I used to have a pretty massive walk-in style closet filled to the brim with clothes. Many of the items had been worn only a few times and some not at all. Even with all of my options, I often felt like I had nothing to wear. Over time, the constant baskets of clothes in various places around the house (I had a mental block about putting clothes away when there was no space for them in closets and drawers) and the awful feeling of never being caught up on laundry really got to me. But it was more than just the laundry. Our consumer-driven lives left us feeling like we were drowning in stuff. For every item that got put away in a drawer, it felt like there were five more draped over a chair or the exercise bike creating clutter. It was doing a number on my anxiety. Enter capsule wardrobes.
To be completely honest, we sold almost everything we own, moved across the ocean, and then adopted a minimalist lifestyle, but for the purpose of this post, I’m going to focus on how one could go about creating a capsule wardrobe without an international move as a catalyst!
Once we were set up in our new home overseas, it would have been easy to start accumulating clothes again. However, after months of living with very little (we lived with my in-laws while house hunting in our new country), my mindset had undergone a major shift. We took an unplanned 8-month break from shopping as we hadn’t a need for new things or had the space to store them while living with family. I found that I felt very content working with the clothing options I had when getting dressed each morning.
The fact that the laundry pile was also manageable and it was so easy to put everything away after washing it–there was space in the drawers and in the wardrobe for the items to go–was an added bonus. All of that coupled with an evolving knowledge of the catastrophic effects of synthetic fabrics on the environment, dulled the appeal of shopping for clothes.
The term ‘capsule wardrobe’ sounds more fancy than what we have. For my family, it means that we have each have a few items of clothing that mix and match to create many different outfit choices. It truly takes a whole change of mindset to embrace the capsule wardrobe life and to stick to it. You have to work to suppress the urge to buy which is so ingrained in us as we’re nearly constantly bombarded with aggressive marketing from clothing companies and influencers. I can tell you from experience that it does subside with time.
Everyone’s capsule wardrobe needs will be slightly different so it’s difficult to give you an exact formula for how to go about creating one. Where I have a few pairs of jeans and yoga pants, and spend my days walking to the school gate and then working from home, that just won’t suit someone who is heading into an office setting five days a week.
Here are a few tips for getting started
First, go through all the items of clothing you own–yes, every single one–and remove anything that doesn’t fit, that you only “kind of” like, and anything that is uncomfortable to wear (even if you love it). Hanging onto items like this aren’t worth the space they take up in your closet or the mental space they take up as you ponder whether you’re ever going to wear them. If you find yourself thinking things like, “Well, it’s a bit tight but it matches these shorts…” put it in the donate pile.
I firmly believe that if an item isn’t comfortable and doesn’t make you feel totally confident, then it doesn’t belong in your wardrobe.
Don’t feel like you need to convert to a capsule wardrobe in a weekend. I was thrust into the lifestyle in a short period of time, but what I recommend is to first do a clear out of the items I mentioned above and then STOP. Leave your wardrobe alone for a while and, most importantly, stop buying new things.
Maybe give yourself a goal of not buying anything new for 3 or 4 months. Take note of what you actually wear and feel good in and then do another clear out. Eventually you’ll have paired it down to your absolute favorites and you can slowly build from there as needed. Generally, there is a big cost savings in going capsule and I personally put the saved money into buying higher quality clothing items that will last me a longer amount of time.
When you’re in a store contemplating a purchase, try to imagine the item paired with the clothes you already have. If you don’t have something that matches it, then skip the purchase. You can always buy it later on if you think about if for a couple of weeks and find you really do need it. There is no harm in skipping impulse purchases and giving yourself a little extra time to think about what you really want/need.
There is joy in bringing home a new item of clothing, no doubt, and I’m by no means a killjoy who wants everyone to wear boring, old clothes. However, I do believe that being intentional about what we purchase will ultimately make us happier in the long run.
A few final thoughts
Buying higher quality items will help them withstand the more frequent washing. Having said that, only wash your clothes if they’re visibly soiled or if they have an odor. Also, I hang dry all of my clothes down to my underwear and socks. We do have a tumble dryer and I use it to fluff up towels and stiff items, but most of the time I skip it as dryers are notorious for destroying fabrics and shortening their lifespan.
I think there might be this idea that if you have a capsule wardrobe it will be very bland and boring. For some reason, I had always picture a capsule wardrobe of white button-down shirts with black trousers, but it definitely doesn’t have to be! You can get creative and still keep lots of color in your wardrobe. You can add scarves and jewelry that add pizzaz and style to outfits. Just like my clothes though, I do personally keep my jewelry and scarf collection quite minimal so that I actually wear what I have.
Having fewer clothing items definitely makes many aspects of life much easier. When I’m packing for a weekend away I can grab my favorite 2 or 3 outfits in nanoseconds and I know I’ll be comfortable and I’ll feel good about how I look. Also, and I don’t know why this is exactly, but I swear to you that having fewer items keeps clothes from accumulating on the exercise bike or the chair in the corner of your bedroom. Maybe because there are always enough hangers and enough drawer space that it doesn’t feel like a chore to put everything away. To top it off, there is never an ungodly pile of washing to do. For us, at the very worst, there is only one full laundry basket of dirty clothes because if we don’t keep up on laundry, we quite literally don’t have anything to wear!
My Summer Capsule Wardrobe
Pants: Jeans 4, Trousers 2, Leggings 1 (missing from photo as they are currently being worn)
Tops: Tanks 7, Tees 7, Dressy tops 5, Long sleeve tops 3, Cardigans 3, Puffy vest 1, Blazer 1, Denim jacket 1
Dresses/Skirts: Shorts 1, Pencil skirt 1, Casual skirts 4, Tee shirt style dresses 4, Sundresses 3, Business casual dress 1, Formal dress 1
Swimwear: Bathing suits 2, cover-ups 2
Exercise wear: Yoga pants 3, Shorts 2, Tanks 6, Long sleeve running tops 4, Sports bras 3
Plus pajamas, comfy sweats/fleeces, undershirts.
What are your thoughts, does creating a capsule wardrobe sound like something you might like to try?