Capsule dressing: why fashionistas swear by these simple 10 pieces

Confession: somehow writing about minimalist dressing inspired a powerful urge to run out and toot suite and buy a whole lot more stuff (aka ‘essentials’). PS. That’s my gorgeous student in the main photo and former travelling pal in the second. Who says columnists are lazy?

Tell the truth. When you read about the New York art director who wore the same simple but stylish outfit to work every day for three years, didn’t part of you think it was an act of genius? No more mornings madly trying on every combination in your wardrobe. No more forcing yourself to wear the NQR pieces you bought on sale to ‘shrink into’.

If you’re attracted to the benefits of uniform dressing (Saving time, money and many square kilometres of headspace), but aren’t ready to commit to buying 15 versions of the same blouse, ‘capsule dressing’ may be for you. With capsule dressing, you base your wardrobe around only seven to ten key pieces and simply dress them up with accessories. Because you base your core pieces on what you already know works for your shape and style, “capsule dressing is chic but effortless,” says Melbourne stylist Angela Yang. “Think Anna Wintour’s floral shift dresses, Zuckerberg’s hoodie, Job’s turtlenecks.”

How to try this at home?

Angela Yang’s top ten:

Angela_clothing flat lay

Grey t-shirt (Acne Studios), White shirt (Uniqlo), Black jumper (H&M), Navy shift dress (COS), Navy blazer (ZARA), Black leather jacket(Acne Studios), Black plain ankle boots (Acne Studios), White trainers (Adidas), Classic sunglasses (Ray-Bans), Classic small-medium sized bag (Saint Laurent Paris).

Heather Anschau’s top ten:


Bag: Dior, Jacket: Viktoria and Woods, Lipstick: Bobbi Brown, Hand Cream: Alchemy, Jumpsuit: Natalie Chapman, Perfume: Chloe, Necklace and earrings: Samantha Wills, Hat: Supre, Blouse: Moss & Spy, Dress: Manning Cartell, Denim Skirt: A Brand, Jeans: A Brand, Shoes: Azzedine Alaia, Bracelet: Samantha Wills, Dress/gown: Sass & Bide

Budget: Heather Anschau, Editor of Wedded Wonderland, says the key to mastering capsule dressing is to selectively invest in pieces of high quality and wearability. “I recommend that girls save their hard-earned pennies for two or three key designer pieces that will instantly lift the look of your outfit. You can then skimp on the more on-trend items that will go out of style quicker.”

‘This dress from COS is probably the best $90 I’ve ever spent. It’s super wearable, roomy, and very versatile. I call it my 'Large Bowl Of Pho dress'.
‘This dress from COS is probably the best $90 I’ve ever spent. It’s super wearable, roomy, and very versatile. I call it my ‘Large Bowl Of Pho dress’.

Work your own style: “Capsule wardrobes are very anti-trend, so to avoid rapid dating go for simple, timeless pieces. No peplums, no prints, no crop tops, nothing that can ‘date’ a garment,” says Yang.

“Don’t be afraid to pin down ‘a look’ that you can keep to. Find a few stores that fit your look, and buy from them repeatedly. I love Swedish brands and the Scandinavian aesthetic, so I tend to stick to those brands because the pieces work well together and are well made. But for some people it’s a more GAP/ American collegiate look, or English rose.”

Neutral colours + accessories: “When building a capsule wardrobe, aim for neutral pieces, as these tend to go out of style less regularly,” says Anschau. “You can keep them clean and simple with a few accessories, or play with pops of colour for a bolder look. Never underestimate the difference a few pieces of great jewellery can make. Pair a statement necklace with a pair of ripped jeans and a cotton tee, add heels and voila – instant chic.”

Pick a colour scheme and stick with it, suggests Yang. “For me that’s white, grey, black and navy. But neutral combos work well, like grey, tan, taupe, ‘greige’.” For Melbournites it’s as simple as black on black on black.

Fabric: “Go for wool, cotton, leather and linen – fabrics that are long-lasting and wear well,” says Yang.

Don’t be afraid to buy multiples: Just as uniform dressers have multiples of the same item (Steve Jobs had 100 identical Issey Miyake jumpers), if something works for you, don’t be afraid to buy multiple pieces in multiple shades.

“I have that Uniqlo shirt in grey, navy, blue and striped,” says Yang. “Uniqlo is perfect for capsule dressing because they do so many basics and they’re great quality. And because black ankle boots are perfect for me and my lifestyle, I have four pairs in different heel heights, different materials.”

Fit: Invest in alterations, says Yang. “Things like pant and sleeve length are telltale signs of quality. Get things fitted! Take the sleeve up if it’s too long. For the shirt, it’s also a worthwhile investment to get a tailor to make a few small changes, they do really make a difference. Things like getting a bigger size and tailoring down is a great idea for girls with a bigger bust.”

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