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What is a Capsule Wardrobe?

And why they’re a good idea.

A beautiful, expensive looking closet with clothes arranged neatly

Photo by Huy Nguyen on Unsplash

I’ve been creating capsule wardrobes for a long time. A capsule wardrobe is a small, curated set of clothing items that mix and match effortlessly for a look that reflects your aesthetic. I have been doing this to reduce the number of new clothing items I purchase each season.

Capsule wardrobes make it look like we have a lot of clothes, but that may not be the case!

Capsule Wardrobe History

According to Refinery29’s article 2021 Is Prime Time For Building A Capsule Closet — Here’s Why, capsule wardrobes became popular in the 1970s, and London boutique owner Susie Faux coined the term.

According to Wikipedia, Donna Karan further popularized the term in her 1985 “7 Easy Pieces” collection. The article says:

“Her aim was to fill what she referred to as ‘a void in the marketplace’ for a stylish and practical wardrobe designed with working women in mind.”

Since then, fashion magazines and influencers have often put together capsule collections identifying staple pieces that make up wardrobe core essentials.

Creating a Capsule Wardrobe

Here is some general guidance about how to create a great capsule wardrobe:

  • Choose a color palette of colors that complement each other

  • Consider the colors appropriate to the season

  • Select cuts that flatter your body shape

  • Choose high-quality items that will last a few seasons — we’re going for quality over quantity!

  • Create a checklist of what you think you will need for the season (Do you spend time outdoors? Are there holiday parties coming up? Weddings?)

  • Inventory everything you have in your closet and see what pieces you need to bring cohesion to what you already have

What about those pants you never wear or that sweater your in-laws gave you for Christmas? If you have not worn an item in the past 12 months, I suggest donating it to someone who can use it.

If you want to keep those pants you haven’t worn, what can you pair them with to fit them into your rotation? Maybe a black tank top or the right jacket would make the pants usable. And that’s what we want! We want to wear what we have and buy a few items to freshen up our look.

I looked at some Fall 2021 influencer capsule wardrobes, and I have to say that I did not find them exciting. However, then I saw this Fall Minimalist Capsule Wardrobe Pinterest board, and I perked up. I LOVE that Simply + Fiercely is putting together intentionally minimal wardrobes that look great! If you go to the board, you will see many graphics with collections and likely find one that fits your style.

I also like Erin Busbee’s blog, and she shared this great Fall-Winter Capsule Wardrobe post just a week ago. She doesn’t necessarily focus on sustainable brands, so some items could be switched out for similar looks from other sources if you prefer.

Why Capsule Wardrobes Are a Good Idea

Capsule wardrobes are part of living a sustainable lifestyle! If you can have 22 items and create 80 different outfits, you can feel fashionable and beautiful while reducing your impact on the environment. It is also less expensive, depending on what pieces you decide to buy.

I don’t think that living sustainably means that we don’t buy anything. It means that we are intentional about what we consume. We consider what we need, and we try to limit excess and waste. We also evaluate the practices of brands we like.

As humans, we have a variety of needs. Some of us need to express our beauty and authenticity through what we wear and how we present ourselves physically.

We can celebrate the beautiful things we wear to express ourselves AND care for the earth — these two things are not opposing in my view!

Get Started Creating Capsule Wardrobe

This fall, I used a couple of checklists for my capsule wardrobe. I matched my current inventory to what I thought I would need and then looked at other items that could pull everything together.

I purchased a few tops, a couple of pairs of pants, and two new pairs of shoes. This was more than I had ordered in a while, and it was because several of my existing pieces had come to their end-of-life. I also ordered a purse I didn’t technically “need,” but it matched one of my new pairs of shoes, and I decided that I would get a lot of use out of it. (It’s also from a sustainable brand.)

There are so many great lists and printables online to choose from to help you think about what you need. What you consider essential to your core wardrobe is a personal choice. Check out the links I included above for ideas and search online to see which list speaks to you.

...and then get started!

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