How to Create a Capsule Wardrobe

You know that when it comes to fashion and style, we’re all about practicality. So when we heard about Caroline Rector’s capsule wardrobes, our ears perked up. Haven’t heard of a capsule collection? You’ll want to take notes! Caroline started her blog, Unfancy, as a way to document her minimalistic style—wearing only 37 (yes, that’s thirty-seven) clothing pieces for three straight months. After three months, she’ll pick new pieces to add to her rotation. Not only does this completely de-stress the whole idea of getting dressed but also saves a lot of money (no shopping for three months!) and has completely changed her outlook on life.

Ready to be inspired? Let’s get to it with Capsule Wardrobe 101 and our chat with Caroline on how she did it and why.

 

On the Definition of a Capsule Wardrobe

Simple definition? It’s a mini wardrobe made up of really versatile pieces that you completely LOVE to wear.

For Unfancy purposes (and what Caroline did), it’s a 37-piece wardrobe (rotated every three months) that includes tops, bottoms, dresses, outerwear, and shoes.

White Tee
White Tank
Classic Button Up
Knit Vest
Crop Tee
Paris Graphic Tee
Grey Tank
Sweatshirt
Midi Dress
Track Shorts
Dark Denim
Cape Cardigan
Joggers
Relaxed Blazer
Moto Jacket
Indigo Jeans
Wrap Skirt
High Rise Jeans
Boyfriend Shirt
Chambray Shirt
Jean Jacket
Denim Shorts
Distressed Jeans
Mint Tunic
Slip Ons
Open Toe Booties
Chelsea Boots
D’Orsay Flats
Booties
Birkenstocks
Converse
Lace Up Sandals
Slip On Sandals
Vans High Tops

 

Why is it so great?

Remember when you buy fun new clothes, but end up wearing old favorites? Me too. Ever go to your closet and feel like you have nothing to wear, even when your closet is filled with clothes? Me too! I started wondering why I was keeping a closet stuffed with things I didn’t love. And I also started wondering why I kept spending money on mediocre clothes I didn’t wear because they didn’t fit quite right.

We’ve all experienced closet envy, right? We’ve been conditioned to want the celeb closet-room, you know? And even though those are pretty cool, I realized I could be really happy with a lot less. So I tried out this capsule wardrobe idea I’d been hearing about and I never looked back! Now I always feel like I have something awesome to throw on, be it Sunday brunch or a client meeting, because every single item hanging in my closet is something I would love to wear right this moment.

To me, a capsule wardrobe represents more time and energy for what really matters (less time spent deciding what to wear/less time spent shopping/less time doing laundry or caring for clothes) more money for our dreams and helping others (less money spent on clothes that never get worn) and more contentment and happiness.

 

On what got me into capsule wardrobes

On Black Friday 2013, I went on a shopping binge, buying anything and everything in the heat of the frenzy. I got home with a mess of clothes that contributed nothing to my style or my needs—and immediately knew this was part of a bigger problem. Recently, I had noticed that I had a bad habit of using shopping as a way to jolt myself out of a bad mood with a little instant gratification. Not the worst thing in the world but…it hit me pretty hard when I realized I wasn’t shopping for clothes—I was shopping for happiness.

No wonder my closet didn’t make any sense.

I wanted a change. I wanted to stop spending money on emotional purchases. I wanted to stop buying clothes that were going to end up in the donation pile after a month. I wanted to start making more intentional buying choices. I wanted to start finding my style and confidence.

So, I Googled it. I searched all sorts of things like “How to find your style” and “How to curb a shopping problem” until I stumbled upon the term “capsule wardrobe”—it was coined in the 70’s by London boutique owner, Susie Faux. But it was two blogs that really opened my eyes to the modern capsule wardrobe: Into Mind and Project333. I was hooked on the idea of a minimal closet, so much so that I wanted to experiment with it as a long-term lifestyle. As I started living with less, I noticed the biggest change happening in my heart.

I realized that happiness, contentment, and joy come from within—not from stuff or external circumstances; I couldn’t help but share it.

So I started my blog, Unfancy, for two reasons: 1. To show that it’s possible to live with a tiny wardrobe, and still have impeccable style and tons of options, and 2. Because trying something new and taking control of your closet can be a powerful reminder that it’s never too late to change your life.

 

On my structure for building a capsule wardrobe

Typically, I start with shoes since they can make the biggest impact on an outfit. I like having about nine pairs of shoes. So I’ll typically have, for example: three pairs of flats, three pairs of heels, and three pairs of boots. I also like having nine bottoms too—for example: three pairs of jeans, three pairs of shorts, and three skirts. I use a “3 of each” rule because I like having one casual pair, one statement pair, and one in-between pair.

After all that I still have room for 15 tops. Sometimes I’ll use the “3 of each rule” here too. For example: three sweaters, three t-shirts, three button-up shirts, three tank tops, and three vests.

And finally, that leaves room for four jackets or dresses and those break down differently depending on the season. For example, in winter I might have four jackets and no dresses while in summer I might have one jacket and three dresses.

 

On mistakes

Mistakes are a part of the process—there’s no such thing as a perfect wardrobe. I always make a few mistakes in my capsule wardrobes, but I don’t really regret them. Those mistakes end up being the best teachers. Even if I see I’ve made a mistake, I still try to wear them for that season and try to make the best of them. Sometimes they even end up surprising me and becoming beloved pieces by the end of the season. But even if they don’t, the mistakes help me hone in on my style even more and help me know what to do better next time.

 

 

On starting your own capsule wardrobe

It all starts with cleaning out our closets. Usually when it’s time to purge, we rifle through our clothes while they are still in our closet on the hangers. But there’s a much better way—one that will actually help us find our style and give us clarity. (Editor’s note: Can you tell we’ve been on a clean and edited closet kick lately? See related articles here, here, and here!)

Step 1: The secret to cleaning out your closet is to completely empty your closet first. I know, it sounds like a ton of work. But it works. Take absolutely everything out of your closet and lay it out on your bed.

Step 2: Sort each item into one of these four piles:

  • LOVE IT AND WOULD WEAR IT RIGHT NOW! It fits. It’s right for your lifestyle. You feel comfortable and confident wearing it. Great, now put it back in your closet.
  • MAYBE. This is for items that don’t fit quite right, the color is a little off, have sentimental value, you can’t put your finger on it but you just don’t wear it, or you’re keeping it because you paid a lot for it but you don’t wear it. Put all this stuff in a box and store it in the garage. You can always go get stuff out of it, but you probably won’t. If it’s still in the box at the end of your season, it’s time to say goodbye to it.
  • NOPE. Self-explanatory. Donate, swap with a friend, or sell it to fund new purchases.
  • SEASONAL. Wool coat in summer? Probably don’t need it handy. But you’d never get rid of a staple like that. If it’s not in season, but you LOVE IT, put it in a nice under-the-bed box and store it. You’ll definitely use it when the appropriate season rolls around.

Step 3: Assess what’s left in your closet: your LOVE IT clothes. Your true style should be practically screaming at you. From here, I suggest going on a shopping hiatus for however long you like—especially if your wardrobe is less than perfect (and trust me, it will be). Living with what you have for a little while will teach you so much about your style and what you really need. Once your finished with your shopping hiatus, make a plan and then shop for the missing pieces. (Tip: free wardrobe planner I made for you!)

If you’re nervous about getting rid of the clothes you clean out, simply store them instead (safety net!). It gets the visual clutter out of your closet but takes the pressure off. And later, if you realize you miss something, go grab it.

As you go along, edit the process to fit your own lifestyle. If you need two capsule wardrobes (one for work and one for the weekends), go for it. If you need more clothes than 37, add ‘em in. If you hate numbers and rules, scrap them all together. No matter what, make it yours—and enjoy it.

And remember, it’s not meant to be a miserable experience—it’s meant to be invigorating and fun. The goal here isn’t to bash shopping, clothes, and style. The goal is to try something new if you don’t like your current situation. Remember, trying something new and taking control of your closet can be a powerful reminder that it’s never too late to change your life—either by changing your attitude or by changing your environment.

 

On making it a lifestyle

I’ve lived with my 37-piece capsule wardrobe for a year, and now I’m interested in making this whole experience more of a lifestyle—instead of a rule-based challenge. Life changes and we change with it. I have no doubt that my definition of a capsule wardrobe will change as I evolve, but I think I’ll always live with a version of a capsule wardrobe; I’m excited to see what that looks like down the road.

Are you as inspired as we are? Would you take on the capsule wardrobe challenge? 

 

READ: Our Step by Step Guide to Building a Spring Capsule Wardrobe

READ: 7 Questions to Ask When Cleaning Out Your Closet

READ: How to Create a Beauty Capsule Collection

READ: How to Make $1,000 This Month Selling Your Clothes on eBay

  • I love Caroline’s blog! This a great breakdown of what she’s all about. I’m super excited about her spring capsule, so this was nice to get a sneak peek. 🙂

  • I’ve been thinking about putting together a capsule wardrobe but it really intimidates me. This post is so helpful though!

  • I am SO doing this. I went on a spending fast for the YEAR in 2013 because comfort and compulsive shopping had gotten out of control. I unsubscribed from all shopping emails so they wouldn’t tease or tempt me and it ended up being easier than expected. I’m reading to scale back my closet and do it again for spring!

    • Ellie

      I’ve never done a huge shopping fast for a large length of time, but I spent two months unemployed last year and definitely noticed the difference after I unsubscribed from all the emails!

  • SUCH a great post. I want everything in this collection!

    -Alex /// http://www.riothouseblog.com

  • Amanda

    Love this blog! I’ve been doing a capsule wardrobe for three seasons and I’ll never go back. I just wrote about my process for fetting my spring capsule together! http://maepresss.blogspot.com

  • Emily

    I LOVE Caroline! Thank you for sharing her smart, efficient, enlightened approach to dressing and life.

  • A Rogers

    This is a really great idea… But it’s not exactly unique. KendiEveryday.com indroduced her 30×30 idea years ago and it’s very much the same concept; minimized your wardrobe pieces and mix and match for a length of time, saving money and time getting dressed.

  • Elli Purtell

    Just what I needed to read for spring. I’ll be cleaning out my closet ASAP. Thanks for a great article!

  • Jodie | This is Jodes

    Such a great post! Caroline’s blog & approach is brilliant & addictive! This was an awesome feature, thanks for sharing.

  • I just cleaned out my closet and took 4 bags to Salvation Army and have 1 bag to send to Twice. I definitely been more mindful of my shopping and thinking about all the different ways I can wear something. Not sure I could pare down to 37 items though!

    Ladies at the Bar

  • lwh13

    This is amazing! I’m so excited to clean out my closet – it’s one of my absolute favorite things to do. I definitely am a shopaholic – but after looking around at all of my shhh i’m reminded that I don’t actually need anything new.

    Warm Regards,
    Alexandra
    http://www.littlewildheart.com

  • Ellie

    I don’t have the guts to take the leap to a capsule wardrobe, but I have been trying to shop with more intention. I keep a list of things I actually need (like black flats for work to replace my worn out pair) and things that I keep wishing I had. When those things go on sale or the perfect piece pops up, I allow myself to shop for those things. This way, I easily talk myself out of frivolous purchases by looking at the list of things I really want.

    • I do the same thing Ellie! I’m working towards some variation of the capsule wardrobe but have mainly just been trying to focus on shopping intentionally. It’s so much better when you buy something and have absolutely no regret after.

      I naturally tend to gravitate towards stand out pieces that don’t necessarily go well with many other options so I’ve been trying to focus on things I can wear in a few different outfits. It is life changing haha

      Sam xx
      http://www.smart-twenties.com – how to make the most of your twenties

      • Jessa

        Ladies, I do the same! Love my need / wish lists … They help focus my shopping trips and keep me on budget.

  • jag

    The definition of effortlesss style. This will definitely change how I look at my wardrobe. LOVE IT!

  • Cherryl

    I have to thank Project 333 for properly downsizing my wardrobe and
    achieving “a look” that always works for me. The most important part of the challenge was absolutely defining what looked good on my body, with my coloring, wouldn’t be too boring, and especially would mix and match, allowing layering and dressing up or down as needed. Scarves are my new best friend!

    Your casual capsule is compact, but the number of shoes are killing me. I own exactly 5 pair of shoes, all in the same color family, to go with everything, all year around. Dress pumps, boots, ankle boots, lightweight sneakers, and flip-flops, plus a small purse, and a tote. I think this depends up one’s personal tastes. Some folks like shoes. I just tolerate them!

    • Angelina

      You have the same opinion as me can’t wait to read more

  • THAT is the post I needed to read ! I can totally find myself in Caroline’s shopping her emotion away! I just moved to a new place with smaller closet space + everything is still in boxes + season changing… It seems to good a moment to ignore it! Thank you for article, it’s amazing + very very inspiring… just love it!

  • Laura

    I love Caroline’s blog! I found her a few months ago and tried out my first capsule wardrobe for the winter. I can’t BELIEVE how much better & easier it feels getting dressed now. I found that limiting the # of items isn’t important for me, but being ruthless about getting rid of those pieces that I just don’t wear has been crucial. And I’m being a lot more strategic about what I purchase now. I just finished my spring shopping and all I needed were 4 items!

  • The struggle is real.

    Caroline must the most fake bloger in Earth! She praises about minimalism yet she likes to get money with affiliate links, she doesn’t accept any criticism in her blog, don’t believe me? Go ahead and try to let an opinion where you don’t flatter her, her blog or her (un)original idea of a capsule wardrobe, your comment will never be published. And she is not honest at all about the money she spend in her clothes. Her fangirls are blind…

  • This is an amazing idea, and so inspirational! I can never give up my bright, fun, one of a kind pieces that aren’t versatile enough to be capsule though, like my favorite wild Kate Spade dress. It would get too recognizable! I think I am a fan of Capsule-Light 🙂

    Jill
    Latest post: Oui Oui for Black and White Prisoner Stripes!

  • LinaLamont

    I don’t even want a capsule wardrobe, but I go through annual fits of “what basics am I missing”?

    I hired a stylist to help me go through my clothes a few years ago and she was appalled at a) how few clothes I had and b) how few basics I have. Eep. I haven’t gone on a buying binge since (except for running clothes) because I’m trying to avoid buying filler items, but I haven’t made an effort to buy the things I actually do need.

    This whole capsule wardrobe idea helps me think through that.

  • photosbyjaana

    Living with a capsule can be challenging, frustrating, and fun all at once. I love it! (And Caroline is as awesome in real life as she seems on the Internet!) 🙂
    http://www.thismomsgonnasnap.com

  • Awesome idea!

  • I love this idea and I recently pared down my closet big time because I got married and my husband moved into my house. I had a TON of clothing to “get rid” of. Do you have any suggestions maybe re-selling or making some extra cash on the clothes instead of just donating them?

    • Hi Jenn! Yes we do, you can read all about selling your clothes on ebay here! http://theeverygirl.com/how-to-make-1000-this-month-selling-your-clothes-on-ebay

  • RR

    This post is the wake up call I need to “spring clean” my wardrobe. I already know there will be more than a handful of pieces that I’ll be getting rid of. I’m hoping to clear a good amount of closet space once it happens!

  • Jessa

    I was so excited to see Caroline featured on The Everygirl – two of my favourite blogs in one place! I like her perspective on why it’s important to make considered choices with a wardrobe, and she’s got excellent style to boot. I’m trying my first capsule for work this spring (www.citronetlimon.wordpress.com) and am considering a second one for casual clothes (why 2? Because my business and casual styles are completely divergent!). Xo.

  • Cheryl Scruggs

    This is wonderful!!

  • Tanya Reader

    A Rogers, the article acknowledges that “capsule wardrobe” is not a new idea and that the term itself was coined in the 70s.

  • I LOVE this and am so up for the challenge. I’m definitely guilty of buying clothes on a whim and sometimes find I have a lot of things that I love but don’t necessarily work together. I’m looking forward to thoughtfully curating a smaller wardrobe. Great post!

    http://www.sassyclassylife.com

  • I discovered Carolina’s blog several months back and I absolutely love it. I’ve been putting off doing the capsule wardrobe just because I know it’s going to take a lot of time to sort through everything, but I’m packing all my stuff up to move, so I have to sort through it all anyway. It’s happening this weekend and I’m excited!

  • I am ready to do this too. I have been chucking out clothes I do not wear every 6 months and now I have so almost nothing to wear.
    I am going to shop a capsule collection (sounds so Jackie O) and live it for good, but I will add touches of color. 70’s redux is here! Thanks!

    http://www.pippihepburn.etsy.com

  • Definitely inspired 🙂

    Monica.

  • Cathy Lynn

    I have so much stuff. I just saw this on Facebook and really want to try.
    I have to switch out the winter stuff for the summer so this would be a perfect time.
    Shoes might be hard. Have over 200;)

    • Cherryl

      I’m impressed. I just bought a new pair of ankle boots and tossed a pair of old sneakers to make room. I have six pair of shoes. I can’t imagine where you put them all.

  • Michelle Benkovic Polzin

    I have started going with the concept of capsule wardrobe, and find that building travel capsules have been very useful and freeing! However, paring down my closet items has been challenging. I did purge quite a bit, but had a hard time getting rid of a lot of items, even though I haven’t worn them in a long time. For example, my white jean jacket from Chicos. I haven’t worn it in a long time, but am now seeing white jean jackets are back, so I don’t want to ditch it. Does that make any sense at all? I will try the system suggested of taking everything out of the closet and see if that helps. Good idea!

  • I’m so excited to see Caroline’s blog featured here, it inspired me to start my first capsule last summer, and EVERYTHING has changed for me when it comes to my style, and the way I approach my closet. Thanks for giving the important topic of contentment an even wider platform.

  • Stacey

    A lot of these how to posts are way more complicated than they need to be. Find a good plain Tshirt that goes with all, plain black white or beige. Or find the ‘one’ shirt you like and buy several colors of that same shirt. Accessorize with a few long sleeve items for layering ~ cardigans and men’s button up shirts are great. Your trying to keep it simple. But if that is too simple then Find 3 or 4 pairs of jeans you like or 2 or 3 pair and a nice pair of slacks. Find 2 or three shirts/blouses you like and then buy each shirt in 3 or 4 colors. Have 2 or 3 long sleeve items for layering a couple of scarves. One pair tennis shoes, one or flats and a pair of sandals. The idea is to keep it simple. I’ve been doing this for years and never knew it was called a ‘capsule’ wardrobe. Keep the capsule small and simple. A big pill is only harder to swallow.

  • Amy

    Dear Caroline, doing this! Where did you get your navy wrap skirt???

  • cbm

    what about bags??

  • Crimson Rosella

    i am definately hook with the idea of capsule wardrobe and to have clothes that is really screaming my lifestyle ..it wasnt easy for me to get rid of my clothes ( i just feel attached to them) .. But the desire to have simple lifestyle push me to be really ruthless to declutter and to just keep clothes that i really love to wear..its ongoing process and i feel i am getting better..i go for buy less choose well…thank you for your inspiring blog it will be reminder for me that i can still have lots of style with less clothes i have 😉

  • Thanks so much to The Everygirl for posting this awesome piece. I adore un-fancy and Caroline! I just redid my whole professional wardrobe capsule-style, and I hope to tackle the rest of my closet as well! http://www.cafeaulame.com/