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woman wearing satin button-down blouse

Capsule Wardrobe Essentials: What to Include

Capsule wardrobes are the perfect fashion reset. Perhaps you’ve made too many impulse buys and want to reduce spending on items that sit in the back of your closet. Or maybe you want to simplify your wardrobe and elevate your style. Capsule wardrobes do it all, laying a strong foundation that formulates all of your outfits year-round. To get started, read the Crescent guide that explains the basics of a capsule wardrobe, from what they are to the essentials to include.

What is a Capsule Wardrobe?

If you’re not familiar, a capsule wardrobe is a streamlined closet of clothing that you can mix and match to create countless outfit possibilities. While the number in the set varies, capsule wardrobe essentials usually consist of around 10 to 20 pieces. Keep in mind that capsule wardrobes can look different for everyone – it’s about creating a wardrobe that fits your lifestyle.

Capsule Wardrobe Basics

We recommend that you go through your closet and sort through the items you do and don’t want to keep. A good rule of thumb: if it doesn’t fit or you haven’t worn it in the past year, it’s time to donate, sell, or recycle it! Once you’ve reevaluated your closet, it’ll be easier to identify the pieces you need for your capsule wardrobe.

Classic Short-Sleeved White Tee

woman wearing wide pants and white tee shirt capsule wardrobe essential

The basic white t-shirt is one of the most versatile capsule wardrobe essentials since it can be worn alone, paired with blazers and jackets, and worn under sweaters and other knitwear. It’s the ultimate layering piece to carry you from season to season. While you don’t necessarily have to choose a white tee, it should be a shirt in a neutral color such as black, grey, or cream. These tops will be easier to mix and match with other essentials and let the textures and cuts of your other pieces shine.

Button-Down Shirt

Button-down shirts are a wardrobe staple, regardless of anyone’s style or taste. Like a classic short-sleeved white tee, this capsule wardrobe essential can easily be dressed up or down and mixed and matched to fit your personal style. It all comes down to styling. Layer them under knitwear for a stylish juxtaposition of fit and texture, half-tucked into a mini skirt, with a pair of wide-leg trousers, and more.

Versatile Blazer

woman wearing contrast stitch blazer

The key idea of capsule wardrobe basics is choosing pieces that can be layered. One essential that you’ll keep coming back to is a tailored blazer. The perfect finishing touch, blazers add instant chicness to your outfit, keep you warm when there’s a chill in the air, and make a statement. They’re also extremely versatile! Sure, the classic style elevates your work outfit, but they also look great with a classic white tee and a pair of denim pants or joggers. Make sure you consider the fit of this capsule wardrobe essential (e.g., oversized or tailored), which can impact the overall look you’re going for.

Neutral Dresses & Jumpsuits

A neutral dress is another capsule wardrobe essential that works well as a stand-alone or as a base piece for layering. Your perfect dresses depend on your personal style and lifestyle. Color, sleeve length, dress length, and fit all matter. You may want to go for solid, neutral-colored dresses that are either sleeveless or short-sleeved for the most versatility and wear from your dress throughout the year. Midi dresses are another flattering option that can typically be dressed up or down, especially if they’re crafted from a material like Tencel, knit, or a cotton-poly blend.

Other considerations that make great capsule wardrobe basics: a sweater dress for winter, a classic A-line dress, a sleeveless black midi dress, and a lightweight summer dress.

Simple Shirts & Blouses

Creating a capsule wardrobe doesn’t mean that you’re limited when it comes to the fit or cuts of your tops. Play around with sleeve length, fit (flowy or tailored/fitted), and material with your capsule wardrobe essentials. Look for simple, timeless shirts and blouses you can wear solo and pair under the light layers of your sweaters, cardigans, or blazers. Think Tencel shirts, linen tanks, and silk and satin blouses. 

Another note about capsule wardrobe basics: shades of white, black, navy, and beige are not your only options. While it’s true that capsule wardrobes traditionally consist of a more neutral color palette, they can – and do – also include moments of color. Blush pinks, light blues, and olives add muted color yet still function as contemporary neutrals.

Knit Sweaters

Sweaters are capsule wardrobe essentials that add warmth and texture to your closet and serve as transitional pieces. Consider the season and your climate when choosing knitwear. Lightweight sweaters and sleeveless knit tanks are great for spring, summer, and the transition from summer warmth to a cool autumn breeze. Midweight and chunkier knits will be your go-to for colder months.

Keep in mind that knits are year-round capsule wardrobe basics – not just winter. For example, you could toss a sweater with your summer floral dress for an attention-grabbing fall outfit or layer a sweater cardigan for chilly spring mornings. It’s always a good idea to have an everyday cardigan, a midweight sweater, light knit, and chunky knit in your wardrobe.

Well-Fitting Bottoms

woman wearing gray sweater and charcoal trousers

The key factors to choosing any pants and skirts in a capsule wardrobe: they should fit your body well, be comfortable to wear, and be versatile enough to pair with your other capsule wardrobe essentials. Options to consider that we love include wide-leg trousers, sleek pants or slacks, and midi skirts. 

You’ll likely have different bottoms for different seasons. For example, your spring capsule wardrobe may include lighter-colored trousers or shorts in lightweight fabrics, while your winter capsule wardrobe may include heavier pants to accommodate the cooler weather.

Clean Denim

In the eyes of many, no capsule wardrobe is complete without your staple denim pants. Though straight-leg and slim-fit jeans are popular silhouettes, wide-leg denim works extremely well with other capsule wardrobe basics and is a contemporary take on classic denim. Remember to choose styles that fit you best – it’s your capsule wardrobe, after all! 

Try to stick to clean denim – denim without rips, distress, or too much fading – for maximum versatility. If jeans are a staple in your closet, go for a medium or even a light wash, which are shades perfectly suitable for your modern capsule wardrobe essentials. As with your other pants, make sure your jeans fit you like a dream!

Finding Your Capsule Wardrobe Essentials

Capsule wardrobes are all about choosing quality over quantity by going for foundational pieces that create a functional wardrobe. The capsule wardrobe basics we’ve included are by no means the only pieces you may need, but they’re also not pieces you have to include in your capsule wardrobe. If you’re not one for denim, choose chic pants and skirts instead! Don’t sacrifice your personal style. Evaluate your current wardrobe, consider your style, and shop for capsule wardrobe essentials that you want to include in your closet.

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