The Capsule Wardrobe – part one

capsule wardrobe stock


In the 70’s, Susie Faux, owner of a successful boutique in London, designed the blueprint to the newly successful modern woman. It involved simplicity, high-quality investments, and ultimately cultivating an appreciation for what you own. It wasn’t a new idea, in fact people have been cultivating their wardrobe in the exact same way for years. However, as consumerism began to rise, fashion stopped originating from well-made neighborhood shops and began flying out of factories in mass and landing unceremoniously on to store racks.  Susie Faux’s idea of the capsule wardrobe turned against the rising tide of mass production and expendable clothes.

It worked better than the trend towards wasteful fashion, but for some reason it never caught on.

Decades pass and we continue to chase trends. Closets grew bigger, and purses and wallets grew lighter. Eventually, people forgot that clothes used to be precious. They toss their BeBe cargo shorts like they tossed last season’s disco pants: into the landfill.

Recently, a new trend emerged. It spread like wildfire. People all around are clamoring about the new way to dress-  via the capsule wardrobe. It’s fresh, it’s new, it’s edgy. As soon as I caught on to this frenzy, I was hooked.

 Since then my views and perception of this trend has changed , however (more on that in later parts).

The more I  researched the more I realized that this isn’t fresh at all. It’s not new. It’s definitely not edgy. It’s been here all this time just hidden behind piles of clothes and cheesy advertisements.

Then, I realized why it came back now as opposed to several decades before. The manner of its reappearance is nothing short of timely. We as a consumer community, fashion or no, have pushed the limits of our purchases to unsustainable levels. The clothing market is bigger and more aggressive now than any time before, most clothes are made poorly, broke easily and discarded carelessly. Fashion, now, is faster than it had ever been. Fortunately, people are noticing. Wherever there is a mainstream stream of thought, there are counter movements, and the capsule wardrobe is that movement. Little by little, as women and men pare down their wardrobes, I hope that they can experiment and search for a less burdened, simpler way of enjoying life in the capsule wardrobe.

The Capsule Wardrobe- w h a t  i s  i t  ?

Put simply, it is a very small collection of pieces that give you the biggest longevity, choice of outfits, and style. You would wear only what is in your closet and nothing else for a period of time. This collection is then switched out  between seasons with versatile pieces (like jeans and white t-shirts) migrating in between. Each category in your closet would have a number of items and you choose carefully which items would fit the capsule the best.

There are many variances on this:

-Some prefer 30-40 items total with switches after 3 months, others prefer 15 items only and a switch after half a year. Some include shoes and bags in the count, other leave them out. On the more extreme end, one woman even decided to wear just one dress for a whole year! 

The capsule wardrobe is flexible, meaning you can designate how many items you keep and when you switch them out.

A few quality pieces that can last many seasons rather than an abundance of mismatched trendy clothes is the hallmark of a good capsule wardrobe. Clothes in a capsule do not have to be expensive, they do however have to be durable, comfortable, and well fitted. A few youtubers I love show just how versatile the capsule wardrobe can be for any lifestyle:

Viviannadoesmakeup: Chooses expensive, high-end pieces for her wardrobe.

Tara E. (a personal favorite. Mainly because we are in pretty much the same stingy budget predicament): a college student who chooses stylish pieces that do not break the bank.

My Green Closet: Very simple, almost all completely natural choices turning to second hand and sewing to make her closet. The least mass-made wardrobe guru of this list.

The Gold Zipper: Proves that capsuling is not only useful, but ideal in a fast paced urban lifestyle like that in New York City. 

Lastly, here comes the hard part. After you have curated the vast majority of your closet, it’s time to go on a clothes buying boycott. Self-imposed. The hardest kind. Between the seasons of your capsule wardrobe, the goal is to reduce spending on clothes as much as possible. The idea is, if you created a well-balanced, well-matched, versatile closet already, there is no need to buy new items.

The B a s i c s

This is what a sample (this is by no means what you have to do) capsule wardrobe would look like:

Season: Spring / Summer

T o p s

2 basic white and grey tees

3 shirts

1 chambray shirt

2 tanks

1 jacket (denim)/coat

1 button down

2 dresses (formal not included in this capsule)

B o t t o m s

1 pair of skinny jeans (dark/ black wash)

1 pair of boyfriend jeans (light wash)

2 pairs of shorts

1 skirt (circle, suede, denim, pencil etc)

1 pair of long linen pants

A c c e s s o r i e s

1 hat (wide brimmed)

2 necklaces

2 rings

1 watch

1 bandanna

1 pair of sandals

1 pair of walking shoes/converses/combat boots (active wear not included in this capsule)

1 pair of heels

1 pair of ballet flats

1 belt

1 purse


31 pieces total

k e y   p o i n t s :

  1. Items should be able to mix and match
  2. establish a color palette to enable mixing and matching
  3. the formula at its core is basics + special pieces

In general, capsule wardrobes can be above below or anything in-between. The essential core of it is basics + special pieces. Where my style basics are jeans and a nice denim jacket, your basics might be a plaid skirt and doc martins. Basics are chosen so that they can last through several seasons. So keep in mind the durability and the flexibility they have after switching capsule seasons.

I highly suggest checking out Un-Fancy to look at her starter pack and tips for beginning one. Personally, I prefer a more limited and smaller project, but she steers novices in the right direction (plus her style is impeccable).


Why I wanted to do it

To be perfectly honest, at first I followed it because it was a trend I liked. I’ve always been intrigued by minimalistic living or surviving on as little as possible (ie my obssession with tiny houses for a month). As I got more into it, I saw that there is a huge difference between a NEED and a WANT. The former being surprisingly few and light in number.

I did stumble a LOT of times. It is difficult to shake impulse buys or the self- justification that I NEED that kimono wrap (I wore it a grand total of once ). Nevertheless, paring down my closet has given me a sort of sigh of release. I was surprised with how content I am with the number of clothes in my closet. I was even more surprised when I caught myself feeling okay with paring it down even more. I feel lighter, less stressed. I stopped staring at a closet full of clothes wondering why I spent hundreds of dollars on things I can’t (won’t) wear.

Before I started, I made a list of goals and reasons that mades sure that I was doing this experiment for the right reasons (at least the right ones in my opinion). Here was what I came up with:

  1. I want to save money
  2. I want to stop wasting clothes
  3. I want to look good all the time, with as little effort as possible
  4. I want to test my self control
  5. I want to be more conscious of the things I wear, buy and get rid of
  6. I want to waste less time on appearances and try more of the taking-on-the-world kind of thing.

…and most importantly

7. I want to stop using clothes as a crutch to express who I am. Instead, I want to focus on my personality, my mind, and what I do to define who I am and want to be.  I chose to simplify my style to what it is at its core. Out of it I discover my true style which represents exactly who I am. I predict that as I change, my style at its core  will change with me despite its simplicity.

I encourage you to take a look in your closet and appraise its value. Not in dollar bills, but how much it means to you. How much do you love each piece? How much does it represent who you are? How much can it help you live the fullest and most active life possible?

The journey stops here for now. In later posts, I will show you my capsule wardrobe. Stay tuned!


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