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The versatile capsule wardrobe

Updated on March 6, 2016
capsule wardrobe
capsule wardrobe

Do you ever look at your wardrobe and think I don't wear half the clothes I have in there. I was impulse buyer for a number of years, and discovered with some key items of clothing I could build a wardrobe of clothing that I could use on a daily basis.

"Capsule Wardrobe" was a phrase first used in the 70's by Susie Faux a fashion boutique owner meaning a wardrobe of clothing that could be utilised through the seasons, and would flatter your fit and shape like a glove, giving you numerous outfits.

Your signature style is something that is personal to you. It's like putting on a uniform everyday, except this particular uniform is special to your personality.

These days with supermarkets selling clothes, and other cheaper stores such as "Primark" selling clothes at a fraction of the cost you can have a wardrobe full of clothing that is worn once and then thrown away, and the quality can be pretty poor. Instead of having less items with better quality and you can wear all of the time in a capsule wardrobe.

My Top 10 Places to Shop Online

  1. H & M
  2. Boden
  3. Joules
  4. Great Plains
  5. Marks and Spencer
  6. Clarks
  7. Fat Face
  8. Sea Salt
  9. John Lewis
  10. Uniqlo

The Big Throw Out

If your wardrobe is stocked full of clothing, and you find you can't even move the coat hangers, just pull everything out, and go through this checklist to see the items you really need:

  • Clothing that require repairs or altering.
  • Clothing that is unflattering to your figure.
  • Expensive clothes you keep but never wear.
  • Clothing that no longer fits you.
  • Clothing you haven't worn in the last 12 months.

Key Items


I'm not a huge fan of skirts, so dresses play a key part in my wardrobe. Jersey dresses have become really popular, and have the advantage of stretch and comfort. You can build a simple capsule wardrobe with one day dress and one evening dress. Choosing colours to suit skin tone, choose above the knee style if you want to be daring or on or below the knee for that classic look.

Tailored Trousers

A pair of smart trousers is a must for any wardrobe, don't go for pleats, they accentuate the areas that you don't need highlighting. Purchase a medium weight pair of machine washable wool trousers. Long enough to wear the heel height you wear the most.


A lot of people would say you shouldn't wear leggings because they can look so unflattering, but I beg to differ. they're versatile and comfortable, great with a tunic and flats, or boots when its cold.

Trench Coat

Burberry is the epitome of the classic trench coat, but rather expensive. When you buy a trench coat, beige is a classic colour and will go with anything. You can smarten up a pair of jeans, or wear over a dress. A trench coat will never go out of fashion, and with the correct fit will be a staple in your wardrobe for many years to come.


An essential for those cooler days in the spring and summer. Great with jeans, chinos or jeggings.

Winter Coat

A smart winter coat can be worn with jeans, tailored trousers or a dress throughout the autumn or winter. Black is a versatile colour to go for. I added a winter jacket to my wardrobe, something that has been worn many times casually and smart when it gets really cold, and can be easily layered with jeans,jeggings, shirt and jumper.


A good place to start is a basic long sleeved fitted t-shirt. You can wear it with anything, from jeans to smart trousers throughout the year. A simple sleeveless top will take you from day time into the evening effortlessly.


Having knitted garments in your wardrobe, may sound boring but great for layering in the winter and draping over your shoulders on those cooler days in the summer. A cardigan can be casual or dressy depending on what its worn with. The classic fitted cardigan or the boyfriend style baggier version, both are a great for your capsule wardrobe, and can offer a variety of outfit styles. A jumper, if its cashmere is a luxury item and great for those cold days or evenings out. A fine knit jumper can be layered with a simple cotton top or vest. The pullover is garment that has been around for decades, particularly popular in the 30's and 40's, and is still great for layering under a blazer or trench coat.


My first smart blazer was a tweed jacket I bought from H & M. A mixture of neutral colour's that will match up with skinny jeans or jeggings when the weather turns cool. A neutral colour blazer in a lighter weight material is good for spring/summer. A well fitted blazer can do wonders for your curves so choose your style wisely to accentuate your figure.

Casual Trousers

The casual trousers you have in your wardrobe that can flatter your figure with the right cut and colour . They can be worn casual or smart, with a sweat shirt or white shirt and blazer, flats or long boots.


The fitted white shirt is an essential that can be worn in numerous ways. The classic look is with a blazer and smart trousers, or jeans for a more casual look. Cotton is the best fabric and with added stretch a really flattering look.



A classic ballet pump is a must for any capsule wardrobe. You can wear them all day and slide into the evening without blinking. Add an extra pair of flats in a neutral colour for added versatility.


Heeled shoes make you feel fabulous and look a million dollars. A classic pair of black court shoes can be worn from day into evening without losing a step.

Black is the best place to start for colour, choose a pair that fits well and doesn't nip or pinch, and you can't go wrong.


I recently purchased a pair, wanting a more casual look. Wearing them in the spring/summer months with chinos, jeans or even a summer dress for comfort. White is my colour choice, but don't be afraid to go with colour if it suits your wardrobe.

What's Your Style

What Clothing Style Suits Your Personality?

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Knee high flat boots are elegant and work well with jeggings, jeans or A-line dresses. Black is a colour you can never go wrong with. Add a pair of brown riding boots later on to add more outfit choices to your wardrobe.

Heeled Boots

Heeled knee length boots are stylish and work well with skinny jeans, jeggings and dresses. Make sure your comfortable with the heel height.

Mid Calf Boots

You can add mid calf boots to your capsule wardrobe a little later on, again a great addition to wear with jeggings and skinny jeans.

Ankle Boots

An essential for the autumn and winter months, I like to wear mine with skinny jeans, shirt and blazer for a crisp classic look.


  • Choose classic colours such as black, navy or dark blue to match neutrals or colour for a bolder wardrobe.
  • Choose colours that compliment your skin tone.
  • Add patterned pieces such as dresses or tops that will match perfectly with your jackets, coats and blazers.
  • Give yourself options in length of sleeve, 3/4 or long, short or sleeveless.
  • Vary your style and colour choices. Don't get the same top in different colours, go for a different style instead.
  • Make sure your new item of clothing can go with at least 3 things in your wardrobe.

© 2013 Helen Bolam


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