Olena Sergienko @ unsplash

How to build a capsule wardrobe: beyond the capsule checklist

Where to start with your capsule collection?

There are so many guides and how-tos out there that focus on all the must-haves in a capsule wardrobe, that it can be overwhelming to just get started with building that basic capsule collection.  It may seem a simple enough checklist:  some dress trousers, a couple of white shirts, a few smart casual blouses or button-ups and a couple of all occasion skirts and dresses, plus that perfect pair of jeans.  But how do you start selecting those items when even shopping for a new pair of jeans can take days, if not weeks of trying and returning stuff and multiple disappointing visits to the dressing room?

Start with your body, not the checklist!

In our experience, there’s no point in just randomly trying a bunch of items and hoping that something sticks.  Playing dress-ups might seem appealing for the first, third or even fifth dress you put on, but sooner or later, it gets tiring.  Particularly if you’re in store, constantly swapping in and out of items, under glaring fluorescent bulbs within sight of sub-optimal dressing room mirrors and with the ever ‘helpful’  shop assistant checking if you have the right size for the umpteenth time (and no we don’t have the right size as every item is made to different sizes, even in the same brand!)

You end up exhausted, demotivated and probably walking out with a purchase that you will likely regret by the time you’ve made it home.

Paper shopping bags printed with statement 'I really shouldn't have'
Anete Lusina @ pexels
Have you experienced that dreaded buyer's remorse setting in, right after the dopamine wears off?

To save yourself the hassle and even before selecting that item for your first hopeful turn in the dressing room, set yourself up with some key criteria on what you’re looking for.  Know what sits right on your body and what works for your silhouette.  You might really fancy the pattern on a particular summer dress, but if the deep v neckline doesn’t work for your bust or the sleeves are of the capped variety that might not flatter your upper arms, it might be better to redirect your efforts looking for the right cut, shape or style first.   

Check your clothing labels

I also always recommend checking the make and materials on the label, preferably before even getting into the dressing room or adding things to your basket.  This helps you gauge the quality of the item before wasting too much time and energy, either waiting in line to try something out, or to return something once it’s delivered.  It’s also the worst feeling thinking you’ve finally selected a nice item amongst the never ending shelves or item pages, just to realise at the check-out (or worse still, once you’re trying the item at home!) that it’s just another polyester piece; or that you’ve selected a nice woollen jumper that turns out to be 100% acrylic (more plastics!)

Composite of a 'woollen looking' acrylic jumper and a white woolly sheep
@ Curobe & Sam Carter @ unsplash
Is it really wool or plastics in sheep's clothing?

Building the capsule collection

Once you know the core shapes and styles that suit your body, it makes it so much easier to know what you’re looking for and most importantly, to avoid buying things that won’t work as part of your core wardrobe, that will likely be rotated out of your capsule by the next season.  There’s no point in having that capsule white dress shirt to tick a box, if perhaps you have broader shoulders that does not work with a high-collared shirt.  Equally if you are a petite size with a longer torso, you might want to avoid the classic three quarter midi as part of your core wardrobe and opt for shorter or longer dresses and skirts that can elongate and give length. 

Once you have that core shape sorted and you know what you want to build on or avoid, there are various options to start planning your capsule:

By knowing what works best for your body, you can really zoom in on what’s already in your wardrobe and pick out those favourite go-to items.  These items will form the base of your collection and help guide future choices.  For example, if you have a smaller top half and narrower shoulders, there are certain patterns and cuts that better suit your frame; if you already have a good selection of striped and/or boat neck tops, you might want to look out for a nice bold patterned top or some capped sleeves to round out the capsule. 

Another option is to start with clearing out what doesn’t fit or suit you.  It can be a painful process, but if there are items that you haven’t worn within the last 12 months through the four seasons, it’s unlikely that you are picking them up again.  I don’t mean the formal cocktail dress or that statement piece waiting for that special occasion, but it’s the everyday items you always avoid, pick up and re-think or stow at the bottom or back of the wardrobe.  It’s time to clear those out or maybe consider up-cycling these items to give them a new lease of life; you never know, as an old pair of faded jeans can become your new go-to denim shorts or that worn jumper with the stretched out sleeves, could be shortened to make the perfect knitted crop top.

For the more visual or creative types, you might want to start by creating a mood or styling board of styles, colours or patterns for your body shape.  For example, if you have a straighter body type and prefer to wear items that give a stronger definition to your curves and waistline, you might want to create a board with items that can provide your desired silhouette e.g. fitted bodices, defined skirts and a mix of patterns and muted colours for tops and bottoms.  You can also look to your favourite artists that might share a similar body shape for some style inspiration.

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About Amanda Ip

Hi there - I'm Amanda, the founder of Curobe. My journey with Curobe started with a frustration of not being able to find the simplest of items for my wardrobe. Despite the plethora of choices out there, I found nothing that could help me choose and buy what I wanted, that fit my body and shape. I would just like to avoid sifting through hundreds of items, just to find a pair of smart casual trousers that fit me! That is why I started Curobe, to create a place that helps women choose and buy better, starting with the basics: finding good quality items that fit well!

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