My Capsule Wardrobe Experiment: Part Three – Lessons Learned, Tips & Takeaways

updated May 4, 2019
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(Image credit: Marie-Lyne Quirion)

This is the final post in my mini-series on capsule wardrobes. If you’ve been following along, you’ve seen why I decided to give this a go and how I created my first capsule, and now it’s time for the results. Read on for my thoughts (warning: I’ve got a lot of ’em) on living with a 37-piece wardrobe for three months.

Capsules Make Getting Dressed Not Just Easy, But Fun

First up: I really loved opening my closet every morning to see a small, edited collection of clothing that I really wanted to wear. Not only did the “these are my options—make it work” mindset prevent morning chaos, I actually had a more fun, creative time mixing things in new combinations, adding accessories that had been ignored for years, and making sure I got wear out of everything in my wardrobe.

(Image credit: Sarka for Stylizimo)

Less Begets Less

I’ll admit, when I made my first capsule, it was difficult to pare things down to the magic number of 37 pieces I’d decided on. Cutting out items I wore as infrequently as once every other month made me nervous. But over the next three months, I’d adapted so well to the system that when it came time to make my second capsule a few weeks ago, I actually had trouble filling the quota. My January-March wardrobe only contains 32 items, and so far, I barely notice the smaller number.

Out of Capsule? Out of Sight

I store most of my off-capsule wardrobe in large, zipped, fabric boxes (an earlier version of these guys from IKEA) in the hall closet. But because my room has a large, two-sided closet, I decided that some items could remain, hanging on the other side of the closet or folded in my hanging cubbies.

This was a bad idea. Often, when I opened my wardrobe, my eyes would veer toward the off-limits items, which coincidentally seemed just the thing that I wanted to wear that day. Call it Grass Is Greener Syndrome, but I’ve learned my lesson—out of capsule, out of sight.

(Image credit: Marie-Lyne Quirion)

Make Your Capsule Work For Your Habits

Working with a smaller wardrobe definitely throws your habits into sharp relief. Case in point: my extreme hatred of ironing. While I love wearing woven tops and blouses (paired with skinny jeans and ankle boots, it’s pretty much my go-to work look), I really, really dislike ironing them. This did lead to some rushed mornings, when I realized that I had nothing to wear that was clean and pressed. My second capsule included more knitwear, and a garment steamer is at the top of my current wish list.

Another change I made the second time around was the omission of outerwear within the capsule. Caroline of Un-Fancy includes coats and jackets within her 37 pieces, and I’ve come to the conclusion that while that might work in some climates, it definitely does not in London, which can range from sunny to cold to rainy in a day, let alone a three-month period. (Confession: I’m also the Imelda Marcos of outwear. I’m working on it.)

For my second capsule, I decided to work with a smaller number of items (32, currently) and leave outerwear as a separate category from which I can pick and choose as needed. It probably works out to be a similar number of items in rotation, but it gives me peace of mind that I won’t be left out in the cold—or drizzle, or downpour, etc.

(Image credit: Nasozi Kakembo)

Capsules Mean You Shop Your Wardrobe

For my second capsule, I only bought four new items (and one of them was a Christmas gift). When I went to switch things up, I found that I was so happy with most of what I was wearing and that a quick switch-up with the items I had in storage, including adding in some more sweaters for colder days, was all that was needed. And because I hadn’t seen those things in three months, it was less “this old thing” and more “hello, friend!”

(Image credit: Nicole Cohen for Domaine)

Use Capsules to Identify Wardrobe Holes

When planning future capsules, it helps to pay close attention to what you wish you were seeing every morning when you open your closet. I keep a note on my phone where I list new items that I’d find useful, either to layer over/under current pieces or to go with pieces that I love but can’t seem to match with much. This ensures that each capsule gets better and better as you identify your clothing needs.

Capsules Make for Easier Editing, Smarter Shopping

A lot of readers might be thinking “Just what is the point of this capsule thing? Is it just an excuse to have four wardrobes instead of one, although you’re only wearing one at a time?”—and it’s a fair question. But I’ve found that the real joy of capsules lies in how they make subtracting from and adding to our wardrobes simpler. Choosing not to add something to a capsule, especially if you make that choice several seasons in a row, is a good hint that it’s time to let the piece go. Likewise, when you’re out shopping for new items, asking yourself how this item would work with what you’re already wearing, and whether you’d actually choose it from a limited selection on an average morning, helps immensely.

(Image credit: The Merry Thought)

In Conclusion

Overall: I love capsules. Sure, it’s just a fancy way of saying “small wardrobe,” but I’m into it. The initial thought process that goes into planning a capsule wardrobe means that you think less once you’re using it, freeing up time and brain space for more important things. It’s also a great way to spend more intentionally, or just spend less, if that’s your goal. The regular attention paid to your clothing every three months helps keeps style, budget, and space in check. I’m a convert! This habit is one to keep for 2016 and beyond.

Re-edited from a post originally published 2.11.16-NT