Have you ever lamented that you have nothing to wear when in fact your wardrobe is bursting at the seams with dozens of clothes?

It's something Ella Wilks from NZ Herald Focus knows all too well. So we teamed her up with stylist Stacey Beatson to help her create a capsule wardrobe from her extensive array of clothing.

Wilks is not alone in her battle with too many clothes. It's a problem stylist Wendy Mak encounters with her clients too. So much so that it led her to write a book on the subject: The Capsule Wardrobe: 1000 Outfits From 30 Pieces. It's a list of 30 basic items every woman should own as a starting point to building a full wardrobe.

• Scroll down for the full list


"Most of us have way too much stuff that we never wear and for some people, getting dressed everyday causes a lot of angst," Mak told news.com.au.

"I found myself recommending the same pieces over and over again to clients so I decided to create a guide that can help people to edit their wardrobes down to the crucial essentials that we actually wear day in day out."

What kind of shopper are you?

"I find that shoppers fit into two categories," Mak said. "The first is a 'Sparkling Sally'. She's attracted to beautiful, fancy things and loves special pieces, but she doesn't have enough basics to round out that wardrobe. She has lots of random one-off pieces that are lovely, but struggles day-to-day.

"But the opposite is 'Boring Betty'. She's got all the basics, but she doesn't have enough of the interest and to make it modern and contemporary and make it work."

Mak says we wear only 20 per cent of our wardrobes and tend to buy the same pieces over and over, without thinking about what we actually need. Not convinced? Mak has a great trick to help you figure out what you actually wear.

"Every time you wear a piece of clothing put a clothes peg on the hanger," she said.

"After about a month you can take a step back and say 'These are the clothes that I wear all the time' and assess whether you need to buy more of those, or move out the things that you don't actually wear.

"Buying the same pieces all the time isn't always bad. But if you find something that you love, like a top or a pair of shoes, buy them in different colours."


While you don't have to go full-on Marie Kondo and start culling everything, the 30-piece guide is a great way to figure out what gaps are in your wardrobe.

"It's a formula, it's not prescriptive. You can adapt it and adjust it to your lifestyle," Mak said.

"You can swap items in and out. Say if you work from home or you're a stay-at home mum and you don't need to go into the office everyday, you could swap the tailored pants for jeans.

"Or if you don't wear high heels everyday you could swap out a pair of heels for flats. If you work in a really corporate environment swap out some of the casual stuff for work clothing."

So here is Mak's list of 30 items, along with shopping tips and suggested alternatives:

How many accessories do you really need? Photo / Getty?
How many accessories do you really need? Photo / Getty?


1. Jeans: Choose an alternate shape to skinny, if that suits you best

2. Casual pant in taupe or mushroom: Look for a casual pant without external pockets or embellishments, such as stitching detail, so you can dress it up if needed

3. Tailored pant in black: Select a style and cut that flatters you best

4. Tailored pant in stone or taupe: Stone or tape (essentially a few shades darker than your stone jacket) will work best, but you can also select cream, off-white, pale grey or a very light brown in a more casual fabric than your tailored black pants

5. Tailored shorts: Stone, taupe or mushroom shorts that are tailored and not too casual in style will enable you to take these from day to night

6. Casual skirt: Although a straight or pencil cut will be the most versatile, select an A-line or a drop waist if these flatter you better

7. Black skirt: Look for a skirt that has some detail so it can take you from office to play


8. Basic black tank: If you aren't a fan of black, select a dark charcoal instead

9. Basic white tank: If white doesn't suit you, an off-white or cream will do just the trick

10. A colourful blouse: Choose a bold colour that makes you look and feel good, and that works with both black and tan or cream items.

11. Another colourful blouse: Look to retail stores for colour inspiration and see what's on-trend this season in terms of colour

12. A coloured long sleeve top: Select a colour other than black or white to add interest to your wardrobe

13. A black long sleeve top: A dark charcoal will also work for those who don't like black


14. A casual day dress: Keep any prints or patterns small and congruous, with a mix of light and dark colours in the print for maximum versatility

15. A little black dress: For both work and play, ensure the hem and neckline are modest enough for work and ideally look for a short or cap sleeve


16. A trench coat: A classic coat or trench in a stone or beige will complement everything. If you live in a warmer climate, choose a lighter weight fabric and shorter length coat.

17. A black cardigan: Make sure this gives you plenty of shape. It should not be too baggy
and slouchy-looking on you

18. A black blazer: A blazer with a three-quarter sleeve will be easiest to match with jeans, as well as dressier items. It will keep you looking contemporary and young

19. A stone blazer: Once again, select a three-quarter sleeve. Ensure the shade of stone you select is lighter than your casual and tailored pants above

20. A casual jacket: There are many options here in terms of colour, so select in a relaxed style that will complement your accent-coloured blouses.

21. A black parker: Ensure that this is a proper, winter-weight parker for super cold days. Black works best or choose navy or charcoal if you prefer.


Men are creatures of habit when it comes to shopping for clothes. Photo / Getty
Men are creatures of habit when it comes to shopping for clothes. Photo / Getty

The Herald spoke to Murray Crane, founder of New Zealand menswear brand Crane Brothers, about men's shopping behaviour and how to create a capsule wardrobe for them.

According to Crane, "[m]ost men are creatures of habit. They do tend to gravitate back to the same look."

So why do men end up with too much in their wardrobe? Like Mak, Crane sites the tendency to buy several versions of something they're not quite happy with, rather than one good quality piece they'll get years of wear out of.

"You've got to look at cost-per-wear. You might spend $1300 on a blazer but if you're still wearing it 10 years later [it's worth it]."

The current trend toward fast, casual fashion rather than formal, classic attire means men are also inclined to buy more clothing, says Crane.

"Something I see affecting men's dressing is the move to more relaxed, casual dressing. This puts demand on buying more rather than less.

An ideal capsule wardrobe for men

Crane notes while "you'd have to be pretty choosey", because we live in a fairly temperate climate transeasonal pieces are key to creating a small but workable wardrobe.

A navy suit makes a great staple in a man's wardrobe. Photo / Guy Coombes for Crane Brothers
A navy suit makes a great staple in a man's wardrobe. Photo / Guy Coombes for Crane Brothers

• One navy suit
• One grey suit
• Five shirts. Try a mix such as two white, one cornflower blue, one navy and white butchers stripe and one chambray. Two of these should be able to be worn with ties.
• One pair of chinos
• One pair of jeans
• One lightweight knit
• T'shirts

- Additional reporting, NZ Herald