What Is a Capsule Wardrobe? 10 Tips to Help You De-Clutter Your Closet

Fashion designer Misha Nonoo weighs in on the essential items that'll make your 'nothing to wear' days a thing of the past.

Person standing outside near bicycles wearing a white button-up shirt, belted black shorts and sandals
Photo: Christian Vierig/Getty Images

If you've ever opened up an over-stuffed closet only to stare at your clothes and decide there's 'nothing to wear,' you're not alone. Sometimes, the more options we have, the more complicated and confusing it can be to put together the perfect outfit. One trick that many fashion pros swear by is building a capsule wardrobe and investing in essentials that can be styled multiple ways, rather than hopping on the latest 'It' trend.

Yet, while capsule wardrobes are definitely the smarter and more sustainable route, creating one seems easier said than done. How do we get started? Which pieces should we invest in? Which ones should we ditch?

To answer all our burning questions, we turned to designer Misha Nonoo, who famously curated the ultimate closet with just eight items, and even collaborated with Meghan Markle on her 2019 Smart Works collection. Ahead, she shares her tips for how to shop and narrow down your choices, saving you from being stumped each time you get dressed.

Designer Misha Nonoo wearing her white button-up "Husband Shirt" paired with black pants

What is a capsule wardrobe and why is it a good idea to have one?

"A capsule wardrobe is a concise, curated selection of timeless clothing. It can vary from person to person based on our differing lifestyles, but the best pieces are the kind that can be worn at work, during cocktail hour, and dressed down on the weekend," explains Nonoo. "Streamlining your wardrobe streamlines your life. With a capsule wardrobe, you never feel as though you have 'nothing to wear.' It's assuring to know you only own pieces that can be paired easily and always look chic. It's also great for the environment, as well as your wallet, to buy better and wear longer."

What are the pieces you recommend adding to the capsule wardrobe?

"First and foremost, I believe every woman should own the perfect white button-down. My Husband Shirt ($235; mishanonoo.com) is just that, and was created as the ultimate building block of a capsule wardrobe," she says. "Then, find your perfect silhouettes of skirts and tailored trousers that fit and flatter. Stick with neutral colors such as black, white, and navy. They're professional and are always in style. For casual looks, find the perfect tee and buy it in a few colors to pair with your favorite denim."

Should you double up on certain items?

"Absolutely! Once you figure out your 'basics,' spend some time paying attention to what you reach for the most," says Nonoo. "Don't buy three trousers with just the hunch you'd wear them constantly — you might surprise yourself! But after a while, if you notice you practically live in that perfect white button-down, stock up! Our customers have absolutely done the same, so we even started offering multi-packs of our best sellers."

Do you ever switch up designs to make these staples feel more modern or trendy?

"We actively listen to our customers to understand their evolving needs," says Nonoo. "If we do notice customers aren't drawn to styles for whatever reason, we can easily adjust because of our on-demand production model. When you place a Misha Nonoo order, your clothing is individually cut and sewn, meaning we don't have inventory that we have to sell through, or goes to waste if it's not a hit. It's sustainable, and allows us to modify or switch up designs based on feedback from consumers. But we don't pay much attention to trends."

Any tips for how often should we replace these capsule pieces?

"This completely depends on how much you wear it. You likely wouldn't need to replace a well-made trench raincoat for years, even decades! But your favorite white tee that you wear constantly could be threadbare in a few years. If something like a dreaded snag or tear happens, always look into repair or mending options. Don't deem something a 'throw away' when your local tailor can help you make it like-new. When you feel the piece is truly beyond salvaging, look into a local fabric recycling program to keep those materials out of the landfill."

Misha Nonoo and Meghan Markle both wearing white button-up shirts and embracing each other at the launch of the Smart Works capsule collection.
Mark Large - WPA Pool/Getty Images

Do you have any tips for how to go through your clothes and what to do with the excess?

"One of my favorite tips is to hang all the hangers in your closet backwards, and if something is still hanging backwards after six months, it's probably time for it to go. If something isn't appropriate for many situations, or isn't easily paired with what you have in your wardrobe, it wouldn't be a good fit for a capsule wardrobe. The excess can be donated to a variety of charities such as Bottomless Closet or Dress for Success. Local women's shelters are excellent places too. There are now a huge variety of resale sites such as TheRealReal or Vestaire Collective that help give another life for like-new fashion."

Do you have tips for how to make the most of capsule wardrobe pieces, outfit-wise?

"Layering is a great way to make the most out of your capsule wardrobe," says Nonoo, who recommends layering a turtleneck underneath a white button-up shirt and tucked into a skirt with stockings. "You're combining really essential, versatile pieces for a chic look that's comfortable on a chilly day. Take away the stockings and turtleneck, and you have a polished look for warm weather."

How do you dress down a pair of slacks?

"Slacks look great with a fitted tee and pair of sneakers. For chillier days, a crewneck sweatshirt can be added on top for a relaxed look," says Nonoo.

Do you believe in seasonless style?

"Aside from outerwear, my pieces generally stay the same throughout the year," she says. "The future of fashion is moving towards a seasonless calendar, and consumers are getting increasingly tired of the idea of something being 'so last year.' Living in New York, the weather goes from one extreme to another. I'll need a cashmere jumper here, and linen dress there, but not much changes otherwise."

Do you feel the same way about accessories, or would you use those to amp up the pieces?

"I absolutely adore accessories, and I believe them to be essential in maintaining a love for your capsule wardrobe. So much so that I created a new Husband Shirt Stud with New York accessories brand Fry Powers," she says.

"They're an amazing pop of color to give another life to a classic piece that's already in your wardrobe. Jewelry, bags, and shoes are such an easy way to add a touch more personality to an outfit, or just give some pieces a refresh."

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