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 chose, 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 current capsule has only 35 clothing items all together, not including shoes or accessories. I didn’t have a fixed number, but I aimed for somewhere in the mid-30’s.
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. I started reading more and more into it. I came across it at the perfect time, became I was also totally overwhelmed and uninspired by my closet. I realized I had filled it up with a bunch of clearance rack items and trendy accessories. I thought to be stylish I needed a lot of variety, 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 in general 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 bought them, so I had better wear them, right? And, the clothes I loved were being passed over because I felt I should try to wear everything at least once during the season. I just 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 my blog – I wanted to hold myself accountable to stick to it. I didn’t want to say I was going to do a capsule wardrobe and then cave as soon as I stepping into a Target.
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. Honestly. I think I’m getting warmer, 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 it just wasn’t me. It’s time to figure out what I really like, what my personal style is.
- 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’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. My life is nuts. Between the four kids, managing our home, and working a full time job as a teacher, each day is just a whirlwind. I really just wanted something to be simple and tidy. 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. It makes me consider if I love something enough to have it taking up precious space in my tidy closet.
- Try it all on. For me this is a critical step. Yes, it’s time-consuming, but so is changing outfits 100 times each morning because I can’t find anything 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 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. I make a list of the clothing items I know I need in my capsule for this season. During the school year I consider work and weekend wear, but my summer capsule looks totally different since I don’t work. Think about your lifestyle and what you need for the next few months. Also consider your favorite pieces and go-to items – are you a jeans and tee gal? Do you love the simplicity of reaching for a great dress? Do you feel great in a pair of slacks and blouse at work? These items are usually about half to two-thirds of my capsule. These are also the items that carry over from capsule to capsule.
- 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. I find I put more thought into these extra pieces. I have no trouble with the must-haves at the top of the list, but it’s always the last few pieces I second-guess. I do pay close attention to how many of the other pieces these additional items mix-and-match with.
- Take a count. I usually set a goal around 35 items, so I check in to see how close I am. If I have too much, I’ll go back through and remove some items I wasn’t totally sold on. 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? This paring down step is often the hardest 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): Are there any critical pieces missing? Maybe it’s something I consider a must have, but mine is worn out? Or maybe a piece similar to one you already own but you don’t love. For 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. 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.