For about a year, I’ve been really interested in the concept of a capsule wardrobe. If you’re unfamiliar, a capsule wardrobe is one season’s clothing (usually three month’s worth), reduced to just a few pieces that you love and that work well together. Originally, I heard about it in a neighborhood Facebook group that I’m in, where someone said they were “ready to take the plunge into having a capsule wardrobe” and were asking for advice. I was really intrigued by this, so I started doing a little research, and got really hooked on the idea!
Since I live in a micro-studio (the city equivalent of a tiny house – you can read my posts about tiny living here) I’m constantly editing my possessions and paring things down. While I have halved my wardrobe several times in the past few years, I still find that my itty bitty closet is full of stuff that I rarely wear or that’s out of season, and I always reach for the same few items over and over and over.
Putting Together A Capsule Wardrobe
Disclosure: Some pieces in my wardrobe were gifted to me by thredUP.
Last summer, I toyed with the idea of a capsule wardrobe, but this year, I decided to finally give it a go! Before we get started, I should also note that your capsule wardrobe does not include accessories (hats, scarves, jewelry, etc.), loungewear/pajamas, workout clothes, swimsuits or special occasion pieces (though I encourage you to pare all of that down too!) The capsule is just your regular daytime wear. I’m also not including outerwear or shoes in my capsule, and really I just wear the same coat and boots every day anyway.
Step 1: Observe
I started out first by observing what I wore the most for a few weeks. After I wore an item, I’d hang it up so that the hanger was facing the opposite way of all the others. It didn’t take too long before I could see which items in my closet I was neglecting, and which I was wearing again despite the fact that I’d already worn them in the past few days. I also started putting together a secret Pinterest board of outfits that I really liked… to no one’s surprise, most of them were of either Zooey Deschanel or Audrey Hepburn.
Step 2: Sort
Once I had conscious knowledge of what I was wearing, and what I wasn’t, I pulled everything out of my closet and started putting it into piles. The things I had worn went into one pile. The things I hadn’t worn went into another. Then I laid out all of the things in the “hadn’t worn” pile, so I could see them all, and decided why I hadn’t worn them. Some of the reasons were as follows:
-Not comfortable (itchy, too confining, etc.)
-Wrong size (too big or too small)
-Not really my style any more
-Damaged (has holes, etc.)
-I don’t have anything to wear it with/don’t know what to wear it with
I put everything from the first four categories in a bag, because I knew that I hadn’t worn them recently for very legitimate reasons, and that meant that I was very unlikely to wear them again any time soon. Purge mode! I set aside the “I don’t know what to wear this with” items for later.
Step 3: Refine
Next I laid out the pile of things I had worn recently. Still WAY too many things to really consider a capsule wardrobe (which is usually somewhere in the 30 item range). I considered first if there were any items that I had worn recently, but was unlikely to wear for the spring months, to rule out unseasonal clothes like thick sweaters.
Next, I looked for duplicates… do I really need to have four black and white striped tops? Or two black cardigans? When I spotted things that were very similar, I picked which one (or sometimes two… I really like stripes, okay?) I liked wearing the most and/or which one went with the most other things that I own. The items that didn’t make the cut this time around, but that I want to keep for other seasons got packed away under my bed or in my storage trunk.
Step 4: Stick To Your Theme
Progress! Already I could see that I already had a pretty strong theme going. The majority was black/white/grey, with a few pieces of dark blue and some hints of burgundy. And almost everything was either a solid color, or had a geometric print like stripes or polkadots.
At this point, I reconsidered the items from earlier that I liked, but hadn’t worn because I didn’t have anything to wear them with. I could start to see where the holes were in my wardrobe – things that needed to be added in order to round it out. I referred to my Pinterest board and decided that wanted to mix things up a tiny bit, by getting a few items that were within my color palette, but weren’t stripes or polkadots.
Step 5: Purge and Refresh
Here’s the fun part – out with the old and in with the new! For this, I turned to one of my trusty standbys, thredUP. ThredUP is like an online consignment store. You can buy gently used clothes for a fraction of the retail price (Yay, saving money! Yay, being eco-friendly!) and you can trade in your old stuff for store credit. Remember that bag of things that I decided I didn’t need in step 2? I ordered a free, postage paid closet clean out bag from thredUP, filled it with my unwanted pieces, and sent it on its merry way.
Once it was received and processed, I got an email telling me how much store credit I had to play with, and the folks at thredUP were kind enough to gift me a couple of pieces to add to my capsule wardrobe as well. Their filters for size, color, style, etc. are really helpful when you’re hunting for something specific, or just trying to stay within a certain color palette like I was for my capsule.
After receiving everything and trying it on, I decided a couple of items weren’t going to work for me, and sent them back. Their return process is easy. I was quickly re-credited for the returned items, and now have new ones on the way. Yay!
The items I kept were this 3/4 sleeve top, which fits my criteria because it’s dark blue, and has this cute horse pattern which is different from my other tops. I also kept this lace trimmed tank top that is black with a dark pink/burgandy floral pattern. I already own a dress and a scarf that have a similar vibe and I wear them all the time. They stick to my color palette but keep me from feeling like I’m in a pattern rut.
I plan on posting again soon to let you know how the capsule wardrobe is working out for me, and sharing some outfits, and any other new insights I have! Have you ever done a capsule wardrobe, or is this something you think you might try? Share in the comments below :)
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By Kelsi Eldredge