I think capsule wardrobes are a brilliant concept and I use them all the time in my work with clients, and with myself when travelling. But, and this is a big but, they are right for some but not for everyone.
Did you red my post about whether you are an Options or Procedures person? If not, go ahead and read it right now before you continue on here.
As you will discover even though they are a brilliant way to build a wardrobe, not all of us want to live with just a couple of small wardrobe capsules if we are more options orientated.
What is Great About Capsule Wardrobes
Now a small capsule wardrobe is something that might be a necessity if you:
- Have limited space to store clothes
- Have a very limited budget (though I know of people who have capsules at every budget, and larger wardrobes also at every budget)
- Have lifestyle that supports it (though I’ve seen large and small capsules for every kind of lifestyle, but if you live a casual life, you don’t need as many clothes as someone working who has a different dress code for work and play)
- Are travelling
- Hate shopping for clothes
- Want to make a smaller impact on the environment by not consuming
- Are procedures orientated around your clothing
But Before You Throw It All Out Consider This
But, there are many women who I’ve heard about who, starting with a larger wardrobe think “I want to simplify my life I’m going to throw it all out and just keep a wardrobe capsule” and then get rid of almost everything only to discover that maybe they were too hasty in getting rid of clothing and they they are now completely bored by only wearing a small wardrobe capsule. Also, many pieces of advice about wardrobe capsules says “If you haven’t worn it in 6 months or a year then get rid of it” and I know myself, that sometimes we just haven’t had the right weather for a garment, that’s the reason I haven’t worn it, not because I don’t want to wear it again or it doesn’t fit with my life.There is no reason to throw out the baby with the bathwater as my mother used to say.
Yes minimalism can be great, and I know the feeling of lightness and clarity I get when I do a big de-clutter. Getting rid of unwanted clothing is a brilliant idea. Getting rid of dated, poor quality or worn out clothing is a must. Making your wardrobe work for you is essential, remember your wardrobe is like a kitchen. But just throwing everything out for a small wardrobe capsule may not be the right thing to do for you if you haven’t thought it through properly.
So if you are thinking about downsizing your wardrobe (notice that this post is not about shopping or upsizing your wardrobe at all, nor is it about the quality of your clothes or the amount you spend on each item, they are a whole different story), before you actually get rid of it all, I’d suggest you put away the clothes you think you want to throw out into another wardrobe or some storage boxes and live with your new capsule for some time – at least a 3 months (a la Project 333) or even a year. That way you will have time to discover if it’s right for you before you discard your clothes for real. Remember that most of live with different seasons and so need seasonal capsules rather than one that will do us for all four.
Then notice how you feel. Ask yourself:
- Do I feel more free with less choice in my wardrobe?
- Do I like to wear a ‘uniform’ of sorts?
- Do I feel bored by the repetition and lack of choice?
- Do my clothes work for all the occasions I need them to?
The answers to these questions will give you insight into how you really feel about living with a minimal wardrobe and if it’s the right decision for you.
If you are constantly revisiting the place you’ve stored your clothes to bring out others for any reason, maybe the minimalist wardrobe is not the one for you.
By storing your items before you really purge them out of your life, you are leaving open the option not to have to purchase again (which in the end costs you and the environment more), and allows you to discover how you really feel with a minimal wardrobe and if it’s the right decision for you to be making.
I think that someone who is more procedures sees having many wardrobe options as more of a burden and it weighs their brain down having to make decisions, whilst those who enjoy having more choice (Options people) people see having a larger wardrobe as freeing.
For those of you who have done minimalist wardrobe challenges tell me:
- What did you learn?
- How did it make you feel?
- When it was over did you keep on wearing that same small number of pieces or did you feel constrained by it and move back to wearing your whole (or a good portion of it) wardrobe?
If you want to go down the capsule wardrobe path, feel free to download my printable wardrobe capsule guide to help you on your way!
When I first read on your site about capsule wardrobes a lightbulb went off in my head and I finally understood how to put wardrobe together to get max use out of everything. But I assumed that one was meant to develop capsules around a core colour and I have had a lovely time planning how to complete my navy capsule, extend my tan/beige capsule and look out for pieces that could turn into an olive and then a brown capsule. Then purple a colour I love surely deserves a capsule too.
Then Only a few weeks ago I read that the point was to operate out of one capsule…. ewwwww
No way… not for me at all.
I have used capsules to tie my clothes together into coherent outfits. Dead handy for work. My shopping has become very targeted which is great as everything I buy now becomes a ” how did I live without this before” garment.
Very good analysis!!! I am a minimalist and I fit in the category that you are describing, so the capsule works for me. I add accents/statements according to my values/purpose, as an artist. Like jewelry with a meaning, which also follows my season coloring. And that’s it!!! Others might find it very boring. Then they should find what feel comfortable. Each person is different. Some of my friends think that more is more 🙂 Helene
I just purged my closet, but I can’t seem to stick to a capsule wardrobe. I do like having less clothes that I like and wear more, rather than having a closet jammed with nothing to wear. I’m looking at what I need to make to fill in the holes, mostly skirts in solid colors, but I’m waiting to see if I really need them.
Last winter was the warmest I’ve experience in a decade, which means my leggings got minimal wear, but I didn’t toss them out. I love the look of a tunic with leggings but not enough to wear them when it’s 80% humidity and in the 90F (32C).
Wearing a self imposed uniform didn’t work out for me when I tried it. I decided on a capsule wardrobe because I saw different people every day, so no one would really notice if I had on basically the same outfit with different accessories. This was almost 20 years ago, so my idea was to have black and gray slacks and skirts plus blouses in those colors plus white. Then to accessorize with a scarves, and several jackets. It was too harsh for my personality and the work environment I was in.
Though when I had a job with an employer supplied shirt and jacket (we got to wear any style pant or skirt as long as it was in the specified color) that didn’t bother me at all. I think the difference was that with the work uniform everyone was dressed the same and the outfit represented the company not me.
My husband feels better when he has less choices. When we first moved to Merida, he bought several white guayabera shirts and would wear them with tan slacks whenever we went out. After a few years he branched out into printed shirts and colored slacks (at my urging) but now wants to go back to less choices.
Very good advice! I also live in a four seasons area, northeastern Indiana. I am just starting to purge my wardrobe. I wear the same items but want to become more creative and stop just staring with nothing to wear. Thanks for the advice on keeping the clothes! Best to you and your capsule.
I am very procedure-oriented and don’t mind wearing similar things everyday. If something looks and fits right, I may have four of it. But I have a large variety in my wardrobe. That’s because I have several capsules. We have four seasons. So I use the same basic tops with a lot of layers for various temperatures. I have
1. A summer capsule with mostly white (cotton and linen) and blue (silk) tops with navy or khaki bottoms and a couple of sleeveless maxi dresses. I have eight white cotton button-downs that look like each other and I have no problem wearing them day in and day out. This doubles as my work capsule.
2. A winter capsule with lots of black, navy, grey, some white, burgundy and red. And 15 wool cardigans and jackets and many silk and wool scarves. I love wool and enjoy my winter capsule the most.
3. A capsule of Indian clothes for my annual trips to India, mostly in white cotton and a couple of silk outfits for weddings, etc.
4. A large sportswear capsule ‘cos I am a serious athlete with multiples of the same items.
5. A home capsule with cotton tees and lounge clothes that look a lot like each other.
6. A dressy capsule for special occasions. (I have only one pair of 2 inch heels and I wear them once in two or three years).
Everything in each capsule goes with everything else. But they are separate capsules and I use all my clothes for years and years.
So if someone is thinking of drastically paring down their wardrobe, I’d say, do it gradually over a couple of years ‘cos it may lead to fewer regrets.
I like your multiple capsule approach
When I started reading about capsule wardrobe, I liked the idea, but have found it hard to follow and stick to. I am still trying to declutter my wardrobe, and have removed about 30%. I starting to realise that 1 capsule wardrobe is not for me. I like to have options. Also, as you mentioned, there are some items I have not worn in the last 6 months due to seasons or occasions. I know I will find my happy medium and am working towards that.
I have never understood the appeal of a capsule wardrobe. It isn’t for me. Even when packing for a long holiday my logic is neutral pants/skirts/cardigans/jackets (for me that’s black/grey/navy or dull purple) and all the bright jewel colours and patterns I love in tops and dresses. So I still carry a rainbow with me, and as many choices as I can cram in a suitcase. Thankfully I’m not in the workforce, so I’m free to wear whatever I please. Considering my options for each days activities and weather is my idea of fun! (go figure!)
I do a purge though, twice yearly, when I change from summer to winter clothes and vice-versa, throwing out anything that’s looking tired, shabby, dated, or just isn’t working for me
I am a Maximista who craves options. I see nuances and love to experiment and expand. With that said, it does not mean I do not weed out pieces that are not being used or turned out to be mistakes from the past. Giving away or consigning is something I do to let go of those pieces that are not working. I use plastic tubs and large freezer bags to store sweaters, vests, and some tops…all color coded. An autumn/winter closet and spring/summer closet are also utilized…off season is stored in a large basement closet. Cleaning, laundering, keeping garments looking good are ongoing tasks. To me, it is worth it! I have recently purchased the Style Book App and I’m in the process of documenting each piece in my wardrobe, so I can have a visual picture at my fingertips. Organization is critical to a free wheeling, option loaded, maximista wardrobe.
I love this topic. I’ve never had an overly large wardrobe as I have a strong economic shopping value but I feel like minimalism is a unobtainable nirvana. I love the concept of a small perfectly functioning wardrobe that is exciting too but that is the perfectionist in me.
I have just started my own minimal capsule wardrobe experiment. Selected 30 odd pieces, moved the rest of my wardrobe to the spare room. None of my other pieces are worn or outdated and they suit me so I wasn’t going to get rid of them!
I have found the experiment really valuable in honing my style.
* Living with a limited number of pieces I have found out which pieces I really like and those that are so so and why.
*I discovered I love colour and I didn’t have enough in my capsule.
*I’ve found that for a successful capsule I needed to limit myself to a couple of silhouettes, which is constraining me I like to try different silhouettes.
* It has forced me to be more creative in the ways I wear each piece to avoid boredom but this is a good thing.
*Those items that haven’t quite fitted right or are slightly too long I have gone and made those alterations because the item can’t sit in my wardrobe not being used!
*I’ve recognised a few favourite items that are really past their prime (fading or pilling) and need updating but I had been hanging onto them too long.
*I’m really understanding my “rules” better.
*I’ve been tempted to go on accessory shopping binges just to mix things up a bit (I didn’t include accessories in my 30 pieces).
* I like having minimal clothes to look at each morning and the lightness of space in my wardrobe.
*I could keep doing this if I changed my capsule at least every 3 months (maybe more like every month).
Great advice! I have built a minimalist wardrobe but am still missing a few pieces so have “fill ins” at the moment… and also have all the clothes I “threw out” in boxes in the basement in case I change my mind! I don’t want to have to shop for more, so I’m giving myself a few months before I give them away for good. So far it’s been maybe 2 months and I’m loving having less, though. 🙂
And then you have to go somewhere where the weather is completely different!
I have been purging, but I certainly haven’t left myself with a minimalist wardrobe. I am a person who has always bought without thinking, and have far too many clothes tuat I bought a long time ago and have never worn. I guess I really need to work on my shopping habits!
Yes shopping habits are an important thing to consider.
Great post! Each to their own… After lots of reading blogs etc., for myself, I have found that I don’t want to throw clothes out unless they are worn out or don’t fit anymore. I have been ‘Shopping My Wardrobe’ for Project 333 and have constructed a spread sheet for the winter months (similar cold temperatures so wearing a bit of a uniform). I am now a bit bored with my choices. I am hankering for Spring when I will wear different colours and different styles. I am learning a bit about my self in the process. I like options but am trying to rein in my colour choices to more neutrals. Thanks Imogen.
In my web reading, I am revisiting capsule wardrobes and I see my comment from two years ago. Interesting to see where I am at. I certainly haven’t purged my wardrobe as I feel it is more ecologically sound for me to wear out my clothes. I am using a spreadsheet to ‘slot machine’ my clothes as my uniform/s are quite basic. Sometimes my outfit hangs together and sometimes it doesn’t. I already have very colourful clothes so I have allowed myself over the last two years to invest in neutrals and restrict buying other clothes. That approach is kind of working. I am retired so need still capsules for medical appointments and life events and for the most part don’t have to be anywhere near on trend.
I still think that capsules are a great idea and so many people are finding them useful. Thank you (and Jill).
I’ve always thought of myself as an Options person, but in fact if I can find the willpower to do it, I actually find that I thrive on Procedures. So if you are like me (or vice-versa: maybe procedures are just a comfort zone, while your heart longs for options), maybe hold off on choosing the way based on an initial reaction – dig a bit deeper! I am completely purging my wardrobe for a small capsule with a restricted palette for work and going out clothes. I’m keeping two comfortable, pretty dresses for housework/light gardening, and I have a small, all-weathers assortment of comfy, functional clothes for gardening, rambling and woodcutting. This has helped me to start developing a conscious personal style, rather than simply accumulating more clothes that catch my eye, or buying clothes for a single occasion. However, I agree with Imogen’s caution about not throwing out the baby with the bathwater. I have a beautiful wool jacket of my mother’s from the early 60s. I never wore it until this year. It seemed it finally fitted my style and lifestyle, and it is now the workhorse of my autumn and winter wardrobe. If I had followed the advice of getting rid of something I hadn’t worn in a year, it would have gone long ago. I also had clothes I was wearing at least once a week, but not because I loved them, only because I’d gotten into a ‘safe’ rut. Instead, I only use Marie Kondo’s principle: Does this piece of clothing spark joy? This gets away from arbitrary rules, and into trusting my intuition. The more I trust my intuition, the more new, creative ideas come to me.
For those of you who do want to pare down your wardrobe, please don’t throw away your discards. Please donate them to a charity thrift shop. The charity makes some money for their programs, low income people are able to afford nice clothes, the world is better off for the recycling.
Yes I recycle everything that goes!
Great post, Imogen, and an antidote to the minimalistic / capsule bandwagon. Dovetails nicely with the Options and Procedures, even the internal and external frames of reference posts. Can I say I keep your blog on my favourites page because I enjoy the analysis and thoughtful posts on psychology as well as all the useful stuff on how and why something we wear works?! Great Polyvores for a visual person too…
I, like Lisa and Kristen am a Maximalist. While a procedures person in much of my life with an internal frame of reference most of the time, I’ve become an options person in my wardrobe! Since discovering Pinterest and Stylebook app, I’m having fun making up new outfits daily regardless of whether anyone else dresses up or not. Being a sewist, I’m often trying newer trends (pleather/Ponte leggings, faux fur vests) knowing I can donate these if I end up not liking them. Other things I keep for years eg vintage riding boots. The Stylebook app is reminding me what’s in the wardrobe, challenging me to use the less worn stuff.
Capsules are great for workout wear or travelling, and in a way I wear a capsule every month or so, with a skirt, jeans, dress and trousers, adding different tops and toppers to change it up before washing. It peps up my day to discover a new combination I’d not thought of before. Yet only a few years ago I would wear the same top with same skirt…
I can understand others wanting their own ‘uniform’, too. Fascinating!
Thanks for your thoughtful comment YummyMummy – yes I find the whole psychological aspect of dress and clothing and image so fascinating and how it intertwines and why we do and love what ever it is that floats our boat and in the end it comes back to so much more than what is in fashion!
This topic resonates with me because I’m living a minimalist lifestyle. You’ve got the two types of clothing personalities down–options versus procedural. I’ve always been procedural because it is simpler, and I thrive on simplicity. One style of pants that is flattering, a uniform of the pants with some layering of tops and jackets/cardigans, and I can fit in anywhere.
I can work all day in the “uniform” in a high-tech job, then stop off for happy hour with my hair down and makeup punched up, cardigan off, and once again–fit right in. I think that people notice me, not what I’m wearing, but they always remark on my hairstyle or the jewelry I make for myself (and friends). So, while my wardrobe may sound bland and optionless I’ve left a lot of room for options with hair, makeup, jewelry, and scarves. And, the basic black pants and jackets cover up a very bright collection of trendy tops that go with everything and flatter my shape. To me, a black trouser suit is made with a fabulous fabric that has subtle metallic threads in the weave–nothing dull about it, unless I want it to be.
The fun challenge is that I could probably travel the world for a year with just a carry-on bag containing my entire wardrobe.
Hello All. 2015 has been my year of becoming minimalist. I am done with my home after a year of conscious and mindfully present decisions…and now to finessing my wardrobe! Tomorrow I am going to downsize my closet by half going from 68 items to 34 (including outerwear). It will be interesting to see what I end up with. My plan is to do a 5 month trial to see if I like what I have selected and what truly works vs. “nothing to wear with items”. My new capsule wardrobe will go into my bedroom closet and my discarded half into a spare closet for emergency shopping (I live where it snows at high elevation). This way I will not be tempted to shop and spend in a retail store. As the season changes from fall/winter to spring/summer I am going to donate what was obsolete and shop a new mini capsule of 12 items from my spare closet. Then repeat obsolete out and add in another 12 as I rotate back to fall/ winter. I think this strategy will get me to the final push of what my true yearly capsule should be. The number of total items is not the final goal just a guide, it’s the value and quality of my most useable and versatile pieces to keep that I am aiming for. If anyone out there likes this plan please feel inspired to try it out. Cheers to all who are improving their lifestyle and happy 2016,
As a woman who has lived many lives, moved a lot, lived in many climates and wears several hats as an artist, business owner and person who relies on odd jobs to survive when things are slow in my art world I thank you. Thank you for opening a new to me, one size does not fit all, capsule wardrobe option. I struggle with the clothes I have, the jobs I do and how to make it all work without dreading each day as I open my closet in my wonderful but tiny studio apartment. A rotating, capsule wardrobe for each section of my life would be so liberating! I can slowly donate clothing I do not find useful any more after careful deliberation. Worst case senerio, I can change the capsule for each part of my life until the clothes are too worn out. It is a win win situation as far as I can see.
Many thanks, Ivy
I know this is an old post but I’m so glad I founded it and wanted to tell you so because I feel like it puts in words why, as much as in all other parts of my life I’m anti-clutter, trying to go to a minimal wardrobe actually resulted in a crazy shopping spree when I used to be only a very occasional shopper (at least I learned and shopped according to a list of what I actually need and wear?) I felt naked (lol) without my options! It makes me feel less nutty, although now it’s time for a shopping ban for quite a while – and understanding my motivation to shop IS helpful for not doing it!
The more you know about what suits you, the better the shopping choices you will make. But not all of us want a 10 piece wardrobe! Options may be important.
This, by far, is the best website about capsule wardrobes. Not only because of Imogen’s keen insight into trying to figure it all out, but also from the many informative posts in comments. I have truly learned so much. Thank you everyone!
Hi, i was just scrolling on pinterest and saw your post. Well, i have just recently decided to become a minimalist since past couple of months and to be honest i’m loving it. I started with whats was in my closet and then move to what was in my rooms etc.. it wasn’t difficult at all to let go all those clothes that i used to love because i dont see myself wearing them anymore. I only keep certain colour like white, black, brown, nude, grey in my closet now. I used to have a lot but i always feel like i have nothing to wear even though my closets were full. Now, i dont have that problem anymore. Since i only keep my favourite peaces and clothes i know i would wear often. I dont keep anything that i will only wear someday etc. So yes, being a minimalist really help me sorting out my life. I have more time and less clutter and it actually makes me feel good.
I have been trying the capsule wardrobe for about a year now. I think it is very nice for office wear but not so great now I’m not working. Prior i used to wear like dance party wear and stuff and suits to work. I threw away some timeless classics ( to charity at least) in some idea of feng shui – where anything second hand is wrong. I must admit i had a beautiful wardrobe based on years of op shopping. I op shop a bit again now but not as much. Afterall i have my capsule. But its a bit plain forcdays off. And i look so different to myself in a change from the capsule to like dancewear and club wear. I used to wear sexy outfits too but things changed, so im not quite as into fashion as i used to be, i miss it though, my monthly copy of vogue and always lucking out finding similar pieces in the op shops. I had a favourite boutique i got quite good pieces from at a good price and that was my mainstay for years. But it closed down. Ive just only found a good basic store again recently. I can’t really tell. There was a girl with a beautiful face in my group in highschool and she only appeared to have one or maybe 2 outfits. She was completely fascinating. She has that je ne sais quoi. But if i were to have one uniform im really not sure what it would be. Im tall. I’m welcoming the bodysuit this season. The capsule wardrobe is a bit too conservative, restictive. But it does save time and money.
I totally agree with your point of view here! I could never get rid of my beautiful clothes for a capsule. I really love having options and the elements to created new looks. It’s nice to have your voice in the midst of all the minimal wardrobe promotion!
Me either! I know I’m not a minimalist and never will be!
I love this concept, and guess I use both. The capsule for my daily stay at home wear. But I like options when going out to lunch/dinner. I pretty much use options in my tops but stick with basics for jeans/slacks. I am not a minimalist but it has inspired me to get rid of things no longer useful or important to me. When I bring an item in , I get rid of at least one item and always try for 2.
You allready have so much answer on this one, but maybe one more.. from Sweden. Like to have “it easy” but not boring.. like more to have a surprise for you self and my coworkers, so a bit of the capsule wardrobe and a bit of “I don’t give a damn”, that’s how I should be! My self! Thank you!
great attitude Elisabeth – love your style
About 3 years ago I heard about capsules and started downsizing. I got to a point of having a small capsule of clothing that was “my” style. Mostly black and oatmeal with a little brown or navy thrown in. Everyone thought I was depressed, lol. Then I started buying wildly colored clothing that I wore all summer and last winter but after awhile I went back to my basics and honestly they just feel right, like “me.” I’ve started hearing “One of the days I am going to get you to wear color” again but oh well. I am going back to me comfort zone capsule and will leave color to my outerwear (bright green rain jacket) and a dress or two. I don’t have a certain number of pieces and I have to switch it up for seasons but >80% of my wardrobe is mix and match. I like to that way.
I love the pictures of minimalist wardrobes and piles of sweaters or tees in different shades of same colour: everything looks so harmonious. For a long time I thought that’s what I should do, too, choose a few colours and build a capsule wardrobe. After all, that’s what I already was doing when traveling – I always travel with carry on only. So why not free some space in my tiny closet and make it look pinterestworth!
I did get rid of some duplicates, clothes that did not fit or were too worn for work (I literally wear the items I love to pieces…), but I never managed to choose the few favourites required for a capsule wardrobe of my dresses, cardigans, scarves and shoes of all the different colours that I love. I now understand that I cannot live a happy life if I don’t have a rainbow of colours to choose from and to match my mood in the morning.
As a result, my closet is not very photogenic – but I sure am!
I am so glad for how you “allow” people to be themselves, Imogen. 🙂 So many seem to want to make everyone else conform to their ideas of what is best…but you recognize that everyone is a unique individual. I really appreciate that and that’s why I keep on reading here — and coming back again. I very much enjoy color and all things related to clothing and had an idea when I was a teenager to help people pull wardrobes together for them and their lifestyles. I never did anything more with the idea because circumstances were not right at all for that…and I only just recently learned that is a real thing already! 😀
Anyways, I am an “options” person all the way, but for a short while I had whittled down my wardrobe to mostly pink, black, and white (with a little denim blue, which goes with just about everything!) due to living in an RV. It wasn’t properly a capsule, but it was small and united in color scheme. I really enjoyed it at the time because I finally had gotten rid of almost everything that didn’t fit well (I am hard to fit in off the rack clothing, so had much that wasn’t exactly comfortable), but knew that I wouldn’t be able to be happy with that for too long. I love color too much! And, being a seamstress and dabbling in pattern design, I actually do have too many options to limit myself so. I do so enjoy variation — even though I do understand the value of having “landmarks” in life and an anchor in truth. It allows all the variation to be fun and purposeful, instead of inescapable and meaningless. Similarly, knowing what lines and what colors look best on me only sets the parameters for more purposeful and intentional — and therefore more pleasing — variation.
The variation that threw a hitch in my get along with my former small and fitting wardrobe was pregnancy…I’m working on baby number two now and trying to be more intentional and not just buy something because I have to have something to put on in the morning! And just tossing on jeans and a t-shirt, even though so very easy, has never been my go-to — that is what I wear for yard work. And jeans and a button shirt occasionally when I’m going to a function where there will be a lot of folks there who think skirts are for Sunday and weddings and maybe for funerals….. Anyways…..
Thanks Janie – and congrats on baby no 2 – hope the pregnancy goes well. I do think that pregnancy is the time that a capsule wardrobe works its very best – and it’s one that you more naturally gravitate to during that time as you don’t want to spend lots on maternity gear that will only be worn for a short while – plus everything really has to mix and match! So great that you can sew and give yourself the right kind of variety that works for you.