My closet and dresser used to overflow with clothing. Much of it didn’t fit well and I only wore a small percentage of it. And to make matters worse, I just kept bringing more in, thinking that more clothes would solve the problem.
Thankfully, I got wise to the fact that I needed to simplify and looked into ways to get my clothing situation under control. The solution? Create a capsule wardrobe.
What is a capsule wardrobe?
So just what is a capsule wardrobe, you ask? (And don’t worry, I asked the same thing). Well, here’s the definition, according to Wikipedia:
Capsule wardrobe is a term coined by Susie Faux, the owner of a London boutique called “Wardrobe” in the 1970s. According to Faux, a capsule wardrobe is a collection of a few essential items of clothing that will not go out of fashion, such as skirts, trousers, and coats, which can then be updated with seasonal pieces.
A few essential pieces of classic clothing that can be updated seasonally. And, might I add, personalized by you so you absolutely love everything you own and can’t wait to wear it. Yes, that is possible.
A capsule wardrobe is also incredibly helpful when it comes to travel – packing light is easy when you have a carefully curated collection of clothing that fits easily into a backpack or suitcase.
Creating a capsule wardrobe
I created my own capsule wardrobe a few years ago, based on Courtney Carver’s Project 333. I’ve tweaked things a bit over the years, especially as we prepared to move into our bus.
What I have now is a wardrobe I love, with interchangeable pieces. Seasonal items stay in a storage tote and are rotated in when the weather changes.
If I don’t have something I need (I’m really good at catching clothing on random corners and ripping it in ways I can’t repair), I’ll see if I can do without.
If it’s essential, I head to my favorite consignment shop or browse Thred-Up first before looking for something brand-new.
If you’d like to create your own capsule wardrobe, here are the steps I took to whittle my collection down to the essentials.
1. Make a list of what you need
Think about things you do most often. When do you need to dress nicely and when can you keep it more casual? Do you exercise regularly and need special shoes?
What clothing pieces are a must in your wardrobe? Jeans? Yoga pants? T-shirts? Blouses? Skirts? Dresses? Write it all down.
2. Take note of what you currently have
Chances are you already have most, if not all, of what you’ll need for your capsule wardrobe.
This process is often about getting rid of stuff vs. buying more.
What pieces of clothing can easily be dressed up? What clothing do you gravitate toward wearing most often? What do you own that makes you feel great?
3. Identify your style
Several years ago, a dear (very stylish) friend helped me come up with a few adjectives to describe my style: classic, crafty. It’s evolved a little over the years to classic minimalist, but having those words in mind helps a LOT when it comes to fine-tuning my capsule wardrobe.
4. Think about color
When choosing your capsule wardrobe, you also want to pay attention to colors. I recommend keeping a lot of neutral colors and using colorful t-shirts, skirts or accessories (scarves, necklaces, belts, etc.) to brighten and change things up.
For my classic minimalist style, my neutrals are black and gray.
5. Go through your clothes
I suggest taking the list of your essentials into your closet and pulling out the things on the list. If you don’t love what you’re grabbing, leave it there.
The beauty of a capsule wardrobe is that you’re only keeping clothes that you love the feel of and that look great on you.
Once you’ve done that, you can decide what to do with the rest of your clothes. If there are still a couple pieces you love, keep them.
You can box up everything else and save it, if this is a temporary experiment, or you can just give it away. The choice is yours.
6. Complete the capsule wardrobe
If there’s something on your list that you don’t currently have, try to do without and see how that goes. If it’s essential, I suggest making a trip to your favorite consignment shop or thrift store to try to find it before you buy something new.
And when you go shopping, remember to take the list with you. You don’t want to come home with stuff you’re not going to wear. Just get what’s on the list and get out.
If you can’t find it locally, I recommend trying Thred-Up.
Need some more help?
Courtney Carver has created an excellent micro-course (meaning small in length and price) to help you pare down your clothing so you can take back your closet and create a wardrobe you love to wear. Check out Dress with Less and Create Your Capsule Wardrobe.
I tackled this a couple of years ago and it has made such a difference in my mental state. The feeling of having nothing to wear, while standing in front of a closetful of clothes was not fun. Once I cleared out all the stuff I didn’t like or wear, my life just felt vastly more efficient.
Could you show us some of the items that make up your capsule wardrobe? Or is that already a post? I’d love to see what you wear – since you’re so chic!
Thanks for posting! I’ve done some light cleaning out of the closet, but not to ‘capsule level’ yet. I’m hoping to get there – when I get time to do it! Thank you for such an inspirational blog!
I find that tailoring is the key for me. Due to the dimensions of my body it is hard to find off the rack cloths that I really love – none of them ever fit! So I’ve learned to search for the perfect colors and fabric then spend the time tailoring them to fit me. This takes more time, but I end up with pieces I love and wear constantly!
Once I learned to do this, I was able to get rid of a ton of extra clothing and only keep the pieces I truly love. Currently my wardrobe is split in half. One half is work and travel cloths, the other half is daily use. Including shoes and coats there are around 20 pieces in each half. 40 pieces total. I absolutely LOVE not having to think about what to wear tomorrow, I know I can open the closet, grab any thing and it will be perfect!
Thanks to you, Nina, and this inspirational post, I have cleaned out and will donate over 2/3 my closet! This week it has been a lot easier to pick out what to wear to work! I vow to ask myself – do I love it? the next time I go shopping! It’s also helped tremendously to unsubscribe from all those sales emails that come every day to my inbox!
Thank you for the advice. I’m just starting to build a capsule wardrobe and your steps are very helpful.
I’d love to create a capsule wardrobe, but the biggest problem for me is that my weight oscillates quite a bit. Like, forty pounds up and down. I’m sick of it and I’ve tried to remedy it by wearing clothes whose size is not so important (like leggings, tracksuits, foldover pants) and it’s solved the problem to a degree, but not entirely. So I need an entire wardrobe in four different sizes. I guess I need to clean up my head first before I can clean up my wardrobe!
Thank you for this post! I have wanted to do a capsule wardrobe for a while now and this has been helpful to see the steps involved in getting there! I’m near giving birth to my first child and then plan to breastfeed(for the next ~12 months), which means creating a capsule wardrobe now will look a little different than normal, but I like what you emphasized in your article, that it should be clothing that fits well NOW. Thank you 🙂
You’re very welcome, Cilla. Congratulations!