They say the first step to fixing a problem is admitting that there is one.
The truth is – I have a problem. I like to shop, and I have a weakness for clothes specifically. For myself, for the kids – oh it’s so easy to justify when it’s for the kids! However, despite the frequent purchases, I often find myself staring into my cluttered closet – or my kids closets, for that matter – and thinking “there’s nothing to wear”.
Not sure if any of you can relate to this feeling, but I hear it’s pretty common.
So – a couple of years ago, I decided to try creating a capsule wardrobe. What is this, you ask? A Capsule Wardrobe is a seasonal wardrobe made up of a specific number of items – no more, and no less. The items in the Capsule Wardrobe are meant to incorporate a range of pieces (pants, shirts, sweaters, etc) that should be interchangeable to create a variety of easy-to-wear outfit combinations.
At the time, I was living in China, and I would absolutely shop whenever I felt homesick or down. It was “retail therapy” at it’s finest. Not only was it a ridiculous waste of money, I also knew it was going to be physically impossible to actually bring everything I had purchased back to Canada with me. So – I knew something had to be done, and that’s when I came across the concept of creating capsule wardrobes for each season.
I basically just googled “Capsule Wardrobe” and ended up finding and following the Unfancy blog, which includes an awesome step-by-step guide to helping you determine your sense of style, as well as how to actually go about creating a capsule wardrobe. (Check out her Free Printable Wardrobe Planner here!)
To get started, I downloaded the Unfancy tools, and they were a huge help! But the process was still a lot harder than I thought it would be. My biggest issue was that I had a lot of trouble actually getting rid of items, because I suffer from “what if” syndrome. What if I need it?! What if I regret getting rid of it?! What if it comes back in style? What if I gain/lose weight and can wear it again?! You get the idea.
As a result, I have come up with my own adapted version of how to create a seasonal capsule wardrobe that works for me.
Step One: Plan
Start pinning outfits that you like a month or two ahead. If you are an avid pinterest user, like me, then you know that fashion trends start to appear months before the season actually begins. I find that using pinterest as a tool in creating a capsule wardrobe is helpful, because I tend to pin similar styles. Once I notice that I have pinned a particular style (or version of it) several times, I know it’s one I should try to put together. This has also really helped me determine what my own personal sense of style is – outside of what’s “trendy”.
Make a list of items you already have, and ones you might like to invest in, and then give yourself a budget for anything you want to purchase. Keep the list with you, or have items similar to what you are looking for saved on pinterest – and then be intentional about looking for these items when you are out shopping. This will help with avoiding the urge to buy something on impulse. I used to be TERRIBLE with this… and I STILL struggle to pass up a good deal. But – knowing I’m looking for specific pieces does help, and then when I find them, I know I can buy them guilt-free.
Some other things to consider in the planning stage are – what is in style? What is YOUR personal sense of style? What season of life are you in? What actual climate will you be living in? (For example – currently, I am on maternity leave, so my fall and winter wardrobes this year will be a lot more casual than they will be when I head back to work, because I don’t have many occasions to dress more formally right now.)
If you aren’t actually sure what your personal sense of style is, make a list of the types of items you gravitate towards when you’re out window shopping, on the internet, social media, etc. Unfancy also has a great tool/guide you can use to helping you figure this out if you’re struggling to do so on your own.
Step Two: PURGE
PURGE. This is legit the hardest… and most rewarding… part of the process. I thought it would be easy, but it was SO hard the first time. As a result, I’ve come up with a couple of things that make it easier for me. The first, is that I start by pulling out the items of clothing that are my favourite, or “go to” pieces. If they are specific to a certain season, and don’t carry over, I tuck them away for another season. If they could carry over from one season to another, I keep them out. This doesn’t necessarily mean I’ll include them in my capsule wardrobe for the season, but at least I have a good grasp on what I actually wore most often.
The next thing I do, is pull out anything that might have sentimental value, and tuck it away. These items might include things like a high school jacket, an engagement party dress, a special wrap worn in the hospital when babies were born, etc.
The third step in “the purge”, is to pull out all the clothes that I haven’t worn recently – be careful that you don’t toss out things you might need for another season, but be honest with yourself as well. If you know you haven’t worn it in, say, a year – it might be time to get rid of it. This is by far the HARDEST step. One of the ways I have given myself some flexibility here, is to have a “maybe” bin in my room. If I’m just not sure about something, I tuck it in the “maybe” bin. If I think about wearing the item, I take it out and incorporate it into my capsule for the season. If it doesn’t cross my mind all season, then I know it’s time to let it go.
The final step, is to do something worthwhile with the clothes you’re getting rid of. Whether it’s selling them on a local buy & sell to help pay for new items, or donating them to a local charity, this makes it easier to actually let go of items, because you know it will benefit yourself and others to do so.
Step Three: Assemble
Once you know what you’re looking for – and you’ve purged yourself of anything you know you no longer wear, it’s time to figure out exactly what you want to include in your capsule wardrobe.
There are a lot of different ways you can determine what will be a part of your capsule wardrobe, how many items, etc. I think the key here is to be flexible with yourself – but also strict enough that it actually makes a difference. If you give yourself 1000 items, then you might as well not even create a capsule collection. Be realistic, but if you want to adjust your wardrobe to suite your lifestyle, then give yourself the freedom to do so.
For me, it worked best to be really strict with myself the first time I tried out a capsule wardrobe. Now, I’m a little more flexible in terms of how many items I have for each season, etc. Different bloggers will have different suggestions, but what has worked for me – as a general rule – is the following:
40 items total – NOT including accessories, workout gear, or loungewear/pyjamas. I also don’t include climate-specific gear, like my winter parka and snow-boots, or bathing suits in the summer. Additionally, I don’t include really formal outfits, such as a dress needed for a one-off gala event, or Christmas party, etc. Some people are more strict in these areas – it depends how minimalist you want to go – but for me, this flexibility helps me stay on track.
For each capsule wardrobe, I select a range of tops, bottoms, dresses, jackets, and footwear; the number of each varies somewhat each season. In the winter, I don’t give myself as many footwear options as I do in the summer, but I stock up on cozy sweaters, as an example.
Try to choose a range of items that include some basics, classic pieces, and some special or trendy pieces as well. It’s also a good idea to make sure that a large number of your items are can be combined in a variety of outfit options. Creating a capsule wardrobe made up of all trendy/unique pieces might be fun in the moment, but if you can’t mix and match your items, it might be a little difficult to stick to it.
If you’re having trouble knowing how many items of each you should have, try the following:
7 Pairs of Shoes
I remember thinking that 40 items was LOTS and that I would have no trouble sticking to it, but it’s surprisingly hard! At least it always is for me! The hardest part is limiting the number of tops. I have so many basic tees – when I find one I like, I am always tempted to buy it in every colour! So, limiting myself in this area has been particularly helpful.
It’s always nice to carry certain pieces from season to season – as a rule, these are probably the items that are worth investing more money in (ie: a great pair of jeans, a classic blazer, etc). It’s also ok to have a few splurge items in your wardrobe – it’s really just about figuring out what works best for you.
At the end of the day – for me – it’s mainly about simplifying my life a little. I have found that as I get older, and as my family grows and there are more and more things I’m responsible for, I become more easily overwhelmed by some of the simpler things (like piles of laundry, or packing for trips, etc), and capsule wardrobes help to manage some of that chaos.
Additionally, having travelled, and lived in other countries, I have come to really appreciate how truly lucky we are here in North America, and how much we have that we don’t need. I am completely guilty of over-shopping, and I struggle frequently with sticking to a budget – so creating capsule wardrobes is one way I can check myself and try to focus on what really matters in life – and believe it or not – it isn’t actually what I’m wearing. 😉
If you decide to try creating a capsule wardrobe, let me know how it goes for you! What tips/tricks do you use to help you find your unique sense of style, and create a wardrobe that words for you in whatever season of life you’re in?! I’d love to hear from you!
I’ll be posting part two by the end of the week with an outline of the items I’ve decided to go with in my own personal fall capsule wardrobe! Stay tuned! 😉