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Capsule wardrobe is a term coined by Susie Faux, the owner of a London boutique called "Wardrobe" in the 1970s. According to Faux, a capsule wardrobe is a collection of a few essential items of clothing that don't go out of fashion, such as skirts, trousers, and coats, which can then be augmented with seasonal pieces.[1] This idea was popularised by American designer Donna Karan, who, in 1985, released an influential capsule collection of seven interchangeable work-wear pieces.[2]

The term is widely used in the British and American fashion media, and has been the subject of several popular television series. The term has come to refer to a collection of clothing that is composed of interchangeable items only, to maximise the number of outfits that can be created. The aim is to have an outfit suitable for any occasion without owning excessive items of clothing. This is usually achieved by buying what are considered to be "key" or "staple" items in coordinating colours.[3]

History and popularityEdit

The term "capsule wardrobe" was coined by Susie Faux,[4][5] owner of the West End boutique "Wardrobe",[6] in the 1970s to refer to a collection of essential items of clothing that would not go out of fashion, and therefore could be worn for multiple seasons. The aim was to update this collection with seasonal pieces to provide something to wear for any occasion without buying many new items of clothing.[7] Typically, Faux suggests that a woman's capsule wardrobe contain at least "2 pairs of trousers, a dress or a skirt, a jacket, a coat, a knit, two pairs of shoes and two bags".[8]

The concept of a capsule wardrobe was popularised by American designer Donna Karan in 1985, when she released her "7 Easy Pieces" collection.[9][2] Her aim was to fill what she referred to as "a void in the marketplace" for a stylish and practical wardrobe designed with working women in mind.[10] When the collection debuted, she showed eight models dressed only in bodysuits and black tights. The models then began to add items of clothing such as wrap-skirts, trousers, and dresses,[11] to demonstrate her interchangeable style of dressing.

As a term, "capsule wardrobe" is widely used in the fashion media; for instance, the fashion sections in British newspapers The Independent and The Daily Telegraph have recently run dedicated capsule wardrobe features,[12][13] as well as British Marie Claire and Elle magazines, among others.[14][15] The concept has been further popularised by several television programmes, including Trinny and Susannah's 'What Not to Wear', which aired on the BBC 2001–2007, and Gok's Fashion Fix, which aired on Channel Four from 2008 onwards. Presenter and stylist Gok Wan asserts that a capsule wardrobe is an especially important tool in a recession as it allows people to look good on a small budget.[16] This is perhaps part of the reason that the idea has endured since its conception in the 1970s.

General rulesEdit

Below are rules widely given for creating a capsule wardrobe:

  • Choose a colour scheme.[17][18] This would typically involve choosing one or two base colours that go with everything, such as black, white, brown, grey, or navy. Items such as trousers, handbags or coats would be bought in shades of these colours, so that they can be put with anything else in the wardrobe. After choosing the base colours, choose one or two accent colours, which are brighter than the base colours, and co-ordinate with each other.[19] These would typically be used for items such as tops, dresses, or accessories; once a colour scheme is established, all the items in a wardrobe should be interchangeable, as the colour of the pieces always complement each other.
  • Consider your body shape.[20][21] Some cuts of clothing are more flattering than others; for instance, stylists often advise that women with wider hips wear cap sleeves, as they make the shoulders appear wider, and more proportionate to the hips. If the items of clothing chosen are flattering, the wearer is more likely to want to keep them in their wardrobe.
  • Consider your complexion. As with cuts of clothing, some colours are more flattering than others, to both skin tone and body shape. If the colours are well-chosen, then the items are more likely to remain in favour.
  • Choose classic shapes and patterns.[22][23] While some cuts and patterns of clothing go in and out of fashion, others are considered 'classic' because they do not date. It is wise to choose classic pieces for a capsule wardrobe, as the wearer intends to keep them for a number of years.
  • Choose high-quality fabrics.[24] As the idea of a capsule wardrobe is to own a few items of clothing that can be worn different ways, individual pieces get lots of wear. Therefore, it is a good idea to choose clothing that is well made and continues to look good despite wear.


Below are examples of a typical capsule wardrobe, one for women[25][26] and one for men.[27][28][29]

Sample women's wardrobe Sample men's wardrobe
A belted trench coat A suit
Skinny jeans A pair of jeans
A white shirt A pea coat
A black blazer T-shirts
A little black dress (LBD) Cotton shirts
A pair of tailored trousers A blazer
A pencil skirt A pair of slacks
T-shirts and camisole tops A pair of smart shoes
A cashmere sweater A pair of casual shoes
A sundress A pair of trainers
A pair of ballet flats A pair of rugged boots
A pair of long boots A wool sweater
A tote bag A watch
A clutch bag A jacket
A silk scarf A knit scarf
Sunglasses Sunglasses
A pair of high heels
A pair of casual shoes

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Susie, Faux. "Capsule Wardrobe". Retrieved 6 April 2012.
  2. ^ a b "Donna Karan". voguepedia. Vogue. Retrieved 6 April 2012.
  3. ^ "". Retrieved 7 April 2012.
  4. ^ "The perfect capsule wardrobe". UKTV. Retrieved 8 April 2012.
  5. ^ Faux, Susie. "About Susie Faux". Retrieved 6 April 2012.
  6. ^ Susie, Faux. "About Wardrobe". Archived from the original on 1 May 2012. Retrieved 6 April 2012.
  7. ^ Susie, Faux. "Capsule Wardrobe". Retrieved 6 April 2012.
  8. ^ Clarke, Zoe. "Capsule Wardrobe". Retrieved 6 April 2012.
  9. ^ Krebs, Jost. "Donna Karan Biography". Archived from the original on 3 March 2009. Retrieved 6 April 2012.
  10. ^ Karan, Donna (20 June 1994). "Fortune Turn for a Fast-Rising Fashion Star". New York Times. Retrieved 6 April 2012.
  11. ^ Hyde, Nina. "Donna Karan show report". Retrieved 6 April 2012.
  12. ^ Walker, Harriet (1 February 2009). "The Capsule Wardrobe". London: The Independent. Retrieved 7 April 2012.
  13. ^ Trotter, Louise (1 February 2009). "How To Build A Capsule Wardrobe". The Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 7 April 2012.
  14. ^ "Capsule Wardrobe Staples". Marie Claire. Retrieved 7 April 2012.
  15. ^ Weir, Laura. "Romantic Getaway". Elle UK. Retrieved 7 April 2012.
  16. ^ Wan, Gok. "Gok's Fashion Fix". Retrieved 8 April 2012.
  17. ^ "Capsule Wardrobe list".
  18. ^ Trotter, Louise (1 February 2009). "How to build a capsule wardrobe". London: The Telegraph. Retrieved 8 April 2012.
  19. ^ Eirich, Franca. "How to build a capsule wardrobe around three colours". Retrieved 8 April 2012.
  20. ^ Vears, Amy. "The perfect capsule wardrobe: Evaluate". Archived from the original on 10 May 2012. Retrieved 8 April 2012.
  21. ^ Galpin, Jane. "Dresses by Body Shape". Channel 4. Retrieved 8 April 2012.
  22. ^ Walker, Harriet (2 April 2012). "The capsule wardrobe: Fashion changes, these endure". London: The Independent. Retrieved 8 April 2012.
  23. ^ Trotter, Louise (1 February 2009). "How to build a capsule wardrobe". The Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 8 April 2012.
  24. ^ Jane. "Barneys: How to create a capsule wardrobe". Barneys. Retrieved 8 April 2012.
  25. ^ Faux, Susie. "Capsule Wardrobe". Retrieved 8 April 2012.
  26. ^ "How to build the perfect capsule wardrobe". Archived from the original on 10 May 2012. Retrieved 8 April 2012.
  27. ^ "10 wardrobe essentials every man must own". Retrieved 8 April 2012.
  28. ^ "The capsule wardrobe". Men's Health. Retrieved 8 April 2012.
  29. ^ "Wardrobe Essentials Every Man Should Have". Retrieved 7 March 2016.