How to get more variety from a capsule wardrobe

At the beginning of January, I decided to put together a small neutral capsule wardrobe to use as the starting point for my outfits for the month. I did this for a couple of reasons. First, I wanted to simplify getting dressed and give myself something of a style “palate cleanse.” Second, many of you have said you’d like to see more restyling of pieces, and I thought this would be a good way to format and illustrate that.

The starting point: my navy and ivory capsule wardrobe

Susan B's ivory and navy capsule wardrobe for January.

I decided on a navy-based capsule because it’s a neutral that’s fairly universal (there’s a navy for everyone). And because I’d been wearing a lot of brown and wanted a break from it. 😆 As with my travel wardrobes I selected the pieces so that most of the tops could be worn with most of the bottoms, and most layer well.

Click here to read more about my January wardrobe capsule

But I knew that even adding accessories, I’d be bored to tears in a few days with only these neutrals. So I allowed myself latitude to add more color with jackets and outerwear. That formula worked pretty well, I think!

Susan B's January outfits starting with a navy and ivory wardrobe capsule.

What I learned from this capsule wardrobe exercise

One of my objectives was to simplify getting dressed, and having a limited number of pre-selected pieces did help. I didn’t have to make a lot of decisions about my “starter pieces,” or worry about what would go together. The blue jeans, solid cashmere sweaters, and the striped tee were what I wore most often.

And fewer decisions about my “base” really spurred me to get more creative in putting outfits together. I found some new combos with older pieces, and leaned heavily on shoes and accessories. It was a great reminder of the power of accessories to personalize an outfit as well as creating variety.

Susan B's January outfits starting with a navy and ivory wardrobe capsule.

I also learned that as much as I’m drawn toward minimalism, I’m happiest with a little bit of color and interesting detail in my outfits. But not too much. And while I can work with limited choices for a short period of time, I get restless after a while. By the end of the 3rd week, I was looking forward to adding more of my favorites back into the mix.

Some of you have asked about a February capsule, but as I have some travel planned this month (more on this to come), I’m going to hold off until it’s time to put my travel wardrobe together. Still, I’ll continue to dig into my closet and show you different ways I style some of my favorite pieces.

Click here to see all of my recent outfit posts

Do you create capsule wardrobes to simplify getting dressed?

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  1. I think you did a wonderful job. Like you I get easily bored with the clothes in my wardrobe. So having to follow a ‘regime’ like you did, would drive me mad. But it is a very good example of how to create more combinations with your clothes.

  2. One of the things I’ve been wondering about a capsule wardrobe approach is — how often are you laundering/dry cleaning pieces, and are you at all concerned about pieces (especially sweaters) “wearing out” from frequent wearing or laundering? Almost inevitably these days, when I try to replace favorite pieces, the available alternatives are such inferior quality.

  3. You are always an inspiration.
    Amazing what a good base a breton and jeans can be, especially with a splash of colour.
    On Emily in Paris someone had a black and white breton with a shocking pink jacket and it looked great.

  4. I just love every outfit you put together. The accessories you have collected (particularly the shoes) are absolutely fabulous! This system would translate well to a travel wardrobe, but since I try to stick to carry on luggage only, I would have to pare down the shoe options considerably. Bummer! I’m really enjoying these outfit posts using clothing already in your closet. I have many pieces similar to yours in my own closet, but the way you combine them gives me inspiration to put them together in new ways. Of all the fashion blogs I follow, yours remains my favorite.

  5. Susan,
    Somewhere on here you featured a site with darling striped tops etc., and now I cannot find it on here…It was not Amour Vert or any site I had ever heard of but I loved the clothes (expensive jeans) but cutest striped tops in many colors. Sorry to bug you, perhaps you can recall quicker than i can search again. THANK YOU!! pam

      1. Susan, I finally found the site it saw yesterday, I have no idea where!!! It is called AYR!! They have a great stipe cotton top called The French Fry i really liked!! I do not need another stripe top ( I adore Boded) This is a nice site anyway…did I see on your post? Thank you for all you do. xx

  6. I love how you “shop” your closet! Also, the transition to crisp navy after a winter of browns, which I love but start to get you down after a bit. How clever to add a pop of color (or even brown!) to the navy! You are a genius and such an inspiration. Thank you!

  7. The capsule wardrobe concept is useful for travel, but I am usually sick of those clothes by the time I return.

    That is to say, it works for some people, but not for my personality. I like to let the weather, my mood and what I am doing decide what I’ll wear each day. Mind you, I like separates that work together, so that is compatible with the capsule concept.

    1. I hear what you’re saying! I once packed a carry on bag for a two week trip, but due to a family emergency I ended up staying 2 months. Although I was able to put together plenty of outfits using my travel capsule (and even received a couple compliments on how put together I always looked), I was SO tired of those pieces of clothing by the time I got home. I need more variety than that in my complete wardrobe. Although I applaud others who successfully do it, I could never be that person with just 33 items in my closet!