Curious about capsule wardrobes and what that has to do with you as a person who sews? This post is all about how to sew a capsule wardrobe.
In the world of the KonMari method, capsule wardrobes have been gaining popularity.
It’s easy to see the appeal: a few key wardrobe staples that you can combine into endless outfits. Way to press the easy button on getting dressed.
But if you’ve ever wanted to know how to sew a capsule wardrobe, you run into a few problems.
Sameness. Anybody else bored to heavens with the idea of neutral colored everyt…..? Sorry, I just dozed off typing there for a sec.
So here’s my ideas for how to make a capsule wardrobe with color that’s all your style and something you can get excited about. Because making endless garments that don’t go together or that you don’t wear is no good people!
Let’s revamp your closet with some handmade power!
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What is a capsule wardrobe?
From Wikipedia: “A capsule wardrobe is a collection of clothing that is composed of interchangeable items only, to maximise the number of outfits that can be created. The aim is to have an outfit suitable for any occasion without owning excessive items of clothing. “
Capsule wardrobes are popular in minimalism circles with people like Marie Kondo and among fashion stylists. There’s several variations of the idea of the capsule wardrobe including the French capsule wardrobe which focuses on creating a wardrobe from a handful of essential wardrobe staples that are well-constructed with long-wearing fabrics and timeless designs.
Personally, I think the popularity of a capsule wardrobe comes from the simplicity. Few of us are natural fashion stylists by nature. Capsule wardrobes provide people a simple, easy to follow formula for getting dressed and combining a few items to get the most out of their money.
Who should make a capsule wardrobe?
I’m assuming that you are a person that makes a reasonable amount of her own clothes.
But maybe you’re stuck in a rut because you got into the habit of making, making, making and not actually using what you’ve made.
Here’s how to know if you should make a capsule wardrobe:
- If you struggle with putting outfits together despite having a full closet, making a capsule wardrobe might be for you.
- You might think about creating a capsule wardrobe too if you have a particular aesthetic that’s difficult to find in ready-to-wear clothes.
- Making a capsule wardrobe also lets you dive deep into where your clothes are made. If you’re concerned about sustainability or the waste of fast fashion bothers your conscience, making a capsule wardrobe might be for you.
What are the benefits of creating a capsule wardrobe?
Capsule wardrobes, whether they’re small like a French capsule wardrobe or larger can allow a certain sense of freedom when you get dressed everyday. And shoot, when YOU are the one putting all the colors and textures together, you hold all the cards! Your DIY handmade capsule wardrobe has the potential to 100% reflect your personality and style.
A capsule wardrobe can allow you to:
- Make your wardrobe more wearable by increasing the number of combinations any given piece of clothing can be mixed with.
- Create a wardrobe with a clear color palette so all the pieces look harmonious together.
- Lessen your “getting ready” stress in the morning.
How to start making a capsule wardrobe: Research first!
First, get some ideas.
- Go onto Pinterest and search “capsule wardrobe” with whatever season you’re in. Give yourself 30 minutes. What grabs your eye? Save any pics that jump out to you. At the end of your time, see if you can find any common ideas in what you’ve picked in terms of color, certain styles etc.
- Read style sights like Who What Wear or Inside Out Style. There’s a ton of helpful information on both of those that’ll help you start planning.
- Check out your favorite pattern company’s website. Many of them have patterns that can be combined into wardrobes, and many have wardrobe patterns available.
This tool will make planning a capsule wardrobe easy
I’ve been a fan of Frump Fighters for years. They put together detailed style guides for women, kids, and men.
Their style guides are an absolute treasure trove of ideas. Sometimes it’s overwhelming trying to put together everything on your own. What I love about Frump Fighters’ products is that all of the heavy idea work is already done for you. I often use my What-to Wear Outfit Calendar as a starting point when I’m putting together small capsule wardrobes and in my daily handmade wardrobe wearing. I’m a busy Mom with not a lot of time for primping and fussing, so this calendar makes it so easy to plan my outfits.
A lot of times I’ll pick up the calendar for the week and tweak each day based on what I have in my closet and what I like. I did that here with Outfit #156a, taking the idea of a neutral dress, hat, necklace, and print flats. For my version, I used one of my favorite handmade linen dresses (a Burda pattern), textured suede booties, a favorite lace necklace and print fedora. Definitely fun for Spring and not something I’d put together without a little inspiration.
That’s the fun of this calendar–it gives you countless ideas that make planning a wardrobe fun.
You can pick up the What-to-Wear Outfit Calendar and any of Frump Fighters excellent products by clicking here. My readers get an automatic 15% discount with the code: EMADETHIS.
How to sew a capsule wardrobe: pick your fabrics
The first thing to consider when you’re thinking about how to sew a capsule wardrobe is your fabric.
Pick a collection of fabrics that you love. Here’s a couple things to consider when you’re choosing fabric for a capsule wardrobe.
If you don’t love the fabric, and they’re not that great of quality, you’re not going to wear the end result. Ever.
I’ve been guilty myself of making things that I’ve never worn, and it’s a bad feeling! Sewing for yourself is too much of a time investment to not end up wearing what you make.
In fact, go through and purge your fabric stash of anything that’s not good quality. You know what I’m talking about: those mystery knits and scratchy poly/cotton blends. If it’s hanging out in your stash, it’s taking the place of fabric that you’re actually going to love sewing.
If you don’t want to trash or donate icky fabrics, you can always still keep them around for muslins.
Check out this post on organizing your fabric stash for some fabric organization ideas.
Pick a color palette
Another way to ensure that all the pieces in your handmade capsule wardrobe go together is to keep them in a similar color palette. In fact, color just might be the best weapon in creating a wardrobe that works. You’ll be amazed at how seemingly disparate silhouettes and styles can suddenly make sense together with a similar color palette.
This is where I’m going to steer you away from neutrals.
Bring out the color. Go for colors that make you feel happy and alive when you wear them. A mix of prints and solids is good and aim to mix 2-4 main colors.
Keep a couple solids in there or mix up your solids with texture. A good jacquard is a great example of a solid that acts as a print too. It’s subtle pattern that can liven up a handmade capsule wardrobe.
If you’re not sure how to pick a color palette that really works for you, here’s an article from Seamwork I wrote a few years back.
Think about your weather
The last thing to think about as you consider your fabrics for a handmade capsule wardrobe is your local weather.
If you live in a colder climate with unpredictable weather, layers are going to be a helpful thing. Think merino wools, cashmere, and sweater knits you can add to an outfit to add an extra layer of warmth when its needed.
If you’re in a warmer environment, look for lighter weight, breathable fabrics like linen, rayon and cotton.
You can even sit in your fabric stash and pile up all the fabrics together to see how they’re going to layer with each other.
Now that you have some fabrics in mind, let’s move on to getting some ideas for your capsule wardrobe.
Check out sewing books for inspiration
Another place you might find some inspiration for your handmade capsule wardrobe is in sewing books. There’s been a few books of late that have patterns that combine into a wardrobe. You may or may not love the patterns, but definitely these kinds of books can give you some ideas. Here’s a few to check out:
- House of Pinheiro’s Work to Weekend Wardrobe: a collection of patterns from popular sewing blogger Rachel Pinheiro. I love that there’s variations and ideas for styling each piece for your life.
- Sewing Your Perfect Capsule Wardrobe: this book by Arianna Cadwallader and Cathy McKinnon walks you through making a mix and match wardrobe with 5 cornerstone pieces. This book is meant for advanced beginners. It’s a good spot to start when you’re ready to move past the basics!
- Breaking the Pattern: from the people behind Named Patterns, this book offers patterns to help you make 10 pieces for a great capsule wardrobe.
What do you like to wear?
Think about what kinds of clothes you LIKE to wear. If you’re not a button-down shirt kind of person, that thing has no place in your wardrobe! Likewise, if you wear a lot of skirts, definitely keep that in mind.
If wardrobe basics like slacks, blazers and neutral anything bore you, see if you can find a similar idea of a style with added details that’ll be a step up from basic. Think a jean jacket in a fun color instead of a traditional denim jacket or a t-shirt with puff sleeves over a basic crew neck.
Write down the big categories of things you wear the most. I’ll do me to give you an example:
- Knit tops
- Skirts with personality
- Creative jeans
- Awesome jackets
- Scarves, always scarves
And here’s an example capsule wardrobe from this list:
The players in this yellow and pinks capsule? (FYI, the links take you to the tutorials here so you can make these looks yourself!)
- Yellow ruffle sweatshirt
- Ivory wool scrap scarf
- Burda 2-2007-113 skirt in striped wool
- Basic tee henley hack with snaps in rayon blend mottled coral
- Chevron refashioned cashmere sweater
- Burda 1-2011-126 cardigan in rose gold sweater knit
- Neck warmer scarf in cotton french terry stripe and pink chenille knit
- Ombre dyed corduroy Jalie 2908 jeans with extra flare
Keep it mini!: a simple formula for how to sew a capsule wardrobe
Now that you’ve thought about what kinds of clothes you like to wear and you’ve gathered some ideas, you’re ready for the next step.
I’m going to advocate for you to keep it crazy simple and plan to make just 6-8 things. These little mini capsule wardrobes will still mix and match to make a lot of variety in your everyday, but you’ll still have enough variety to keep it interesting.
Another benefit of mini capsule wardrobes, is that you can make several for various parts of your life. Give me examples, Elizabeth!
- Activewear capsule: 2 workout tops, 2 leggings, 1 layering top, 1 jacket
- Momiform capsule: 1 knit top, 1 dress, 2 pants, 1 jacket, 1 cardigan
- Mini work wardrobe: 1 awesome skirt, 1 pair of slacks, 1 blazer, 1 cardigan, 2 tops
You see what I’m getting at here? With just a couple things to choose from, you’re not going to run into wardrobe fatigue. Keep it simple! So here’s your formula for a handmade capsule wardrobe:
Handmade capsule wardrobe = 2 tops + 2 bottoms + 2 toppers + (optional) 2 accessories
What qualifies as a topper?
Knit tops, button down shirts, dress, woven tees, tank tops, breezy woven tees etc.
What qualifies as a bottom?
Pants, leggings, shorts, skirts, dresses (double duty those dresses!), etc.
What makes a topper?
A topper can be a cardigan, jacket, vest, shrug, bolero, denim jacket, coat, or sweater. In the activewear example, it could be another layering top you throw over your regular workout top.
A topper can be a cardigan, jacket, vest, shrug, bolero, denim jacket, coat, or sweater. In the activewear example, it could be another layering top you throw over your regular workout top.
Don’t overthink your accessories
I threw accessories in there too because sometimes you want to add something else. Simple necklaces or a vintage brooch can add texture and interest to a plain outfit. If you wear earrings, mix in your favorite pair.
Scarves are great in fall and winter, and they’re typically really quick and easy DIY projects. Check out these winter sewing projects for several different DIY scarves to make.
Easy winter sewing projects
Get warm in short order with these simple sewing ideas.
Now that you have your ideas, you’re ready to get going on this handmade capsule wardrobe thing!
Pick your patterns and sew!
The last thing to do when you’re planning how to sew a capsule wardrobe is to pick your patterns.
For mini capsules, I like to stick to a couple of basic patterns I’ve used. From there, I like to add something different to them. Some ideas for mixing up basic patterns:
- Add a back keyhole neckline to a basic knit top
- Change up a sleeve with an extra sleeve flounce or make a jacket sleeveless for a different look
- Use a really wild fabric. A showstopper fabric can add instant flair to a basic.
- Add some pleated trim to add a focal point to a basic button down
Give yourself a timeline to get your wardrobe completed by. You might think about batch sewing to get things done efficiently. Check out these batch sewing tips to streamline your process.
So that’s how you can create your own capsule wardrobe with your own two hands, color and a sewing machine. Once you get through finding good fabrics, getting ideas, and picking your patterns, you’ll be ready to make a capsule wardrobe that you will love to wear.
How about you? Are you a capsule wardrobe believer, or do you approach outfit making more casually?
Want more capsule wardrobe planning help?
Play Wardrobe Sudoku: make a game with all your handmade wardrobe planning.
Elizabeth Farr is the writer behind the Elizabeth Made This blog where she shares helpful sewing tips, step by step sewing tutorials and videos to help you explore your creativity through sewing. She has written sewing Eguides and patterns, been a featured teacher at Rebecca Page’s Sewing Summit and Jennifer Maker’s Holiday Maker Fest and her work has appeared in Seamwork and Altered Couture magazines. She also created a line of refashioned garments for SEWN Denver. When her sewing machine isn’t humming, she’s playing and teaching violin, and hanging around a good strategic board game with her husband and 4 kids.
27 thoughts on “How to sew a capsule wardrobe you’ll love to wear”
These are adorable–great job, love the pockets, and the color is perfect for your complexion!
Thanks Elisa! I love this shade of warm pink, so I tend to nab it whenever I can! This particular one jumped into my cart. 😉
I love your peachy pink ensemble Elizabeth. I also love the idea of a cohesively planned wardrobe capsule but for some reason I cannot see it to completion.
Thanks Faye! That’s a great point about capsules. I think they look great on paper/Pinterest, but the day to day may not work for a lot of people. If a capsule is that good old reliable PB&J, I’d still want to have room for the occasional over the top ice cream sundae with extra chocolate, whipped cream, coconut, and cherries on top–whatever the wardrobe equivalent of that is!
Love your capsule!
I try but my eclectic style tends to buy fabric with colors and textures that catches my eye. So of course, not much goes with anything else. Lol!
Thanks Carrie! I’m with you. There’s always that funky 60s silk scarf or in your case those beautiful Ankara prints that catch your eye!
I think I like the vest with the jeans best, It’s a great contrast! I like the idea of capsules, but have determined that I need multiple ones to accommodate our seasons and me not getting bored by wearing the same five things all the time. I also have trouble finding inspiration for mixing in prints, and those are what I get most excited to sew.
That vest is literally accessorizing everything Becky!!! I had no idea when I made it it’d be such a transitional season workhorse. That’s such an excellent point about seasons and capsules. I tried my Wardrobe Sudoku for MMM last year and towards the end, it felt so restrictive. Can it work? Yes. Do I want to have to dress like that? If I’m being honest, I don’t think so, and with weather unpredictability, I’m not sure that it actually works in the end. Perhaps it’s good to experiment with these things so that you can figure out if they work for you in the end.
This looks lovely Elizabeth! I discovered that sewing a piece of wide elastic on the back of the inside waistband with zigzag just very very lightly stretching it does wonders with the gaping and the outside doesn’t look elasticized at all!
Thanks Georgia. I debated about the elastic. I try and get pants with buttonhole elastic (or add it) for my boys–they all have such narrow hips, and it works so well for taking care of the problem. I will definitely give it a go the next time I encounter this. I feel like I need to have an informed opinion of a different way to tackle the problem!
You are so pretty in pink Elizabeth! Love your jeans – that detail on the back pockets is gorgeous as is the colour of them. I have gapping too and flat bottom so I always have to wear an elastic belt (my favourite belts are from a company in Edmonton (unbelts.ca) – they work like an elasticized waist but look cooler 🙂
Thank you Kathleen! Those belts look really nice–thanks for sharing!
Love your peachy pink jeans! I wear jeans 99 o/o of the time, so pretty much any top I make/love usually “matches”. I’ve just realized that most of my cardigans need to be replaced. What type of knit do you think would be best for a first cardigan?
Thanks Melody! I love more stable knits for cardigans if you prefer a classic button down style–something like a ponte, wool knit, or something refashioned from an existing oversized sweater would all be good choices. If you like more drapey style open cardigans that’s not necessarily warm, just about anything is game. Rayon jersey, bamboo, ITY, poly blend sweater knits that tend to be thin and rather fluid all work really well for those types of cardigans.
I have never been able to get behind the idea of capsules, but I’m definitely with you on the idea of similar toned colours going together well. If they are of similar saturation and tone then your wardrobe should work well.
Love this Peachy pink ensemble and especially the frayed added extra on the pockets.
Thanks Diane! Capsules always feel so restrictive to me. I’m starting to believe they work for a few people with a specific personality type, and I’m not of them! You’re totally right about saturation/contrast level. I don’t have a lot of contrast in my personal coloring, so when a given ensemble stays within that lower contrast zone, things tend to look more harmonious even if I’m not wearing my specific colors in my palette.
I love those jeans! Using the fringe from the selvage is just brilliant! It looks so good with the top and your faux fur vest. I love to sew color coordinated seasonal capsules- mainly to help me plan my sewing. It’s not that I would necessarily feel restricted to wear the items together, as usually there are lots of other combinations to try with other pieces in my closet.
Selecting my fabrics and patterns for the next few projects all at once really helps me to spend less time flip flopping on what to make next, and actually sew something! Plus, there’s less time involved in re-threading machines if you are using the same color!
I usually will treat myself to either shoes or a new accessory that goes with everything as my reward for completing the plan. 🙂
Thank you Ann! So many denims have such nice selvages, I always try and incorporate them if I can even if it’s just on the belt loops. That’s a great point about similar thread colors. I think mini-capsules are definitely more open to coordinating with lots of other things.
Great-looking jeans Elizabeth:) The pink definitely suits you! The clothes-pin fabric is too cute! I’m not on the capsule-wardrobe bandwagon, but I would like to make a few seperates for the coming season that will go together. “Wardrobe orphans”, lol. I tend to gravitate towards different fabrics & unique items that wouldn’t necessarily go together. Glad you all are feeling better. We got a deluge of rain last night so I wonder if there’s a speck of snow to be found now??
Thanks Rikki! I do wonder if the capsule thing is just one of those trends right now. I do wonder what idea it’ll be replaced with. Smaller scale separates that go together are smart for sure. Our snow is now gone and green is starting to happen, though there’s snow predicted for tomorrow–such is Spring here (and really Fall too and every other season!). LOL. Maybe capsule wardrobes work better in places like Los Angeles where you have pretty much 1 season.
Great jeans and top. I love the colour on you and also love that you made basic separates that are still interesting.
Thank you! That is always my goal when making basics. I figure if it looks like something I bought off a rack, I could have saved myself a whole lot of trouble by just going to the store in the first place. For other people, that is the aim, and that’s totally okay too.
The jeans are absolutely adorable! I’m not a lover of fringe in general but it works so well with the pink jeans! The monochromatic look at the end with the rose cardigan is absolutely gorgeous.
Thank you! There’s something really fun about wearing a color from head to toe, though it does take a little planning!
I love your jeans. Great color and they look great on you. Beautiful top, too.
Thank you! I’m really enjoying the color too! It’s becoming more versatile in my wardrobe than I thought it would be!
You are too stinkin’ cute. And that outfit at the beginning of the post; the colors; they look adorable on you.
Just decided yesterday to approach change from the capsule wardrobe particular. We are returning to worship after a two-year hiatus. In that time I have become a “senior” citizen. I refuse to return entirely looking like one (though I am glad to be one; beats the alternative). I see it is going to take considerable time for the transformation on my income. But, ya eat an elephant “one bite at a time”.
Thank you for all you are sharing about this topic.