Find out how you can create a capsule wardrobe that can handle all of life’s circumstances.
I’ve decluttered my wardrobe more times than I can count. And despite my best efforts at trying to contain the chaos that clothing creates, I still ended up with a bedroom that was drowning in a sea of clothes within a month.
I have a few main problems. Perhaps you can relate?
- I like clothes
- I don’t go shopping very often, so I’m reluctant to replace my clothes (something about dragging three lethargic kids through a shopping mall gives me a headache!)
- And I have lots of different types of clothes due to the various activities I do and the different weather changes living in a seasonal country like England creates.
The combination of these factors meant that my bedroom wasn’t able to handle my clothing crisis.
I needed to do something about it.
Enter the capsule wardrobe
If you’re new to capsule wardrobes, I’ll give you a quick introduction.
The concept of the capsule wardrobe began in the 1970’s with Londoner Susan Faux (#loveLondon) who suggested that a capsule wardrobe is a collection of a few essential items of clothing that don’t go out of fashion. These items can then be mingled with seasonal pieces. Et voilá! A fashionable wardrobe that won’t cost an arm and a leg or need replacing every season.
You’ve gotta love the frugalness of this idea right? It’s probably no surprise that it came about at a time when Britain (and much of the Western world) was dealing with a recession.
Where I started with my capsule wardrobe
A few years ago, during one of my closet clear-out sessions, I was talking to my friend Sofia about my never-ending attempt to control my clothing catastrophe. I had just stumbled upon the concept of a capsule wardrobe the previous day and was highly motivated to bring my clothing under control.
In my conversation with Sofia, she mentioned a book called The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying by Marie Kondo. I’d heard about the book but hadn’t read it.
One of the main points of Marie Kondo’s book is to only keep hold of things that bring you joy. I’m really oversimplifying it here. But essentially, the book strongly advocates a more minimalist approach to possessions. Something that was completely foreign to my burdened closet.
My capsule wardrobe nightmare
I have to say, my first attempt at creating a capsule wardrobe was a disaster!
In my zeal to reduce my clothing, I got rid of so many clothes that I ended up with nothing to wear!
This was in part due to the fact that very few of my clothes made me happy. And so I just chucked them all out – Marie Kondo style! Quite a few clothes still had the labels attached because I’d never worn them – ever. (I’m sure my good friend who inherited these clothes was very happy!).
And for a period I was quite sorry that I got rid of around 90% of my clothes and was only wearing the same few items for what felt like an eternity. I think I only kept one pair of jeans, a couple of shirts, one skirt, one jumper, one cardigan and a few dresses.
I don’t want you to make the same mistake I did, so I created an amazing free resource for you, which I wish I had when I created my first capsule wardrobe. Get your free Capsule Wardrobe checklists here!
Pretty soon I realised that that amount of clothing was far too little. I couldn’t wear my lovely skirt when digging in the garden. And when my baby decided that he would wipe his spaghetti fingers all over me, I couldn’t then just walk around in my dressing gown for the rest of the day. There had to be a balance.
Building up my capsule wardrobe
In the due course of time, I started adding to my closet again. And due to Marie Kondo’s impression on me, I decided that I would only buy items that I absolutely LOVED. If I had even the slightest apprehension about a piece, or it wasn’t a complete “I ABSOLUTELY MUST HAVE IT” feeling, I didn’t buy it.
It didn’t matter if it was on sale at 99% off or even if it was FREE! It had to fit my body shape perfectly AND make me feel like I just stepped off the catwalk. No compromise.
To be honest, just having this philosophy when out shopping is an easy way to keep clothes overspending under control!
My happy medium
Now, I’ve settled into a system that I’m really happy with. My closet is no longer bulging with clothes and I have a good collection of clothes for all seasons and activities.
I decided on having four capsule wardrobes – one for each season. And on top of that, I’ve not limited my wardrobe for my ‘work’ clothes – that is my gigs. I’ve given myself permission to have an unlimited number of clothes in this category in a variety of colours. And justified it as “showbiz”! That being said, I don’t own a lot of “showbiz” clothes!
The rest of my clothes, in all other areas, are minimised. And I’m quite happy with that.
Capsule Wardrobe Staples
There are a few items of clothing that are absolute wardrobe staples for the modern woman in today’s age. These are;
- comfortable cotton T-shirts
- cardigans or jumpers
- a coat
- a black dress
- winter boots (if you live in an area that requires winter clothes)
- a clutch (I’m calling this an essential, but you may not!)
- a large handbag or tote
- casual shoes or trainers
- a comfortable pair of heels and
- jewellery and accessories
These items are a strong base upon which you can build any capsule wardrobe. Now, I know what you’re thinking, ‘That’s not a lot of clothes Elisa!’. Don’t worry, this is just where your capsule wardrobe begins – not where it ends!
How to create your own capsule wardrobe
Consider the seasons
In order to create your own capsule wardrobe, you should first consider whether you will have one capsule wardrobe for the entire year (which is absolutely fine if the weather where you live is consistent). Or whether you will have 2 or more capsule wardrobes for the year.
Because a capsule wardrobe uses a minimal amount of clothes, items that you would wear in the summer may not be suitable for wintertime when it gets cold. So being appropriately dressed in all seasons is important.
Did you know that I created a printable checklist for you? Click the link below to get it!
Consider the different activities in your life
It’s also important to consider the different activities in your life. Do you work? Have you got young kids? Do you exercise? Do you attend any formal events?
The answers to questions like these will inform the kind of clothes that you will need inside your capsule wardrobe.
Have a set of “messy clothes”
This is something that I never found in all my Pinterest perusals or Instagram investigations. For some reason, it never came up. But it is vitally important as I found out. You don’t want to be digging up the garden in your church clothes!
Life doesn’t only consist of coffee dates with friends or school runs and shopping trips. You might need to repaint the living room, or move house, or fix that old bike in your shed.
And you need to be wearing clothes when you do these things! #Ispeakfromexperience
Unlimited count areas
Ask yourself whether you need an area, like I did, where you aren’t going to limit your clothing. If you wear a uniform to work, then it might be simpler to have three or four uniforms and no more.
But if there’s an area in your life where a limitation on your clothing would be a negative thing, then give yourself permission to lift that limitation.
For me, these areas are my gig dresses and shoes, my jewellery, hair accessories and belts. It’s up to you to decide whether you need an ‘unlimited area’ or not.
What do I do with the capsule wardrobes I’m not using?
Because I have four capsule wardrobes, I only have one wardrobe in action in my closet. My other wardrobes are in storage in my attic. This means that if I were desperate enough, I could access more clothes than those currently in my closet.
And the benefit of having my other seasonal clothes in storage is that my bedroom is not drowning in a messy sea of laundry!
Do you have somewhere you can store out of season clothing? An attic, basement, a spare room or even under your bed? A large suitcase is perfect for storing clothes you’re not using right now.
Colour schemes and Capsule Wardrobes
Because a capsule wardrobe is a small collection of clothes, it’s useful to consider the colours of the clothes that will go into the capsule. This is so that you can be confident that your clothes can mix and match well with each other.
Because when you only have a couple of pairs of jeans and a handful of tops, being able to mix every bottom with every top will enable you to create a lot more outfits.
In every capsule wardrobe, you will need a few neutral colours. Examples of neutral colours are:
- Grey (in all shades)
In addition to these neutral colours, you can add accent colours. You choose which accent colours you like and which really compliment your skin, personality or another aspect.
I have slightly different accent colours in each of my seasonal capsule wardrobes. For example, in addition to my neutrals of black, white, grey and tan, my Spring wardrobe has pink, light blue and yellow. Whereas my Autumn wardrobe includes brown, orange, red and navy. I’ve found that these accent colours compliment each other quite well and allow me to mix and match the majority of my clothes.
This colour wheel shows you which colours can work well together (psst! You can get this free in the Capsule Wardrobe resource I have for you here!). This is really useful if you’re not sure whether some colours will work together or not.
What if I have an item of clothing in the wrong colour for my season?
Ok, let’s say for example, that you’ve decided for Summer you wanted to use blue and yellow for your accent colours. But one of your favourite Summer dresses is green. You can do a few things;
- make green one of your accent colours for Summer
- Put the dress into storage and have green as an accent colour for next year’s Summer capsule wardrobe.
- decide to say goodbye to green as an accent colour and donate or sell the dress (and see if you can purchase that same style of dress in a colour that works with your Capsule Wardrobe).
Having a capsule wardrobe shouldn’t mean that you get rid of perfectly great clothes – especially if they are clothes that you love and make you look great. It should be the opposite. Those are precisely the types of clothes you need to be keeping. And you can either wear them now (in your current capsule) or wear them later (in a future capsule). But by all means, wear them!
Have a capsule wardrobe for a trial period
I challenge you to try the capsule wardrobe method for a month and see how you feel. If you’re concerned that creating a capsule wardrobe is too extreme and that you’ll be left with nothing to wear, why not keep any clothes that you are “getting rid of” in a temporary storage space for now.
That way, you can see how the capsule wardrobe works for you. You can always access those other clothes if you really need to. So you wouldn’t have lost anything.
And it means that getting dressed every day is a lot quicker and easier because you’ve pared down your wardrobe to the essentials and the favourites that you love wearing, make you look great and that work well together.
Download my capsule wardrobe checklists
In order to create your own capsule wardrobe, I created a few checklists just for you. There are three seasonal capsule wardrobe checklists (Spring/Autumn, Summer and Winter) and a Mini Fitness Wardrobe checklist.
This is a great place to start if you need some guidance on what you should keep in your capsule wardrobe.
I hope you love capsule wardrobes as much as I do. Honestly, it’s made throwing an outfit together so easy that I can’t go back to the ‘bulging wardrobe and nothing to wear’ phase again!