Is a capsule wardrobe for you?
Updated: Oct 22
With the change in the weather coming, have you been wondering if it’s time to try something like a capsule wardrobe? That’s been the question that I’ve been trying to answer, so I’ve been doing some homework to figure that out.
I’ve been dressing myself for a long time, but I can’t say that I’ve been able to put together a wardrobe that is at the same time attractive, versatile, and enduring. There’s always been the “I have nothing to wear!” syndrome going on for me even though there’s more than nothing in my closet. Partly, that may be because I haven’t always had in mind how new pieces should fit in with the rest of what I wear. As It turns out, that's one of the problems capsule wardrobes should help solve.
Even though they are really big right now, capsule wardrobes aren’t a new thing. According to Wikipedia, the concept has been around since the 1940’s. Then, in the 1970’s, boutique owner Susie Faux developed the idea to give working women a closet of fewer, (read: about a dozen) high quality core classic pieces that could mix and match to last for years of wear. When a couple of seasonal or trendy items are added to the capsule along with as many accessories as you want, then you have expanded your possibilities.
In the years since, capsule wardrobes have evolved to where they are today and have become incredibly popular. There are some fine details to how they work, but here are a few key ideas that I’m hoping to run with:
# 1 Fewer Clothes but more options
I’m not a card carrying minimalist, but I like to have only what I need and actually wear in my closet. The other stuff that I have to stare at every morning is a visual and mental distraction that I’d rather not have to deal with. Focusing on essential pieces that coordinate well give the most options with less stuff. Let’s say you have two pairs of pants and 3 tops that all go together in your capsule. That means you’ll have 6 combinations. The logic goes that if you add one sweater that goes with those 5 other items, and it can be layered or worn on its own, then you are up to 14 outfit possibilities. Add a skirt that goes with everything, and you’ve got 21 options. However, just know that although you have more possible combinations, you would be wearing these same pieces ALOT. That sweater would be in 12 of the combos, so that's over half the time. Here's why it's important to be intentional about adding more pieces, or you'll just keep wearing the same things over and over.
Initially, I’m not going to be setting a target number for the clothes that I’ll have, but the most common number in a seasonal capsule seems to be around 30-40 items. I have a pretty lean closet right now since for years I’ve decluttered a lot more than I’ve added. Currently, I have a lot of holes in my wardrobe, and I know that I won't be able to fill them quickly, so the biggest challenge for me will be thinking through how to add items that work with each other.
#2 Quality over quantity
Quality over quantity is also at the heart of the capsule wardrobe. Higher quality clothes should mean they last longer. This is going to be something for me to work on since I love a good bargain and have a lot of them in my closet. I have a weakness for fast fashion since the price tag is low, but I do shop sales and second hand for the better quality items that I own. I’m willing to focus on having fewer items that will wear out less frequently, but at a price that’s affordable. Of course, affordable doesn't mean the same thing to everybody, but as someone who probably has too much Old Navy in her closet, you have an idea of what that means for me.
#3 Enduring Style
A key task is figuring out how to curate a wardrobe that will last for years. Focusing on having classics that won’t go out of style quickly, as well as buying items that feel great, fit well, and work for your lifestyle means that you should be happily wearing them for years to come. That’s all just common sense, but we know it can be a lot harder than it sounds. When I’m trying to make a decision about buying something, and the price is irresistible, I often convince myself that what I’m looking at is good enough and will work well enough. I can put up with a less than perfect fit, color, or style since the price is so good. We all know how that goes: the give away, donate, or throw away pile! I know there's going to be a learning curve to face here, but I'm hoping to move toward solving some of the problems I have with my closet.
Lastly, I wanted to share some resources for anyone who may be looking for some inspiration:
The Vivienne Files: Authored by Janice Riggs, a wardrobe planner extraordinaire. This is the first blog I started following, and offers a myriad of examples of how to build a wardrobe.
Un-fancy: This one is not currently being updated, but is still inspiring those who capsule (and those who don't). She ended up calling her own wardrobe capsule-ish, which is probably what I will end up saying about mine.
Project 333: for the minimalists among us. A challenge to wear 33 items for 3 months.
Accounts on YouTube:
Christie Ressel: uses “modules” to build her capsules, which is a great idea to check out. She also uses color and pattern liberally, which is refreshing.
Useless: Signe Hansen has a year around basic wardrobe that is supplemented by seasonal capsules. I really like her style too.
Justine Leconte official: a chic french designer’s perspective. I’ve especially enjoyed some of her older videos.
So, there you have it. What do you think? Do you think capsules might work for you?