Apparently I have been living under a rock and capsule wardrobes have been around for a while. I just heard about this phenomenon last week. Caroline from the blog Unfancy is credited with bringing this idea to the masses. Basically, the idea behind a capsule wardrobe is that you get rid of a bunch of unnecessary stuff and try to minimize your wardrobe so that you are left with around 37 pieces per season that mix and match and coordinate with each other. The number is arbitrary, you can pick whatever number works for you, but 37 is what most people go with. (That number does not include your pajamas, underwear, or workout clothes.)
The more I read about this, the more fascinated I became and I knew I really needed to do it. I have been on a huge cleansing spree in other areas of our house this year as well. I really just want to start living with less. I’m very tired of feeling buried by stuff. When it comes to the clothes specifically, I feel like I am constantly drowning in laundry and I still never feel like I know what to wear or like I am truly put together. Capsule wardrobes seemed like exactly the reboot I needed.
How I Started
I didn’t exactly follow the system outlined on Caroline’s blog. Mostly because I didn’t even know where I really wanted to start. The idea is supposed to be to keep what you love and wear only that stuff. Ok, fine, but what *I* really love is pajamas and bare feet and my husband’s old college t-shirt, so that’s not really going to work as my everyday attire. I wasn’t sure what actually looked good on me or what I really should keep.
In light of that, the first thing I did was to search Google images for pictures of celebrities who have a similar body type to mine: a little curvy (and short if possible). I took notes about what those ladies were wearing to public events, what I thought looked good on them and what I didn’t think looked quite as flattering. Then I made a collage of some inspiration pictures.
I noted that boat necks and jackets would probably be my friend. I’m going to need to invest in some more cute, structured jackets. In the meantime, I’m trying to mostly work with what I’ve got.
Here is the thing: I get emotionally attached to clothes. I don’t really know why this happens, but it does. I have a tendency to keep clothes around forever (and continue to wear them) because they remind me of someone or something.
Case in point, I still actually wear this sweatshirt that Eddie gave me when we were dating. We started dating more than 15 years ago. It is his sweatshirt from middle school that no longer fit him, which he passed on to me when our hometown football team went to the Super Bowl the first time. We are now married and in our 30’s. I totally kept this sweatshirt in my “workout clothes” category as a cheat. What? I told you, I’m still using it.
I had a ton of clothes that were decades old and threadbare, like this sweatshirt from my high school cheerleading championship, that I was still wearing. I don’t necessarily recommend wearing clothes that are literally falling apart, but that thing was seriously comfy.
According to the rules, you are supposed to take everything out of your closet as you purge, but I didn’t, mostly because I’m not really the type to follow the directions on the box. I’m fortunate to have a large walk-in closet, so I just moved things from one side to the other as I decided if I wanted to put them in the “keep” or “seasonal” pile, and I put trash bags on the floor between each section and filled them with clothes to donate as I made my decisions.
I was actually really glad I did it that way because I changed my mind quite a few times throughout the process and I would trade an item in my keep pile for one of my seasonal or maybe items. It was also nice to have things right where they belonged and not have to clean up my entire wardrobe when I was finished. It saved me a lot of time. Interestingly, once something went into the donate bag I was never tempted to pulled it back out. Not even once. It felt good to see all the space I was creating for myself. I did manage to clear out two full trash bags full of clothes and one smaller bag full of shoes.
What I Learned
1. Try on everything. At first I was looking at tags and figuring things would not fit any more based on their labels and the fact that they were old. What I learned is that I that I can fit this curvy 5’4″ body into a size 8 and a size 14, an extra small, and an XXL.
2. It was like shopping. I found things I totally forgot I even had. And they were cute! I kept a Ralph Lauren denim pencil skirt I don’t even remember buying (or did someone give it to me?) as one of my capsule items.
3. Teenage me had surprisingly good taste. For a long time now I’ve tried to buy classic pieces and never really gone for a lot of crazy patterns or super trendy items. As a result, I had a few items that were from college or even high school that actually wound up being pieces I kept in my capsule. I even found myself wishing that I had kept specific items–like a camel colored drape sweater– that I used to own once upon a time but have since given away. They would have been great additions to my capsule. Color me surprised.
4. You don’t have to wear your memories. I do have pictures of almost all of the special moments in my life and I am lucky enough to live with Eddie right now. I packed up three of my favorite ratty old shirts that were too full of holes to donate and I’m saving them in a keepsake box because I couldn’t let go of them yet. Everything else went.
5. I am not very adventurous. My closet was chocked full of stuff from more than 15 years of buying clothes and receiving hand-me-downs from friends and relatives. For example, when my mother-in-law retired she passed her entire professional wardrobe on to me, so I owned a lot of clothes. Somehow I owned 5 pairs of white pants. I have yet to actually wear any of these white pants in public. I did keep one pair because I swear I am going to try it one of these days.
6. The labels do not matter. I am writing the brands and sizes in this post so that you can see what I chose to keep because I know people will be interested, because I believe in full disclosure, and because I think it’s interesting to see how the sizes vary a lot by brand. I kept things that I bought full price at department stores, things I bought at T.J. Maxx and Target, and a J.Crew sweater I bought new with tags at a local consignment shop for a fraction of its retail price. I also kept things I got for free as hand-me downs. It doesn’t matter what the tag says or where it came from, just keep what looks good on you and what you feel good wearing.
7. It is hard to prepare for the weather in our area. Just last week it was 80 degrees, then followed the by a frost warning the very next day. I tried to have a lot of options for layers in my capsule. I figured that since loungewear doesn’t count as part of the capsule, I have plain white t-shirts and a few tank tops in my dresser that I can wear under some of these sweaters and jackets as well to give me even more options.
8. If I’m going to really commit to this then I might need to take the time to do my hair and makeup more often. (More often than never.) That was another thing that all of ladies in my inspiration pictures had in common. I don’t need to be wearing fancy clothes, it does make me feel and look better when I’m just wearing a t-shirt and jeans if I took time to curl my hair or throw on some jewelry. Plus, I actually do enjoy that stuff. It’s one of the fun things about being a girl.
Ok…the moment of truth…what I kept…
Inventory: My 37 Pieces for Spring
- Gray Capri Pants–New York and Company, size small
- Jeans–Old Navy Sweetheart style, size 12
- Skinny Jeans–The Limited, size 8
- Black Dress Pants–Maurice’s, size 9/10 short
- Khakis–Anne Taylor, size 14 petite
- White Pants–Anne Taylor, size 14 petite
- Jeans (tapered at ankle)– Ralph Lauren Sport, size 32
- Denim Pencil Skirt– Ralph Lauren, size 8
- Black Pencil Skirt– New York and Company, size small
- Purple Wrap Dress– New York and Company, size large
- Gray Shift Dress– Calvin Klein, size medium
- Printed Wrap Dress– Old Navy, size medium
- White Sleeveless Button-Up–Worthington, size large
- Brown Sleeveless Button-Up–St. John’s Bay, size large
- Gray Sweater–Croft & Barrow (Kohl’s), size medium
- Flannel Shirt–Merona (Target), size XXL
- Gray Sweater– J.Crew, size small
- Navy & White Striped Sweater– Croft & Barrow, size small
- White Cardigan–41 Hawthorne, size large
- Yellow & Gray Long Sleeve Tee–Calvin Klein, size large
- Pink Tee– Croft & Barrow, size medium
- Striped Tee–Croft & Barrow, size medium
- Striped Anchor Shirt–Luna Chic, one size
- Blue Short Sleeve Blouse– New York & Co, size large
- Purple Sleeveless Blouse– 212 (Kohl’s), size petite XL
- Dark Red Top w/ Flutter Sleeves–Topia, size large
- Pink Sweater–Old Navy, size large
- Denim Jacket– Gap, size medium (this is one of the keepers from high school)
- White Fleece-Lined Sweatshirt Jacket–Sonoma, size large
(As far as I remember, those ankle boots are ten years old and from college.) I bought the black flats and the striped shoes this week at Target. I was a little worried that in doing this challenge I was going to find that I wanted to replace a lot of my clothes with more classic or modern pieces and it would get expensive, but I didn’t need to. Everything else was already in my closet.
In the end, it only took me about two hours, I feel much lighter and better organized, and my collection of things for spring looks like this:
I did not get rid of everything else in my closet because I am keeping my seasonal items, like heavier sweaters, snow pants and summer dresses, in there as well. However, I did separate them from the items in this season’s capsule. (The rest of the clothes I kept are located just to the left of this picture. Why would I bother packing and unpacking my seasonal stuff 4 times a year if I don’t have to?)
Abby took a picture of me on my first day in a capsule outfit. This is the kind of quality photography you get when your six-year-old is taking your photo with a cell phone.
Wow, did you make it all the way to the end of this post? That was a lot. Tell me what you are thinking about capsule wardrobes. Do you think you might try it or are they definitely not for you?