Capsule Wardrobes Are Boring—Here's My Secret to Effortless, Functional Style

It'll help you find your true personal style.

nikki ogunnaike
(Image credit: Tyler Joe)

The below is from editor-in-chief Nikki Ogunnaike's weekly newsletter, Self Checkout. Subscribe here.

Reader, I must confess: I hate the idea of capsule wardrobes. There’s an obsession with the concept that I don’t quite understand. While I am 100 percent here for shopping less, and shopping smart, capsule wardrobes, as they are often written about, are prescriptive, boring, and, for some reason, always minimalist in color. They rarely take one’s personal style into account, often suggesting not only an arbitrary amount of items but a random assortment of pieces (a maxi dress? a basket bag?) that may or may not actually fit into your wardrobe. Where’s the fun in that? Ultimately, I think your wardrobe should consist of pieces you love, make you feel good, and find yourself reaching for time and time again. 

That being said, you have come here for a reason, so allow me to provide you with some tactics that can make getting dressed easier and nudge you closer to your true personal style.

First, a few housekeeping items: Do a wardrobe purge. Be ruthless and realistic about what you want to keep in your closet. I try to do this every other month, in an effort to streamline and become reacquainted with what’s going on in my closet.

Nikki Ogunnaike at fashion month

I don't believe in capsule wardrobes, but I do believe in a really great blazer.

(Image credit: Tyler Joe)

Next, document some outfits. Mandy Lee, Old Loser in Brooklyn on TikTok and Instagram, is currently conducting what she’s calling the 75 Hard Challenge. Key rules are: Get dressed every day for 75 days, document your daily outfits, do not buy anything new. I find “getting dressed” (which I define as putting on a look you’d be okay being seen in) for 75 days straight to be incredibly ambitious, but I think aiming to document 30 days of looks will give you a good understanding of the silhouettes, colors, and pieces, you often return to.

Lastly, you know that age-old adage “Dress for the job you want”? Well, I don’t agree. I say dress for the life you currently lead. That means, take stock of what you do every single day, notice routines and habits, and then dress for those. For example, my general routine is as follows: wake up, work out, commute to the office (10-minute walk to the subway, 45-minute ride that could include standing up or sitting down), sitting in my cold-as-hell-office to read or edit copy, perhaps have a work lunch or coffee, head to an event where I’ll be standing on my feet for at least 30 minutes, commute home (generally by car). Rinse and repeat. When I think about what goes into my personal “capsule wardrobe,” they’re items that fit this current lifestyle. 

At the end of the day, personal style is just that: personal to me and to you, and if you spend too much time trying to follow certain rules or obsessing over how to style items, it ends up feeling contrived and not at all fun. So, with that in mind, let’s get into the good stuff: ten items that are in my personal capsule wardrobe (but tbh, I think may work for you too.)

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Nikki Ogunnaike

Nikki Ogunnaike is the Editor in Chief of Marie Claire US. She has previously held roles at Harper's Bazaar, GQ, ELLE, Glamour, InStyle, and Vanity Fair. You may also recognize Nikki from her time as the host of Snapchat’s Online, IRL and IGTV's The Run Through. Based in Brooklyn, New York, in her free time Nikki enjoys running half marathons, learning about wine, and watching reality TV without an ounce of shame. You can follow her at @nikkiogun.