If you often can’t decide what to wear in the mornings, then you’re certainly not alone. Even with a wardrobe bursting with clothes, it’s easy to find yourself wearing the same three tops time and again. Or to spend too much time standing in your underwear, feeling frustrated that you can’t find an outfit that looks right.
This can happen for a variety of different reasons. Though, often, it’s because a piece of clothing looks nice on the hanger, but doesn’t go with anything else in your wardrobe. It could also be that clothes don’t fit comfortably, don’t make you feel good, or are occasion-specific – so are unlikely to be worn again.
We’re also living in an era of fast fashion, where it’s easy for a random assortment of clothes to build up in wardrobes where they get lost, forgotten about, or quickly go out of season.
If this sounds all too familiar and you’d be interested in learning how to dress well in fewer clothes, then keep reading to find out more about the popular trend of the capsule wardrobe, and how it could work for you…
What is a capsule wardrobe?
The term capsule wardrobe was first used in the 1970s by Susie Faux, owner of a London boutique called Wardrobe. Susie highlighted the impracticalities of fashion at the time – noticing that people were spending a lot of time and money putting together outfits that quickly went out of season, were low quality, or didn’t fit properly.
The idea behind Susie’s concept of a capsule wardrobe is to instead have a minimalist wardrobe containing a selection of essential, high-quality pieces that can be mixed and matched, and are fashionable all year round. Susie’s idea is still popular with people of all ages today.
The number of garments in a capsule wardrobe can vary, but popular opinion is that it should contain 50 pieces or less. This number includes shoes, and accessories like belts and bags too.
Why is it useful to have a capsule wardrobe?
There are various different reasons why people might find it useful to have a capsule wardrobe, but some of the most common benefits include:
Not having to sift through a wardrobe stuffed full of clothes to try and find something that you feel comfortable in, and that matches other pieces in your wardrobe. This makes getting dressed feel easier and less stressful.
Discovering more about your personal style, and which clothes, shoes, and accessories make you feel good.
Having a whole host of outfits that are easy to put together and ready to wear. Even if you only have 25 items in your capsule wardrobe, they could be mixed and matched to create up to 100 different outfit combinations.
Only buying a handful of high-quality pieces of clothing each year. This could not only save you money, but also allow you to enjoy fashion in a more sustainable way because you are consuming less.
Having a clearer mind. Owning less ‘stuff’ can simplify your life, and give you more time and energy for other things that matter to you. Many say that creating a capsule wardrobe is a liberating experience because it can require you to let go of a large number of your material possessions.
Liking every single piece of clothing in your wardrobe, and feeling confident that whatever you choose to wear that day will fit well, and won’t go out of fashion. Each one will be a timeless classic.
Having a neater wardrobe space.
8 steps to create your own capsule wardrobe and simplify your life
Now that we’ve explored what a capsule wardrobe is and why it could be useful, the next step is to get an idea of how to create your own. The following seven steps will hopefully help you to get started.
1. Declutter your wardrobe
The first and probably most important step in creating your capsule wardrobe is to declutter your existing wardrobe and remove anything that just isn’t serving you in the way that you would like.
When deciding whether to part with an item of clothing, it can help to ask yourself the following questions:
- When did I last wear that? Has it been more than six months, or even a year?
- Is the fit flattering?
- Does this piece make me feel good?
- Am I likely to wear this again, or was it only really suitable for a single occasion?
- How much wear am I likely to get out of this piece of clothing if I keep it?
- Does this piece of clothing reflect how I want others to perceive me and how I perceive myself?
Once you start decluttering, it’s likely that you will come across pieces you absolutely want to keep, pieces you definitely don’t need anymore, and pieces that sit somewhere in the middle.
It’s important to be as ruthless as possible during this process. But if you really aren’t sure whether you want to remove certain items permanently from your wardrobe, then it can help to bag them up and place them in another room or cupboard for a few weeks. If you forget about them, and never have the urge to get them back out again, then you’ll know that you don’t really need them.
Parting with items can also be made easier if you find them a new owner to give them a second lease of life. You could donate clothing to your local charity shop, or sell them through online marketplaces like eBay. For more tips and advice on having a clear-out, you might want to check out our articles How to declutter and reorganise your home and How to make money from your clutter.
2. Give yourself some breathing room to get used to having fewer clothes
After having a clear-out, the temptation might be to head straight out and buy some new clothes – as it can initially feel uncomfortable seeing your wardrobe looking emptier. However, it’s a good idea to wait at least a month before you buy anything new so that you can give yourself time to get used to having fewer clothes.
This time can also help you assess what works well and what doesn’t about the items that you have left – and which items will be a good fit for your final capsule wardrobe. Do the items go well together? Are they getting as much wear as you would like? Do the items you’ve chosen to keep truly reflect your personal style? Are they meeting your wardrobe needs?
3. Be honest about your wardrobe needs
Once you’ve decluttered and given yourself some breathing space, the next step is to write down how you spend your time, and what you need from a wardrobe.
For instance, do you spend most of your time at work where the dress code is smart-casual? Do you live in comfy gym leggings because you’re someone who’s always on the go: walking your dog, looking after your grandchildren, and running errands? Are most of your evenings spent at home wearing comfy loungewear? Or do you regularly dress up and attend social events in the evenings?
When asking yourself these questions, it can help to split your life into categories and to consider how much time you spend in each one. For example:
- Daily – food shopping, cleaning/cooking, errands, working from home
- Work – office, meetings, social events
- Active – gym, walking the dog, other outdoor activities
- Fun – drinks, dinners, parties, meeting up with friends/family
- Dressy/formal – occasions, formal events
- Relaxed/lounge – chilled days/evenings at home, watching movies, having cuddles with the dog, baking
Having categories such as these and knowing roughly how much time you spend in each one, can help you to work out which portions of your life need the largest amounts of clothing, and which need the least.
For example, if you own 10 formal dresses or suits, but you only reach for formal wear once or twice a year, then it’s worth limiting yourself to just one or two formal outfits – so that you can make more space in your capsule wardrobe for clothing that you would reach for more regularly.
4. Work out what won't be part of your capsule wardrobe
Another important step in the process is to separate the items that will not form part of your capsule wardrobe.
These are things like underwear and nightwear. It will also include things like your ski jacket, which you perhaps only wear once a year, or any other specialist clothing, like cycling gear.
The reason that we separate these is because they are less to do with fashion, and more to do with functionality.
5. Create versatile modules
When looking to build a capsule wardrobe, it can be difficult to know where to start and how much of each item of clothing you’re likely to need. This is why it can be helpful to start by creating ‘modules’ – to make sure that your wardrobe is as cohesive and functional as possible.
A module is a set of five or six pieces of clothing that can be mixed and matched to form up to 12 different outfit combinations. A typical module could include:
- One outer layer, e.g. a cardigan, denim jacket, blazer, kimono, etc.
- Three tops of any type e.g. a vest top, shirt, and blouse
- Two bottoms e.g. trousers, skirt, shorts
If you’re someone that likes wearing colour, then it can help to start a module with a single patterned top or a top in a block colour, so that you can build the module around that. For more tips and tricks on choosing colours for your wardrobe, you might want to have a read of our article 10 tips for dressing with colour and confidence.
Every top in a module should go with every bottom, and the outer layer should go with everything. Once you have a complete module, you can then look to create a couple more. Three modules (containing 18 pieces of clothing) can give up over 200 different outfit options.
It’s likely that once you start putting modules together, you will find you have existing clothes that no longer fit into the equation and can be donated or sold on – or that you need to buy some new staple pieces.
6. Don’t forget your basics
It’s important to make sure that each module still contains ‘basics’, such as a crisp white shirt or blouse, or a basic black t-shirt, so that you can mix and match pieces from different modules, and create a capsule wardrobe that’s as versatile as possible.
Your basics will usually be neutral colours (for example, white, black grey, nude, tan) and hold each look together.
Watch: 10 wardrobe essentials that every woman should own
Watch: How to create a core wardrobe for men
7. Create layers
Some people prefer to have a capsule wardrobe for each season, that they can bring out or store away as we move through the year. However, many people favour the idea of having one capsule wardrobe that they can wear all year. In order to pull this off, you’ll need to make sure that you have items in your capsule that are geared towards different seasons, but are versatile enough to be worn year-round.
For example, a module could contain a vest top, a t-shirt, a blouse, and a cardigan. Cardigans make versatile, practical additions to capsule wardrobes because they can be thrown over a vest top on a cool summer evening, or worn buttoned up as an extra layer in autumn and winter.
It’s important to remember that you can always add layers if you’re feeling cold, but that it’s much harder to adapt an item that’s made for autumn and winter to make it wearable in spring and summer. Long-sleeved t-shirts and heavy-knitted jumpers are examples of items that won’t necessarily work as well in a year-round capsule wardrobe for this very reason.
8. Get some accessories that you can wear with all outfits
When you’re working with less clothing, accessories are a must – as they can help to dress an outfit up, add a pop of colour, or simply change up your look a bit to keep things interesting. Accessories can include everything from hats, belts, and shoes, to handbags and statement jewellery.
It’s important to make sure that all accessories in a capsule wardrobe can be worn with all (or the majority of) your modules. This will not only help to reduce space in your wardrobe but will also reduce the need to spend time pondering over which accessories go with which outfit.
When it comes to shoes, it’s usually recommended that your capsule wardrobe have at least one pair of comfortable shoes that you can wear for daily activities like running errands, and another dressier pair that you can wear to more formal events.
9. Don’t be afraid to keep track of your different outfit combinations by taking photos
Humans are creatures of habit, so you might find that even though you have fewer clothes, you still tend to reach for the same two or three looks.
While this is okay, if you really want to have fun with your wardrobe and avoid becoming bored, then it can help to take photos of yourself wearing different outfit combinations. These will help to remind you of what works well and why – as well as providing you with a catalogue of outfits to go to if you’re ever feeling stuck for what to wear.
It’s important to keep in mind that a capsule wardrobe is supposed to be fun and allow you to get creative – it’s not supposed to feel like a chore, or stop you from treating yourself to a new outfit every now and then.
While a capsule wardrobe won’t be for everyone, it’s something to consider if you’d like to save time and money. Plus, it can help you dress better and embrace your personal style in a way that’s more sustainable for the environment. Because every piece of clothing in a capsule wardrobe is well thought out, it should hopefully mean that you shop less and get more out of what you have.
The minimalist concept can also help you let go of material possessions that you don’t need, to make more time and space for the things that really matter to you…
Do you have a capsule wardrobe? Or are you thinking about creating one? We’d love to hear about your experiences. Join the conversation on the style and beauty section of Rest Less community forum, or leave a comment below.