As an INTJ and obsessive Planner, only a few things tickle my brain as much as capsule wardrobes.
Something about my wardrobe always irked me. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. Over time, I’ve come to realize it was actually several things that bothered me about the way I was dressing. My clothes were either ill-fitting, didn’t quite layer properly, were “too old” or “too young.” I decided it was time for a change and the concept of a capsule wardrobe seemed to fit my goals and lifestyle just right.
As I plowed through Pinterest boards, Polyvore ensembles, and worksheets, I began to realize that the traditional capsule wardrobe plan just wasn’t cutting it. I was successfully getting rid of colors and pieces that weren’t “me” or items that I just never wore anymore, but the remaining pieces just didn’t fit together. This was confusing to me at first, because theoretically, following all the Capsule rules should get you a decent result that should require minimal tweaking. This wasn’t the case with my wardrobe.
I was discovering that x shirt with y jeans should fit together, but the proportions were awkward. Or z sweater didn’t work with p skirt due to the texture of the sweater. Or m shoes didn’t work with b and c bottoms because it made me look too short. You get the picture.
Not only did I need to purge my closet, but also the way I thought about how these individual pieces would come together to form a cohesive wardrobe.
If my story sounds familiar and you’re not quite having the success with the “traditional” capsuling technique, here’s an alternate framework for re-vamping your wardrobe:
0. Think first…
…About what you want to accomplish. Are you trying to achieve a clean closet? Tired of compulsively buying micro-trend pieces from H&M and Forever 21? Looking for a uniform? For me, it’s the latter.
Take out all your clothes and sort them into 3 piles:
A) Definitely keeping
As you’re auditing your closet and drawers, always keep this in mind. For example, if the goal is to get rid of colors that don’t look so great on you, don’t hesitate to throw that lime green H&M dress in the discard pile.
Get rid of any item that makes you ‘feel weird.’ I can’t stress this enough. There’s nothing worse than opening your closet every morning only to come face to face with that dress you haven’t worn in 4 years, only wore twice, and that you feel bad about. Ain’t no one got time for that negativity.
Sentimental items can stay, obviously. I try to practice minimalism, so these types of items automatically get placed in a storage bin if I don’t want them displayed. You might want to add another pile of clothing for this specifically, if there are enough items to do so.
Questions to ask yourself…
1. Take a look at your discard/donate pile. Imagine that it’s gone forever. How do you feel? Is there an item that needs to be moved to a different pile?
2. Are there a lot more things in your discard pile compared to your Definitely Keeping pile? Maybe your Definitely Keeping pile is too large?
3. Start thinking about patterns in your piles – what stands out? Could it be a color, or a certain neckline, or a certain pattern that keeps popping up? What pops up in your Discard pile vs. your Definitely keeping pile?
1. Get Listing
List all your clothes. Hold on – not everything – just the things in your Definitely Keeping pile. This will help you go through the questions/things to think about below without having to have the clothes in front of you. Organize on the subway, during your lunch break, wherever you need to. I’ve found that listing is incredibly helpful because sometimes we can detect different patterns or glean different insights when information is presented in different ways.
If you really want to get into this, you can add information to each entry, such as classification of clothing (dress, pants, tee, etc.), colors, appropriate season, occasion, or whatever else you think applies.
Spreadsheets aren’t everyone’s thing. I’m a more visual person myself, so something like a Pinterest board would work well to organize things. Make a private board and take pictures of your actual clothes in order to get the clearest idea of what you’re starting with.
We’ll call this list your Inventory.
Have you noticed any patterns here for color, style, fit, etc.? Start jotting down ideas about what’s working and what’s not working and don’t be afraid to throw anything into the Maybe or Discard piles in the process.
2. Think in Seasons…and plan ahead
It snows where I live. This has a drastic effect on my fall and winter capsule. Obviously, we can all envision what needs to change from season to season. Not so obvious is the timing around which things change. For example, I was still finalizing my fall capsule when suddenly – bam – winter happened.
For some of you, it may be 80 degrees and sunny year-round. Think about how often you need to modify your capsule. Do you need transitional, multi-season pieces? What can be carried over from season to season? How does that affect your purchasing schedule? Work that into your strategy as you move from capsule to capsule.
3. Think in Silhouettes
Not thinking in silhouettes is what caused me to write this post. This is where the traditional capsule model failed me. Yes, I had all the wardrobe staples, in strategic colors and patterns – but I had a little bit of everything – and that was the major problem. The second major problem was that I wasn’t thinking about how those pieces would work together.
I work in a super casual environment, so sometimes the issue came down to comfort. Did i feel like wearing jeans or leggings to the office that day? Leggings(!) it is, but do i need to add a skirt for *ahem* modesty? Do I need to add more tunics to my capsule instead? What about those semi-frequent situations where I need a more corporate ensemble?
What is the most comfortable outfit you wear? What do you like about it? What works/doesn’t work about it? If you had any budget, how would you upgrade or fix this wardrobe?
I’ve decided on some silhouettes that work on me:
A) Tee + Skinny Pants + Blazer
B) Corporate Dress + Blazer or Cardigan
C) Sweater + button down + skinny pants
D) Long sweater + Leggings
E) Tee + long or short skirt
F) Button-down + skinny pants
G) Tunic + Leggings
Not sure what your silhouettes are? Just take stock. Collect some data. What are you wearing today? What is the weather like? What is the situation? Are you *comfortable* with what you’re wearing today?
Notice that some of the silhouettes you’ve written down just won’t work in certain seasons or for certain occasions. Maybe some feel too “young” or “old,” depending on what you’re going for. If you’re building a summer capsule, scratch those winter options off your list (for now). If you feel that you’re thinking in one season, go ahead and write down what you would wear in the winter/summer and put that list away until it’s time to build the next season.
How does your silhouette list compare to your Keep pile? Are you missing some things that would round out your staple silhouettes? Are there certain things you can add to make the capsule more professional or more casual?
At work, they say you should dress not for the position you have, but the position you want. For me, I quickly discovered that as an almost-30-something, leggings and a tunic are no longer going to cut it for me. It’s just way to casual, too southern-charm Pinterest-able, and touches on “young mom-ish.” Any other colors, especially patterns with riding boots, get very far away from the aesthetic I’m going for. In the winter, leggings make more sense along with long cozy sweaters that I obviously wouldn’t wear in any other season.
You can strategically add and remove silhouettes that are tailored to the temperature or other situation.
4. Think in Colors
Take a good look at the colors you already own. Think back to a time where someone complimented you on how that shade of red looked so great with your skin tone. Or, think about what colors you need to wear at work – are you in a corporate environment or one that is super casual? Those questions should help you guide where you should focus your efforts.
I’m done with color. I can no longer pull off the lime green H&M dress and since I tend to get mistaken for an under-21 person, I think it’s safe to say that I should be focusing on colors that make me look older. I’ve decided on a palette of black, white, gray, and a soft tan/peach as an accent color.
Now think about the colors you need. The UnFancy Wardrobe Planner has a perfect color planning worksheet. Copy the worksheet and actually color in the blocks for each of your colors.
Mine looks something like this:
2. [This can be a pattern or accent color, but pay close attention to clashing] 3. [This can be a pattern or accent color, but pay close attention to clashing]
You’ll probably want to make several of these. Go ahead and play with the colors! Color one set with the colors you own – those that are prevalent throughout your Keep pile. Then, color another set with your dream wardrobe colors. After that, make one that contains some of the colors you already own, and some new ones you wish to incorporate. It’s that easy!
Feel free to cut out the blocks and mix and match physically, too. Again, information displayed several ways can often look different depending on how it’s organized.
5. Think in Textures
For me, thinking in textures isn’t very easy. It’s something I don’t really notice about an outfit until it’s too late. Once, I wore a cable-knit sweater with a wool skirt and didn’t realize until the mirror in the bathroom at work told me it was a bad choice.
Always add some variety via textures to your wardrobe. You’ll notice this right away if you are visually planning your wardrobe via Pinterest, but not so much if you’re using only a list. Mix and match in your head or at the drawing board with the clothes right in front of you. Try to find out if all your clothing has the same texture (if so, you know to add variety) or lots of different textures (tone it down with the cable-knits). Also, in your head or at your drawing board, find out how many outfits that *really super chunky sweater* really goes with. Does it really only fit with one particular outfit? If so, you may want to reconsider that piece.
When refining your approach to textures, always think about temperature.
6. Now, cut it down!
Go back to your initial list of clothing and categorize. Are there categories of items that you have multiples of? That can be a good thing! Multiple staples – like tees and tanks – are essential. What you don’t want is a huge pile of winter jackets or 5 totally different styles of blazers.
If you have 5-6 of something – ask yourself why. Are there micro-trends hidden in there? Does one blazer, for example, only work with 10% of your wardrobe? Why?
Next – cut those items down. Just do it. Rip the band-aid. It might be helpful to phase things out. Maybe start with cutting 2-3 options down and gradually donating the pieces you wear less often.
Another note about multiples…
If you have a favorite pant that has always worked for you and it’s achieved the Capsule status, don’t be afraid to go out and buy a few additional pairs. This does not count against your # of pieces Capsule rule if the goal is to build a uniform. If the goal is to get rid of clutter, disregard my suggestion.
A note on the Magic Number 37
Many capsule techniques push you to have a certain number of pieces. They say you need x number of plain shirts, at least one pair of skinny pants, etc. You don’t need to follow this advice. The whole point of a capsule is to minimize, simplify, and streamline – but that doesn’t necessarily mean you need to have exactly 37 pieces. It’s perfectly fine to have more or less. Be careful though – at a certain point, 37 pieces could turn into 60 pieces and suddenly you’re no longer dealing with a capsule, but a round trip to your local Goodwill.
7. Set budgets. Figure out your ‘investment’ pieces
I knew I needed to add a transitional summer/fall spring/summer outerwear piece to my wardrobe – a trenchcoat – but knew I’d have to go with something super classic to fit my aesthetic.
8. Don’t. Forget. Footwear.
Footwear is my kryptonite. I like flats, but flats don’t like me – my overall height and my usual city walking paths just don’t work well together. You can always walk to work in a pair of sneaks (which do not factor into your capsule, by the way) and slap on a pair of swanky heels or wedges for the office.