If you’re like most men, you probably realize that you could live with a lot less clothing than you currently have. Your closet is probably packed with pieces that you wear infrequently, while your favorite pieces rotate between your daily outfits, your bedroom floor, and your washing machine pretty regularly. But simplifying your wardrobe can be a daunting task. Maybe you always have trouble identifying the pieces you should get rid of, or perhaps you like the idea of a personal uniform, but find it difficult to choose a single ensemble that you’d like to wear day in and day out. In both cases, a capsule wardrobe may be the easiest way to simplify your wardrobe.
For those of us who need a refresher, what’s a capsule wardrobe? A capsule wardrobe is a curated collection of classic pieces of clothing — ones that won’t go out of style or wear out after a single season, and are versatile enough so as to be paired with each other in a wide variety of different combinations.
Putting together a capsule wardrobe enables you to focus on your personal style instead of trying to conform to every trend that comes along. It also helps you to put together a collection of clothes that you’ll love to wear, instead of hanging on to ones that you feel guilty for not being comfortable in. And, incidentally, it also offers you a pretty foolproof way to get dressed in the dark without looking like you, well, got dressed in the dark.
Just as great as those practical benefits is the feeling of opening your closet or your suitcase and sensing that everything is in order. A well-curated capsule wardrobe prevents you from feeling that you have nothing to wear, since everything that makes its way into your capsule will be classic, high-quality, and a color that’s easy for you to match to other pieces of clothing or accessories. If all of your clothes are things you like to wear, and can see yourself wearing for a long time, you’ll spend less time thinking about what to wear, and less time and money shopping for pieces to fill the holes that inevitably pop up when you only pay attention to what’s on trend for the season ahead.
Putting together a well-curated wardrobe of classic pieces — ones that enable you to create lots of unique outfits without maintaining a massive closet full of clothes — sounds like a complicated task. But it doesn’t have to be. In fact, the process only requires a few steps, most of which require more thought than actual action to successfully complete. First of all, you need to figure out your personal style. Make sure that you have a clear picture of what you like and what you like to wear. It doesn’t hurt to collect some photos for inspiration, perhaps by following a few stylish Instagrammers or checking out some top menswear bloggers.
Once you’ve figured out the main theme of your style, and which elements are most important, continue the process by choosing a color palette. It might sound like a reductive way to overhaul your wardrobe, but chances are pretty good that there are a handful of colors that you consider neutrals, and find easy to wear and match. Think black, white, grey, navy blue, tan, and brown to start, and then consider what accent colors pop up over and over in your sweaters, ties, or other accessories.
After you’ve chosen your favorite colors, think about the classic silhouettes that you like wearing. Many men appreciate a hard-wearing oxford shirt, a dress shirt, a Breton-striped top, a chambray shirt, a classic tee, or a grey sweatshirt. A trim pair of raw, selvedge jeans and a pair of tan or navy chinos are other common essentials, as are classic pieces of outerwear like a field jacket, a peacoat, a duffel coat, a trench coat, or a navy blue blazer. A charcoal or navy suit is a key piece for most, and a good pair or two of dress shoes and casual shoes are a necessity. In choosing silhouettes, work with your body type instead of against it, and make sure that the styles you choose are things you’ll really be comfortable wearing day in and day out.
Now comes the fun process: choosing the pieces of your capsule wardrobe. Some people set a number — usually between 20 and 30 if you plan to switch pieces in and out of storage as the seasons change — or you can just focus on assembling a minimal selection of the pieces you’ll need. While plenty of people have tried to outline the essential elements of a man’s wardrobe — and we think Put This On has done a pretty good job of it — these lists are simply starting points.
Figuring out what’s essential for you will require a bit of introspection about what you need to wear to work and to fulfill other responsibilities, and what elements of a classic wardrobe appeal most to you. A capsule wardrobe for an enthusiast of minimalist silhouettes will look quite different than the one chosen by a guy with more preppy proclivities.
Regardless of the specifics of your personal style, the point is to choose a small selection of items, all in silhouettes you like and colors you can easily mix and match, to create a wardrobe that simplifies the process of getting dressed, whether you’re standing in front of your closet at home or packing up a suitcase to take on a much-needed vacation.
Overhauling your wardrobe all at once can be a pricy proposition, though it does offer the benefit of getting the job done quickly. A more common way to start the process is to work in stages, clearing out the things you don’t need and slowly adding new pieces as you gradually outline what shape you want your capsule wardrobe to take. The key, at all stages of the process, is to focus on creating a small collection of pieces that you love and will want to wear for years. Fit and quality are of paramount importance, and once you have a good grip on your style, you’ll feel much more confident and clear-headed with a streamlined wardrobe than an overstuffed closet.