Capsule Wardrobe Vs. Minimalism, 5 Piece French Wardrobe, & More


Capsule wardrobes and minimalism is becoming more and more popular every day. And with them are cropping up all sorts of other terms: sustainable fashion, the Five Piece French Wardrobe, the “Lean” closet, and more. There are a lot of new challenges and trends out there too, like KonMari, the 10x10, or 3x33, and so on. All of these are variations on the same song, and I’ve broken down their main differences below.

Capsule wardrobe

A capsule wardrobe is a pared down collection of basic pieces that you wear year after year. It is usually pared down to the most bare number possible, with no duplicates, trendy pieces, etc. It is good for people with small spaces, or people who only want a super small wardrobe of quality pieces that they wear over and over again. Some champions of the capsule wardrobe are passionate about specific numbers, but there are some who are more fluid in their approach, and don’t stick to a single number.

Good for: if you have a small space, want to streamline your closet/routine, curating basics, saving money

Cons: can feel a bit restrictive if you go too overboard with it, not as much room for trendy pieces & frequent new additions

Source: Trendland

Source: Trendland


Five Piece French Wardrobe

The Five Piece French wardrobe consists of a capsule of timeless, neutral basics (similar to the capsule wardrobe, with versatile tees/denims/shirts/etc). There are also five pieces that are added per season, of your own selection. They can be more trendy and have more personality than your basics, but are limited to just the five additions per season. You can add every six months (fall/winter and spring/summer) or every three (fall, winter, spring, summer). You can shop as much as you want in the basics list, within reason.

Good for: streamlining your wardrobe, limiting impulse purchases, being more conscious about your shopping/spending

Cons: can allow for you to buy pieces you only wear for one season, potential to spend more money/waste more


Unlike the other two concepts above, minimalism is much more broad. It is not limited to your wardrobe at all, but most definitely applies to it. It simply refers to the wish to spend less, shop less, and own less. It is streamlining your life. In my opinion, however, people who define themselves as “minimalists” can get a bit carried away. It seems to me that it can easily become stressful, constantly trying to get rid of things, constantly going through your house to see what you can throw away. However, it can also be a beautiful thing, to help you have less clutter and knickknacks and waste less in your life in general. For fashion, it can help you do all these things as well—but just don’t get carried away with always owning less, less, less!

Good for: streamlining your entire life, downsizing, saving money, decluttering

Cons: can become stressful if you focus in on “owning as little as possible”


KonMari is a system created by Marie Kondo for decluttering your life. The philosophy is simple: only keep things that give you joy. This means in every area of your life! It is a beautiful system for refining and decluttering, and can truly bring you closer to happiness in your home & life. Very similar to the concept of minimalism, but the goal is not to own less, it’s to only own things that you use or that bring you happiness.

Good for: everyone?, decluttering, being more conscious & mindful in what you own and buy

Cons: very little, in my opinion; just don’t try to get rid of things that are still useful to you but don’t necessarily bring you joy (like tools)


The Lean Closet

This is a new one for me. I recently came across this term on StyleBee’s blog. She is famous for her 10x10 challenges (were only ten pieces for ten days), which force you to get creative and do more with less. StyleBee doesn’t favor the capsule wardrobe concept, believing it to be too strict and unsustainable. She likes to refer to her closet as the lean closet, meaning she likes to keep it pared back and mindful. She focuses on sustainable fashion and the 1-in-1-out policy that I also prefer. Personally, I think capsule wardrobes don’t necessarily have to be restrictive—it all depends on your approach! But this is a lovely alternative if you prefer this perspective.

Good for: people who like minimalism/capsules, but want more freedom

Cons: similar to the capsule, can let you get a little out of control with spending since its a loose term

Sustainable fashion

This often gets confused with capsules & minimalism, but this simply means you are buying clothes that are better for the environment, made out of eco-friendly resources, or produced in eco-friendly factories or with greener techniques. It can be an approach to shopping, meaning you only buy from brands who feature sustainability (like Everlane, Vetta, etc).

Not to be confused with ethical, which means fair wages/fair trade, etc.

In conclusion…

There are even more terms out there, like 33x3 (wear 33 pieces for 3 months), and other such things. Really, there are all speaking the same language: mindfulness. Analyzing your habits, trying to be more responsible. They are simply different ways to do it. My preference in the five piece French wardrobe, which is a basics capsule + 5 trend pieces. I believe it keeps me accountable to a limited number of fashion purchases, but allows me room for refreshing my wardrobe with each season. To get a detailed breakdown on my take on the capsule, check out my guide here!

For other conscious fashion resources, check out my curated list here.