Capsule wardrobe: Building with the basics..

There are a myriad of ways to create a capsule wardrobe, but none of them will work if they don’t represent who you really are.

If you’re not wearing clothes that suit you, that make you feel great, that give a sense of your best self, then you’re just fitting someone else’s version of minimalism.

Which is being a bit of a fraud, really.

Your Capsule Wardrobe should represent who YOU are!

Nobody has to follow the guidelines of “black blazer, breton stripe t-shirt, little black dress, crisp white shirt, white t-shirt” if it doesn’t suit them.

Your basics should be your basics. They’re up to you, and should reflect your style and who you are.

Whatever you choose, your Capsule Wardrobe should represent yourself. No-one else. Just you.

So what I’m suggesting here is what to look for in your basics. Guidelines. Then I’m going to give examples of some good basic items that work for me. They might work for you too.

What might be in your Capsule Wardrobe? The basics…

Here’s what to look for in a good basic item:

  • Good quality. Invest in good quality items, and buy fewer of them. For example, I own just six pair of shoes, which serve me all year round. These include special purpose shoes such as walking shoes and my gym shoes. Buy items designed to last. I’ve learned this the hard way, but you will save money – absolutely.
  • Cross-seasonal. Invest in items you can wear all year around. Examples might include a denim jacket, a leather jacket, a plain cardigan, or a plain pair of leather flats.
  • Multi-functional. Invest in clothing that can be dressed up or down. For example, I wear my denim swing dress to the beach with sandals in summer, but I can also wear it in winter with leggings and a cardigan and puffer jacket.
  • Unmemorable. Your basics shouldn’t be particularly memorable. Stick to plain, neutral colours. Unmemorable items are easier to mix and match with memorable accessories.
  • Mid-weight. I choose mid-weight fabrics wherever possible, as they’re more flexible for year-round wear. And do the “scrunch test” – scrunch the fabric in your hand to check for creasing – before you buy.
  • Well-cut. Choose items that fit you well, and are well-cut. Good quality blazers, dresses that fall well, jeans that have a flattering cut, trousers that sit well.
  • Items that mix and match. Denim jeans that can be worn with all of your shirts. A great pair of leggings to be worn alone or under a dress. Leather gloves to wear to work or on the weekend. A great belt that goes with everything. The more of your wardrobe that works together, the more options you have every day when getting dressed.

Examples of good basic items

  • Denim jacket: Wear with everything casual. Buy a good quality jacket that fits well.
  • Puffer jacket: Mine is black. I’ve had it about eight years now, and it’s still in good condition. Look for a jacket with smooth-running zips and a good hood if you’re out in the weather.
  • Leather jacket: Mine is a black Moto jacket. I’ve had it three years now and it looks great over dresses or jeans, for work or casual.
  • Denim jeans: Check for fit and length, and be aware that some brands will shrink in length in the wash, so go longer if you’re tall (like me). Most shops will re-hem for free or a small fee if you need this service, so ask.
  • Basic dresses: Basic dresses in plain colours are my staple. Pair with a jacket and you’re good for work. Choose dresses in colours that suit you: I’ve bought in bright red, bright blue, black and denim. Pair with heels, flats or boots.
  • Leather flats: I only bought my leather flats last week, but already I’m wearing them incessantly. They look terrific with jeans or dresses, and a classic style in good quality leather will last the distance. Mine are black.
  • Ankle boots: Ankle boots are great for winter. I tend to avoid heels, as I live in Dunedin, which is a city with lots of hills and ice in winter, and I’m tall so I don’t need the extra height anyway. My ankle boots are black leather, from Nine West, in a very classic style.
  • Knee high leather boots: Knee high boots are great with jeans or, depending on the style, a winter dress. Experiment, and see what works. You can ever wear long, thick socks underneath to keep you extra toasty!
  • Solid leather belt: Every wardrobe needs a solid leather belt. Check to make sure it is thin enough to go through the belt hoops of your favourite jeans, while wide enough not to slip or sag.
  • Leather gloves: Leather gloves, especially wool or fur-lined, will keep you warm and look fantastic through winter.
  • Well-cut shirt: Well-cut shirts or blouses can be a staple in your wardrobe, depending on the look you want to achieve. I like to wear vintage shirts, as they’re better-made and give me a unique look and style I enjoy.
  • T-shirts: You don’t need more than two or three. Make sure they’re in good condition, fit you well, and are a flattering cut. I like scoop-neck and v-neck t-shirts, but it’s up to you.
  • Comfortable hoodie: A comfortable in a colour you like looks great over pretty much anything, and is terrific with jeans in winter.


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