6 Tips for Building a Fabulous Capsule Wardrobe on a Budget

by Jessica Sommerfield · 5 comments

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Capsule wardrobes have become yet another icon of simplicity in an overly-consumeristic culture. High-profile executives even like the concept because it frees their ‘creative energy’ for more important decisions than what to wear every day. Downsizing your closet might sound appealing if you:

  • Hate deciding what to wear every day
  • Dislike having to shop every season
  • Wish you had less clothing to maintain
  • Want to spend less on clothing

Building a capsule wardrobe saves both time and money in the long run, but it does require an initial investment. For instance, one of the first steps ‘capsule experts’ suggest is eliminating anything in your closet that doesn’t fit, flatter, or you simply don’t love. What does that leave? If you do it right, not much! Unlike high-profile executives, not many of us can afford to go out and replace our entire wardrobe in one shot, regardless of how much it will save long-term. Is it possible to build an amazing capsule wardrobe on a budget? If you consider the following tips, I think so.

Tip #1: Plan Out Your Ideal Wardrobe

Like any financial endeavor, a successful capsule makeover starts with a plan — in this case, your ideal wardrobe. Make a list of 10-15 key items you’ll need for spring/fall or summer/winter, not counting accessories or activity-specific. Some prefer 33 items that mix and match into (4) 3-month mini capsules. Whichever plan you choose, here are a few things to consider:

  • Follow your personal style: what you feel and look good in, your lifestyle needs, and the image you want to project. Think about your favorite clothes and what they have in common.
  • Choose colors that will blend well with one another. Mostly neutrals tones (black, white, grey, ivory, brown/camel, navy) with a few pops of color will allow you to create the greatest number of outfits with the fewest pieces.

Tip #2: Determine Your Shopping and Downsizing Strategy

Seeing what you have and what you need will allow you to target your shopping. If you can only afford to purchase one new item a month, which are the highest priority? Take your time making decisions, because you’ll want each new piece to last a long time. It may take some patience and time, but it will be worth the effort.

If you won’t be donating your old clothes, sell them through consignment, a yard sale, or trendy new apps like ThredUp, Twice, or Poshmark and channel the funds into your new wardrobe.

Tip #3: Choose Quality Over Quantity

Many of us mark a successful shopping trip by how far we stretch our money, failing to take into account the quality of the clothing we’ve purchased. Instead of replacing three poorly-constructed items purchased for $100 after a few months, it’s better to purchase one $100 item that will last you much longer. How do you determine quality other than price? Try things on, read reviews, and test things out until you find a handful of brands you can count on for the right mix of quality and value.

Tip #4: Go for Timeless, Not Trendy

Capsule wardrobe doesn’t mean ‘time capsule,’ but neither does it depend on trends. You’ll notice that high-quality pieces tend to be classics — items that will always make you look chic and fashionable, regardless of the current trends. If you want to ‘freshen’ your wardrobe, look through fashion magazines for ideas on how to create new looks with the classics you have.

Tip #5: Be a Savvy Shopper

While budgeting and saving for quality pieces, don’t forget to look for great deals. Stay aware of what’s in the stores, but wait for end-of-season sales in June/July and December/January. Don’t be afraid to mix in a few cheaper pieces with more expensive ones by shopping consignment and vintage stores, but again — prioritize quality.

Tip #6: Take Care of Your Clothes

Paying more for your clothes will make you want to take better care of them. Always follow care instructions exactly, and when in doubt, hand wash and air dry. To avoid ironing disasters, replace it with a garment steamer.

These are just a handful of ways to help you build your best minimal wardrobe on a budget. Are there other ways you’ve learned to stay frugal yet fashionable?

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  • Frank Facts says:

    I love this idea! Hadn’t heard of “capsule wardrobe,” but it’s honestly what I strive for. I like to have the basics, interchangeable for multiple outfits: one pair brown shoes, one pair black shoes, one black belt, one brown belt, white shirt, dark shirt, etc. It works for me, but I could totally do some downsizing. Especially all those free t-shirts from events and so on (although those are good workout clothes.)

  • I’ve been working on building a capsule wardrobe for a few months. Instead of buying a bunch of new and different pieces, I’ve decided to find a few things I like and buy multiple. For example, if I find a t-shirt I like I will buy multiple colors, but also buy multiple neutrals, like blacks. This way if I want to wear black two days in a row (which is common), I will have the option to do ao.

    • Jessica Sommerfield says:

      Buying multiples is also a great idea. It makes me think of some executives that basically wear the same thing every day, so much that it’s become their signature ‘uniform.’ It only makes sense to stick with what you know will work and looks great on you! You can always mix it up by adding different accessories or changing the look by swapping dress pants for jeans or a skirt, etc.

      Thanks for the input!

    • David Ning says:

      Buying multiples of the same outfit is almost trendy now, thanks to high profile CEOs doing this.

      I’m not complaining though since I won’t have to worry too much about picking which shirt to wear if they are all the same.

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