Have you ever found yourself staring at your closet and dresser, completely overwhelmed with the amount of clothes you have? A capsule wardrobe may be of interest to you. By limiting the number of pieces, you can relieve stress and feed your creativity in a sustainable, money-saving method. This article will give you the overview of capsule wardrobes:

  • What is a capsule wardrobe?
  • Are there any benefits of a capsule wardrobe?
  • Some pointers and notions to consider before assembling one of your own
Woman wearing a blazer sits beside a colorful rack of clothes.
A capsule wardrobe is a small collection of clothing that can be mixed and matched with one another.

What is a capsule wardrobe?

A capsule wardrobe can be defined as a limited selection of clothing pieces that are interchangeable and compliment each other. The goal is to use a few pieces to create numerous outfits.

The idea of a capsule wardrobe is not exactly new. The modern concept that we think of today was developed by designer Donna Karan’s collection of “Seven Easy Pieces.” This consisted of a bodysuit, cashmere sweater, jacket, skirt, white shirt, and a leather item. The goal was for women to have outfits (using the same pieces) for the office and the night.

Before we get into the benefits of switching to a capsule wardrobe, I have to discuss the privilege that is involved with a capsule wardrobe. Like slow fashion, there is a heavy focus on purchasing quality pieces that will last multiple seasons. This is not always a possibility for low-income people. Not to mention, feeling stress over having too many clothes is a first-world problem.

It is okay to want less items, to want to get rid of clothes. Just make sure that you are acknowledging that you have the means to invest in quality pieces and are staying aware of your privilege.

Woman standing beside a massive pile of clothes.
Capsule wardrobes can help reduce stress, environmental footprint, and unnecessary spending.

Why should/would anyone make/use a capsule wardrobe?

There are many benefits to using a capsule wardrobe, physically and mentally. A few common perks include:

Less Decision Fatigue

Decision fatigue is the idea that after making decisions, your ability to continually make good decisions gets gradually worse. Too many choices can make us feel drained and groggy. Lowering the amount of choices we make in a day is an excellent way to minimize that fatigue.

More Environmentally Friendly

The most sustainable option is the one you already have. With a capsule wardrobe, you won’t be buying new clothes every weekend and you’ll lower your environmental footprint. Besides, shopping less means participating less in fast fashion, an industry built on exploiting the people who make our clothes and the planet we wear them on.

Develop Your Personal Style

If you’re anything like me and obsessed with fashion, you’ve probably heard the term ‘personal style’ approximately a million times. There are countless videos detailing how to find your personal style, but all of them seem to end up wearing clothes that are trendy at the moment.

Having a set wardrobe lets you be creative with outfit pairings and wear what you love, not what the fashion industry and influencers are telling you to.

Less Stress

It sounds bizarre, but clutter stresses us out. It can be hard to function when we feel overwhelmed by the mess in our spaces. By downsizing your wardrobe, you are lowering a cortisol-inducing environment, helping you remain calm in your own space. Additionally, getting dressed is easier when you know that everything in your wardrobe is a piece you love and fits properly.

Saving Money

A capsule wardrobe where all of your fashion needs are met means that you don’t need to buy anything new. You will save money on impulse buys because you know exactly what is missing in your capsule and what styles/colors will match the rest.

Fashionable woman sits on a city stoop.
To make a capsule wardrobe, pick out the clothes in your closet that you wear the most often and combine them with complimentary pieces.  

How to make a capsule wardrobe

Making a capsule wardrobe seems like a daunting task; and in some ways, it is. Cutting down your belongings of any kind is difficult, especially clothes, a piece of your identity.

Here are some tips you can use when making your own capsule wardrobe:

Use what you have

Not to be the fun police, but your current wardrobe is already a capsule wardrobe, in a sense. Each piece serves a purpose and can (presumably) be worn with multiple other items in your closet. It may not feel like you have a capsule wardrobe because it’s not new and aesthetically laid out.

If you still want more of a challenge, separate out 30-40 pieces or so and assign that to be your core capsule wardrobe. Try to use exclusively those items for a month/season. This challenge can inspire you to find new ways to style pieces that you’ve never considered before. This way, you can use the leftover pieces that didn’t make the core capsule when you need or crave a specific article of clothes. You may find that you don’t miss much of the additional pieces at all. This experiment is a great way to see what clothes you really wear on the regular and why can be let go.

Potential capsule wardrobe layout with green, yellow, and pink options.
Capsule wardrobes do not have to be plain denim and white tee shirts. Incorporate your favorite colors into your capsule for a more fun wardrobe that you won’t get bored of wearing.Image courtesy of PennyPincherFashion.

Color is Not a Crime

Many of the capsule wardrobe examples online consist of blue jeans, white tee shirts, solid black jackets, and white sneakers. There is absolutely nothing wrong with a more neutral color palette. However, many of us prefer a wardrobe with bright colors, patterns, and more traditional pieces.

Instead of combining neutrals that don’t appeal to you, think of the colors you wear most and what compliments them. For example, if your favorite color to wear is pink, you may want colors like browns, reds, or greens. Color is not your enemy in a capsule wardrobe. As long as you know how to style your colorful, eccentric, patterned pieces, color can be your best friend in making a limited closet fun.

What is your actual life, not your ideal self?

Before you start gathering or buying clothes for a capsule wardrobe, it’s important to know what your actual life is like. Oftentimes, we buy things for our dream self that we don’t end up using. Not because the piece is bad, but because it’s not in line with our reality. So think about the following questions.

Where do you live?

Is the climate warm or cold? It may not be the best idea to choose miniskirts and tank tops if you live in a winter climate. Pick clothes that will suit the temperature of where you live.

What do you do?

Depending on your job and lifestyle, your wardrobe will need to vary. If you work from home or have a nontraditional job, stiff dress pants, pencil skirts, and fancy button-ups may not be the most useful to you. Conversely, sweatpants might not get lots of wear on the regular if you work in a corporate office.

Will you wear it?

For this last question, you need to be honest with yourself. Are you including this piece in your capsule because you’ll actually wear it or because you think your dream self would? Will it fill a missing need in your closet or is it for a hypothetical situation? Be realistic.

That’s it for our introduction to capsule wardrobes!

As always, there is no right or wrong way to build a wardrobe. Add color and patterns if you please, remove the dresses you hate, and declutter the pants that haven’t fit you in years. Capsule wardrobes encourage you to be more mindful with purchases and use what you have.

Consider what doesn’t get used in your current closet and ask if it needs to stay in your space. You may find the principles of a capsule wardrobe will lead to a simpler life.