How to Build a Complete Wardrobe


You are intrigued by the idea of a capsule wardrobe. Minimalism sounds quite appealing when you are digging through a pile of clothes to find the right outfit. Yet, you have a closet full of pieces you love dearly so the thought of paring down to 50 items makes you want to cry. Does this sound familiar?

The reality is that a minimalist wardrobe may not be for everyone, and that is perfectly ok! (Minimalists, there will be plenty of posts for you, promise!) You can still build a wardrobe that can be easily broken down into capsules. You can tame that closet mess and make outfit planning so very fun and simple. The key is to asses your items and assign an item type and season for them. Weed out what you don't need and fill in the holes.  

On the other hand, if you're ready to try out a smaller wardrobe and learn how to mix and match outfits, the Minimalist Wardrobe Challenge may be just what you need.

Not ready for a capsule wardrobe but want to make sure your closet makes sense? Check out this complete wardrobe builder.

Where is this "complete wardrobe" coming from, you wonder? Over a decade ago, Kim France and Andrea Linett, then of Lucky Magazine, wrote The Luck Shopping Manual: Building and Improving Your Wardrobe Piece By Piece. I poured over that book, believing that if my wardrobe mirrored the requisite items in that book then I would be covered for every situation. Years later, I still stand by that belief.

(Note: the Amazon link at right is an affiliate link and I may earn a small amount of money if you click on it and make a purchase. This helps me run this blog, so thank you!)


The book sets out just what you need for a wardrobe that will carry you through seasons, then suggests extras to add in as needed. For example, if you're a skirts girl, you likely won't need more than the basic pants they suggest. Always wear pants? You won't need the extra skirt suggestions. 

The basic closet contains about 130 items, including undergarments, coats, and swimsuits. If you think of this in terms of the popular 37-item seasonal capsule, you're right in the same ballpark, particularly since this includes undies and the like! (It does not include workout clothes or seasonal sports clothing like ski gear.) Even if you added in all the extras, your closet would contain about 200 items. 

Let's take a look at what items these brilliantly stylish ladies suggested! 

All the tops

T-shirt  Basics

Twelve tees and four tanks may seem like a lot, but I bet you'd be surprised how many are lurking in your drawers! These versatile layering pieces can double as sleep or workout shirts when traveling. Plus, who doesn't love the blazer + graphic tee + jeans look? All the tee's:

2 White, 2 Black, 1 Striped, 1 Henley or Polo, 4 Tanks, 3 Solids, 3 Fun


Shirts & Blouses

One great rule to follow is three tops per bottom, whether you're planning a month of outfits or a two-week trip. Sixteen tops in a variety of styles and fabrics have you covered no matter where you are going. If you work in a casual environment or spend your days chasing after your kids, you may not need as many dressy tops. The point: adjust this template to fit your life.

Six Work Shirts

Three Fun Tops

Four Weekend Tops

Extras: More Fun Tops


Seven simple, neutral sweaters are all you need. From cozy weekend sweaters to a classic black cardigan to throw over your shoulders in an overly air-conditioned office, these basics have got you covered. If you love sweaters or live in a cold climate, add in more comfy weekend sweaters or that fun vintage find from the thrift store.

Sweater Basics

2 Fitted Pullovers, 1 Black Turtleneck, 2 Cardigans, 2 Weekend Sweaters

Sweater Extras

1 Evening Sweater, 1 Vintage Sweater, 3 More Weekend Sweaters


Below are all of the tops the Lucky editors deemed essential.

I think it's high on the t-shirt portion, but tops add a lot of outfit combinations and don't take up a ton of room, so why not?!

More than enough tops to cover every occasion!


All the Bottoms

OK, now let's tae a look at all the bottoms listed in the book. There are definitely places where you could likely decrease the number of items needed. (Not everyone needs cords, for example!) Personally, I tend to wear the same 2-3 pairs of jeans for quite a while and then refresh them every so often. 


Personally, I love skirts. I wish I could have every single skirt shown. But, if I could only have six I would still have a skirt wardrobe that would cover all of my needs.

Skirt Basics

2 All-Season Work, 1 Day to Night, 2 Summer Work, and 1 Denim


2 Summer Weekend, 1 Summer Evening, 1 Winter Evening, 1 Suede or Leather


Jeans. The staple of many a stylish woman's closet. You could certainly get by with a pair for heels, a pair for flats, and a pair for those casual weekend days, but why not throw in all these fun styles? Cords for winter will keep you warm, while white jeans are a celebrity summer favorite. 

Pairs: 1 for Heels, 1 for Flats, 1 White, 1 Weekend, 1 Corduroy, 1 Favorite, 2+ Fun


Nine pairs of pants seem like a lot to me, but then again, I'm pretty happy with one pair of comfy black pants that take me from day to night. I'm trying to work more pants into my rotation, though, so these ideas keep me from buying yet another pair of black pants! If you never wear skirts, sixteen pairs of pants will be your allies from years to come. 

Pant Basics

3 Winter Work, 2 All-Season Weekend, 3 Summer Work, 1 Evening

Pants Extras

More Winter Work, More Fun, Velvet, More Summer Work

All the basic bottoms you'd ever need!


If I could wear dresses every day I'm not wearing black pants, I probably would. Six dresses for warmer weather and six for colder months make sure you have the perfect dress for that big work presentation and that chic little number for your friend's wedding.

Summer: 2 Weekend Dresses, 1 Daytime Party Dress

Summer: 2 Work Dresses, 1 Evening Dress

Winter: 2 Work Dresses, 1 Weekend Dress

Winter: 2 Party Dresses, 1 Evening Dress


If you don't need to wear suits for work, you might be tempted to skip this group. Feel free, but consider the versatility of a black skirt or pant suit you can mix and match. 

2 Classic, 1 Skirt, 2 Fun, 1 Evening


Stay tuned for the bags, shoes, jackets, etc. that will round out your full-sized wardrobe, as well as a full list of items

Now that you have taken a look at these recommendations, how do you feel? Are you overwhelmed by the number of items? Or, are you feeling inspired by all the options?