What is a Capsule?
A capsule is a seasonal collection of cohesive clothing items. Do enough “googling” of capsule wardrobes and you can find numerous approaches and ideas and “rules”. It seems most common to set a fixed number of items that may or may not include shoes, outerwear, or accessories to wear for an entire season. There isn’t a right or wrong way to do a capsule wardrobe, but the goal is to build a simplified wardrobe that works for you.
I think the fixed number approach is a great way to start. It helps guide the process and ensure that you are really being selective with what you choose, but in the end, it has to work for your lifestyle and wardrobe needs.
In my first non-maternity capsule I had a grand total of 48 items for all of my work, weekend, and school spirit wear. I did not count shoes or accessories. Over the course of that capsule I realized I could do with even less. My more recent capsules have been between 35-40 clothing items, not including shoes or accessories. I find the number varies depending on the weather needs for the season as well has how many items I already own that I love and want to include (it seems silly to keep them boxed up just to hit a magic number).
How did you get into the capsule wardrobe thing?
During late 2014 I saw a post about capsule wardrobes on my Pinterest feed and it caught my eye. It was so simple and neat, which really appealed to me. I started reading more and more into it. I came across it at the perfect time, because I was also totally overwhelmed and uninspired by my closet. I realized I had filled it up with a bunch of clearance rack items, things I had bought because of the price tag and not because they fit my style or needs. I thought to be stylish I needed a lot of variety (translation: a lot of clothes), but I really didn’t feel like myself in the clothes. I was dressing like my Instagram feed and I was dressing for my Instagram feed – I wanted to get the “likes” each day.
Bargain hunting, thrifting, and shopping was my hobby, so I had a closet FULL of clothes and I was wearing things I didn’t like out of obligation. I mean, I’d bought them, so I’d better wear them, right? And, the clothes I loved were being passed over for items I felt I should wear. I had way too much.
Then, I got pregnant, so I used the capsule idea to help me build a maternity wardrobe that worked for me. I knew the bigger challenge would come when it was time to narrow down my regular wardrobe, but I knew it was a challenge I needed.
Truly committing to the capsule idea was scary for me. Which was a big reason I started this blog – I wanted to hold myself accountable to stick to it. I was nervous I’d say I was going to do it, but the moment a super cute top at a great priced showed up in my path, I’d cave. Or, if I remembered a shirt I’d packed away I’d dig it out of storage and not stick to my items. I always see people do a #noshop and not make it, myself included. I thought for sure this would be the same way. But I didn’t want it to be. I wanted this to work.
What is the point of doing a capsule wardrobe?
Here are some of my personal goals for taking on the capsule wardrobe, but I think everyone does it for their own reasons.
- To find my style. Because it’s lost. Every season I feel closer and closer, but for a while there I was way off base. I was dressing the way other people liked best. I was dressing the way my Instagram feed said was most popular because I didn’t really know how else to style myself. The outfits were really cute, I liked them just fine, but not for me. I’ve posted about that a few times, but it’s always a good reminder, because my brain still goes there when I’m getting dressed. Will they like it? But that’s not important…what matters is that I like it. And that is one of my main goals – to figure out what I really like, what my personal style is. And how to put together the more simple items I seem to gravitate to in a stylish way.
- To look effortless, classic, casual, and pulled together. I decided to chose a few adjectives to help me hone in on my style goals and select the right pieces for my wardrobe. I ask myself if each piece and each outfit could be described using these words. That was a great way to help me make some decisions about what stayed and what wasn’t working for me. I don’t just want to look effortless, classic, and stylish…I want to be those things too. I think dressing the part will help me get there.
- To use what I have. I’m not going to claim to be a minimalist, which I think sometimes the capsule wardrobe idea gets mixed up with. Walk into my house and you’ll know it’s not true. But I am trying to use what I already own and reduce the impulse purchases I make. I’m trying to be a more responsible consumer by wasting less. I have found that the more I purge, the more I want to purge. And the less I have, the less I need (and want). I needed to break my over-shopping habit and so far, it’s working.
- To simplify. You guys, my life is nuts. Between kids, and home, and work, each day is just a whirlwind. And I really just wanted something to be neat and simple and organized. I make decisions all day long and I wanted one thing to feel easy. So, my little tiny corner of the world, my closet, was the easiest place to tackle that. And I love it.
How do you decide what to include in your capsule?
Here’s how I approach selecting items for my capsule. I usually start this about a month before I’m planning to start the capsule, but that’s because I’m indecisive and shopping takes me forever. 😉
- I pull everything from my closet/dresser and storage for the upcoming season. I mean everything. I make a huge pile on my bed (like I did here). This was most important the first time through to help me see how much I truly have. I used to clean my closet by going through and grabbing a few items from the hangers that I didn’t really like anymore. I find the purge process much more effective when I’m selecting items to put back into an empty closet. I think as I continue I’ll have less and less that needs to be cleared out, so I may be able to skip this step.
- Try it all on. For me this is a critical step. Yes, it’s time-consuming, but so was changing outfits 100 times each morning because I couldn’t find anything I wanted to wear. So, I try them on and really pay attention to how I feel in them. If I have items that I don’t feel good in or don’t fit well, they’re out. If I second guess when/where/how I’d wear it, it’s out. You know those pieces you have that you keep in your closet because you like them or they cost a lot or they have sentimental value, but every time you try to wear them you end up changing before you go out? This is the time to identify those and get them out of your closet. Ask yourself if you really love each item? I mean really love it. For me, I try to go with my initial instinct. If I put it on and don’t instantly feel comfortable and confident in a piece I tend to discard it. It’s usually my head that gets in the way of my purging items I don’t love, so I try not to think about each item for any length of time or else I’ll talk myself out of it.
- Identify the must-haves. Make list of the clothing items I know I need in my capsule for each season – jeans, striped tee, chambray shirt, a great dress. Each capsule is a bit different based on weather or work needs, so think about your lifestyle and what you need for the next few months. I keep my list on my phone so I can edit it easily.
- Add additional items that I love, are functional, and fit well with the capsule. To me these are the items that show personality – the plaid shirt, track pants, a chunky knit sweater, or a favorite weekend sweatshirt, for example. For me this is the hardest part…I have no trouble with the must-haves and top of my favorites list, but it’s always the last few pieces I second guess.
- Lay everything out to see if the pieces fit together. Can each item be paired with multiple other pieces? If not, consider not including it in the capsule. I often set these aside as “maybes” that I could add to spice up my capsule at the end if I feel I need some fun pieces. They aren’t necessarily the most versatile, but will keep things interesting. If time is short, I skip this step and visualize possible combinations as I go over the list I’m building on my phone. I end up having a lot of items with a “?” by them that I narrow down at the very end.
- Take a count. If I use a target number as I goal, I check in to see how close I am? If I have too much, I’ll go back through and remove some items I feel unsure of. I’ll also look for pieces that could easily be replaced in outfits by one of my must-haves. Do I really need 3 pairs of skinny jeans, even if they’re different washes? Will I really grab the black tee when my favorite gray one is in my closet? For you, this may be the hard part, but that’s the point…to challenge yourself to dress with less and to get more use of what you have. The good news is that it’s not forever – pack up some of those items and just try it for the next few months.
- Identify holes (if any) in my wardrobe. Are there any critical pieces missing? Maybe it’s something I consider a must have, but mine is worn out? Or maybe a piece you know you’d love, but needs an update? For example, in my winter capsule, this was cardigans. I had cardigans, but I didn’t like a single one of them. So, I donated or sold the ones I had and added cardigans to my shopping list.
- Go shopping. Be selective and be sure to give yourself time to find exactly the right thing. Don’t settle for something you feel any less than love for. I often find that I need almost a full month to find what I am looking for now that I’m more picky about what I’m keeping. I still tend to look for the best deals I can find and really struggle with little decisions like color. I also do a lot of shopping online, which means that I may have to exchange or try another option if something arrives that I don’t love. My hope is that as I add items I only love to my capsules I won’t need to fill as many holes in the future.
- Put everything else in storage or out of the way. Mine are in 2 boxes under my daughter’s bed.
- Hang your capsule wardrobe and enjoy the simplicity. Ahhhh, it’s like a breath of fresh air!
- Take note. As you get dressed throughout the season, notice what you do and do not wear from your choices. Is there is a piece you really wished you’d included? Or something that you thought would be perfect that you don’t wear? Also, try to learn from what outfits you loved to wear – is there something they have in common? The same goes for the outfits you tried, but didn’t like.