The perfect capsule wardrobe

Do you waste time every morning wondering what to wear? Is your wardrobe a minefield? It's time to be brave, stop procrastinating and get rid of the clutter!

Capsule wardrobe

A few hours spent sifting through your fashion mistakes will save you hours in the long run. And with a little help from the experts, that daily 'I don't know what to wear' routine could be relegated to the past. It's time for a capsule wardrobe.

In the beginning...

Perhaps the first question that needs asking is: 'What is a capsule wardrobe?'

Susie Faux invented both the phrase and the concept back in the 70s. The owner of the London shop Wardrobe, she's a great believer that women require less quantity, more quality. "A woman only needs two pairs of trousers", she says, "but they have to fit perfectly, and you won't get a well-fitting pair of trousers for less than a £100".

As well as trousers, Susie would add a dress or a skirt for more formal occasions, a well-fitting jacket, a coat, and a casual knitted jacket (or smart cardie). And, she says, you need just two pairs of shoes - one pair of flats and one with a little heel. Finally, two bags - a small formal one and a larger bag for every day.

Capsule versus fashion

Can it really be that simple? Doesn't a wardrobe that's so pared down risk becoming rather dull? Tessa Hood runs a company called Changing Gear which provides advice on capsule wardrobes as part of a wider 'personal branding' service.

She feels it's important to understand that the essence of a capsule wardrobe is that it is not entirely based on fashion. "A capsule wardrobe should continue year on year", she says. "Start with good basics like trousers or skirts that are classic and fit really well, and then if you like, you can add little tops from places like Zara that are a bit more fashionable".

Like Susie Faux, she believes that it's worth paying more money for good quality trousers or a jacket. "You have to think of the cost per wear - that is the cost of the article of clothing divided by the number of times you wear it. Let's say you have a beautiful cashmere sweater that costs £500. That's a lot of money, but if you wear it 500 times over a period of 5 years, then it's only £1 each time and that's good value."

Less is more

So what is Tessa's perfect capsule wardrobe? Two pairs of trousers - one light, one dark; two skirts - also light and dark, two plain blouses, two simple tops and a good jacket - which could be a cute little curvy tweed number from Zara or a beautiful leather jacket. The essential thing is to choose something that really suits your shape.

Tessa's other piece of advice is to keep the fabrics plain. "If you wear patterns or stripes, it really narrows down the times you can wear something. Best to add interest with jewellery and other patterned accessories," says Tessa, who is also a member of the Federation of Image Consultants.

Putting it into practice

It is one thing to aspire to a capsule wardrobe, but how do you actually achieve it? The first chore is to pare down your existing clothes. Be harsh - if you haven't worn it for two years, chuck it out. Have a bin liner handy and chuck all rejects straight into it.

Once you can see the wood for the trees, identify the gaps. Do you have the perfect pair of trousers, or a great little jacket that you could wear all winter?

Then it's time for the fun bit - more shopping! But this time, you need to be disciplined. Department stores are a great place to start. You'll find many of the top designers in one place and it's far easier to put together a complete look that works well together. And if you're struggling, remember that most department stores also offer personal shopping services. Whilst they might not be experts in the area of the capsule wardrobe, they know their stock, and will be able to help you find good quality trousers or skirts that will really work for you.

The proof is in the pudding

Go on, stop wasting time in front of your dishevelled wardrobe and live a little. Step out in confidence knowing that what you are wearing is tried and tested and really suits you. In this war against clutter, less is definitely more 'hassle-free'.