It’s 7:58 a.m. You’re running late for work, and you still haven’t settled on an outfit. You stare into your closet, wondering how you have all these clothes, but nothing to wear. You frantically grab something, throw it on, and spend the rest of the day feeling insecure about your appearance. I used to do this all the time—until I discovered the capsule wardrobe. Ever since I started doing capsule wardrobes two years ago, dressing stylishly in the morning is a breeze. Now I can save brain power for the really important decisions, like choosing a bumping playlist for my commute or organizing my schedule for the day. It’s also resulted in me limiting my shopping trips to once a season, so I save money and end up with more staple pieces. Gone are the days when I bought something and never wore it. [pullquote align=”center”]You frantically grab something, throw it on, and spend the rest of the day feeling insecure about your appearance.[/pullquote] But what is a capsule wardrobe, and how am I using it to minimize disruption to my morning routine? In short, it’s a collection of a limited number of pieces that you switch out every season, which means I can do more with less. By scaling down and choosing items that work interchangeably with each other, I’ve given myself more than enough outfit combinations to dress for the season while reducing decision fatigue. So where did I start?
Step #1: Taking Inventory
Curating a capsule wardrobe begins with doing an inventory of what you already have. I removed everything—and I mean everything—from my closet. I even took out all the clothes I had in storage. This first part is easy—grab your favorite pieces (you know what those are) and put them back in the closet. For instance, I practically lived in this sweater during winter, and I loved the versatility of this sleeveless dress so much that I got it in two colors. All three pieces layer well and are more lightweight, so they were obvious choices for my spring capsule. Then it was time to purge. First and foremost, I knew I needed to replace what was worn out or no longer fit. I wasn’t doing my style any favors by wearing those pieces. I had a very threadbare Gap sweatshirt from high school that I kept even after the zipper gave out, but I finally surrendered it during this closet cleanout because I’d accepted that it was a relic of my fashion past. [pullquote align=”center”]Now I can save brain power for the really important decisions, like choosing a bumping playlist for my commute or organizing my schedule for the day.[/pullquote] Embrace a little change and make way for the new! I was truly honest with myself about what I’d actually wear. A good rule of thumb is if you haven’t worn it in a year, it’s time to say goodbye (unless it’s a very specialized item of clothing like a formal jacket). Set sentimentality aside. I held onto a black leather jacket for longer than I should have because it was a gift from a family member, but I was never in love with it. If you can’t quite bring yourself to give something away, put it in storage. If you don’t end up opening that box at all by the end of the season, consider giving those clothes away for good. You really won’t miss them. The clothes in your closet should be like job interview candidates and dates: They are either hell yeses or definite nos.
Step #2: Planning Out the Pieces I Needed
Once I’d decided what to keep, it was time to come up with a list of what to buy. Creating this list in advance ensured I’d make intentional purchases that really contribute something to my wardrobe and personal style. I’ve found that the most important factors when curating a capsule wardrobe are lifestyle, weather, trends, and total number of pieces.
Like most people, I dress mainly for work. Fortunately, my office is casual and allows for a tremendous amount of freedom. Sometimes that means yoga pants; other days it’s a pencil skirt. My office outfit almost always involves a sweater, even if it’s over 100 degrees, because I have yet to find an office building that isn’t freezing cold. [pullquote align=”center”]The clothes in your closet should be like job interview candidates and dates: They are either hell yeses or definite nos.[/pullquote] I typically wear clothes that transition well into post-work social activities, like dinner out or drinks on a patio. I’ve gone out in this dress right after clocking out, and it isn’t too flashy for work, especially when styled with tights and ankle boots.
St. Louis is unpredictable when it comes to weather—it’s not unusual for it to be 35 degrees one day and 60 the next, meaning pieces that layer well are essential for me. When it comes to capsule wardrobes in general, layers are typically good options even if you live in a warmer climate, since you’re still probably in and out of air-conditioned buildings most days. Last season, I frequently wore this cardigan, which layers well over most tops and isn’t too heavy for spring.
You can take or leave this one, but I like browsing Pinterest for inspiration. There are the staples that seem to stick around no matter the year, but going for something new can be exciting and make your style a little more signature and modern. For spring 2018, flowy dresses, lavender, and checkered print all made the list, and I found two out of the three in this piece from Nordstrom.
Total Number of Pieces
Here’s the part that most people get stuck on: committing to a total number of pieces. The most successful capsule pieces are versatile enough to work with multiple outfits, but you have to limit it somewhere. The thing is, 35 pieces you absolutely love versus 60 pieces you have stuck in the back of the closet will make you happier and more confident. [pullquote align=”center”]When it comes to capsule wardrobes in general, layers are typically good options even if you live in a warmer climate.[/pullquote] Don’t forget to take note of what you wore a lot the previous season; that might mean that you could use an extra or updated version of that piece. I’ve purchased the same top in multiple colors because I fell in love with the fit because I firmly believe that clothes that flatter your body type are worth snapping up when you can find them.
Step #3: Shopping (and Sticking to My List)
After figuring out what I wanted for this season’s capsule, it was time to go shopping. I decided to look for the following items (and succeeded in finding them!).
- Knee-length pleated skirt: I found this peach pleated midi skirt that will go great with my neutral tops.
- New chambray top: I picked up this button-front chambray shirt from Caslon to replace the old one I ruined in an unfortunate bleaching accident.
- Neutral-ish structured top: Rather than getting a solid color for the neutral top, I went with this grey-and-white-striped BP. shirt.
- New pair of jeans: I found that I kept wearing the same pair of jeans over and over, so I got these high-waist ankle-length skinnies by Free People.
- Lightweight jacket: I’ll throw this faux leather BLANKNYC moto jacket on over the striped blouse and skirt (or swap out the skirt for my new jeans when I’m feeling more casual).
- Pair of flats: To complete any outfit, I love these pointed ballet flats; they’re the perfect final touch.
Step #4: Enjoying and Evaluating
As I rotate the new pieces in with my old standbys, I do my best to take note of what integrated well with my existing wardrobe. I’ve also learned to pay attention to what didn’t mesh well and have applied that knowledge to my next capsule. For example, I didn’t end up wearing my pullover sweaters as much as the cardigans in winter, so I avoided purchasing anything that didn’t layer well. [pullquote align=”center”]Clothes that flatter your body type are worth snapping up when you can find them.[/pullquote] Now that I’ve gone through all the seasons a couple times, I’ve started to get the system down, and I feel confident crafting a collection that effortlessly represents everything great about me—from laser focused manager to cat mama! Not every capsule will go entirely according to plan, but this approach has helped me shop more intentionally and purchase pieces that truly add something to my style. Imagine yourself tomorrow morning, easily picking out your outfit for the day ahead as you leisurely sip your protein shake. I know that’s what I’ll be doing.
Basics for Building Your Capsule Wardrobe
Tops (Choose 6 to 9):
Bottoms (Choose 6 to 9):
Dresses (Choose 4 to 6):
Jackets (Choose 2 to 3):
Shoes (Choose 6 to 9):