Three steps to empower yourself with a capsule wardrobe to streamline your day
There are so many inspirational fashion quotes about dressing for success out there and there is truth in many of them. I grew up with a mom who was in the fashion business and always loved expressing myself through fashion. This has led me to a long and successful career in the fashion industry and eventually to becoming a Latina fashion business owner.
Our fashion choices are the first thing people see when we greet them (along with our smile). That’s why I always make sure to dress accordingly to whatever my day looks like.
As a busy Latina entrepreneur
As a busy Latina fashion entrepreneur, I can also understand the flip side of this for some people. The very idea of dressing for success or even just dressing for everyday life can seem overwhelming especially when our free time is so limited. It’s hard to think about taking extra time to put together a stylish outfit for every day between the priorities of work, family, cooking, errands, workouts, etc.
I’ve learned some things in my long career in the fashion business so I have a bit of an advantage when it comes to in the know tips, tricks, and styling ideas.
Style and trend are two very different things. Trends will come and go, but style is something that highlights your unique personality, never becomes outdated and that’s what we’re going to address today – how to create effortless style that will have you looking polished and professional every day.
Some years ago, I worked on one of my favorite fashion projects. I collaborated with Brooke Shields to design a line of clothing that reflected her classic taste in fashion which always seemed effortless, yet well put together. We spent an afternoon pouring through her closet and identified some of her favorite go-to items. Interestingly enough, we found that many of her wardrobe staples were nothing revolutionary, but truly timeless and essential items. From crisp white poplin and oxford blue striped button down shirts to well fitting solid and striped t-shirts, a few options in well fitting jeans (of course we knew this would be a staple item from her iconic Calvin Klein days), pencil skirts, silk blouses, sheath dresses, classic trousers and relaxed blazers to polish off any outfit,
As we pulled things from her closet, I also noticed that Brooke had previously taken time to rubber band multiple pieces together on their hangers to create outfits. She said that it was one of her personal time savers when she needed to have something ready to go. I thought this was a simple but effective idea especially getting to see in real time how busy her days were with meetings for her brand, modeling, events, her family, etc. When we looked at the way she had put these outfits together, it was easy to see the items that she went to time and time again. This was the beginning of my appreciation for what a “capsule wardrobe” could look like and how it could truly simplify a busy professional’s life. It took all the guess work out of putting together an outfit and also the anxiety of having to grope for something last minute.
With this information, we were able to create her brand, “Brooke Shields Timeless” with exactly this aesthetic in mind. At the core of the brand were essential items that could be easily mixed and matched for everyday wear, outfits that were perfect for both casual and business wear.
The key learning from this project was that with around 10 key silhouettes in your wardrobe, you could create at least 10 (possibly even 20 looks). Here are the key items that you’ll want to make sure you are stocked with.
Now let’s look at the three key steps in creating your capsule wardrobe:
1. Declutter and curate your closet
Take some time to remove items that don’t fit, you don’t like, are duplicative, or are stained or damaged beyond repair. Doing this will allow you to focus on building your streamlined wardrobe with only the pieces you love.
Focus on 10 key silhouettes that will be the foundation to your capsule collection
- Blazers. If you’re in a more creative setting, this could be a moto jacket.
- Modern Fit T-shirts. These can be solid or striped, relaxed or fitted. For different seasons, this could be a short sleeve, long sleeve, tank tops or camis. They will serve as a base layering piece for any outfit.
- Button Down Shirts or Blouses. These are a more structured, professional option to the base layer t-shirt.
- Sweaters. Consider light to medium weight pull-over sweaters that can be worn on their own or layered over tees or button down shirts as another way to wear them. Cashmere, merino wool, & pima cotton area all great yarn contents. These can also be crew necks, v-necks, mock necks or turtlenecks. If a sweater isn’t your style, a very well fitting, polished sweatshirt can also serve this same purpose.
- Cardigans and Completers. These serve as topper pieces to finish off your look and also provide warmth. These are perfect for chilly weather or even in a cold office when it’s difficult to regulate temperatures.
- Dresses. From wrap dresses, sheath dresses, fit & flare, or even a slip dress, these are all great timeless shapes that can take you from day to evening.
- Jeans. These can be in any wash from faded denim, to dark denim, black or white. Your own work environment will determine how much distressing or detailing you will want on yours. A great pair of jeans, a perfect fitting t-shirt and sneakers is the ultimate model uniform.
- Leggings. These are always a key essential for business or casual wear. Make sure there is enough weight to the fabric so that you don’t see through them. Jeggings are also great.
- Trousers. From pencil leg, stovepipe leg, wide leg, a great classic trouser can look prefessional in a business environment or even casual with a t-shirt and sneakers.
- Skirts. I love a great pencil skirt with stretch for easy movement and great recovery after sitting through meetings and presentations, but a pleated skirt, a-line skirt, wrap skirt, maxi or midi are all super options depending on your personal style and taste.
The checklist and graphic above are good guidelines, but if you prefer drapey blouses instead of button down poplin shirts, you can choose these as your essentials. This goes for the dress category as well. You may prefer the one-and-done jumpsuit which achieves the same desired outcome – a simple no brainer outfit ready to go, just add shoes and a bag.
Cardigans and completers can include sweater cardigans, trench coats, pea coats, completer vests, etc. – anything that serves as a mid-weight layering piece to “complete” your outfit.
Now, just because this capsule wardrobe concept culls down the items in your wardrobe, that doesn’t mean you can’t add your own personal touch to these essentials (think about having a fun vintage graphic t-shirt versus a basic solid t-shirt) and don’t forget that accessories will always allow you to transition your outfits from day to evening and even give them an entirely different look by changing out sneakers to sparkly heels, or adding a printed scarf, or trendy belt. Your capsule wardrobe should have ideally between 30 to 50 items in it excluding accessories. Your capsule wardrobe can also have a few on trend pieces if they speak to your taste and personal style. This will help to refresh your capsule wardrobe each season.
2. Choose your core capsule pieces
These should be good quality basic staples that are both practical and suit your current lifestyle and versatile enough to style with other items in a variety of ways that can look casual, professional, or even dressed up. Basically, they will be items that can be worn in various scenarios of your everyday life.
When you are thinking about the practicality of each item, it’s important to think about the following qualities.
- Seasonless or transitional fabric weights that can work year round through cool and warm temperatures.
- Stretch is always a benefit for functionality. Items with a bit of spandex or nylon for added stretch, comfort and recovery are always helpful.
- Ease of maintenance and care.
- Ease of mixing and matching with other colors and prints.
3. Creating your outfits
This is the fun part! Now you can start to mix and match your items to pre-arrange your looks. If you need helpful ideas, Pinterest is always a great source of information. I also love taking photos of people I see on the streets with great outfit ideas.
You can also start to think about accessorizing your outfits as well to give them your own unique style.
Here are just a few ways to think about mixing your pieces to create different looks that can work for a business setting, a casual day, an important meeting, or maybe just running around town.
Can I just mention some of the best benefits to creating a capsule wardrobe.
- Decluttering your closet will declutter your mind from making decision. You’ll have less anxiety over the thought of what to wear.
- Capsule wardrobes are a way to bring sustainability into your wardrobe. The lesser items you purchase, the smaller carbon footprint you have which benefits the environment.
- You can invest in better, high quality items that will last multiple seasons and never really go out of style. Think of that DVF classic wrap dress or cashmere sweater that you’ve always wanted.
- You’ll spend less time and energy on deciding what to wear so that you can use that time for other important things.
- You’ll be stress free in the morning when you know you have an outfit that is ready to go, will fit you perfectly and make you feel confident.
With all these benefits, a capsule wardrobe gives you the confidence to know that you are well put together and that definitely sounds like dressing for success.