If you’re constantly stumped about what to wear and feel like you have nothing to put on, a capsule wardrobe can help! Most people think of a capsule wardrobe as a collection of hardworking and versatile pieces that can be easily mixed and matched to make a ton of different outfits. And while I agree with that, my perspective has evolved over time. I view a capsule wardrobe as a personalized special collection of clothes you love. These are your favorite pieces you wear repeatedly during a season. They’re the first things you want to put on.
If you’re like me and have a history of making spur-of-the-moment purchases that end up sitting in the back of your closet, having a capsule wardrobe can help you think differently about what you’re buying and why. So all your purchases become well-loved and well-used pieces.
In this post, I’ll help you put together your own capsule wardrobe. Before you pull out your credit card, I’ll share questions you can ask yourself to determine if a piece deserves a spot in your closet. Then, I’ll share what’s in my winter capsule collection and why I’ve selected these pieces and love them. Plus, you’ll see ten outfit ideas to get your imagination going.
What should be in a winter capsule wardrobe?
A capsule wardrobe should be personalized to you and your lifestyle. You’ll need your favorite bottoms like jeans, corduroy pants, or dress pants. You’ll want layering shirts, sweaters, sweatshirts, or blazers. Include boots and the shoes you’ll wear. Plus, coats or jackets.
How do you develop your own capsule wardrobe?
Your capsule wardrobe should feel like you and fit your personal style. Putting together your own capsule collection involves both your head and your heart. While you want to make sure your picks make sense for your lifestyle and weather, you also need to follow your heart and include pieces you love. Getting dressed should feel fun and make you feel good. That begins with including pieces that make your heart jump with joy.
If you feel like you’re unsure about what you like and what your style is, that’s something you can discover. If you’re afraid of wasting money buying the wrong things, here’s an exercise that can help you feel more confident that you’ll want to wear what you buy. Start by reflecting on the following questions. You may want to jot down your answers. And look on your phone for pictures of you in your favorite outfits.
- How do your favorite outfits make you feel? Why?
- What pieces and colors have you worn for years and years and bought over and over in slightly different styles?
- What are the pieces and colors you have multiples of?
I’m a fairly simple dresser. I wear a minimal color palette, but I’ve owned cable-knit sweaters throughout my life. I love the texture they add to a look. I adore striped shirts and sweaters of all kinds. Again, they’re an easy way to add visual interest to a minimal outfit. I also love graphic sweaters with sayings or dogs on them. I think they’re cute, and I always have. For pants, I adore cords. Not everyone does. I wear them because they’re incredibly soft and warmer than regular jeans and add texture to a look.
Discover your capsule color palette
Years ago, when I started making capsule wardrobes on a spreadsheet, I realized that when I went shopping, I’d buy a color simply because I didn’t already have it in my closet. That meant I had pants in every color imaginable. And I had to buy a ton of tops to try to match the rainbow of pants. When I considered narrowing my pants down to the colors I loved, only three colors stood out for winter: navy or denim, black, and gray.
When you purge your closet, you’ll have pieces that make you think, what the heck was I thinking? Those items were likely on-trend at the time, and the fact that they were “in” made them appealing when normally you’d never buy them. I had chocolate brown trouser pants that resembled a UPS uniform. I mention these brown pants because brown is reemerging as a trending color. Beware of your version of the trendy brown pants that you’d never wear otherwise.
- What colors do you love that you wear, whether trendy or not?
- What are the colors of bottoms you love? What about tops?
Take a look at your most worn pieces. They can give you clues.
Consider your lifestyle
- What types of bottoms do you wear Monday through Friday? Bottoms define an outfit. Do you work in a business casual or professional office or spend your day at home? This will determine the bottoms that you wear.
- Do you wear dress pants, jeans, or casual pants during the week?
Think about the weather for the capsule season
- What is the weather like during your winter season? Do you have more moderate temperatures or mostly colder days?
How to deal with special event pieces
- What are the special occasions or events you’ll be dressing for this time of year?
- Will you include event and holiday pieces in your capsule? Or deal with those separately? If you love wearing a holiday top every week, make that part of your regular capsule. If you have a special party once a year for which you need a dress, deal with it separately.
Questions to ask yourself before you buy
I can fall into the trap of buying inexpensive pieces I wear once. And I used to buy all the colors of the rainbow. Here are some questions to ask yourself before going on a shopping spree to be sure you’re building a lasting collection of pieces.
- Does this item feel so special that you’ll still love it this time next year?
- Will it be pilled and worn out after one season and need to be replaced?
- If you’re buying for an event, will you wear it beyond the event you envision wearing it to?
- For a trendy piece, would you love wearing this piece even if it’s no longer trendy?
- For a new bottom, can you style it with three different tops that are already in your closet to make several different outfits with it?
- For a new top, can you style it with three different bottoms that are already in your closet?
- Is this item very similar to one you already own? Will it replace something you already own? It may be worth the extra cost and duplicate purchase if it’s more special than something you already own. Just make sure to purge the old piece.
- For a holiday piece, will you want to wear it beyond one event? Or beyond this year?
How many pieces do you need?
You may have heard of people limiting their capsule wardrobe to a certain number of pieces of clothing. In my experience, the benefit of limiting yourself is that it creates a number of slots that your items need to compete for. If you have 7 slots for pants, in the process of narrowing it down to 7 pants, you think carefully about each piece and whether it’s truly worthy of claiming a slot. You begin to think about why one pair of pants is better than another. You learn about what you love the most and why. This can be very eye-opening.
Generally, it’s a good idea to have 5 to 7 bottoms, depending on how much you re-wear them in a week.
For layering pieces, you’ll need at least 7 tops that will go underneath sweaters or blazers. These may be long-sleeve t-shirts, turtlenecks, or button-downs. We don’t tend to re-wear shirts because they become sweaty and smelly.
For sweaters and blazers, I like having 7 to 10 because I like variety, and also, I have that many pieces that I really love.
For jackets, this number will vary based on your weather and lifestyle. I have 3 main coats. One is an everyday coat for super cold weather and outdoor sporting events. Then one is for dressy events. And one is for casual errands. I don’t want to wear my super warm coat into the stores and overheat.
For boots and shoes, this depends on your location and weather. And also the bottoms you’ll be wearing. If you have long flare jeans and short kick-fit cropped jeans, you want different boots or shoes with each of them. I include 7 pairs in my collection.
The process of creating a capsule wardrobe
You’re ready to select your pieces. Ask yourself these questions to come up with approximately 30 pieces, including coats and shoes. I don’t include workout gear in my list unless it will be a regular part of my daily wear, like sweatpants I wear as part of an outfit.
- What are the staple pieces you wear for at least 3 seasons? I have 11 staple pieces that go through at least 3 seasons with me, including my favorite jeans and t-shirts.
- Look at your fall wardrobe and see the pieces you wear all the time. Should they be included in your winter wardrobe?
- Look at the winter favorites from last year that you wore all the time. Should they be included this year? Do they still fit, and are they in good condition?
- Begin making outfits. If you can visualize outfits in your mind, make a spreadsheet of the outfit combinations. If you need to be more hands-on, go into your closet and try on outfits. Are there holes in your wardrobe or pieces you need to make outfits? Is there anything you need to buy?
My winter capsule wardrobe
Without further ado, here’s what’s in my winter seasonal capsule so far. Find the exact or similar items in the product images.
Pants, jeans, and a dress
SHOP THE IMAGES (hover for details)
- Flare jeans. For elevated jeans days and for wearing with blazers and knee-high brown boots.
- Black kick fit cords. For elevated and everyday looks.
- Black kick fit jeans (a wardrobe staple for me). For casual days, with Adidas, flat shoes, or ankle boots.
- Blue kick fit jeans (a wardrobe staple for me). For casual days, with Adidas, flat shoes, or ankle boots.
- Black sweatpants (a wardrobe staple for me). For very casual days, with Adidas or Chelsea boots.
- Light gray bootcut cords. For everyday looks.
- Black sweater dress
- Gray tissue turtleneck. To wear alone or layered.
- Cream ruffleneck turtleneck. To wear alone or layered and dressed up or down.
- Black ruffle turtleneck. To wear alone or layered and dressed up or down.
- White and black striped crewneck tee (a wardrobe staple for me). To wear layered.
- Black and white striped crewneck tee (a wardrobe staple for me). To wear layered.
- White long-sleeve crewneck tee (a wardrobe staple for me). To wear layered.
- Black long-sleeve crewneck tee (a wardrobe staple for me). To wear layered.
- Blackwatch plaid button-down. To wear alone or layered.
- Navy striped button-down (a wardrobe staple for me). To wear alone or layered.
- White button-down shirt (a wardrobe staple for me). To wear alone or layered.
- Gray heavy pullover turtleneck sweater. To wear layered over a tee.
- Black short striped cardigan. To wear alone or layered and dressed up or down.
- Black short v-neck cardigan. To wear layered over a turtleneck, button-down, or tee.
- Navy short crewneck cardigan sweater. To wear layered over a turtleneck or tee.
- Gray short cable-knit v-neck cardigan. To wear layered over a turtleneck, button-down, or tee.
- Brown Houndstooth blazer. To wear layered over a turtleneck, button-down, or tee.
- Tan duster cardigan. To wear layered over a turtleneck, button-down, or tee.
- Black velvet blazer. See all the ways to style it in this post, 15 Best Outfit Ideas for How to Wear a Velvet Blazer. I’ll wear it layered over a turtleneck, button-down, or tee.
- Fairisle sweater. I picked up this one from Gap. I’ll wear it layered over a tee or button-down shirt.
Shoes and boots
- Black pointy-toe ankle boots. For elevated looks with all pants and jeans.
- Brown stacked-heel knee-high boots. For elevated looks with a sweater dress and flare jeans.
- Black loafers (a wardrobe staple for me). For every day, with cropped jeans or cords.
- Burgundy Chelsea boots. Flat boots for rainy and cold days
- Black Adidas sneakers (a wardrobe staple for me). Casual sneakers for running errands.
- Taupe ankle boots. Wear jeans and pants.
- Black flat lug sole boots. I just picked up these and love them.
- Olive green puffer vest. For wearing on walks, to the store, or doing errands. I don’t wear a full coat in the grocery store anymore since I overheat.
- Black quilted jacket. This jacket is a midweight extra layer and is a great option with jeans, pants, and short dresses.
- Heavy blue coat. For super cold days, walking the dogs and outdoor events. I picked this coat up from the Amazon Prime Sale. It was on Oprah’s list of favorite things at one time. It’s heavy and warm, waterproof and wind resistant. And it has tons of pockets.
- Coach Bag (a wardrobe staple for me).
- Brown belt bag (a wardrobe staple for me).
- Brown crossbody bag (a wardrobe staple for me).
I’m not including belts. I’ll pull from my regular assortment of belts. But if you want to wear belts and like them to match your shoes or bag, check to see if you have a belt that works with each shoe and bag you plan to wear.
I’m not including my special occasion or holiday pieces I’ll just wear once or twice. I’ll pull out my red sweater, coated jeans, leather jacket, red plaid pieces, and a long camel coat for those looks.
If a capsule wardrobe is a personalized, hardworking, special collection of your favorite pieces, here are my favorite pieces and 10 winter outfits to inspire you as you make your own.
10 winter capsule wardrobe outfit ideas
Ready to look at some winter outfits? Let’s dive in!
Look #1. Flare jeans, a striped cardigan, quilted coat, and black ankle boots
Flare jeans and pants have always been a style at 5’6″ that works well for my size 12 bottom. The flared hem helps to balance out the width of my hips. Plus, the long leg length helps to lengthen the look of my legs. This striped J.Crew cardigan felt like a bit of a splurge, but it’s always the first piece I want to grab from my closet. It feels special and can be worn with a ton of different pieces. These black ankle boots have a brown stacked heel, and I love the contrast it adds to a black look. The heel and pointy toe make it perfect with long jeans, but they also work with ankle-length jeans and pants. The Coach tote bag also feels like a special piece. It was a birthday gift that was a splurge. The square shape and top handle give it an elevated look. But the crossbody strap also makes it perfect for every day.
Look #2. A black turtleneck sweater dress, Blackwatch plaid shirt, brown knee-high boots, and brown crossbody tote
This is my version of a little black dress for the winter months. A black turtleneck sweater dress is a winter wardrobe essential. I’m pairing it over my Blackwatch plaid button-down to change the look. You can see the cuff of the shirt and a touch of the collar. I adore these brown knee-high boots with a stacked heel. They remind me of a pair my mom had when I was a kid that I loved. Plus, brown boots with an almond toe have a touch of equestrian style to them that I love. I’ve always loved Ralph Lauren, and this brown color leather feels like that. The brown crossbody is one of my favorite bags for every day. Carrying it by the top handle makes it feel elevated. But the crossbody makes it work for every day.
Look #3. A white button-down, navy cardigan, flare jeans, brown boots, and brown crossbody tote
This is a simple outfit that looks elevated, thanks to styling choices. A crisp white button-down is full of smart classic style. I’m layering it under a navy cardigan that’s super special, thanks to the cable detail and brass buttons. Flare jeans, with their long length, give a dressier vibe than cropped jeans. My favorite brown accessories ground the look.
Look #4. A light gray turtleneck, Houndstooth blazer, black kick fit jeans, taupe ankle boots, and brown belt bag
This light gray turtleneck is the perfect color gray with my skin tone, bringing a fresh, lighter hue. This Houndstooth blazer from J.Crew Factory has a plaid pattern that I adore, and works with many different colors. These black kick fit jeans are some of the first jeans I found when looking for an alternative to skinny jeans that fit my size 12 bottom. They have a slight flare at the hem that helps to balance the width of my hips. I love them so much, I own them in two lengths. These are slightly longer for winter. Gah. I’m so in love with this brown belt bag. If you’ve been around here reading for a while then you saw it in almost every picture this summer. Ha! Thanks to the soft leather and gold buckle, it has an equestrian vibe. It looks amazing with Houndstooth. These taupe ankle boots are super versatile thanks to the neutral color. They have a 2-inch stacked heel that works with different lengths of jeans.
Look #5. A ruffle turtleneck sweater, black cardigan, black kick fit jeans, black pointy ankle boots, black tote bag
This cream ruffle turtleneck has an extra special detail of a ruffleneck. I love turtlenecks with special details like this ever since I randomly saw Giada De Laurentiis wearing one on her cooking show. Yes, I still remember that light gray turtleneck. This one is heavy enough to be worn alone or layered under another sweater or a blazer. I am a super fan of this black cardigan from J.Crew Factory. It’s incredibly soft and can be worn alone, over a tank top, layered, and over button-downs. It’s so good that I’m restraining myself from buying it in two other colors. You saw these black kick fit jeans in the last look. This gold and black belt is another piece I’ve repeatedly worn on the blog. The gold buckle is an elevated detail that brings the style.
Look #6. A gray turtleneck, gray cords, Houndstooth blazer, taupe ankle boots, and a brown belt bag
You know about my love of this light gray color. It’s one of my favorite neutral colors. I’m wearing a monochromatic look with a gray turtleneck and gray cords, layered under the plaid Houndstooth blazer. What you don’t know is that I thrifted these gray cords years ago, and I’ve never found a pair with a shape that works as well for my lower half. I bought another pair of gray cords for this year, and I’m returning them because these are still better for me. I will never get rid of them. I also love combining light gray, and brown. It’s a fresh color combination I discovered watching Joanna Gaines design kitchens.
Look #7. A Blackwatch plaid shirt, black cords, a black quilted jacket, black loafers, and a black tote
I love the contrast of Blackwatch plaid with black, blue, and green. It’s a little bit moody but also warm. And it’s a plaid color combination that’s versatile beyond the holiday season. I’m wearing this with my favorite black kick fit cords. They’re warmer than black pants and something I wear more than black trousers. On my feet, I’ve got the loafers you’ve seen me wear with a million things in the fall. I’ll keep wearing them in the winter with socks. If you’re not sure how to wear socks with loafers, read, 12 Stylish Looks + the Best Socks to Wear With Loafers.
This quilted black jacket is one I tried on in the store and loved but walked away from to think about. I needed a coat that can be worn with a dress or jeans, and this one fits the bill. But the fact that it’s a midweight coat gave me pause for winter. After trying many other winter coats that ended up being the same weight, I kept returning to this one. I’m contemplating having the sleeves shortened slightly by a tailor.
Look #8. A gray chunky turtleneck sweater, gray cords, an olive puffer vest, burgundy Chelsea boots, and a brown belt bag
This gray chunky turtleneck sweater has been in my rotation for the last couple of years. It’s versatile and so easy to wear. I’m wearing another monochromatic gray look and topping it with my olive green puffer vest. I will always have a puffer vest in my wardrobe. They’re perfect for wearing on walks or to the store when I don’t want to overheat. These flat Chelsea boots are waterproof and a great flat option for days when I’ll be doing a lot of walking. I love them in this classic burgundy color.
Look #9. A navy striped cotton button-down, cable-knit cardigan, blue kick fit jeans, burgundy Chelsea boots, and a black bag
This outfit has two of my year-round favorites in it. You’ve seen me wear this striped cotton button-down a million times before. It easily creates an elevated outfit. These blue kick fit jeans are one of my favorite pairs of jeans. So much so that I own them in two lengths. I wear the longer length in the winter with ankle boots. Again, the kick fit perfectly balances my size 12 hips. This cable-knit gray cardigan is super soft.
Look #10. A black crewneck long-sleeve tee, sweatpants, camel duster cardigan, black Adidas, and brown belt bag
You want to wear this outfit out to the store on a cold day or a car ride. It’s so cozy and comfortable. I love the interesting juxtaposition it creates to combine sweatpants, Adidas tennis shoes, and a more elevated duster cardigan. Plus, you can’t go wrong with combining taupe and black. I’ve owned these black Adidas tennis shoes for several years now, and I love the sporty edge that they give to a look. The pop of brown from this belt bag adds another dimension of color to the outfit.
How to begin purging your closet by developing a capsule wardrobe
Developing a capsule collection is a great way to dial in on your style and what you love. If your closet needs to be purged and you’re not ready to do it, it’s the perfect time to refresh your closet by starting a capsule wardrobe with items from your closet. Pull out your most worn pieces and experiment with making outfits with them. Put the capsule in one section of your closet, separate from everything else. If you dip into the rest of your closet, you’ll find out what you still need to keep. If you haven’t worn something at the end of the season, consider purging it.