By Siobhan Fenton
You know that when it comes to fashion and style, we’re all about practicality. So when we heard about Caroline Rector’s capsule wardrobes, our ears perked up. Haven’t heard of a capsule collection? You’ll want to take notes! Caroline started her blog, Unfancy, as a way to document her minimalistic style—wearing only 37 (yes, that’s thirty-seven) clothing pieces for three straight months. After three months, she’ll pick new pieces to add to her rotation. Not only does this completely de-stress the whole idea of getting dressed but also saves a lot of money (no shopping for three months!) and has completely changed her outlook on life.
On the Definition of a Capsule Wardrobe
What is a simple definition you ask? It’s a mini wardrobe made up of really versatile pieces that you completely LOVE to wear feeling fabulous.
Step 1: Clear out the Closet Clutter
First, make sure you take your best friend who will be honest with you when you ask, ‘” I haven’t worn this in five years, but I may wear it to Christine’s wedding.” You are going to clean out your entire closet. Yes, remove every single item in your closet, drawers, and laundry basket, and lay them all out on the floor. Don’t forget about the coat closet down the hall and those off-season clothes in storage too.
(Now take a deep breath because it’s an overwhelming sight, we know! But it gets better soon, we promise–don’t quit.)
For now, leave your shoes and accessories out of the mix. You can sort those when you’re done with your clothes.
Separate your clothing into two piles: clothing you love and wear all the time (i.e. your favorite jeans, sweaters, that dress you reach for over and over) and everything else. As you’re sorting, pick up each and every item and assess the feeling it gives you. If it gives you butterflies and that warm feeling that only comes with pulling on your favorite cardigan, put it in pile one. If it evokes no emotion, stick it in pile two.
The key: Use your heart, not your brain, to sort your existing wardrobe.
Step 2: Sort each item into one of these four piles.
- LOVE IT AND WOULD WEAR IT RIGHT NOW! It fits. It’s right for your lifestyle. You feel comfortable and confident wearing it. Great, now put it back in your closet.
- MAYBE. This is for items that don’t fit quite right, the color is a little off, have sentimental value, you can’t put your finger on it but you just don’t wear it, or you’re keeping it because you paid a lot for it but you don’t wear it. Put all this stuff in a box and store it in the garage. You can always go get stuff out of it, but you probably won’t. If it’s still in the box at the end of your season, it’s time to say goodbye to it.
- NOPE. Self-explanatory. Donate, swap with a friend, or sell it to fund new purchases.
- SEASONAL. Wool coat in summer? Probably don’t need it handy. But you’d never get rid of a staple like that. If it’s not in season, but you LOVE IT, put it in a nice under-the-bed box and store it. You’ll definitely use it when the appropriate season rolls around.
Step 3: Assess what you have left in your closet.
Alright, you made it through the hardest part! Phew! That wasn’t as horrible as you thought, right? Now you’re left with one pile full of only the clothes you love! Pick up each item again and ask yourself, “What do I specifically love about this?”
Maybe it’s the color or perhaps the fit. Whatever it is, make note of all the reasons you love each and every item. (Capsules has a section to do just this or you can do it with a sheet of paper.)
You might start to see some patterns. For example, you may find that you gravitate toward looser, more ethereal silhouettes and it all becomes clear why those hand-me-down body-con dresses from your older sister sat for two years collecting dust. (Light bulb moment!) You’ll use this information later when it comes time to purchase new items for your capsule—and this will also help define your personal style going forward.
When you’re done, pull the items from the pile that are applicable to your wardrobe this season (the next three months) and set the rest aside to be used for a later capsule. Whatever is left over can be considered the base of your capsule.
Step 4: Create Your Wardrobe Vision.
Now you have the base of your capsule, but how do you take this and turn it into your own personal style? How do you create an image that is reflective of your personality? The answer: Pinterest! (Don’t we love it?)
But really, use Pinterest to create your own visual self-discovery board. Pin images and outfits that are inspiring to you in terms of color, fabric, silhouettes, and patterns. You can also pin places, photos, artwork, or other things that inspire you.
Done? Now take note of what you see. Write down any recurring themes, just like you did when assessing your clothing. Also, be sure to note any particular color or pattern themes—you’ll use these as a guide when purchasing new items to complete your wardrobe. This ensures you’ll build a wardrobe with endless mix and match possibilities!
Decide the following:
- Your favorite neutral colors: Do you tend to gravitate toward greys? Or maybe navy? These are the colors that should coordinate with most of the other colors in your capsule.
- Your main colors: Does green bring out your eyes? Do shades of blue make you the happiest? Capsules calls these colors “the central theme of your wardrobe.”
- Your accent colors: The loudest and brightest colors in your capsule—they add some excitement to your wardrobe.
Step 5: Examine your lifestyle.
This is an important step to ensure every item in your wardrobe fits your lifestyle and includes only the items you need. Make note of the activities you do on a daily and weekly basis (such as: work, client dinner, workout, girls night, church, and so on), then write down the frequency of the activity (say 5 x per week or 2x per week).
For example, you might wear business professional Monday through Thursday, but require something more business casual for work on Fridays. On the flip side, if you have a casual work environment, but have to dress up for the occasional client meeting, list that as a separate activity as well.
Additionally, note the variety of clothing you need for each activity. For example, a person with a workout routine consisting of yoga twice per week might list minimal variety for workout clothing, but someone who is highly active and works out every day might list a high variety for workout clothing—it’s all a matter of preference. There’s a special section of the app to do this as well, so you can keep track of everything in the same place.
Now, record the types of items you need for each activity: T-shirts, jeans, blazer, flat sandals, closed-toe pumps, whatever items you need to get through your day-to-day for the next three months. Be as specific as possible!
Repeat this process until you’ve listed every activity in your life and the appropriate clothing for each.
Step 6: Complete your capsule.
You only have the clothing you love in front of you along with the list of clothing you need to wear for daily living. Now go through your existing pile and take stock of what you have. Already have a pencil skirt you love that’s acceptable for an occasional client meeting? Check it off! (Important: Do NOT reach back into the “things I don’t love” pile in order to check something off the list!) Again, the app will take you through this process, but you can also do this with a pen and pencil if you’d prefer.
When you’re done, you should have your shopping list of items you still need to add to your wardrobe in order to complete your capsule. Remember the color preferences you wrote down? Use these as a guide as you choose new items to add to your capsule—with the goal to maximize the mix and match interchangeability of your clothing. The more you can mix and match, the more outfits you can make!
And when you’ve completed your shopping, you’re done! You now have your very own capsule wardrobe and have (hopefully!) banished the feeling of overwhelm come time to get dressed.
More info about Capsules:
I love how simplistic Capsules by Cladwell makes the process of creating a capsule wardrobe for everyday career women.
It takes the guessing game out of building your personal style and that’s truly invaluable. The best part? It’s extremely affordable ($5 per month) and billed seasonally. That’s surely something we can easily make room for in our tight budgets! So if you’re interested in downloading the app, you can do so right here. Happy sorting, shopping, and building!
See last year’s Spring 2016 Capsule Wardrobe post for inspiration!