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How to Build a Capsule Wardrobe

How to Build a Capsule Wardrobe

Putting together essentials for your ultimate capsule wardrobe for 2021 and beyond?

I’m a big fan of the capsule wardrobe for several reasons:

  • Easier to get dressed in the morning
  • Saves you money
  • Better for the environment

Whether you’re looking to implement sustainable fashion into your lifestyle, or you’re just looking to make your life easier, you’ll definitely love having a year-round capsule wardrobe.

I’m in no ways a minimalist myself, but I’m working towards building my own timeless capsule wardrobe.

Here’s how to build the perfect capsule wardrobe that you can keep for winter, spring, summer, and fall!

Be sure to also follow me on Instagram and TikTok – I share a lot more content on those platforms that don’t make it to the blog!


How to create a capsule wardrobe for 2021


1. Declutter your wardrobe

The first thing you need to do when building your capsule wardrobe is decluttering your closet of all the things you don’t wear or need anymore.

If you have a lot of clothes, it’s a very long process to declutter, but it’s important to keep your closet as minimal as possible!

I’m totally guilty of hoarding clothes I *might* wear someday, and I’ve slowly been decluttering my own wardrobe over the years.

You can sell your clothing at a consignment store or on Poshmark to earn extra cash to put towards your 2021 capsule wardrobe!

I love Poshmark because they provide a pre-paid shipping label (which the buyer pays for), and you can reuse things like Amazon boxes or sleeves to package your clothing in (and the buyer might even reuse it to ship out their own packages)!

I’ve made a few sales on Poshmark so far, which I put towards buying a few essential pieces I’ve been wanting for years.

Feel free to use my code “JESSICAILAM” to save $15 on your first Poshmark order – it’s also a great place to buy pre-loved essentials for your closet.

Selling clothes and accessories on Poshmark Canada
Poshmark makes it easy to sell your pre-loved clothes.

2. Pick out your most-worn clothes

Everyone has their own unique sense of style, so everyone will have their own version of a 2021 capsule wardrobe.

Trousers might be a closet staple for you if you work in a professional setting, but it might not be for someone who works in a more casual setting.

Pick out your most-worn clothes in your closet to be part of your capsule wardrobe – if you wear it a lot, it’s most likely an essential in your closet!

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3. Create a colour palette

Neutral colours are the best for a capsule wardrobe, because they’re easiest to pair with other pieces.

That’s typically the main appeal of having a capsule wardrobe – being able to easily mix and match your clothing.

If you do tend to wear more colour, you can have it in your colour palette as an accent colour.

I love the colours pink and red, and I tend to wear a lot of both, so both are included in my own capsule wardrobe staples!

4. Put together your capsule wardrobe

Put together your ideal capsule wardrobe, including your most-worn clothes and clothes you have on your wishlist.

When putting this together, think about versatile and basic pieces that will pair well with each other.

You can write this out in the Notes app on your phone or even make a PowerPoint if you want!

5. Buy clothes with intention

Don’t just go shopping and buy pretty clothes all the time because you feel like it.

It’s okay every once in awhile if you love a certain trend that doesn’t specifically fit into your capsule wardrobe.

If you are purchasing new clothes, consider buying second-hand or buying from sustainable brands!

I have blog posts all about sustainable fashion options you can shop:

Sustainable or ethical clothing tends to be more expensive and isn’t feasible for everyone, so it’s totally understandable if you don’t buy from those brands.

The most important thing is buying quality pieces that will last you for years, so you don’t toss them into the landfill.

Another great option if you like to wear newer pieces is to rent them from Canadian clothing rental companies!


2021 capsule wardrobe essentials


Tops

Camisole

The key to a capsule wardrobe is investing in versatile pieces that pair with everything else in your closet.

A simple camisole can be worn on its own or layered under other pieces!

A basic white camisole is probably my most-worn, but you can totally have a black camisole that pairs with everything as well.

Zara baby blue suede moto jacket outfit
Throw your fave moto jacket over a white camisole.
Converse White Low Top Chuck Taylor Sneakers
Pair your white camisole with a simple skirt for an easy summer look.
Winter outfit idea featuring American Apparel red beanie, Zara grey coat, Aritzia white camisole, Levi's denim, Michael Kors booties
A white camisole with jeans looks great year-round!

Basic tee

Plain, solid colour t-shirts are probably the top I wear the most all year-round.

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They can be worn on their own or layered under other pieces, just like camisoles!

White, grey, and black are all staple tees I love having in my capsule wardrobe, but you can go with just a single colour you wear the most.

Kotn makes amazing and affordable basic tees, and they’re a sustainable Toronto clothing brand!

Spring outfit - grey Zara coat, white Aritzia tee, Levi's ribcage denim
A simple white tee and jeans is my go-to look.
Aritzia Vivienne Dress
A plain tee is always cute layered under dresses and even overalls.

White button-up

White button-ups can be worn to the office with trousers or to brunch dates with blue jeans!

They’re super versatile, and can be worn as a top or even as a layer over a camisole or plain tee.

You can get white button-ups in all kinds of different styles, whether you prefer something fitted, a boyfriend fit, or even something in a silky material.

Go with a white button-up you’d wear the most!

Fall capsule wardrobe
I love the casual look of white button-ups with blue jeans.

Plaid shirt

Plaid shirts are mostly a fall or winter staple, but I also love wearing them during the summer on chilly evenings.

Go with something fitted or a boyfriend fit – whatever floats your boat!

I personally love the boyfriend fit because you can easily wear it on its own or layered over other pieces.

I also love wearing plaid shirts tied around my waist – it looks stylish, and it’s an extra layer you can throw on if it gets chilly.

DIY Vans Warped Tour tee into tank
Plaid shirts are a cute and easy top or layer year-round.
Hike at Mono Cliffs Provincial Park in Orangeville, Ontario
I love having a plaid shirt tied around my waist for style and for an extra layer in case it gets chilly.

Knit sweater

Sweaters are an absolute essential here in Canada, with the weather being cold for most of the year.

A neutral-coloured knit sweater is best for your capsule wardrobe because it goes with everything.

I would go with white or beige because you can wear it year-round and have it match all your winter, spring, summer, and fall outfits.

If you’re looking to invest in a few sweaters, I’ve got a blog post all about capsule sweaters!

Summer to fall transitional outfit featuring Aritzia pink knit sweater and Guess white distressed jeans
Knit sweaters pair with everything in your capsule wardrobe.
Fairmont Royal York Hotel
You can even throw a knit sweater over a slip dress or skirt.

Turtleneck

Turtlenecks aren’t for everyone, but I absolutely love wearing them during the fall and winter.

Like knit sweaters, neutral colours would be best for a capsule wardrobe.

I probably wear black turtlenecks the most, although a beige one would be nice for lighter outfits!

If you’re not a fan of actual turtlenecks, you can wear mock necks instead.

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Winter outfit idea featuring a beige wool turtleneck, dark wash high waisted jeans, and red Hunter boots
Turtlenecks and jeans are an easy fall and winter outfit.

Essential tops for your capsule wardrobe:

  • Camisole
  • Basic tee
  • White button-up
  • Plaid shirt
  • Knit sweater
  • Turtleneck

Bottoms

Denim

A good pair of jeans will go with every single outfit, and it can take you from casual Fridays at the office to happy hours after work.

I pretty much live in jeans year-round – they’re just so easy to wear with literally everything.

Plus, fun fact: you’re not actually supposed to wash jeans every time you wear them, so you’re saving water and energy if you don’t wash them as much as you wash your other pants!

Denim shorts

High-waisted denim shorts were one of the best 90’s trends to come back in style.

A staple pair of blue jean shorts can be worn with literally every outfit during the summer.

You could also have a pair of white denim shorts and a pair of black denim shorts in your capsule wardrobe, but a single pair of blue denim shorts will do you just fine.

Converse Pro Leather LP Sneaker
Denim shorts pair with everything.
Blue denim

If there’s any one single pair of jeans to invest in, it’s a pair of classic blue jeans.

Skinny jean, straight leg, wide leg – the capsule style you choose depends on what you like to wear.

Two jean fits I’d recommend are the Levi’s wedgie jeans and the Levi’s 721 jeans, both of which are super flattering on everyone and have a high waist!

I also love the Levi’s ribcage jeans, but the super high waist might not be for everyone.

If you’re a petite gal, I’ve got a blog post all about how to wear high waisted jeans for petite peeps.

Striped button-up and Levi's ripped blue denim
Blue denim is an essential in everyone’s closet.
White denim

If you’re a big wearer of jeans, it definitely is worth the investment to have a pair of white jeans in your capsule wardrobe.

White jeans also pair easily with a lot of different outfits, so they can definitely be a wardrobe staple.

Summer to fall transitional outfit featuring Aritzia pink knit sweater and Guess white distressed jeans
White denim is another chic staple you can wear year-round.

Trousers

If you don’t work in an office setting, trousers aren’t totally essential to your capsule wardrobe.

However, they can totally be worn outside of the office – wear them to weekend brunch or to your next coffee date!

Back to school outfit featuring denim jacket, black trousers, red booties
Pair a crop top and jean jacket with trousers for a casual look.

Essential bottoms for your capsule wardrobe:

  • Denim shorts
  • Blue denim
  • White denim
  • Trousers
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Dresses

Summer dress

A simple summer dress is an absolute essential in your capsule wardrobe.

You can wear it with a denim jacket during the spring, on its own during the summer, and with a leather jacket during the fall.

The perfect one is just a dress that you absolutely love and would wear for years to come.

Mini dress, midi dress, maxi dress – whatever style you love to wear!

I have blog posts all about the best dresses on Amazon Canada and where to buy summer dresses in Toronto.

Hawaii outfit - Aritzia straw hat, Zara mini dress, Fjallraven Kanken mini backpack
Find yourself the perfect timeless summer dress.

Sweater dress

Sweater dresses are one of my favourite pieces to wear during the fall and winter because they’re so easy to wear.

Simply throw on a leather jacket, beanie, and black booties, and it’s a cool-girl look!

I would go with any neutral or plain colours so they’re more versatile.

If you’re looking for a timeless dress you can wear to all your holiday gatherings, a chic sweater dress is one of my go-to holiday dresses!

Winter outfit idea featuring American Apparel red beanie, Aritzia turtleneck sweater midi dress, Mackage black leather jacket, and Michael Kors booties
A sweater dress makes you look more put together during the colder months.

Essential dresses for your capsule wardrobe:

  • Summer dress
  • Sweater dress

Coats & jackets

Denim jacket

Denim jackets are the perfect spring layer – they look adorable paired with summer dresses, or even with jeans.

Cropped, fitted, oversized – there are plenty of different denim jacket fits you can choose from!

I’m personally a big fan of the Levi’s trucker jacket, and I have it in both a light and dark wash.

If there was one shade I’d recommend for a capsule wardrobe, it would definitely be the dark wash denim jacket – it can literally pair with everything!

Of course, it all depends on your preference and what you would wear the most.

Spring flowers at Osgoode Hall in downtown Toronto | Levi's denim trucker jacket, American Apparel white high neck crop top, BB Dakota striped pants from Amazon Fashion
Denim jackets pair with everything in your capsule wardrobe.

Leather jacket

Leather jackets are another layer I absolutely love wearing during both spring and fall.

They’re a bit more warm than denim jackets, and they make any outfit look instantly cooler.

Mackage and Rudsak are two of my favourite leather jacket brands!

Fall outfit - M Boutique black turtleneck, Rudsak leather jacket, Levi's wedgie jeans
Leather jackets make any outfit look instantly cooler.

Trench coat

Trench coats are another spring and fall staple that are perfect for days where it’s a bit chilly but not super cold.

A classic beige or tan trench coat is the easiest to style, but black is also nice.

Summer outfit featuring Aritzia white slip dress, pink trench coat, Jeffrey Campbell grey suede booties, and nude Michael Kors bag
Trench coats look chic over any outfit, whether it’s a dress or tee and jeans.

Wool overcoat

Wool overcoats keep your outfit chic on days where it’s cold but not freezing cold outside.

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On super cold days, you can also just layer up a leather jacket underneath and throw a heavy blanket scarf on top!

Winter outfit idea featuring a white button down, black leather jacket, brown wool coat, and Levi's dark wash denim
Wool coats are perfect for when it’s cold but not too cold.

Winter parka

If you’re Canadian (or live anywhere that gets weather below 0), you need a winter parka.

Even with all the layers and a thick wool coat, it just ain’t enough if it feels like -20 outside.

Canada Goose is my all-time favourite winter wear brand, and I’ve been wearing their jackets every winter for over a decade now.

The quality of their jackets is impeccable, and they make all their coats here in Canada!

Canada Goose Victoria Jacket
A winter parka is essential for Canadian winters.

Essential coats & jackets for your capsule wardrobe:

  • Denim jacket
  • Leather jacket
  • Trench coat
  • Wool overcoat
  • Winter parka

Footwear

You can really just have a few staple pairs of shoes in your wardrobe that will go with literally every outfit.

If you’re a shoe lover, you can definitely put together a collection of capsule summer shoes and capsule fall boots that can also be part of your capsule wardrobe.

White sneakers

I’m guilty of having way more sneakers than I need, as well as being guilty of having too many white pairs of sneakers.

White sneakers pair with every outfit, which is why I’m such a big fan of them.

Wear them with dainty summer dresses or tom-boy outfits!

The Adidas Ultra Boosts are my all-time favourite sneaker because they’re so dang comfy.

Converse Chuck Taylors are another favourite, and they’re a lot more affordable.

How to style Adidas Ultra Boost Sneakers in Triple White
White sneakers match with pretty much any outfit.

Black booties

I literally live in black booties for most of the year, especially because the weather is cold for so much of it.

You can also wear them during the summer with sumemr dresses or high waisted denim shorts!

Fall outfit featuring American Apparel blue knit sweater, Tobi lace up black leggings, and Steve Madden leather booties
Black booties also go with everything!

Essential footwear for your capsule wardrobe:

  • White sneakers
  • Black booties

Accessories

Beanie

I grew up calling it a tuque, but now I call them beanies.

Anyway, not only do they keep your head warm on cold days, but they’re so good for bad hair days.

They also just make any fall or winter outfit instantly cuter – I lived in them everyday back in university!

Lupa beanie, The Drop white turtleneck, Levi's ribcage jeans
Beanies are an easy accessory that also keeps your head warm.

Wide brim hat

Not everyone is crazy about hats, but I think wide brim hats look fabulous on everyone.

Invest in a tan or black one to pair with all of your outfits!

Fall outfit - The Drop slip dress and BLANKNYC suede moto jacket (Toronto Union Station)
Wide brim hats add an extra oomph to any boring outfit.

Essential accessories for your capsule wardrobe:

  • Beanie
  • Wide brim hat

These were my capsule wardrobe essentials for 2021 and beyond!

The whole point of having a capsule wardrobe is being able to wear it for years to come, so definitely put together a timeless wardrobe you’ll never get tired of wearing.

Are you a fan of the capsule closet? What are essentials in your 2021 capsule wardrobe? Let me know on Twitter or Instagram!

If you’re looking to build the ultimate capsule wardrobe, check out my other posts:

If you’re looking for more sustainable fashion, you might like these posts:

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Jessica Lam | Toronto lifestyle, fashion, beauty, and travel blogger | Diary of a Toronto Girl, a Canadian lifestyle blog

How many clothes should be in a capsule wardrobe for 2021?

There isn’t a set amount of clothing required in a capsule wardrobe, but it should only include the absolute basics.

What should be in a capsule wardrobe for 2021?

Basic and versatile tops, bottoms, dresses, coats, footwear, and accessories should be in your capsule wardrobe.