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My Take: The Capsule Wardrobe

15th June 2015

So apparently this thing called the “capsule wardrobe” has been around for a long time. I read about it for the first time this past fall in a slightly altered capacity from a blog called Un-Fancy.

The original idea? To have versatile pieces in your wardrobe that don’t go out of style season to season and to minimize the moments of closet gazing. The capsule wardrobe making its way around the Internet, though, is different: You choose a number (most center in the mid 30s) and build your main wardrobe around that number, counting tops, bottoms, dresses, and shoes. Accessories and workout clothes don’t count. Then for a season, you wear nothing but those items. (Examples here and here.)

The main goal seems to be to simplify and minimize both daily choices and the amount of shopping/money necessary each season. In other words, no standing in the closet or in front of it despairing that there is nothing to wear, particularly as you build a wardrobe to mix and match intentionally. So most bloggers sell or donate their extra pieces if they don’t use them.

My problem? (And I’m slightly embarrassed to admit this…) Because of a strict budget (paid off my car and student loans last summer!), weight issues, and attitude – I tend to think of clothes as a luxury, and rightly so, in some instances – I don’t even have 20 pieces, much less 30. Or in other words, I’m cheap! Even though I budget each month for clothes, I never, never buy them. I went shopping in October to start replenishing my wardrobe, but here we are in June, and I had two short sleeve shirts. I am warm natured, and Texas is hot. Two tops will not exactly work.

Though I love shopping in general, clothes shopping is not my favorite. I get hot. I hate dressing room mirrors, and I tend not to have the same vision I do when I’m not in the moment, attempting to piece together a wardrobe. So online shopping makes sense to me, even with the hassle of returns.

Plus, there are some really great early summer sales going on online right now (I won’t link as they seem to change daily) on various sites I like. So I made a few purchases (and made sure the sites I shopped had free return shipping).

Summer Wardrobe


How I Did It:

1. I made a numbered list of my clothes that can work from season to season (jeans, crop pants, slacks).

2. I made a list of clothes that should be (a) retired – nothing overly nubby/worn will be kept. This is tough for me as I really stretch my clothes way past when I should. And because I don’t have a broad selection, my clothes get worn a lot. (b) repaired – I am tough on my shoes, and repairing them is not costly. The only way to extend the life of a pair of shoes is to take care of it.

3. I made another list (what can I say, I love lists) of pieces I needed: for instance, a light blazer is a must to make some of my outfits more work appropriate. I also knew I needed another pair of slacks, crop pants, and jeans. I always need tops. I included shoes as well.

4. Browsed sites for items I liked and added to my numbered list.

5. For each potential item, I cross referenced my list to see how many outfits I could make. If I could only make one or two, then I marked the item off. If the piece worked well in multiple pairings, I starred it to possibly buy. If it was a dress, I tried to make sure it wasn’t so flashy or patterned that I couldn’t wear it often or paired with a blue jean jacket. And I read reviews. Man, reviews are so helpful to be able to see how different items run, size wise. Reviews definitely had me reevaluating sizes for several selections I made.

6. I waited. Online sales change constantly, and I knew I would not buy until the site had at least 40%-60% off. Once it did, I pulled the trigger. I was pleased with what I spent and the value.

7. Next, I tried on…from the comfort of my own home. This is trial and error, but at least it’s conscious trial and error.

8. Filled in the gaps. For anything that I couldn’t find online, I headed to the mall. But with a short, targeted list, it was a much less painful experience. Plus, I felt focused and in control.

All in all, I spent less than $400 and now have (I counted) over 50 different combinations of outfits from less than 30 distinct pieces. That’s pretty incredible. And since summer in my area lasts well into September and sometimes October, that’s a good long time to get my money’s worth. With so many options, I shouldn’t need to dash out to the mall anytime soon, and I feel equipped to be able to dress for just about any event with my new wardrobe. Here’s just one example:


One Top Four Ways


As silly as it may sound, taking the daily decision of what to wear out of the equation has made my mornings much simpler, and I value simplicity.

Have you heard of the capsule wardrobe?