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What Is a Capsule Wardrobe?
A capsule wardrobe is a collection of classic pieces that work together with versatility, allowing you to create look after look with just a few items. A capsule wardrobe consists of your most essential clothing items, which serve as the building blocks of your closet. You can create entire looks with just the capsule wardrobe, and you can also layer capsule pieces with seasonal pieces and trendy, fast fashion items.
Boutique owner Susie Faux coined the term "capsule wardrobe" in the 1970s to describe mix-and-match basics, and designer Donna Karan popularized the term in the 1980s when she released a capsule collection of fashionable workwear.
Tan France’s 9 Tips for Creating a Capsule Wardrobe for Women
The perfect capsule wardrobe is about building your foundations—and you don’t need a professional stylist to help you find new pieces for your basic fashion fundamentals. If it’s your first time selecting your own capsule wardrobe essentials, check out these tips from fashion expert Tan France:
- Outerwear. Every capsule wardrobe should contain a solid piece of outerwear, like a trenchcoat or other heavier coat.
- Jackets. A moto jacket (motorcycle jacket)—whether it’s real leather or vegan—is a great staple for many wardrobes. A leather jacket is cool, and it shows style without making any real effort. A blazer can also be a useful article of clothing to make a dress more work appropriate.
- Button-up shirts. You may not want to wear a button-up shirt every day, but eventually, you will need a button-up shirt. It can be used in a very casual, fun way, as opposed to super-corporate. Invest in a couple. Add a white and a black option. You can go for other colors that make you feel like you, such as a navy, a brown, and a beige. Stick with a neutral color palette. It's going to be a lot easier to mix and match neutral colors.
- A great-fitting suit. A suit does not have to be expensive. You can get something relatively inexpensive and have it tailored—but make sure it fits you to perfection. Stick with a neutral color: It can either be a darker neutral or a lighter neutral. Break the suit up, and you can wear it in so many different ways.
- Knitwear. You will likely need knitwear at some point in the year. Stick with something relatively neutral. Stick with something that flatters your body type. If you like a crew neck, go with a crew neck. If you are slightly shorter, go with a cropped sweater. If you embrace a longer length that makes you feel like your best self, go with a longer length. Just decide what sweater is going to work best for you by trying on many, many options. For your capsule wardrobe, select an option that is simple and versatile. A solid gray, a solid navy, a solid black, and a solid cream are good choices. Find colors that are relatively neutral so you can mix and match.
- T-shirt. A t-shirt is a simple item that you can get from just about every store. You can either go for something super expensive or inexpensive. Choose neutral colors, and then throw in maybe two or three different colors that pop a little more. The foundations are usually black, white, navy, gray, and brown. A khaki is also relatively neutral. Make sure that you like the cut, the color, and the neckline. Is a V-neck more your story? Is a crew neck more your story? Is a soft V more your story? Find the T-shirt that works best for you and your body shape by trying them on and then buy them in a few different colors. There are so many stores that offer inexpensive basics. Find the right fit and buy it in every color available.
- Denim. Denim is a significant component of your capsule wardrobe. Decide on the shades and fits of denim you like, and try on multiple options. Whittle it down to a pair of jeans that you know you will appreciate for many years to come, usually something with a more straight-leg or tapered leg. Nothing too wild, nothing with rips, nothing bedazzled—keep it relatively simple. Go for a couple of pairs of those jeans, whether it's black or blue or white. Buy a couple of pairs in whichever your color you select.
- Belts. Now and then, you'll want to jazz up that outfit, and a statement belt is the perfect way to take your outfit to the next level. You want it for fashion, not function. If you need the belt to hold up your pants, you're wearing the wrong size. If you're the kind of person that likes a black belt with a gold buckle, go for that. Choose a belt that you know you'll wear for years and years.
- Dresses. If you are the kind of woman who wants to wear a dress, you can go for a little black dress or a little green dress. Spaghetti straps are classic. The shape is classic: It's an A-line dress. Maybe it's a satin dress that's never going to go out of style. The color must be relatively neutral, so you can easily pair it with other items.
Tan France’s 7 Tips for Creating a Capsule Wardrobe for Men
Capsule wardrobe selections for men are relatively similar to those for women, with only a few minor changes. Check out these tips from fashion expert Tan France on selecting versatile pieces of clothing and new items for a capsule wardrobe for men:
- Outerwear. Like women, men should have a trench or other style coat you can throw on over any outfit. A good coat is a wardrobe staple for any gender.
- Have a black suit. Always have a version of a black suit. You will need to have your suit tailored so it fits you perfectly. Ensure the suit is simple enough to last 15, 20, 30 years, if you are only wearing it now and then.
- Button-ups. Button-ups can be for casual wear as well as corporate. Have one in black, white, and blue. Once you start to feel comfortable with your capsule wardrobe, you can layer on many other colors and many different prints.
- Knitwear. Knitwear is important in your capsule wardrobe. You can go for cashmere, or you can go for a cheaper option. Consider a neutral—a creamy, beige color. Also, choose an option in gray or black. You only need one or two, maximum.
- T-shirts. Keep your T-shirts very simple for a capsule wardrobe. Black, brown, and white T-shirts work well. You can also choose a gray or a blue option, or whatever feels like your neutral color.
- Denim. Denim is an important addition to any man’s wardrobe. Jeans will never go out of style. Colors like black, dark blue, and mid-blue will never go out of style. Ensure there are no rips, no diamantes, and no crazy splatters. This will ensure your denim jeans will last year-round.
- A belt. Avoid choosing a belt that is just functional. Alter your pants if they're not fitting correctly. Choose a belt that looks lovely, and that polishes your look. Go with a slim belt—something that's relatively fashionable as opposed to just functional. Choose a simple belt that will last not only until next season but for years.
Want to Learn More About Unleashing Your Inner Fashionista?
Get a MasterClass Annual Membership and let Tan France be your very own style spirit guide. Queer Eye’s fashion guru spills everything he knows about building a capsule collection, finding a signature look, understanding proportions, and more (including why it’s important to wear underwear to bed)—all in a soothing British accent, no less.