How to Use Prints to Build a Wardrobe Capsule


Over the years, I have learned if something looks effortless it usually isn’t.  The reason it appears easy is someone with mastery in a particular skill has executed it.  Therefore, I can recognize that, for some of you, putting together a tight wardrobe capsule may be challenging.  Whenever a client or blog reader remarks on how simple I can make getting dressed and putting outfits together can seem, I always tell them to take me to their job and watch me flounder.  This is what I do and if I can’t make it look like a breeze after nearly 25 years of being in the fashion industry I should seriously question my choice of profession.

I want getting dressed and putting a wardrobe together to be easy for you.  After all, I am certain there are more important things going on in your life.  I created this post to give you an easy way to build a wardrobe capsule by starting with a print.

How to Use Prints to Build a Wardrobe Capsule

What makes this approach of using a print as your starting point such an easy way to begin a capsule is the print acts like a cheat sheet of what colors to add and how to mix-and-match.  Color combining is often a challenge for many women.  Using a print removes the guesswork.  I am creating three small capsules below to give you some examples.

If you don’t like prints, don’t worry, all is not lost.  I will write some future posts on how to begin a capsule without using a print as the base.  Yet, keep in mind, you can reference a print without actually using it.  For example, you can look to a painting, a photograph from nature, the colors used in a pattern from home furnishings as a guide for combining color and building a capsule by looking to the colors used.

Let’s take a look at some examples

Capsule #1


When I saw this dress from Boden I fell in love with the colors and decided to use it as my guide for building this capsule.  What is interesting about this capsule is the dress won’t actually be worn with any of the additional pieces; it truly is just a color guide.  And using it as a guide, I was able to consider color combinations I might not have thought of without it.

All of these additional pieces work together and can be mixed-and-matched, enabling me to create at least seven outfits.

In addition to the dress, the outfits included in this capsule include, a rose colored blouse from Vince Camuto, a khaki pencil skirt from J. Crew, a skinny pair of pants in navy from Theory, a striped t-shirt from J. Crew, green cardigan from Biadani, white blazer from BOSS Hugo Boss, blue flower studs from Kate Spade, knot pendant from Madewell, cobalt pumps from Sam Edelman, tan block heel sandals from Steve Madden and cognac bag from Nordstrom.

Capsule #2


I created this casual summer capsule by starting with this printed scarf from Caslon.  Unlike the dress above, in this case, the scarf can be worked into the outfits.  Printed scarves are excellent ways to build a capsule.  Everything from this capsule can be mixed and matched and you can easily get a dozen outfits from all these pieces.

In addition to the scarf, the pieces this capsule include a casual jumpsuit from Madewell, drapey cardigan from Velvet by Graham and Spencer, A cobalt jersey tie top from L.K. Bennett, skinny black ankles pants from Lafayette 148, white jeans from J. Crew, denim jacket from Madewell, pink t-shirt from J. Crew, grey tote from French Connection, black espadrille wedges from Steve Madden, hot pink flat sandals from Sam Edelman, pink earrings from Kendra Scott and turquoise necklace from Michael Kors.

Capsule #3


This last capsule is a professional one and definitely one that can be great for business travel.  To build this capsule, I started with a printed blouse from Reiss.

I chose one suit that can be worn together and pulled apart.  I also included a dress that doesn’t match the blouse exactly.  However, that’s okay.  You’ll never wear the blouse with the dressy anyway.  What is important is the dress works with the additional pieces that you can wear with it, like the blazer in the cardigans.  From this capsule you’ll be able to get at least 20 outfits.  This is a whole lot more than you’ll need for a quick business trip.

In addition to the Reiss blouse, the pieces in this capsule include a boyfriend cardigan in grey from J. Crew, a charcoal blouse from French Connection, a blush dress from Judith & Charles, a black suit from Elie Tahari (link to blazer, link to pants) a pair of burgundy pants from J. Crew, grey pencil skirt from Reiss, eggshell cropped cardigan from Theory, grey bag from Salvatore Ferragamo, grey suede pumps from Calvin Klein, block heeled sandals in blush from Vince Camuto, amethyst pendant from Stella & Dot, rose gold drop earrings from Monica Vinader.

If you have been struggling with how to start a wardrobe capsule, I hope this tip of starting with a print assists you on creating successful ones on your own.


  • Stacie Bussey

    Thanks for the brilliant idea of building a capsule around a printed piece!!!! I love it!

  • Patricia

    I’ve just created a travel capsule for an upcoming trip to London and France. I needed mostly casual smart day wear with good walking shoes for all the museums and sight seeing. I started with a base of navy and beige: two long pants and two cropped pants (wondering about adding jeans also?). I’ve added tops in navy, light blue, tan, navy stripes, and coral; all colors found in my scarf, just like your inspiration point. I’m adding two pair of sketchers; navy and tan, and one pair of nicer beige sandals. I’m adding another scarf, jewelry, a navy sweater and a jeans jacket. I’ll also take a hooded light blue rain jacket along with an umbrella.
    I always waterproof all my shoes and scotchguard my pants (dreadful spiller here) and will carry a Baggallini shoulder bag.
    With a few additions, this would make a pretty good summer capsule.

    • Sounds EXCELLENT! You guys are such smarties!!!

      • Patricia

        With training (thanks for all the blog posts!) we are pretty darn smart.

  • Pat

    Great ensembles, Bridgette!
    First signs of spring and everyone starts thinking of travel. My husband and I have a trip planned for this upcoming fall, which will be the most challenging carry on I’ve ever packed. We’re spending a week in the Nile desert (very hot), Mt. Sinai early AM climb (very, very cold), one week below sea level Dead Sea/ Red Sea resorts ( water sports, evening dining/strolls) two weeks visiting biblical historical areas. Whew! Trying to use what I have for a starting point, a hunter green vest with many pockets, a pair of medium green Columbia pants with removable legs to create walking shorts, a Patagonia puffer jacket in cornflower blue that rolls up to nothing, a gray/green short sleeve modest dress.
    Where to go from there?

    Would you have a small hot/cold wardrobe capsule that you could suggest in your upcoming series? Surely, there are many women that could benefit from your layering tips on an every day basis.

    Thank you sooo much for giving my packing dilemma some of your wonderful brain power!! Can’t wait to read your posts everyday..

    A faithful fan,

    • Patricia

      I’ve been on parts of this trip: 24 days in Egypt (much of it in the Sahara desert camping) did the Mt Sinai climb (I was having asthma issues so opted to ride a camel to the top instead … you get a great view all the way up while everyone else has their eyes glued to the path with all the loose shale to stumble over). My trip was in April so it can be quite cool but also hot. Go with layers, long sleeve t shirts, hoodies, etc. Check shops like Eddie Bauer or REI for durable travel clothing. Sun hats of course! And as you’ll be moving quite a bit, use mesh packing bags so you can grab stuff quickly…

      • Pat

        Thanks for the camel tip, Patricia! We leave Saint Catherine’s at 2:30 AM so the camel ride up the mountain sounds better than stumbling around in the dark with less than proficient light source. I’ll have to dig out my Pacific Northwest clothes, similar to your description from REI. We’ve decided to take a third carry on size duffel and when we are through in the Sinai penninsula drop it at the DHL office in Eilat and have smart casual items the remainder of our trip. Thanks for helping me think this through. Your extended camping trip must have been amazing.
        Happy Mothers Day.
        Oh, and your travel ensembles sound great!

  • Krys A

    I love this idea! I used a postcard of the Mona Lisa for my inspiration. I particularly like your last grouping even though I personally could not wear those colours. I could see myself wearing that capsule as my whole wardrobe it is so versatile!

    • Ooh a Mona Lisa inspired capsule! How awesome! It’s incredible when you get the right pieces how you don’t need that much.

    • tgchi13

      I love this idea Krys! My favorite painting (Renoir’s Le déjeuner des canotiers) would leave me looking like a circus tent made out of scraps though 😆

      • Krys A

        Coincidentally I also love that painting and had a repro in my dining room for years! If you use the neutral parts for the large items and bright colours for accents I think it would work!

        • tgchi13

          I was just thinking the same – what neutrals do I see first and what accents do I gravitate to 🙂

  • Alicen

    Sitting here after reading your post, picturing some of the scarves I have at home, and some of the other pieces I can pull together to start building a capsule just like this. My biggest issue right now is a lack of nude shoes, so yesterday’s post hit bang on as well! You must be reading my mind 🙂