Solving your clothes conundrum: the capsule wardrobe

published on 16 March 2022

If science fiction is right, in the future we will all wear an assigned uniform. No colour coordinating. No accessorizing. The same outfit, every day - likely skintight with a silver triangle on our chest that you can touch to do something cool, like teleport or call Pizza Hut.  Sounds awesome, I know.

But until that day, we have to continue to get up in the morning and decide what to wear. The Capsule Wardrobe can simplify this process.

While it’s all the rage these days, the Capsule Wardrobe comes from the 1970’s when London boutique owner Susie Faux coined the term. 

The idea is that you can avoid a meltdown every morning by reducing your wardrobe to a limited number of items.

Faux suggested less than a dozen, but it still works if you're more generous with your number. You can also swap your current collection every 3 months according to the seasons.

I have been experimenting with capsule wardrobes since last year and still going strong. 

Here are a few lessons I've learned about the process:

·         Getting ready for work is now a breeze. I have fewer items to choose from, they are relevant to the season and much easier to see in my closet. 

·         I've discovered more about my taste and style. The process of selecting a precious few items means that you need to get real about what you will actually wear.  No matter what you paid for it or who gave it to you, unless you'd wear it tomorrow, it won't make the cut. 

·         I became a more thoughtful shopper.  Sticking to my number means that I rarely make spontaneous purchases. While I was never a shopaholic, I've been guilty of walking into a store and leaving with a bag full of items I don't need. Now, I only shop for specific items and usually as a replacement for something I've decided to retire. And as every item will get a lot of use, I try to focus on buying good quality that will last a long time.  This might mean saving up for a while, but with a solid inventory of my items, I can plan in advance.

·         Packing is so easy! This one is a hidden bonus. The capsule wardrobe process can definitely apply to a trip. Plan wisely and you can be that cool person on an international flight with only a carry-on! 

·         You are already doing it. Yup. Think about it. Have you noticed that certain items rarely leave your closet as it never seems to be the right day to wear them? And others are constantly worn, no matter what the weather or occasion. You already know what to keep and discard, you just need a process. 

I hope you're curious about how to start your own capsule wardrobe. Here are 5 steps for success:

1. Define

While Susie Faux’s original 12 items might be a bit too restrictive, there is no rule to say you have to start so low. Most people keep 20 to 37 items. It's your decision, and if the idea of restricting your closet causes anxiety, go higher. 

My first capsule included 37 items and didn’t include shoes. Since then I have been reducing that number because I don’t feel that I need that many clothes. And now I count shoes and accessories. This season’s closet has 31. You don’t need to count your gym clothes, pj’s, bathing suits and underwear. Don’t be too rigid the first time around, the important thing is to have fun with it.   

2. Select

Before you go on a shopping spree, spend some time in your own closet and drawers. I began the process before KonMari and I was amazed at what I found. So many hidden treasures! 

To start, take every item out of your closet and go through them one by one. Decide if the item will join your starting roster for this season, or if they'll have to sit on the bench.  Maybe it's time to trade them to another team, and if so, put them in the donate or sell pile.

3.  Display

Now that you have selected your items for this season you need to make them easily accessible. I hang only those items in my closet. That way I know at a glance what I have to work with.  Store away items that are out of season. You can revisit them in 3 months when you are ready to plan the next season's capsule.

4. Track

There are several great apps if you enjoy having your entire closet at your fingertips! Here is a list of some of them. 

I keep it old school. I have a spreadsheet with all my picks for the season, and then just add another column for the next season as it comes. This shows me which items are always in my closet and which ones rarely make the list (and might be donated). 

5. Refine  

Accept that you won’t get it right the first time. It takes a couple of seasons to get the hang of the process. 

For inspiration, Pinterest has plenty of great boards related to Capsule Wardrobes - check out mine!

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