Categories: Fashion

How to Create a Capsule Wardrobe on a Budget

As you get older, you might start to rethink your wardrobe decisions. In my junior year of college, I came to the realization that I need to stop spending money on trendy pieces of clothing. Instead, I started to cultivate a capsule wardrobe. For those of you that are unfamiliar, a capsule wardrobe is a collection of basics. Capsule wardrobe clothes never go out of style, and there are endless ways to style them (think of your favorite pair of jeans). If you, like me, are still in college, you’ll want to avoid breaking the bank on your capsule wardrobe. I present to you five easy ways you can build a capsule wardrobe on a budget:

1. Thrift, Thrift, Thrift!

In any fashion situation, I always suggest looking at a thrift store first. Secondhand shops are more than likely to have the staples you’re searching for. There’s always a wide selection of jeans, plain tops, blazers, etc. I’ve purchased countless items from my capsule wardrobe here, but my favorites are my two leather blazers. I was able to find a long black leather blazer at Savers and a brown one in Goodwill, both of them in perfect condition. Between online shopping and shopping secondhand, the latter option is usually cheaper. If you’re lucky, you can even score designer brands at a low cost. Plus, thrifting has environmental benefits. You’re helping to reduce waste by purchasing recycled clothes. 

2. Hit the App Store

If thrift stores are too overwhelming, try shopping secondhand online for your capsule wardrobe! Depop is my personal favorite for digital thrifting. I’ve gotten a lot of staples off of the Depop app, from my Vivienne Westwood heart necklace (which was only $25!) to my blue and white striped linen shirt. I’ve found myself favoring Depop over regular online stores; the quality is always amazing, the sellers are communicative, and in my experience, the shipping has been quick! Just be careful of the Depop sellers that will overcharge you on items. To avoid spending more than an item is worth, I recommend Vinted. From what I’ve heard, Vinted is more reliable in terms of pricing and quality. Though I have yet to make any purchases on Vinted, I’ve explored their website. I’ve seen vintage Levi’s sell for as little as $10! Of course, secondhand online shopping is another sustainable option. Save your wardrobe and the planet at the same time! 

3. Plan on Pinterest

I can safely say that I’m addicted to Pinterest. I’m a huge planner, and I love to create vision boards for myself. If you’re trying to build a capsule wardrobe, plan what you need to buy ahead of time on Pinterest. Dedicate a board to your capsule wardrobe and fill it with pieces you know you’ll get a lot of use out of. That way, you’ll head in to wherever you do your shopping at with an idea in mind. When I don’t know what to get at a store, I usually end up impulse purchasing something I don’t need. Pinterest will help you avoid dropping an absurd amount of money on clothes you’ll later regret. Start by typing in some keywords in the search box, like “blue jeans” or “running sneakers.” Once you find an item you like, save it to your board. From there, look for outfit ideas that incorporate that piece. If you see multiple potential outfits you can make out of that item, try searching for it online or in stores. If you want to go the extra mile, you can even plot-out a physical outfit board from magazine clippings. I know a lot of people do this for vision boards, so why not do it to create your capsule wardrobe? Bring your vision to life! 

4. Closet Clean-Out

Your dream capsule wardrobe might be right under your nose. Maybe your favorite pair of jeans or a staple button-up top are hiding under a mess of clothes. My advice: clean out your closet. You might find just what you’re looking for. Take some time to sort out all the cheap, trendy clothes you don’t anticipate on wearing in the future, or hardly wear in the present. Once all the “junk” clothes are out of the way, you can establish what staples items you already have, and what staple items you might want to get. Sometimes, I’ll buy an article of clothing that I’ll forget I already own something similar to. Maintaining an organized closet will keep you from making my mistake. It’s always a good idea to donate the clothes you get rid of, rather than throwing them away. Maybe you can open your own Depop or Vinted shop and sell them there! That would be a win-win situation: you won’t waste your clothes or your money. 

5. Stray from Trends

While trends are fun to participate in, just be conscious that you’re not basing your entire wardrobe off of them. In the long run, it’s a smarter decision to invest in more basic pieces than what’s in style. The trend cycle moves so quickly, leading you to toss away a lot of your clothes (and money). It’s also environmentally unethical to spend thousands of dollars on whatever’s “in,” only to throw it out a week later. I say that trends are great in moderation. Be mindful of how you spend your money; dedicate most of your budget to cultivating your capsule wardrobe, and spend the remaining funds on one trendy piece. It’s hard not to fall into trends, but just be sure to keep your head above the water. 

See Also


Before you purchase anything else for your capsule wardrobe, find a pair of jeans or trousers and a plain top you feel comfortable in. From there, have fun with it! Dig around for an everyday pair of hoops or studs, sneakers to wear on-the-go, and a purse that will hold (and go with) everything. Remember to shop smart, and don’t waste your money on pieces that will only add to your clutter. 

Be sure to share this post with your favorite shopping partner!

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Jill Schuck

Hi everyone! My name is Jill, and I'm a senior at Trinity College in Hartford, CT. There, I'm studying creative writing and sociology, with plans to work in publishing. Aside from reading and writing, I enjoy traveling and practicing self-care. If you want to connect, follow my Instagram @jillschuck!

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