How-To: Build A Capsule Wardrobe With 10 Essential Pieces

Tania Tonello is a fashion stylist, personal shopper, and regular contributor to STYLE Canada based in Downtown Toronto. On #WardrobeWednesdays, she gives you fun yet practical tips and tricks to mastering the art of dressing and expressing yourself in a functional, economical, and more sustainable way. You can read last week’s instalment here

You’ve taken the time to declutter and reorganize your closet, placing alterations and donation piles to the side, but now what? After a healthy wardrobe purge, you might find yourself sitting with a closet full of gaps. This is the perfect time to take stock of what you currently own and create a list of what you need to fill the holes. Sure, the unknown timelines surrounding our return to a COVID-free life can make it difficult to assess your wardrobe needs right now, but, you can still create a purchase list for future reference. Soon, you’ll be thankful that you mapped out your wardrobe for seasons to come.

Capsule Wardrobe 101

Whether you have 50 or 500 items in your closet, so long as you have the essentials, you’re good to go. What are the essentials, you ask?  The concept of a capsule wardrobe was coined by Susie Faux, the owner of a London boutique in the 70s. According to Faux, a capsule wardrobe is a collection of a few essential clothing items that never go out of style, like skirts and pants, that can be interchanged with seasonal pieces. By laying these wardrobe bricks down, you’ll be able to avoid the classic ‘I have nothing to wear!!’ panic altogether and can focus on refreshing your wardrobe with the addition of a few fun pieces each season.

An Essentials Guide

Hundreds of capsule wardrobe guides can be found online, suggesting that you own between 10 and 50 key pieces. With such a wide range available, you might be wondering which one best suits you. Well, the most ideal capsule wardrobe is customized to compliment your lifestyle and budget. However, I recommend starting with the following 10 pieces:

1. Plain White T-Shirt

Whether worn on its own or under a blazer, bomber, or motto jacket, a white tee is always fashionable. Find a fit and style that you can confidently rock solo or layer comfortably.


GAP Modern V-Neck T-Shirt, $24.95

Theory Johna Classic T-Shirt, $100

2. Dark Denim

Remember super low-rise jeans from the 90s? Unfortunately, I do too and I’m sorry for taking you back there! Denim trends will come and go, but a classic dark shade is forever.


Levi’s 501 Straight-Leg Jean, $98

AG Farrah Skinny Ankle Jeans, $298

3. Black Blazer

Blazers are an effortless way to elevate any look. If shoulder pads and buttons are too much for you, opt for a more relaxed or buttonless style.


Zara Oversized Double Breasted Jacket, $79.90

Smythe Classic Jacket, $695

4. White Sneakers

An all-white sneaker pairs well with almost any look – from pleated skirts to jumpsuits and summer dresses. Keep things clean with a fresh pair of kicks and your styling options are endless.


Converse Unisex Chuck Taylor All Star Sneaker, $59.99

Common Projects Original Achilles Sneaker, $585

5. Black Heels

Heels may not be your thing and I respect that. If that’s the case, replace this item with a ballet flat or loafer. Whether a pump or not, invest in at least one pair of quality black shoes. Your feet will thank you later.


Nine West Trip 2 Cara Textured Heeled Pumps, $150

Alexander Wang Rie Stud Pointy Toe Pump, $895

6. Denim Jacket

A casual alternative to a blazer, the denim jacket is a fun way to finish a look. Layer it on top of a tank, a summer dress, a graphic tee, or even a blouse. There are hundreds of fits to choose from that will compliment your personal style.


H&M Denim Jacket, $49.99

AGOLDE Charli Jacket, $298

7. Black Pants

Black pants don’t have to be basic or boring. A high-rise, wide-leg, or cropped style are modern alternatives from the traditional straight cut. Play with lengths and widths to see which styles best flatter your shape.


GAP High Rise Wide-Leg Crop Pant, $69.95

Totême Black Lombardy Trousers, $420

8. Coloured Blouse

Similar to white tees, coloured blouses are super versatile. They can be worn on their own or layered under your favourite blazer or jacket. Determine whether you have a cool or warm skin tone (more on this later!) then choose a complimentary coloured blouse for your complexion.


RW&Co. 3/4 Sleeve Pleated Blouse with Neck Tie, $69.90

Dolce & Gabbana Tie Neck Stretch Satin Blouse, $1,295

9. Little Black Dress

The classic LBD. What other wardrobe piece can you wear to an interview, a wedding, a work holiday party, and a visitation?! That’s the magic of the little black dress. Accessories and jewelry pieces like belts and statement necklaces can help to transform the look of your LBD, taking it from casual to chic in no time.


Saks Fifth Avenue Roundneck Cotton-Blend A-Line Dress, $116.87

Givenchy Wool Sleeveless Dress , $3,205

10. Tote Bag

It’s likely that every so often, your tote bag turns into a solo game of lost and found, (‘Where are my keys?!), but you can’t deny the functionality of this item. Over the shoulder or hand held, it’s one of my favourite ‘go big or go home’ wardrobe pieces.


Indigo Heather North-South Tote, $39.50

Lululemon Now and Always Tote, $198


Tally time! How many of the 10 essential items listed above do you already own? Now that we’ve covered the basics, we’ll move on to some easy and inexpensive ways to amp up staple pieces next #WardrobeWednesday. Stay tuned.

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