When I conducted my mid-year reader survey a few months back, I asked if you all would be interested in reading about my journey toward assembling and wearing a capsule wardrobe. I was pretty excited that 93% of you answered “Yes!” because it not only gave me the encouragement I needed to (finally) pull a new wardrobe together, but I also now have a fun “real time experiment” to share with you in the coming months! Today, I am kicking off what (I think) will be a 5-part series focused on building, organizing and wearing a capsule wardrobe. I’m going to start by diving into the why and how I assembled my new capsule wardrobe, as well as some initial impressions with how it’s going so far!
Capsule Wardrobe Series
As I mentioned in this post here, please know I have zero…none…zip…zilch…interest in being a fashion blogger. (As you’ll read in a minute, this experiment is more about getting myself out of workout clothes rather than becoming a fashionista!) Instead, this Capsule Wardrobe series will be short and focused on cultivating and wearing a minimal wardrobe for the sake of simplicity and convenience (which actually resonates quite well with the theme of so much of my content!) If you are here for the DIY and organizing, no fear! Below is the schedule for this series so you can either keep a look out for it each month or skip it as you see fit!
- Part 1: Kicking Off My Capsule Wardrobe Experiment (you are here!)
- Part 2: What I Bought for My Capsule Wardrobe & How Much I Spent (end of October)
- Part 3: How My Capsule Wardrobe Fits In My Closet & Drawers (November)
- Part 4: 6 Month Check-In of Wearing a Capsule Wardrobe (February)
- Part 5: 1 Year Check-In of Wearing a Capsule Wardrobe (August)
Why I Wanted to Build A Capsule Wardrobe
When you see pictures of people’s homes online or in your social feeds, I think it’s easy to assume their wardrobe is just as stylish as their bedroom. While that may be true for many bloggers, it is/was absolutely not the case for me. Truth be told, fashion is not really something I ever got right. Despite efforts in my younger years to look hip, cool and pulled together, I never found a look or system that worked for me. So time and time again, I resorted back to jeans, old t-shirts, and/or workout clothes, with no makeup or jewelry, and my hair always (and I mean always) in a ponytail. While I’ve often reveled in the time, money and efforts saved in this lackadaisical approach to my personal appearance, I’ve also been a smidge envious (okay, more than a smidge) of friends and family who look stylish without seeming like they spent the entire day primping and getting ready. “Some day, I’ll figure it out.” I always thought.
A few years ago, I learned about Outfit Formulas from an Ultimate Bundle promotion I participated in. It struck me as a system I could really get into. I don’t love fashion, nor do I have a ton of time to think about it. But if I had a clear, organized system that showed me what to buy, what to wear, and how to put things together, maybe I could get that “pulled together” look I wanted without all the effort. So I bought the Closet Staples Casual Capsule Wardrobe Builder package, years ago; but it has sat in my computer files, untouched, ever since.
Back in the Spring…as I “recovered” from having my third baby, dealt with a world in chaos (pandemic, homeschooling, etc), and realized I was turning 40 by year’s end…I suddenly felt this overwhelming desire to not just take better care of my body (diet and exercise) but also make more of an effort in my appearance. I’m not sure if it was a need to improve something in my daily life when so much seemed horrible, or just that I had reached my “frumpy Mom” breaking point. Either way, I was finally ready to try. That said, I juggle a lot of balls on a daily basis, and I simply don’t have the time (or interest!) in spending too much time shopping for clothes, making outfits, and getting ready each day. I just wanted a way to look great in the simplest, most efficient way possible. So I dusted off the Capsule Wardrobe Builder I bought so long ago, and finally (!!!) dove in!
How I Built a Capsule Wardrobe
Everyone is so different with their approach to clothes, their interest level in fashion, and their clothing budget. So I can’t really provide a definitive “How to Build a Capsule Wardrobe” guide (I’ll leave that to the fashion bloggers!). However, I do want to share how I did it it in case you’re interested in doing the same and just don’t know where to start!
Find a Guide. I honestly don’t know the first thing about what closet staples I need, how to buy pieces that can easily mix-and-match, etc. Again, since I was looking for a foolproof and quick system, I chose to purchase a guide to help me assemble a complete capsule wardrobe. I personally found the Outfit Formulas by Alison from Get Your Pretty On to be a perfect combination of my desired fashion style with a system I could easily put in place. That said, Pinterest is FULL of blog posts, systems, e-books, and shopping guides for building capsule wardrobes of all sorts (e.g., office style, activewear, etc), so I recommend finding one that resonates with you and your lifestyle in order to get off and running fairly quickly. (BTW: This is not at all sponsored; I bought this program with my own money, and am sharing it because I loved it!)
Sort Then Shop. Since I don’t know much about fashion and hadn’t bought new clothes in ages, I pretty much followed the wardrobe builder system and recommendations to a T. As such, after downloading her materials (shopping list, outfit builders, etc), I first sorted through my closet, then shopped for what was missing.
- SORT. Since the Capsule Wardrobe Builder includes a very specific shopping list (e.g., grey t-shirt, white jeans, floral top, etc), it was fairly easy to pull out my already-smallish wardrobe and see what I had. I went category by category (tops, pants, shorts, etc), matching items I had in my closet to the ones listed in the guide. Anything that was on the Outfit Formulas list went into one pile, everything else went into another. Since “Substitutions” for each needed item are included, I was actually surprised to see how much I already had. As I went through my clothes, I crossed off each item I had and circled any I needed to buy.
- “DISCARD.” I was (am) ready to commit 100% to the capsule wardrobe idea, so anything I already had that didn’t fit into the Capsule Wardrobe Builder got set aside into one big discard pile. Although there were some pieces I still “liked” in this pile, there wasn’t anything I was super attached to. So I willingly put it all into a trash bag and moved it to the basement. If I ever feel like I need more options or want something back, I can go dig it out. Spoiler: I haven’t touched the bag yet!
- SHOP. With my clothes sorted out and matched up to the provided shopping list, all that was left to do was shop for the remaining pieces. I probably shouldn’t say that so cavalierly, because filling in the gaps on the shopping list was was a longer process that I was expecting (made a bit more complicated by COVID restrictions). Still, I absolutely LOVED knowing what to shop for, rather than being tempted by every cute little thing I came across. Like I said, I trusted the Capsule Wardrobe Builder 100%, almost blindly, and simply bought what it told me to (of course picking colors, patterns and styles that appealed to me). I’m going to dive into what exactly I bought, where I bought it from, how I navigated online clothes shopping, and how much I spent in the next installment of this series at the end of October!
Impressions So Far
In a word: Hooked. Building out the capsule wardrobe has been more fun than I anticipated, and so far it’s working (mostly) as easily and efficiently as I was hoping. I am getting dressed in “real clothes” waaay more than I was before (and I even look forward to doing so!), and I definitely notice more bounce in my step. You know it had gotten pretty bad when I came down the first day in a new pair of jean shorts, a fresh shirt and sandals, and Henry and Sam both said “Wow, Mom. Why are you so dressed up?” Further, Greg has been so impressed with my “new look,” that he actually asked if there were Outfit Formulas for Men (which Alison actually just released!), so we’re now working on his wardrobe!
I’m going to provide some more “in-depth” reflections at my 6-month and 1-year checkins, but I wanted to share a few quick first impressions of wearing a capsule wardrobe the last few weeks.
Fit Is Everything. Because I did so much shopping online and was (admittedly) a little eager to get it all done, I did “settle” on the fit of a few staple items. I genuinely didn’t think it would be that big of a deal. But when you have a smaller number of clothes, each items is worn more often. So you really need to LOVE the way it looks and feels. I found that if I didn’t love the way a certain item fit, I was reluctant to wear it, which then excluded some of the outfit options. As my shopping process went on, I got MUCH more particular about how each item fit and even replaced some of my initial purchases that weren’t quite right.
Shoes Make an Outfit. I certainly love a cute shoe as much as anyone, but in recent years I pretty much only wore my tennis shoes and some Crocks flipflops that Greg not-so-affectionally called my “Craps.” Because I went all in on the capsule wardrobe concept, I bought all of her shoe recommendations. Although it felt a bit strange to buy 4+ new pairs of shoes at one time, it was SOOO worth it. I found that cute shoes really are the key to making the various staples look and feel different from day-to-day, and I so look forward to wearing each pair!
Getting Dressed Makes Me Feel Better. In the same way that clutter breeds more clutter, I think not getting dressed enabled me to make other not-so-great health and appearance choices. Since taking the time to actually shower and get dressed into “real clothes” each day, I feel like I am more productive, eating better, and not skipping my workouts!
Figuring Out Outfits. The biggest area I am struggling with right now is the logistics of picking out an outfit. At first glance, I thought the Outfit Guides were going to be something I could literally follow, in order, day after day after day…almost mindlessly. Upon closer inspection, they are really just combo ideas and not meant to be a “schedule,” since certain items are shown in consecutive outfits (which would be tricky with washing). I’m not super savvy on mixing and matching everything just yet, so I’m going to experiment with printing all the outfit cards out and stacking them on a ring in a better order so I really can just flip to a new card each day and get dressed accordingly! Over time, I think I’ll have a good handle on what items I like best with others.
Alright! I know so many of you have been anxiously waiting for me to kick off this series, so I hope this was a great introduction to get you warmed up for everything else to come! In addition to the fashion side of this, I’ve also been experimenting with different clothing storage solutions, and I am excited to share what I’ve learned on that too! Until then, drop any questions you have below and keep an eye out at the end of the month for the next installment in which I’ll share every last item I bought!