HOW I BUILT MY CAPSULE WARDROBE

Jan 27, 2016 · 6 minute read

By: Colleen Valles

So last time we talked, I was planning to do a capsule wardrobe for the next three months because I want to free up some space in my brain and not tire it out with all the decision-making.

I know. You’re totally on the edge of your seat, wondering “what happened?”

Well, I took the plunge. Mostly.

I took the plunge in a way that suits me right now, loosely following the rules, and with the hope that someday, I’ll be able to do a big-girl capsule wardrobe.

I think I did a few things right in building my first capsule, and there were a few things I could have done differently. Here’s a look at how I built my capsule wardrobe:

Plan

Planning would probably have been a good idea. I didn’t do it.

I meant to, but it just seemed like a lot of work, and I was excited, so I just jumped in and took everything out of my closet and put it on my bed, forcing me to go through it if I wanted to get to sleep that night.

I did do a little research beforehand. Lots of people on Pinterest and Instagram have capsule wardrobes and aren’t afraid to share them with the world. These two sites are great for inspiration and suggestions on how to build your own capsule.

I also downloaded the capsule wardrobe planner from Unfancy, which is totally helpful and super awesome, but, of course, I didn’t use it. I think I’m going to try to use it next time, and see what happens. Hopefully it’ll help me see where I can pare down, and not where I “need” to fill a gap.

Answer the questions

When starting out, there are a bunch of questions you might want to answer, primary among them being “What number of clothes will I keep in my capsule?”

Courtney Carver’s suggests in Project 333 to keep it to, you guessed it: 33. Unfancy suggests 37. I chose 37 because I’m a newbie, and I wanted to make this easy on myself and see what works for me.

Another question I had was** what do you do about work and play wardrobes?** Are they all one? Or do you have 37 pieces for each?

Unfancy suggested considering two separate capsules, but Project 333 says the wardrobe you’re building is one to live, work and play in. Two capsules seemed like too much for me so I went with all one. Just like Dr. Bronner said.

I think this is what made getting to 37 pieces so difficult for me. People have said that having a capsule wardrobe has helped them find their style. I know my style, but sometimes it’s tough to translate it to work clothes. Because there’s some, but not a lot of crossover, I do feel like my work wardrobe is separate, and that made it hard to get the number down. So if you need a professional wardrobe, I’d advise you to look for pieces that can cross over from work to play. That’ll help you keep things in check.

The other thing to consider is what type of clothing will count? Unfancy and Project 333 differ on this a little bit. I opted not to count scarves, workout clothes, pajamas, jewelry or evening clothes. My evening dresses already live in the deep, dark recesses of my closet. I have the space and don’t mind squirreling them away back there.

I know a lot of people do a color scheme for their wardrobes, which helps everything mix and match. I had that going already, sort of, when I did the initial paring down of my wardrobe last year (from 141 pieces to 96, counting scarves, coats, workout and evening clothes, but not jewelry. Never jewelry.). So what’s my color scheme? I have lots of black clothes, lots of green and gray, a couple navy, one burgundy, a couple orange and some patterns. No, they don’t all match each other. Whatever. It works.

The last, and probably most vexing question I had was what the heck do I do with the maxi skirt? I packed it away. That’s a decision for another day.

Decide

When capsuling (encapsulating?) your wardrobe, there are a lot of decisions to make. I guess this is where you go through a lot of decision fatigue up front, so you can save yourself from it later. You might need a nap after the whole thing.

I pulled out a suitcase and our donation bag* and with my daughter watching the whole process, set about making some decisions. (*We always have a bag bound for donating. I’m not quite sure how we keep filling it up when I feel like we’re not buying stuff, but that’s a whole other post.)

As I went through each piece of clothing, I asked myself:

Do I love it?

Do I wear it?

Is it seasonally appropriate?

Do I need it for work? This should, ostensibly, be taken care of under the “do I love it” section, but I am not totally in love with all my work clothes. However, I am uninspired to buy more, so I’ll stick with these until they wear out. As they do, I’ll try to replace them with more work-to-play cross-over clothes that I like better. I long for the day when I don’t have to think about work clothes anymore.

As I answered each question, I put the clothes in the appropriate pile: pack away (into the suitcase and then into an empty closet), donate, and keep out for possibly returning to the closet.

I managed to get down to 47 pieces.

D’oh!

So I went back through, more brutally this time, and got myself down.

Final count:

4 t-shirts (short and long-sleeve

7 blouses

6 layers (cardigans, sweatshirts, blazer)

3 pairs of trousers

3 pairs of jeans

2 skirts

4 dresses

4 coats

7 pairs of shoes

Grand total: 40

So I’m three over. I think for my first try, it’s OK. I’ll give it a shot and see what I can do without as I go.

The lessons

It’s been about a week and a half, and I don’t feel deprived, and I do still have some trouble deciding what to wear to work on some days, but I feel like that will happen no matter what. It’s work.

On non-work days, however, I love getting dressed. I love my clothes, and they all look good and fit well. Sometimes, I’ll even open my closet doors and gaze lovingly at all the space. My clothes can breathe, and so can I.

I packed away the clothes I’d like to keep into a medium-small suitcase, and I’ll be interested to see in a couple of months what, if anything, I’ve missed.

It wasn’t easy getting down this far, but it also wasn’t as hard as I thought. Knowing that I could pack away some clothes really made a difference in my willingness to pare down, and the whole experience also forced me to get rid of a couple of items that had really reached the end of their useful lives.

The last question, then, is: **Would I recommend this? **

The answer is an unequivocal absolutely!

Have you done a capsule wardrobe? How do you feel about it?

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Colleen Valles
I'm Colleen, a writer, mother, knitter, pet mama and tiny house enthusiast who truly believes that everybody should slow down and simplify to make room for the things that are most important in their lives. I'm on a journey to do just that, to be able to spend more time with family and friends, riding my bike and working in the garden. Sign up to get awesome content right in your inbox, or follow me on social media.