The Only 8 Basics You Need for Your Summer Capsule Wardrobe

To pair with your favorite statement pieces.

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I often have great plans to wear all sorts of fabulously colorful combinations of blouses and wide-leg pants or graphic tees tucked into skirts come summer. But once the heat really kicks into high gear, I find myself reaching for the same trusty basics over and over again rather than wasting precious energy trying to determine which florals mix well with which stripes. As such, I’ve found there are just eight must-have pieces that are the building blocks of a successful summer capsule wardrobe. They even go well with bolder, more special pieces for days when you really want your outfit to pop. Without further ado, the only eight items of clothing you need for a comfortable and chic summer.

How to Choose Your Summer Capsule Wardrobe

A capsule wardrobe is essentially a collection of basics that can be mixed and matched in countless ways without necessitating additional purchases to complete your outfit. Think plain white tees, classic denim, neutral-hued knits and dresses that can be styled up or down to fit your agenda. Of course, that core base can look different depending on your lifestyle—corporate lawyers would do well to stock up on blazers and conservative blouses, whereas an elementary school teacher would likely want more comfortable shoes and midi dresses. Our best tip for figuring out exactly where to start building your own capsule wardrobe is to pull out your most-worn clothing items and consider what it is that has you reaching for them time and time again. Then you can start to build out from there, considering what additional pieces work best with your favorite trousers or all the fun ways to layer your button-up cardigans.

How We Narrowed Our List of Must-Have Pieces

To be honest, the list of summer must-haves could have been anywhere between eight and 28 items long. But we found these pieces were by far the most versatile, both in the sense that they can be easily worn with so many other styles and because they work for any and all body types. So it doesn’t much matter whether you’d define your personal style as boho-chic, preppy, Coastal Grandmother or even ‘90s Whimsigoth. Each of the items on this list will fit beautifully with all your existing summer favorites.

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white t shirt summer capsule wardrobe basics
Edward Berthelot/Getty Images

1. Loose-Fit White Tees

Plain white T-shirts come in handy throughout the year, but whereas a slim-fit version is better for layering under sweaters or jumpsuits, a loose silhouette will feel much more comfortable on hot summer days. Sport them under blazers or light jackets for the work day, or tuck them into cute shorts or a flowy midi skirt for the weekend. And just remember to slip a stain stick in your bag before you leave the house.

easy dresses summer capsule wardrobe basics
Claudio Lavenia

2. Throw-on-and-Go Dresses

We’re talking about easy, breezy frocks that don’t require any special undergarments (i.e., backless/strapless bras or Spanx shorts) and that work just as well for hanging out as they do for drinks with your bestie. Pro tip: Midi lengths are the most versatile, and while you can never go wrong with an LBD, we prefer a pop of color for the warmer months.

walkable sandals summer capsule wardrobe basics
Christian Vierig/Getty Images

3. Walkable Sandals

It’s fine to have a pair or two of strappy or heeled sandals to break out for special occasions, but day to day you’ll be much happier in a supportive, flat style. Luckily, opting for a podiatrist-approved sandal no longer means forgoing style all together, as there are plenty of cute, chic options that won’t leave you hobbling at the end of the day. Look for shoes with straps at the front as well as around or up near your ankle, and choose those with a slightly thicker sole over paper thin flip flops.

oversize button down summer capsule wardrobe basics

4. Oversize Button-Up Shirts

These comfy basics can be knotted at the waist with a pair of shorts, French tucked into flowy pants or even left loose over a swimsuit as a beach coverup. Be sure to choose a button-up made from lightweight, breathable materials (these are not your pressed work shirts) and with oversize fit for a more casual summery vibe.

shorts summer capsule wardrobe basics
Jeremy Moeller/Getty Images

5. Tailored Non-Denim Shorts

Some folks swear by their denim cut-offs, but we think linen or cotton shorts are a more versatile option that are every bit as comfortable. A simple silhouette in a neutral hue can be more easily dressed up for dinners or other events than denim, and khaki, linen and cotton twill are lighter weight and more breathable as an added bonus.

polarized sunglasses summer capsule wardrobe basics
Edward Berthelot/Getty Images

6. Polarized Sunglasses

Polarized lenses help to combat glare, like light bouncing off water or the hood of your car, making it easier to see on bright summer afternoons, and they’re better at protecting your eyes from the sun’s harmful rays. They are, unfortunately, often more expensive than non-polarized styles, so we suggest investing in a more timeless frame shape, like aviators or Wayfarers, rather than splurging on whatever silhouette is currently en vogue (although you do you, friend).

black silk cami summer capsule wardrobe basics
Edward Berthelot/Getty Images

7. Black Silk Camis

Truth be told this wardrobe staple is a must-have for all four seasons, but in summer it’s especially handy on hot, humid nights when you want to look pulled together even while you’re sweating buckets. Silk is wonderfully breathable and won’t show sweat as easily as, say, a polyester or cotton blouse. Simply tuck it into some high-waist jeans or an equally breathable silk slip skirt, add some glam jewelry and you’ll be ready for a night out on the town.

black bathing suit summer capsule wardrobe basics
Javier Sánches Mingorance/EyeEm/Getty Images

8. A Classic Black Bathing Suit

OK, so it doesn’t necessarily need to be black—if you feel more comfortable in bright colors or prints, then by all means wear them—but a flattering, timeless swimsuit is a great thing to carry over from summer to summer without having to worry about changing trends or changes to your figure.

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Abby Hepworth is an RRCA-certified running coach who has worked in fashion for over 10 years. Want to know what shoes are in this season? She's got you. Need recommendations on the best running apps? She's your gal. From trend explanations to designer gossip, Abby has your back.

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Abby Hepworth is an RRCA-certified running coach who has worked in fashion for over 10 years. Want to know what shoes are in this season? She's got you. Need recommendations on...