Stay stylish year-round by building a “capsule” wardrobe—here’s how
Try these go-tos for style on the go or at home.
Recommendations are independently chosen by Reviewed’s editors. Purchases you make through our links may earn us a commission.
We’ve all been there: Deciding on an outfit moments before dashing out the door, furiously scanning the closet for options. (Ever texted “on my way” while still picking out your jewelry?) Thankfully, there’s a simple-yet-stylish solution: Building a capsule wardrobe, or a curated collection of wardrobe staples, so you’ll always have something to wear at your fingertips.
The simplified style hack is hardly new to the fashion world. Whether referred to by that name or not, capsule wardrobes often pop up in guides for, say, packing a suitcase. As of late, capsule wardrobes are popping in popularity thanks to TikTok, where #capsulewardrobes has 442.6 million views to date.
If you’re looking for ways to cut down on clutter and invest in everyday pieces you’ll actually wear every day, consider giving your closet the capsule wardrobe treatment. After all, planning ahead never goes out of style—just like these pieces.
What is a capsule wardrobe?
While TikTok is filled with a flurry of fashion fads (like #darkacademia), buying into every trend isn’t “what’s going to help [you] get dressed easily,” says Los Angeles-based stylist Erica Ball. Instead, it’s important to have “essential pieces to get dressed easily every day, no matter where you're going,” she says. Enter capsule wardrobes: a small selection of mix-and-match go-tos, which Ball likens to a house’s foundation. “You want to avoid decision fatigue, and having a capsule wardrobe helps you with that because you don't have to think about what piece goes with what,” she says.
In addition to helping you look stylish in less time, when done right, capsule wardrobes can also be a more eco-friendly fashion choice. “You want it to be investment pieces,” says Ball, noting that it’s best to avoid fast fashion here in lieu of quality, long-lasting pieces. While prices might be higher, be sure to factor in the “cost per wear” rather than the price tag alone. “You're actually getting a lot more use out of the pieces because…they're classic, they don't go out of style.”
What goes in a capsule wardrobe?
As prints go in and out of fashion frequently, you’ll want to opt for pieces in neutral, solid colors that coordinate easily for maximum versatility. The same rule applies to the silhouette and fit of the individual pieces, as Ball recommends selecting tailored, classic fits rather than on-trend cut-outs or oversized styles. Beyond the look, you should also focus on finding fabrics that will last. “Something's [that’s] 100% cotton will be so much better than getting something that's rayon or polyester in terms of it lasting,” says Ball.
Additionally, most of your wardrobe “should be wearable all year round,” says Ball, who loves layering classic pieces to make the most out of them. While you might want to add additional pieces to your closet based on the season—such as picking a pair of quality shorts and a sleeveless cotton dress for summer or a cozy pullover sweater for winter—the below styles are a foundation for fashion year-round.
A pair of dark jeans
What’s more classic than denim? A pair of dark-wash jeans—which Ball says are more “non-seasonal” than lighter washes—can go seamlessly from a casual summer Friday to wintertime date nights. Find a classic pair in a rise and cut that you “feel amazing in,” she says, whether that’s a skinny or straight leg.
Jeans from the brand Frame “work well with a lot of body types,” says Ball. Try the Frame Le High Raw Crop Straight Jeans at Nordstrom Rack, which come in a dark wash in women’s sizes 24 to 34.
A well-made white T-shirt
To have everyday style down to a T, you’ll need, well, a good tee. Whether you prefer crewneck or V-neck, a basic T-shirt is an “all-year-round staple piece,” says Ball. Consider the J.Crew Slim Perfect T-shirt, which came out on top when we tested the best white T-shirts for women. Our tester found the shirt kept its shape after washing and wasn’t see-through, even when layered over a dark-colored tank top.
A day-to-night dress
With the rise of the nap dress, the secret’s out: Dresses are way more comfortable than pants. For a put-together look that feels great on, invest in a solid color dress that works from season to season. Pair it with a cardigan, tights, and boots for fall and winter, then swap for sandals in spring and summer.
Consider the mini-length Alaine Silk Dress from Reformation, which has a buttoned front and a wrap style skirt. It comes in black in women’s sizes 0 to 12. Dress it up with jewelry and heels, or dress it down with a jean jacket.
A silk or silk-like blouse
Looking for pieces that help your personal style shine through? Try a (literally) shiny silk blouse for something more stylish than your basic T-shirt. Ball recommends a long-sleeve, structured style that can be worn alone or layered without looking sloppy.
Consider L’Agence blouses like the Holly Long Sleeve Satin Blouse—the “construction’s wonderful and they last for a really long time," Ball says. This one is available in light gold in women’s sizes XS to XL.
A basic black dress pant
You’ve heard of the little black dress, but little black pants, so to speak, are just as important in terms of filling out your capsule wardrobe. If you’re returning to the office, a classic pair of trousers in the most classic of hues will suit most business dress codes. For something that spans seasons, find a pair with a more lightweight feel, which you can layer over tights if things get chilly. “Versatility is such a big component of your essential pieces, especially if you want to just have one foundational capsule wardrobe,” says Ball.
Try the Rag and Bone Simone Skinny Pants, which Ball recommends for an ankle-length, slim fit pant that’s “been around for years”—and can last you a long time. The design comes in black in women’s sizes 00 to 16. If you prefer a looser fit, consider the Dream Pant from Everlane, which has a 4.5-star rating and over 500 reviews. One reviewer calls them “comfortable as sweatpants, yet are structured and polished enough for the office.”
A classic cardigan
To keep comfortable no matter the season, layering is the name of the game. Whether you’re trying to beat the office AC in summer or keep warm in the winter, a cardigan will be your best fashion friend year-round. While it’s up to you whether you prefer one that hits at the hip or the waist, Ball recommends avoiding the “super long ones” which are trendy as of late. “It's a super versatile piece,” she says of the must-have layer.
To generate maximum outfit options, Ball recommends investing in both a black cardigan and an ivory or camel one. For a style that can go from workout to workwear (yes, really), try the Pranayama Wrap at Athleta, which comes in women’s sizes XS to XL. It has a nearly 5-star rating out of over 6,000 reviewers, and one reviewer raves, “These wraps are super comfortable, can be dressed up or down, and I love the pockets.”
A leather or denim jacket
Outside of summer heat, you can’t go wrong topping off any look with a tailored jacket. “If you're wearing a flowy top or a flowy dress, having something that's more fitted like a leather jacket or a denim jacket will give structure to your look and it just makes everything look more put together,” says Ball. Based on preference, opt for a classic denim jacket or an edgier leather or vegan leather option.
Madewell’s jean jackets have plenty of fans, including Meghan Markle. Shop the bestselling denim jacket, which comes in women’s sizes XXS to XXL. The millennial-loved basics brand also offers leather jackets, including the Washed Leather Motorcycle Jacket, which has a nearly 5-star rating out of 390 reviews. It’s available in women’s sizes XXS to XXL in black, brown, gray, and dark olive.
A wool coat
In most U.S. climates, there’s at least some part of the year you’ll need quality outerwear to ward off a chill. For a timeless look, consider a tailored wool coat in a neutral color like black, ivory, or camel. Find one with a lining, for quality and warmth, plus a classic cut that is “actually tailored,” says Ball.
For a coat made of a real wool blend—rather than synthetic alternatives—consider the Cocoon Coat from Aritzia, a cozy, lined design made of Italian wool and cashmere. It comes in women’s sizes XS to 2X in nine solid shades.
A long puffer jacket
When living in colder climes, the right puffer jacket is a hot find. Both Ball and our tester love the Canada Goose jacket as an investment piece to carry you through the colder season (or seasons, depending on where you live).
“After I bought the Canada Goose jacket, my winter brightened up a bit,” writes our reviewer, who says the much-hyped coat was really “warm enough to withstand the frigid temperatures outside.” For the price, you’ll also get the protection of Canada Goose’s lifetime warranty.
What goes in a capsule wardrobe for accessories?
The same trope of classic pieces for your closet can extend to your accessories. Invest in one or two high quality everyday necklaces, Ball says. Look for “something that is simple enough that you can wear every day and don't really need to take it off.” The same applies to earrings, and she recommends going for a good pair of hoops and studs, then supplementing later with “more fun” pieces. Mejuri is a go-to for versatile pieces at reasonable prices.
As for purses? You’ll have great style in the bag with any combo of five classic bags, says Ball. While pink purses might be in right now (blame the Barbie movie buzz), be sure to search for neutral colors when it comes to a capsule wardrobe. The five options should include a cross-body bag that goes from day to night, a “well-made structured tote,” and an evening bag (a clutch or small wallet also works) for special occasions or weddings. For bags that will last, consider staples from stalwart fashion brands Coach or Kate Spade.
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.