Time to pull the trigger. Let’s get the capsule party started.
Like I said before, there are no hard and fast rules for creating a capsule wardrobe. It’s more of a spirit of the law kind of thing – which might be why I’m loving it so much. The point is to simplify and minimize, and that’s going to look different for each person. The generally accepted standards are that your capsule should be 30-40 items (spoiler alert: Mine is 45), and include tops, bottoms & shoes. It does not include undergarments (underwear, bras, camisoles, etc.), socks, pajamas, work out wear or swimwear. Some people include accessories (hats, scarves, etc.), jewelry and outerwear.
I decided before I started that I wanted my capsule to contain all of the clothes that I would wear if I got dressed for the day, which I do almost every day. The exceptions being if I’m working on a project (mowing the lawn, cleaning something really dirty, painting or house projects). On the days that I workout after my kids are awake, then I put my workout clothes on in the morning (which are not included in my capsule), and pack clothes from capsule to wear after I’ve finished my workout and showered.
In the spirit of simplicity, creating your capsule isn’t a lot of work. Depending on how many clothes you currently have, it may take a while, but if you have the right attitude (and corresponding favorite beverage!), it can be quite fun. The simple steps are:
- Decide on a theme that fits your lifestyle, such as casual, trendy, sophisticated, classic or business casual. This is not an exhaustive list. If this is something that is hard for you to pinpoint, think about what you want out of your wardrobe. Is your priority to look polished? Do you want to be a trend-setter? Do you just want clothes that are comfortable and don’t restrict you from being active? Whatever your answer is, you want the majority of the few clothing items that you choose to fit in this category. Have this theme in mind as you move on to the next steps.
- Empty your closet & dresser. Yup. I said empty it. If that makes you want to bail before starting, I’d suggest that that’s all the more reason you should dig in and do this. It will be worth it.
- Try on every piece of clothing. Every.single.one. This is integral to the success of your capsule wardrobe because it’s the only way to know what pieces will be the best choices for capsule.
- Sort your clothes into four piles: LOVE, MAYBE, SEASONAL & DONATE
LOVE pile: You love the way you look and feel when you wear it, It fits your body perfectly and it fits the season
MAYBE pile: You like the way you look and feel when you wear it, It fits your body perfectly and it fits the season
SEASONAL pile: You love the way you look and feel when you wear it, It fits your body perfectly but should be worn in a different season
DONATE pile: You don’t love the way you look or feel when you wear it, It doesn’t fit your body perfectly or you haven’t worn it in over a year
- Sort items in your LOVE pile into categories (jeans, pants, shorts, t-shirts, tank tops, long-sleeves, dresses, tunics, jackets, shoes, etc.). There are all kinds of resources out there (checklists, books, worksheets, etc.) that tell you how many of what to include in your capsule. I’d argue that that piece is highly individualized, and that you should make that decision based on what you do and what you feel most comfortable in. I found this graphic on Pinterest, and it seemed to be the most similar to what I would want, so I used her numbers as a guide. This was solely a starting off point, and when my capsule was finished, it didn’t look anything like hers. However, her numbers were a great framework in which for me to get started. Be realistic about the things that you wear most and have more of those. For instance, most capsules suggest skirts. I don’t wear skirts. I had one and I wanted to include it in my capsule because it’s white and summery and cute, but the reality is that I look like a marshmallow in it. I could have kept it in there, but I didn’t love the way I looked or felt with it on, so I have zero skirts in my capsule. And I don’t miss them. I also included three dresses in my capsule, which is high for me. I don’t wear dresses often, but I was intentional about putting them in there in hopes that I would wear them more. Part of me is regretting that. I wish I would have gone with just two dresses and given myself another shirt option.
- Count the total number of items you have. If your total number is 25-35, you can add items from your MAYBE pile. If you total number is over 40, weed out some of your pieces. Unless you’re a rebel like me who decides that 45 is the magic number that you need in order to achieve the purpose of the capsule wardrobe without getting frustrated by limited options.
- Count the number of items in each category and adjust accordingly. If you only have 4 bottoms, but you have 15 shoes, it would be wise to trade some shoes for some bottoms. It might be painful to tuck those shoes away for three months, but you will be thankful when you’re not doing laundry every three days to have your few pair of pants clean.
- Pack away any items that didn’t make the capsule cut. As a result of slimming down my wardrobe, I had two empty drawers, so the items that I kept, but weren’t capsule-worthy are in there. I had a few summer items, mostly shorts and tank tops, that didn’t make it into my capsule that I didn’t put in the donate pile. At the end of the summer, I will store those items with my other summer capsule items, and if they don’t make the cut next year either, they’ll go to the donate pile then. There’s no need to keep clothes that I haven’t worn in two years.
So, that’s a lot of words. What’s in my capsule? I ended up with:
- 1 jean jacket
- 1 cardigan
- 1 long sleeve blouse
- 1 chambray shirt
- 1 3/4 sleeve shirt
- 1 tunic
- 7 tank tops
- 3 short-sleeve shirts
- 1 long-sleeve t-shirt
- 1 athleisure top
- 2 graphic tees
- 3 dresses
- 5 jeans
- 7 shorts
- 1 athleisure capri
- 1 capri legging
- 1 running shorts
- 1 ballet flats
- 2 sneakers
- 1 wedge
- 2 sandals
- 1 heels
That breaks down to 18 tops (40%), 15 bottoms (33%), 2 layering pieces (4%), 3 dresses (7%) and 7 pairs of shoes (16%).
If you look on Pinterest or do a Google image search for “capsule wardrobes”, almost every one of them that you find will be much more formal than mine. And more fashionable. The point of my capsule wardrobe is not to be super well-dressed or an example of someone who always wears great outfits. Because I don’t. The point of my capsule wardrobe is to have a wardrobe that I love and feel great in and that is minimalistic. I don’t want to waste time or money on choosing what to wear or buying more than what I need. My capsule isn’t perfect, but a few weeks in, I think that I can safely say, that I have achieved my capsule goals.
One lesson I learned in curating my capsule was the concept of excess multiples. What I mean by that is that as I was choosing clothes that I would wear this summer, I was careful to include items for summer days that aren’t as warm or those chilly summer evenings, which is why the jean jacket, cardigan, long-sleeve blouse, long-sleeve t-shirt & chambray shirt made it in. However, I have multiple cardigans and long-sleeve t-shirts, but only one of each were chosen because I don’t need more than one of those items in the summer. Any time that the weather requires a long-sleeve t-shirt, I have one. It might be the same one I wore last week, but that’s okay. This was a huge epiphany for me. I realized what a high value I’d placed on variety, that I now realize wasn’t necessary. For the 8-10 times that I will wear a long-sleeve t-shirt this summer, what does it matter if 5 of those times it was black and the other 5 it was white. I can almost guarantee that I am the only person who knew or noticed. Processing all of this made me realize how much more focused I was on what other people thought than I would have ever guessed.
For some people, curating a capsule wardrobe is about finding the best way to be the most fashionable with the least amount of clothes, and if that’s you, that’s fantastic! Props for doing something that I never could. But for others, it’s about taking one more step toward a more simple and minimalistic life. And it may reveal to you something about yourself that you didn’t know before; something that helps you realize what’s really important and where our priorities should be.
I’ve heard from a few of you that this is something that you are intrigued by or have been inspired to do. If that’s you, let me know! I’d love to see pictures or hear stories of what the process looked like for you and how you’re feeling about it. As with most things that I write about, I’m not an expert, but I am more than willing to help think things through with you as you work to simplify. Keep me posted!
Don’t forget to follow me on Instagram to see my daily outfits.