person needs.  All pieces coordinate, work in every season, and can be worn year-round.  A capsule wardrobe is part of the minimalist lifestyle and focuses on just what is needed for work, play, and everyday wear.

The specific items in a capsule wardrobe can vary based on individual preferences, lifestyle, and climate. The key is tailoring it to your needs and ensuring each item serves a purpose and can be easily mixed and matched. The goal is to create a well-curated collection that reflects your style while minimizing clutter and maximizing the usability of each item. 

There’s no fast fashion-it’s all necessary clothes.  Jalil and Shaharuddin from the International Journal of Scientific & Technology Research found many people have never heard of a capsule wardrobe, but are interested in using one once they learned what it is!

How to Create a Capsule Wardrobe

Capsule Wardrobe List

When getting ready to pare down to a capsule wardrobe, it helps to make a list of all the essential items you need.  You’ll want to have enough articles of the necessary items for casual, work, exercise, and play without needing to do laundry more than once or twice per week, unless you’re ok with that!

Capsule Wardrobe Formula

Another way to create your capsule wardrobe is with a formula.  For men and women, the basic formula is 1 jacket, 3 tops, 2 bottoms, and 4 items including shoes and accessories.  The tops and bottoms should be neutral colors so they can be easily coordinated with each other.  Just remember 1, 2, 3, 4 to create your capsule wardrobe!

Wardrobe - Capsule Wardrobe - Gone Minimal

Capsule Wardrobe Essentials

Then there’s creating your capsule wardrobe through essentials.  This may vary a bit with the seasons depending upon where you live.  You’ll want to have on hand tops and bottoms for each season, as well as the accessories and other items like jackets as appropriate.  Remember to choose neutral colors for easier outfit coordination, although the accessories can be any color you choose.

Capsule Wardrobe Planner

You can also use a capsule wardrobe planner to help coordinate your purchases and outfits for each season.  With a capsule wardrobe planner you create a plan with the essential pieces that can be coordinated with other pieces according to certain criteria.  For example: one plan for a summer outfit with items you love would include your favorite pair of sandals with a pair of denim shorts and a cute sun hat, which could be coordinated with any t-shirt.

Types of Capsule Wardrobes

Minimalist Capsule Wardrobe

A minimalist capsule wardrobe is the simplest form of building your closet of essential items.  With this type of capsule wardrobe you have the minimum number of pieces you can get by with for everything you do daily.  Fewer pieces mean more money and space saved!

Clothes on wooden hangers - Capsule Wardrobe - Gone Minimal
Clothes on wooden hangers

 Affordable Capsule Wardrobe

The affordable capsule wardrobe is where you build your wardrobe around what you can afford.  Fewer pieces, more affordable prices, and outfits created around your lifestyle.  You can find many nice (and even eco-friendly) wardrobe essentials for prices that are more budget-friendly!

Premade Capsule Wardrobe

Because the minimalist movement has become so popular, there are now options for purchasing a premade capsule wardrobe.  Many websites offer questionnaires to help create the type of wardrobe that fits your likes and your lifestyle as well.  All you have to do is answer the questions, approve some items, and your whole capsule wardrobe is created just for you!

You’ll want to have on hand tops and bottoms for each season, as well as the accessories and other items like jackets as appropriate. 

Work Capsule Wardrobe

You can also create a work capsule wardrobe to make it easier to get ready for work each day.  By choosing a few work-appropriate essential pieces you can create an entire week (or 2) worth of outfits to save time and money.

Capsule Wardrobe for Men

The capsule wardrobe for men is dependent upon work, lifestyle, and environment (climate).  There will be items appropriate for work, the type of exercise you like to do, and the types of casual clothing that fit with how he lives.  Then depending on where you live there will be weather and climate appropriate items.  Here are the basics to include in a capsule wardrobe for men:

  1. Undershirts and underwear
  2. Shirts (long and short sleeved)
  3. Jacket or sweater (if needed)
  4. Office uniform or attire (as needed)
  5. Exercise-appropriate tops and bottoms
  6. Casual pants
  7. Shorts
  8. Shoes (work and casual as needed)
  9. Socks
Men's essential wardrobe - Capsule Wardrobe - Gone Minimal
Men’s essential wardrobe

If you live in a warm climate, you probably won’t need a lot of long-sleeved shirts or sweaters.  Then if you exercise often, you’ll probably need more exercise pieces (or do laundry more often).  All of the pieces should coordinate well, rather than having one shirt that only matches one pair of pants.  This makes it easier to create outfits without a great deal of thought, and of course your capsule wardrobe for men depends on you and what you need.

Capsule Wardrobe for Women

The capsule wardrobe for women is also dependent upon work, lifestyle, and where you live.  The career-oriented woman will have more professional dress needs than the work-from-home mom, and warmer climate has different needs than cold climate.  

Haeun Bang from University of North Carolina and Marilyn DeLong from University of Minnesota found that women who participated in a capsule wardrobe experiment reported feeling more creative in putting together and managing capsule wardrobes.  The basics to include in a capsule wardrobe for women are very similar to those for men, with a few changes/additions:

  1. Underwear and bras
  2. Dresses (casual and/or professional)
  3. Skirts (casual and/or professional)

Some women don’t like or need dresses or skirts, so those can be omitted of course.  Tweak these pieces to meet your individual needs and likes because it’s your capsule wardrobe!

Learn how to build a capsule wardrobe in this helpful video.

Capsule Wardrobe by Season


For a spring capsule wardrobe, you will want to have on hand 4-5 tops, 1-2 sweaters, 2 bottoms, and 4-5 accessories including shoes.  These pieces should be ready for cool or warm weather with enough flexibility in case there’s unpredictable weather.


Your summer capsule wardrobe should be hot-weather ready with 4-5 tops and 2-3 bottoms, and 2-3 accessories including shoes.  Don’t forget the swimwear for those hot summer days! 


For a fall or autumn capsule wardrobe you should keep 4-5 tops, 3-4 sweaters and/or jackets, 2-3 bottoms, and 4-5 accessories including shoes.  Have some variation in long and short-sleeved tops for unseasonably warm or cool days.


Winter in many places can vary widely, so there should be options for those warm or cold days.  Have on hand 4-5 tops, 4-5 bottoms (including leggings or long johns for the freezing cold temperatures), and 5-6 accessories including scarves, gloves, and shoes. 

Essential summer wardrobe - Capsule Wardrobe - Gone Minimal
Essential summer wardrobe

Related Insights:

How Many Clothes Should Be In a Capsule Wardrobe?

A capsule wardrobe should contain the minimum number of pieces that fit your needs.  A good estimate would be 4 casual shirts, 2 sweaters, 2 dress shirts, 2 dress pants, 2 pair of pants, 2 pairs of shorts, an exercise outfit or 2, and underwear and socks for every day.

What Is the Perfect Capsule Wardrobe?

The perfect capsule wardrobe is the one that meets your exact needs!  Also the wardrobe that washes and hangs itself up, but that’s a topic for another day!

How Many Shoes Should Be In a Capsule Wardrobe?

Shoes in a capsule wardrobe should include a pair for work, a pair for casual wear, and a pair for exercise.

You probably don't need all of these similar looking shirt - Capsule Wardrobe - Gone Minimal
You probably don’t need all of these similar looking shirts

Staple Items in Peoples Closets

I asked several friends/family to list 6 items of clothing in their closet that they consider anchors, foundational, or irreplaceable items. Here is what they shared and what I learned from the poll:

ItemTally of Family/Friends
Casual jacket4
Collared shirts3
Casual dress2
Work shirts2
Sports bras3
Running shorts2
Tank tops3

Other Resources:

A capsule wardrobe is not just functional, it saves space and money.  It can be tailored exactly to your needs, and there’s no rules to how few pieces you keep in rotation.  So look through your wardrobe, pare it down, and give a capsule wardrobe a try!

Related Topics

Clean Out Your Closet

Declutter your closet by clearing out the things you don’t use, the items that no longer fit, and organize the available space.  Set reasonable goals for decluttering and reorganizing your closet for a more efficient wardrobe as well as to save money and space.

Living Minimalist

Minimalists pursue a life of “less is more” when it comes to possessions.  They pursue more meaningful experiences and relationships rather than collecting items and “stuff”.  You don’t have to live in a tiny home to be a minimalist-just focus on what really matters.

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