How to Create a Capsule Wardrobe that Works for You

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I just discovered your website, and I love the photos of your wardrobe capsules.

I’ll be moving from an equatorial, tropical climate (think hot and humid) to the cold dark north of Finland. I will essentially have to buy a new wardrobe from scratch, which seems scary (I hate shopping) and exciting (I get to try starting with capsules in mind) all at the same time.

I’m wondering how to build a capsule wardrobe that looks good and layers well. I get cold easily. How many pairs of long underwear and warm undershirts do I need?

Thanks!
Danielle

 

Creating a Capsule Wardrobe
  • The trick with creating capsule wardrobes is all in the colour, and putting them back with appropriate neutrals that work with your colours.
  • The trick with layering is to choose fine layers rather than chunky ones.
  • Each bottom should have 4-5 tops that work with them.
  • Don’t include too many patterns.
  • Get a great really warm coat to put over your outfits when you go out.
  • Accessorize with hats and scarves.

As far as long thermal underwear goes, it really depends how often you do your washing.  Anything that will pick up smell from sweat needs to be washed more frequently, so I’d suggest a minimum of 4 pairs to start with, then you’ll be able to figure it out when you’re living there.

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17 Comments

  • Silk long underwear bottoms are your friends because they can be layered under almost anything (like work or dress clothes) and you will be warm but not sweaty. (They aren’t warm enough for really doing “outdoorsy stuff” like skiing, snow showing or outdoor work though.

    Cotton / spandex blend long sleeved tee shirts in a dark color (like black or chocolate brown” can be dressed up or down and are great for layering. If you buy them slightly tight, they won’t bunch up under your top layer.

    Finland is the native home to the Finnish Landrace sheep which produce warm, but not itchy, wool. My favorite socks are made 100% from this wool. They breath (so your feet don’t get clammy or sweaty) but will stay toasty warm!

  • Asking an Australian about this is hilarious, but Imogen came through with perfect advice, because she’s the best!

    Tracy also has very good ideas. I’ve heard great things about silk as an underlayer, and I LOVE merino wool. I have an Icebreaker t-shirt and a tank top (thrift store scores!) and find they help regulate my body temperature, since I go from the freezing cold outdoors to my wildly overheated workplace, then on an unheated bus and into a warm store. Most man-made fabrics like polyester and acrylic will just make me sweat in these situations but wool doesn’t at all. Thin wool sweaters are brilliant for layering, and I wear mine in spring and fall too, with fewer layers. My merino t-shirt is also great for summer hiking because it’s so breathable. Camis are a good bet because they keep your core warm without adding bulk or awkward sleeve lines, though you might prefer long sleeves.

    Wearing layers means you can easily adjust your outfit to stay comfortable throughout the day, and it also stretches your wardrobe across seasons. As for long underwear that isn’t silk or merino, it’s great for outdoor activities but much too warm indoors, in my experience. Even the thin ones feel bulky under pants. It’s an awkward layer to remove in public, as well… 🙂 If you like, try dresses or skirts with knee-high boots and tights or leggings in various thicknesses (fleece-lined!) and materials.

    Imogen’s suggestion of a really warm coat (preferably fitted or with shaping to make it less like a sleeping bag) is spot-on. This, with warm accessories, makes any outfit fine because you’re covered up when out in the cold. Consider also your planned lifestyle–will you have a car or go it on foot? Will you wear furry winter boots and change into shoes at work, or do you want boots that work in snow as well as inside?

    Oh, and depending on your budget, thrift stores are excellent for finding pricy items like merino sweaters. With the tight colour constraints of a capsule wardrobe, it might take some time and searching, but I wish you luck! 🙂

    //a Canadian living in Asia

    • Thanks for your advice and kind words. Just lucky that I’m a ‘cold person’ so even though I live in a fairly temperate climate I get being cold – plus I’ve travelled to much colder places!

    • V informative. Perhaps you’d share your thoughts with me regarding the summer. I have many (sleeveless or just generally light and airy) sheer blouses that I’d love to wear (they are mainly artificial material or cotton (I am quite poor)) – but I can’t just wear them with a bra as they’d be too sexy, so need something underneath anyway, but what is the best material for keeping you cool, ie not clammy and sweaty when temperatures hike? (silk?)

      • Susie – some sort of cami – but adding another layer always adds heat – silk can be quite hot (it’s used for thermal underwear) so I’d probably go more down the cotton or cotton/elastane mix.

        • Many thanks. All my sheer blouses are made of 100% polyester (I am poor :() but they are v elegant and pretty and I love them. I like looking elegant and formal and cotton simply doesn’t look glamorous. I am not quite sure what material does that is still suitable for hot weather? (Is cotton then actually the best material for the summer? Far too casual in look and feel.. 🙁 )

          You said that silk keeps you warm and is not great for the summer, I thought the rule was (alliteration as well) ‘silk in summer, wool in winter’ (if I was made of money, y’know).

  • Great advice, Imogen. I would echo other comments re the silk long underwear (depending on how the OP wears her tops, I advise scoop or V-neck camisole versions as well as long-sleeve ones).

    Personally I only wear the silk longjohns under exercise wear, preferring tights + wool socks + boots under/over jeans or trousers. Wool or thermal tights are great for skirts.

    And warm “dress” scarves are a must for me, so I buy with my capsule colors in mind.

    [As you said, the finer-spun the better…wool, cashmere, and velvet are ideal for the colder temps and silk is nice for transitional weather.]

  • I’m a New Englander who LOVES to be outside in the winter. I concur with the suggestions for silk and merino (I think my Merino actually comes from New Zealand!). There is a catalog in the U.S. called wintersilks.com that offers mulitple thicknesses of silk long underwear. Light and pretty ones for inside and heavy ones for outdoor activities, but I generally just buy the light ones and find they work for outdoors, too. Something to look at: they offer extra low scoop necks and 3/4 sleeves so that the long underwear does not peak out of your nice clothes. Silk washes & dries easily and both silk and merino are much better than any synthetics in terms of odor.

  • This is just gorgeous! I’d love to see examples of other capsule wardrobes in other color pallettes. I know they must take a lot of time to put together but it is so helpful to see them like this (and to be able to click through to buy individual items).

  • I catchup with your blog every day or so and have learnt so much. This item about the capsule wardrobe is fantastic, could you please please please do a similar one for a summer capsule wardrobe. I think I have the basics of the winter wardrobe together but I struggle with my summer wardrobe. I’m a busy working mum and I cannot get my summer work and casual wardrobe to work together so I have two seperate wardobes. I also prefer to have my upper arms covered but in our warm summer climate my options are limited as a lot of fashion is sleveless for summer. Can you help?

    • Summer can be hard for many women who don’t like exposing too much skin. Sometimes you will need separate wardrobes, depending on your lifestyle – work and home may require different kinds of clothes.

  • I may be a bit late to this party, but a word on thermals from a North Dakota (read 7 months of sub-zero winter) resident: Merino wool. It’s warm, thermoregulatory, and does not pick up odors. I have two pair – one pair of thin merino wool thermals for days when I’ll be in and out for errands, and a second pair of mid-weight for when I’ll be participating in outdoor activity most of the day. I can wear one pair of merino wool thermals every day for a week before I need to wash them. My husband works for FedEx Freight, so lots of time spent outdoors in labor-intensive activities, and two pair last him the week just fine.

  • I’m also VERY late to this thread, but thought this may help somebody…

    Before we moved from a warm climate to a cold climate I made sure to buy some warm clothing, since I knew that with the exchange rate that we will get, clothes would be much cheaper in the current country. Turned out it was a big mistake. Our first winter in the cold climate I was constantly shivering. When socializing with expats, they enquired whether I’m wearing clothes from the new or former country. When I said it was from the former, they exclaimed like a chorus: “No wonder you are freezing!” “Go buy local clothes, even cheap ones!” was the next advise chorused at me. And I must say, it made all the difference! Because my former country was generally warmer (even though there were some cold areas too), the clothing was just not up to the standard of the new country’s clothing.

    Some other advise that I received that also helped was to look at hunting, sports or farmers shops for really warm thermals.

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