My Capsule Wardrobe Experiment: Part Two – How I Created My Capsule

updated May 4, 2019
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(Image credit: Camille Styles)

Previously, I introduced you to my recent wardrobe obsession: capsule wardrobes. This on-trend idea (hi, KonMari!) was everywhere last year, and for me, a lifetime of loving fashion, a penchant for organization, and a tight budget came together and created the perfect environment in which it could take root. This week, I’m showing how I made my first capsule back in September 2015 and sharing tips for the structure and creation of capsules in general.

To Recap

At its simplest, a capsule wardrobe is an edited collection of pieces that works together to meet your clothing needs for a given period of time.

If you want to dig further than that, you’ll find different schools of thought. Some hear “capsule” and think it should only contain classic, timeless pieces, while others believe the number of items is what matters and the style is purely personal. I’m firmly in the latter camp: you’ll find no crisp white button-downs in my closet just because they’re considered “classic” (mainly because I’m a toddler in an 32-year-old’s body, and said top would be covered in sriracha within 3 hours of being purchased).

The gist? Editing and cohesion are key, but the rules are up for debate.

(Image credit: Into Mind)

What’s In a Capsule?

Since my interest in this idea was piqued initially by Caroline Rector’s Un-Fancy, I decided to follow her formula for creating capsules, at least for the first go-round. Caroline recommends starting with 37 pieces in your wardrobe, including footwear, clothing, and outerwear. Although the proportion for each category is up to you (mine looked different), Caroline’s capsules usually look like this:

  • 9 pairs of shoes
  • 9 bottoms
  • 15 tops
  • 2 dresses
  • 2 jackets/coats

This method of creating a capsule does not include underwear, workout and lounge wear, accessories, or special occasion/cocktail attire. You can think of each of those categories as mini capsules unto themselves.

The idea is that you’ll wear only these items for a given period of time, until it’s time to take stock, make some considered purchases, and refresh your wardrobe by creating another capsule. Seasonless items you love (jeans, tee shirts, ankle boots) might carry over to every single capsule, and others might span just one or two. Caroline suggests splitting the year into four sections, and refreshing your wardrobe in winter (January-March), spring (April-June), summer (July-September), and fall (October-December), but depending on your need for newness and the climate where you live, you might do fewer.

(Image credit: The Merry Thought)

Creating My Capsule

Since my main priority with this whole capsule idea was saving money, I decided not to shop at all for my first capsule. Instead, I simply pared down what I already owned. I took a good week or so to get it right, including having a couple marathon culling sessions and making a lot of lists. I found it helpful to work with a tight color palette (easier for me in the cooler months anyway) and focus on the things I was already getting a lot of wear out of. In short, I cut the chaff. Not that it was easy—there were things I loved that I put into storage, forced to admit that I didn’t wear them frequently enough the justify the closet real estate they were taking up.

In the end, my first capsule contained 4 pairs of shoes/boots, 8 trousers, 2 skirts, 1 dress, 15 tops, 5 layering items (ie. cardigans/blazers), and 3 jackets/coats. If you’re thinking of trying out the capsule idea, I’d recommend having a look at Un-Fancy’s downloadable planner here.

(Image credit: Kristen Lubbe)

I’ve Made My Capsule—Now What?

This is the thing that hooked me initially: you do nothing. Meaning, don’t shop! For the next three months (again, you might choose to amend this), just enjoy your smaller, easier-to-use wardrobe, your happier bank balance, and your extra time in the morning. If you do notice wardrobe holes or things that seem to be “missing,” make a note of them rather than rushing out to purchase something.

In the last few weeks of a season, look at these notes, consider what you’ve been getting a lot of wear out of and what’s been lingering in the closet, and start to plan your next capsule. Think of the next three months in terms of expected weather and travel plans, and make a shopping list. But don’t forget all the stuff you put aside when you created your first capsule—you should shop there first. You haven’t seen that stuff in months, so it could seem so new and exciting that you don’t need spend much money to refresh your style.

Re-edited from a post originally published 2.3.16-NT