Until recently I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with my wardrobe. I loved shopping (slightly too much) for new pieces to add to it, but I hated picking outfits. Even when my wardrobe was overflowing with clothes it still felt like I had nothing to wear. Which meant I’d usually end up picking clothes I didn’t feel great in because I was too overwhelmed to make a decision. And that little routine just wasn’t working for me. I think it is so important to feel good in what we wear. When we feel confident with the way we look, we also act more confident in other areas of our life as well.
Then at the beginning of the year a friend recommended a book to me called ‘The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up’ by Japanese organisational consultant Marie Kondo. The use of the word ‘magic’ in the title is no exaggeration. It really changed my outlook on material possessions – I highly recommend having a read. Since then I’ve been slowly tidying up different areas of my house. And one particular area that just kept evolving each time I revisited it was my wardrobe. Over six months I had refined it down so much that it started to get less overwhelming and more exciting to pick an outfit. Without even noticing I had got myself to a point where I was just one step away from having a capsule wardrobe.
So this season I took the leap and made it official. I am now the proud owner of my very own capsule wardrobe and I’m really excited to be able to start sharing it with you. But I didn’t feel quite right just sharing my seasonal capsules and weekly outfits, without also sharing my process of going from a shopaholic having regular outfit picking meltdowns to spending less time and money on my wardrobe, but feeling amazing in my clothes every single day.
You may have heard the term ‘capsule wardrobe’ before. But you may or may not know what it really means. There are plenty of books and websites that explain and define it in their own ways. However, I don’t think there can be one capsule wardrobe formula that works perfectly for everyone. We all have different personalities, priorities and lifestyles and so should customise our own capsule wardrobes to suit our unique lives. In saying this, rather than give you somebody else’s definition I thought it would be more useful to explain what ‘capsule wardrobe’ means to me. Especially because I plan to share my capsule wardrobe journey with you!
What is a capsule wardrobe?
To me a capsule wardrobe is: A curated selection of quality clothing, shoes and accessories which I love and that reflect my personal style, and can be worn interchangeably to create a range of outfits, minimising wardrobe clutter and the daily anxiety of picking something to wear.
Notice that I haven’t provided a specific formula for how many of each item you should have, what colours you should stick to or how often it should be updated. I will go through my rough guide for each of these topics, however this is all about creating a wardrobe that will be sustainable for you and your lifestyle – so you get to make your own rules.
Another thing to note is that when I say ‘quality’ I don’t necessarily mean expensive. I mean well-made, well-fitting and durable. It’s all about finding those brands that work for your lifestyle and your budget.
Capsule wardrobe misconceptions
After speaking with some friends about capsule wardrobes and hearing their different opinions there were a few negative reactions that came up, so I wanted to go over them and clear up any concerns you might have:
Having a capsule wardrobe means you have to throw out everything and start again
This couldn’t be further from the truth. As you’ll discover through this post series it’s about refining your style and distilling it down to the items that make you feel the best when you wear them – the ones that bring you joy. Then with time you continue to refine and edit it to suit your style. A capsule wardrobe is always going to be a work in progress because it needs to grow and change with your life. But once you’ve done the fundamental work it will be really easy to maintain.
Having a capsule wardrobe is really restrictive and means I can only wear black and white
Sure having a palette of black and white makes a capsule wardrobe so much easier, because everything will go with everything! But not all of us want to wear black and white all the time. And that is ok! Your capsule wardrobe is about you and should capture the essence of your personality and style. There are definitely no rules saying that you can only include black and white – pinky promise! There are also no rules about how many items you have to cut down to. I will give you a rough guide but it’s your choice how you put together your own capsule.
Having a capsule wardrobe means I never get to go shopping again
If I’m going to be honest, this is probably the main reason I put off starting my capsule wardrobe. Because I’m just a little bit addicted to shopping (just a teeny-tiny bit). I love the feeling of that post-shopping high. But the more I started taking notice of what I was buying and how often I was wearing it the more I realised how much money I was wasting.
Rather than save for the piece I was really in love with I’d splurge on something because it was on sale. Or I’d buy something just because I felt like shopping. But I’d usually only end up wearing those things once or twice because they didn’t fit properly or I didn’t really love them. I also have this weird thing where if I’m shopping online I can’t just buy one thing, I need to buy at least two or three. I’m sure there is some psychological reason behind that one – but I haven’t figured it out yet. Anyway…
Having a capsule wardrobe does not mean that you never get to go shopping again. But it does mean you’ll get smarter with your shopping. You’ll be more aware and selective of what you are buying. In fact you will get to buy nicer things, because you won’t be spending all your money on those impulse purchases. And if like me you like to refresh your wardrobe every season then you can do a seasonal capsule. This doesn’t mean you replace every single item every season (unless you really want to of course). But you keep the same basics and update a few of your feature items.
Why create a capsule wardrobe?
Putting together and maintaining a capsule wardrobe is something that can benefit everyone. We all have our own reasons behind wanting to start one, but below I’ve listed some of my favourites:
By having a curated selection of items that can be used interchangeably you will save yourself time sifting through piles of clothes (half of which you don’t even like) to pick an outfit.
By carefully planning each item you add to your capsule wardrobe and ensuring it is a) something you love wearing b) high quality and c) easy to mix and match, you can save money on replacing poor quality items, purchasing things because they are cheap or on sale and buying items that you never wear because they don’t go with anything else you own.
You might think that anxiety is a strong word to use when it comes to picking an outfit. But for me it’s a reality. I don’t even want to know how much time I’ve spent contemplating what to wear, then getting changed a million times before I’m somewhat happy. And as embarrassing as it is to admit, I’ve even had outfit picking meltdown moments, where I feel like I either have nothing to wear (even though my wardrobe is overflowing with clothes) or I feel like nothing looks good on me. However, when you have a capsule wardrobe system you have already put together your very own look book, which makes it so easy to quickly pick an outfit.
Create more Space
You know that feeling you get after a bit of spring cleaning or decluttering? You feel lighter, refreshed and clear minded. That is what it is like all the time when you have a capsule wardrobe. Not only do you have more physical space in your wardrobe (or on your bedroom floor!) but you also give yourself more head space. You no longer have to spend lots of energy picking an outfit.
Live more Ethically + Sustainably
By buying fewer items that are higher quality we are using less of the earth’s materials and resources. We can also be more selective about the brands we choose to shop with, giving preference to those with good ethical practices.
Define Your Style
Even if you are not sure you want to create a capsule wardrobe I would recommend step one and step two to anybody who wants to understand their style better and have a happy, healthy relationship with their wardrobe. So before you can start putting together your dream capsule wardrobe it is important to do some ground work. The better you can understand and define your style now the easier it will be to select the perfect items (and stay away from the items you’ll never end up wearing).
You can either use a notebook to keep all your notes together or I’ve put together a handy little Capsule Wardrobe Workbook for you which you can download here.
Time: Approx. 30 minutes
You will need:
- Notebook or your Capsule Wardrobe Workbook
- Access to your wardrobe
To help you move forward with your wardrobe it’s important to have a good understanding of what you do and do not like. You might think this is already something you intrinsically know. But when you stop to think about it, it’s very interesting to see you may have a habit of buying items you never wear, over and over again.
- Identify your space wasters: Scan through your current wardrobe and make a list of items you are often attracted to buying, but don’t end up wearing more than a couple of times (or at all). Hint: If it still has a tag on it then it goes on this list. These items waste your space, time and money and now that you are aware of them you can consciously choose to stop adding them to your wardrobe.
- Identify your wardrobe heroes: Scan through your current wardrobe again but this time make a list of things you wear all the time and feel good in. Hint: Items that you wear so often that you’ve had to replace them go on this list. These items bring you joy, make you feel good when you wear them and never feel old. They should form the base of your capsule wardrobe.
Capsule Wardrobe Look Book
Time: Approx. 2 hours
You will need:
- Notebook or your Capsule Wardrobe Workbook
- A computer
- A Pinterest account
- Printer and glue (if you prefer to work away from the computer)
This is one of my favourite parts! Putting together your very own capsule wardrobe look book.
- Create a private Pinterest board called ‘My Style’ (or something that resonates with you). Then spend some time pinning outfits you would love to wear. Don’t get caught up in whether they go with your current wardrobe. This is about redefining. Do be mindful to steer clear from your space wasters and include plenty of your wardrobe heroes. Aim for 30-50 images that cover outfits for all seasons and occasions (work, casual, formal etc.). I don’t include exercise or around the house clothing in my capsule, but you can if you like.
- Now save these images to your desktop and group similar outfits in to categorised folders. For example, one type of outfit might be ‘Basic Tee and Denim’ and another might be ‘Pretty Top and Denim’.
- Next name and describe each of the looks you have ended up with in your notebook or work sheet. Put your correlating images with each look – this will become your look book. Either place your images into your Capsule Wardrobe Workbook on your computer or print your looks and glue them into your notebook or Capsule Wardrobe Workbook. You could have anywhere between 4-10 looks – it will be different for everyone. And may be even more if you have very different dress codes for different areas of your life. You may need to dress very formerly for work but prefer to be casual in your own time. This means that you wouldn’t have much crossover for the items used in these outfits and so you would need more looks.
- Now also take notice of common shoes and accessories that you would team with different outfits and list these in your notebook or work sheet. Be careful to only pick out the items that work across a wide range of looks. For example, your accessories might include ‘tan fedora hat’, ‘black cross-body bag’, ‘long silver necklace’ etc.
Hurray! You’ve completed step one of creating your capsule wardrobe and you now have your new personalised look book. This look book is going to make the next few steps so much easier. It will also be a valuable resource you can refer to when you are thinking of purchasing something new or you need some help deciding what to wear.
Ready to move on? You can find the next step here – Creating your Capsule Wardrobe: Step 2 – Refine + Organise. Have you just completed this step? I’d love to hear how you went and if you learnt anything you’d like to share below.