In my work as a Professional Style Coach TM I am frequently asked how to create "capsule" wardrobes. Not only are they the basis for building good, functional everyday wardrobes, they are useful for creating mini-wardrobes for specific lifestyle and recreational needs, such as work, travel and sports. Creating capsule wardrobes is easy and fun once you have got it down and you will likely want to have several if you live in a climate with four seasons.
To begin, you want to select two or three complementary base colours that you can mix and match, which will be dependent upon the context in which you will be using the wardrobe. If your clothes will be used for weekends or leisure activities and you are a sports enthusiast, you will likely need a variety of athleisure clothes with black as your main base. If you spend your leisure time shopping, going to movies or date nights, one of your base colours might include navy as you will likely be wearing blue jeans on more than one occasion. If it is to be a work wardrobe for winter, your base colours might be black, burgundy, and navy. For a summer capsule, you may want to choose white, cream and a pastel shade as your bases. As long as the colours you select are complementary (can be mixed and matched together nicely) you are well on your way. (Tip: Choose either cool colours or warm, not both.)
When creating a capsule wardrobe specifically for travel, it will depend on the context again, whether business or recreation. Of course the location of your travel and the season will also be a factor in your choice of base colours. A business capsule wardrobe for winter will look much different than for summer, as will the fabrics you choose to keep warm or be cool. Wool may be your fabric of choice for the winter, or light linens in the summer would generally be ideal.
Your recreational travel wardrobe basics will depend on the activities you partake in, whether it's camping and hiking; swimming and snorkelling; night-clubbing, shopping, or golfing. Your base colours will likely include khaki's and whites and your fabrics of choice might be light cottons and jerseys. Jerseys can be found in a variety of price points and are ideal for people who don't have the luxury (or the desire) for ironing. You can lay them flat, fold them, roll them up or line them along the sides of your luggage. They won't snag, are weightless and wrinkle-free and you'll have lots of room in your luggage for shopping and shoes!
Once your base colours have been chosen, you can select items to create an interchangeable wardrobe. For your weekend or recreational travel capsule wardrobe, choose one pair of jeans and one pair of chinos, one pair of shorts and one casual skirt. Add at least two t-shirts and a shirt or two that are little dressy. Add a one-piece statement swimsuit than can double as a body-shirt and a swimsuit cover-up that can double as a wrap. You will need at least one sweater or light summer jacket. For shoes you'll need one pair of sneakers, some flip flops and a pair of sandals. Add a floppy hat and there you have it!
Capsule wardrobes are great to create when you are down-sizing, such as after retiring. Even if you're not going through a life change, it's a good idea to go through your closet regularly and evaluate the items you just don't wear. Clothes with tags on them? Consign them. '80's shoulder pads? Remove them. Prom and bridesmaids gowns? Shorten them. Revive a tired wardrobe by adding the Pantone Colours of the Year in new accessories and create a whole new wardrobe with the clothing items you decide to keep. Once your closet has been "cleansed", you can purchase capsule items that complement the ones that are left. It's that simple!