What Is a Capsule Wardrobe and How You Can Try It This Season

Capsule Wardrobe

It’s an all-too-familiar scenario: You hit your favorite clothing stores and rack up on several fun new outfits that you can’t wait to unleash on a soon-to-be-impressed public. You’re really excited about your new purchases, but after taking an honest assessment of how these new clothes fit and feel, you realize that you still prefer wearing your old favorites. The end result is that you have a closet full of barely worn clothes that, if we’re being honest, are doing little more than taking up a lot of space.

For some people, this is actually a recurring cycle that can cause an eventual closet crisis, where you peer into your closet and realize that you have enough clothes to smartly dress a small village, but you still feel as though you have nothing to wear. How can you put an end to this madness and regain some wardrobe sanity? The answer lies in what’s known as a capsule wardrobe.

What is a Capsule Wardrobe?

The phrase “capsule wardrobe” was actually coined in the 1970s by Susie Faux, a London boutique owner and highly regarded “sartorial psychologist” who has made a career out of advising women on clothing, accessories, hair, and makeup.

Simply put, a capsule wardrobe is a mini-wardrobe that’s comprised of a relatively small number of highly versatile pieces that you can mix-and-match into a wide variety of wardrobe combinations. The primary prerequisites for a piece of clothing to be included in your capsule collection are that it needs to be seasonally appropriate, and it has to be something that you absolutely LOVE to wear. 

Why are Capsule Wardrobes So Great?

Based in the age-old premise that less is more, a capsule wardrobe can greatly reduce the anxiety and stress that can come from being faced with one too many clothing options to choose from. Sometimes when you have a seemingly unlimited number of choices (e.g., a closet packed full of way too many clothes), it can actually diminish your ability to make your best choice, which can translate into needless stress and anxiety (author and psychologist Barry Schwartz explores this phenomenon in greater detail in his TED Talk “The Paradox of Choice“).

A capsule wardrobe gets rid of this open-ended clothing selection conundrum by intentionally limiting your choices to a much smaller collection of essential and versatile pieces that best reflect your true style and clothing preferences.

Caroline Rector’s Example: An “Un-Fancy” Capsule Collection

Texas-based stylist and photographer Caroline Rector recently began chronicling her journey into the world of capsule wardrobe creation on her “Unfancy” blog. Her goal was to discover her own personal style by limiting her wardrobe to just 37 pieces for three months straight. The result? Instead of feeling limited or deprived, she actually reported that she felt “more content, more confident, and more joyful than ever,” another testament to the seemingly counter-intuitive premise that less can indeed be more.

How to Build Your Own Capsule Wardrobe

Thankfully, since capsule wardrobes are all about simplicity, building one is a simple process as well. Just follow these five steps, courtesy of Caroline Rector:

  1. Go through all of your clothes and pare them down into just 37 pieces, making sure to include tops, bottoms, outerwear, dresses, and shoes. Do not include workout clothes, accessories, purses, jewelry, or loungewear/pajamas. Need an example? Try 15 tops, 9 bottoms, 9 pairs of shoes, 2 jackets/coats and 2 dresses. And no, the number 37 is not set in stone; from the example above, you can see how it works, but if 37 isn’t the number for you, feel free to find the number that will work.
  2. Wear nothing but these 37 pieces for an entire 3-month period (break the year into January-March, April-June, July-September and October-December).
  3. Mix and match, get creative with combinations, and fully explore your capsule wardrobe for the full three months. Do not go shopping at all during this time.
  4. The best part? As the end of the season draws near, you can then plan and shop for your capsule wardrobe for the next season.

It’s really as simple as that! If you commit to give this capsule wardrobe experiment a shot, you might be surprised at how much simpler and less hectic your life will become. Because your clothing needs have been fully addressed during this time, you can now focus your time and energy on more important aspects of your life. Now go forth and create your spring capsule, and watch how it can empower your clothing choices and simplify your life!