capsule closet

Let me start by saying this: I think capsule wardrobes are a wonderful idea. However, I don’t think they are for everyone.

Capsule wardrobes — a collection of clothes that include a limited number of versatile pieces to wear for a season — have become extremely popular since Caroline Rector started documenting her capsule journey on her blog, Unfancy. I remember first seeing her blog in 2014 and being fascinated with the idea of capsule wardrobes.

After reading almost all of her posts, I looked at my closet, and thought about it some more. The idea of narrowing my closet to 30ish pieces felt daunting and gave me anxiety. I kept asking myself, “What if something comes up and I need a non-capsule piece?” I’m sure everyone has those same thoughts because it’s scary not having your full wardrobe at your disposal.

It’s been two years and I still haven’t attempted a capsule wardrobe. I’m pretty sure that procrastination means I really don’t want to plan and limit my wardrobe to a specific number of pieces. Instead, I’ve taken some key ideas from capsule wardrobes and have applied them to my life.

1. Shop Consciously

I’m a firm believer in shopping consciously. I don’t just mean buying clothing that is ethically made or eco-friendly, but also planning before you shop. Capsule wardrobes require significant planning because you have to include essentials that can be worn multiple times. We should approach every shopping trip with the same amount of planning that goes into capsule wardrobes, which would also stop those pesky impulse purchases.

I only wear a handful of items bought on impulsive shopping trips because most were trendy pieces that went out of style the following week. The biggest takeaway here is to slow down and plan before you shop.

capsule closet versatile
Image via Esther Lee

2. Versatility

Versatility is important in capsule wardrobes for obvious reasons. Pieces that only look good with a single outfit will leave you with nothing to wear after a week. I apply this key idea to my wardrobe by only purchasing pieces I know I can wear at least three different ways. Versatile pieces not only make getting ready easier, but also contribute to a leaner closet.

3. Create Go-To Outfits

Capsule wardrobes force you to create outfits you can wear multiple times. For example, you will most likely create casual outfits for daytime activities and dressier looks for nighttime events. The same idea can be applied to your current wardrobe by creating go-to outfits for different events or even seasons. My two go-to outfits for the summer are jeans (high-waisted shorts or pants) with a black tee or a shift dress. I like to keep things simple when I get ready by wearing outfits I know will make me look and feel good. It’s essentially a capsule wardrobe, but without the restriction to the rest of your closet.

Creating a capsule wardrobe is a great way to jumpstart a more thoughtful relationship with your clothing. It helps you plan better, buy less, and be more creative with your closet. However, if the idea of restricting your wardrobe seems daunting, then don’t do it! Don’t do something that will make your life more difficult when it is supposed to do the opposite. Instead, look at the key takeaways above and apply it to your closet and future purchases.

Do you do a capsule closet? Why or why not?

Top image via Amanda Greeley

9 comments

  1. I love the idea of just having a few things that I really like and that are useful and versatile. Important for me when I shop is to buy clothes is that I can combine them and that they will not go out of fashin too soon and then I usually wear them until they fall apart.

    Still I have a problem with the 30 pieces minimalist capsule wardrobe. It is not for me. For environmental reasons I would like to switch the washing mashine on only when reasonably full – in my single household with only 30 items that is a problem.
    The other problem are all those extras: the waterproof gear for cycling in rainy Scotland, a whole set of cloths just for horse riding and the old patched up and well loved jeans that I still can’t part with because it is so comfy for rock climbing…

    The washing machine problem turned extreme two and a half years ago when the machine broke and I didn’t want to replace it because I knew I was going to move in a year’s time. The next laundrette was miles away but it had very large machines. My solution was to go and buy more clothes (actually multiples of the same basic t-shirts and jeans and certainly underwear). That way I survived 3 or 4 weeks before going to the laundrette.

  2. Hi Hanna,

    I completely agree with you — although he capsule wardrobe works for a lot of girls, it’s not for everyone, which is fine because luckily it’s not the only way to have a more refined, conscious wardrobe. I think those concepts you’ve pulled from a traditional capsule wardrobe are brilliant and yes, should apply to any wardrobe even if it’s not a 30-piece wardrobe.

    In addition to creating go-to outfits, you can take it one step further and create a style uniform. I know the term is quite scary — at first it sounds like you have to have the same outfit on repeat. It seems like you’ll have to give up the creativity, etc. that you’re used to. It not only forces you to get even more creative when styling yourself, but you also streamline the process of getting ready in the morning. It takes the thinking out of getting ready, and it’s also a great tactic to keep up the versatility and cohesiveness of your wardrobe up to par because you’ll be wearing slightly different versions of the same pieces every day. That means everything must be interchangeable. This will naturally make your wardrobe more refined and easier to manage.

    The most stylish people on the planet have very distinct uniforms: Tom Ford, Emmanuelle Alt. Style, above all, is about consistency. And consistency makes for a easy-to-manage, fully functional wardrobe. There’s more about why to adopt a uniform here: http://bit.ly/need-unfrm

    – AB

  3. I have a flexible capsule. At first I tried to narrow it down to those 30 pieces but living in LA with obnoxious heat waves and working in a cafe made it difficult to keep a capsule functional. I felt like I needed a capsule for my full time job and a second one for my off days/hours. My work clothes are typically at risk for coffee stains or accidental bleaching so I do end up buying replacements more often than once a season, so I keep my free time wardrobe pretty strict and spend more money on those pieces. The nice thing about LA weather is that it’s not typically a drastic change between seasons so I end up adding or replacing only one piece every season.

    Caroline’s more recent posts about the capsule being a good experiment did hit home for me. It helped me look at my wardrobe cohesively and stop buying pieces just because they were super trendy or on sale.

  4. I’m a huge fan of Sotela and other ec0ocool capsule lines like Vetta. I never thought of myself as a fashion junkie (a fashionista maybe) until I moved apartments 4 times in 5 years, and realized after a pregnancy, mold attack on clothing I had in storage and a huge down-ze to an apartment with zero storage beyond the modest closet and dresser that I really didn’t need my full wardrobe. Having less but of better quality actually makes dressing easier. I keep the pieces simple and versatile by changing up the accessories. 🙂 http://www.thehomesteadista.com/

  5. I LOVE doing a capsule wardrobe. Caroline’s adorable, and I love reading about her journey. Do I stick to 33 pieces? No. I think I did around 40 (shoes included).

    But the author writes, “what if something comes up.” These ideas and concepts aren’t telling you to toss all your clothes. They are telling you to get rid of what you aren’t wearing at all and keep the other stuff stored away for three months (where you can access your clothing should an outfit should an event “come up”).

    I found after 3 months I never even remembered what I had stored away. I have cleaned out my closet, simplified my life, and saved so much money.

    Anyone looking to simplify their life or home their style should give the capsule a try. It’s just 3 months.

  6. I like how you extracted the values of the capsule wardrobe and said, “You know what? I’m going to use these values in my wardrobe, WITHOUT having to make it capsule.”
    I love that. Because it’s all about individuality, and what suits are individual needs. I feel like that’s what I’ve taken away from Un-Fancy -which I love – to be more mindful about clothing.

    Marie
    http://www.thebusinessofblooming.com

  7. Now I feel I’m not an extraterrestrial! I understand the idea behind the capsule concept and I like it because the simplicity it incorporates (that’s something I love, very much in line with my style), but I cannot picture myself folllowing it fully.
    I agree to use it as jumpstart step and agree with think before buying… But one of the things that makes me run away from a such limited wardrobe is my, let’s call, eclectic lifestyle: love hiking, outdoors activities, city lifestyle and away-from-city lifestyle.
    Even living in a country with a pretty estable temperature year round, weather constantly swaps between rain and sun, not counting microclimate effect.
    I love to travel and, because of climate and culture, different set of clothes are required (and not just once).
    I cannot picture a capsule wardrobe for me – and I know I won’t succeed in control my anxiety over laundry pressure, I”m sure I’ll end up feeling that I’ll need to wash clothes two or three times a week, instead of one.

  8. I love Infancy and Caroline is a sweetheart. I, too, think capsule wardrobes are a fabulous idea. Do I have or plan on having a capsule wardrobe? No, I don’t. Why? Many reasons. One, I’m very hard to fit. Clothes that fit me well are hard to find. Two, I’m 56 and old enough to know that certain things never really go out of fashion and fashion is cyclic. Things go out of style and a few years later are back IN style again. So, if it fits me well and I really like it, I’m going to hang on to it. Three, because I’m hard to fit I tend to buy very simple styles of clothing in solid colors for the most part. I like black, white and denim the most. Solid colors and simple lines make the transition across the years more easily than patterns and more complicated lines in clothing do. I’ve had some items in my closet for almost 30 years and when they come back in style and I wear them out and about, I have strangers of all ages coming up to ask me where I got the whatever it is I’m wearing. They don’t make clothes the way they used to. Four, they don’t make clothes the way they used to……and if they do, I likely can’t afford it! Five, conspicuous consumption may be great for the economy but it’s not good for the planet nor is it good for my bank account. Six, I used to shop because I was bored or down in the dumps. Not such a great hobby and not a good antidepressant. I’ve I found other things to do when I’m bored and other ways to deal with depression. Funny thing is that all of that shopping and buying of stuff just led to more depression when I had to pay the bills or looked at the stuff I’d bought and realized that it hadn’t really made me happier. Seven, I used to believe that more was more but have come to realize that less truly is more. Better to have 15 or 20 outfits that make me look and feel great than 60 outfits that are only so-so. Eight, I hang almost everything I own to dry instead of running my clothes through the dryer. Line drying my clothes greatly extends their life span so I don’t have to replace items nearly as frequently. So, capsule wardrobe? No. A much more minimal wardrobe? Yes.

  9. Loved this article! Same here – I really like the idea and principle of the capsule wardrobe but being strict with all the rules is just TOO time-consuming for me. Instead I follow the points you just mentioned and with a few exceptions it is working really well!

    Lots of love from Germany,
    http://www.miss-interpreted.com

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