Monday, May 4, 2015

An Unordinary Capsule Wardrobe

Hey! I'm Ashton. There has been a bunch of buzz on mom's Facebook page around a post on a capsule wardrobe. THAT actually stems from one of her 34 Weeks of Clean assignments when she challenged everyone to take everything out of their closet and purge! (She's crazy like that sometimes!) Most of the buzz has centered on questions about how a capsule wardrobe actually works. So I'm here to hopefully answer some of those questions!

I can't really remember where I heard about capsule wardrobes, but the first person to sell me on it was Caroline at Unfancy. Here's why: most who utilize a capsule wardrobe have 1 capsule that they wear year-round. Which is cool if you live somewhere with a fairly even climate. However, I live where the temperature goes from -50 degrees Fahrenheit in the winter to 100 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer. Which is why Unfancy's concept of four capsule wardrobes makes way more sense for me.
Also, this version of a capsule only includes clothes you wear everyday. So, it does not include:
Workout clothes
Garden clothes/Painting clothes
Formal/Special occasion clothes
I also added:
 Shoes and heavy winter jackets
Layering pieces (for cold weather or modesty)

You can read about what a capsule wardrobe is and how Caroline does it on her site, but here is how I did it.

First, pick the months for your four capsules based on your weather, not the typical seasons. (If it works for you, you can choose to do only two capsules, spring/summer and fall/winter.) I chose to break mine down like this-
Spring - March, April, May
Summer - June, July, August
Fall - September, October, November
Winter - December, January, February

Second - Purge your stuff. Go through everything. Seriously, from shoes to underwear to sweaters to scarves - if you can wear it, go through it. Keep only what you love, what fits, and what is is in wearable (or good) condition.

Third - Divide what you have into your 4 capsules (remember the exclusion list above). So, heavy sweaters that you only wear in the winter go in your winter capsule, along with the shirt that you only wear under those heavy sweaters. Light summer blouses go into your summer capsule. Here is a key: pieces can overlap multiple capsules. I have a jean shirt that goes in all of my capsules and my jeans stay out year-round. But besides the overlap pieces, you will wear only what is in each capsule for the three month "season" that you assigned it.

Fourth - Finalize your current capsule. (Unfancy has several good posts on this.) If you want to shoot for a number (33 and 37 are common), then either pare down or replace as needed. Or, decide what pieces you still need to be able to make outfits.

Here is where I landed. After clearing out everything that didn't fit, was worn out, I didn't love, etc. etc., I still had more than 37 items in my spring capsule. Now, I did choose to include four dresses that I pretty much only wear to church or parties. But I decided that there is no reason for me to get rid of perfectly good clothes that I love, that fit, and that are in perfect condition, just to get down to an arbitrary number. And Caroline talks about not worrying about rules and finding a number that is right for you. Hers is 37, mine is...more. The key is that an item must fit and you must love it and love wearing it for you to keep it. Once an item wears out, stops fitting, or I decide I no longer love it, it will be donated or disposed of as appropriate.

So, practically speaking, what does it look like? Here are pictures and a breakdown of the capsule (my spring capsule) that I am currently wearing:

In my spring capsule I have:
- 3 pairs of jeans
- 1 pair of capris
- 3 jean skirts
- 7 skirts
- 4 dresses
- 4 cardigans
- 1 vest
- 3 light jackets (jean, khaki, etc)
- 20 shirts
- 4 sweaters

For a grand total of 50 items of clothing. That may seem spartan or excessive to you, but its just where I'm at right now, and that's ok!

So let's stop and address some questions!
Caroline at Unfancy has a great F.A.Q page, but here are some I've run into:

Do your clothes wear out faster? Nope. Yes, you are only wearing the clothes you love, but that is probably what you were doing before! Plus, you are only wearing an item for three months before giving it a rest for 9 months. In addition, if you buy fewer items, you can save up and buy nicer clothes that are well made and will last longer. And, when you have less stuff, you take care of it better.
Bonus tip: Try buying your clothes from a thrift or consignment store. You can find great brands at really good prices. Then, if something wears out after two seasons, you spent less than $8 on it and you got your money's worth.

What about business attire/work/church/special occasion/formal clothes? If the items can be worn with your everyday clothes, include them. If not, like formals or your one Christmas-day sweater, keep them separate. You could always make a mini capsule for business or work clothes.

Why would you do capsule wardrobes? Lots of reasons. It makes it easier to get dressed when all of your options are viable options, meaning they fit, you love them, and they are seasonally appropriate. And, by putting clothes away for a time you make them last longer and curb the shopping impulse (pulling out stored clothes is so much fun and is like having new clothes!). Another advantage of a capsule wardrobe is that if the pieces all go well together, you actually have more outfits even though you have fewer items of clothing.

Talk about colors, please. Typically, it is easiest to build a capsule off of a color scheme or a few neutrals and a few accent colors. To be honest, most capsule wardrobes you see are black, gray, and white with maybe two colored scarves thrown in. If you like that, go for it. But you can do whatever you want. I, for example, do not wear black because A. I look horrifically pale in black and B. I just cannot stand to wear black. At all. So I don't wear black. But you may have noticed that I absolutely love blue, particularly navy. So, for my spring capsule, I have navy and khaki as my neutrals and I paired them with blue and white with pops of mustard yellow and deep orange. Oh, and that one pink sweater. Mom only wears black, pink, purple, and hints of turquoise. (You will get to see her wardrobe soon!) So do what you want!

Can you really make outfits out of a capsule wardrobe?
Yup! To demonstrate, I took 13 items and one scarf straight from my closet and made 20 outfits. 

 Top row - 1 jacket, 2 nice T-shirts, 2 blouses, 2 sweaters, 2 buttondown shirts.
 Bottom row - scarf, 2 skirts, 2 pants.  

See, you can totally do it!

Here are some things to consider:
- I did wear a plain white cotton camisole under most of the outfits, but of course you wouldn't count that in your capsule.
- Remember, this is not my entire capsule, it's only 13 pieces of it.
- I wore the same pair of shoes with each outfit, but changing up shoes can change up a look.
- I did not use any jewelry, which makes a BIG impact on an outfit!
- I was not crazy or even creative with pieces. I didn't wear a skirt as a dress or do anything weird.
- I did not wear any piece (besides the pants and skirts) more than four times. See? Your clothes will not wear out.
- Just adding a few more tops, a second scarf, and a khaki skirt would add so many more outfits!
- The outfits run from very casual to nice enough for me to wear to church and also work for a cool to pretty warm climate.
- It is possible to "dress up" and look decent without sacrificing ease, comfort, or practicality. These are actual outfits that I have worn or will wear. I'm not a mom but I do have a 7 year old brother and I can tell you from experience, you can wrangle kids in these outfits.

Creating a capsule wardrobe doesn't have to be hard or tied to a set of rules. The goal is to create a closet that contains things that you love to wear and that serve you well.
I want to leave you with a few links besides Unfancy
Erin has a great series on a minimalist wardrobe.
The Coletterie has a great series called Wardrobe Architect that walks you through building a wardrobe, and it geared toward sewing part of it if that is your thing. Its still a great read even if you don't sew.

If you have comments or questions or want to share your capsule wardrobe, feel free to comment!

Linking up with friends!


I Choose Joy!


  1. This is great Ashton! You inspired me. I'm going to try this.

  2. Very interesting--and I love those outfits!

    1. Thank you! There are many more, but boy is it tiring being a model! ;)

  3. Ashton, You are a talented writer like your Mom! Thank you for sharing, my Daughter (Mahala) and I are hitting her closet after lunch. :) I have never heard of this before, but I can see how this is going to Bless each of our closets. :)

  4. This is such a great post! I love the idea of a capsule wardrobe! We are remodeling our master (including our closet), so this has inspired me to purge and put together a capsule - thanks!

  5. You're a genius Ashton! I've done a capsule wardrobe before but a new lightbulb went off while reading your post. I have lots of t-shirts (nice quality) that I wear year round. I struggled to part with any of them when making a capsule. I never thought of just setting them aside for a different season. Knowing that my favorite "Dream More, Complain Less" t-shirt is set aside for fall will free me to wear other favorites this summer. Just this morning, I put on a shirt and decided it would work better for another season. It got put up in the tippy-top shelf of the closet until fall.

  6. I love this! I'm going to have to do this. I guess since I wear the same 2 pants every week I already have a capsule wardrobe but I sure could make it more fashionable! Very inspiring!

    1. Yep, let's face it, we all wear less than we think we do, right?!

  7. What a fantastic post! I have been minimizing my closet, donating, trying to keep only what I love. We do mostly thrift store shopping with our large family so I find stuff can stock up fast, I need to get better at being choosier. I hadn't heard of this before and found it fascinating! Thanks for linking up at Favorite things Friday!

  8. My daughters and I are already working on something like this. We appreciate this new information. Thanks.

    1. Let us know how you do! Our next three Mondays are also dedicated to this topic!

  9. This looks like a great capsule wardrobe for you. Thanks for sharing it! I'm thinking of downsizing my wardrobe and you have some great ideas.


Thanks for commenting. I love hearing from you!