A capsule wardrobe is the new black, and a more sustainable fashion choice to boot. In Part 1 of a two-part series on fashion for men and women, Emma Willmann shares her step by step guide to creating a stylish woman's capsule wardrobe.

Clothes shopping is so popular it is now considered a pastime. But when is enough, enough?

We have some idea about what we like and we have access to an endless variety of garments from all over the world. But often we don’t have the skills to choose the right items or the time or the ability to look after our wardrobe. The result is that feeling of “I have nothing to wear” and then “I need to buy something new” and so the cycle continues.

There is also the sustainable fashion question. Fast disposable fashion has globally become a massive environmental problem.

Enter the capsule wardrobe.

Most people have heard of this minimalist approach to dressing where you have less clothes and more outfits. But from what I am seeing in wardrobes, on the streets and on Instagram, we haven’t quite got it yet. Let me teach you how to build your own 29 hanger capsule wardrobe that will see you from work to evening and into the weekend.

I have taught this method in workshops and to many of my clients and I personally created a capsule last year and I can attest that it works. It will change the way you think about what you need and help relieve the mental and physical load of all the stuff in your life. By having less, you will end up with more. More time each day, more money to buy better quality garments that last, more compelling personal style and more variety.

How to start

1. Empty out your current wardrobe and leave just 29 hangers: 20 of them flocked and 9 with clips.

2. Since colour is the foundation of a capsule wardrobe, decide on 2 neutrals and 3 colours you love (or the other way around if you are more conservative) and that work together.

3. Go to Pinterest and have a look for your style inspiration. What looks are you attracted to? What do they have in common? Figure out which elements are part of your style recipe.

4. Take a good look at yourself in the mirror. Do you have a defined waistline? Are your top and bottom balanced? What are your favourite features? Our 3 aims here are to create a long lean silhouette, to balance your hips and shoulders and to create a face focus. The easiest way to do this is identify the whether the effect of a pattern, colour or detail is advancing or receding and use appropriately.

5. Review your lifestyle. Make a list of the hours you spend in each of the following areas: Work, Home, Social, Recreational, Other. Your wardrobe needs to function to serve your actual life, not your fantasy life or your life 10 years ago.

6. 12 of the flocked hangers are for tops. Start with 2 lightweight knits and then 10 other tops in a variety of styles, necklines, sleeve lengths, textures, colours and finishes. Your tops generally last only a few years as they are worn more, washed more and can be a great place to modernise your wardrobe by incorporating trends that work for you.

7. The 9 clip hangers are for bottoms. These will be a combination of both skirts and pants (or shorts for warmer weather). Each should be distinct and flattering in varying lengths, shapes and finishes. Bottoms are part of your wardrobe staples and generally will be more expensive and longer lasting. When investing in better quality pieces, selecting timeless styles is the key.

8. Hangers are for dresses. Yes, only 3. Most women have too many distinctive dresses sitting in their wardrobes which have been worn once or twice but after attending a few events and being tagged on social media they now feel like they can’t wear them again. Be inspired by the Parisian woman who knows that fewer dresses in her wardrobe leaves more room for mix and match garments which will ultimately give her more outfits. Each dress should be the best quality you can afford and should not be overly memorable. Still, aim for varied shapes, lengths and styles choosing one for each work, casual and special occasion. If you feel the need to have more dresses in your wardrobe, I would recommend finding a rental or clothes sharing community like Lána Global where for a small price, you can borrow a beautiful quality dress and then simply send it back when you’re done.

9. 5 hangers are for layers. These are the styling sleight of hand in enhancing your silhouette and can transform an outfit from casual to formal. Choose from the many styles and shapes available such as cardigans, blazers, caplets, trenches or bombers.

10. Every woman should have 3 pairs of shoes including closed-toed flats, high heels (alternatively a wedge or metallic flat) and a sandal. Each of them comfortable, high quality and channelling your unique style.

11. Lastly, accessories are your pièce de résistance! They give variety and life to your capsule wardrobe so be intentional about curating a collection of both old and new, high quality and unpretentious jewellery. Ensure you have a good quality handbag in your hair colour and a small metallic clutch for evening. Select a handful of scarves and belts to finish your outfits. There is no limit to the number of accessories you can add to your capsule, they just need to be visible and organized so that you wear them on a regular basis.

There you have it! Your very own wardrobe capsule.

Would you believe that these 29 garments create well over 1000 coordinated outfits? If you are overwhelmed or want a little more direction, feel free to get in touch with me at Statement Styling or ask for my free 29 Hanger Capsule Wardrobe Worksheet. Enjoy being more style savvy and hunting down only quality items which resonate with who you are. From here, you will update an item when it is well worn or you can expand your capsule by adding in more styles and colours each year.

Sustainability and fast fashion

In recent years there has been a conceptual change how we view and consume clothing.

Take a T-shirt for example, traditionally it was seen as something that we use (much like a washing machine) until it was worn out or could no longer be mended. With the onset of fast fashion, that same T-shirt is now seen as something to be used up (like a packet of chewing gum) to be disposed of once it isn’t liked or wanted anymore.

This alarming trend is reported in recent statistics gathered by Textile World which show that, on average, Australians are only wearing each newly purchased item of clothing 7 times before throwing it away. Brisbane-based sustainability consultant Jane Milburn says Australians are the second-largest consumers of new textiles in the world and annually we each buy 37kg, with 23kg ending up in landfill each year. As a nation, this equates to 500,000 tonnes of textiles and leather buried in landfill, the equivalent of filling our biggest stadium 2.5 times over.

It is not just the amount of landfill that is disturbing but also the amount of water it takes to product each item: 2,700 litres of water for just 1 cotton T-shirt! Clearly fast fashion waste is an issue not only for our hip pockets for our planet as well. We need to share the responsibility with fashion brands by changing our shopping habits and supporting brands that are better for the environment (check out the Good on You app for the best ones).

The capsule wardrobe helps us to tackle this problem: “Buy less, choose well”.

*  savings are based on the author’s estimate of an adult woman’s average annual expenditure on fashion as a proportion of household income.