How To Create Your Ideal Capsule From Scratch + The Only 37 Pieces You Need This Fall

After posting my 31 Piece Fall Capsule Wardrobe last week, I got to thinking. While putting my autumn closet together it seemed to come as second nature, and the whole ordeal was done in a day. When I first started capsule dressing about two years ago though, this wasn't the case.

All of the books, blogs and websites I read made it seem soooo simple, but when I tried it myself it wasn't nearly that easy.  

In fact, the process was a lot more complicated than I had expected, and definitely took some trial and error before I felt comfortable with my sartorial choices.

With those challenges I faced in mind, today's post is all about the steps I actually took to get where I am today. 

Whether you're having a hard time narrowing in on what to include in your fall capsule, or are just overwhelmed by minimized dressing in general, I hope these tips will give you the direction you need to start doing more with less. 

Before we jump into it though, I want to say that when I first started minimizing my wardrobe, I found that working with a very small seasonal selection was the focus I needed to springboard me into a smaller wardrobe year round, and better understand the items that worked for my lifestyle. That said, narrowing in on those pieces took some trial and error, so to save you the leg work I've also included a quick cheat sheet of the only 37 pieces I think you need for a well-rounded fall wardrobe.

I hope these tips will lead you closer to the wardrobe of your dreams and a lifetime of style without the stress, so you can finally spend less time worrying about what to wear and more time living.

How To Create A Capsule Wardrobe From Scratch

So, you want to create a capsule wardrobe. You've read all the books, perused all the blogs and have finally decided to give it a go. You wake up early and are feeling particularly motivated so you grab a cup of coffee and head to your closet with the intent of not leaving until your ideal wardrobe is hanging neatly before you.

Unfortunately, things don't go according to plan and about 20 minutes in you feel defeated and overwhelmed rather than cleansed and refreshed. Instead of a streamlined wardrobe that makes you feel effortless and chic, you have piles and piles of clothes and can no longer see your bed. 

Now, instead of throwing in the towel (or the sweater in this case), and exiling yourself to a life of clutter and nothing to wear, I ask that you take a deep breath, and a step back and start over - but this time with my help. 

Step 1: Set Realistic Expectations

When beginning a journey toward living with less the most important first step is to set realistic expectations for yourself. While it may be tempting to hope for your perfect wardrobe instantly, I encourage you to be patient, ignore most of what you've read and allow yourself to become overwhelmed.

Now, you're probably thinking that seems like the complete opposite of why you're downsizing in the first place, but hear me out. If you begin this process hoping for a painless journey that doesn't leave you at least a little confused and overwhelmed, then you're likely to go running back to your clutter at the first sign of trouble - I know I did. Instead, if you go into this knowing that the road will be bumpy at times, you won't want to surrender when things get tricky.

So, as you head down this path be prepared for some confusion and a little bit of stress, but know that it's completely manageable over time. As long as you stick with it and adapt this concept to your own lifestyle, you'll be living your most stylish life in no time. 

Step 2: Divide Your Closet Into Sections & Try It All On

The second step in this process focuses on your closet clear-out. Rather than approach this task all at once, I encourage you to break it into sections (sweaters, jeans, pants etc) over a few days or even weeks if you need.

This way you'll be able to make real progress slowly rather than no progress quickly.

When you decide the time has come to tackle your closet, separate everything you own into categories and tackle them one by one - feel free to take breaks between categories and even space it out over a few days or weeks if you need.

When beginning a closet clear-out what works for me is to start with tops. So, whether I'm switching my closet over for a new season or am just doing an occasional purge, I will remove all of my tops from my closet first. 

Next, I group like with like. All striped tops together, all button-downs together, all short sleeve tees together and all long sleeve tees together. Doing this allows me to see just how many striped tops, button downs etc. that I have so I can decide if I truly need all 5 striped tops or not.

Once I have these piles organized I start going through them with three things in mind. These three questions (outlined below) each lead into the next and help you edit your pieces quickly and efficiently. 

  1. Do I like this? This question should be the easiest to answer. Just as Marie Kondo recommends, if you hold up an item and it doesn't spark joy it's an easy toss and you can place it in either a "donate" pile (if it's still in good condition but not worth trying to sell) or a "sell" pile. If the item does spark joy you can move onto the next question.

  2. Does this fit me? Now, you have to try that item on and honestly decide if it fits. If the answer is "no," and you have no plans of losing weight or don't want to save the piece for when you aren't pregnant, then you can place it in the "donate" or "sell" pile.

    • Now, before we move onto what you do if the item does fit you, I want to address what to do if you are in the process of losing weight. Unlike what you've probably heard, I would encourage you to NOT discard pieces just because they don't fit right now - especially if they're high quality items. If you've been hitting the gym regularly and eating a well-balanced diet, then I think it's completely silly to toss out all of your pieces that don't fit you now but may in a few months. Instead, I would encourage you to make a third pile of items that you hope to fit into in the near future. Once you're done sorting your whole closet, store these items neatly in a bag or container and revisit them once you've met you're goal. 

      • The only caveat here is that you need to be honest with yourself and check back regularly on your progress. So, if you set a goal of fitting into these items by this time next year and they still don't fit when that time rolls around, it may be a good idea to donate or sell them and start fresh.  

  3. Is this seasonal or can I wear it year-round? Now, if you've answered "yes" to questions 1 and 2, you should have a pile of items that fit you well and you love to wear, but not all of them will work year-round. This is when you separate them into three categories - fall/winter, spring/summer and year-round. So, using the tee shirt scenario again, a simple white, short sleeve tee can be worn year-round whereas a navy, long sleeve tee is better suited for fall and winter so separate them.

Then, before you move onto the next category of clothing, place your year-round items back in your closet, store the out of season pieces for later, and place any to sell/donate items in a bag to handle at the end. 

Now, move onto the next category of clothing and ask yourself the same questions until you have a closet full of year-round pieces, and piles of seasonal tops, pants, jeans, skirts, dresses etc. that you love.

Step 3: Finalize Your Capsule & Store The Excess

If you've made it this far you're totally rocking this downsizing thing and are so close to finally having the wardrobe of your dreams!

Now that you have a closet of classic, year-round pieces (a white button-down, white short sleeve tee, striped tee, black skirt etc) you can evaluate and finalize your seasonal pieces. 

Using the tee shirt scenario again, you should go through all of your seasonal tees and decide which you tend to wear the most and are likely to continue to wear the most throughout the season - the winners get a spot in your capsule.

That said, don't panic that you're going to make the wrong choices here because you're not going to discard the items that don't make the final cut. Instead, you're going to fold and store them neatly in a bag or container in your closet. Which brings me to the fourth step.

Step 4: Reevaluate Your Choices

As you go through the season and are feeling out your new capsule I encourage you to constantly be evaluating and reevaluating your pieces. If something isn't working for you or you find yourself skipping over it entirely, you can always reach into your reserve and add old favorite back into your closet. 

I recommend doing your first few capsules this way for a few reasons. The first being that when I first jumped into minimized dressing I went wild and discarded anything that didn't make the cut into my capsule. When I did this though, I found myself panicked a few weeks in when I discovered that my choices weren't quite perfect, and something I had discarded would have been better. At that point I ended up purchasing even more items to fill the gaps that I could have avoided in the first place. 

With this in mind, I approached my second capsule by selecting some year-round pieces and seasonal items for my capsule and then storing the excess. This time around I only needed to reach into my overflow containers once or twice and did practically no unnecessary shopping.

By my third capsule I had found the magic formula for me. I finally understood the pieces that actually worked for me and my lifestyle, and didn't need to reach into my overflow at all. Plus, when I sorted through everything again for the following seasons I was able to permanently discard even more items without remorse.

By my fourth capsule I had not only narrowed in on a selection of basics that I could wear year-round, but had also come to truly understand the seasonal pieces I needed to make my wardrobe work for me in winter, spring, summer and fall.

I had effectively eliminated all excess closet clutter and getting dressed was easier than ever. 

The moral of the story here is to give yourself time and take it easy to begin with. Feel free to tweak things as you see fit and remember that no one size fits all when it comes to minimized dressing - everyone's wardrobe will be different. 

The important thing is that you have fun throughout this process and allow yourself to establish a condensed wardrobe that works for you and your lifestyle. 

This journey should lead you to a method of dressing that you can adopt for life - not a fad you want to give up in a month. 

As I mentioned at the beginning, one of the things that helped me understand which pieces worked for my lifestyle was to begin with a small selection of items. In case you're feeling a little stumped, I've saved you the leg work and put together a list of 37 pieces that I think make a great fall wardrobe.

Below, I've included a pinnable sheet that you can refer to easily, as well as a more detailed list that breaks out each item. I've indicated which pieces I consider to be year-round basics with an asterisk*. Just remember, these are the items that work for me so feel free to tweak them until you find a selection that works for you. 

9 Shirts

  1. White long sleeve silk shirt*

  2. White long sleeve cotton button down*

  3. Navy long sleeve silk shirt

  4. Long sleeve navy tee

  5. Striped tee*

  6. Short sleeve white tee*

  7. Plaid button down

  8. Chambray shirt

  9. Black short sleeve shirt - mine is silk this season but a plan tee works just as well.*

4 Sweaters

  1. Black cashmere crewneck sweater

  2. Ivory fisherman sweater

  3. Ivory cashmere cardigan

  4. Navy cableknit sweater

4 Bottoms/ 1 Dress

  1. Dark wash denim in either straight cut or slim cut depending on your preference

  2. Black skirt*

  3. Classic trousers 

  4. Plaid skirt

  5. Black dress*

5 Outerwear

  1. Waterproof coat - I love Barbour

  2. Quilted vest

  3. Plaid, tweed or herringbone blazer - the classic fabrics of fall

  4. Navy blazer*

  5. Camel coat

5 Shoes

  1. Riding boots

  2. Chelsea or ankle boots

  3. Loafers

  4. Classic pumps

  5. Ballet Flats

9 Accessories

  1. Classic day bag

  2. Silk scarf 

  3. Classic belt

  4. Sunglasses

  5. Shawl or blanket scarf - especially great in plaid

  6. Statement necklace

  7. Basic bracelet

  8. Fedora

  9. Simple clutch

That's everything! I hope this post has helped you navigate the world of minimized dressing better and if you aren't already living larger with less, I wish you the best of luck (and fun) during your journey. Also, I'd love to know you have any pointers for downsizing effectively so let me know in the comments below - I love getting inspiration! 

Until next time,