How to build a summer capsule wardrobe on a budget

How to build a Summer Capsule Wardrobe With Upcycles

The upcycled summer capsule wardrobe

In this post, you will learn how to build a summer capsule wardrobe with upcycles. It doesn’t have to be expensive to dress well. With this guide, you can create your capsule wardrobe on a budget for the hot season.

What does a capsule wardrobe mean?

Susie Faux was a British fashion icon and London boutique owner, who coined the term “capsule wardrobe” in the 1970s. It refers to a collection of versatile and practical, essential clothes and accessories that won’t go out of fashion, augmented with seasonal items. They create an entire wardrobe for a season.

These items should be interchangeable to maximize the number of outfits that can be created.

What are the benefits of a capsule wardrobe?

Have you ever felt that you have nothing to wear? I sure did. Well, a capsule wardrobe is a fix for this problem.

Let’s list some of the benefits of a capsule wardrobe:

  • You spend less time choosing an outfit. The basic formula of a capsule wardrobe also implies that every top will work with every bottom. So you always have ready to go outfits.
  • You spend less time and money on clothes.
  • Results to a signature style because you have to plan out and create a collection of garments with your style.
  • It is easier to keep your closet organized.
  • It also has environmental benefits; you buy less, you will produce less waste.

These are just a few ideas, but there are more. It also results in a more conscious lifestyle where you can concentrate on the things that truly matter.

For more capsule wardrobe benefits check out this post on Refined Rooms.

Are capsule wardrobes boring?

They can be if you’re a huge fashion lover or someone who likes to mix up their clothes often.

After some time, you may get bored and burned out by wearing the same clothes over and over again.

If you feel like this, you can always replace some items to freshen up your look. Or you could try to switch to a bigger capsule wardrobe; this way, you will have more outfit opportunities.

The best example is this travel capsule wardrobe by Travel Fashion Girl; she created 15 outfits with only six clothes (no shoes, bags, or other accessories). Imagine how many outfits you can create with a 33 or 50 piece “capsule.”

How to build a capsule wardrobe?

You have to start with the basic capsule wardrobe formula:

Every top must work with all the bottoms, and every jacket or cardigan must work with all the tops and bottoms.

Choose high-quality fabrics; since you will wear them repeatedly, they have to look good despite the excess use.

Also, consider your body shape and complexion. Some cuts and colors are more flattering to specific body shapes or skin tones.

This guide by Style Craze will help you to choose the best garments for your body shape. This article on Medium will help you with what clothing colors to choose for your skin tone.

What should be in a capsule wardrobe?

You may ask: How many pieces should be in a capsule wardrobe?

Usually, a capsule wardrobe should have 10-50 pieces. Some people swear by 33. The number is not critical; it varies from person to person

They include everyday clothing and shoes. Some also include accessories, sports clothes, swimwear, and formal wear.

Each capsule wardrobe should last you for three months (for a season).

Items for a capsule wardrobe:

Before planning it all out, define your capsule wardrobe essentials, these are the garments that you can wear throughout the year (like a good pair of jeans, a classic coat, blazer, or minimal sneakers that you can wear both with sporty and casual outfits).

So, let’s see what you will need for a capsule wardrobe.

  • top layers (cardigans, sweaters, knits, jackets, coats, blazers),
  • tops (shirts, blouses, T-shirts, tank tops),
  • bottoms (jeans, skirts, shorts, overalls, pants),
  • dresses (mini, midi, and maxi),
  • shoes (sneakers, sandals, boots, heels).

+ accessories (bags, necklaces, earrings, bracelets, cuffs, sunglasses, hair accessories, etc.)

Every capsule wardrobe differs from person to person. If you are more of a shoe person, you can add more shoes and less from other items. If you like accessories, you can add more of those.

It should be about you and your style and what you like to wear. Remember that you can and should update your capsule wardrobe with time. As you start to wear your new clothes and outfits, you may find out what else you should include, or which are the items you no longer like or want to wear.

Also, replace any torn, discolored, stained, or smelly clothes you can’t fix.

What should be in a Summer capsule wardrobe?

Usually, a summer capsule wardrobe includes:

  • T-shirts (basic, printed),
  • tops (tank, cami, and sleeveless tops),
  • shorts (+ 1-3 pair of jeans or pants),
  • light skirts,
  • light dresses or jumpsuit,
  • summer shoes (sandals, sneakers),
  • seasonal accessories (straw hat, sunglasses, swimwear).

This list may change according to your style. For example, you can exclude tops if you are more of a Tee person, or skirts if you don’t like to wear them like me.

TIP! Choose a two-piece dress or jumpsuit for extra outfits (you can wear as a set or separately paired with other tops and bottoms).

What are the trends for summer 2020?

According to Marie Claire, the summer 2020 fashion trends are:

  • linen clothes,
  • sweatpants,
  • baby doll dresses,
  • neon colors,
  • bucket hats,
  • bralettes,
  • puff sleeves.

Also, on Cosmopolitan you can find other items that are fashionable this summer like :

  • Bermuda shorts,
  • clothes with drawstrings,
  • sheer overlays,
  • side cutouts,
  • knit polos,
  • split prints,
  • bra tops and matching bottoms,
  • denim jumpsuits,
  • halter tops,
  • in clothes color trends: pink and orange combo, butter yellow, chartreuse.

Check the Cosmopolitan site for the 2020 summer bag trends and 2020 summer shoe trends for more inspiration.


I searched for different sized summer capsule wardrobe ideas. It’s easier to build the “capsule” if you have an example and use it as a guide.




  • 5x tops (2 T-shirts, a tank top, one cami, and one sleeveless top),
  • 2x top layers (a sweater and a jacket),
  • 3x bottoms (shorts, skirt, jeans),
  • 1x maxi dress,
  • 2x shoes (sandals),
  • 2x accessories (hat and earrings).

Check out this post with clothes and outfit examples by Daily Style Finds.

  • 12x tops (basic and printed Tees, blouses, one polo),
  • 1x top layers (cardigan),
  • 9x bottoms (skirts, shorts, jeans),
  • 3x dresses + 1x jumpsuit,
  • 5x shoes (sandals, sneakers),
  • 2x accessories (hat and bag).

Here is an example of the 33 piece capsule wardrobe by Jen Bradley Moms.

  • 12x tops (basic and printed T-shirts),
  • 2x top layers (vests)
  • 9x bottoms (short, skirts, jeans),
  • 5x dress,
  • 10x shoes (sandals and sneakers),
  • 9x accessories (necklaces, earrings, one watch).

This capsule wardrobe has only 47 pieces but a perfect example of a bigger “capsule” by Putting Me Together.

How do you build a capsule wardrobe on a budget?

Building a capsule wardrobe shouldn’t be expensive. So, I wanted to share a couple of tips to build your “capsule” without spending a lot of money:

  • shop in second hand or thrift stores for fun and fashionable clothes,
  • upcycle your unfitting or thrifted garments (from minor changes to complete makeovers),
  • shop high-quality clothes and accessories that you can wear for many years (the cost may be higher now, but it is cheaper in the long run),
  • you can also exchange or trade clothes with friends or family,
  • sew your own clothes,
  • lookout for sales or clear outs.

Thredit posted an excellent article on creating a capsule wardrobe on a budget.

Guide to build a DIY summer capsule wardrobe

STEP #1: Define your style and occasion

First of all, you have to decide on the occasion you are aiming for with your new summer capsule wardrobe. You will need different clothes for work, travel, or everyday use.

And after that, you need to incorporate your style or, if you wish, a new approach. Do you want a casual, classy look or more of a bohemian style wardrobe?

STEP #2: Choose a color palette

Choose 3-5 neutrals (white, black, grey, tan, beige, nude, khaki, denim, etc.) and 1-3 accent colors (red, pink, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, turquoise), based on the size of your capsule wardrobe you wish to create.

STEP #3: Purge your closet

Declutter your closet and create piles of clothes:

  • the clothes you want to keep,
  • garments you wish to donate,
  • the ones that you can upcycle for your new summer “capsule.”

TIP! Create mix and match outfits with the clothes you wish to keep. This way, you will find out about the gaps, missing pieces for your capsule wardrobe.

STEP #4: Transform old or add new items

I encourage you to transform or upcycle your existing clothes.

You can also search for garments in thrift stores (look for high-quality materials and avoid synthetic fabrics). I have an article about how to shop in thrift stores for upcycling if you wish to spend less money on new capsule wardrobe items.

Upcycle Ideas for the summer capsule wardrobe:

After re-evaluating your wardrobe, you will have a pile of clothes that you don’t want to keep. Some of the most common clothing articles that end up in the donation boxes are old T-shirts, button-up shirts, jeans, and scarves that no longer fit my style or body.

I wanted to give you a couple of ideas on how to turn these garments into something new and fabulous, instead of throwing them out.

T-shirt upcycles

Tees are so versatile and easy to refashion. Add a little glam with beads, ribbons, sequins, fabric paint, etc. or take them to the next level with a complete makeover. It’s up to you and your skills.

Upcycling ideas for a summer capsule wardrobe

Button-up shirt upcycles

Button-up shirt refashioning projects are my favorite upcycles. You can revamp them into cute blouses, Tee-s, tank tops, dresses, skirts, etc. If you want more ideas or inspiration, I have an article with 20+ men’s shirt refashion ideas.

Capsule wardrobe with refashioning

jeans upcycle

Denim garments are so fashionable. You shouldn’t throw out an ugly fitting pair of jeans. Transform them into stunning tops, skirts, dresses, or just cut them off for new shorts.

Summer capsule wardrobe with upcycle ideas

If you are an experienced sewer, you can also transform some old jeans into a denim jacket. Watch this video by Trash to Couture.

Scarf upcycles

I have a couple of scarves I used to wear, but they no longer fit my style. Maybe you are like me.

So, what can you do with old scarves?

You can quickly turn them into tops, skirts, dresses, or add a touch of pattern and color to a basic shirt like in this upcycling tutorial by Trevor Loves Mommy.

how to build a summer capsule wardrobe

BONUS – Swimwear

And guess what, you can also DIY swimwear from old clothes. Check out this bikini from a T-shirt or this DIY swimwear from leggings. But my all-time favorite is this one-piece swimsuit upcycled from a dress.

I hope you got inspired and would like to try building a summer capsule wardrobe. If so, check out the 333 challenge.

the 333 Challenge:

Project 333 is a fashion challenge started by Courtney Carver for those who are interested in minimalism.

What are the 333 rules?

  • Wear 33 (or less) articles of clothing for three months. They also include shoes, accessories, and outerwear, but no underwear or sports clothes,
  • during the period, you may replace clothes that no longer fit or become in poor condition,

If you are interested, learn more about it from the book Project 333.

Final thoughts on the upcycled summer capsule wardrobe

As you can see, building a capsule wardrobe has a lot of benefits. It worth giving it a try.

Don’t get discouraged if you don’t have the budget to buy new, quality clothes. A lot of refashioning and upcycling ideas are available on the internet, and most of them don’t require specific skills.

Did you like this guide? Have you ever tried building a capsule wardrobe?

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