As a Personal Stylist in Switzerland, I am often asked about building a Capsule Wardrobe. Read this article to find out why I don't like the capsule wardrobe concept and find out my Top 10 Wardrobe Essentials instead.
Let me tell you a secret…
I’m not a big fan of the "capsule wardrobe" concept, because I fundamentally don't agree that we should all dress the same way.
More seriously, you won’t often hear me talk about a Capsule Wardrobe in the traditional sense because I don’t believe in a one-size fits all approach. I strongly believe that your personal style reflects who you are as an individual and since everyone is unique, logically your wardrobe should be unique too.
That said, there are items that I like to refer to as “Wardrobe Essentials”: typically, the timeless investment pieces that you’ll keep in your wardrobe for years. These items will often be rather classic styles and while they may not be at the cutting edge of fashion, they’ll often be highly versatile and they’ll always be stylish.
Here’s my top 10 Must Have Wardrobe Essentials:
1. Jeans: a great pair of jeans will undoubtedly be one of the most hardworking items in your wardrobe. Casual, smart casual or dressed up for the evening, a pair of jeans can take you almost anywhere. There are many wonderful brands out there, but my personal favourites are Levi’s and Sézane.
2. Blazer: whether you have a more casual, natural style or whether you are more dramatic and formal, and anything in between, a blazer is an intelligent addition to your wardrobe. Blazers can easily be worn with jeans, trousers, shorts, skirts or dresses and can make a casual outfit instantly chic. You can choose from a range of materials for your blazer, from a structured fabric like XXX to something more fluid such as jersey materials. Over the years I have bought blazers from Zara and Ted Baker, which I still own and wear today. I recently discovered an oversized blazer by Claudie Pierlot, and I am very happy with the quality and style too.
3. Denim Jacket: a great in-between seasons essential item that can easily be worn with summer dresses and trainers for a more casual look. It also works with various skirts or trousers too.
4. Trousers: a smart pair of trousers in a neutral colour will create endless outfit opportunities. You can dress up with your blazer and heels or down with your denim jacket and trainers. I love my Sézane trousers, great quality and effortlessly stylish.
5. Shirt / Blouse: whether you prefer your shirts plain, striped, floral, patterned or otherwise, this timeless essential never fails. Shirts are great items for layering throughout the seasons and can easily be worn underneath a jumper to create interest in the cooler months or open in summer as a lighter outer layer or as a cover-up. Sézane have some wonderful options but you can also consider COS and &Other Stories which have some great quality shirts too. If you’ve got a greater budget available Dea Kudibal have some wonderful silk options.
6. T-shirt: a great quality t-shirt can be worn underneath your blazer or denim jacket, or with a jumper or cardigan, or even underneath a shirt. This versatile item should be high quality for longevity otherwise you’ll find yourself needing to replace it frequently. COS have some excellent quality simple t-shirts.
7. Jumper: cotton, cashmere, merino or otherwise, a jumper will work hard for you all year round. It can be worn over your shoulders in summer, as an extra layer in winter, worn over your trench coat over your shoulders in autumn for a touch of colour and extra layer if needed and instead of a jacket in spring. I love the simplicity of the essential range of jumpers from Manor and GLOBUS in Switzerland.
8. Cardigan: a really versatile wardrobe essential which is great for the in-between season cover-up that also acts as a layering item in the cooler months. Wear with dresses, over shirts/t-shirts, with skirts, trousers, shorts. Depending on your body shape, style personality, lifestyle and budget, you can choose chunky or fine knit, wool or cotton, patterned or plain, short or long.
9. Dress: no wardrobe would be complete without a dress. Personally, I find dresses one of the easiest outfit builder pieces (*see my article on Outfit Builders), especially in the summer when a pair of sandals, handbag and a cover-up will complete your look. & Other Stories has some great timeless pieces.
10. Skirt: mini, midi, maxi, a-line, asymetric etc. there are so many options available. An easy option for Spring/Summer and Autumn too. Longer skirts will have more longevity especially as they can be worn year/round: in winter a long skirt can be worn with a thermal base of leggings underneath and long boots and a warm jumper on top. Mix and match with your t-shirts, shirts, denim jacket and/or blazer to create various looks.
There are some items that I haven't yet mentioned but are absolutely worth a place in the Wardrobe Essentials, but shhh, don't tell everyone :-)
Great quality underwear: the foundation of great style, is great underwear! Great underwear ensures your outfit sits impeccably. It should be comfortable but I also believe that it should equate to your definition of beautiful too. Try different colours, materials and styles that make you feel special. I recommend CALIDA and BELDONA in Switzerland as well as Simone Perele and Triumph which are also available further afield.
Socks / Tights: making sure you’ve got the appropriate socks and tights to suit your outfit and your footwear will make the difference between an outfit that looks put together and one that looks thrown together. Make sure your trainer socks are invisible when wearing trainers, especially if your ankles are visible. I highly recommend M&S for their wonderful ranges of socks and tights as well as the brand FALKE who have some great options, including thermal trainer socks which have been a revelation to me this past winter.
Sportswear: I’ve added this as a category rather than a particular item of clothing as each sport or activity requires something different. You may only need simple items such as a sports bra, leggings and top, for yoga or pilates but if you’re a cross country runner or horse-riding enthusiast, you’ll need something entirely different. If you love outdoor sports, you’ll also need appropriate outerwear too. I won’t go into details here, but watch this space for an upcoming blog article. Personally, most of my sportswear is from Decathlon or Puma: it’s colourful, it washes well, and it’s affordable too.
Trainers: the ultimate item of footwear taking you from work to play, a great pair of trainers is appropriate almost anywhere. Canvas, leather, vegan leather, fabric or other textiles all giving very different effects on your overall style. I always recommend to have at least one pair of sports trainers and another pair of smarter waterproof trainers as you never know when it might rain, regardless of the season. There are so many brands to mention, but my current favourites are Nike, New Balance, Gabor, Mint Velvet and Veja.
Flat shoes: you could consider a pair of loafers, brogues, ballerina pumps or other type of flat shoes for instant chic and comfort combined. A versatile option for any outfit. I currently love Paul Green and Andrea Puccini brands both available in Aeschbach here in Switzerland. Elsewhere, you can consider Mint Velvet, Mauro Leone, and Sézane.
Heels: a simple pair of heels in a neutral colour will take you to most evening events and special occasions. Make sure you can walk comfortably in them to ensure longevity. Discuss with your local shoemaker to see whether they have any recommendations to protect the soles and heels (such as a robust rubber layer which doesn’t get worn down).
Sandals: a comfortable pair of sandals for summer that can easily be worn with trousers, dresses, skirts or shorts. I love Birkenstocks for a highly comfortable casual look.
Boots: a pair of leather or vegan leather boots is essential for winter, worn casually with jeans or a skirt or formally with a pair of tailored trousers. Make sure they have appropriate grip if worn in Winter or in the rain. I can highly recommend Claudie Pierlot, Gabor and Geox for their high-quality footwear.
Walking shoes: if you’re an outdoors fan, it’ll be essential to have a pair of good quality walking boots or shoes. If you’re looking for a new pair of walking boots or trail shoes, I can recommend MEINDL or Salomon.
Belt: slim, standard or wide belts put a finishing touch to your outfits. Consider your scale and proportions before choosing the right belt for you. I can highly recommend Joop!, Sézane and Kettlewell Colours for their excellent range of belts.
Jewellery: a pair of earrings (long or studs) depending on your personal style, face shape, lifestyle, activities, one necklace (or more if you like layering), one or more bracelets and a watch.
Scarf: one warm winter scarf, a silk neck scarf (which can be tied around your neck, to your handbag or as a belt and a lighter shawl or pashmina for those in between months or as a cover-up in summer.
Hat: while you may not be a hat fan, it’s essential to have at least two hats in your wardrobe (i) a winter hat such as a wool beanie and (ii) a summer hat such as a baseball cap or sunhat.
Best colourful wishes,
Hi, I'm Charlotte, International Personal Stylist in Geneva, Switzerland. I help women like you to feel special everyday by building a unique and colourful signature style that suits your personal colouring, body shape, lifestyle and budget.