“Let Me ‘Splain” (Capsule Wardrobes: Part Two)

The Bite-Sized:

capsule [kap suh l, sool, syool], adj.

11. small and compact.

12. short and concise; brief and summarized:

i.e. Not me on this blog. Or ever.

The Short:

The moment I started explaining capsule wardrobes, Jo said, “You’re not turning into one of those minimalists, are you?”

I was quick to shoot down that notion, but I have to be honest: the minimalist approach to life is pretty attractive at present. The idea is not letting your possessions own you, being aware of yourself and the things you rely on for contentment, and being in control of your resources. I don’t think I could ever be a true minimalist, nor do I think I should be upset by this fact; however, I totally buy into the “less is more” mentality.

So, capsule wardrobes. The concept is that you select a limited number of clothing and accessories (some people count belts, hats, camis, purses, and coats, but I didn’t). Each item must work with most of the other items in the wardrobe, which allows for dozens of combinations and thus dozens of outfit possibilities.

For someone who likes things that are practical and multi-functional, this seemed like something I could really take advantage of. I hate staring at my closet in the morning, trying to decide what to wear.

The Long:

What is this madness?

A capsule wardrobe is, first of all, a trend. I’ll admit that right up front. However, it is a trend I can happily indulge in, unlike all of those YA books that keep disappointing me with their love triangles made up of Mary Sue heroines and broody men.*


Capsule wardrobes are often included in minimalist blogs because they operate by the same rules as general minimalism. Google “capsule wardrobe” if you want the backstory. I’ve read so many articles as part of my “research” that I can’t tell you where I saw it first. (Probably Tumblr.) The idea was originally started by a French person, if I’m not mistaken.

At its heart, a capsule wardrobe is about owning a few quality, timeless pieces of clothing that you can wear all the time and still look stylish. What these items are varies from person to person; some people change their minds according to the fashion season, which to me defeats the whole point of “timeless”, because culottes and overalls are not.

With these quality clothing items in hand, you fashion a highly-versatile, coordinated wardrobe made up of 33-37 pieces. These include pants, skirts, dresses, shirts, tank tops, jackets, and shoes, all of which can be mixed and matched to create countless different outfits.

This isn’t to say you own 33-37 items period, time of year notwithstanding – though I’m sure there are people out there who do. These items are meant to last you a “season”, or roughly 3 months, before being rotated with a few seasonally-appropriate items from storage. Of course, some items like jeans, ballet flats, and t-shirts can work all the time.

Again, some people take this rotation as an excuse to go out and buy more clothes, typically things that are trending rather than things that are classic. Those people, as far as I can tell, are in it for the trend rather than the magic that is a closet under control. My goal is to work up to owning enough quality pieces that I never have to go shopping for next season’s wardrobe, but rather replace the odd item here and there as they wear out or my style changes.

Am I insane?

Yes. That’s beside the point.

Actually, it may be the whole point.

In reality, this challenge is partially an effort to gain some control – and thus lose a little stress – in my life. By limiting the number of options, I make deciding what to wear less of a chore; because I seriously hate deciding what to wear. By having a plan and purpose behind every item in my wardrobe, I make sure the things I own are pulling their weight and thus eliminate the need for buying more clothes. (I said “need”, not “desire”.)

As of September, I am back on a clothes-buying ban. I enacted one from January to the beginning of June, until my closet had been cleaned out a little and I needed proper clothes for work. I proceeded to buy a whole bunch of clothes. I didn’t used to be like this, but it is quickly getting out of hand.

A capsule wardrobe + a clothes-buying ban = time and money saved, which can be spent on better things. Like tea and reading books. Which relieve stress. Unless it’s a trending YA book.

Plus, my closet is just the start. I’m already applying to the rest of my possessions what I learned setting up my capsule wardrobe. This means I have less junk lying around and thus less to pack whenever I move again.

Rules Guidelines:

  • 33-37 seasonally-appropriate wardrobe pieces. This does not include things you wouldn’t normally wear in public: hiking boots, work-out clothes, pajamas, etc. Of course, it also excludes underwear, socks, tights, and such. Again, some weird-o out there probably counts everything down to the last earring.
  • Traditionally, you count accessories: jewelry, bags, scarves, overcoats, and hats. I don’t count accessories, and I don’t feel bad about this. I have plenty of accessories, but I don’t wear a lot of them (next thing to pare down), and I usually add them last minute based on my mood.  Having to pick 3 or 4 as the only things I can wear for several months defeats my main purpose of “less stress”.
  • Make sure every item works with nearly everything else.


Naturally, I did my research before deciding to dive into this endeavor. Part of the reason I wanted to try this, after all, was to break my new urge of buying clothes every time I get bored with what I wore last week. I liked the idea of taking what I had and making it work.

“Capsule wardrobes on a budget” yielded some decent results on Google, but others were absurd. (Like searching “healthy dog food on a budget”, which is frustrating.) One woman spent most of her article talking about how she had a very limited budget of $100.00 with which to build her wardrobe. No, she didn’t mean $100.00 ever, for the whole thing. She meant $100.00 every month.

Thanks for that.

Others pull enough things out of their overflowing closet to make this work for 3 months before returning to their overflowing closet for more – or, worse, going shopping for the items they “need” to complete their look.

Sure, I understand that you want quality items because you’ll be wearing them so often and they need to last, but the whole point is saving time, money, and space. And yes, it is common to roll over some staple items while having to rotate seasonal items, but even those seasonal items should be both limited in number and pretty classic pieces.

Up next is my first every capsule wardrobe, which is all kinds of trial and error.


*I’m looking at you, Throne of Glass.


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