Only the Essentials: How to Start a Capsule Wardrobe

As someone who went through my entire sophomore year of high school without wearing the same shirt twice, I probably never thought I’d be writing an article about a capsule wardrobe, which essentially cuts your closet down to about 30 pieces of clothing per season. Sophomore Me used to spend hours trying on clothes and creating outfits, testing out which pair of shoes were the perfect match.

Just thinking about that tires me out now, much less actually doing it. Heck, I’m lucky if I manage to pick out an outfit the night before. Don’t get me wrong, though! It’s not that I don’t want to look like a stylish 30-year old. I just want it to be easy. Who doesn’t want to walk into the closet, eyes closed, and be able to pick out an amazing outfit? For a moment, I even thought implementing the idea of a work uniform after reading about Matilda Kahl and her wardrobe overhaul, but I’m not sure I could go to that extreme. This is where I stumbled upon the idea of a capsule wardrobe.

Step 1: Purge Your Closet

Although I have yet to fully implement the capsule wardrobe because I believe in baby steps, I started purging my closet months ago, and let me tell you something, it was awesome! I ended up with two trash bags full of clothes that I either donated or consigned, and if there was one item that kept me on the fence, I asked myself this question: If it was hanging on a rack in a store right now, would you buy it?

For those afraid of committing their treasures to the trash, purge your closet as a test and simply box up the extra clothes. Put them somewhere that you can’t easily access and see if the separation anxiety slowly dissipates. My guess is, it will. If you find that you miss one item in particular, that’s a good sign it should make it to step two of the process.

Step 2: Keep Your Favorites

Searching ‘capsule wardrobe’ on Instagram or Pinterest will likely reveal a lot of black and white and stripes and Converse sneakers, but you don’t have to sacrifice your personal style to create a capsule. Just because something isn’t necessarily considered a basic doesn’t mean it shouldn’t have a place in your capsule. Take a pair of colorful pants, for example. While it might not seem like they belong at first, just think about the ways a different color bottom can expand your options! Bottom line, if something fits and flatters you in all the right ways, make it part of your wardrobe. Chances are you’ll wear that piece and accessorize it in ways that you had never thought of before. 

Step 3: Build a Minimal Wardrobe

Once you’ve got your bare minimum favorites, build around those items until you reach 30 (give or take a few). Keep in mind that this includes shirts, pants, dresses, outwear, shoes, accessories like scarves and hats, and jewelry (minus wedding rings and other items that you wear every day). Make sure all your items are in great condition. If you feel the urge to go shopping to round out your capsule, implement the one in-one out rule. Buy a new sweater? Get rid of an old one. 

Step 4: Choose an Easy Outfit

With a closet where almost everything can be mixed and matched, the guesswork for what to wear is gone. And it’s only for three months at a time! Soon enough, you’ll have an entirely new wardrobe to work with and your key layering pieces will help you transition through the seasons. The whole idea of implementing the capsule wardrobe is save you time, cut down on stress, and provide an easy answer to the plaguing question of what to wear.


 Cover photo via @apairandaspare. Find photo + license here.