Surprising ways people fail with a capsule wardrobe and the must-know secrets

colorful minimal clothing text overlay capsule wardrobe secrets

Capsule Wardrobe: The five surprising ways people fail when creating one are natural. But after this article, you will be armed with the secrets to success. Here, I’ll share, the must-know steps to getting the curated closet you will love.

What is a capsule wardrobe?

First, what is a capsule wardrobe? It is a curated collection of clothing that is functional and loved. Or put another way, you have a few inter-matching clothes that you love and wear.

Creating a capsule wardrobe has been so freeing for me. I have about 30 items that I mix and match and I love and wear every piece.  I share a tiny closet with my husband and it feels like plenty of space.

If I need to shop to replace something, I know just what to get and what will fit right in. Even as a plus-sized mama, shopping, and dressing are easy with this powerful framework.

Mistakes people make in designing a capsule wardrobe

Mistake One: Limit by number, not by functionality.

This guide is not going to tell you to limit to 30 items. Why? Because numbers are arbitrary and not helpful. In cool Alaska, a person needs more layers than someone in steamy Miami. Also if your lifestyle requires special clothes for work, for example, or your life is spent mainly wearing “athleisure” (workout clothes) then that will require a different amount, too.

Bottom Line: Don’t worry about the number, build your wardrobe with what you will love and find useful.

Skimming? Pin for later:

Mistake Two: Making the process stressful with unnecessary rules and restrictions

Capsule wardrobes and minimalism, in general, are intended, at the heart, to bring peace and simplicity to one’s life. Rules and restrictions that stress you out are out of place. There are no closet police officers waiting to pounce because of your clothing choices.

Bottom Line: Use these secrets as a guide, but ultimately, you do you.

Mistake Three: Perfectionism

If you have been around here long, you will learn that I am a recovering perfectionist. I believe that perfectionism is just fancy fear – fear that I am not doing it right, fear that it is not good enough, fear that someone will think what I am doing is not acceptable. This includes the all-or-nothing approach, too. It has to go.

Bottom Line: It will not be perfect and that is OK. We can live free from perfectionism, aka fancy fear.

That is why we are Altogether Mostly.

Mistake Four: Thinking Cheap

There are quality clothing items that will last and there are cheap pieces. I am not saying that you have to go out right now and buy a whole new wardrobe like Spendy McSpenderson. I am saying that as you add to your beautiful collection and replace items over time, be intentional to buy high-quality items that fit great and make you look good.

Bottom Line: Avoid the fast fashion trap and buy for quality, not quantity.

Mistake Five: Not getting started

The fasted and best way to fail at getting a capsule wardrobe completed is to not begin. Just get started. Do not overthink it.

Bottom Line: Take it one step at a time and dig in today.

Curating a beautiful and useful capsule wardrobe and the secrets you must know

You may have popped in here to see if you can simplify your clothing and maybe a capsule wardrobe could help.

Are you the kind of person who appreciates simplicity? You must read:
Ultimate Steps to Organize Yourself for a Simpler Life

white desk with planner text ultimate guide to simplify your life to finally have peace
Ultimate guide to simplify your life to finally have peace

Secret One: Chose a Neutral Foundation

Start with a solid foundation. If you want to build anything that will last, you must have a firm footing and in this case, it is choosing your neutral base. The neutral base is the color group that you will use that are your neutrals.

Neutrals often work great for bottoms, shoes, and accessories like purses. For example, a great fitting pair of black pants and black flats can easily be jazzed up with a fuchsia top and fashion jewelry, then worn another day with a red sweater and a scarf.

The versatility and quality of capsule wardrobe pieces are the key to the system.

Benefits of one neutral base for a capsule wardrobe

Having one neutral base simplifies the clothing choice process. Neutrals can be worn with colors, but some neutrals don’t play with other neutrals. For example, it is easiest to wear black shoes with black pants and brown shoes with brown or tan pants. Yes, with intention, one may mix black with brown and there are no fashion police coming for you, but we are working for simplicity here.

Having one neutral base offers flexibility and freedom. You will know with confidence that all of your clothing pieces will coordinate with one another making shopping and dressing easy and fun.

Neutral base options

Black Base:

A black-based neutral foundation includes black, gray, white, and silver accessories.

Brown Base:

A brown-based neutral foundation includes browns, tan, cream or off-white, and gold-tone accessories.

Blue Base:

Another less common option is a Navy or Blue as a neutral base, which can mix with the brown or black bases in some cases but can get complicated to pull-off well.

Secret Two: choose a color palette for your capsule wardrobe

Color coding is choosing a color pallet (or code) to create guideposts to hang your clothing choices on. Why does this matter?

If you have a pallet of colors that not only consistently coordinate with your chosen neutral, but also with each other, you are golden. You can read a little more about clothing and color theory at Master here. And this article at Vetta gives more tips about clothing color palettes.

Beyond that, choosing the right color palette that looks best on you can take a simple shirt from frumpy to fabulous just because the color looks great on you. Your color code can be based on your hair color, skin tone, personals style, personality, and lifestyle, and also the image you are trying to convey.

Color Palette Examples

Tropical: colors like fuchsia, teal, and tangerine.
This vibrant color family reminds me of drinks with umbrellas and goes well with white and black and polished up with colorful jewelry.

Earthy: colors like rust, mustard, and olive
This grounded and warm color family makes me think of an invigorating hike in the woods. It pairs well with the brown, tan, and cream neutral base, accented with jewelry made of natural materials like leather and feathers.

Primary: colors like true blue, red, yellow, as well as true green, purple, and orange.
This simple color family is bright and versatile and could pair with the black or brown neutral bases.

Jewel tones: colors like ruby (red), sapphire (blue), amethyst (purple)
This rich color family reminds me of precious stones and tends to be dark and cooler tones. They coordinate best with the black neutral base and silver jewelry.

Secret Three: Dress your body type

Balancing our figures with the lines and cuts of a garment can be the difference between frumpy and fabulous. Every person’s body is different, so getting real about what really looks good on it is important.

This post on Stitch Fix blog (NOT an affiliate link) offers some great tips on Fall Layering Tricks based on your body type. We can accentuate the positive by placing the waste of clothing at the right place and using layers.

The most forgiving style for my plus-sized pear-shaped body is a crisp tunic with narrow-cut ankle pants or jeans.

Comment below, on Facebook, or Instagram. Tell me your wardrobe journey. What fits you best, your color pallet, base neutral, your personal style?

Secret Four: Purge and organize to make space for your most loved and used pieces

Now that you have honed your colors and style, it is time to let go of the items that do not fit in your capsule. Remember, the capsule wardrobe is a curated collection of clothing that is functional and loved. If you don’t love it and don’t wear it, it needs to find a new home.

I wrote a de-cluttering post you can use to guide you as you decide on what stays and what goes. Check it out here.

Secret Five: Use what you have, then add only intentional pieces

What do you have that you love? Use the checklist below and mark it off with the items you already have and love. The secret is to ONLY keep what you love and what works with your new plan.

I know how hard it is to let go of pieces you might wear someday, so if you have that sequined top that was stunning at the Christmas party, but doesn’t work with your everyday wardrobe, make the exceptions that you need to make. Just be intentional about it. If you can move pieces like that to another space to give you clarity, do it now.

Capsule Wardrobe Checklist

Basic Pants
Blouse or Tunic
2 Jackets
1 Coat
1 pair each: “play” shoes, casual shoes, dress shoes, boots
(Modify for climate, work, season-change, school uniform, or other specific lifestyle factors)

Check out this post with details about the 8 essential items you need to get started with your capsule wardrobe.

items to start a capsule wardrobe
8 Items You Need to Start You Capsule Wardrobe

Be sure to sign up to get your
FREE Capsule Wardrobe Checklist
to help you get started here:

Secret Six: Curate your capsule wardrobe

Just as the curator at the museum, you are choosing the best pieces to keep or curate in your beautiful collection. Above is a guide to help you think through each category.

Then for the fun part, start making combinations. Layout your pieces and see what can mix and match and how many combinations you can make. Keep some shots of your plan on your phone or in your planner, so you have it with you when you are out so you can stay true to your plan.

Only buy pieces that will be a complimentary additions to your collection.


Can you relate to any of the surprising ways people fail when creating a capsule wardrobe? What have you learned from the must-know secrets to getting the curated closet you will love?

We talked about how a capsule wardrobe is a curated collection of clothing that is functional and loved. Are you ready to design yours?

Creating a capsule wardrobe can be so freeing for me. Whether you need to fit your clothes in a tiny closet or have to find a way to make getting ready in the morning easier, a capsule wardrobe can serve you, big time. Shopping and dressing are easy with this powerful framework.

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About the Author, Jaime

Jaime Ragsdale
Jaime Ragsdale, Founder of Altogether Mostly

Here at Altogether Mostly, you will find grace, compassion, joy, and beauty. I use empathy and a little tough love to bring out the best in people. I live in the Midwest United States with my loving husband and awesome children. For more about me and Altogether Mostly, please visit my about page here.

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