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what is a capsule wardrobe

If you’re a tried and true fashionista, the phrase “capsule wardrobe” may not be new to you, but it certainly was to me. I’m all about streamlining my life, whether I’m trying to be more productive at work and stop procrastinating, or meal planning ahead of time so I can eat healthy meals at night when I’m too lazy to cook. So the idea that I can simplify my wardrobe to help me declutter, save money on buying clothes I won’t even wear, and create easy outfits daily without the stress of “I have nothing to wear” definitely intrigued me. So I took a look at the world of capsule wardrobes, and this is what I learned.

What is a capsule wardrobe?

The phrase was coined by a 70’s London boutique owner, Susie Faux, to describe the minimalist style of dressing with less. Basically, you pick a small collection of clothes for the season that you can mix-and-match, and store the rest of your clothes out of sight. Your wardrobe is slimmed down, your style is simplified, and your time searching for an outfit to wear is cut down by half.

According to style blogger Anusch Karees: “The idea of curating a capsule wardrobe is to ensure you have a solid foundation of key pieces that represent your style and provide you with a good number of outfits to wear for all of your activities.”

So it isn’t about depriving yourself of fashion staples, but focusing on what you actually wear most often, and building a solid wardrobe around those pieces.

How do I build a capsule wardrobe?

A big misconception about a capsule wardrobe is that the pieces have to be simple (no patterns, boring neutrals etc.) so you can’t experiment at all. This is far from the truth!

You just need to find versatile pieces that you can pair with multiple items in your new, streamlined wardrobe.

how to create a capsule wardrobe

Pick pieces that you love to wear, and build around them. Choose stuff you feel comfortable in, that make you feel good, that layer or can be styled up or down depending on the occasion. And try and find well-made pieces that will last, since you’ll be wearing them for the season!

For blogger Courtney Carver, your capsule wardrobe should “encourage you to wear your favorite things every day (not the trendiest things, the most stylish things, or the perfect things … your favorite things).”

The first step is actually to de-clutter your wardrobe. If you have room to store clothes and don’t want to part with them, then pick the pieces you know you won’t wear and store them out of sight. If you’re being brutal with your new capsule wardrobe, then donate them, then start to build around your remaining clothes. The idea is to reduce what you have in your wardrobe so you aren’t overwhelmed with options when you get dressed each morning.

How many items are in a capsule wardrobe?

Depending on which source you cite, this number varies. But there are two categories of clothes you’ll be sorting your wardrobe into: your base, and your capsule. Your base consists of pajamas, accessories, fitness apparel and special-occasion outfits, and your capsule wardrobe is everyday clothes, shoes, and outerwear. Only the capsule portion of your wardrobe needs to be restricted, but that doesn’t mean you can’t declutter all of it.

Once you’ve sorted out your base, it’s time to move onto your capsule wardrobe.

professional capsule wardrobe

As I said, the numbers vary, but sticking within the 30-40 item range is recommended (although blogger Anusch Karees only has 25 pieces in one of her seasonal wardrobes).

Your capsule wardrobe needs to last you through the season, so about three months of wear. Pinch of Yum blogger Lindsay suggests identifying three primary outfit categories (hers were “fun”, “lounge”, and “daily”) and then “select 9 tops, 5 pants, and 5 shoes.” That’s it, it’s that simple!

Of course, to make these pieces last all three months, they have to be good quality, fit well, easily match with other pieces, and be practical. And just because you choose your staples, doesn’t mean you can’t switch them out if you decide you don’t like them or they don’t fit. One author suggests “one in, two out”, but I think it all depends on your style and comfort.

The idea of the capsule wardrobe has inspired me to take a deep dive into my own closet and really decide how many outfits I really even wear, and where I can make a little room and simplify.

I hope you’ve been inspired too!

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