Starting a Capsule Wardrobe from Scratch – What are your key Pieces?

Over the last few months, as you know, I have been working with clients creating a capsule wardrobe spread over time and it has been a hugely popular service (read the fantastic feedback here). It’s hard to be objective about ourselves and what suits us and even if you can it can still be difficult to know where to start and what to buy first, it’s like that old saying; how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.

So if you have decided to gradually build your own capsule wardrobe the first thing you need to decide is where to start – what are going to be the most useful pieces and the best bang for your buck so to speak? And of course this is different for everyone and their circumstances, whether they work or not, whether they have a lot of social events etc.

This post is designed to help you take that first step. A good place to start is with one of your neutral colours and things that are your unofficial “uniform”. By that I mean something that you wear on a regular basis. If you work in a formal environment it might be a suit, if your work is more casual it could be trousers and a knit, if like me you work from home most of the time, I’d go for comfortable trousers/jeans and a knit and have a scarf or necklace on hand for when I go out to run errands. (By the way if you don’t know which are your best neutral and accent colours find out here)

Here are some ideas for first choices that you can build on and add to. I’ve used the example of a smart business capsule wardrobe and a casual wardrobe.

How to create a capsule wardrobe from scratch

Start with your “uniform” pieces in a neutral colour. I’ve used navy for both (because we can all wear navy and it works better for some of us than black), a trouser suit for the business wear capsule wardrobe and a pair of smart jeans and a waterfall cardigan for the smart casual capsule wardrobe.

Then to make it interesting you want to add an accent colour with pieces that will create a complete outfit for you. Obviously you can only choose accent colours that you can find in the shops. Here I have used two accents for each wardrobe and in both cases I’ve picked them out from a scarf and found a top in the accents.

Finally you want something to wear on your feet – for the first piece of footwear stick with your neutral colour.

How to create a capsule wardrobe from scratch

Next I’ve found a second top in another accent in the pattern of the scarf. So you now have two complete outfits for each wardrobe.

How to create a capsule wardrobe from scratch

Finally I have added a dress for the business wear capsule wardrobe and a second cardigan for the casual one. Giving me 3 outfits for the business wear wardrobe and four for the casual one (both tops with both cardigans).

How to create a capsule wardrobe from scratch

To continue building you might add a jacket and shoes in Claret to the business wardrobe and a pair of green jeans and pink trainers to the casual wardrobe. The core pieces of the wardrobes – jacket, trousers, shoes and cardigan, jeans, boots  – will always work with any new accents you add.

Shop the items here:


It takes a little thought to work out what your most useful items will be and then a little hunting to find them in one of your neutrals and the accents to go with them but it’s worth the effort as this is the key to having items in your wardrobe that get worn. Having a plan and adding new pieces from your plan as you find and can afford them means you get maximum cost per wear from your wardrobe.

Of course if you would rather have it all done for you have a look at the capsule wardrobe builder service, or if you are in more of a hurry the full capsule wardrobe dossier service is the one for you.



  1. Jessica
    November 13, 2015 / 8:17 am

    Hi Maria, I was so excited to get this new post today. I have only been following you for a little while, but am really enjoying all your posts, hints and tips. I love the idea of a capsule wardrobe and have been working on mine for a few months now, trying to get the ‘smart casual look’ and thanks to all your help I am finally getting there. This post today has helped me focus better on what I really need. Thank you so much.

    • Maria
      November 14, 2015 / 10:39 pm

      Thank you for your comment Jessica. I’m glad this post was useful. It’s often difficult to know where to start. I love to hear of readers using the advice and starting their own journey to creating their perfect capsule wardrobe. It takes time but it’s so worth it in the end to love and wear everything you own.

  2. November 13, 2015 / 6:27 pm

    Maria, I love this capsule . The navy pieces with the accents look great.

    • Maria
      November 14, 2015 / 10:37 pm

      Thanks Anne and navy is definitely good as a core colour in your wardrobe – fabulous with your bright pinks and lilacs.

  3. Pat
    November 14, 2015 / 1:21 am

    Hi Maria,
    Discovering your wonderful website is so timely for me. I have recently retired, live in a beach community in Southern California and I am determined to create a small, Seasonless wardrobe appropriate for my casual lifestyle. Unfortunately, my eye still wanders in the direction of business classics at the stores instead if cute, casual ensembles that would be fun and easy to dress up or down.

    I am excited about following your suggestions and advice to create the capsule wardrobe that’s perfect for year round wear.

    Thank you for sharing your knowledge and talents with your adoring fans.

    A faithful fan,

    • Maria
      November 14, 2015 / 10:44 pm

      Thank you Pat for your kind comments. I’m envious of you living in Southern California, it’s a beautiful place to live! If your eye still wanders to business wear maybe you have some classic characteristics. You could bring those into your outfits with some more structured styles, jewellery and scarves and occasionally add a lightweight blazer with your casual trousers or a pair of tailored linen trousers so you keep the relaxed feel but it still has a bit of classic elegance too.

  4. Wendy
    November 14, 2015 / 7:36 am

    Hi Maria, I too have only been following your blog for a little while now. After loosing weight and dropping 2 dress sizes I needed to build a new wardrobe and was excited about a capsule wardrobe. As I was no longer trying to hide in my clothes I thought the use of colour helped in my new confidence and compliments were a plenty.
    As yet I’m still trying to work out my style. In my part time job I wear a uniform at work so I’ve always been a bit casual in my dress. The problem always came when I was “going out”, I’d have nothing to wear. I’d spend money on one off pieces that went with nothing else in my wardrobe and then feel I cant wear that again as they saw me in that the last time.
    Not anymore! You’ve made me look at clothes and accessories very differently now. I might not be able to afford some of the pieces you show on your blog but I can find budget alternatives on the High Street and get the same look. Thanks for all your hard work and I’ll keep following and continue to work out my look as we go along x

    • Maria
      November 14, 2015 / 10:36 pm

      Hi Wendy
      Thank you for your comment. I am so glad I have been able to help you! Colour and accessories are two easy ways to make your wardrobe more exciting and versatile. And if a colour is fabulous on you it doesn’t have to be expensive. Once you know what works for you you can build your wardrobe gradually then you don’t have those mistakes sitting in the wardrobe making you feel guilty.
      Congratulations on your transformation you deserve to show off your new figure!