Steps to Take Before Considering a Capsule Wardrobe

Are you interested in the idea of a capsule wardrobe? Do you like the idea of minimalism and fangirl over Marie Kondo? Has it been hard to make a transition to this lifestyle? Because, same here. Over the last several years, I’ve reduced my impulse purchasing and cut my wardrobe in half, but by any definition, I’m still no minimalist. And you know what? That’s okay with me. In the same way that it has taken me years to build my current wardrobe, I should expect creating a capsule wardrobe to be a long process. So if you’re looking to get started at reducing clutter, especially in your wardrobe, but aren’t quite ready to get rid of everything, you might like this post. It’s about the smaller steps to take. I’ve done all of these and I feel so much better about my wardrobe, style, and space.

If we still aren’t clear, a capsule wardrobe is a very limited seasonal wardrobe (the numbers change, but something around 30-50 pieces of clothes and accessories per season). The pieces are meant to work together and create multiple outfits.

Ask Yourself Why: The biggest first step is knowing why you are interested in the concept of a capsule wardrobe and base your wardrobe expectations off of that. Goals should be set based on what you personally want to get out of this, not what you see on social media.

  • Save Money: In general, you aren’t happy with how much money you’re spending on clothes, and probably other things in general.
    • Impulse buying cheap items: You’ve realized if you didn’t buy five cheaper dresses that you somewhat like, you could have spent a little more on something you love and that won’t unravel in the dryer after a few washes.
    • The luster of expensive items/brand names doesn’t exist anymore. You once tried to keep up with the Joneses, but that doesn’t make you as satisfied anymore. You still like nice things, but you may realize that a $100 purse is just as nice as a $600 purse.
  • Save Space: Our stuff tends to expand with the amount of space we have and it’s so easy to run out of room, regardless of your storage space. You’ve realized that the feeling of stuffing too many sweaters into a drawer actually bothers you and you want to be more organized.
  • Reduce Decision Fatigue: You’re busy and/or you have a lot of decisions to make in life and hope a reduced wardrobe will make life a little easier. You like the idea of traveling and living out of a backpack (even though you might only do that for a weekend). You want to wake up only needing to choose from a few items.
  • Improve your Style: I get more compliments now with a fraction of my clothes than I did a few years ago with a ton of options. When people can think of you and pinpoint a style, you’re automatically deemed more stylish. That doesn’t mean you can’t be adventurous, but having a few go-to looks will make you seem more put together. Come up with a phrase of your idle style. You may not always stick to it, but it’ll help you decide what to purchase later on. Mine is ‘Rustic European’. I want my clothes to be comfortable but not frumpy. I want to look like I can get my hands dirty when needed, then be able to go to a nice restaurant in the evening. I don’t want to be overly trendy. I also have an odd obsession with not wanting to look American.
Although many capsule wardrobe posts recommend sticking to neutrals, I love having a few fun patterns and colors. My only rule is that I can wear at least two different pairs of shoes with an item.

Pick out your Uniforms: This is just what you naturally lean towards. What you have the most of. If your uniform isn’t something you love, now is the time to slowly change it. But defining what you lean on the most will help you decide how many pieces of that style/category you need and what you may want to put on your shopping list.

  1. Either go with the season you’re currently in or go all out and pick uniforms for each season. I went all in since I was already focused.
  2. Decide how many uniforms you want for each season. Yes, it’s okay to have several uniforms and yes, the number of uniforms you have can change depending on the time of year. Consider these things:
    1. How different are your work outfits from days-off outfits?
    2. Consider your hobbies and events you usually attend.
    3. How often do you go out and are those outfit dressy or tone-downed?

Here’s my example of my four uniforms for fall:

  • Work: Black pants, button-down top, nice jacket or blazer, ankle boots or loafers.
  • Weekend errands/lunch with friends: Black jeans or thick leggings, long sweater/turtle neck, sneakers or ankle boots.
  • Fall hiking: Thick leggings, long-sleeved shirt, vest, running shoes or hiking boots.
  • Event: long-sleeved dress, black tights, black velvet heels.

You can see that I have some items overlapping, right? It depends on what you do for work and for fun. You may have a uniform for work or hobbies built in or you may have flexibility. The point of planning a uniform is to reduce decision fatigue and automatically help narrow down your wardrobe (whether you get rid of items or just put them elsewhere in your closet). I usually stick with my uniform 6 out of 7 days, then I’ll randomly want to get creative and wear something else.

My favorite outfit for fall: high-neck sweater, black pants, loafers or ankle boots, gold jewelry. Sweaters from: LL Bean, Target, Old Navy. Pants: Target. Shoes: Madewell, Everlane. Watch: MVMT. Necklace: Madewell

First Round Edit: Once you have an idea of your uniforms, try a first round edit. Your goal is to get rid of some things, obviously, but it’s more of a practice round to see how prepared you are to drastically reduce your wardrobe. I’ve been doing edits for about three years and I’m still no where near wanting to drop to 30 items. Yet, I’m still very happy with my reduced wardrobe. Keep an eye on your emotions and know donating just a few things is better than nothing.

  1. Start with items that you aren’t passionate about: undergarments, cheaper accessories, etc. Then work your way up to the items you enjoy more.
  2. Divide by season. This maybe just splitting in two or three, depending on where you live. But gather all the items together to visually see how many you have.
  3. Now count how many items you have, per season, for each category.
  4. Ask yourself: if you didn’t do laundry for X amount of weeks, how many of this particular item would you go through? Write that down for each category. I pick two weeks.
  5. Now edit based on the difference between those two numbers: how many you have vs how many you need for a set period of time. My guess is that you have a couple categories where you have enough of that item to last you weeks longer than needed. And you’ll have special items that may not be something you would add in your rotation weekly, but you still need. Items like that for me: wool socks for cold weather hiking, a backless bra, leggings good for layering.

Here are two examples: Socks and Pants for Fall/Winter

  • Work-out socks: 7
  • No-show socks: 6
  • Tall socks: 8
  • Blue Jeans: 4
  • Black Jeans: 3
  • Hiking pants/cold walk pants: 2
  • Ankle/joggers: 5
  • Leggings: 6

So in total, I have 21 pairs of socks and 20 fall/winter pants. So I could wear a different pair of pants for almost three weeks. Do I do that? No, I usually rotate between two black jeans, my favorite joggers, and my thick leggings that go well with long sweaters. At one point, I had 11 pairs of jeans, so I’m proud I got it down this low. But when I do wear jeans, I usually only pick from two, then I have one nicer pair. So I will donate the pair of jeans that don’t fit me well, one pair of leggings that are starting to wear, and I’m throwing away a pair of tall socks with a hole in them and two old mismatched work-out socks.

Final Tips: Hopefully you were able to get rid of a few things, but you may feel stuck on a few categories. You’ve spent money on something and know the item is outdated or worn, but you have so many good memories wearing/using it. You love your little collection of some article of clothing (that’s scarves and black t-shirts for me). Don’t beat yourself up if there are areas of your edit that were difficult. Here are a few final tips to rip the band-aid off a little easier for the harder categories.

  • Embrace it. This is your closet. If there are a couple pieces or categories that bum you out when thinking about editing, embrace it. Don’t let that overflow into other areas you don’t care as much about. But enjoy your collection.
  • Practice Round Capsule Wardrobe: I do this quite often now. I don’t actually get rid of anything nor do I put stuff away, but I have half of a drawer empty and some space in my closet for about 5-6 hanging items. On Sunday, I pick out my clothes for Monday-Friday. I usually limit myself to two pairs of shoes and a preselected set of jewelry. Just like I would do if I was packing for a trip, I’ll gather everything. Socks, undergarments, and pants in the drawer. Dresses, tops, and outwear hanging up. Jewelry and accessories out on display. It reduces decision exhaustion without committing.
  • Buy one thing, get rid of 3 things. The amount you get rid of really depends on how much you own, but it should be at least two items. Otherwise, you’re not making a dent in your wardrobe and will never get to a minimized wardrobe to meet your goals. Currently, I get rid of at least three items per one item purchased. I usually have those items to get rid of in mind or already in a donation bag before I buy something new.
  • Replace what you once loved. I have several sweaters and a pair of black jeans that I love so much, but they don’t look nice anymore. Give them ‘respect’ by doing your research and finding the perfect replacement, instead of just randomly picking something out. Buying the exact same article of clothing, if available, is a wonderful option.
  • Retire some clothes to ‘running errand clothes’ then ‘at home clothes.’ I always have a few summer dresses I wear a ton and eventually they look too worn in. They go from my fun weekend dresses to running to the store dress, maybe a bathing suit cover-up, to my cleaning around the house dress. It’s fun to be comfortable and still cute while doing stuff around my house. I look presentable enough where I’m not freaking out if someone stops by, but not too nice that if I get sweaty or messy in it that it really matters.
I always like to preselect my earrings, necklace and watch for the week. I notice when I have them picked up, I always put them on. Versus picking from too many options each day, I’ll end up not wearing any jewelry.

Do you have tips on reducing your wardrobe or clutter around your house? Why do you like this concept? Savings, space, mental health? Mine is a mixture of all. I’ve grown to really enjoy simplifying things and slightly challenging myself. It’s hard when I have friends and family who feel the exact opposite, but it’s important to communicate what your goals are and why you live the way you do.

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