15 Capsule Wardrobe Principles that You Should Follow

Ready to apply the ‘less is more’ mentality to your closet? Whether you’re an aspiring minimalist or a slow fashion follower, it’s time to treat your wardrobe with less stress, more time, and more freedom.

As you embark on your minimalism journey, you should adopt some capsule wardrobe principles that have been tested by many. This way, you’ll waste less time experimenting with clothes and more time on intentionality.

So, if you’d like to focus on what really matters, the following rules will help you embrace the joy of owning less. Let’s dive right into it:

1. Discover Your Color Scheme

Contrary to popular belief, capsule wardrobe shouldn’t necessarily encompass neutral colors like beige, white, and brown only. Rather, it should work with your complexion and facial contrast, reflecting them with warmer or cooler season clothing.

Choosing the right color scheme for your style is not an easy task. However, a good rule of thumb is picking warmer colors for summer and coder ones for cooler months. Alternatively, you can use an all-encompassing monochrome color palette like navy, white, grey, or beige, which works for all seasons.

2. Follow the 80/20 Rule

When it comes to shopping, we all face the dilemma of whether to purchase practical or experimental garments. Some focus on the latter, purchasing pieces for special occasions – out of impulse or excitement – constructing a wardrobe that’s exciting, rather than practical. Such shopping choices lead to trend-chasing, unnecessary experimentations, and piles of unused clothing in your closet.

However, if we never make shopping mistakes, there’s no way to learn what kind of clothing suits our lifestyle. Without any statement pieces, how are we supposed to know what we feel comfortable in?

Besides, those who only purchase everyday casuals often look like a Basic Betty. They always have something to wear for work, but they repeat the same style, silhouettes, or brands every season. Their outfits resemble a boring uniform, which lacks any aesthetic substance, dynamism, or creativity, and are often outdated.

So, how do we maintain a balance between purchasing too many basic or statement pieces, especially while building a capsule wardrobe? The 80/20 capsule wardrobe principle will help you achieve a balance in style – merging a foundation of casuals with a dose of eccentricity.

What is the 80/20 Rule?

The 80/20 capsule wardrobe principle pairs casual style with fashion-forward pieces, without overwhelming your wardrobe with trend-focused designs.

According to the rule, you should build a strong foundation of timeless garments that are minimalistic enough to pair with statement accessories. To illustrate, choose a “vanilla” base that encompasses a few classic skirts, pants, and shirts in neutral colors, such as white, beige, black, gray, or navy, which can be mixed-and-matched without putting any deliberate thought into styling the outfits.

The neutral foundation ensures that your capsule wardrobe doesn’t get outdated too quickly. Yet, it tends to look bland, which is where accent additions come into play.

The 20 Percent – Statement Pieces

These are accent-colored pieces worn with basics that uplift the character of your bland, basic outfits. They maintain a look that’s trendy, contemporary, and in vogue – all without dominating your capsule wardrobe.

There are many ways to incorporate the fashionable additions into your eco closet – from seasonal trends to vibrant accessories. However, it’s crucial that you maintain a balance in the color scheme. If you purchase different accessories in different colors, you might end up with pieces that are impossible to color coordinate or integrate into cohesive outfits.

So, when choosing statement pieces, focus on key accent colors that correspond to your personal color scheme. For instance, if your skin is cool toned, you might opt for pastel blue, green, and emerald. This way, you’ll ensure that the accent pieces blend seamlessly with your overall style and bring out your best features.

Back to the 80 Percent – Timeless Classics

These are the pieces that construct the foundation of any sustainable closet, as they safeguard you from the trap of consumerism.

If roughly 80 percent of your capsule wardrobe consists of staple classics, you won’t need to purchase new trendy clothing every season.

Besides, the classics always leave enough room for experimentation, as long as they’re not ridden with unnecessary details. With “boring” staples, you can dress up or dress down outfits easily, depending on your choice of accessories. This gives you the artistic freedom to play around with different colors, silhouettes, and designs without depending on trend cycles.

So, for the 80 percent of your sustainable capsule wardrobe, pick out timeless garments made of natural fabrics like peace silk, organic cotton, and wool. They will not only enrich your outfits with the decadence of quality fabrics but also last you for years (if not decades) to come.

3. The 30 Pieces Rule

This capsule wardrobe principle builds a solid foundation, which allows for more than one thousand outfit combinations. The concept behind it is straightforward – all tops must go with all bottoms and each piece of outerwear must go with the tops and bottoms.

Let’s break it down into numbers. The 30 pieces rule equips your eco closet with 30 garments in total, including 7 bottoms, 6 tops, 2 dresses, 6 pieces of outerwear, 3 bags, and 6 shoes.

While this rule is convenient, keep in mind that it is not a cookie-cutter list of ‘wardrobe essentials’ but rather a guiding light for your styling choices. So, make sure to not depend on it too much – give yourself the freedom to adjust the wardrobe to your lifestyle, interests, and personality.

4. Use Fabrics as Building Blocks

With fast fashion meeting the insatiable demand for trends, brands churn out virgin synthetic materials that are quick to produce and harmful for our health. The materials like nylon, viscose, rayon, and polyester release microplastics and take decades to biodegrade.

So, whether it’s for mitigating fashion’s impact on the planet or safeguarding your health from toxins, it’s crucial that you focus on the raw materials of your clothing.

When building a capsule wardrobe, visualize fabrics as building blocks: what part of your clothing is synthetic, partially natural, or fully sustainable? This will give you an idea of what your clothes are made of.

Besides, you can think about what clothes to swap for their sustainable alternatives. When shopping, peruse clothing labels thoroughly – they reveal the secrets behind each garment’s fabric properties and environmental impact.

5. Avoid Fabric Blends

Fabric blends, which are made of multiple fibers, wrinkle easy, fade quickly, and are impossible to recycle – especially when they fuse natural and synthetic fibers.

While synthetic fibers improve the ‘hand’ of the garment, making it smoother to the touch, they are also cheaper for brands to manufacture. However, they come with a price when it comes to consumers. In fact, synthetic blends do not absorb water and trigger skin allergies.

So, follow this capsule wardrobe principle and avoid the following blends like the plague:

  • Polyester + Cotton
  • Polyester + Wool
  • Lycra + Cotton
  • Nylon + Wool
  • Cotton + Ryon
  • Viscose + Cotton
  • Wool + Acetate

6. Buy to Last

The fashion world tends to push the one-size-fits-all mentality, which unfortunately, extends to the concept of sustainable fashion. Many minimalism gurus put forth their individual molds of capsule wardrobe, which may not work for others and result in unnecessary consumption.

Truth be told, there is not one aesthetic framework that you should fit in. That is, there’s no one way to dress well.

A tale of bargains, strict fashion rules, and seasonal must-haves is a myth. So, make sure not to compromise fabric quality and garment sturdiness for the sake of a good deal. Simply put, prioritize quality over quantity.

This applies to capsule wardrobe principles as well. Like a famous fashion reporter, Marc Bain, mentions, “A landfill full of organic cotton T-shirts is still an overflowing landfill.” That is, when it comes to overconsumption, the quantity of our purchases can be as important as its quality – if not more.

With that said, do not purchase anything new for your capsule wardrobe if you’re not going to keep wearing it again and again (and again!).

7. Think Holistically

Every garment has a history before it reaches you. First, it emerges from raw crops that get woven into fabrics. Second, it travels through the Global South, where it passes through the hands of garment workers and obtains its shape, texture, pattern, and color. Lastly, it reaches the Global North, where retailers distribute it to shoppers like you.

When building a capsule wardrobe, it’s crucial to think about the garment’s full lifecycle. From raw materials to shipping, you should cherish clothing’s entire story and make sure that they don’t have a short lifespan.

Thinking holistically is important to stop the pleasure-seeking treadmill of fast fashion – thus promoting the philosophy of conscious consumption.

8. Prioritize Durability

When shopping for a capsule wardrobe, keep an eye out for garment quality and invest in it. No matter if it’s vintage or brand new, durable garments are always a better investment. They hold up well, which means that you’ll end up needing fewer items in the future.

So, make sure to prioritize durable, high-end, natural fabrics like organic cotton, hemp, linen, wool, and peace silk. Unlike mass-made garments, those made of high-quality materials will not shrink, tear, or fade.

9. Sort Out Your Needs vs Wants

This is truly the dilemma of a lifetime – how do you differentiate what you want from what you truly need?

Analyze the outfits from your closet and think about what’s missing. Would an extra top, bottom, or skirt give you more essential outfit combinations?

If the answer is yes, then it’s definitely a need – so, browse through secondhand marketplaces or visit a sustainable store for the missing piece. However, make sure your purchase is deliberate.

Think these questions through before buying the garment you think you need:

  • Do I have enough space for it?
  • Is this item a replacement of something that can be fixed/upcycled/tailored?
  • Can I match the item with other garments in my closet?
  • Is the item a trend or a timeless piece that I can wear for years to come?

Remember: when in doubt, always wait for a few days before making a purchase.

10. Build More Outfits with Your Existing Clothes

Wardrobe full of clothes but nothing to wear? Be it a ruffle top with a loud print or a vibrant pair of loafers, reimagining our existing pieces -especially eccentric ones – is a challenge. Some items seem not to fit our lifestyle or the overall theme of our wardrobe, while some are simply outdated.

Yet, the beauty of this capsule wardrobe principle lies in open-mindedness. When cutting down on clothing consumption, we can get creative with the existing options in surprising ways. The key is detaching from the impulse of purchasing something new and embracing change.

To refashion your existing clothes, treat your capsule wardrobe as a DIY project. Try on every top with every bottom – you may discover new combinations that you have never won before. And get curious about the neglected items. Accent pieces that are meant for special occasions can bring the basics to life.

Also, no basic is too basic, and no statement piece is too overwhelming, as long as you know how to style it. So, before you deem certain items useless, remember to experiment with monochrome, prints, and patterns. By coordinating colors, you can alternate between basics and accent pieces to achieve the right balance.

11. Every Garment Should Have a Friend

Finding a garment’s companion is not an easy task, especially if your wardrobe is a melting pot of arbitrary styles, silhouettes, and color schemes.

Luckily, a capsule wardrobe eliminates the endless cycles of trial and error, as it maximizes your outfit options. In a small wardrobe, in which every garment has its own friend, styling clothes becomes easier than ever.

To cultivate a signature style, it’s crucial that you find garments that go well together and create a sense of cohesiveness. When shopping or styling, you should go beyond what the garment looks like and think about the possibilities that it creates.

Simply put, focus on outfit combinations, rather than individual pieces. However, do not restrict yourself. The only way you can maintain a capsule wardrobe in the long run is by removing the fuss around clothing combinations and making your wardrobe distraction-free.

With that said, assigning a friend to your garments is a subjective matter. Yet, it is a useful mindset to cultivate around clothes.

Keep in mind the following questions when pairing up garments to make mindful styling decisions:

  • How does this garment make you feel?
  • What type of setting does it belong to – formal, leisure, athleisure, etc.?
  • Does the garment meet your practical needs or is it more suited for special occasions?
  • What do you admire about the garment – is it the design, color, silhouette, or texture?
  • Does the garment make you feel comfortable? if not, can you pair it with another item for a cozier outfit?

12. Color Matters More Than Anything Else

Forget about fabrics, occasions, trends, shapes, or designs. Instead, prioritize color. Stylists agree that the most fool-proof way to assemble a stylish outfit is through color coordination.

This, however, does not mean that you should only wear monochrome styles. Instead, put vibrant pieces together and turn boring essentials into full-on statement looks.

Use Color Blocking

Color blocking is a fashion trend, which pairs up colors that are opposites on the color wheel to create eye-catching outfits. Whether they’re monochromatic, from the same color family, or strikingly contrasting tones, the blocks of color tend to bring the best out of unexpected combinations.

Emerging in the early 2010s street style, color blocking juxtaposes interesting colors to create a sense of contrast. With clashing hues, it hops from shade to shade, playing around with items that you wouldn’t normally wear together if it wasn’t for their color.

To incorporate color blocking into your wardrobe, imagine outfits as blocks of color. Pick a few colors to coordinate – start with a neutral base and pair it with saturated shades.

When colors make a statement, designs come second, so don’t forget to get out of your comfort zone and put together creative, color-focused outfits without considering other stylistic nuances. The results may surprise you!

Wear Denim, Leopard, and Cheetah Prints as Neutrals

Neutrals are prints, textures, or items that go well with any other item in circulation. Think of neutrals as a blank slate, around which you can assemble an outfit. While other pieces can make the statement, the neutral will never overwhelm the outfit with its hints, hues, or textures.

Denim, along with animal prints like zebra, leopard, and cheetah, can set the color tonality of the outfit and create a pleasant, neutralizing effect. Because of this, they look great with bursts of color like hot pink or red, as well as diffusible colors like olive green, cream, or pastel yellow.

13. Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle

The classic slow fashion blueprint, the three R’s – reduce, reuse, and recycle – help us keep clothing out of landfills. While some fashion brands have incorporated this blueprint into their business models, it is crucial that we, as consumers, follow it, too.

Circularity starts with us. Whether it’s for a capsule or regular wardrobe, we can learn how to repair and upcycle our existing clothing to minimize the environmental impact fashion has on the world.

With that said, this simple capsule wardrobe principle comes in handy when outlining consumer responsibilities. It grants us more mindfulness around our purchasing choices, reflecting upon where clothes come from, how they were made, and what impact they leave on the planet. So, let’s break down what the three R’s represent:

  • Reduce – minimizing the number of clothing purchases, focusing on durable garments that can be worn for a long time.
  • Reuse – repeating outfits, repairing damaged items, and getting creative with your style.
  • Recycle – focusing on materials that are or can be recycled.

14. Avoid the Tsundoku Phenomenon

In Japan, the concept of Tsundoku refers to the act of piling up lots of books – without actually reading them. It is the tendency of saving reading materials ‘for later’, which only leads to wobbly mountains of unused books.

Tsundoku can also apply to fashion. As consumers, we buy clothes that linger in our closets for years – simply because they don’t fit our current lifestyle or are outdated. We tend to grab that sparkly dress or purchase a pair of red stilettos ‘for later’, however, the opportunity for wearing them rarely arises.

To avoid Tsundoku, it is important to factor in function and fashion in your purchases. In other words, why buy a new pair of heels if you’re only going to wear it once on a special occasion? If the item cannot serve you in an everyday setting, it is smarter to not invest in it.

Besides, rather than purchasing clothes for the lifestyle of your dreams, work around your current lifestyle. Ask yourself the following questions to eliminate the risk of a regretful purchase:

  • What items could make my wardrobe more functional for my current lifestyle?
  • What items could go well with my current wardrobe?
  • What are some of the wardrobe essentials that I wear often?
  • What are the gaps in my outfits that could make my life easier?

15. Follow Trends Selectively

This capsule wardrobe principle is hard to execute – not only in terms of self-control but also styling expertise. Let us explain.

Even when watching our consumption habits, it is easy to get caught up in the endless loop of microtrends. Considering the pace of trend-cycling, some trends end up looking ridiculous months after they get worn out. Yet, some stay with us for decades. In other words, not all trends are time sensitive.

We should learn how to detect atemporal trends, that is, popular classics, and invest in them. With simple cuts, minimalistic lines, and high-quality fabrics, atemporal trends will withstand the test of time. Even when their cycle is over, they will remain relevant in the fashion world.

So, before you make a trendy purchase, it is wise to determine whether the item is innately classic. Here are some rules that a popular item should follow in order to be considered timeless:

  • An atemporal trend should NOT be made by a fast fashion brand
  • It should stay relevant in the next 2-3 years
  • It should feature silhouettes that were popular in the past at some point
  • It should look flattering on the body without featuring superfluous details


Fashion magazines tend to identify seasonal colors, and designs as trendy. Yet, trends may not work for everybody – they go out of style fast, rendering our outfits outdated in a matter of a few months.

Escaping trend-chasing doesn’t have to happen overnight. Following capsule wardrobe principles takes time, as it requires us to cultivate slow fashion habits, learn how to color coordinate, and identify timeless garments.

While it all takes some effort, a capsule wardrobe is definitely worth the hard work. Maximizing your outfit options, it eliminates the endless cycles of trial and error. In a small eco closet, in which every garment has its own friend, styling clothes becomes easier than ever.

So, ease yourself into your new world of sustainable fashion, and take the small steps toward building your dream closet every day. After all, slow fashion comes with slow yet sustainable changes!

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