3 Stylists' Take on the Capsule Wardrobe

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In 2019, minimalism is the new black and the simple life reigns supreme. However, efforts to apply and maintain this lifestyle often fail because they are not tailored to the individual.

Enter the idea of a simplified, capsule wardrobe. It's a no-fuss approach to getting dressed that varies by a person's lifestyle and personal preference. And the internet loves it.

I adopted the capsule wardrobe concept five years ago and it changed my entire approach to fashion. After experimenting with multiple approaches to a capsule wardrobe, I've discovered three universal concepts at the core of each method.

In order to create a capsule wardrobe that you love, you need to know how to dress to suit your style and shape. Once you know how to dress, you need to know which pieces to invest in and know how to create versatile outfits.

If you can figure out these three things for your own style, adopting a capsule wardrobe becomes a simple process. Below, three stylists give their tips for mapping out your style before revamping your wardrobe.

Knowing What Clothes Suit You

Every item in your capsule wardrobe should be practical for your life, fit you well, and make you feel good about how you look. This can be a challenge because it takes time to develop personal style.

Kelly Foster -- a stylist for the women's lifestyle store Anthropologie -- has been working with women to help them discover their personal style for the past 8 years.

Foster classified style types into four different categories: femme, classic, bohemian and preppy. She also noted that the individual's lifestyle - whether a stay-at-home mom or businesswoman - influences the types of clothes she recommends.

When defining personal style, she said that things like colors and prints depend more on the person's preference than styling rules. Pick outfits based on the colors you like and know compliment your coloring, which is easily discovered when trying on different items.

Styling for particular body types can be more formula based and Foster recommended certain shapes for each type.

If you're tall, wide leg pants, tunic tops and pencil skirts will suit you. Petite women should look for fitted pieces with a defined waistline to elongate the body.

V-neck tops lengthen the neckline and accentuate the waist for curvier woman. Boyish figures are often flattered by feminine pieces.

"Try on two sizes of each piece you take to the fitting room," Foster said. "Compare the fit and see which size you are most comfortable in and which is most flattering."

In order to maintain your wardrobe as your style changes over time, Foster recommended regularly evaluating the closet and getting rid of pieces that are no longer flattering. A strong foundation of well-fitting pieces can evolve with your style by adding accessories and layers.

"I tell women to invest in a good pair of designer denim," Foster said of her favorite core piece. "You can dress denim up or down. Try on several styles and washes to find the best pair for your needs."

Know What to Invest In and Purchase Quality Pieces

The second key principle of a capsule wardrobe is to buy fewer things of higher quality. The point of a capsule wardrobe is to eliminate excess and reduce wasted clothing.

Dallas freelance stylist and graduate of New York's Fashion Institute of Technology, Rachel Alley, advised investing in classic pieces and purchasing trendier items from less expensive retailers.

"You have to consider the bell-curve of fashion, eventually it's going to plummet," Alley said of trendy pieces.

Those looking toward a capsule wardrobe concept should focus on classic items that are well-made and will work with their wardrobe long term. Alley noted that trends are easily spotted by their bright colors, prints or unusual shapes-as opposed to classic items of simple silhouettes and solid colors.

When working within a budget, Alley encouraged investing first in accessories, then later invest in clothes.

"You can buy your denim somewhere cheap, you can buy a tee-shirt somewhere cheap, but that topper is always going to be the focal point, the statement," she said. "I'd say, investing wise, it's always better to invest in a really good jacket or really good pair of shoes or a really good bag."

Alley said to start with an item with clean lines, clean silhouettes and solid colors. These types of styles can be paired with any other item in a wardrobe, whereas something of a brighter color or with embellishments will be less versatile.

Without expertise, it is difficult to determine an item of quality from an item that's popular only because of its prestigious brand name. Alley noted that fabric type and stitching to determine a quality piece.

"Natural fibers are way better," she said. "I'd say classic cotton is always the way to go."

Linen and silk produce a luxe impression but damage more easily. Synthetic fabrics like polyester or cotton-polyester blends can also last longer and don't require dry cleaning.

"As far as handbags and accessories, leather is the way to go as opposed to suede," she added. "It wears better."

When assessing a piece of clothing for quality, note the size of the stitches. If they are smaller and closer together the item is of higher quality and less likely to unravel. Avoid items with shiny zippers of lightweight material because they often indicate lower quality.

If you're shopping for vintage pieces, Alley recommends looking for the letters "YYK" on the zipper. She learned this in fashion school, these zippers are associated with higher quality pieces of clothing.

When choosing an investment piece, she recommended sticking with monochromatic looks in classic materials. Avoid excessive detail or decoration to increase the item's versatility.

Every outfit needs balance between trend consciousness and classic structure. Alley advised to incorporate one trend into an outfit and pair it with other classic items: a puffy sleeved shirt and classic black skinny jeans fit the criteria.

"I think it's better to just adopt one trend that really sticks out to you and invest in that one thing," she said. "Instead of trying to do all the things, incorporate one trend into your outfit instead of doing 15."

Putting It All Together

Items in a capsule wardrobe should work together to form multiple outfits functional for your lifestyle. Stylist Veronica Peckham, based in Texas, has been helping women curate their wardrobes for 13 years with Cabi.

"You still need to look sharp even if you don't go out," Peckham said. "Completing the outfit and looking finished will make you feel better."

What's the key to looking finished? Peckham said she abides by a three-item styling rule. She noted that many women forget the importance of accessories.

On top of something straightforward like jeans and a blouse, a scarf, belt, sweater or blazer completes the outfit.

Peckham noted that people end up with wardrobes that don't work together because of laziness.

"Personal style is ever changing," she said. "People get stuck in their ways and they get lazy, they put workout clothes on and that's fine to them but it's not."

Building a wardrobe that works together depends first on the individual's lifestyle. For some, Peckham said, versatility is more important and so she encourages them to purchase separates, like skirts and tops.

"A dress is not as versatile but may be more comfortable than a skirt and a top," she commented, noting that climate often influences how she styles her clients, especially in humid areas like her hometown of Houston.

"Style rules are not really necessary now," said Peckham when asked about a basic wardrobe formula. While she noted that every closet needs basics, can create variety by adding colorful solids that still work well together.

"You need your basics: black, denim, navy, grey," she said. "And for tops, you want those basic solids that you can build on, then do some fun colors."

For those unhappy with their wardrobes, Peckham advised to analyze each piece of clothing to figure out the root problem before adding a new item.

"Do I feel good in it? If not, why? Is it the fit, color or style? Can I get it altered to make me feel good? If not, get rid of it," she says.

Peckham noted that people often get bored with their wardrobes, wanting new looks but not wanting to spend the money on an entire wardrobe. Her solution is to take existing items, add one or two new pieces and mix them together to come up with new combinations.

What matters most in a wardrobe, according to Peckham, is that the owner feel comfortable in every outfit.

"It's not hard to find different styles to like," she says. You just have to put in the extra effort to create something new.


(Thumbnail Image by Amy Hogan)