Post-Capsule Strategies: Identify Your Workhorse Items

I probably spend way more time than the average person thinking about my clothes and wardrobe. Even more so since I started my capsule wardrobes and really making an effort to analyze what I wear and why as I work to discover my personal style. When I think of my post-capsule closet I definitely have a goal in my mind. I have high hopes that my post-capsule wardrobe becomes my ideal closet.

When I imagine this ideal closet…it’s neat and organized, none of my items make me self-conscious or uncomfortable, I can quickly grab an item and go…and it looks and feels great, every item gets worn regularly, and there is no excess. The word I seem to keep coming back to is effortless.

I want functioning in my closet, getting dressed, and looking stylish to feel effortless. Because if I’m honest with you…raising four kids and teaching high schoolers algebra takes a lot of effort and I don’t want getting dressed to require any more. 😉 Read more about how I’m letting go of some of the rules that accompany capsule wardrobes and not worrying about creating a perfect wardrobe.

My Post-Capsule Wardrobe

As I un-capsule my wardrobe and merge all of my seasonal capsules together to make one lean, cohesive, core wardrobe I am going to adopt some rough guidelines for the different types of items I include and what portion of my entire wardrobe they make up. I’m a rules gal, so I like to have some checks and balances built in to keep myself on track. There are two major categories in my post-capsule wardrobe.

First, I will have my base wardrobe, which is the framework of my wardrobe, which I estimate to be about 75-80% of my entire closet. Within this base wardrobe are my workhorse items – the items that are the most worn, most versatile, and most me – the ones I can’t live without. The rest of the base wardrobe are items that round out my collection of basic pieces, but that I wouldn’t categorize at absolute must-haves (for example seasonal pieces like denim cutoffs or items that aren’t must-have but really-really-would-like). To me they are similar to my workhorse items, but the ones I’d have an easier time parting with if someone forced me to.

The remaining 20-25% of my wardrobe will consist of statement pieces. These are the pieces that add character and bring personality into my wardrobe. Statement pieces are more on-trend styles, they could add the pop of color to a wardrobe, or push me out of my comfort zone. These are the items that ‘upstyle’ my base wardrobe.

As I build my core wardrobe I will think of these different categories as layers. I will start by identifying the workhorse items and treat those as the foundation. Then, I will fill in the rest of the base wardrobe before moving on to the statement pieces.

How to Identify Your Workhorse Items

Reflect on prior capsules

Think back to the item that were selected for your previous capsules…

  • Are there any items were included in all of your capsules? Most of them?
  • What items are non-negotiables in your capsules? These would be the item that were no-brainers as you built each of your capsules.

My response:  Skinny jeans, gray jeans, boyfriend jeans, striped tees (long sleeve, short sleeve, tank), gray long sleeve tee, chambray shirt, black dress, cardigan

Reflect on Favorite Outfits

Most people probably do not have daily documentation of their outfits in the form of #ootd pictures. I’d suggest spending some time trying to recall favorite outfits and jot them down. It may even help to go into your closet to remind yourself of certain looks you’ve pulled together.

  • Is there a common piece or style of clothing in your favorite outfits?
  • Is there a common ‘style description’ of your favorite outfits?
  • What is the ‘feeling’ of your favorite outfits? How did they feel, literally and figuratively, as you wore them? Why did they make the favorites list?

My response:  boyfriend jeans and gray sweater // any color skinny jeans and chambray shirt // maxi dress and sandals // boyfriend jeans and striped tee // pencil skirt and gray sweater

All of these looks are casual and comfortable. The looser tops conceal my belly, so I’m not self-conscious. I don’t feel like I look like I’m trying too hard to be stylish. Overall, they make me feel put together without being fussy.

Imagine you had to run out of the house right now…
  • What clothing item(s) would you grab in a hurry?
  • What is your go-to outfit?
  • Repeat this exercise for each season.

My response:  Summer: Linen shorts and striped top or a maxi dress with Birkenstocks // Fall and winter: Jeans, gray sweater, booties // Spring: Jeans, tee, and cardigan or jeans and chambray shirt.

Look for repetition in your pieces (and start thinking of condensing)
  • Do you have similar versions of the same item in your capsules? These are probably items that fit well into your wardrobe but there are slight variations in style or for weather. (i.e. short sleeve gray tee and long sleeve gray tee). This repetition may point you in the direction of your workhorse items – there is probably a reason you keep choosing similar type items.
  • As you bring all of your items together is it possible to eliminate some of the repetition to really narrow down your absolute favorite?

My response:   Tee style tops (various sleeve lengths and colors depending on the season) // Gray tee (long sleeve, short sleeve, tank) //  Striped tops (long sleeve, thicker long sleeve, short sleeve, tank) // Jeans (skinny, bootcut, boyfriend, cropped bootcut, gray, black, white) // Jackets (faux leather, utility, denim, blazer)

As I finalize my core wardrobe I will take a closer look at these repetitions to identify which is my favorite. I think that as I bring all of my capsules together I will see more items that can be eliminated, especially when compared side by side.

As you answer the above questions, are there any pieces of clothing show up over and over. These are your workhorse items.

Here is what I came up with:

identify your workhorse items

Striped tee / Striped long sleeve tee / Gray long sleeve tee (I hope to upgrade to this one) / Chambray shirt

Gray sweater / Green cardigan

Gray jeans (AG Jeans) / Boyfriend jeans (Levi’s) / Skinny jeans / Black skinny jeans

Black maxi dress (Brass Clothing) / Black pencil skirt

These twelve pieces are the first layer of my Core Wardrobe. They are the ‘foundation’ that the rest of my closet will be built upon. My workhorse items could stand on their own as a mini capsule (hmmm….now there’s an idea for another blog series). As I add in other other items, more of my personality and style will appear.

Now, head over to see how Andrea (Seasons and Salt) approached selecting her workhorse items. I love her thoughts on reducing repetition in your post-capsule wardrobe and why.
I’d love to hear what your workhorse items are. What clothing items can you not live without?

More about Paige


    1. This is so great Paige! I really love how you broke down your closet with your 80/20 guidelines, it makes so much sense! Some of my every-capsule items have been my u-neck t-shirts from Everlane. These were especially great when I was post partum and nursing. I still wear them now. And a crew neck sweatshirt, it’s a very simple one, has been in every single capsule! This is such a fun exercise. 🙂

      1. Thanks, Andrea! In the next month or so I’m going to pull everything together and really see what I have going on when I combine all of my capsules. A few guidelines will probably be necessary to keep from slipping into my old wardrobe habits 🙂

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