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Creating a Capsule Wardrobe: Less Stuff! Less Laundry! More Space!

I cannot believe I’m saying this, but I’m finally joining the capsule wardrobe movement. Never one to consider it for my Type B merry-go-round of a brain (I’m too colorful! I like too many different things! My style cannot be contained into a capsule!), I changed my mind when the new year rolled around because A) I need to shake it up in many different areas, B) my closet situation is not working and needs a SWAT team intervention, and C) my sister told me she was attempting this, and she makes everything doable and fun (plus, she has a brain much like mine, so if she can do it, I can do it).

What is a capsule wardrobe, you ask? Basically, it’s an attempt to downsize your closet into a small collection of mix-and-match items (most capsule guides suggest around 30-40) that are supposed to last three months (1 clothing season) before refreshing it. You store what you don’t use out of sight.

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The capsule wardrobe was popularized by Unfancy blogger Caroline Rector back in 2014, but according to this article from Fashion Magazine, the original capsule was a more conservative approach created by a London shop owner in the 70s and was supposed to include roughly a dozen high-quality classic pieces. This idea took flight in the states in 1985 when Donna Karan introduced her “Seven Easy Pieces” collection. Capsule wardrobing is meant to help you declutter your closet, claim your style, gain confidence, save time in decisions and cut down shopping by keeping you from making emotional “I have nothing to wear” purchases. If you’re interested in trying it, Unfancy offers this printable planner that can help you choose your pieces and define your style.

Look at my sister’s Before & After…so inspiring!

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Now that you’re a capsule wardrobe expert, I’m going to break down my attempt at creating one this past weekend–a job I thought would take a couple of hours but turned into a full-day exorcism of my closet and way of life.

One of the biggest reasons I wanted to attempt a capsule wardrobe was that, no matter how many times I “organized” (I’m using that term loosely) my closet, it didn’t take long before it was a mess again and laundry was out of control. This, my friends, is the question I could not put to rest: Why do laundry if you still have things to wear? This problem, of course, resurfaced in other areas of my life, dampening my creativity. I tried the whole Kon Mari thing on my closet, but it’s a difficult approach when you truly find great joy in children’s books, holidays, stickers, neck bows, red shoes, things with bows, things with rainbows, things with stripes, things that are yellow…you get the picture. I love too many things. And, please, let me preface this post by saying this closet problem? It’s a very luxurious problem to have–I get that. With that said, this new capsule approach is doable because I’m just putting things away, not completely having to make decisions yet about what’s staying and what’s going for good. Although–let’s be honest–this is a stealthy method I’m expecting will lead to a more willing purge after reassessing the full closet in a few months. Another reason this feels refreshing for me is that I feel like I’ve been in a style rut simply from being overwhelmed with too much stuff in my brain, closet, etc. I used to get so much pleasure out of putting outfits together and having fun with creative fashion, but I’ve been grabbing the same old things to wear–many that I don’t really love–just because walking into my closet has made me want to walk out of it as quickly as possible–grab & go. And then, feeling overwhelmed and in a style rut, I was more tempted to buy things I didn’t need for an easy fix. After I shared the beginning of my capsule wardrobe attempt on Instagram Stories this weekend, many praised the capsule wardrobe, saying it has helped them clean up space for other things; but several thought it would stifle my style. From experience and so many things I’ve read about creativity and my personality, I think it will do the opposite–create order for my creative spirit to reign.

My goal in choosing my 35 pieces was to purposely pick some fun, colorful out-of-the-box items to force me to get back in my style groove. A lot of capsule wardrobes I’ve seen online feature a more minimalist style–a lot of neutrals, chambray, denim, black and white–but I went with a lot more funky/color pops, combined with staples (black, denim, black/white stripes and polka dots) with which they can easily mix & match.

This is what my closet looked like before–and it doesn’t even show the overflowing laundry baskets on the floor, not to mention all these weird random objects hidden in there that would both make for a challenging game of “Find It” and a nice roar of laughter from my friends. “Really, Kelle? A vacuum attachment, two puzzle pieces and a bike kickstand? Why are these in your closet?”

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One thing I had to get over quickly was that I could make over my closet without having to have it perfect. It’s easy to look at online closet transformations that include thousands of dollars, expert reconfigurations, fancy wood shelving and racks of gorgeous designer clothes on teak hangers and think, “I’m so far from that–why bother?” I’m working with what I have, but I did invest in several large bins as well as new hangers (I’m using the Huggable Hangers from Target). The plastic hangers were making me crazy, and I figured whittling down my clothes to 35 pieces would be a great time to start building a cohesive hanger collection.

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I began by taking everything–I mean everything–out of my closet which led to the realization that OH MY GOD, I AM A HOARDER. Even before I started putting clothes away to store, I collected three huge bags of clothes and shoes to donate and got them out of the house. Because my closet is the largest storage space in the house (we don’t have basements in Florida), I use it not only to store clothes but a place to keep my ironing board, vacuum, hats/mittens for up north, kid keepsakes, tote bags, camera equipment, etc. I did some hardcore organization on those items, and it feels so good! I also shared on Instagram how I store clothes my kids grow out of–the ones I want to save forever–in my closet (you can watch the Stories in my highlights on Instagram). Basically I save a few timeless favorites for grandchildren in one bin, and in another large bin, I store other favorites to be saved and made into a quilt for each child someday (I have one gorgeous baby clothes quilt made already that I’ll be keeping, as if my children want that one, they can pry it out of my cold, dead hands). Woven cottons quilt best, so anything that will work well in their quilt (I have a color/pattern scheme in mind), I put in the bin until I’m ready to send them away to Vintage Giggles for the magic.

On to the capsule selection. This is the Pretty Woman shopping scene part of the post which everyone knows is the best part of the movie (see also: Sex and the City closet scene). I found so many great things in my closet that I wasn’t wearing or had forgotten about and rekindled some major love for them once I took the time to try them on and match them up with other great but ignored pieces.

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I’ve always loved those magazine articles where they select 10 pieces and then show 30 different outfits you can make with them. This was my chance to do it in my own closet, and I had a blast with it–blared music in my bedroom, sorted through piles, matched up outfits, tried them on, walked the hallway runway for Brett and the kids, got votes and remembered how much fun fashion can be. I didn’t even realize I had a red pencil skirt…say what?

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Technically, the items you choose for your capsule include clothes, shoes and outerwear but don’t count pajamas, accessories, special occasion and workout clothes. So a neck bow doesn’t count (oh, we’d include it if it did). But the real question is, DOES A DICKEY COUNT? I tweaked this capsule for my own needs and ended up with 38 clothing pieces and 8 pairs of shoes.

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The Breakdown:

3 graphic tees (love Bando‘s tees). I love wearing these super casual with jeans but also pairing them with long skirts and pencil skirts or layering dressier blouses underneath them.
3 classic upscale neutral tees (to ground all the funky colorful stuff. I love Vince and Michael Stars fit and quality.)
10 blouses/shirts (a mix of Zara, Cooper & Ella, Gap, Who What Wear and Anthropologie)
2 sweaters  (one cardigan, one stripe–for some of these colder weather fronts we get this time of year)
1 blazer (one of my favorite most versatile pieces in my closet, this classic J.Crew Party Blazer)
1 jumper dress (basically a dress with suspenders, from Anthropologie–most favorite things I bought last year)
5 skirts (2 pencil, 1 flare, 2 long including this ASOS hot pink pleated midi skirt that I wasn’t wearing but love)
4 dresses (this Shabby Apple Rainbow Dress–works for casual, a classic J.Crew black dress and 2 printed Anthropologie dresses)
1 romper (even though I am constantly fighting the war on rompers in my head because of my long torso)
1 pair of shorts (I’ve never thought my legs look good in shorts, but sometimes in Florida, you have to succumb, especially at the beach)
1 pair of overalls (I always feel fun and creative when I wear them–they make me happy)
5 pairs of jeans/pants (my favorite go-to denim choices are Gap Super High Waist Corseted Black Jeans  and J.Crew 9″ High Rise Toothpick Jeans)

If I cheat on this capsule, it will most likely be with shoes, but I tried to pick a good variety to get me through both fashion and functionality challenges–classic J.Crew black heels (there’s nothing they don’t go with), my new Sutorial boots handmade in my cousin’s boot shop (going to give you a tour of this shop soon!), red Zara kitten heel boots, funky rainbow sneakers, black flats, t-strap clogs, Free People booties and a pair of sandals.

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Here’s the new space…it feels sooooooo good!

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Laundry can’t build up too bad, and empty hangers means time to wash clothes. I had more fun choosing what to wear today than I have in a long time (it felt like a whole new wardrobe!), and the best part? It’s inspired me to continue the organization and has uncovered some productivity that has been buried for a while.

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Have you tried a capsule wardrobe? Interested in attempting it but don’t know where to start? Share your thoughts, suggestions, challenges!

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Comments

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  1. I’ve done a capsule wardrobe and love it! I probably do it 75% of the year. I just started a new one and I already notice things I chose and thought I would wear, and I’m not wearing them. I might pare it down even further at the end of this month!

  2. I love my capsule wardrobe! I started doing this about two years ago and it has made all the difference! I don’t buy nearly as many short-lived clothes, and when I do buy clothes I usually know exactly what I need or want. Also, the long-term success of this situation has made me less reluctant to send clothes/shoes off to Goodwill when they aren’t working for me any more. I need to love it or I won’t wear it. It’s been fun to watch my style evolve as I’ve continued this. Good luck and I hope you love this experience!

  3. I did the capsule wardrobe for 1 season but then got bored of it. It felt very limiting. I did Kon Mari my closet though, and have never looked back!

  4. I have a capsule wardrobe. I love how it has simplified my life. My main colors are gray, navy and black. My accent color is red. I do wear blue jeans. Shoes are black, navy and sneakers. Jewelry tone is silver. I dress up my neutral palate with scarves. I’m in upstate New York and follow my colors palate through the seasons. It makes getting dressed so easy. I call it Garanimals for adults. Hope it works for you too!

  5. Lindsay Hamilton says:

    Super interested in this and I have tried a few times but here in Canada I struggle pairing down with all of our different temperatures and seasons. I need “35” items just per season! I mean I can’t have just flip flops and winter boots! ha ha! I love all of your choices!

  6. I’m so fascinated and love seeing what/how you picked! I feel like capsule wardrobes remind me of maternity clothes – minus the struggle of how the heck to dress a foreign body! It is mulling around in my head…or maybe just the remove-from-closet-and-go-through part. Thanks for posting!

    • I feel ya on the maternity wardrobe. I just had a baby a week ago, and by 41 weeks – I was completely down to 2-3 shirts that covered my belly and maybe 2 pairs of jeans.
      The fourth trimester isn’t much different.

  7. I’ve accidentally embraced the capsule wardrobe for more than a year now. First I was pregnant, and nice maternity clothes are hard to find and EXPENSIVE when you do, so I had a beautiful capsule wardrobe that was easy to maintain. Although I did get sick of it by the time winter turned to spring and I was 9 months pregnant. Now I’m nursing (and ditto for nice nursing pieces that are washable), so I have a similar capsule of tops particularly. My problem is that all of my regular work clothes are still in my closet, staring at me and waiting for me to go back to work in May. This was great inspiration to change that!

  8. Great idea Kelle! I have to ask where you found that rainbow striped sweater? I’m in love!

  9. Love it. My resolution: can’t buy anything NEW (except for undies, socks,etc.) for my wardrobe this year! Yikes! A capsule wardrobe will help me meet this goal I think! If I’m really jonesin’, I can hit up the used stores, but I’m thinking the capsule will help me focus! Thanks for sharing!

    • Or get friends who wear the same size to do a clothing swap. Invite everyone over for brunch and have everyone bring 10 items of clothes to swap.

  10. Oh my god to I need to do this to my closet! I don’t think I could reduce it to so few items (you are very brave!), but it does need parring down, as well as organizing. You did a great job!

    http://www.shessobright.com

  11. I was proctoring a test, which meant I had tons of time to walk quietly around making sure that people don’t cheat. It can be really boring, but a wonderful time to think and plan stuff.

    I started wondering how many pieces of clothing I really needed. I had done the KonMari method, but still had too many clothes left for my sensibilities.
    I came up with the number 100 pieces, for the whole year. That doesn’t include shoes, accessories, unmentionables and coats.

    I came home from the proctoring job and slowly whittled the amount to about 100-110 items in the end. I loved having a number to shoot for, it worked for me. I don’t have that many clothes, I just getting rid of more and more and it just makes me happy to see space between the hangers.

    But 100 or so items of clothing is still a lot! I just haven’t had the desire to shop much, I’m really taking good care of the stuff I have, especially the super good brands I know will last half of forever if I’m good to them.

    Here is the link to my blog post about it.

    http://allsquaredup.blogspot.com/2017/04/my-one-hundred-item-wardrobe.html

  12. Whatever you did to the first photos in this post – they showed up on my screen! For some reason the photos on your blog do not load. All I see where a picture should be is something like this:

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    Makes me so sad because I want to see your pictures.

  13. I don’t think capsule would work well for me (and it’d end up all jeans, hoodies and tees), but I need to have a day long sort like this. Hoping to get to it Saturday because I have a bad addiction to buying hoodies and tees, especially when they’re on clearance racks! Managed to ditch a 30 gallon bag full of shoes last weekend, so the clothes better watch themselves this week!

  14. I wear black leggings every day. Seriously. Every single day. I almost always wear the same pair of shoes too. I think it is harder to have a great wardrobe when you are fat girl. I am glad that is something you will never have to experience. Trust me. YOU WOULD DIE.

    Happy Thursday. I am having a terrible day at work. We got a new boss, and I am seriously DYING every day wit the man…I am trying to have a good attitude, but it isn’t working at all.

    Love, Becky with the black leggings.

    • Becky!
      Girl, you rock those black leggings. And PRAISE JESUS for black leggings because truly, they are the staple of all staples for every woman on the planet. I’m so sorry about your work situation. Doesn’t it make you want to be a boss? Just so you can show the world what a great boss can look like? Motivating and empowering and a great leader? xoxo Here’s to a better day tomorrow (secretly whispering swear words under your breath might help)

  15. Rachel Bee says:

    I’d love to be able to do this, but living where I do and looking at your 8 pairs of shoes, I’d never survive with the different weather we have here: rain, snow, sleet, hail, wind, sun, heat, cold…lol!

    I think I must take a few tips from this though and limit some of the stuff I have.

  16. Melissa morse says:

    Love to see closet makeover before/after pics! I don’t set New Year’s Resolutions, but closet cleaning is on the To Do List a Few Times a year. 8 pairs of shoes made me giggle; I had three pairs at work Friday (Flats for the morning when the classroom is HOT, knit boots for the afternoon when the classroom is COLD, and boots for slushy/snowy dismissal…weather in Michigan ;)).

  17. firstly, i Love your style! if someone as colourful and whimsy as you were able to capsule, then the rest of us should too!! thanks for this post

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