Early in 2014, the blogger behind Vallarina Creative wrote a post about her decision to reduce the size of her closet by creating a capsule wardrobe. She discussed the pros and cons she considered when deciding to dramatically pare down her closet and acknowledged that it was a tough transition. In the process, she realized she was doing less with more.
A capsule wardrobe is essentially a miniature-sized wardrobe made up of ONLY basic, but versatile pieces. And nothing more. The key is to have a small number of items in your closet and discover different ways to pair the staple pieces without wearing the same outfit twice. This includes accessories blouses, dresses, outerwear, pants, shoes, skirts, and T-shirts. Yes, an entire wardrobe made of only 37 pieces.
When I moved to a new apartment after graduating from college, I began purging items I kept for memory's sake — an old love note here, old birthday cards there, and those boots I bought and never wore. Once I realized I actually enjoyed the feeling of freedom that comes with getting rid of old items, I began to like the idea of a capsule wardrobe. It would involve a lot of planning, careful shopping, and becoming comfortable with the feeling of not buying that sweater I've been eyeing. But, I was attracted to the idea of limiting my wardrobe and not wasting money on trendy, throw-away items.
Step 1: Research
I dug around for some tips on how to build a capsule wardrobe, which challenged me to get my closet down to 37 total items and to wear these items over a course of 3 months, which the author considers a season. In Indiana, however, the spring and summer seasons kind of go hand-in-hand. Starting in late March, you never know if you're going to wake up to a cool wind or sweat-inducing humidity. So I combined the two seasons and finally started the process.
Step 2: Visually Judge Each Piece
I put my entire closet on my bed, and my shoes on the floor in front of my bed. I wanted to see each item and really evaluate if I wear it, if I would wear it now that I remember it is there, or if I could finally set it free to a better-suited owner. I then separated the clothes into three piles: to keep, to maybe keep, and to donate.
Step 3: Purge
One large pile, and two smaller piles later, I was really proud of how easy this was for me. My mom, sister, and friends used to always make fun of me for wearing a few select pieces in my closet instead of the vast amount of clothing I'd amassed. Turns out, that was just practice for my capsule wardrobe.
I hung the few "absolute yes" pieces I had left back in my closet and put my shoes in their proper places on the rack (yes, I separate by style and color. Judge me.) I counted the pieces and realized I had only 30! I had room to spare, which was great because, in the process of purging my closet, I realized I had a few pieces missing that I would want for the spring/summer season.
The best part of this step was what I did after I finally made sure I got rid of all the pieces I was never going to wear again. First, I offered up my no-longer-want-or-fit-into pieces to my older sister. We have a long history of stealing clothes from each other's closets, so I figured she'd want something. She took a few pieces, but I still had a huge pile left.
I put the rest into a large trash bag and took it to Plato's Closet, a gently used clothing store that is always accepting donations, and pays you for your old clothes.Forty-five minutes after I dropped my clothes off, I got a call that I had made $44 dollars from just 13 pieces. Helloooo, new pair of white Chuck Taylor's.
Step 4: Make A Mistake
Then I did the one thing any capsule wardrobe creator should never do — I went shopping. I knew I needed things to complete my wardrobe, but it was the worst decision. Clothes are pretty. And when it comes to shoes and jewelry, I have no will power. Compared to other shopping trips I've made before entering a new season, I was very proud of the willpower I did have. I took some things off this list, but also ended up adding a few items that I just wanted without necessarily needing them.
When I went home later that evening, I counted up the contents of my closet again. I had re-included some "maybe" items I decided I would wear because they were staple items, such as a striped blue and white shirt and a grey V-neck that is most definitely a wardrobe essential, no matter the season. At the end of the day, I had 44 pieces in my closet seven more than the allotted 37. And I still wanted/needed more. To be honest, I felt defeated. I was doing so well in the beginning! One shopping trip not only expanded my closet, but expanded my "want" list as well.
Step 5: Understand It's A Process
Every article and blog I had read about creating a capsule wardrobe encouraged people to give themselves grace for the mistakes. Hey, mistakes happen! It's inevitable. Being the Type-A woman I am, I thought I was going to surpass that, with special thanks to my sudden non-committal attitude. But hey, I'm only human.
Even though I wound up with more than 37 pieces in my wardrobe, I have a plan. Both Kiensley and Caroline suggest turning your hangers different ways after you wear a certain item. Then, over the course of a month, you can see what pieces you really wear.
Although I can probably tell you right now what I won't wear in the next couple of months, I still have them hanging in my closet as an unnecessary little cushion. Sure, holding on to extra items for comfort goes against the very purpose of a capsule wardrobe. But it's a process, right?
Until I can get to exactly 37 pieces (or less!) take a look at what's in my closet now.
- two pairs of heels (black and nude)
- two pairs of booties (tan and camel)
- one pair of Toms
- three pairs of sandals
- one pair of Vans
- two pairs of oxfords
- three cardigans
- six pairs of shorts
- three pairs of pants
- two skirts
- six dresses (I have A LOT of summer weddings, ok?)
- 13 shirts
My "want/need" list will probably grow, and some clothes will get thrown out, but I'm really excited for this new season of conscious shopping and a leaner closet. I may not have a capsule wardrobe forever (although, I'm pretty addicted already), but I'm hoping the practices of thinking before purchasing, not getting too attached to clothes, and finding different ways to wear the same staples are going to stick.
Images: Emily May/Flickr; Hayli Goode