Last year I stumbled on the idea of a capsule wardrobe and was immediately excited. I began to weed through my closet and realized that the clothes I was getting rid of were the ones that hung in the back, never touched anyway. Having a capsule wardrobe is like only wearing your favorite clothes every day. I only wear my favorites anyway so essentially I had a “capsule wardrobe” but with a whole lot of clutter.
I narrowed my closet down to just my very favorites. I took stock of what I had and what I felt I needed to add to complete my wardrobe and suddenly shopping was fun! With a plan and a budget I set forth to add quality pieces that would accompany my existing clothes.
When all was said and done I had less than 40 items in my closet. For the first time my side was less crowded than Alex’s! And yet with less clothes, I felt like I had more complete outfits and had more fun getting dressed. Picking out clothes to wear didn’t feel like a chore anymore. I was excited about every single piece. In short, creating a capsule wardrobe was one of the best choices I have made this year.
How to begin your seasonal capsule wardrobe:
Make a list of the ideal wardrobe.
Check Pinterest for more seasonal capsule wardrobe ideas. Or check out my lists below. Yours will likely not be an exact replica of any other wardrobe. But knowing what a complete wardrobe might look like will help you recognize the clothes you want to keep. Here is a suggested list:
- 5-10 pairs of shoes
- 10-15 tops
- 5-10 bottoms (shorts/pants/skirts)
- 2-3 dresses
- 3-5 layering pieces (sweaters, jackets, scarves)
- 4-5 accessories (watch, necklace, earrings)
When creating this list keep in mind the season and your location. Here in North Carolina our fall can sometimes feel like summer so I’ll keep a pair of shorts in the mix as well as light layering pieces. Also consider the roles you play in life. Are you working a mom that needs business casual but also weekend clothes? Do you enjoy nights out and need more fun tops and accessories? I am a SAHM and admittedly I live in jeans and t-shirts. Having jackets and scarves and necklaces helps me mix up my classic mom uniform.
Sort your existing clothes.
There are many ways to do this. I like taking everything out, sort, and then put back in from my STAY pile. You may find that you can easily choose what is going to leave your closet and just pull it out and leave the rest. This is dangerous however, and you may find yourself going back many times to weed through. It sounds like a ton of work but if you have an afternoon I encourage you to just empty and start from scratch. You will find you are way more discriminating in your choices.
To start sorting you should have four piles: STAY, MAYBE, NEXT SEASON, AND LEAVE. These piles might change as you get through your process. You may put more items in the leave pile that were originally a stay or maybe. But don’t go backwards. If you have already decided it should leave, don’t move it back to maybe. Trust your gut. Keep only clothes that are in good condition and fit you right now. This is a seasonal wardrobe so if you think your body size may change in the next few months just toss those clothes in your NEXT SEASON pile. Also, only keep the clothes that you love and feel confident wearing.
Pay attention to the colors and styles in your wardrobe. An ideal capsule will have a harmonious style and most of your tops are able to be worn with your bottoms. When having a difficult time deciding what stays and goes consider if the colors and patterns work with the other pieces in your wardrobe.
Get rid of the extras.
Immediately bag your LEAVE pile and get it out the door. Trust me, you don’t need as many clothes as you think you do! Put all your NEXT SEASON clothes in a bin. I don’t get super picky about these clothes. I know that there will be more LEAVE’s out of this pile but I wait until the appropriate season to decide. Some clothes you will keep through all seasons, like a great pair of jeans and your tees, but many will be seasonal. It is important to know that you don’t have to stick to 40 items for an entire year.
Take inventory. Build your wardrobe.
Check out what remains in your STAY pile. Maybe it’s best to lay it out on the bed or go ahead and get it back on hangers and in the closet. What do you have? And what is missing from the list we discussed above? Are there pieces in your MAYBE pile that really fit the bill? Once the clutter is gone, you might find that the MAYBEs are beginning to fit back in. Or maybe now it’s obvious they should go too. Now is the time to start building your wardrobe. When hitting this stage I always start with what I already have. Don’t go shopping until you have found a place for everything that is left. When this is done, if you have any MAYBE’s left it is time for them to go.
What’s left on your list? Unfortunately for my budget I had a lot of missing pieces my first go around. I needed a great pair of jeans. The kind you want to pull on Every.Single.Day. I needed some plaids, and layering pieces. And I really needed a few new solid tees for everyday wear. I shopped at a local women’s consignment sale and was able to get most of my pieces. But then I took to my favorite stores, waited for sales and ultimately just bit the bullet. A little bit of investment goes a long way on quality clothes. Most of the items I bought last fall I will be repeating in this year’s capsule. If you have the budget splurge just a little on quality items. For me jeans and layers are important to splurge on. I will keep these items for years. I basically ruin t-shirts in a season so I tend to go for cheaper but sustainable options like Everlane.
It sounds wild but get your shopping done quick. Don’t wait around. You will have an incomplete wardrobe and your capsule will fail. You will feel discouraged and hate it and feel like you have nothing to wear. Complete your capsule. Do it once and be done. Do not add along the way. I was so nervous about spending money all at once but I ended up spending less in the long run. Once my capsule was complete I didn’t need to shop for the entire season!
Prepare for next season
But if you do feel like shopping, only buy for the next season. It is actually fun to buy clothes and hide them away. Just like when you were a kid and your mom took you school shopping but you couldn’t wear anything until the first day of school. If you buy throughout the previous season, you will be ready to go for the next. Once my fall capsule was finished last year I would start looking for items I wanted to add to my winter wardrobe like puff vests and a great wool coat.
My Fall Capsule Wardrobe
Shoes are the easiest to start with. I already own all of these except the leopard loafers and am on the hunt. My flats are both from Target I’ve had for years. I also found my black booties on sale for $9 at Target two years ago and they are most comfortable shoes I’ve ever owned. My Steve Madden tall brown boots were a Christmas gift two years ago and my nude/blush leather Tom’s were a birthday gift last year. The only other pair I am considering for this year is a great pair of Hunter Boots, a splurge but also an item that I will keep for years to come. These are the only shoes I need, but you may decide to add a few more to your capsule. You may want an additional pair of booties in a more neutral color or need a few pairs of heels for work.
Layering pieces are also pretty straight forward. I am excited that I do not need to add to this list at all this season. I bought my army green jacket last fall when I first did my capsule. I realized it was the one key piece missing. This year I also bought a jean jacket on sale at the beginning of summer and it will be great this fall. I also have a white and black cardigan because these are my go-to items when I need a layer.
I am sticking with basics on the bottom this fall and keeping only my favorites out. These great black khakis from Gap, a pair of boyfriend jeans from Loft and my beloved Paige skinnys. As I mentioned above, I’ll keep out a pair of shorts for transition into Fall. I am resurrecting my beloved maroon khakis from Gap this Fall and also on the hunt for these amazing moto leggings. I love using a little color on the bottom since I tend to stick to neutrals on the top.
Just 16 pieces for me unless I find something absolutely perfect while out shopping. Many of the shirts above I already own and will reuse from last year or transition from Summer to Fall. I tend to gravitate to Loft and Gap for tops but am looking to purchase from higher quality, more ethical lines. Unfortunately most of my Loft shirts fall apart after just one season. On my list to purchase this year is that amazing black and white striped heavy weight tee from Everlane. I also just purchased my new beloved “Sunday Funday” tee and the pink and gray t-shirt dress from a local boutique.
Last on the list are accessories. I am definitely a less is more gal so feel free to go beyond what I have listed here. A statement necklace would be a great addition and would add a pop of color to a neutral wardrobe. And scarves would also be fun but I personally hate wearing scarves. I currently own all of these pieces except the backpack. I have had the Everlane Mini on my wishlist for a long time!
I am now one full year into using a capsule wardrobe and am a complete convert. I am way more likely on a daily basis to get out of my “athleisure” and into real clothes. Once the real clothes are on I’m also more likely to accessorize and do my hair and make up.
What do you think? Are you ready to create your own capsule wardrobe? What would you add or take from the one I created? If you have questions about sources leave in the comments. I’ll also be happy to do a follow up post with sources.