How I Finally Came to Love a Capsule Wardrobe

Let’s get this out of the way now: I’ve been historically dismissive of the capsule wardrobe. Every time a clothing brand or fashion publication made claims like “the only blazer you’ll need this year,” I’d dispense a standard-issue eye-roll and think to myself, What about my other blazers? Am I meant to merely throw everything else away? The concept felt restrictive and contained, a fallacy shrouded in the idea that “one pair of trousers plus a classic knit” could make you the woman you want to be.

And then, by accident, I learned to love the idea.

The “why” of my accidental foray into the capsule wardrobe is mostly obvious: At the moment, I only fit 1 percent of my non-maternity wardrobe and I am loathe to buy lots of clothes, especially now that I’m supa-bumped. I also moved house before Christmas and I have no idea where my belongings are. I don’t plan to know until February. The only things I have access to are the well-fitting essentials I packed in a separate suitcase.

I have begun to find serious value and joy in a tightly edited wardrobe. I always thought capsule wardrobes were defined by their absence of things, but I realized I’d been reading it wrong: What if the capsule wardrobe is actually bountiful in its simplicity?

If you, too, identify as more of a maximalist but are curious to dip your toe into minimalist waters, below are the things I’ve learned so far along my short but nevertheless eye-opening journey.

1. There is such a thing as the “ultimate” knit.

The key is that this varies from person to person. For me, it’s a cream cable-knit turtleneck from Raey. It’s the most expensive jumper I have ever been given (by my husband, for Christmas), but it’s my idea of the holy grail.

As for the cheaper options, I like this one by Mango, this one by Ganni and this one by Everlane.

+ My ideal sweater right now has side splits, which means it suits me at 33 weeks pregnant as much as it will once that child is in my arms.
+ It has to look as great with black cigarette pants and mules (these by Trademark are my sole “smart” flats, along with a pair of brogues) as it does with vintage Levi’s.
+ It has to work over a skirt — in that big knit/slinky skirt way.
+ And it has to look just as good with red lipstick and a middle-part bun as it does skiing or napping on a sofa.

2. A slinky black skirt will save the day.

I know I keep telling you this, but I wear this Sportmax skirt All. The. Time. It works just as well with heels as it does Chelsea boots, by the way.

3. The perfect button-down shirt DOES exist.

If you’re going to go full capsule, I recommend sticking to a classic, oversized silhouette (without waist darting) rather than concede to any trend-led shirt shape of the said season.

4. I’m not going to tell you to get rid of your other blazers, but you definitely need a black one.

Bonus points if you can find one with some sort of embellishment that takes it from “day to night.” I love this Racil one. To quote the unctuous Julian in Bridget Jones’s Diary, “It’s what I call an all-arounder — the sort of thing one can wear with anything to any occasion.”

Can’t find an embellished blazer you love? Get a plain black one and add a brooch to the lapel or chest that feels like you.

5. Speaking of embellishments…crystals. Crystals make the capsule wardrobe exciting.

Perhaps one of the most important realizations about the capsule wardrobe for me is that it doesn’t have to be boring. Crystals have proven key here. They’re jazzy but also simple in that they go with everything.

These Jimmy Choo heels are the only heels I now feel I could ever need for a party. These tights, meanwhile, have proved themselves to be the only fancy hosiery I could ever need, and I started wearing them in November.

6. A camel coat will never let you down. Neither will a leopard one.

I wear a camel coat when it’s really cold and a lighter jacket (in leopard print) when it’s a little warmer. If you can find a lighter camel coat and a heavier leopard one, so be it. The point is that these two are wardobe-friendly neutrals.

7. You only need one or two great tees and a Breton stripe shirt.

Trust me on this. Donate all the tees you’ve collected but never wear. (When I am not wearing a T-shirt, by the way, I wear a black fitted sweater. Black, I’ve reluctantly come to accept, is a pivotal theme in the capsule wardrobe because of how g-dang easy it is. Monochrome does not mean boring — it means useful. And useful, in turn, is not a dirty word.)

8. A smorgasbord of earrings, just so we are clear, will never be off the table. I had to find some sort of compromise, after all!

It takes me five minutes to get ready with this edited wardrobe every morning. The “does it/doesn’t it” dance to figure out whether an outfit “works” is entirely eschewed when operating within these parameters. I know that the sweater goes with the skirt because I wore it yesterday, and three days before that, and seven before that. Indeed, my attitude has become so extremist that my husband recently questioned my hygiene after I pulled on said black sweater for the third day in a row.

I am not entirely ascetic. On occasions, I falter. The real challenge, of course, is how long I’ll last, shopping little, wearing less, until I pop. But right now, the things I crave are all things that fit pretty neatly into this streamlined style: They’re easy and compact, and they do all the hard work for the wearer — just what your wardrobe should really do for you in the first place.

Photos by Eva K. Salvi. You can follow her on Instagram @evaksalvi.

Pandora Sykes

Pandora Sykes

Pandora Sykes is a contributing editor at Man Repeller, freelance journalist, stylist and consultant of She is also the co-host of the weekly news/pop-culture podcast The High Low. Follow her on Twitter @pinsykes @thehighlowshow and Instagram @pandorasykes.

More from Archive