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I started building my capsule wardrobe accidentally. As a “plus-size” woman, it’s incredibly difficult to find high-quality, classic pieces to invest in. A lot of the available options come from fast fashion brands, so they don’t last long and tend to be seasonally trend-specific. I was constantly staring at my wardrobe thinking I had nothing to wear and reaching for the same five pieces of clothing over and over again.
When I realized how much I was relying on a few items, I figured I needed to rethink the way I shop. Thus, I began to expand on my existing capsule wardrobe of five pieces (a skirt, two T-shirts, a cardigan, and a button-down).
The phrase “capsule wardrobe” or “capsule closet” gets thrown around frequently, so here’s a refresher on what it actually means: It’s a collection of timeless staples that comprehend the bones of your closet. These are pieces you’ll wear year in, year out — even as trends cycle through. Theoretically, I suppose you could rely on fast fashion pieces for this, but quality-wise they probably won’t last very long, which is why a capsule wardrobe tends to be investment pieces. The proliferation of pay-in-installment services has also made some of the splurges possible for me where they weren’t previously.
Because I’m both a New Yorker and prone to mystery stains and spilling, I rely heavily on a black palette, though I am trying to experiment with lighter colors because wearing a white T-shirt seems like something a 27-year-old should be able to do.
So far, my capsule closet encompasses 20 pieces. That may seem like a lot, but this includes small things like underwear and socks, and some of these are season-specific (I am not wearing denim shorts in the winter). If you are aware of brands not mentioned here that make plus-size, size-inclusive staples, please get in touch because as far as I can tell, the market is thin (despite the lip service paid to body positivity).
Discover my capsule wardrobe below:
The outerwear in my capsule collection includes a cozy cotton cardigan from Everlane (because everyone needs an easy layering piece) and a denim jacket from Something Navy. The latter is a bit maximalist, but that is who I am at heart, and it’s a two-in-one blazer and coat that I didn’t know I needed. I sometimes wear it over my go-to breathable bodysuit from Parade.
Skims is a great place to go for size-inclusive basics (though the fact that many pieces sell out frequently is a little bit of a hassle), and I can’t go without its comfy cotton t-shirt. Then there’s the Parade bodysuit I layer underneath sheer clothing or too-short crop tops. My Reformation Sky Top is the most expensive shirt I own, but my god is it worth it — I wear the silky top for days on end. The Free People Lady Lux lace top is another hit that’s great for layering, and I know this because not only do I own it in three colors, but it’s also constantly selling out.
I have not worn pants in 14 years, so there is none of that nonsense here — but I do own these BDG shorts in several washes. Besides the pull-on skirts from Showpo and J.Crew, which are easy to pair with anything, there’s also this slip dress from Monki. Though I don’t own the exact dress mentioned, I bought a similar one from the brand years ago and wear it at least twice a week (both a dress and underneath a top to function as a skirt).
Lace and frilly bras are my love language, but as a 38DD, I turn to Cuup and Natori for everyday staples that offer enough support. For underwear, I rely on the mid-rise bikini from Universal Standard because it’s more comfortable than wearing nothing, while sturdy crew socks (which come in packs of three for just $10) are also a must.
Next is a half-slip, which bears some explanation to most people: As a big girl, sometimes skirts will fit around my waist but the hemline will be somewhat too short — the sizing does not take into consideration that my rear-end needs more fabric. I layer this slip skirt with a mesh hem underneath any skirts or dresses that are too sheer or need a little extra fabric.
Personally, I need an everyday bag to be a hands-free item that doesn’t slip off my shoulders. The M.Gemi Rosetta Crossbody complies with those needs, but it also has enough space to carry all the important things like my glasses, wallet, keys, etc.
When it comes to shoes, I’ve spent most of my life wearing nothing but Dr. Martens — they are so incredibly sturdy and comfortable once they’ve been broken in — but these Steve Madden heeled loafers are my recent excursion into adult shoes. They do take a bit to break in, but they are the only pair of heeled shoes I am able to wear on a regular basis. And for an everyday shoe in the spring and summer, I reach for these chunky strap sandals that have a thick sole fit for long, sunny-day walks.