How to Build a Capsule Wardrobe
What is a Capsule Wardrobe?
Your closet is a mess and you never seem to have anything to wear despite JUST going shopping. Sound familiar?
In the 1970s an amazing woman named Susie Faux coined the term “capsule wardrobe” to describe a collection of a few essential items that do not go out of fashion (such as skirts, pants, blouses, etc) that can be augmented with seasonal pieces. In 1985, Donna Karan took the capsule wardrobe idea and made it mainstream by releasing a capsule collection of seven interchangeable workpieces.
Today, this idea has taken over the minimalist and slow fashion world to help women (and men!) fall in love with their closet over and over again!
Why you need a Capsule Wardrobe
- Fashion shouldn’t revolve around debt and guilt; when you get organized and create a wardrobe that works FOR YOU, you will never have those blackout buying moments again.
- Reduce decision fatigue: Are you exhausted from all the options? All the ads? Instagram posts with new fashion trends every other day? I feel you! With a capsule wardrobe, you will no longer have to be bombarded with all of these decisions; your closet will be your best friend.
- Reduce waste and help the environment: When you start to purchase items that are quality, built to last and truly loved, you will find even more reasons to mend/fix and wear over and over again (maybe even pass down to your daughter!). When we choose better fabrics, we help the World in so many amazing ways.
- You are not her. You are you! It is so important to shop for your body type and not someone else’s. I can not tell you how many times I ordered a dress thinking I would look like the model. My boobs were always too small or my shoulders too wide….it would make me feel so bad about myself! Now I know how to dress for MY body and that feels great.
- Get out of debt. If you are in fashion debt (like so many women in the US and EU), it is time to jump on the sustainable fashion wagon! When you purchase items that LAST, you will no longer need to purchase as you do now. It’s amazing how much money I have saved despite spending more on clothes – My capsule wardrobes are complete and I know the items will last for years and years!
See – Sort – Choose
When it comes to building a capsule wardrobe, you need to have a very clear idea of what you actually have in your closet (or closets!). This will take some time so be sure to get started on a day where you are have a few hours of free time to get organized!
I highly recommend having a pad of paper and pen handy for when you tackle this lifechanging decluttering experience. Please do not get overwhelmed, I promise it does get easier. Just take it one step at a time!
Did you just hear horror music? Haha! I know I did the first time I was told to do this. Just seeing all of my clothes laid out was eye-opening…so eye-opening that I was hell-bent on changing!
Here is what you have to do: Find all of the clothes in your house (ALL OF THEM). Even the ones you have stored under the bed or in your attic. Take all of them and lay them flat on your bed. I find the bed to be very helpful because it gives a big incentive to get things done; you will be able to take a nap once finished! *Unless you are a mom, of course 🙂
Once you have located all of your clothes, take a picture. I suggest getting in the picture and showing exactly how you feel at the big mound behind you. Be honest with yourself. Snap that photo for the future.
Now it’s time to get to work.
Gosh, I wish I had a photo of the day I took charge of my closet. It was a mess. A DISASTER. It took me 2 full weeks to get my life in order! It was so worth it in the end.
The first step of sorting might take you longer than you think, but I really want you to use your gut instincts on this; sort the items into the following piles:
Why do I even own this / Does not fit / Get rid of
Poor Condition / Unable to Mend
Once you have four clear piles, you need to work on the last two IMMEDIATELY.
I beg you not to just store them in trash bags and put it on your to-do list for later. I am telling you, you must take care of them now.
For the items that are in poor condition and unable to be donated/repaired/mended…please bag those up and take them to your nearest recycling center. I cannot stress this enough; Do NOT throw clothes away. Please recycle them. GemText has hundreds of recycling centers all around North America!
“Textiles take up nearly 8% of our country’s landfills – almost all of them take hundreds of years to decompose. They actually take up more space in our landfill than any other non-durable goods in the solid waste system. When these items are recycled, the benefits are exponential.”
To Donate or to Sell?
For the clothing that does not fit your body or life, you absolutely must find them a new home (or at least try your best!).
We live in this very privileged mindset where we all believe that dropping our clothes off at the donation box helps those in need. Of course, I thought this way too! The scary truth is that only one-quarter of clothes that are donated are actually sold at thrift stores and the rest is shipped off to developing countries where the clothing is literally polluting the streets.
If you are serious about donating your clothes, you must absolutely take the clothes directly to the charity of choice during opening hours.
SKIP THE BINS!
Another great way to give your unwanted items? Find those in need. Ask around, you never know who you will meet. Ask your family, friends, friends of friends.
Have lots of friends/family and want to throw a party? Host a swap party where everyone brings their pile of unwanted clothes and swap away! This is one of the best parties you could ever attend – everyone leaves with something they adore!
The point is, it is your responsibility to find these clothes/accessories a new home. Please be mindful of this loves, it is very important to your journey of sustainable and mindful living (and giving).
Thredup is an amazing company that will send you a prepaid shipping bag to place all of your lightly used unwanted clothes and send to them to either sell online or to recycle properly! All you need to do is request the bag and send it over.
You will be paid once the clothing has been sold and/or receive a notification for the clothing that has been recycled!
**Another favorite is Schoola; a company that takes unwanted clothing and sells them to support an educational non-profit of your choice! They are currently closed for sending clothes in but please keep checking in for updates!
Phew! That was a lot of work. Great job, Mama!
Hopefully, you have a nice cash wad after selling all of your unloved clothes and feel great about finding them a new home!
We are now ready to tackle the “like it” pile. I would like you to try on each and every piece, look in the mirror and ask yourself the following questions…
“Would I buy this today?”
“Have I ever worn this before?”
“Will I wear this in the next 3 months?”
If you answered “No” to any item, that is now going in the “Find a New Home” Pile!
Get that pile out of your house as SOON as possible. I promise you, if you do not, you will be tempted to dig through those clothes on your chaotic days.
Sell, ship off to thredUP or schoola, donate directly to a charity or host another party!
You are ready to begin your capsule wardrobe building! Woohoo!
Take all of the clothes that you LOVE and sort them into the following piles:
- Bottoms (Pants/Jeans/Shorts)
- Walking Shoes
From this, sort by season. I like to keep Winter/Fall together and Spring/Summer together but you can absolutely build FOUR capsule wardrobes if you wish.
If it is Spring where you live, go ahead and place all the winter items in a storage box and place out of sight (I promise it will be like Christmas when you get to open that box up in Fall!!)
Clothing like this is absolutely beautiful but not suited for a capsule wardrobe. I want you to think to yourself each time you buy: Can I wear this on a daily basis? Is this going to be a “go to”? The beautiful outfits, like this one, works much better as a RENTAL! (Unless you are Snow White or something haha)
Now that you have your out of season clothes safely stored away, It’s time to tackle this seasons capsule.
Grab a pad of paper and a pen. Open up your closet and take a look at what you have. Do you see a color scheme? Too much of one thing and too little of another? Take note.
Do you have your basics down or has your fashion spending been very “fad” centered? Are these pieces able to be combined in many ways or do you need to add in a few staples?
Here is a list of items that I absolutely need for a successful capsule wardrobe for Spring/Summer
First off, I like to keep my colors in sync. My wardrobe is mainly white, taupe, brown, natural and gray. These colors can all be used to compliment each other and I have endless outfit creations!
If you are completely lost on your fashion sense, what works for your body or even what you truly like…I highly recommend starting a vision board or even a Pinterest board. Spend a good amount of time building your dream wardrobe. Dream up what you want to tell the world through fashion. Dream up what you want to convey to others through fashion. Once you have an idea, you are ready to build.
FREE Spring Summer PDF Checklist by Cladwell
I built my list with help from CladWell and I highly recommend their amazing (free)PDF’s to help you on your journey! They have a PDF checklist for those who have a SAHM lifestyle (Hello!), a work casual, business casual and professional lifestyle.
I work from home but I also adore getting dressed up for just about any occasion. Here is my list based off of the active and casual checklists.
- Light colored cardigan
- Duster Jacket ( Viscose / Linen / Breathable)
- 3 white t-shirts (V-neck, athletic and crew neck)
- 2 button up blouses (white/beige)
- 2 dark colored t-shirts
- 2 beige/taupe t-shirts
- 3 tank tops (white/black/navy)
- 1 lightweight sweater
- 2 oversized sweaters (light and dark)
- 5 Pairs of Bottoms (2 Jeans / 2 Shorts / 1 Trouser)
- 2 skirts
- 2 dresses
- 2 leggings
- Sandals / Walking Shoes / Sneakers
- Extras for my taste: Heels / Sandal heels
Before you start building your dream wardrobe, you must determine your budget.
You can absolutely build your dream capsule wardrobe via luxury sustainable brands, luxury affordable brands or second hand/swap!
Once you have the list of items that you need (like 2 t-shirts in white, 1 pair of denim jeans and 1 spring basic dress), you can easily go in search of items in your budget range. It is EXTREMELY helpful to know exactly what you need, what size, color, etc before searching so you do not get confused and impulse buy.
**There is one rule for shopping once your budget is set: You can only purchase what you have written down as a necessity. Do not purchase anything on impulse!
These are my TOP brands for building a capsule wardrobe. These will have the basics you need and not overwhelm you with “trends” and “fads”. Keep the trendy and faddish clothes for renting (coming soon). You want the basics right now!
Everlane: If you live in North America, this may just be your one stop shop for building a capsule wardrobe. The prices are great and the website is HELPFUL! Tips: If you are vegan like me, be sure to check for leather tags on the jeans.
VettaCapsule: Another amazingly helpful capsule wardrobe website. This is great for those dresses and layers that you need to create the perfect closet.
PeopleTree UK: For my European folks, this is one of my absolute favorite sustainable brands. They are change makers! You can find lovely basics, pants and dresses here. I highly recommend the bodysuits and blouses.
Beaumont Organic: Another amazing European one-stop shop for a capsule wardrobe. The quality of these clothes is phenomenal!
Bibico: Their linen dresses and swing skirts are to die for; I highly recommend adding these if you need some quality capsule wardrobe staples.
These have varying prices for varying budgets! I do hope these help you with your sustainable and ethical journey.
Have time for Netflix and Chill??
If you would like to watch some very informative documentaries on the TRUE cost of fashion, I highly recommend the following!
These will change the way you look at fashion forever.