Everyone is talking about capsule wardrobes lately. Okay, well, maybe not everyone. Some people are talking about other stuff too, I guess. I’ve been practicing capsule wardrobe maintenance for almost a year now, and I’ve been hesitant to talk about it. Why? you may ask. Well, see, I don’t blog about fashion. I don’t consider myself a fashionista (is that even a thing anymore?). I don’t buy into trends, and name brand. Heck, some days I don’t brush my hair. (I know, I am one crazy chick!) The point is, I’m just a run of the mill mom with some chickens in my backyard. My daily uniform is jeans and a button down shirt (please ignore my husband in the background laughing at me and saying *cough* sweatpants and his old t shirts…he’s clearly delusional).
Before starting the capsule wardrobe project, I had tons of clothes. Like TONS! and even though my closet was rammed and my shoes were a jumbled pile on the floor and in boxes, I still felt like I had nothing to wear. I would literally rely on the same 10 pieces, and everything else would just sort of hang there (or lay crumpled on the floor, whatever) until that magical day that I’d have something just perfect to pair it with or some great social event to wear it to. But those days never seemed to happen. And those clothes would just hang there, slowly aging and going out of style until I’d cull them in a rage, only to replace them with other random pieces that went with one thing, or nothing, and the cycle would continue.
Even with all these clothes, I was constantly stressing about what to wear. If my friends were going out for an impromptu drink, I’d stand in front of my closet and feel like crying because I had no clothes. Don’t get me wrong, my closet was full of wearable pieces that mostly fit me, but I either had something specific in mind, of course something I didn’t own, or I didn’t have completer pieces for what I did already have.
I remember clearly one night, a couple of years ago, thinking, man, wouldn’t it be great to have an outfit on hand for everything. Like say I had a funeral to go to or a bachelorette party. Two totally different events that required pretty different outfits, but wouldn’t it be awesome if I could just reach into my closet and pull out something that was not only appropriate, but was also something that fit well and I felt fairly confident in? (I was trying to be realistic because let’s face it: I rarely feel super confident so fairly confident was a reasonable expectation.) I hung on to that idea and tried (and failed) numerous times to adopt the French wardrobe concept of fewer items but of good quality classic pieces. I couldn’t do it because I couldn’t get past the idea that trench coats looked weird on me. I don’t know, I mean, I knew that trench coats weren’t the be all and end all, but still.
So, what’s a Capsule Wardrobe anyway?
A couple of years ago, I stumbled upon Caroline Rector’s blog, Un-fancy. She was all about this capsule wardrobe thing and getting in touch with your style and creating small seasonal wardrobes that were mix and match. I liked her style. I liked her use of sneakers. Rector took the concept of having a few carefully chosen, seasonally appropriate pieces that pair well, and literally ran with it, as in, built an entire blog around capsule wardrobes and her experiences with them. On her blog she shares her interpretation of the capsule wardrobe, which organizes clothes into self-contained seasonal capsules (one for Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter), that are limited to just 37 pieces in total; diverse enough to allow for style, but constrained enough that things don’t get out of control. The idea is that even though you own fewer clothing, the items you do own fit well, match well, and are multi-use, meaning more outfit combinations and more options than you might have otherwise. Here’s Caroline’s breakdown of how a capsule wardrobe works (don’t worry, pyjamas, workout wear, and underwear don’t count toward the 37 items!).
Empty your closet
Rector advises going through all your clothes and taking a good hard look at what you own. Do the pieces fit well? Do you like the pieces? Do they actually go with anything else in your wardrobe? It becomes a giant cull: get rid of what doesn’t fit, what you don’t like, and get rid of stuff you might even really like but probably know you’ll never wear. It’s tough. It’s probably the hardest part of the whole challenge. It’s really hard to go through your clothes and be merciless, especially when there are things in your closet that still have price tags, or cost you a small fortune, or are awesome looking, but you know that you never wear them because they don’t fit well, or don’t go with anything you own (or will ever own) or you probably won’t ever have the right opportunity to wear. We get these funny sentimental attachments to clothing and we hang on so tightly to them, even though they’re really just taking up room in our lives. So, I got rid of a bunch of stuff. I took Caroline’s advice and put a bunch of clothing I wasn’t ready to part with in a storage container. I made lists of what I had. I tried on all my clothes and spent a whole morning creating outfits with only what I had. Then I took a break and ate some donuts (just kidding. sort of). Then I started thinking about what I needed and how those would work into my current wardrobe. And, I wanted to make sure that I had an outfit for almost anything life could throw at me. Funeral, check. Baby shower, check. Date night, check. Weekend wear, check. You get my point.
Make a list
Rector also is big on lists. She provides some great printouts to get you started. The idea is that you’ll make lists every 3 months in preparation for the upcoming season: what you already have, what you need, what goes with what. This makes shopping much easier, because it’s not that emotional shopping, or that gotta-buy-it-all-because-it’s-on-clearance shopping; it’s more present and focused.
Choose key pieces
When you are looking to add or keep an item to include in your capsule, you need to be honest about how many outfits you can make from that one piece. Shopping becomes more thoughtful. In order for a piece to become a part of that season’s capsule, it has to go with at least three other items in my closet. And I’m not talking about potentially three items I would settle on if I had to wear them together because they were the only clean things I owned. I mean, I’d actually choose to put the outfit together regardless of what else was available. I have bought, and returned many, MANY pieces that didn’t meet the three item requirement (thank goodness for free returns!).
Get to know your personal style
Figuring out your personal style isn’t easy. If it was, there wouldn’t be like a million websites, books, and personal shoppers whose goal it is to help you find your style. I’ve taken the quizzes; I’ve read the books. And I still had no idea what I liked. It wasn’t until I had one of those Oprah “aha” moments one day in the grocery store last summer that something kind of clicked. I was standing there in line, you know, thinking about nothing in particular, when I had this vivid memory: it was the 12th grade, I was standing out front of school near smoker’s hill. Not on smoker’s hill of course, but near enough that I could second-hand smoke my way into coolness. I was wearing a pair of ripped 501s I had thrifted, a pair of beat up birkenstocks, a thick leather belt and a fitted white t shirt. I looked down at my much older, line-waiting self and was like hmmm...I’m wearing ripped jeans, birks, a belt and a fitted white t shirt. It was like: “the wheel has come full circle and I am here” (just throwin’ a little King Lear atcha!). But I realized, I’ve had pretty much the same style leanings for a looong time. Sure, I change a bit with the trends, but there’s this overarching theme that’s me. Like the realization I am not a high heels girl. I wish I was because they’re super cute. I have worn heels before, and I’ve also been accused of being drunk while wearing heels, when I was dead sober. It’s that bad. I like flats. I will base an outfit around flats. And for me, that’s okay. Part of this challenge is all about being honest about what you like and don’t like and what looks good on you. Rector suggests using tools like Pinterest and magazines to try to identify your style. I did that for like a month. I made a secret Pinterest board and pinned a bunch of outfits I liked. I didn’t go back and look at the board until the month was up and I was pretty surprised at the results. All of the pictures kind of went together. I discovered mind-boggling truths like: I like sneakers and boots (newsflash!). I like ripped jeans, hoodies, and turquoise jewellery. I like boyfriend shirts and sweaters. I like cotton. I don’t like dry-clean only or fabrics that get really staticky. I don’t like constantly having to pull up/down/or finagle my outfit. I like leather belts, wool socks and ponchos. I am all those things and having a wardrobe that reflects what I actually like makes my life so much easier.
My current spring capsule is only 30 pieces, but I don’t have to consider office clothes, and if I were to count my paint clothes, chicken coop clothes, and sweatpants that I pretend I don’t wear, I’d easily be at 40 pieces. Even if you don’t decide to take the capsule challenge, it’s a great concept that you can use to help you organize your closet a bit and consider what clothes you really wear. I will say, that after a year of capsuling, after a year of hording clothes I don’t wear in bins in my closet, I am happy to report that it works for me and those bins and I are having a reckoning very soon! I’m not a slave to the capsule, but there is something so releasing about looking into a lovely, organized closet and know that there, at the ready, barring any PMS-type days where I’d rather just put a bag over my head and cry, I have more than one outfit to choose from and that most, if not all of the pieces in my capsule, will get used and worn again and again. I love that I’m not panic shopping or wasting money that could be better spent on other things.
If you think you’d like to join the capsule revolution, check out these sites:
into-mind.com some great info on choosing a colour palette!
theeverygirl.com more capsule wardrobe experiences!
and of course,