The Capsule Wardrobe

Photo by Becca McHaffie on Unsplash

If you think the capsule wardrobe is just another fad started by millennials, think again. The term was coined as far back as the 1970s to signify a wardrobe that was:

  • minimalist in essence,
  • had a few, high quality, classic items which could be worn for a number of years,
  • and was supplemented by a few trendy pieces every season to keep the look fresh.

The capsule wardrobe, initially conceived for the working professional, has since been adapted to suit different lifestyles. Today, it essentially consists of 30-40 of your favourite pieces. The idea is to shrink your wardrobe by keeping pieces you absolutely love and donating items you haven’t worn in a long time. If you cannot bring yourself to throw much out, you can pack away items you’re not ready to throw away, and revisit them at a later date. Exchange some packed items with those hanging in your closet. Clothes that stay packed over a few seasons because you don’t feel like wearing them at all should be given away.

It is difficult to understand how a capsule wardrobe can work in an Indian context. After all, we have so many festivals and weddings to attend. How can we make do with a minimal wardrobe?

The solution is simple. Don’t count dressy Indian wear as part of your capsule wardrobe. Instead, keep heavy suits and sarees out of sight. The idea is to keep the part of your wardrobe that you access daily – neat, organised and clutter-free, and unless you fix a number and stick by it, it will expand and overwhelm you.

What should you include in your capsule wardrobe? There is no one formula that fits all. It largely depends on your lifestyle, but here are a few ideas.


A black shirt and a crisp white shirt form the mainstays of a capsule wardrobe. Include t-shirts in solid colours and colourful camisoles to wear under or over shirts, or on their own for a night out.

A chambray (light denim) shirt is a great addition as it can be worn with printed or solid bottoms or knotted over a dress. It also works as an extra layer when temperatures dip.

Don’t forget to include a shirt dress! It can be worn on its own as a dress, over jeans, or as a long jacket.


Colourful pants and skirts help you shuffle your looks about to great effect. Most of us buy a few pairs of blue jeans, and then go around buying an endless array of tops. Before we know it, we have tops spilling out of every corner of our closet. Instead, opt for variety in bottoms.

Include shorts in your wardrobe. Make the most of them in the summer, and when the season changes, pack them up!


A light jacket for when the seasons are just changing, a heavier one for cooler nights, a few cardigans for variety and a thick coat for when you travel to colder climes are all you need. Keep winter wear packed up with moth repellents like neem leaves and cloves, and remove them when seasonally appropriate.


An LBD is great but a red dress is even better, for you can wear it in the day and at night. A wrap dress, like a shirt dress, can be worn as jacket, as a dress, and over jeans, making it a very versatile choice. So if you must have one dress, let it be a red wrap dress! 


Nude heels and slip-on wedges work with every outfit, and a pair of black boots can see you through the winter. Finish off your shoe collection with a pair of sneakers and a pair of platform rubber slippers for the beach and for slumming around in. Invest in high quality footwear. Your feet – and back – will thank you!


Use accessories like stoles, scarves and belts for a range of different looks. Why buy a new dress when you can just buy a new scarf?

SELECTING what to wear from a closet bursting with clothes is more stressful than we realise. If we have just a few pieces, all within plain sight, life gets a whole lot easier. There’s a reason the most successful people in the world have a minimalist wardrobe. As Obama famously said, “’I wear only gray or blue suits. I’m trying to pare down decisions. I don’t want to make decisions about what I’m eating or wearing because I have too many other decisions to make.”

It’s easy to curate a capsule wardrobe from items currently in your closet, but embracing a minimalist lifestyle takes commitment. Start by shopping less. It’s better for the environment, your wallet, and your health (think fewer dust mites)!

When you do get something new, remove something old.

Opt for shirts and dresses in solid colours instead of prints. Think of your clothes as a backdrop for your accessories instead of as the main focus. Remember, a fabulous necklace over a solid top looks more stylish than a regular printed shirt with no accessories.

If you’re someone who can’t resist a bargain, skip the sales. If you buy something you don’t need, it’s not a bargain!

Finally, don’t impulse buy. Ask yourself this one question when shopping: is it fabulous? If the answer is no, don’t buy it!

Yoga guru Prarthana Makhija swears she is a happier person since embracing minimalism. The benefits have seeped from her wardrobe into her life. She is now a more positive and spiritual person, and credits this change to the practice of yoga and minimalism. “In yoga, there are 80,000 asanas, but we don’t practice all of them. There are a few that provide us with the maximum benefit, and it makes sense to practice only those to save time and energy. I am a minimalist in every aspect – be it clothes, my home interiors, or yoga!” finishes the yogini.

This article was also published in the Deccan Herald on the 21st of May, 2019

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