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A Capsule Wardrobe

What is a Capsule Wardrobe?

“I have nothing to wear!” One area of my life that continued to add unnecessary pressure was my unorganized closet. My choice of clothing over the years had no organization, failed coordination, unflattering fit, and caused a burden to my busy personal and work schedule. Two years ago, I made a change that has proven effective. A capsule wardrobe. This term has been floating around for some time and several people have made this change with brilliant success. A capsule wardrobe is essentially a manageably sized wardrobe with pieces of clothing that coordinate with each other. In this post we will discuss why and how to build a capsule wardrobe as well as discuss the benefits of taking the leap. With a plan, you can create a capsule wardrobe and re-energize your closet confidence.

Why Create a Capsule Wardrobe?

The point of no return occurred when the frustration of finding what to wear was too much, and my confidence crashed. I struggled to find an outfit every single morning, no matter how much I planned the night before. Staring at a crammed closet for upwards of 20 minutes, only to decide on something that made me feel blah because, well, I had to wear something. Once I decided, I was unhappy with my choice and I felt less confident to tackle my day. It was a choice based on, “you must wear something!”

Disorganization or frustration is no way to start the day. Creating a capsule wardrobe is one organization plan to try. I’m naturally obsessed with organization, structure, and balance in life. My closet was none of the above. I would open my closet to a large assortment of mixed clothing choices, but literally had NOTHING to wear. Hiding among the shadows were new pieces I had just bought, older pieces that I loved, pieces that sat in my closet waiting for the light of day, and the dollar signs showing their ugly and wasted face. I had hundreds of clothing items that didn’t coordinate at all. The failed coordination made getting dressed each morning a terrible adventure. Create a capsule wardrobe is to limit your clothing items into bite-size pieces that work together with little thought.

hanger with straw hat and white dress near blue wall 
a capsule wardrobe
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What I was doing wrong

Normally, I would treat myself to a new outfit maybe twice a month. The outfit would be a random shirt or blouse and a bottom staple. A piece with wild patterns, color variations, and style. I know myself well. I’m attracted to shiny, sparkly, and bright colors, but this was not something I would wear regularly. Here I go telling myself, “oh this is so cute, I can wear this!” That beautiful piece would find its way into the back of a dark closet full of other victims that were loved for a few minutes, then forgotten. Just because it’s pretty, doesn’t mean you should buy it. Here is a habit that will waste money and time.

I had been practicing ‘less is more’ with many other parts of my life. The closet was one failure. I never felt confident in my outfits. The outfits were never complete. I wanted to feel better about what I was wearing and I wanted the empowerment to take on the day. It really is amazing how our choice in clothing can ultimately shape our confidence and drive throughout the day. I couldn’t find this when my outfits made me feel small and hidden.

Where to start

If you’re thinking of starting a capsule, there are a few options to consider. You can focus on small seasonal wardrobes with minimal pieces each. Or you can try what I did and create one capsule containing items for all seasons. The amount of clothing you have in your capsule is really a personal preference. Keeping in mind that a capsule is manageable with all pieces directly coordinating with each other. Each clothing piece should make a variation of outfits. I started a yearly capsule wardrobe. This was ideal to me for two reasons.

  • I live where we have two to three proper seasons. Florida has extremely hot, warm, and mild cold.
  • I was not ready to maintain multiple wardrobe’s and I lacked storage space to separate each capsule.

Take into consideration the type of seasons you live with up front. Your wardrobe can focus in on seasonal items used more often than others. Now, let’s walk through how to build a capsule wardrobe.

How to build a capsule wardrobe

Start by picking a day in your schedule that you can set aside about 4 hours dedicated to your initial sweep. Saturday worked for me. I needed the additional time of the weekend to feel less rushed. That way, my decisions wouldn’t be based on lack of time and the plan would have a better chance of success. First, I determined what my authentic style was, and what I should focus my color palette around. This was the fun part as I explored Pinterest for outfit ideas. The color pallet is an important decision. This will help later when you are choosing which clothes you already have to keep and filling in any gaps later. Perhaps you feel and look best in darker colors like red, green, blue, gray and black. Or you may like the lighter color tone like pinks, gray, and white.

When I found something that I felt was truly me, I saved it and watched the outfit ideas grow. I focused on outfits that were simple but could be dressed up or down, worn on the weekend, and layered into a casual work outfit. I caught myself a few times falling for an outfit that didn’t fit in this category. The shiny and bright, dark tone, unrealistic patterns. **slaps hand.

The purge

Next, I opened the curtains wide in my room for the best and brightest sunlight. Then I opened the closet doors to a beautiful disaster that had haunted me each morning. I started with picking 10 pieces that I knew I absolutely loved and would cringe to part with. These items were the ones I felt most comfortable in and usually resorted to when all else failed. I set aside these pieces as I moved through the rest of the wardrobe.

Finally, I created three important sections in my room. One for keep and thoroughly think about, one for throw away (usually items worn, stained, or damaged), and one for donate and sell. I held and studied each piece critically. Keeping in mind a few critical questions to ask myself honestly. Did I love it? Was it worn at least once in the last year? Did it fit right? Was this an item true of my style?

In the end, it took over an hour to get through my wardrobe on the first sweep. It was empowering and brought relief. This was step one, the great initial purge! With a successful purge of 50% I took a mental break and returned two weeks later. After the first purge, I did not throw out any of the items in the donate or sell section. I packed them in a box and hid them from myself. I wanted to make sure I wouldn’t miss them soon after and then fall back into the trap of replacing immediately.

A second look

On round two, after living with the lightened closet for two weeks, I returned to the Pinterest inspiration, read more on versatile colors, and I hit the closet again. This mental break was critical for personal reflection and focus.

Deeper focus questions

  • Does it fit my style and color scheme?
  • Could I make at least three outfits with this one piece?

If I answered yes, I put it back in the keep section. If I was up in the air or answered no, I put it in donate/sell. I continued this process with my shoes. Using the same questioning and critical thinking. Finally, I went back to the initial 10 pieces that I believed I couldn’t part with and gave these another critical look. It surprised me to discover that my initial thought process was hazy, and I determined only five pieces to be realistic. What an eye opener!

Capsule essentials

Based on my research and experience with the transition, I’ve compiled a list of capsule wardrobe essentials. Basic pieces that every woman should consider for a capsule wardrobe. These pieces are the most versatile with any color scheme, have a dress up or down option, and are easy to coordinate with others. Of course, it all depends on your style, but I find these pieces to be most flattering on any woman and basic for layering.

  • White & Gray T-shirt (Long or short sleeve, Button-up Blouse, Striped Shirt, Chunky Sweater)
  • Black Denim Jeans, Blue Denim Jeans, Gray or Black Slacks
  • Little Black Dress, Gray or Black Skirt (Pencil or Midi)
  • Denim Jacket, Neutral Cardigan
  • Biker Jacket, Thick/Warm Jacket in a Neutral Color, Rain Trench Coat in a Neutral Color
  • Booties, Flats, Heels in black and nude
  • Belt (reversible), Black Scarf

Fill in the gaps

After completing the initial change, the donation box was put away again. I held on to the items for a small timeframe to ensure I didn’t have any change of direction. An overcome with confidence phase. This was good for me as I retrained my outfit thought process. Sitting on the pieces meant I would not feel rushed, again giving me the best opportunity for success. After a couple weeks, my mind continued with the donate option. It was time to set these pieces free for a different woman. As I learned how to coordinate my new minimal pieces, I made a list of items I didn’t have that would help me coordinate all pieces better. The list included only a few items.

  • White t-shirt, neutral button up blouse, black denim jeans, chunky neutral sweater, reversible belt, and neutral slacks

I boldly traveled to my favorite stores, list in hand, and searched the racks. Instantly attracted to a style that got me overwhelmed all these years. It wasn’t mine; flattering with shiny and bright, pretty pattern, popping color that didn’t match my color pallet. I held the item on purpose, this time telling myself why it was wrong for me to buy. Success! Training the brain to look at clothing differently was a huge milestone and a lot harder than I thought. Especially after all the work I had done with the wardrobe, the outing started with a hand slap.

The reward

I didn’t find all I needed on the first trip for capsule wardrobe essentials. This process took about a month to complete. But the reward has paid off tremendously.

Now I shop less, save money, and deciding what to wear takes only minutes. I finally feel good when I leave for the day. Occasionally, I may introduce a new piece to my wardrobe. But only if the new piece is a direct replacement to another because of staining, worn, or no longer fits. My wardrobe consists of 83 pieces for the entire year, even shoes, scarves, and outerwear. Through this process, I have learned about styles that are most flattering for my height, shape, and what I am most comfortable in.

I estimate a capsule wardrobe has saved me $1200 ($100 a month from unnecessary purchases) and 120 hours a year. That is five full days, 7200 minutes, and increased confidence to take on the day!

The simple change to a wardrobe can carry enormous benefits; mind, financial, and time. Comfort doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice a style that you love, and style does not mean you must pay a pretty penny. You deserve to feel good about yourself inside and out. An outfit you are confident to wear is a great start to a productive day!

How much time do you spend shopping in your closet for the perfect outfit? Let me know if the comments. Have a craft room out of control? Read how to maximize small spaces for crafting with only a few simple changes.

Rannae D

An artisan and writer.

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