The Basics of Creating a Capsule Wardrobe

When I first started getting into this minimalism business, I discovered that minimalism can be applied to ANYTHING. I don’t know if I would call myself a reformed shopaholic, but until about 12 months ago, my wardrobe was definitely overflowing with stuff – my own flowing, fabric-laden shrine to past trends, a museum of years’ worth of fashion decisions – some admittedly fabulous, others fairly questionable at best, ludicrous at worst.

I admit I am a reformed (strongly reforming!) bowerbird. I see the shiny pretty things and I wants them. For my nest. Or my wardrobe. And in true bowerbird style, I had never wanted to get rid of them. For a very long time, I used to regularly acquire new clothing because, well, there was never anything to wear. I retained clothes that I had never worn and purchased on impulse. I also retained clothing that was no longer well-fitting, and had a bad habit of buying fairly obvious pieces that would stand out like a sore thumb and date very quickly that I didn’t really love. And a lot of the time, I was just uncomfortable. I was not good at buying clothing that was comfortable to wear. Perhaps it is because I am becoming a lazy old lady, but my preference these days is for comfort to match style in all endeavours.

In the great purges that have happened in our house in the last few years, my wardrobe has been the bullseye of my attention on several occasions. At first, that initial purge was easy. Start with a few bags or boxes labelled – bin, donate, keep. And methodically work through your wardrobe with a quick mind and ruthless decision-making skills. This was the part where I shed the too small, marked/worn out, or downright loathable clothing that was the artefact of above mentioned questionable decision-making.

But then it became a bit trickier. Some of those items that make you sit on the fence became sources of dissatisfaction. As a proud minimalist, I have learned to be black and white when it comes to what stays and what goes. But I have certainly found my wardrobe to be one of the more challenging areas to apply this insight to.

As is the case for all new minimalists, sometimes – well – you throw out a little too much stuff. It happens to us all at some point. You get on a roll, so excited about the expanding space and high on the euphoria of ‘less is more!’, you become a ruthless purging machine. This happened to me late last year. My closet had become a source of joy but I also felt there was still work to be done. I don’t wear this, I won’t wear that, this doesn’t fit my lifestyle etc. etc. Purge, purge, purge.

Then one weekend my husband and I decided to go for a bush walk. My mind started racing as I was rummaging through my drawers, thinking, “I have one pair of jeans, one pair of black trousers, a few dresses, but… why don’t I have any shorts??’. Yeah. I had fallen into the purge-happy realm of trying to live with too little.

This is where balance and moderation fit so well with minimalism – it’s not about deprivation, or not having things when you need them – it is about living on less to allow you to live more. Unfortunately, my lack of pant situation meant that I suddenly couldn’t comfortably participate in our weekend activities. It was at this point that I realised my attempt at a capsule wardrobe had failed miserably. And my husband couldn’t stop laughing or teasing. Husband – 1. Capsule wardrobe – 0.

The goal of a capsule wardrobe is to have a set number of clothes that you can comfortably function with, look good in, feel good in, wash, wear and manage. Courtney Carver developed Project 333 as a guidepost for people wanting to get started in minimising their wardrobes (wear 33 items of clothing for 3 months) to maximise their time, space, money and sanity. It is a great concept, and one way to reduce your wardrobe to maximise your time and sanity.

The benefits of a capsule wardrobe are significant – less time wasted trying to work out what to wear, less time throwing your hands up after scouring your closet saying ‘I have nothing to wear!’, reduced decision-making (freeing up your brain for more important tasks), reduced wasted materials (when you stop purchasing clothes you don’t need), saved money, more space, and more time to do what you love, instead of dilly-dallying about what to wear. Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg famously adhere to an extreme capsule wardrobe, with a daily work uniform that doesn’t change. Others, like Courtney Carver (and myself), prefer to reduce the number of items we wear to a manageable and comfortable level, to enable to benefits outlined above to become a reality for us.

The key to anything to do with minimalism is this – take the principle and make it work for you. My ideal capsule wardrobe will look different to yours and to any other person’s. I’m still building mine but happy with how it looks so far, after some preliminary bumps and fails. Always do what feels right for you.

Some steps I took in getting started creating a capsule wardrobe that might just help you too…

  1. Do the preliminary purge – set aside some time to go through everything in your wardrobe with an eagle eye. Actually pull EVERYTHING out of your wardrobe. Including shoes. Including jewellery and accessories. Start with an empty wardrobe and only add back in what you intend to keep. More on this in a future blogs.
  2. Get to know your style – I found that what I had perceived to be my style over the years wasn’t really my style. This doesn’t mean box yourself in to one way of dressing. It just means get to know what you like and deciding what fits and what doesn’t. This may include fabrics, colours, and cuts.
  3. Keep (or consciously purchase) items that mix and match. If less is more, then having items that can easily go together and with each other is ideal. Make your clothes work for you.
  4. Ensure you consider your lifestyle and comfortably have one or two outfits that you can wear to your life activities – work, home, leisure, sport, evenings out etc.
  5. Work your accessories – chunky necklaces are my thing. I have about 5. Find accessories that can transform outfits and they will be your best friends.
  6. Remember to have fun! – it’s not life or death stuff.

There are only seven days in a week and 24 hours in a day. Remembering this will help you to identify the most valued and treasured items to wear and will help you to reclaim your wardrobe, your sanity, and your time.

Tell me where you are on your journey to a minimalist wardrobe. Leave a comment below, I would love to hear from you.

Until next time – simplify, focus, pursue and count your blessings.

Sarah x

Photo Credit: Sabina Ciesielska

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2 thoughts on “The Basics of Creating a Capsule Wardrobe

    1. Thanks Karen! It certainly is a journey – all of the small incremental steps add up to positive results! Thanks for following along on the blog and for your feedback.

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