A capsule wardrobe is a minimum number of clothes for a maximum number of outfits. Here’s the recipe:
- Set your base or neutral color
- Set your secondary color
- Choose one special color
- Select at least three bottoms
- Select at least nine tops
- Select at least two items of footwear
- Select at least one bag
- Select at least four accessories
- Choose one special item
By the age of fifty or over we’ve done a lot of shopping. But how many of our clothes do we really wear? And are our favorites, sadly, no longer relevant for our lifestyle or figure? Downsizing is hard work but the results are always so enjoyable. Less clutter. Less guilt. More fun.
Why make a capsule wardrobe?
First and foremost, you’ll never throw up your hands in despair at having nothing to wear ever again. Because everything works together. You’ll have go-to outfits for every occasion – well, apart from that royal garden party or your daughter’s wedding.
Instead of dashing out to buy something you’ll be making the most of what you already have in your closet. And when you look online or wander down the high street you will immediately notice items that would look good with everything else in your wardrobe. You’ll stop being endlessly sidetracked. And as we know that leads to buying nothing because it’s impossible to make a decision.
You’ll know what needs replacing or updating and you’ll be on the look-out for these every time a sale comes up. You won’t hand over your credit card just because something is cheap – but because it’s right.
So you’ll shop more wisely and save money too.
Instead of being a prey to marketing you’ll have your own system and checklist. You, not the ad company, will be in control at last.
And you’ll feel better about getting rid of items you never wear rather than get that guilt pang every time you see that expensive skirt that never seems quite right for the occasion.
Is 60+ too late to create a capsule?
If you thought a capsule wardrobe was only for younger women who zap out to work every morning and socialise every evening, you’re quite wrong. We all need a capsule wardrobe. In fact as we get older I think we need an organised and minimalist closet more than when we were young. (Think downsizing and living on less.)
OK so hopefully you are now convinced you need to create a capsule so let’s get started. Before you dive into your clothes there’s a couple of things you need to be clear about.
What weather are you dressing for?
In winter you may spend a lot more time indoors in the warm. Shops will be tempting you to buy lots of sweaters and coats but how many do you really need? In spring the weather changes quickly so you may need more layers. In summer you may be outside more but also need a mac and an umbrella. In autumn you may need warmer layers for weekends outdoors.
Make a capsule wardrobe for each season although you’ll find there will be items that can transition.
What lifestyle are you dressing for?
Do you go to work? Are you retired? Are you single, in a relationship or dating? Do you often go out in the evenings? Do you attend family occasions and school activities? What sort of entertaining do you do and what type of restaurants do you go to? Do you travel?
Your capsule wardrobe has to work hard. Be sure it has the right balance of smart and casual depending on how you spend your time. Your capsule can’t dress you for absolutely every occasion so very smart dos, just like specific sports, will need an outfit beyond your capsule. But if you look in your closet and see lots of elegant outfits that you rarely wear that’s a good indicator that you need to get cracking on the capsule.
What’s your personal style?
Where are you on a line going from quietly conservative through actively outgoing through to bubbly boho? Because there’s no point filling your capsule with fun items you bought when you were on holiday if you find yourself reaching for elegant clothes most days.
Classic items, toning items and one-colour items all work for a calm and elegant look. Add a few patterns and textures and mix colours not just tones and you’ll look more friendly and fun. If you want a boho vibe then mix lots of patterns and textures within the same outfit and dismiss toning items altogether.
Step 1: Set your base or neutral color
These are usually black, brown, navy or beige. During the winter I tend towards black and this spring I’ve decided on navy. Beware of beige. Young women with flawless skins can look fabulous in cream or beige. But after 50 most of us have some lines and beige really does us no favors.
Add white or grey. I don’t usually wear white in winter but love it as soon as the sun comes out. So in winter my neutral palette runs from black through to pale grey. In spring this year I’m wearing navy through to white.
Step 2: Set your secondary color
Here’s where you can be more outgoing – or less. If gold is your secondary color you’ll turn heads more often than if it’s blue. My secondary color over the winter was red. This spring it is green.
Your secondary color can come in a range of shades and tones. The more vivid the tone, the more bold the outfit. So, as I’m not looking to stand out too much my green items are in mid tones, rather muted. No acid greens or yellow-toned hues.
Boho style favours bright and lively tones. Think gypsy designs.
Step 3: Choose one special color
To avoid looking too put together which is less fashionable these days you should find one different color you really like but use it sparingly. It might be the on-trend color for the season for example. You don’t want to structure a capsule wardrobe around it but you’d like to add a touch here and there to bring things up to date.
Alternatively it might be a color that you find you have a favorite top or dress in. For me, this spring I decided on pale pink. I’ve had a twin set in pink for a while and thought I’d bring it back into my capsule for a final season. Plus there’s been quite a bit of pink around, both last year and this, which means I can probably find some inexpensive additions in the sales.
If you like a more classic look then don’t bother with the special color. On the other hand, if you like to get noticed you could choose two special colors, and have them clashing too.
Step 4: Select three bottoms
I class bottoms as skirts, jeans and any type of pants including shorts and jogging bottoms. A dress can count as a bottom or a top.
Your capsule can be as large or as small as you wish. But I find three bottoms works well for me. It’s not that I only have three bottoms that I can wear with the other clothes, but these are the three that I rely on. They’ll be the ones that get into the week-away suitcase (Well, I’m writing this during lockdown so right now the idea of a week away is pure heaven!) And they are the basis for adding more tops, shoes and accessories beyond the capsule if I get the spending urge.
In my spring capsule I have a pair of dark wash Mom jeans (i.e. thick denim, slightly generous cut, straight leg and reaching the waist) that I can dress up or down (but mainly down!). But I have several other similar pairs that I can substitute if needed as I’m sure everyone has.
By the way I’ve written an article on Best Mom Jeans 2020 explaining what they are, why they are ideal for older women, how to style them and what shoes to wear with them. Read it before you choose your capsule jeans – it will save you a lot of research!
I have a pair of elastic waist silky patterned pants (love the easy to wear feel, thank goodness they’re in fashion!) in dark blue.
And I hve a pair of slightly stretchy cigarette pants in white with a small floral pattern that includes pale and dark blue, pink, green and other colors.
Because of the changeable weather here in France and in the UK I ruled out a skirt as being less useful. For summer I’ll include shorts and a skirt though.
Whatever bottoms you select make sure that at least one is in your base color. If you want to play safe you can have all three in your base color of course.
Step 5: Select nine tops
For tops think shirts and tees, blouses and jumpers, cardigans and jackets. A dress can count as a bottom or a top.
There are many more tops than bottoms because they need washing more often, they’re usually cheaper to buy, and they include layers.
It’s often easier to find tops in your secondary or special color than it is to find bottoms. So have some fun with these.
Take out all the tops you like wearing and lay them on the bed next to the three bottoms. Find some plain, some patterned and some textured.
Make sure they all include your base, secondary or special color. However much you like something that doesn’t fit this color scheme you cannot add it as part of the capsule. Of course you can hang it apart and enjoy wearing it from time to time, but it’s not part of the capsule.
Before making your final decisions ensure you have enough layers for the season.
My tops: a sleeveless white tank top, white broderie short-sleeve tee, navy striped three-quarter sleeve tee, green short-sleeve net detail top, pale pink slightly textured threequarter sleeve top and pastel blue long sleeve cotton top.
My layers: A navy jumper, a blue-green cashmere cardigan and a finer pale pink cardigan with a raised knot texture (makes a twin set with the short-sleeved pink top.)
The colors of my layers go with all my other tops and all three bottoms. They can also be worn as single tops rather than layers giving me even more outfits.
Note, cardigans that button right to the top are versatile this way and so are great value.
Step 6: Select two items of footwear
Depending on your lifestyle you might, like me, choose two pairs of sneakers (UK: trainers). If you work you’ll probably want to include a pair of shoes or heeled sandals. Just make sure that they are in your base color or go with all your outfits.
I chose a pair of white plimsoles and a pair of pink sneakers. They take me everywhere and I’m happy wearing them with my dress too. What a boon for us older women. They make wandering around museums and discovering beautiful old French towns a painless and wonderful experience.
Step 7: Select a bag
This could be a good item to have in your special color. But I chose a cross shoulder bag in mid blue to fit right in with my color range.
I also have a backpack in Breton blue stripes I can add in for sightseeing when I need a jumper, a camera and a notebook in addition to all my usual stuff. Again it goes with everything, even the dress.
Step 8: Select 4 accessories
Include jewelry, scarves, and a hat if you wear one. Again these small items can pick out your special color or emphasise your secondary color. They can add pattern or texture to lighten the look of an all-toning outfit.
I really like scarves because they can be worn so many ways. But also because they sit next to your face so as long as they look good against your complexion you can get away with wearing a top that’s not quite right for your skin tone or texture – beige perhaps haha!
I’ve selected two patterned long fine scarves – one in mid blue and one in white with green.
My jewelry items are a minimalist black and blue-green necklace and a pink and gold bracelet that can be worn as a necklace too.
I find I wear earrings less and less these days but I put in a pair of pearl studs. Rather like the pink twinset, I hadn’t worn them for ages so thought I’d give them a whirl this spring.
You may love jewelry so add in more pieces that can draw together several outfits for several occasions and perhaps lose the scarves.
Step 9: Choose one special item
This is your opportunity to add something you love but which isn’t going to get worn quite as often. Perhaps it’s a sparkly evening frock or a designer bag or as in my case, a midi dress. Actually my dress fits right in to the color scheme but your special item might be in a completely different color. If you love it. Add it. But just one special thing!
Step10: Check, photo, hang, toss
Do a final check that you have the balance right for your lifestyle and your personality. Be ruthless. This is a capsule not your entire closet. If something new doesn’t quite fit, put it aside.
Most of my capsule is one or more years old:
Small silk square 10+ years old. Pink twinset and pearl earrings 5+ years old. Blue-green cashmere cardigan, floral pants, green and white scarf and blue pattern scarf – all 2 years old. Dark green top, navy jumper, midi dress, blue pattern pants, white sneakers, pink sneakers and green and black necklace – all last year. This year I bought: navy breton stripe tee, pastel blue top, white tank top, white broderie sleeve tee, jeans and pink bracelet.
By the way I’ve recently done a post on 2020 Spring White Tops and a YouTube video try-on of best white shirts for over 50’s. You’ll see my choices for the capsule there with links to get prices and ratings.
My capsule wardrobe can be worn on warm sunny days or layered for cooler days. It can all get rolled up and tucked neatly into my carry-on suitcase when I visit family and friends in the UK.
I’m retired and only occasionally visit the theatre or a good restaurant where I need to look a little smarter. I love discovering the old France, looking round markets and pottering through brocantes. I sing, I read, I walk, I meet up with friends for coffee and sometimes hold a lunch in my garden. My capsule wardrobe works for this casual lifestyle.
When you’re happy with the capsule lay it all out on your bed (I used my craft table). Take a photo on your phone. Now you have an instant record of your items for when you are shopping or browsing online. You will find it invaluable. Because now you can stop wasting time and money on stuff that takes your fancy (and all advertising is designed to do just that!) and just look out for items that will work with what you have.
Of course you can replace items that are getting a bit old and expand your capsule for a holiday or a special occasion, but you’ll always be purchasing items that work with the capsule. This is your go anywhere core collection. Don’t introduce a new color. Don’t buy three bags because you see them and fall for them. You’ve got one bag at least in your capsule so buy another one and leave it at that. There’s always next season.
Make space in your hanging area or shelves to carefully arrange your capsule wardrobe. It needs to be a place that’s easy to reach because you’ll be wearing items from your collection every day.
If you’ve got items that work with the capsule and expand it then hang or fold these next.
Finally add all the one-offs and not-right-for-season items. These can go into the back of your closet because you will rarely wear them.
But take a long look at these clothes. Honestly, do you like every piece? Is every piece worth the space in your closet? Are you dying to buy something new (for your capsule of course!) but dragged down by the sight of all the things you own that are ‘too good to throw’?
Charity shops and second-hand consignment stores might be delighted with them. My rule – if I haven’t worn something (gladly, not just because I haven’t done the laundry) in the past two years then it goes out. I simply don’t have the storage room or emotional space to hang on to the stuff that doesn’t work hard for me.
Step 10: Open a Pinterest account and start saving ideas for your capsule.
If you’re not yet on Pinterest, now is the time to get started. Just type in Pinterest.com and get started. It’s so easy. Oh yes and please follow my account – I’m Mother of the Bride.
Set up a board for each season. You can keep them private, share them with a friend or make them public. Be on the look-out for your colors plus new patterns and textures that will add interest to your wardrobe. Keep abreast of the small changes in fashions that can update your next season’s capsule.
I have several boards around being a Mother of the Bride, about organising a home wedding and other useful ideas. Plus I have boards about fashion and style for the over 50’s and over 60’s. All these are public. Then I have my private personal boards (that only I can see) with ideas for my home, my garden, craft and sewing projects and recipes. Honestly, I wouldn’t be without them for a moment!
A free Pinterest account is the best way to keep yourself on track and organised. And it’s the perfect way to plan your spending.
Other posts in this series – building a capsule wardrobe over 50 – are:
Capsule Wardrobe at 70. Real Life Try-on
The Best Cardigans for Women Over 50 and How to Style Them
My most recent Capsule Wardrobe is here: Capsule Wardrobe Fall 2021
Have you done the work and finally organised your capsule? Leave a comment below and tell us all about how it works for your lifestyle.
If you fear you’ll get overwhelmed by organizing your closet then take a look at my new Mature Style Course. Through 25+ videos and other lessons you’ll progress step-by-step from having too many clothes but nothing to wear all the way to a slimmed down collection of clothes that suit your figure, your lifestyle and your budget.
I read a lot of these sort of posts…but this is honestly by far the best!
I am 62, and happy to have grey in my hair, but not ready to become invisible.
Well done and thank you ! xx
You can’t know how lovely it is to hear you say that! It’s been an uphill climb to make contact with the women I am writing for. I must be doing something right as you found me. Women of our age have so much wisdom yet often feel bypassed by social media and the news. Let’s not be quiet, quite yet. I love being 70 and am happier, and possibly more stylish, that I’ve ever been. I’m certainly more confident. Have a great day Christine and a big thankyou for your nice comment. Joni
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Alawya great to read an inspiring post especially for us more mature women.
Stye is important and we can look very chic in simple ideas as you have shared.
Every fashion photo shows very skinny models and we arent all that shape anymore so we must embrace our bodies.
Thank you for your wisdom
Thanks for your lovely comment Dee.
Your article has definitely inspired me to go through my wardrobe and match all of my clothes ,also add little bits of jewellery .Thank you so much .Your article hà given me a lift
You’re going to love your wardrobe once you’ve done this. I promise you! Thanks for your comment Liz.x
I love all the ideas. But I’m very large busted, and small every where else. Outfits are a challenge for me. I do farming and casual wrar.
Hi Rebecca. Yes, you’re an inverted triangle shape. Basically you have a choice – try to camouflage a large top by wearing anything that hangs straight down (especially if it has a pattern or edge that emphasizes your length rather than sidth (eg long cardigan left to hang straight over a top of a contrasting color so making long parallel lines down your front), a shift dress will also work especially with top to hem stripes. Or, try to big up your hips and thighs to create better balance. You could wear wide trousers, trousers with pleats at the front, boyfriend jeans especially in a pale blue wash, or a skirt or dress with a dropped waist and pleats or flounces.
Try not to wear short tops that finish on your waist as your bust will seem bigger by taking up all that above waist area. Ideal tops are a straight tunic style ending at your hips or thighs or tops with an empire line i.e. fullness starting below the bust.
I am currently putting the finishing touches to my style course and I will add in some pointers for women of your shape.
Thanks so much for commenting – I really find all feedback useful, Joni x
I don’t wear pants of any kind ever but I wear leggings sometimes if a dress is totally inappropriate. It’s an anatomical issue. Can you give me advice for a capsule wardrobe? I also am not a big fan of skirts as I have stomach issues and don’t like anything touching my midsection. Needless to say, I have a lot of dresses. Thanks a lot. P.S. I’m 73.
Hi Elizabeth. So dresses are your basic unit of clothing, right? So for each season you need to decide how many dresses you need. To simplify things I would keep most of the dresses in your base color. Then you will add layers. Think about adding a short cardigan to make about half/half proportions, a thigh-length or hip length shirt and jacket and cardigans to make about a third/two thirds proportions then at least one layer which reaches to just above your knees making a seven-eighths/ one eighth proportion to your look. These layers can be in a second color that goes well with your base color and some can be in a special color that you use to lift the look so it’s not too tonal or safe (depending on your personal style). Put a lot of thought into the layers because they will change the look and how warm or cool it feels. This is much cheaper than buying a new dress for every look. Hope this helps. Joni x