Self Care

Building a Capsule Wardrobe

  I have a confession: I’m kind of obsessed with the way french women dress. Granted, I’ve never even been to France so my image of Parisian chic is limited ...


I have a confession: I’m kind of obsessed with the way french women dress. Granted, I’ve never even been to France so my image of Parisian chic is limited to what I’ve scene on blogs and in movies, but above all, I love the idea of how French women stay chic with a limited wardrobe.

The desire to have a beautiful but paired-down wardrobe first started in college. I had no money for an enormous wardrobe but I still wanted to look stylish. Armed with maybe $30 of monthly spending money at best, I would tear through the racks every thrift and vintage store in a 20 mile radius, hunting for cute and unique pieces that would make my look “pop”.

First Attempts at Building a Stylish Wardrobe (College)

Pretty soon I got really good at this and even started selling some of my finds on Etsy and eBay to make some extra money.

Me posing in one of my old Etsy listings for a dress I found thrifting. This was 5 years ago, so don’t laugh! 🙂

Even though I was refining my knack for finding cute stuff for cheap, I still wasn’t satisfied with my closet. I could only put together specific outfits with all the unique stuff I bought; when it came to day-to-day dressing, I still had nothing to wear! I never felt quite put together.

A Shift in Perspective About Clothes

Baffled by this, I started obsessing about googling “how to build a stylish wardrobe.” Though I mostly found bland “how to” articles from websites like (not helpful!), I eventually stumbled on one article that completely changed how I thought about clothes: Secrets of French Girls by Ellen Wallace.

Though this article was written for Cosmo magazine way back in 1982, it was (and still is) completely applicable to my wardrobe-building frustration. The main takeaways I got from the article that I hadn’t considered before were:gaby in france

  • Spend more money on high quality basics than you do anything else
  • Accessories are great for keeping your look fresh and trendy, but your basic pieces should be versatile and timeless
  • Pay attention to the cut and shape of clothes, and how they work with the shape of your body

After reading the article, I realized the reason I still couldn’t get dressed in the morning was because I didn’t have a foundation of high quality, well-fitted, timeless basics. Completely inspired by this shift in perspective but kind of bummed because I knew I didn’t have enough money to buy these items just yet, I began making detailed lists of all the “basics” I needed to buy when I graduated and finally got some real money.

Post-College Wardrobe Building

When I graduated and got a job, I got rid of nearly all the clothes I had in college and began rebuilding my wardrobe from the ground up. I began working off my checklist (see above), trying my hardest to buy the best basics I could afford. I also started paying attention to the fit of my clothes, taking many of my dresses, shirts and pants to the tailor for little “nips” and “tucks”.

Up until last week, however, I still got the feeling that something wasn’t right. I certainly dressed better than I did in college and my wardrobe contained better pieces, but I was still having difficulty putting together day-to-day, casual outfits. For the life of me, I couldn’t figure out what I was doing wrong.

That all changed when I stumbled across, a blog completely dedicated to minimalist wardrobe building. No exaggeration, this blog is the best resource I have ever come across about how to build a paired-down wardrobe that is versatile and reflects your style. She has a very detailed 10 step process to help you refine your wardrobe, but she offers one tip in particular that helped me realize what I was missing: a capsule wardrobe.

The Missing Piece: The Capsule Wardrobe

I had heard the term “capsule wardrobe” before but I just thought it meant having a really small amount of clothing. After reading through Into Mind, however, I now realize that a capsule wardrobe is not your complete wardrobe but rather a collection of clothing combos (“uniforms”) within your wardrobe that best reflect your style and give everything else structure.

For example, everyone has certain clothing combos that they are repeatedly drawn to when they get dressed. Common combinations are:

  • skinny jeans + loose top
  • pencil skirt + tucked in loose top
  • short  skirt + tucked in shirt
  • Short dress + jacket
  • etc, etc, etc.

clothing combos

After seeing this explained, I was like “duh!” I couldn’t get dressed because I didn’t have enough of the right basics to wear the clothing combinations, or uniforms, I am most drawn to:

capsule wardrobe

I didn’t put the above collage together but I think it accurate represents my favorite clothing combinations. I love:

  • pencil skirt + tucked basic top
  • skinny jeans + tee + flats
  • skinny jeans + tee + ankle boots
  • skinny jeans + tee + heels
  • midi dress + heels (not pictured)

So in addition to buying high quality, well-fitting basics, I’m focusing on building a capsule wardrobe full of the “uniforms” I wear most often. I look forward to never saying “I have nothing to wear…” again!

buy less choose well

PS – You can check out my Capsule Wardrobe pinterest board here.


Talk to Me:

Are you a master at building your wardrobe or still a work in progress? Leave a comment and let me know!

(unedited images: 1. via | 2. my own | 3. my own |4.  (collage)  A, B, C |5. via | 6. via)

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