My capsule wardrobe

Capsule wardrobe

I've followed Project 333 for a few years now, and before I created my very own Scandinavian Wardrobe formula (sign up HERE to learn more about that), I found a lot of help in the 4x4 capsule wardrobe system of The Vivienne Files. Not being much of a rule follower, I have adapted both of these to fit my everyday life.

I ask the readers of my emails to submit questions and topics that they would like me to cover, and one of the responses was this: "Would you share snapshots of your own closet and wardrobe (if this is not too personal and invasive!) and sample outfits?". So this article is an answer to this request. I'm going to show you how I transition my wardrobe from season to season.

Capsule wardrobe spring 2022

Nordic Simplicity capsule wardrobe

When spring rolls around, you long for change. It doesn't always have to involve buying something new.

Sometimes the refreshing feel can be found from diving into the box of clothes that you put aside in fall, when the weather got cooler.

Other times, it's just a matter of switching around some items that are already hanging in your closet and finding new combination to wear them.

Sometimes, a couple of new purchases can rejuvenate your whole wardrobe.

When you know your Season, you can build a basic wardrobe of your best neutrals, and add a few colours from your palette to bring life and interest to your outfits.

Neutral basics

And here are the basics of my wardrobe. If you've followed this blog you will remember most of these items from earlier blog posts. So starting on the left, my trusty black leather belt (usually attached to my jeans but removed for the sake of this photo). Left row going down: a grey cardigan, white linen sleeveless top (because: hot flashes), white cotton T-shirt. Next row: grey boxy merino wool sweater (because: Norway), longer grey merino wool sweater, white (almost icy yellow) mohair sweater. Third row: black fancy pants, black jeans, black loafers. Last row: black & white skirt, black pumps, white sneakers. 

Not shown: charcoal grey hiking pants, light grey long sleeved linen top (because I'm wearing them at the time I took these photos) and various rain coats, knitted hats, mittens and scarves. (because: Norway. My knitted hats are never quite packed away)

Nordic Simplicity capsule wardrobe

A note about shoes

The black loafers have been with me for a long time. Last year, I felt it was time to upgrade my shoe selection and I bought these killer white sneakers, and I love them. They add instant spiffy to every outfit. And then the pumps. Do you remember that time when I said I won't wear heels? Like ever? I stand corrected, because I can wear these. They are ridiculously expensive, but I have been saving up. The brand is Roccamore. I wore them all night on Christmas eve with the family, and I can proudly tell you that at the end of the evening I was the only woman in the house who was still wearing heels, and not even thinking about taking them off. Yes. They really are that comfortable. I may actually dedicate a whole blog article to them at some stage.

Core wardrobe or capsule wardrobe

Capsule wardrobe and basic wardrobe are two concepts that are used interchangeably. There is a nuance in the wording that you might want to think about. A capsule encloses, it seems finite somehow. I don't feel we should be restricted, so in some ways I prefer core wardrobe. A core is something like a backbone, something that we build out from.

And that's how you should feel about your core wardrobe.

It's basic and consists of timeless items in neutral colours, items that you know and cherish and don't mind being seen in again and again, day after day.

It's important that you know your best neutrals and use them in your core wardrobe and invest in the best items that your budget allows.

And THEN. Add colour. 

Here are the colourful additions to my core wardrobe:

Nordic Simplicity capsule wardrobe

I have temporarily retired my Little Black Dress in favour of this Little Red Dress. It's merino wool, but spring in Norway is chilly. 

Add to that a bright coral sweater, an exquisite red silk shirt (it really is divine, and thrifted for next to nothing, justifying the expensive Roccamore heels), my good old acid yellow cardigan, and blue jeans (also bought second- or possibly third-hand).

Let's have a look at how to make outfits.

Nordic Simplicity capsule wardrobe

This is an outfit that you'll see me in frequently. I love this combination. 

I noticed a woman in London wearing a similar outfit, I wrote about that outfit HERE (scroll down to November 2021 people watching), and as I already owned this skirt, black tights and white sneakers, I promptly went ahead and knitted a white mohair sweater to recreate this stunning look. Nifty, yes?

But colour. Let's add colour:

One neutral, two colours

Nordic Simplicity capsule wardrobe

Blue jeans, white T-shirt, white sneakers and a yellow cardigan. Being a Bright Winter, this combination of white with blue and yellow is just what I need to get the right amount of contrast. 

If you're not a Winter, your ideal level of contrast will be considerably lower, your neutrals will be different and so will the colours you combine with them, but you'll always look great in one of your neutrals combined with two of your colours.

Two neutrals, one colour

You'll also find that mixing two of your neutrals with one of your colours is very effective also. Here's a Bright Winter mix that I adore. And by just switching out the shoes, I can dress the same outfit up or make it casual and relaxed:

Nordic Simplicity capsule wardrobe
Nordic Simplicity capsule wardrobe

Shake it up a little: An irreverent version of the crisp white shirt.

Almost every article out there about the 10 item wardrobe or capsule wardrobe mentions the crisp white shirt.

I've had several, but in the name of colour, I've ditched mine and replaced it with this daringly red pure silk shirt that I gleefully bought from an online second-hand marketplace for buying and selling used items. 

Shirt? Jacket? Shacket?

The beautiful thing about button-down shirts is that they can be used over a T-shirt or camisole as a light jacket-layer, which makes it one of the most versatile items of your spring/summer wardrobe:

Nordic Simplicity capsule wardrobe
Nordic Simplicity capsule wardrobe

This is what my real-life basic wardrobe will look like this spring. I literally and proudly use the same outfits over and over, and I'll admit that the neutral items will get more use than the colourful items, but that's how I like it. At least I have the possibility to choose colourful outfits when I want to.

What are your thoughts on neutrals versus colours in your basic, day-to-day wardrobe? Go ahead and leave a comment below with your questions and thoughts!

Below, you can see some of my previous capsule wardrobes:

Capsule wardrobe fall 2020

Capsule wardrobe basics

The basics of my capsule wardrobe

October 2020 and a new chance to bring out the beloved merino wool sweaters, warm tights and short skirts. 

I roughly follow the 4x4 system when thinking out what clothes to bring back into the rotation, starting with the basic 4: Two tops and two tops in dark neutrals, and two tops and two bottoms in lighter neutrals. 

And as usual I break the rules before I have even started, because I hardly ever use light neutrals for my bottoms.

In my defence, I am picking three tops in ligther neutrals. And I have two skirts and one pair of black jeans as my basic bottoms, leaving room to buy a grey skirt that I have been coveting for some time now.

I prefer natural fibres such as merino wool, linen and cotton.

As you can see, there are several ways to style this up and down, mostly down since I prefer a very casual style for my practical, work-from-home business, and by adding jewelry and scarves to these outfits they are suited to my lifestyle and personal preferences, although I'll admit that if you think I'm only wearing this, the wardrobe looks a little boring.

But remember, these are only the basic items! Scroll down to see what happens when I bring in my mileage items.

Nordic Simplicity basic capsule wardrobe

Black jeans, white cotton shirt (thrifted and switched buttons, the buttons cost more than the shirt), grey merino wool sweater.

Nordic Simplicity basic capsule wardrobe

Thrifted white cotton shirt (the one with the snazzy buttons), dark grey A-line wool skirt. Can go to any meeting wearing this.

Nordic Simplicity basic capsule wardrobe

Super casual outfit with loose fitting linen top with wool skirt. 

Nordic Simplicity basic capsule wardrobe

Straight black merino wool skirt, quite formal but super comfy, and grey merino wool sweater.

Nordic Simplicity basic capsule wardrobe

The formal straight black merino wool skirt paired with the cotton shirt and grey merino wool cardigan.

Nordic Simplicity basic capsule wardrobe

Straight black skirt, white shirt, merino wool sweater.

The mileage items

Mileage items are clothes that combine the two basic colours or neutrals that you use for your basic core wardrobe. In my case, I go for black, white and grey.

Nordic Simplicity capsule wardrobe, mileage items

A-line skirt in black with white checkered pattern. Nice and bright, and looks great with opaque tights and tall boots.

Nordic Simplicity capsule wardrobe, mileage items

Another merino wool sweater, in a pattern of black, grey and light silver grey. A bright blue narrow edge along the neckline for added interest.

My mileage items are: a skirt in black and white, and a merino wool sweater in black, grey and very light grey.

Now comes the fun part. I will be wearing some bright pink and bright yellow with my neutrals this fall.

The expansion items

Expansion items are items that brighten up your wardrobe and brings in colour. You can call them statement items. I seldom want to make a statement, but I like to wear my colours. Hang tight, the capsule wardrobe is about to get some colour:

Nordic Simplicity capsule wardrobe - the expansion items

Bright canary yellow wool cardigan, with black-and-white zebra buttons.

Nordic Simplicity capsule wardrobe - the expansion items

Yellow cardigan combined with straight black skirt and the patterned merino will sweater

This bright yellow cardigan is one of my favourite pieces of clothing.

And I think it complements the neutral items in my wardrobe so nicely.

Nordic Simplicity capsule wardrobe - the expansion items
Nordic Simplicity capsule wardrobe - the expansion items

Bright pink is my other expansion colour.

I also have a cardigan in a deeper purple/fuchsia pink, which I will also wear, for variation and warmth.

Nordic Simplicity capsule wardrobe - the expansion items

The beauty of knowing your Season is that once you start putting together a wardrobe in your palette, you know that all the items in your wardrobe go together. 

For example, I could choose to wear my yellow cardigan on top of the pink top, for extra impact.

Not something I would do every day, but it is entirely possible and would look quite normal on me, not over the top. Would you wear those two colours together, if you were a Bright Winter?

Capsule wardrobe spring 2020

Capsule wardrobe

I start by emptying my closet and dumping all the clothes on my bed. 

Then I also find the clothes in my spring/summer box and put them on the bed also.

And then, I get out a bucket of soapy water and clean the hangers and the walls and my shoe rack. It's all wood (this is Scandinavia after all) and smells fresh afterwards, ready for the spring clothes selection.

Capsule wardrobe

4 bottoms

According to the 4x4 capsule wardrobe system, I should choose one dark and one light neutral colour for my basic clothes. I use mostly black and light grey for these staple items.

I use short skirts mainly in winter when I can combine them with opaque tights. In spring/summer I use mainly trousers. 

So, three black pairs (I'm wearing the third) and one pair light grey.

Capsule wardrobe

4 tops

Sleeveless linen top, black

Long sleeved silk blouse, black

Merino wool sweater, light grey

Merino wool sweater, black

Yes, two merino wool sweaters. This is Norway. I never pack away my woolens.

I will replace one of the wool sweaters with a long sleeved linen top in light grey later this season.

Capsule wardrobe

The mileage 4 

These are the items that expand the combination possibilities.

Short sleeved linen top, yellow

Skirt with floral pattern, black/grey/yellow

Two sleeveless dresses, linen, both of them black. Yes, two.

I like linen. I like dresses. I like black.

Oh yes and a white cotton shirt, not pictured because I'm wearing it.

Capsule wardrobe

The expansion 4

Three cardigans, all in thin merino wool. I love cardigans and use them all year. One black, one grey and one red.

One cotton sweater, long sleeved, bright coral.

Capsule wardrobe

And this is what it looks like on hangers in my wardrobe.

I also have one pair of sneakers, a pair of pumps, a pair of red ballerina flats, rain boots and (not pictured here) a pair of black loafers.

Oh yes and that's my pair of 20 year old Teva sandals bottom left. They really do last for a long time, don't they? I may or may not invest in new sandals this year. I also have a pair of black Birkenstock sandals (not pictured).

Capsule wardrobe


1 vintage lucite necklace, bright pink

4 silver necklaces

3 belts. I am trying to get better at accessorising, so I have invested in three belts.  If I don't wear them enough during the next year, I'll probably donate them to the local thrift shop.

I also have lots of hats, scarves and mittens, not pictured here.

Capsule wardrobe


In addition to what hangs in my closet, I have some outerwear.

4 knitted sweaters

2 raincoats, one grey and one red

1 fake leather biker jacket, dark grey

1 super cool zebra stripe statement coat (Finnish brand Aino) with bright purple lining, which I absolutely love. I don't wear it all that often, but it makes me feel fabulous when I do.

This is my very real capsule wardrobe for spring 2020.

I haven't counted the items, and I don't really care if it's more than 33 items. It fits me, my style and my lifestyle and that's what matters.

About the author, Jorunn Hernes

Jorunn is a Certified Personal Colour Analyst, founder of Nordic Simplicity and Scandinavian Style Academy™, the fresh, simple, Scandinavian approach to getting dressed. Jorunn will avoid social settings with more than three people but can be lured out with snacks and the promise to talk about books.

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