Capsule wardrobe is a term coined by Susie Faux, the owner of a London boutique called “Wardrobe” in the 1970s. According to Faux, a capsule wardrobe is a collection of a few essential items of clothing that will not go out of fashion, such as skirts, trousers, and coats, which can then be updated with seasonal pieces.This idea was popularised by American designer Donna Karan, who, in 1985, released an influential capsule collection of seven interchangeable work-wear pieces.
The term has come to refer to a collection of clothing which is designed using only interchangeable items, in order to maximise the number of outfits which can be created. The aim is to have an outfit suitable for any occasion without owning excessive items of clothing. This is usually achieved by buying what are considered to be “key” or “staple” items in coordinating colors. Thanks Wikipedia!
Lately, I’ve noticed the worlds of fashion blogging and simple living joining forces, with bloggers creating stylish, interchangeable wardrobes from 10-37 pieces of clothing (that’s a pretty broad range, but I think it depends if you count shoes and other accessories). I mentioned Unfancy and Kapachino in my last post, but Project 333 and even a Huffington Post columnist are getting into the game.
I was interested in trying out the capsule wardrobe concept because I hated the feeling of walking into my closet every morning and feeling like I had nothing to wear, and continually choosing the same few items. Wouldn’t it be easier if I just pared down my wardrobe to only things I wanted to wear? I decided on a whim in late June to try to create my own capsule wardrobe out of items I already owned. My plan was to follow the Unfancy model of 37 items (9 pairs of shoes, 9 bottoms, 15 tops, 2 dresses and 2 jackets/coats). I ended up going down to 27 items and not worrying about my shoes (since I wasn’t buying anything new anyway). I searched the web and Pinterest for inspiration, and while I found lots of cute outfits, I wasn’t finding a lot for people who work in an office environment. Should all my outfits be dressy? What about casual Fridays? And what about the weekend?
Of course, there is no fashion police, so after some internal debate, I just made up my own rules. I would create a wardrobe of items that I could wear for work or weekends, but super-casual wear like workout clothes, pjs, lounge pants, etc. wouldn’t count.
The wardrobe I ended up with isn’t perfect — between maternity wear and post-maternity wear taking up so much of my clothing for the last 4 years, I haven’t done the best job keeping my wardrobe current with basics like non-pit-stained white shirts and trendier stuff like longer t-shirts, new jeans, etc. Also — these are crappy iphone photos that I snapped in a hurry and the clothes are wrinkly. This is real life, not a professional photo shoot, right?
Also, something I’ve noticed about my capsule as compared to most I’ve seen online? I love color and pattern. Wearing a bright yellow sweater or kelly green pants just makes my day. Working these items into a very small wardrobe that’s supposed to be all interchangeable poses an interesting challenge. Here’s what I came up with.
First up – t-shirts. Some casual, some dressier. Some I’ve owned for years and others are new-ish. I ended up hating and rarely wearing that white one with the lace trim since I felt like the horizontal stripes highlighted my pooch. And that printed bicycle tee doesn’t look like much on the hangar, but I’ve probably worn it once a week all summer and I get tons of compliments on it. (From JC Penney, no less!)
Next… “fancier” shirts — ones with collars, basically, plus a 3/4 sleeve cardi (I love yellow!) and a short sleeve knit sweater that I made myself. (Sadly it’s too short for current styles… I shouldn’t have included it but how do you get rid of a lace sweater you knit on size 2 needles?) I would wear all of these for work… hopefully after they’d been ironed.
Bottoms — I bought a lot of “crazy pants” (patterns and bright colors) on a shopping trip with my mom after I was mostly back to pre-pregnancy size, so that’s what I used in my capsule. These are not exactly the kind of classic pieces that a capsule wardrobe was meant to be built upon, but I’ve been wearing them a lot nonetheless!
Skirts! (Not pictured are a couple of pairs of shorts that I wear on the weekends.) I love the cut of that gray A-line skirt but dang the fabric is wrinkly… something to keep in mind when you’re going to be wearing the same stuff over and over!
Last but not least — dresses, a suit, and some blouses. I am a lawyer after all, I do have to dress up on occasion. I chose my “summery-est” suit, mostly because I thought I could also break it up and wear the jacket and pants as separates. But let’s be honest, it’s way too hot to wear a jacket unless I need to be in a suit. (Isn’t that blue and green dress adorable? It’s from Stitch Fix and I love it. Excellent post-partum-pooch hiding style.)
So – that’s my capsule wardrobe! I will definitely be doing this again for fall, hopefully with a well-timed shopping trip to fill in a few gaps and add a few updates/trendy pieces.
- This was pretty easy for me because I was already used to wearing a relatively small number of clothes. I hated spending money on maternity clothes so I just wore them over and over.
- Most of my clothes are from Banana Republic, Ann Taylor Loft, Old Navy, and a smattering of Stitch Fix and other internet purchases. Quality matters! I have a basic black t-shirt from Banana Republic that looks as good as new, while the Old Navy and Loft stuff shows its age a lot more quickly. It’s definitely worth watching the sale rack to get the higher quality clothes.
- Don’t underestimate the power of the dress! Just one item in a limited wardrobe and it’s all you have to wear for the day. Throw a jacket, cardigan, or unbuttoned blouse over it for a completely different look.
- Sometimes you have to break the rules, and that’s okay. My job duties changed recently and I’m required to wear suits more often than I used to — obviously I’m not going to wear the same suit over and over. But luckily I’ve acquired a few over the years so I just wore those on the days I needed to dress up, then went back to my capsule for the rest of the week.
- As limited as this wardrobe seems, I still find myself gravitating to my “favorites” — probably 10 or so pieces that I would wear over and over if I doing laundry were no object.
- Accessories become a lot more fun when you wear the same clothes over and over. I have enjoyed wearing more of my earrings and necklaces than normal, and I am pining after a new purse and some new shoes.
- I included too many casual tops and not enough dressy ones. I have to dress up for work 5 days a week, so I need to make that a priority in my wardrobe.
Would you ever try a capsule wardrobe? What is one item of clothing that you would absolutely have to include?