Why you need a core capsule wardrobe (and how to build it)

Ever since I started downsizing my closet and began my capsule wardrobe journey I wondered about this question: how often is often enough? How much wear do I need to get out of the items in my capsule wardrobe in order to justify having them in the capsule wardrobe? In this post I will share with you my thoughts on having a core capsule wardrobe, why I think having both a core capsule and a secondary or supporting capsule is necessary, and how to create a core capsule on your own.

What’s the core capsule wardrobe?

The core capsule are all those pieces that you feel like wearing all.the.time. The pieces that you always gravitate towards when they are fresh out of the laundry. The pieces that you instantly knew would be part of your capsule wardrobe because you love them so much. The core capsule comprises all those pieces that get the most wear during the time of your capsule wardrobe. Those are the pieces that you will see the highest return on investment when you choose good quality and take good care of them.

But what about those pieces that get very little wear during the time of your capsule wardrobe? Shouldn’t you have excluded them from your capsule wardrobe to begin with? How much wear do you need to get out of an item in order for the item to deserve a place in your capsule wardrobe?

How much wear is enough wear?

As pretty much always in life the answer is: it depends.

Not all items that don’t get a ton of wear are a waste in your capsule wardrobe. At the same time, if you don’t wear an item in your capsule wardrobe, that may well be an indicator that the item doesn’t bring you as much joy as you expected – either as a stand-alone or together with the other pieces in your capsule.

There is no clear-cut line, no “if you wear it less than 3 or 5 or 10 times, the garment shouldn’t be in your capsule”. Instead you need to do some digging and soul searching. Try to identify the problem. Why do you wear a certain item only a couple of times or not at all?

As a rule of thumb, if you don’t wear an item because you don’t feel 100% confident in it or because you aren’t satisfied with the look, because you feel self-conscious, or just blah, then that probably means the item – in it’s current form – shouldn’t be in your capsule wardrobe. This might mean that you’re better off letting the piece go – but it doesn’t have to. Maybe you can have it altered, maybe you need to play around with the garment some more and identify an outfit that you love to wear the piece with.

On the other hand, if you really, truly enjoy wearing an item, you just don’t gravitate towards it often – because of the pattern or the style – then in my opinion, you most likely are looking at an valuable capsule wardrobe extra.

Create a capsule wardrobe around a strong core. Why you need both core and supporting pieces and how to build your capsule wardrobe around a core capsule wardrobe. | aheartymatter.com

Why every capsule wardrobe needs extras

What is an extra? Just like in a book or movie, your capsule wardrobe needs supporting actors and extras, in addition to its fabulous leads. Let’s spin this metaphore further: Depending on the plot, extras can take an important role in moving the story along. They may be crucial for highlighting the evolution a lead character goes through, they may be the force behind that change, or they may simply serve a distinct purpose in the narrative (think of the court jester in a Shakespeare play whose main function is to bring comic relief in the unfolding tragedy).

This is exactly what the extras in your wardrobe, your supporting capsule wardrobe, does. It infuses your closet with a different vibe, it complements the core capsule, or it simply increases the functionality of your closet for specific events.

How to build a core capsule wardrobe

Here are three strategies to builing a core capsule wardrobe. These strategies aren’t mutually exclusive, in fact you could apply at least of them at the same time to create your core capsule.

Strategy 1: Rely on basics

This strategy is as straightforward as it sounds. You rely on basic pieces, most likely in neutral colors (unless vibrant colors are your thing). These basics are highly versatile and designed to give you a lot of wear. For those reasons they are the perfect building blocks for your core capsule. You stick with the basics for your core capsule, and build more outstanding, extravagant pieces around as extras.

 Build your core capsule wardrobe on basics, on your uniform, or on an outstanding piece. | aheartymatter.com

Strategy 2: Create a uniform

If you enjoy the idea of uniform dressing, create your uniform first (here’s how!) and use the items of your uniform as your core capsule. For me, both my button ups and my jeans/ grey skirt make up my core capsule. This is a super-easy way to build your capsule wardrobe and you kill two birds with one stone: nail your uniform and your capsule wardrobe.


Strategy 3: One central piece

To me this is an advanced strategy, but one that sounds incredibly powerful. Build your core capsule around one central piece, like a dress or a statement pant that you adore and that you can build several outfits around. For instance, a dress could be worn on its own, with tights/leggings, with pants, as a skirt, maybe even as a top. This strategy mirrors strategy 1, where you rely on basics, in that you rely on your stand-out, hero pieces as the pivot for your capsule wardrobe.

No matter what strategy, or combination of strategies you follow, your capsule wardrobe is the place to be intentional about what to include. Look for quality items – and that doesn’t mean you need to spend a fortunethose will give you a lot of wear and a lot of joy.

What’s part of your core capsule wardrobe?

How do you decide whether an item of your capsule was superfluous?

And thanks for sticking till the end, even after my little literary discourse… 😉


Kate is a capsule wardrobe and uniform dressing enthusiast who encourages busy women to embrace a smaller wardrobe and a more intentional lifestyle.
Kate continues to work on simplifying her life – freeing up time and energy on those things in life that are most important to her.

1 Comment

  1. This is a great Kate . I have been so some of these places and I have had a blast just about every time. Another place I would recommend is the Emerald Coast in Nicaragua. I went to Guacalito de la Isla there and I went surfing, hiking, biking, and took archery lessons. It’s a fantastic place to visit.

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