A Wardrobe for Every Occasion: The Capsule Wardrobe

‘Capsule wardrobe’ is a term coined by Susie Faux, who was and is the owner of London boutique ‘Wardrobe’, in the 1970´s. She considers that a capsule wardrobe is a collection of a few essential items of clothing that will not go out of fashion, such as shirts, trousers and coats, which can then be up-dated with seasonal pieces. This idea was popularised by American designer Donna Karan, who, in 1985, released an influential capsule collection of seven interchangeable work-wear pieces. Today, 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 which is designed using only interchangeable items, in order to maximise the number of outfits which 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 co-ordinating colours.


The term ‘capsule wardrobe’ was coined by Susie Faux – owner of the West End boutique ‘Wardrobe’ – in the 1970´s to refer to a collection of essential items of clothing which do not date, and could therefore be kept for several seasons. The aim was to up-date this collection with seasonal pieces, in order to have something to wear for any occasion without buying many new items of clothing. Typically, Faux suggests that a man’s capsule wardrobe contain at least “2 pairs of trousers, a suit or a blazer, a jacket, a coat, a knit, two pairs of shoes and a bag. ” The concept of a capsule wardrobe was popularised by American designer Donna Karan in 1985, when she released her collection entitled “7 Easy Pieces”. Her aim was to fill what she referred to as “a void in the marketplace” for a stylish and practical wardrobe designed with working men and women in mind.

Mens capsule wardrobe

When the collection debuted, she showed eight models dressed only in bodysuits and black. The models then began to add items of clothing such as wrap-skirts, trousers, and dresses, to demonstrate her interchangeable style of dressing. ‘Capsule wardrobe’ is a term which is widely used in the fashion media; for instance, the fashion sections in British newspapers The Independent and The Telegraph have recently run dedicated capsule wardrobe features, as well as British Marie Claire and Elle magazines, among others. 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. This is perhaps part of the reason that the idea has endured since its conception in the 1970´s.


Creating a capsule wardrobe.

Below are some rules which are widely given for creating a capsule wardrobe.

Choose a colour scheme. This would typically involve choosing one or two base colours which go with everything, such as black, white, brown, grey or navy. Items such as trousers, bags 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. 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 will always complement each other.

 Consider Your Body Shape

Some cuts of clothing are more flattering than others; for instance, stylists often advise that men with wider arms wear cap sleeves, as they make the torso appear wider and more proportionate to the waist. 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

While some cuts and patterns of clothing go in and out of fashion, there are others which are considered ‘classic’ because they do not date. It is wise to choose classic pieces for a capsule wardrobe, as they are intended to be kept for a number of years. Choose good quality fabrics. As the idea of a capsule wardrobe is to own a few items of clothing which can be worn in a number of different ways, individual pieces will get lots of wear. Therefore, it is a good idea to choose clothing that is well made, and will continue to look good despite the heavy wear.