How to Create a Capsule Wardrobe

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Nothing to Wear Romy and Michele

Source: ELLE

Have you heard of capsule wardrobes before? The first time I came across the term was when I stumbled upon Caroline Rector’s blog Unfancy. I have to admit I was initially unconvinced, but as I fell down the rabbit hole of the internet and did a little more research, I became more and more intrigued by the concept.

Read on to find out more about capsule wardrobes: what they are, how they can benefit you, and why they work so well for a college budget.

{RELATED POST: The Ultimate Chic Capsule Wardrobe for School, Work, and Nights Out}

What is it?

The term “capsule wardrobe” was first coined in the 1970s by Suzie Faux, the owner of a London boutique called Wardrobe. According to Faux, a capsule wardrobe consisted of a foundation of clothing staples that are timeless, but can be augmented with seasonal pieces. While the definition varies slightly from person to person, this minimalistic approach to fashion has experienced a resurgence of popularity in recent years.

Caroline Rector, the mastermind behind the blog Unfancy, has devoted an entire website to the art of the capsule wardrobe. In her words, “It’s a mini wardrobe made up of really versatile pieces that you totally LOVE to wear.”

Sounds too good to be true, right? I mean, isn’t that what everyone aspires for their closet to be? The beauty of a capsule wardrobe is that you can invest in pieces that fit your lifestyle while still reflecting your personal style.

Unfancy homepage copy

Photo: Screenshot

How can it benefit me?

The fact of the matter is, there are probably several (if not more) items in your closet that have been hanging untouched for far too long. We all have clothes that were impulse buys, gifts from a relative (sorry grandma!), and/or don’t fit right and we aren’t totally in love with.

Odds are, you’ve probably stared into your closet and uttered the famous last words: “I have nothing to wear!” at least once in your life. Having too many options can often make getting dressed more complicated than it needs to be. The goal of a capsule wardrobe is not to limit your style, but to allow you to maximize the pieces you do have. With Thanksgiving right around the corner, it’s important to remember that we can be happy with a lot less than we think sometimes.

For college girls on a budget, the idea of a capsule wardrobe is enticing for other reasons. Don’t get me wrong, I love me some retail therapy, but it can be far too easy to buy items on impulse that aren’t very wearable or versatile. These random, miscellaneous purchases add up over time. With a capsule wardrobe, you only need to shop for clothes once every few months between seasons. This allows you to shop with a mission, and only purchase items that fill a hole in your capsule wardrobe.

How do I create a capsule wardrobe?

For Caroline, this means pairing down her seasonal wardrobe to include just 37 pieces of quality clothing (not including workout clothes, special occasion clothing, jewelry, accessories, purses, pajamas, swimsuits, and lingerie) for each season: summer, fall, winter, and spring.

While the number 37 may seem arbitrary, Caroline came up with number after doing some math. She knew she wanted 9 pairs of shoes, 9 bottoms, 2 dress, 2 jackets/coats and 15 tops. This number may not work for everyone, but it can be used as a jumping off point.

I suggest using Caroline’s handy (and free!) downloadable capsule wardrobe planner to get started. For a more in-depth step-by-step breakdown of how to create a capsule wardrobe check out this post. You can also take a look at Caroline’s past capsule wardrobes here, here, and here.

For added inspiration, here’s a peek at what my dream fall capsule wardrobe would consist of:

Capsule wardrobe tops

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15

Capsule wardrobe outwear and bottoms

16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23

Capsule wardrobe sweaters, dresses, skirts, shoes

24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37

Keep in mind…

A capsule wardrobe may not be for everyone. If the thought of creating a capsule wardrobe causes you to break out in a sweat, that’s 100% alright. Regardless of whether you decide to join in on the capsule wardrobe movement, there are a few things you can still take away from the concept:

  1. Shop smart. I’m all for impulse buys, but only when they are worthwhile steals or purchases. My rule of thumb is to take the article of clothing or accessory I’m thinking about buying and come up with at least three different ways I can style it. If I can successfully do that, then I know it’s a good buy. If I can’t, then I force myself to put it back.
  2. Periodically going through your closet can only benefit you. I try to do this at least once every semester. There are usually items that I’ve grown tired of, or haven’t really worn to begin with. Instead of taking up precious closet space, get rid of these items by donating them or selling them. Who knows, you might even make a buck or two!
  3. While I’m all for buying the occasional trendy item, remember the importance of basic, timeless pieces. Patterns like stripes, polka dots, and plaid will always be stylish. Try investing in a quality pair of jeans that fit you perfectly and will last far longer than a cheap pair ever would. Don’t be afraid to spend more on high quality fashion staples. When you break down the cost per wear, it’s often worth it to invest in a more expensive item.
  4. If you’re traveling for the holidays, consider utilizing a capsule format to pack outfits. Thinking about multiple ways to style articles of clothing will help you pack more efficiently and keep your suitcase considerably lighter.

What do you think?

What do you think of capsule wardrobes? Would you ever consider giving them a try? What kinds of items would make it into your capsule wardrobe? Let me know, I’d love to hear!

9 thoughts on “How to Create a Capsule Wardrobe”

  1. Good article! I find it very logical to slowly build a wardrobe with this in mind. If I understand right, you have 37×4 pieces of clothing & shoes = that’s not even downsizing for me, though some stuff I own isn’t good enough to wear outside the house. I am wearing most of my clothes during the whole year (central Europe=4 seasons). Plus 36 pair (wow!) of shoes sound intriguing but incredibly expensive especially when you go for quality. I understand that clothes and shoes are generally cheaper in USA than here, bit of envy!

  2. I had no idea this was a thing. I’m so happy because this is what I’ve been trying to do my entire life. I LOVE the idea and this blog. Bless this post!!

  3. This is pretty much what I do… I just didn’t know it had a name! I’m pretty sure I have less clothes than this too. I’m so glad I stumbled upon your blog and thanks for the introduction to another one 🙂

  4. I love this article! I agree less is more with wardrobe because having too many choices does end up making it hard for me to decide what to wear! Saving money is the best part about the capsule wardrobe. 🙂

  5. I love this article! I’ve seen her blog before, among some others, and have been toying with the idea ever since. They do seem great for a college budget and i think you really can feel much happier because you love the pieces you have and how they combine together.

  6. Wow I really liked this article! I’ve been collecting timeless classic pieces for a while now and really like that I can simply pair them in various ways for different outfits. I also like the challenge of creating different outfits with less – it gets me thinking creatively. I had no idea this was even called something! Great article!

  7. I’m so happy to hear that you all loved this article! The older I get, the more I realize how important it is to invest in quality clothes that you adore.

    Jiturka: To clarify, the idea is that you have 37 articles of clothing for each season in total (which will include tops, bottoms, dresses, skirts, shoes, jackets, etc.). Some of these pieces may very well carry over into the next season (i.e. from Fall to Winter). For example, while you may purchase 5-6 pairs of shoes for one season some of them may work year round (and even carry on into next year’s wardrobe) and therefore you may end up only purchasing 12-15 pairs of shoes for the entire year. Also, from my experience, you are absolutely right about clothing and shoes being more affordable in the US!


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