How to Build a Versatile Fall Capsule Wardrobe

Want to build a fall capsule wardrobe? With the right essential pieces, you can effortlessly create a near-endless number of autumn-worthy outfits. Here’s everything you need for a well-rounded fall capsule that will last for years to come.

Fall is here! Time to kiss summer goodbye and spice up your wardrobe with a fall capsule. I’ll walk you through my simple 5-step process to help you create an awesome fall wardrobe that’s both stylish and simple. So, what are you waiting for? Let’s get capsule-ing!

What is a fall capsule wardrobe?

A fall capsule wardrobe is a carefully curated collection of stylish and timeless fall pieces that easily mix and match, allowing you to create a ton of different looks with minimal time and effort. It’s the perfect way to simplify your wardrobe and get the most out of your clothes. The capsule wardrobe trend dates back to the ’70s, so you know it’s got staying power!

Benefits of a fall capsule wardrobe

There is no shortage of perks when you have a carefully curated fall capsule wardrobe. Not only does it reduce decision fatigue, but it helps you save time, money, and the planet. A capsule wardrobe helps you invest in fewer but better quality, classic pieces that won’t go out of style. So, you don’t have to constantly replace low-quality items or worry about trendy pieces that fall flat after a season. Plus, you’ll have more time for the important things in life rather than rummaging through your closet every morning.

 How to build a fall capsule wardrobe (5 simple steps)

Ready to level up your style this fall? Building a capsule wardrobe is the key! It might take a little time and effort upfront, but I promise it will be worth it. Here’s how I help my clients build their perfect timeless fall capsule wardrobe.

Step 1: Figure out your style and lifestyle needs 

Take a step back and consider your personal style and the items you need for the Fall.

  • Where are you living, and what’s the fall weather like?
  • What are your typical daily activities?
  • How do you dress for work vs. the weekend?
  • What items do you wear most in your closet?
  • What looks are you most drawn to? Unsure? Head to Pinterest or Instagram to explore.
  • What items do you need to enhance or update your style?
  • What colors make you happy and compliment your skin tone?

My free capsule wardrobe checklist is a great place to jot these things down and keep track of what you already have and what you need for your fall capsule wardrobe. Grab your copy below!

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Step 2: Choose your capsule pieces (fall capsule wardrobe checklist)

Some of the links below are affiliate links, which means I may earn a small commission if you click through and make a purchase (at no additional cost to you). I only link to brands I believe in, so thank you for supporting Modern Minimalism.

No, let’s get down to the nitty-gritty and start building your fall capsule wardrobe. Before you hit the stores, start by going through your existing wardrobe. You likely already own a lot of the essentials!

Need a little inspiration? Here’s a list of timeless fall staples, including some of my favorite capsule items that can be combined to create a variety of looks. 

It’s really helpful to jot down the items in your capsule wardrobe and make note of items you’re missing on my handy capsule wardrobe checklist. This way, you can easily see what you have and what you need and start envisioning what you can create! So don’t forget to grab that (above) and print a copy before you get started.

Sweaters (3-4)

Sweaters are an absolutely essential piece for any fall capsule wardrobe. They’re so versatile and come in a range of weights, styles, and colors —which means you’ll be comfortable no matter the weather or time of day. 

So, what are the three types of sweaters you need? A cardigan, light or mid-weight sweater, and a chunky knit.

To style a cardigan, go for a timeless look and pair it with a button-up shirt, jeans, and trainers. For a more modern take, try a cropped cardigan with a slim tank top, a high-waisted midi skirt, and chunky boots or sneakers. Or, for a more sophisticated look, layer a long cardigan over a slip-dress and add some heels, sneakers, or chunky boots. I snagged the previous version of this Chunky knit cardigan from Everlane on sale and wear it all the time. I sized up, but the newer version (linked here) seems more true to size.

For a light or mid-weight sweater, tuck it into a pair of tailored wide-leg trousers and add a statement necklace for a workwear-appropriate look. Then, layer it under a vest and top it off with a blazer for a stylish, layered fall look.

A chunky knit sweater can look cool and casual when paired with leather leggings, knee-high lug sole boots, or riding boots. To dress it up, try tucking it into a midi skirt and pairing it with a simple belt. Add a slim leather belt to accentuate your waist if the sweater is long, and pair it with mid-calf boots that hit just above where the skirt ends. This chunky striped cotton sweater from H&M and oversized alpaca-blend sweater from ARKET look cozy and incredibly versatile.

Tops & blouses (3-4)

For your fall wardrobe, you’ll want to have a few versatile tops and blouses that you can layer and dress up or down. Look for neutral colors and different styles that can make the transition from the office to an evening out —and also look great when paired with jeans. Some great pieces to add to your capsule include: 

  • A white button-down shirt is perfect for layering under a cozy sweater or tailored blazer. I love this Vintage Wash Tencel Camp Shirt from Quince and find the short sleeve even more versatile and easy to wear than a long sleeve.
  • A versatile silk blouse can easily take you from the office to date night. I added this Clean Silk Square Shirt in a cinnamon color from Everlane to my summer capsule and it will get a lot of wear out of it this fall, too. I get lazy about the dry cleaners and wash it by hand —a little dish soap on grease stains and soaking in cold water goes a long way! Everlane also makes a beautiful washable long-sleeve silk blouse.
  • A slim turtleneck is a perfect top for wide-leg jeans and trousers —just tuck it in, and you’re good to go. Layer it under a sweater or blazer for extra interest and warmth.

Basic tees, tank tops, and bodysuits (5-6)

I’m all about having a few key basics to get me through all the seasons! Comfy tees, close-fitting tank tops, and bodysuits in neutral tones are essential for those warm autumn days, as well as helping to add layers for when it gets a bit chillier. 

Close-fitting tees, tank tops, and bodysuits balance out your bulkier pieces like chunky cardigans, oversized blazers, and wide-leg jeans and trousers.  

Of course, you can never go wrong with a classic t-shirt and jeans combo. Take it to the next level with a tuck, a belt, and some jewelry, or pair it with wide-leg trousers for a timelessly chic look. 

Here are some of my must-haves: 

  • A sleek bodysuit is key for layering when you want a more polished look. I like to wear mine under blazers, cardigans, and lower-cut or semi-sheer sweaters.
  • Basic cotton tanks like the rib tank top from ARKET are a great casual base layer.
  • A crisp white tee will forever and always be a capsule wardrobe staple as it is timeless and versatile. The Conrad T-shirt from Sezane is my favorite casual crew neck, and the Mae Drapey Tee from ABLE drapes like a dream. The Clean Cut t-shirt from COS is a great heavyweight white tee with a bit more structure, making it perfect for fall.
  • A sleek black tee is a capsule must-have; it works with absolutely everything. 
  • A printed or graphic t-shirt can add just the right amount of personality to any look. 
  • A knit tee or wool tank gives off a slightly more sophisticated vibe and is perfect for wearing solo on those warmer days, but it can also be worn as an extra layer when the temperatures drop. 
  • A long-sleeve top (like this from ARKET) is great for layering under other pieces or styling up with a pair of statement trousers or wide-leg jeans.

Elevated sweatshirt (1-2)

For a relaxed yet stylish look this fall, an elevated sweatshirt is a must-have item for your capsule wardrobe. 

Here are a few  styling ideas: 

  • Keep it cozy with leggings and sneakers.
  • Tuck it into wide-leg trousers for a casual-cool outfit. 
  • Pair it with a white button-down, jeans, and mules for a subtle chic look
  • Tuck it into a midi skirt with boots or sneakers for a trendy vibe. 

My current favorites are this Striped Oversized Sweatshirt from ARKET (old) and the ReNew Fleece Oversized Sweatshirt from Everlane. I’ve bought the Everlane one several different times in different colors.

Oversized blazer (1-2)

A timeless oversized blazer is a must-have item for your capsule wardrobe. Not only does it add a touch of sophistication, but it can also double as outerwear with a couple of warm layers underneath when the weather starts to cool down. Go for a more casual look, like camel, khaki green, plaid, or houndstooth, for a blazer that won’t look too formal. 

  • Style it up with your favorite athleisure pieces – like black leggings and knee-high boots or a pair of joggers and stylish sneakers. 
  • For a summer-to-fall transition outfit, pair your blazer with high-waisted shorts and knee-high boots or sandals. 
  • To create an hourglass silhouette, cinch it at the waist with a statement belt.

I recently got this gorgeous oversize blazer from Zara, and I love how it can dress up an outfit without looking too formal. I even changed out the black buttons for lighter tortoiseshell ones so that I can wear it with black, brown, and cream-colored accessories.

Reformation Winston Blazer

& Other Stories Wool Blazer

Denim jeans (2-3)

Fall is the perfect season to break out (or break in!) a classic pair of jeans. There’s nothing like a slim, straight-leg pair that hits a couple of inches above the ankle. Not only do they flatter, but they look good with any style of shoe – from chunky boots and loafers to ballet flats and pointy stilettos. Plus, they never go out of style. 

The Mom High-Waist Jeans from Mango are my current favorite (size down and let them stretch out for a day!), as well as the Brut Sexy from Sezane (fits snug at first but TTS).

Wide-leg jeans are another classic style that is having a moment in the spotlight this season. Cropped or culotte wide-leg jeans look great with boots, a tucked sweater, and a belt. Just make sure the bottoms of the jeans cover the top of the boot for a longer, more streamlined look.

Making a monochromatic look is one of my favorite ways to wear colored denim (for example, cream or black jeans) in the fall. To do this, pair your colored jeans with a top and shoes in the same color family.

Trousers (2-3)

This past year, I’ve really started to appreciate how versatile a good pair of trousers can be for creating effortless yet elevated outfits. They offer the perfect balance between comfort and sophistication, even when paired with a casual graphic tee. 

Wide-leg trousers provide a more relaxed, flowy fit, while straight-leg trousers create a sleeker, more structured look. Personally, I find wide-leg trousers to be more flattering on my frame and easier to make those cool casual looks. 

Here are a few tips for styling trousers,

  • Chunky boots and sneakers can make wide-leg trousers look bottom-heavy. To balance the proportions and create a more streamlined look, choose a slimmer shoe or boot.
  • Pair your trousers with a cool graphic tee and trendy sneakers for an effortlessly stylish and relaxed look. Thrown on a classic denim jacket for even more street-style flair.
  • High-waisted wide-leg trousers look great with a slim bodysuit or tank and an open, cropped cardigan thrown over. 
  • Carrot trousers are on-trend for 2023, but their slightly cropped, tapered silhouette makes them a wardrobe staple with staying power.
  • My current favorite trousers are these high-waisted culotte trousers from Zara. I have them in black and ecru and wear them with boots and sneakers in the fall.

Black leggings (1-2)

Black leggings are a great foundation for creating cute, comfy outfits with minimal effort. Even if you don’t work out, you can’t go wrong with a pair of black leggings!

My go-to leggings are the Ultra-High Rise Elation leggings from Athleta. They’re as soft as butter, fully opaque, and hug me in all the right places. I’m 5’ 4”, and the ⅞ length fits perfectly. I also have several friends who love the Faux Leather Leggings and the Booty Boost ⅞ Legging from SPANX

You can style them in so many ways. 

  • For balance, pair leggings with looser tops like a cozy, oversized sweater, a long cardigan, or a cozy shirt jacket. Style your outfit with layers like a white button-down or tee underneath, a statement belt or bag, and jewelry. 
  • Pair them with a neutral, street-style sneaker (not your workout shoes!) for a casual look, or black, knee-high boots or a pair of nude flats for a more elevated vibe.

Knit dress (1)

An easy way to add an element of comfort and style to your fall wardrobe is with a cozy knit dress! From long to midi lengths, a sweater dress is guaranteed to keep you warm while making you look effortlessly chic. 

Here are a few ways you can style a knit dress for fall and winter.

  • Create effortless looks by layering over your knit dress. A long cardigan, a cropped chunky knit, an oversized blazer, or a cropped denim or leather jacket will all bring dimension and interest to your outfit. 
  • Add a wide or narrow belt as a focal point and dress it up with heeled boots for a long, sleek appearance. 
  • Keep it cool with stylish sneakers and a denim jacket for an elevated casual look.

Midi skirt (1)

Looking for something to bring your wardrobe to the next level? A midi skirt may be just what you need. Both comfortable and chic, midi skirts have a hemline that falls between the knee and ankle, making them an ideal fall piece to dress up or dress down —no matter the weather.

Here are some ideas for ways you can wear a midi skirt this fall: 

  • Tuck in a blouse or sweater, and add a belt to define your waistline. 
  • Contrast your midi skirt with something more casual, like a thick cotton t-shirt and slim, fashionable sneakers. 
  • Add a cropped jacket, long blazer, or trench for balanced proportions. 
  • For a monochromatic look, try tucking in a slim-fitting turtleneck or long-sleeve shirt of the same color, and add a matching scarf or belt for interest.

The Naelle Skirt from Sezane would be a perfect midi skirt for a fall capsule that you could wear through the winter as well. 

Trench coat or parka (1)

A timeless trench coat is the perfect way to add a bit of refinement and style to any outfit. It’s lightweight enough for cool mornings and roomy enough to layer when the weather gets colder. & Other Stories has lots of great trench coats in a variety of colors. If a trench isn’t your style, a neutral parka (like this one from Madewell) is another great option.

When picking the perfect coat, think about the base colors of your wardrobe and your shoes, bags, and belts. If you have a lot of browns and tans and cream in your wardrobe, a traditional camel or stone-colored trench may work well. If you’re all about black, you may want to go with an olive green, gray, or black color. 

Whatever coat you have, make sure it’s comfortable, warm enough for where you live, and roomy enough to wear layers underneath.

Shorter jacket or coat (1)

Go for a shorter jacket this season for the perfect balance of effortless cool, and casual vibes. Bomber jackets, denim jackets, and leather jackets in cropped styles can add just the right amount of edge to your outfit. 

  • Layer a short denim jacket over a maxi dress with boots for a transitioning summer-to-fall look, or pair one with a midi or maxi skirt and sneakers for a classic and laidback appearance. I’ve heard really good things about the Merly Jacket from ABLE, but you also can’t go wrong with a classic Levis denim jacket.
  • A roomy bomber jacket is a great casual jacket perfect for layering on cooler fall days. 
  • A cropped leather trench over a blouse and high-waisted trousers can make a bold statement and elevate a basic t-shirt and jeans.

Neutral sneakers (1-2)

For days when you want to look and feel comfy but still make a statement, a pair of fashionable, neutral sneakers is the way to go. 

You can’t go wrong with white sneakers, but for ultimate versatility, look for a pair with a neutral color palette —such as black, brown, and white, or beige, white, and brown, like in these New Balance sneakers. This way, they’ll mix and match more of your wardrobe pieces and accessories.

Mix and match your sneakers with more formal items in your wardrobe for an interesting contrast, for example, with a pair of trousers and a T-shirt, jeans and a blazer, or a longer skirt and cropped cardigan.

If you’re on the hunt, & Other Stories always has a great collection of stylish, neutral, minimalist sneakers.

Neutral flats (2-3)

Flat shoes take center stage for both style and comfort and can adapt to your style, whether you’re going for a casual or polished look.

Pointy flats, ballet flats, mules, and loafers are all great options for a fall capsule wardrobe and can elevate your autumn outfits with ease. I like to have a pair in each base color of my wardrobe (black, brown, and ecru), so I have a coordinating pair of flats for every outfit.

  • For a timeless and cozy look, try pairing classic black or neutral-toned ballet flats with straight-leg jeans and a chunky sweater. 
  • If you’re going for something a bit more sophisticated, slip on some pointed flats with a midi skirt, a tucked-in blouse or sweater, and a statement necklace. I love mine from Rothy’s.
  • Mules and loafers are also a great go-to for effortless everyday wear. Try them with slim, straight-leg jeans and a cozy cardigan.

Nude heels (1)

If you’re looking for a go-to pair of heels to add to your wardrobe, nude is the way to go. Not only will they elongate your legs, but they work with just about any outfit —from neutrals to bold patterns, sleek dresses to destroyed denim jeans.

A classic pointed nude pump is perfect for fall fashion. I have a leather pair from Zara, but the Hazel Pump from Sam Edelman comes in a few different shades, perfect for any skin tone.

Heeled boots (1-2)

Heeled boots are the perfect way to add some extra height and flair to your look. I always prefer boots with a thicker heel for maximum comfort and wearability. Heeled boots can be worn with almost any type of bottom, from jeans and trousers to dresses and skirts of various lengths.

  • Shorter boots that reach the middle of the calf (not cut off at the ankle) create a sleek and elongated effect with just about any bottoms.
  • For knee-high boots, choose a style that’s not too tight around your calf. Something with a little room will work with more in your wardrobe. For example, you could wear these heeled leather boots over leggings or slim trousers, as well as with skirts and dresses.
  • A shorter boot with a slimmer fit around the calf, like the heeled leather Chelsea boot from & Other Stories, is great to wear under longer skirts, dresses, cropped jeans, trousers, and straight-leg, wide-leg, flare, or bootcut jeans. 
  • Instantly tie your look together by adding a matching belt, scarf, coat, or bag.

Classic leather tote (1)

A large leather tote bag is a wardrobe must-have for any season, but especially fall when maybe you’re running around between work, school, and social obligations and have a laptop or umbrella in tow. 

A good leather tote can be an investment, but it will last for years. I’ve had Cuyana’s Zipper Tote (stone color) for ages, and it’s still a go-to favorite. I’m also loving their Easy Tote, which is a newer, more minimalist style.

Leather cross-body bag (1-2)

Since becoming a mom, I’ve found that my crossbody bag is essential for keeping my hands free. It’s a timeless piece too, and its size makes it ideal for everyday use. 

My go-to for the last couple of years has been the Arpege from Cocinelle in black pebbled leather. Unfortunately, this bag seems to have been discontinued, but you can find other saddle styles that look great and are super functional.

I’ve had my eye on the Number One Nano from Polene for more than a year now. They have so many color options, but I personally think the tri-color, chalk, or textured tan color would look amazing with camel, brown, and cream-colored accessories.

Neutral leather belts (2-3)

A classic leather belt is the perfect way to add emphasis and interest to any minimalist look. My styling tip? Coordinate your shoes and bag to tie together any outfit with ease.

Arket and & Other Stories have lovely, affordable, minimalist leather belts. I have one from each brand and wear them multiple times per week! 

Timeless jewelry

Sometimes, all you need to make an outfit look complete is a little bit of bling. Add an elegant gold necklace or a pair of statement-making gold hoops, and you’re good to go. 

If you’re looking for a few must-have pieces, these croissant dome huggies earrings and bold herringbone necklace from Mejuri have a beautiful, classic, vintage vibe.

Cozy scarf, gloves, and hat (1 set)

A stylish hat, scarf, and a pair of gloves (or mittens if you’ve got cold fingers like me) will add interest and warmth to your fall outfits. A neutral-colored set will fit right in with the rest of your fall capsule wardrobe.

Step 3: Create 10-15 everyday outfits

You did it! You’ve edited your wardrobe. Now, it’s time to put your newfound pieces to good use. 

Your goal now is to create 10 (or more) everyday outfits with the items you’ve selected for your fall capsule. Not only do pre-planned outfits make you feel comfortable and confident, but they’ll also save you a ton of time and energy when you’re getting dressed. 

So take some time to yourself, relax, breathe… and when you’re ready, get to work on those outfits! 

Here are a few tips to help you get started:

  • Start with one pair of bottoms or denim. See how many combos you can create with the rest of your capsule pieces. 
  • Get inspired by Pinterest. Search for outfit ideas with the pieces you’ve chosen. Pin the looks that you love. If you’re missing something, see if you can substitute it for something else you already own.
  • Don’t forget layers, shoes, and accessories. They can really level up an outfit.
  • Take photos of your fav looks. Keep them in a Fall Capsule folder on your phone, or jot down the details on your checklist. 
  • Identify any gaps in your wardrobe. Plan to purchase them within the next couple of weeks.  
  • Check for weak links. If an item only works 1 or 2 ways, consider if it’s worth keeping. 

Step 4: Declutter & organize your closet

Now that you’ve got your essential fall capsule pieces all picked out, it’s time to declutter and get organized. Whether you’re jumping into minimalism or simply separating out your fall essentials, here’s how to make it happen:

  • Get set up. Grab some storage bins, baskets, or trash bags to help with organization.
  • Empty your closet or create a designated fall capsule zone. This is key if you want a fresh start this season.
  • Sort & evaluate. Go through the items you didn’t include in your capsule. Decide if each item has a purpose or can potentially fill a gap in your capsule. 
  • Donate, sell, or recycle unwanted items. If something is damaged or doesn’t fit your style or lifestyle, set it aside for donation or recycling. 
  • Store other items elsewhere. Moving off-season items to another closet or putting them in clear storage bins will keep them from cluttering your everyday space. If you’re not ready to let go completely of something, store it in a separate “unsure” box, bag, or bin for the time being and revisit it in a few months. If you haven’t missed it, you can probably let it go.

Step 5: Maintain your fall capsule wardrobe

Even if you’re a capsule wardrobe pro, chances are you’ll need to make some tweaks and changes over the next few months. Check-in with your fall capsule wardrobe throughout the season. If something isn’t working, change it up or update it as needed! 

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Author: Elle Penner M.P.H., R.D.

I'm Elle, Registered Dietitian and minimalism-obsessed mama with a thing for simplifying, particularly when it comes to clutter, calendars, and family meals. Favorite things include carbs, cooking, kid-free workouts, and high-waisted yoga pants.