Capsule Math: How Many Outfits Are Possible?


Being a huge math nerd (seriously, you guys, I LOVE doing math problems), one thing that has intrigued me is that actual number of outfit combinations that can be made from a capsule wardrobe. Not only that, but what is the best way to maximize the number of outfits that can be made.

Here are a few examples if it’s been a while…

Let’s use a capsule of 24 items since it’s easy to divide. For these examples we will assume all items mix and match nicely.

Scenario #1:

You choose 4 bottoms and 20 tops for your capsule, thinking that the best way to add variety to a capsule is to stick with some basic bottoms and then add a bunch of shirts in different colors and prints.

So, if you go to your closet and pick one of your 4 bottoms and then pair it with one of your 20 tops (can you imagine a huge tree diagram here? With 20 branches coming off of each bottom?), you would get…

4 * 20 = 80 possible outfits

Scenario #2

You choose 12 bottoms and 12 tops for your capsule, because you know that sometimes a fun pair of pants can’t be beat 🙂

Now, if you choose one of the 12 bottoms and match it with one of the 12 possible tops for each outfit (insert tree diagram here), you would get…

 12 * 12 = 144 possible outfits

So, by splitting more evenly the tops and bottoms you are able to create even more outfits.

Scenario #3

Let’s get a little crazy and say you decide to add layering pieces to your capsule. So you split your 24 pieces wardrobe into 8 bottoms, 8 tops, and 8 layering pieces (cardigans, jackets, etc.)

Now, you go to your closet and choose 1 of 8 bottoms, pick 1 of 8 tops, and then add 1 of the 8 layering pieces. Imagine that tree diagram!! You would have…

8 * 8 * 8 = 512 possible outfits!!

Plus, you could technically add the 64 outfits that you created from bottoms and tops only (no layering piece) for 576 total!

My Capsule Math:

Let’s see how many outfits I can make with my 35 items

First, choose 1 of 8 bottoms

winter bottoms

Next, pick a top:

winter tops

Third, throw on a layering piece (really some of my tops could be layered with one another, but to keep it simple I just separated out my cardigans and jackets). So, for example, while I may not add a cardigan over a sweatshirt, I could add a flannel underneath 🙂

winter layers

I should be able to create 8 * 20 * 6 = 960 combinations(!!). Plus the extra 160 if I just choose a bottom and top, AND I have a shirt dress I didn’t even add into the mix.

So, with 35 item I could potentially create over 1,000 outfits!

If you’re considering creating a capsule, but are nervous you’d run out of outfits, just do some of the math 😉 By carefuly selecting items that mix-and-match well with one another, there are more than enough options! Has anyone been considering a capsule wardrobe for 2016?

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3 Comments

    1. I love how easy you presented this!!! You are a great math teacher. I hope you’re teaching it to all the little up and coming fashinistas & fashionistos!

      1. Thank you! It’s fun to think about how many outfits can be created and it makes me realize there are tons of options, even with a small wardrobe.

    1. I’m so glad that I stumbled across your post! I have created a capsule for Fall 2016 and I am currently sitting down figuring out all of my combinations. I am realizing that I can make SO many outfits! I don’t even think I will make a winter capsule. I will just wear tights with my skirts and dresses and I think I will be just fine. I will probably do the same for spring and summer. Thank you so much for this post! I haven’t seen anyone else break it down like this!

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