Monday, April 27, 2015

Living Small: Creating a Capsule Wardrobe

"So... I think I may get rid of all my clothes." Wait. What the what?
Yes, you read that first line correctly. Over the weekend, I took the plunge and emptied my closet. You may be wondering why on earth I did such a thing. What could possibly motivate a reasonably sane young woman to pare down her wardrobe so drastically? To toss perfectly fine items into the heartless black donation bag? To--gasp-- purge her shoe rack?

Well, the motivation was fairly simple: this post which led me to this blog.

"Capsule wardrobe" is a term I have previously encountered on the interwebs. In the past, I would scroll through the images of immaculate closets, with their wooden hangers arranged in precise rows, their stacked jeans, their color-coordinated dresses, their neat rows of wedges and flats standing at the ready. Raising my eyebrows in disbelief, I noted that some of these closets even had room for artwork. I mean, really? Come on now.

Yet the more I read, the more the concept of a capsule wardrobe appealed to me. More so than the wardrobe itself... the attitude behind the movement captured my attention. Constantly bombarded with magazine ads, Instagram, emails, and television spots about clothing, clothing, and more clothing, we fall under the delusion that we need this shirt, that skirt, those jeans, that new purse to feel fashionable, with-it, or beautiful. (Cough...Lilly for Target...cough) Sure, if you love the clothes, want the clothes, and have the closet-space for it, then by all means, go buy the clothes. All the clothes. For myself, however, I constantly felt that I was wasting time and money purchasing clothing that I only half-liked, would rarely wear, and then inevitably stuff in the back of my closet. And why? 

But before I go any further...what exactly is a "capsule wardrobe" anyway?

According to Caroline of the blog UnFancy, the main source for all things capsule wardrobe-y, a "capsule wardrobe" is a mini wardrobe consisting of versatile pieces that you totally LOVE to wear. Caroline proceeds into more detail, explaining that for her purposes, a capsule wardrobe consists of just 37 pieces: 9 bottoms, 9 shoes, 15 tops, 2 dresses, and 2 jackets. (The remainder of your clothes either go into storage, get donated, or go to your favorite second-hand shop.) From these 37 pieces, you create numerous mix-and-match outfits which should last you one season, a three-month time period. During that time period, you buy clothes once. Yes, only once. At the beginning of the three months, you take inventory, determine what you need, and purchase additional pieces as necessary.

The overall goals: to possess a closet that consists of items you truly enjoy wearing, to determine your actual style, and to realize that less really is more.

Cue the Great Closet Purge of 2015.

With a cup of black coffee and armed with enough black garbage bags to do Santa proud, I woke early Saturday morning and began the process of creating a spring capsule wardrobe. How did I start?

1. I took everything out of my closet. And I mean everything. I emptied every shelf, bin, hanger, you name it. I deposited all the items on my bed and stepped back to survey the damage. (At this point, I may or may not have dusted and swept the closet. #slightlyOCD)

2. I sorted the clothes into four piles. The piles had fun names. There was the Love-it-and-would-wear-it-right-now pile. The Wow-why-did-I-buy-this pile. The Sometimes-love-it-sometimes-hate-it pile. And the Aww-but-Blahblah-gave-me-this pile.

3. Once the items were sorted, I returned only the "Love-It" items to my closet. Everything else either went into a donation bag or received a second level of scrutiny. For the latter objects, I asked myself "when did I last wear this?" If I had gone through an entire season without wearing it, it went into the donation pile. If I had actually worn it a couple of times and yet was still hesitant about the item, I decided to put it into storage. After all, I could always donate it later.

4. Seven black trash bags later... I felt I had pared my closet down to the items I truly loved to wear. Items that I felt really defined how I dress. I couldn't believe the style that emerged as I arranged the "Love-It" items in my closet. To my surprise, a common theme did exist among my clothing choices. Most of the items possess a simple cut (pencil or A-line skirts, sheath dresses, simple blouses) and vivid hues (coral pink, turquoise, citron, and navy blue), toned down by a few of my customary little black dresses. No wonder I gravitated to these particular items and over again... they all possessed some similar quality that apparently suits my figure and personality. I didn't even know it before, but now it is glaringly obvious.

5. Once I had determined exactly what I wanted to keep, I could assess whether or not I needed any additional items to supplement the wardrobe. As it turns out, I do need a few things. My tee shirt drawer consists of two white shirts. Well.... that's a bit sad. So I may need to supplement this lack by purchasing a few tees and tanks for the spring and summer months. After all, you can't just wear the same shirt over and over again. Additionally. I have no flats. Not even one pair. I'm currently determining whether I want to purchase a pair of TOMS again or just head to TJ Maxx to scout for a basic pair of leather  ballet flats that will match anything. Purchasing my supplemental pieces will complete the entire wardrobe-makeover process. And then... no more clothes shopping until mid-July, when I'll create my late summer capsule wardrobe.

So what did I end up keeping in my closet?

Well, to be honest, I didn't follow UnFancy's 37 piece rule. I considered my own lifestyle and determined what I genuinely needed in order to maintain that lifestyle. For example, since we attend church regularly, I knew I wanted more than the two dresses allotted by UnFancy's wardrobe formula. I knew I would want a few nicer pieces. So here are my final results:

4 casual dresses
4 dressy dresses
2 maxi dresses
4 short skirts
2 maxi skirts
2 cardigans
1 kimono wrap
6 blouses
1 vest
2 tee shirts *
1 tanktop *
2 light sweaters
2 pairs of jeans
3 pairs of shorts
3 wedge heels
1 pair of pumps
2 pairs of sandals

total: 42 items *

*Tee shirts and tanks to be supplemented somewhat. 

An important note: this list excludes my workout gear, outerwear, painting clothes, lounge wear, accessories, and intimates. No one should limit themselves to two socks and two undies, people. Keep it realistic. 

And that's her! To be honest, I was mildly intimated by this minimalist challenge. But I am so happy that I took the plunge and created a simplified wardrobe. It not only has reduced the amount of clutter in my life but has created room for other things--things I really value--as well. For example, Mark has his own storage space for his hiking and camping gear, whereas before these items were stored in the basement. Plus, I now have a craft drawer: my very own space to store my paints, ModPodge, paper, and work materials, stored in space created by emptying out the never-used-sweater storage. It is truly amazing how cutting down the possessions you own can make you feel like you have so much more. 

So, what do you think? Do you think you would try a capsule wardrobe? Do you want to trade it all in and start fresh? Give it a try! I heartily recommend it! 

If you've been inspired by this post
and want to create your own capsule wardrobe, 
please share your progress with me
either on Instagram or in the comments below.
Follow @ampnabi for updates and more wardrobe details!


  1. I am so impressed. I've never been good at separating out seasonal wear--I just keep it all in my closet all the time, having always lacked storage space for off-season stuff (no basement, no attic). Now that I have a bit of attic storage, I might consider this. I definitely need to get rid of a ton of stuff I never wear, and I've had an itch to scrap it all and start over lately anyway, so the timing could be perfect. Thanks for the inspiration!

    1. I'm so glad you enjoyed the post! This process was certainly a challenge and took some self-discipline but I am so glad that I did it. I feel like I have more storage space now and so far have had no trouble putting together outfits with the items I kept. If you decide to do a capsule wardrobe like this, let me know how it goes! Good luck!

  2. I’m so impressed you had the guts to do this. I would be quite inspired to do the same but we had bespoke fitted wardrobes installed just eight months ago and to leave them standing half empty would seem somewhat wasteful. You have however, motivated me to do a wardrobe sort out, so thank you very much for that.

    Angella Frasier @ 4 Wardrobe


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