The fashion trend of the moment is not about buying more — it’s about buying less. And it’s actually not such a new trend after all. The word “capsule wardrobe” was first coined by London boutique owner Susan Faux within the 1970s and later popularized by Donna Karan. It describes a small collection of a few essential clothes that never go out of style. Include a few seasonal pieces, and you’re all set.

In recent years, the simple-living movement has adopted this idea, as illustrated by “tiny wardrobe” experiments, such as Project 333 — a challenge to thrive with a wardrobe consisting of fewer than 33 items for 3 months — promoted by simple-living author Courtney Carver.

Capsule wardrobes are embraced by those who want to tilt toward a more sustainable, minimalist, and essentialist lifestyle. Importantly, they provide a way to reduce fashion while still supporting “slow fashion” that is ethically produced. Although you may spend more money on a sustainable item than you are on a fast-fashion one, it will last longer and you will buy fewer pieces.

Indeed, capsule wardrobes would be the answer to lives that are bursting in the seams. The big idea? If your wardrobe has white space inside it, your life will too.

5 Strategies for Creating a Capsule Wardrobe

  1. Identify Your Personal Style

Before you start purging your closet or buying new pieces, spend some time thinking about your own personal style. Don’t be sure what your personal style is?

Try describing what you gravitate toward: “Take stock of your closet and put items you always wear right into a pile,” suggests Catherine Giese, blogger at Lifetime of Dada. “What is this style? Come up with three words to describe it.” (Don’t worry in case your style sounds contradictory. Preppy Bohemian Minimalist may be just your thing.)

If you don’t love what you have in your closet, try verbalizing how you would want to express who you are using your wardrobe, suggests style blogger and author Anuschka Rees in her book, The Curated Closet.

Then, consider what really works for your body. What makes you feel confident when you wear it? What fits you well?

  1. Eliminate Strategically

Compare what’s inside your closet with your description of your personal style, says Giese. Maybe you have a tendency to buy things you think you might wear but never do.

“You can definitely find that what you like and just what you wear are different. It’s essential to recognize that there is a difference, so you can avoid keeping things you hate or buying stuff you won’t wear.”

Another way to curate your closet is to think in terms of seasons, suggests Tsh Oxenreider, host of The Simple Show podcast and author of At Home in the World.

“What works for me within the fall?” is a great guiding question, she advises.

Then, make use of the hanger trick: At the start of the season, turn all your hangers backward. When you wear an item, hang it right-side out again. Come season’s end, find a new home for what you haven’t turned around. You can donate gently used clothes — or consider hosting a clothing swap by gathering a few friends and asking everyone to create a set number of gently used pieces they’d like to pass on to someone else. Don’t ignore clothes that need a little tailoring or mending. Sometimes the very best pieces can get a new life with a few quick stitching.

  1. Think Basics — With Flair

After taking a listing, you might find you have dozens of pieces you don’t need, yet don’t have all the feaures you do need to round out your capsule wardrobe.

“The most important thing to consider when creating a capsule wardrobe is that all or most all items ought to be basics,” advises Diane Pollack, a stylist at “That means that they are not highly designed pieces. They need to be able to work [together well].”

Many experts recommend finding a great button-down shirt or a classic blazer, items that will go easily from work to dinner date.

“Another thing to consider is color,” says Pollack. “Neutrals are wonderful.” If you want to diversify your look, you can bring in accent colors or prints, but Pollack suggests using accessories — such as a scarf — to do this, rather than staples.

Once you are making a list of what is missing inside your wardrobe, work to find high-quality versions of those items.

  1. Source Sustainably

For true capsule-wardrobe aficionados, sustainability is really a key part of the buying process. You might spend more on ethically produced clothing, but you’ll feel good not only because you’re wearing a higher-quality piece, but because you’ll likely have some understanding about who made your clothing.

That said, similar to the labeling on free-range chicken, slow-fashion labeling may also confuse. There are lots of resources out there to help you make choices you can feel good about, including an app called Good you, which rates the sustainability of various brands.

  1. Don’t Let Perfect Be the Enemy of Good

The classic five-piece French wardrobe can provide us the mistaken concept that there is a magic number of pieces to strive toward to have a true capsule wardrobe.

Not true, says Oxenreider. Do what works for you — in terms of number of pieces, as well as in terms of the brands you choose.

“Don’t be considered a hard-nosed about being a minimalist,” she says.

Ultimately, a great capsule wardrobe can do much more for you than update your closet. It’s a tried and true way to feel more comfortable in your skin.