A wardrobe ‘capsule’ is probably one of the biggest buzzwords in fashion today, but how do you build one that works for you? Read on …
A capsule wardrobe – that is, a finite number of pieces which form the architecture of your seasonal look – can differ from person to person. We know that by now not everyone is going to gravitate towards the same key pieces that act as wardrobe staples but we do often see the same ones offered up – white shirts, mid-wash straight-leg jeans, black or cream blazers, a butter-soft leather bag in tan or black. (That’s not to say these pieces aren’t pretty perfect: in fact, we love them.) However, it’s important to remember that capsuling is very much a marketing term in fashion right now – no doubt to appeal to the current appetite for understated or ‘quiet’ luxury and laid back minimalism. Dare we say it, has everything become a bit formulaic?
Before we answer that, we should pose the question: does a capsule wardrobe have to be made up of basics? The answer is an emphatic no. “A capsule wardrobe doesn’t have to mean basics,” says Bethany Rowntree, the founder of Studio B, a new Substack that acts as a contemporary style directory, sharing sourcing secrets, advice and the best small brands to know. Rowntree, who is a self-confessed flamboyant dresser believes the term ‘capsule’ is truly subjective. “A good capsule wardrobe is about knowing the amazing pieces that work for you, that you can dress up or down, day or night. For me, that’s an oversized pink sparkly dress that I can wear on repeat. I can add big boots and layer it with a long sleeved top for day, or for night I’ll add sparkly heels,” she says.
Jess Colivet (Instagram @jesscolivet), a style influencer and personal shopper at Kildare Village, believes it’s never a case of one size fits all. “A capsule should be tailored to match your lifestyle, complement your body shape and be full of colours that make you feel happy and confident,” she says. It can’t be static, either: our style is always going to evolve, and the pieces you wear all the time need to develop, too. “I think sometimes we are too swayed by influencer trends, or places like Pinterest, where quantity often gets prioritised over quality, and what’s popular over something that’s a timeless statement,” she says.
One non-traditional capsule item that Colivet recommends is an oversized blazer, as opposed to a more traditional streamlined style. “It adds a contemporary and modern touch to any look. It’s fabulous paired with jeans for a casual look, or over a dress for something more sophisticated. Just be careful it doesn’t swamp you,” she says.
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When it comes to accessories, we all know loafers and do-it-all leather totes are staple pieces in a wardrobe. Why not choose one in an unexpected colour, if it appeals? We’d suggest working within a framework of colours you already wear on rotation to ensure you get maximum bang for your buck.
A not so typical little black dress: CEO of Copenhagen Fashion Week Cecilie Thorsmark leans into a voluminous dress by favourite Danish designer Cecilie Bahnsen as a wardrobe go-to.
The ubiquitous white shirt is often touted as the key pillar of the capsule wardrobe. Not for you? We hear you: white doesn’t necessarily flatter all complexions, equally a simple button-down style may not appeal to everyone. Opt for steel blue, or a merlot stripe. Alternatively, go dramatic with a pussy bow neckline.
Creative director at J Crew Olympia Gayot personifies the all American aesthetic, but with a twist. See how she plays with classics such as black tuxedo jackets by choosing an exaggerated shape, or adding a corsage. Equally, she incorporates bold metallics such as gold knee-high boots into her look, which blend seamlessly with sedate wardrobe choices like traditional tailoring or a classic wax jacket.
A black double-breasted coat and a white T-shirt? So far, so normal. We love how Irish model Vanessa O’Connell adds interest by trading popular mid-blue wash jeans for a pair in extroverted leopard print.