Core Capsule Wardrobe Pieces – How to Choose Yours

I’m often asked about which are the core capsule wardrobe items everyone needs. It isn’t a simple answer because we are all different and no two capsule wardrobes are the same. I may put the same dress into two different wardrobes if it is one I know has worked well for one client and the client I am creating a capsule wardrobe for has similar colouring, body shape and requirements. But it will always be worn differently – the accessories may change, one client might wear it with a jacket and the other one a knit. Having said all that each person has a core of items that will work for her.

To work out what those are you need to ask yourself some questions, remember we are only talking here about the core items that work for whatever the occasion:

  • Which one neutral colour would be best for you? It should work for you from smart to causal, day or evening and through all seasons.
  • Which are your best shapes that always make you feel both comfortable and confident? Choose core pieces that fit and really flatter you.
  • On a daily basis do you prefer dresses, trousers or skirts – which would you wear both day and evening? You can include all three but if you want a couple of pieces that you can just pull out of the wardrobe at the last minute and make an outfit whatever the occasion, choose what you feel best in.
  • Do you need to have specific business wear and weekend wear or can they cross over? For example a pair of tapered black trousers could be worn for work, weekend and evening wear (see below) if you need very different business wear and weekend wear you may need two sets of core items.
  • Which fabrics are practical for you to wear every day? Will you keep up to date with dry cleaning? For these core items you want them to be available to wear whenever you need them, not sitting in a pile waiting to be cleaned.
  • Which styles are appropriate for your lifestyle? Will a pair of trousers go with all heel heights? The most versatile sit on the ankle bone and can be worn with heels or flats. Do you cycle to work? If so you won’t find skirts the most useful. Consider a day in your life and what you do to help decide what would work for you.

If I were doing this exercise for me I would start with either black or chocolate brown as my key neutral. Putting a little more thought into it though I would come down on the side of black because you can always find black pieces whatever the season. I actually prefer chocolate brown but it’s rare to find very much of it during the summer. You could choose navy, charcoal or silver grey, camel, taupe or pewter depending on your colouring. Think about how smart/formal you need to be as well; charcoal grey is more formal than pewter for example.

I don’t need “office wear” because most of my time is spent in my home office, out in the shops or meeting brands and PR companies. Both at home or when running around I tend to be more comfortable in trousers and I rarely need a formal jacket. For comfort when I am out and about I tend to layer my clothing so if I go into a stuffy shop I can take a layer off. Equally when I go out in the evening I may want an extra layer like a camisole under a blouse. I find dry cleaning a pain so I would want pieces that are washable or at least can go on a hand wash programme in my washing machine.

I would start with 3 core pieces in black that could be the foundation of multiple outfits:

capsule wardrobe core pieces

Black tapered leg trousers – made from cotton and a little elastane for comfort. Flat fronted and cropped to the ankle they will work with different heel heights and a huge range of tops and jackets. Also key, they are machine washable and can be dressed up or down (also available in navy, grey and light beige) A really great basic for the price.

Layering long sleeve top – Hobbs make this top every season in classic and fashion colours. It’s got a flattering scoop neckline isn’t too thick or fine and can be worn under work suits or casual knits.

Lace trim camisole – an item I have in my wardrobe in multiple colours. Great for preserving modesty under low cut tops and dresses, adding another layer for warmth or showing a bit of lace peeking out from a cardigan or top for evening. This one is from Phase Eight but look also at Kettlewell Colours who do a huge range of colours.

On any day the trousers and either the long sleeve top or the camisole will form the foundation of numerous outfits – here are a few examples:

Smart Outfits

capsule wardrobe core items

Peach jacket Damsel in a Dress // Necklace Adele Marie // Bag LK Bennett // Shoes LK Bennett // Black/white coat Michael kore // Bag Ralph Lauren // Black/white shoes LK Bennett // Tunic top Jaeger // Pendant Phase Eight // Bag Whistles // Shoes Vince Camuto



Casual Outfits

capsule wardrobe core items

Tunic top Baukjen // Scarf Kaliko // Loafers Boden // Knit jacket Boden // Shoes LK Bennett // Puffa jacket Herno // Bag and shoes LK Bennett



Evening outfits

capsule wardrobe core items


Blouse Sportmax // Suede jacket Ted Baker // Clutch John Lewis // Shoes Hobbs // Swirl print blouse DVF // Dalmatian clutch Warehouse // Silver necklace Adele Marie // Knitted top Poetry // Silver clutch and shoes Boden



I hope that has helped for you to work out which are the few key items for your capsule wardrobe. Get in touch if you would like me to create a capsule wardrobe for you.