summer capsule wardrobe

How to Build a Coastal Summer Capsule Wardrobe in 2024

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Updated 2/3/2024

If you’re heading to the beach or just looking to capture the laid-back and preppy vibe of coastal beach town attire this summer, you can make a ton of different outfits with simple pieces you probably already have in your closet. You may not need to add any new pieces to your wardrobe.

When you think of the coastal aesthetic, you may think of Nancy Meyers’ movies, Something’s Gotta Give or It’s Complicated. And pieces that are light and airy, neutral, textured, and easy to mix and match.

If this is your first time making a capsule wardrobe, the summer season is the perfect time to make one! A capsule wardrobe is a collection of your favorite versatile pieces that you can mix and match to make outfits. A capsule saves you so much time and makes it so much easier to get dressed or pack for a trip since all the pieces work together.

What should I put in my summer capsule wardrobe?

A capsule wardrobe narrows your wardrobe down to a handful of hardworking and highly loved pieces that coordinate with each other and simplify your life. Capsule wardrobes have between 10 and 30 pieces, depending on the focus of your capsule. Include short sleeve tops, shorts, white jeans, linen pants, button-down shirts for layering, and cotton sweaters for cool days and nights. 

When you’re developing your summer capsule wardrobe and considering the pieces to choose, cater them to your personal style, lifestyle, the different occasions on your calendar, and your local weather. Think about the time period you’ll be wearing your capsule wardrobe. It may be a period of travel, your kids’ summer break, or for an entire season that spans 3 months. 

Choosing neutral colors or stripes makes your capsule more classic and timeless and means you’ll be able to easily mix and match pieces together. Classic summer coastal colors include white, cream, tan, shades of blue, and blue and white striped pieces. By sticking to a more limited color palette, it’s easier to make sure each piece easily mixes with at least 3 other pieces in your capsule. That guarantees a piece is versatile. 

If you’re looking for outfit inspiration for how to make your own summer capsule wardrobe, here are 18 pieces you can mix and match for a coastal-inspired wardrobe.

If you’re worried about limiting yourself to a smaller number of pieces, what’s surprising about capsules is how focusing on fewer pieces that rank a 9 or 10 actually makes you feel like you have more. If you look in your closet right now, you probably have just a handful of really loved high-rotation prices as it is. When you have a ton of 5s in your closet and only a few 9s and 10s, the bad pieces bring down your whole wardrobe average.

Imagine how much easier it is to get dressed walking into a closet that’s all 9s and 10s.

Let’s take a look at the capsule items!

Bottoms

First thing, pull out your white jeans, linen pants, and linen or denim shorts. White or khaki are easy to mix and match. But bring a stain stick to quickly nip stains in the bud. If you prefer skirts or summer dresses to a pair of shorts, here’s where you want to improvise and swap out shorts for skirts or dresses. Consider a white dress or a white linen skirt. 

1. White linen pants. White linen pants are the quintessential summer pants. You can wear them with a button-down shirt, tank top, or sweater, dressing them up or down. 

white linen pants

Pants | Top | Similar Sweater | Shoes

2. White ankle-length jeans. Finding a pair of white jeans that you love can be hard, but it’s worth it to keep looking. These kick-crop jeans from the Gap are the jeans I want to throw on when it’s warm out but I want to be in jeans because I’ll be in AC. 

white ankle-length jeans

Similar Jeans | Top | Cardigan | Shoes

3. White jean shorts. I prefer white denim shorts over blue denim cutoff shorts. In my opinion, they’re a bit more elevated but fit the bill for being easy to wear in warm weather.

white jean shorts

Top | Shorts | Button-up | Shoes

4. Beige pleated linen shorts. Pleated shorts are making a comeback as I talk about in my post, Top Summer 2023 Trends + Casual Summer Outfits Over 40. If you’re skeptical about them, choose your favorite pair of linen shorts. I love these because you can create a tailored look without wearing pants, and stay cooler on a hot day.

beige pleated linen shorts

Similar Shirt | Shorts | Cardigan | Shoes

Short sleeve tops

I’ve chosen 4 tops with very different silhouettes so each creates a different kind of look. These are tops that can be worn alone or layered under long-sleeve shirts or sweaters. 

5. White ribbed halter tank top. White shirts are a staple that is far from boring. And the high-neck halter tank top is everywhere this summer. It’s the perfect summer piece that goes underneath sweaters, button-down shirts, or a white blazer or denim jacket. Choose the style of tank top that’s most flattering for your body type. As an oval or inverted triangle, you may prefer a scoop neck tank.  If tank tops aren’t for you and you want to cover your arms more, choose a white T-shirt or elbow-length tee instead.

white ribbed halter tank top

Similar Jeans | Top | Shoes

6. White Dolman sleeve button-up shirt. A gauzy short Dolman sleeve white button up can be worn open over the top of your tank top or buttoned up and layered underneath a light sweater on cooler days. This one from Loft is longer in the back than the front.

white Dolman sleeve shirt

Shorts | Similar Shirt | Shoes

7. Navy puff sleeve top. A puff sleeve top is more elevated than your standard t-shirt. I’m choosing navy because it acts like a neutral but adds a darker tone to your collection for a pop of color. Puff-sleeve tops are great for the triangle, rectangular, and hourglass types. As an inverted triangle or oval body type, choose a simple navy tee. 

navy puff sleeve top

Top | Similar Jeans | Shoes

8. Cream Fisherman’s sweater vest. There’s nothing more perfect for summer than a Fisherman’s sweater vest. Wear this sweater vest like a top in the summer months and layered over a button-down shirt in the cooler months. I pulled this from my winter wardrobe to use now. If you had a spring capsule wardrobe, you may have pieces you want to pull from there for this capsule. 

Cream Fisherman's sweater vest

Similar Sweater | Pants | Shoes

Long sleeve shirts for layering

To pull together your capsule wardrobe, look for gauze or cotton button-down shirts in white, light blue, tan, or stripes. There are many different ways to wear your button-up shirt. Try it buttoned up and tucked into your bottoms. Or leave it open over the top of a tank top. If you need a dressier piece than a button-down shirt in your capsule, swap one out for a white blazer. 

9. Light blue boyfriend shirt. This cotton light blue shirt brings the cool blue color that’s so popular in summer. Wear it 3 ways, buttoned up and left out (or half-tucked), buttoned and tucked in, or unbuttoned over a tank top. 

Light blue boyfriend shirt

Similar Jeans | Top | Button-up | Shoes

10. White and tan button-down shirt. The tan stripes here offer another color and the thicker stripes carry a beachy vibe. 

white and tan button-down shirt

Top | Shorts | Similar Button-up

11. Blue and white stripe button-down. This cotton poplin striped shirt is one of those classic pieces you can easily wear buttoned up with trouser pants in the winter or tucked into shorts or jeans in the summer.   

blue and white striped button-down

Top | Shorts | Striped Button-up | Shoes

If you tend to wear fewer button-up shirts, choose another short sleeve top instead. 

Optional capsule piece: White blazer

If you have the occasion to wear a white blazer, replace one of the button-downs with one. I love the look of a white blazer with white linen pants or linen shorts. 

White blazer

Top | Shoes | Blazer | Shorts

Sweaters for layering

Wide weave and cozy cotton sweaters are the best way to stay warm when the sun goes down. Throw them over your shoulders and then layer them over top of a tank top or tee when the air gets breezy. For easy layering, pick sweaters that are seasonless pieces in neutral colors, navy, or stripes. 

12. Navy pullover sweater. This lightweight navy pullover is one I’ve had forever. It’s one of those timeless pieces that pair with anything for a classic look.

navy pullover sweater

Pants | Similar Sweater | Shoes

13. Cream cardigan sweater. This is another sweater I pulled out of my Fall closet. It’s perfect and cozy to layer over a tank top with linen pants on breezy days or as the sun sets. 

cream cardigan sweater

Top | Shorts | Cardigan | Shoes

14. Breton stripe sweater. A neutral Breton stripe sweater adds some visual interest to any outfit. Wear it over your shoulders and then pull it on over your top when the temperature falls. 

Breton stripe sweater

Similar Jeans | Top | Similar Sweater

15. Cream and blue Breton stripe cardigan sweater. You’ll often see slim-fitting cardigans being worn like a top these days. And I love this one for its color combination of cream and a summery royal blue.   

cream and blue Breton stripe sweater

Cardigan | Shorts | Shoes

Shoes

I’ve chosen 3 pairs of shoes. Two flat sandals that are easy to throw on and go. Plus one pair of platforms to elevate your look for nighttime events. 

16. Platform sandals. If you’re wearing wide-leg pants like linen pants, you eventually realize that platform sandals are a great addition to your wardrobe. They’re the perfect comfortable shoes to dress them up a bit, whether your pants come to the floor or are cropped. 

platform sandals

Similar Shirt | Pants | Shoes

17. Raffia slides. These raffia slides with a metal buckle are perfect with dresses and skirts when you don’t feel like wearing any type of heel. They’re a great option for a dressier look. But they also work just as well with shorts and jeans. 

raffia slides

Similar Sweater | Similar Jeans | Shoes

18. Brown leather slides. These are the perfect shoes to throw on with everything from cutoffs to dresses.

brown leather slides

Top | Shorts | Similar Sweater

Optional capsule piece: White sneakers

If you’ll be doing a lot of walking, white sneakers are a great addition to the capsule wardrobe. Check out my post, 23 Fresh Looks: How to Wear White Sneakers All Year Long for outfit inspo.

Optional capsule piece: Straw bag

There’s never a better time to have a straw bag or canvas tote bag on hand than in summer. They’re perfect for your farmer’s market haul, beach towel, or even a bottle of wine for an afternoon out.

If you’ve never carried a straw bag, they’re great because they hold a lot, stay open and you can easily see what’s inside. 

straw bag

Top | Pants | Shoes | Bag

How to use this capsule wardrobe

Use these 18 pieces as inspiration and a starting point for your summer wardrobe. Add in pieces that are unique to your lifestyle. Consider including a jumpsuit, bathing suit, sun hat, beach coverup, or anything else you may love to wear in the summer. The most important thing is that you create your capsule so it works for you and your life. 

Infographic how to build a coastal summer capsule wardrobe

Hi, Friend. I'm Marya. I'm so glad you're here!

I’m here to help women feel good inside and out through approachable everyday style inspiration and encouragement for midlife. Once upon a time, I worked as a therapist and coach. Now, I’m a holistic style blogger studying style coaching! Be So You celebrates leaning into who we were meant to be! 

Read about my  journey to self-discovery at 40. Follow me on Instagram here and Pinterest here. Send me a quick question through my contact page here.  

Fit Note: I’m midsized at 5’6″, 160 pounds, with size 12 jeans.

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