The capsule wardrobe has seen a resurgence in recent years, thanks to a shift in simplifying our lives and embracing less as more. Since nearly everyone is spending extra time at home these days due to the coronavirus, this might be a great time to look through your closet and let go of a few things that no longer serve you.
What is a capsule wardrobe?
A capsule wardrobe is a small collection of high-quality clothing, where all of the pieces work together to create an endless number of outfits. This type of closet involves editing what you own down to your favorite articles of clothing and eliminating items that no longer fit your body or your lifestyle. Capsule wardrobes are filled with pieces you love to wear, which translates to shopping less frequently but more intentionally when you do.
Benefits of creating a capsule wardrobe
We’re inundated with thousands of options every day, from what we eat, to what we watch, to what we wear, and stressing over an outfit every morning can lead to decision fatigue before your day has even started. But a capsule wardrobe can help you save on time, money, and energy, to instead spend on more important decisions at work or at home with your family.
A capsule wardrobe can save you a significant amount of money, since you’ll be shopping for staple pieces you can pair with anything, rather than impractical, inexpensive items you’ll be tempted to toss out. And since you’ll have fewer options than you’re used to, you’re also likely to take better care of your capsule clothing, ensuring each piece lasts a long time before it needs replacing. Transitioning from impulse buys to conscious purchases may be a big adjustment, but it’s a commendable challenge and a great opportunity for personal growth.
Experiment with your personal style
By having fewer items hanging in your closet, you can get creative with what you keep, like styling new pieces together or playing with patterns and silhouettes. The beauty of a capsule wardrobe is it allows you to experiment with your personal style, to give more thought to how you like to dress, and to easily express yourself via your fashion choices. In narrowing your wardrobe, you can not only define your individual aesthetic, but you can better understand what fits or flatters your shape, as well.
Only keep things you love
When creating a capsule wardrobe, most people lean towards classic shapes in line with their personal taste, and then add in colors, patterns, or prints appropriate for each season. Having a mini-wardrobe made up of versatile pieces you love will make getting dressed a breeze, since everything in your closet is something you feel comfortable and confident wearing. You’ll always have a cute outfit ready to go, because every item has been carefully selected to suit your style and is guaranteed to look great on.
Indulging in retail therapy can be incredibly tempting, however, purchases made on a whim are often a waste of money and almost always harmful to the environment (since it requires an enormous amount of water and energy to produce fast fashion). In contrast to cheap clothing thrown out after a few wears, a capsule wardrobe is built around high-quality pieces with the potential to be worn year-round. By shrinking your spending habits and taking proper care of your clothing, you’ll not only save cash, but you’ll do your part in saving the planet, as well.
How to create a capsule wardrobe in 4 steps
1. Pare down your closet to 37 items.
While there’s some debate about how many items constitute a capsule wardrobe, Caroline Rector of Unfancy (the authority on the capsule movement) recommends 37 pieces per season. To reach that golden number, pare down your closet to a combination of items you already own and a few pieces you purchase specifically for the next few months. Keep in mind, those 37 items include pants, shirts, jackets, dresses, and shoes -- meaning they do not include workout wear, jewelry, handbags, swimsuits, underwear, or pajamas.
2. Wear only those 37 items for three months.
Once your capsule is in place, it’s time to start imagining all the different outfits you can create from those 37 pieces. Think of ways to mix and match patterns or play with colors, and try out new-to-you looks like a dress worn with sneakers or a nice pair of denim with some heels. Remember you can switch things up after three months if you realize an item or two doesn’t belong in your capsule after all. The point is to try something new rather than obsessing over a number, so if 37 doesn’t sit well, find what works best for you the following season.
3. Don’t go shopping for the remainder of that season.
This step may actually be harder for some than paring down your wardrobe in the first place. It’s not enough to just clear out your closet, you’ll need to commit to not buying any additional clothing for the remainder of that season. If it helps, think of the seasons as Winter (January to March), Spring (April to June), Summer (July to September), and Fall (October to December). But since accessories don’t apply to your 37 items, take some liberty in incorporating those throughout the year, like chunky scarves in the Winter or colored sunglasses in the Summer.
4. Plan for your next capsule in advance.
The last two weeks of each season are reserved for planning your next capsule wardrobe, which means shopping for new items should be done during this timeframe. The amount you purchase is entirely up to you, but try and be thoughtful with where your money goes. Since a capsule wardrobe adopts a minimalist mindset, less will always be more. With that said, don’t be afraid to have a little fun when it comes time to add to your collection -- try out a wide leg jean instead of a form-fitting pant, or opt for a bold-patterned blouse to spice things up a bit.
Capsule wardrobe inspiration for 2021
Caroline Rector’s site was started in 2014 as a way to hone in on her personal style and reframe her purchasing habits. As Caroline put it, she had ‘a closet full of cheap clothes but nothing to wear.’ Unfancy was an opportunity to document her journey with a small and structured wardrobe, and a space for her to share daily outfits and lessons learned. Today, Unfancy is continuing to inspire others to practice moderation and mindfulness in all things.
Candice Tay began her blog in the summer of 2018, when she became proactive in her pursuit of an intentional lifestyle and conscious consumerism. The past few years have led her towards living more minimally and sustainably in her urban environment of Toronto, Ontario. Candice’s site highlights slow fashion brands as well as her personal capsule wardrobe, in addition to offering practical tips on how to live simpler with zero-waste.
Allison Karaba’s blog serves as an outlet for her style development, and as a means to record her shift towards a simpler life. Allison’s goal is to constantly keep fewer items in her closet, while ensuring the pieces that do hang there are ‘high-quality, comfortable, and timeless.’ The Thoughtful Closet is host to slow fashion reviews, styling suggestions, and ample advice on how to create an ethical, more sustainable wardrobe.
Maria Lee describes herself as an ‘essentialist minimalist and wardrobe data analyst,’ an impressive title with an equally impressive site to match. Gold Zipper started as a place for her to share stories about her clothing, as she’d kept a minimal wardrobe for more than ten years before committing to a capsule closet back in 2014. Now, Maria’s blog is filled with incredible graphs, charts, and product reviews to guide others in building their own purposeful wardrobes.
Capsule wardrobe FAQs
How many clothes should be in a capsule wardrobe?
While there’s some debate about how many items constitute a capsule wardrobe, you should aim for roughly 25-40 pieces. Caroline Rector of Unfancy (the authority on the capsule movement) recommends 37 pieces per season, emphasizing quality over quantity.
How much does it cost to make a capsule wardrobe?