Thinking of your wardrobe in terms of capsules is an easy, efficient and effective strategy once you get the hang of it. Wardrobe capsules force you to think of your items and outfits in groups, which means analyzing how the items work together. There is little point in having a wardrobe full of fabulous items that cannot be combined to create fabulous outfits.
There are three types of wardrobe capsules: 1) mix-and-match capsules, 2) category capsules, and 3) activity capsules. The category and activity capsules are more straightforward because they’re smaller with fewer moving parts. It’s the mix-and-match capsules that my clients struggle with most because they are hard to create if you aren’t purchasing the entire capsule from scratch (which is seldom the case). In this post I’m going to illustrate the process with two examples from my client Bridget’s Spring and Summer wardrobe refresh. Both capsules combine new and old items.
First, a little about Bridget so that you can understand why the items and pieces work for her. Bridget is tall, blonde, and has bright blue eyes. As a stay-at-home Mum, she wears casual outfits every day. She has a high affinity for colour and pattern mixing, likes casual Sporty Luxe combinations, and has a strong ‘70s streak in her style. Bridget likes her wardrobe to be simple and relatively small. She will not compromise on comfort, especially when it comes to footwear. She loves to wear jeans and casual bottoms all year long. Along with her stunning eyes and gorgeous smile, her sporty white apple watch and retro sunnies are her statement accessories. Occasionally, she’ll wear a necklace.
The collection below shows eleven of the pieces Bridget bought on a recent shopping trip. She fell in love with Santuary’s cropped camo print utility pants because they were a fab alternative to jeans. The length is fab for warm weather and the pattern is subtle. She also loves citron, so Vince Camuto’s mixed media crewneck tunic was a no-brainer. T-shirts and ‘70s style tops are wardrobe essentials for Bridget, so we refresh those category capsules every season. Trendy cropped jeans were a new item on her shopping list, and a great way to refresh Bridget’s look. We got a pair in white and pink, and two in blue across different silhouettes. Bridget also ordered two pairs of Ecco Soft sneakers — a pair in citron and another in white — as her go-to shoes for the season. She ordered a ‘70s pleather tote in cream to be her bag for the season (Bridget does not swap out her bags regularly). These are the exact items.
We built several mix-and-match capsules when we got back home, making sure that the items that she bought worked with here current wardrobe. We also made sure that they were in line with the internal and external factors that affect her style. No shopping for imaginary lifestyles!
Here I will share two of those capsules: Casual Sporty Luxe and Relaxed ‘70s.
Casual Sporty Luxe Mix & Match Capsule
We started by laying out eight of the eleven new items: camo pants, white flared cropped jeans, blue cuffed cropped jeans, citron tunic, navy tee, citron sneakers, white sneakers, and cream tote. Obviously, there were too few tops to wear with three bottoms in this grouping. Fab pieces but no outfits. We needed to add tops and toppers (for chilly Seattle mornings) to create many mix-and-match outfits within the capsule.
Bridget tried on one outfit from the grouping — camo pants, citron top and citron sneakers — to get our creative juices flowing. I went into Bridget’s closet and grabbed items that I thought could work with the camo pants so that they would not be orphaned. I found a citron sweatshirt, ink blue and white striped tops, solid white, grey, black, tomato red and fuschia tops, a white denim jacket, and ink moto jacket. All these tops and toppers worked well with the camo pants and either pair of sneakers because Bridget tried on each of the combinations to make sure she liked them. We also tried some other tops and toppers that didn’t work quite as well, and promptly hung them back in her closet to keep things organized.
Once we knew which tops and toppers worked well with the camo pants, it was easy to slot the blue and white cropped jeans into the capsule because you can wear anything with blue jeans, and almost anything with white jeans. Bridget also tried on those combinations to make sure she liked them. She used her phone to take a photo of each of the outfits for easy reference, and also took a photo of the capsule as a whole.
I’ve put similar pieces to hers in the Polyvore set below so that you can see how the mix-and-match capsule of new and old items came together. The sneakers and bag are the exact items in Bridget’s wardrobe.
Relaxed ‘70s Mix & Match Capsule
After putting together Bridget’s casual sporty look, it was time to pander to her ‘70s style and pattern cravings. We put this capsule together in two ticks because it’s very much in Bridget’s comfort zone. We gathered four of the eleven new items: teal V-neck blouse, pink cropped jeans, blue flared cropped jeans, and cream tote.
After laying out the pieces we saw the gaps. Fun pieces but no outfits. We needed tops, toppers and footwear to create mix-and-match outfits within the capsule. I went back to Bridget’s closet and grabbed all her dramatic ‘70s blouses. Over the years, she’s acquired quite the assortment and she loves these tops dearly. They worked flawlessly well with the new flared cropped jeans from Banana Republic, and an old pair of faded blue Resolution skimmers from the Gap. And since Bridget has a high affinity for colour matching, she had no problem matching the blouses with the new pink jeans. Pairing the old blouses with the new cropped jeans made for a nice change.
The footwear was an easy addition because Bridget likes to wear ultra supportive and sturdy Dansko sandals in warm weather. The two pairs that she has (orange & brown, and tan), along with the tasseled cream tote completed the wearable ‘70s look to perfection. Her floppy straw hat worked well with the outfits too.
In Seattle you normally need a topper at some point during the day, so I grabbed two old cocoon style cardigans from the closet — one cream and one ink blue — because they worked best over the billowing silhouettes of the blouses. Bridget’s denim jackets and ink moto from the Casual Sporty Capsule can work over some of these blouses too. She took pictures with her phone of each of the outfits for easy reference, and also took a photo of the capsule as a whole.
I’ve put similar pieces in a Polyvore set so that you can see how the mix-and-match capsule of new and old items came together. Each of the tops can be worn with each of the bottoms. The sandals and bag are the exact items in Bridget’s wardrobe.
We built one more mix-and-match capsule around a pair of casual black culottes and wrap jersey skirt, which I will share another time. We also put together a dressier capsule for events with a few stand-alone outfits. Apart from gear for sporting activities and camping, this is most of Bridget’s Spring and Summer wardrobe. She shan’t be purchasing anything else for the season unless she finds a wardrobe hole or laundry bottleneck.
All you need is a little bit of time in your closet to create effective mix-and-match capsules with new and old wardrobe items. And once you’ve done that, you’ll have outfits ready to go for all aspects of your lifestyle. You’ll also find glaring wardrobe holes, as well as return items that do not relate to the rest of your pieces. It sounds like a very involved process, but it’s fast and efficient once you get the hang of it. And over time it becomes quite intuitive, which is the best part of all.