How to Make a Capsule Wardrobe: A Simple Guide to Dressing Better with Less

How to Make a Capsule Wardrobe - A Simple Guide to Dressing Better with Less

Welcome to the third post in my series about decluttering your clothes and dressing with fewer items. It’s all been leading up to this: creating a capsule wardrobe.

Related posts: The Best Trick to Purge Your Closet + 6 Questions to Help You Purge, 12 Reasons Why We Keep Clothes We Don’t Wear & How to Move Past Them

What is a capsule wardrobe?

A capsule wardrobe is the ultimate form of a simplified and clutter-free closet. But what exactly IS a capsule wardrobe? It’s really not as complicated as it sounds. A capsule wardrobe is a small collection of clothes you LOVE, that look and feel great on, and you can mix and match to make many outfit combinations. Most capsule wardrobes are seasonal, meaning you rotate some or all of the items seasonally.

Benefits of a capsule wardrobe

There are many benefits of a capsule wardrobe, including:

  • It’s easier to decide what to wear, because you know everything looks and feels great on you
  • Less stress, overwhelm and decision fatigue about what you’ll wear
  • Boosted confidence knowing everything in your wardrobe flatters you and looks great
  • You closet is tidy and organized, and easy to keep that way
  • You spend less time and money buying new clothes because you commit to owning fewer pieces
  • It allows you to feel content and grateful with what you have, instead of always focusing on the next purchase

The overall benefit is you spend less time and energy getting dressed because everything in your wardrobe looks and feels great. Less time and energy focused on your clothes, means more time and energy for what matters the most to you.

How to Make a Capsule Wardrobe - A simple guide to dressing better with less

Creating my own capsule wardrobe

I recently created my own capsule wardrobe and I am LOVING it! It is the best thing I have ever done with my clothes. I’ve experienced every single one of the benefits above. I don’t think I’ll ever go back to a non-capsule wardrobe. It makes my life so much easier.

Even though I’ve been significantly decluttering and minimizing our house for the last few years, I was nervous to take the plunge and create a capsule wardrobe. I had read a lot about capsule wardrobes, and the planners and formulas I’d seen for choosing the number of items and color schemes seemed intimidating. I felt nervous about getting it right. Then I realized there is no one, perfect way to make a capsule wardrobe. I needed to focus on keeping it simple, and making it work for me.

If you’re hesitant to try a capsule wardrobe because you don’t think the “rules” of capsule wardrobes will work for you, then make your own rules! The “rules” other people use are simply what worked for them. Maybe they’ll work for you, maybe they won’t. But don’t get hung up on anyone else’s rules to make a capsule wardrobe.

Using this philosophy, this is the exact process I took to create a simple and stress-free capsule wardrobe.

How to make a capsule wardrobe - a simple guide to dressing better with less
This is what I started with. Not bad, but definitely a lot of clothes.

How to make a capsule wardrobe - a simple guide to dressing better with less

Why I’m sharing my “rules”

I’m using the term “rules” very loosely. By rules, I mean loose guidelines I kept in mind to help me reduce and structure my capsule. Why am I sharing my rules when I just said don’t worry about anyone else’s rules? When learning about capsule wardrobes, I found it helpful and interesting to know the rules other people used to arrive at their finished capsule. Then I could decide what would or wouldn’t work for me. That’s why I’m sharing my “rules”. Simply to give you the framework of how I made decisions to create my capsule. My rules are all about keeping it simple and being flexible.

My “rules” for my capsule wardrobe:

Number of items

Some people limit the number of pieces in their capsule, 33 or 37 items are common. Before I started my capsule, the idea of a limit stressed me out. Because I wanted to make the process of creating my capsule as stress-free as possible, I decided not to set a limit on the number of items in my capsule. Instead I decided I’d start sorting my clothes and see where I ended up.

I also didn’t have a specific number of each type of item (i.e. pants, tops, jeans, sweaters, etc.) to include. Again, I simply started sorting. I knew I would fine tune the number of items after I sorted, but I didn’t set out with a plan for how many of each item I wanted to include.

What my capsule includes

I decided to only include my everyday clothes in my capsule. The things I wore on a daily basis. For me, this means only bottoms and tops will be included.

What my capsule does NOT include

    • Shoes
    • Outerwear (jackets, gloves, hats, etc.)
    • Jewelry and accessories (necklaces, earrings, bracelets, scarves, etc.)
    • Workout clothes
    • Undergarments (underwear, bras, socks, and tanks/camisoles I only wear under other clothes, never on their own)
    • Swimwear
    • Formal wear (fancy dresses, skirts, business clothes, etc.)

I did reduce the number of items in each of these categories, but decided not to include them in my capsule. Since this was my first capsule wardrobe, I wanted to keep it simple and stress-free. Baby steps right? As I continue to make capsule wardrobes in the future, I may include some of these items. But for this round, it worked best for me to only include my everyday clothes.

Time frame

Many people dress from their capsule for at least 3 months. Apparently, I have a fear of commitment, because 3 months seemed like a long time. I created my capsule on February 1st, and told myself I would try it for the month of February and see how it went. Again, I took the pressure off myself and decided to be flexible with the time frame.

Storage

Only my current capsule wardrobe would be in my closet. Everything I was keeping but wasn’t in this capsule would be stored in my dresser and spare bedroom closet. This would let me keep my closet clutter-free and simple. However, I was open to exchanging items out of storage if something I chose for my capsule wasn’t working or I wasn’t wearing it.

How to Make a Capsule Wardrobe - A simple guide to dressing better with less

Other tips before you start

Roughly plan your capsule before you start sorting:

  • Before I began sorting my clothes, I started thinking about the clothes I’d like to have in my capsule. I didn’t get specific, but this gave me some ideas once I started sorting.

Make your capsule wardrobe work for your lifestyle:

  • Think about your lifestyle and what you like to wear. Identify all the different activities you do in your daily life (i.e. work, playing with the kids, running errands, going out with friends, etc.) and how you spend the majority of your time. Design your capsule around that. Making sure to include clothing options that will work for each of these activities.

Figure out your signature style:

  • What types of clothes make you look and feel your best? These are the clothes that should make up your capsule. Everything in your capsule should be things you love to wear and feel great in.
  • You may not be 100% clear on your signature style when you make your first capsule. And that’s ok! The great thing about a capsule wardrobe is that as you dress with fewer items, you will begin to figure out what works for you and what doesn’t. Your signature style will become more clear as you dress with fewer items.

Work with what you have for your first capsule:

  • Instead of buying a bunch of new clothes, try working with what you have. The goal is to try living with fewer items to see how it impacts your life. Buying more clothes at this point could be counter-productive. Use this as a learning period to figure out what works in your capsule and what doesn’t. You may need to buy new pieces in the future. But try to work with what you have at first.

Out of sight but not permanently gone:

  • To get the full benefits of a capsule wardrobe, you need to reduce the overall number of items and visual clutter in your closet. However, this doesn’t mean you have to get rid of all but 37 items of clothing. It’s simply an experiment to see how living with fewer pieces of clothing will impact your life. Store anything you love but not included in your current capsule out of sight to experience the full benefits of a capsule wardrobe.

How to create a capsule wardrobe:

You’ll need a couple of hours to work through this process. It’s best to try to do all the steps in one session. If possible, try to set aside a couple of hours where you can work on your closet with few distractions. I worked through this process in one morning, even with my little ones “helping” me 😉

How to make a capsule wardrobe - a simple guide to dressing better with less
My 2 capsule wardrobe helpers 😉

Step 1: Gather all your clothes in one place

I often heard completely emptying out your closet is important, but honestly, I wasn’t convinced it would be worth the effort. I’ll admit it, I was completely wrong! Taking everything out of your closet changes everything. It makes each thing have to earn its place back in your closet. Nothing can be passed over or left hanging by default.

Seeing every single piece of clothing you own all piled up in one place can be a bit overwhelming. But from this point forward, you will start reducing and it will get more manageable.

Once you have everything out, sort your clothes by category and group all like items together. Jeans in one pile, long-sleeved shirts in another, cardigans in another, etc.

How to make a capsule wardrobe - a simple guide to dressing better with less
Everything out of my closet and dresser and sorted into categories.

Step 2: Quick sort

Working through each category of clothes, sort as quickly as possible. In the next step we will refine the piles more thoughtfully. This step is about working quickly and sorting based on your first instinct about each item. This helps you make the easy keep or toss decisions to get the items you absolutely love or are ready to let go of out of the way.

I chose 4 categories to sort my clothes in to:

  1. Yes, I love it and want it in my capsule – these were the clothes I love wearing, that look and feel good on. I had a rough idea of things I wanted to include in this capsule based on what I wear regularly for the season and what my current favourite items are.
  1. Yes, I love it, but don’t want it in this capsule – these were clothes that I love and look and feel good on, but they were either not seasonally appropriate or I wasn’t going to choose them for this capsule. Things I still loved would be stored until it was time to make the next capsule.
  1. No, I don’t like this item anymore – these items were bagged up for donation.
  1. Maybe – anything I was really unsure about or couldn’t make a quick decision about, I put in the maybe pile. This pile will be sorted more thoroughly in the next step.

After you’ve done this, grab some bags and pack up all the “no” items. Take these bags out of your space to give you more room to work. Already looking better right?

After this step, my “yes, I love it and want it in my capsule” pile was already down to 42 items. I was shocked to see how painless it was to get down to that number.

Step 3: Re-assess the remaining 3 piles

Go through each of the 3 remaining piles and make more careful decisions. As you work, look for duplicates. If you have several items that are similar to each other, see if you can pare down to your favourites.

The ‘Yes, I love it and want it in my capsule’ pile

I started with this pile. Because I was already down to 42 items, I decided to try to create a 40-piece capsule. It seemed easy enough and not so scary anymore, once I saw how many options 42 items gave me.

**I know I said I wasn’t going to limit myself to a certain number. This wasn’t about restricting myself, but more about setting a loose limit to help me make decisions about what to keep. If I ended up with 42 or 43 things, I wasn’t going to sweat it.

I also liked the idea of a number to aim for to keep myself from wanting to buy new clothes without thought. If I want to keep my capsule to 40 items or less, and I’m already at 40 items, if I want to buy something new, I would have to decide if I am willing to take something out of my capsule to make room for the new item. Having a loose limit has helped me be more intentional with my capsule wardrobe.**

To refine the “yes, I love it and want it in my capsule” pile, I asked myself these questions:

  • How many items are in the pile? Is that a reasonable amount?
  • Is there enough of each type of item (i.e. pants, tops, sweaters, jeans, etc.) to work with my laundry routine?
  • Does each item coordinate with at least 2-4 other items to give me a variety of outfit options?
  • Do the items fit with my lifestyle?
  • Is each item something I LOVE and would be happy and comfortable to wear any day? With a smaller wardrobe, you don’t have room to keep anything you don’t love and won’t want to wear frequently.

The ‘Yes, I love it but don’t want it in this capsule’ pile

It is important that everything I save for other seasons or future capsules are things I truly love. I don’t want to store items unless they are things I love and will be excited to wear. I went through this pile and made sure each item was a definite “yes”. If I was unsure, I moved it to the “maybe” pile, to be tackled next.

The ‘Maybe’ pile

Last came the “maybe” pile. It was the toughest pile because it required the hardest decisions. To sort the “maybe” pile, I tried each item on, and answered these 6 questions:

  • Does it fit?
  • Is it in good condition (i.e. not damaged, stained or needing repair)?
  • Do I feel good in it? Is it comfortable?
  • Do I look good in it? Do the color and style flatter me?
  • When was the last time I wore it?
  • Would I be happy to wear it for the rest of the day?

You can read about these questions in more detail here. And be sure to get your FREE printable closet decluttering guide at the bottom of that post!

If there were any items I was really struggling to make a decision about, I put them in a box in the spare bedroom, sealed the box and marked a date 2 months from then on the box. I put a reminder in my phone for that date. If I haven’t wanted the items or even thought about them by the time the reminder goes, I will donate the box.

Step 4: Put everything away

Put your capsule wardrobe in your closet. Finish bagging up any “no” items. Put the items you are keeping but aren’t part of this capsule wardrobe away where you will store them. Now enjoy your simplified, clutter-free capsule wardrobe!

How to make a capsule wardrobe - a simple guide to dressing better with less
What I ended up with – my first capsule wardrobe
How to make a capsule wardrobe - a simple guide to dressing better with less
Empty shelves!

That’s it! That’s how I made my first capsule wardrobe. It wasn’t complicated or stressful. I didn’t follow a complex planning sheet or formula. The whole process was easy and painless. I don’t know why I waited so long to do it! I absolutely LOVE having a capsule wardrobe. Getting dressed is so easy, my closet is organized and peaceful, and I haven’t felt like I’m missing any of the clothes I donated or put in storage. I’ll share exactly what is in my capsule wardrobe in an upcoming post.

What do you think? First time hearing about a capsule wardrobe? Thinking about making a capsule of your own? What are you most excited about? Have you made a capsule wardrobe before? How did you make your capsule? Let me know in the comments below!

 

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19 Comments

    1. I’m so glad to hear my post helped clarify for you what a capsule wardrobe is. That’s so great to hear! Yes, getting dressed is so much easier with fewer clothes, especially because everything in my capsule are the pieces I love to wear! Thanks for reading 🙂

    1. That’s great Sno, I’m glad my post helped! Yes, decluttering does take a lot of time and effort, but you’re right it’s so worth it! And just remember, it took you a long time to accumulate all of your stuff, so it’s going to take some time to declutter and work through it all too. Thanks for reading!

  1. I have been toying with the idea of a capsule wardrobe for a long time! I used to work in retail, so I amassed a huge amount of clothes that I rarely wear. I loved all your posts about creating one, the questions to ask yourself, etc…I have such a hard time letting go of clothes that really don’t even work for me anymore! Thanks for the inspiration!

    1. That’s great Cassandra, I’m glad I could give you some inspiration! I used to work at a clothing boutique as well, so I understand what you mean! If you’ve been wanting to create a capsule wardrobe for a while, I say go for it! I absolutely love it, and it makes getting dressed so easy. You could always do a trial run and just put your other clothes away for a while and see how you like living with a capsule. If you decide to go for it, I’d love to hear about your experience! I’m glad you found my posts helpful, thanks for reading 🙂

  2. I have been doing the big toss out! I did not think of a capsule. What struck me is I had NO short sleeves. So I tossed things that I had not worn or was always pulling down or untwist in general when I wore them. I still have a lot to do, I did buy 3 short sleeve shirts. I can wear a light weight over piece with the sleeveless. It’s a start. I have 50 purses. I’d like to get down to two a season and I have to go through my special occasion clothes. I have gained weight ! But I’m going the right way! Thank you I will continue!

    1. Good for you Kristin, it sounds like you are definitely going in the right direction! I found I had a couple of gaps in my wardrobe too once I got rid of anything I didn’t love or wear often. It sounds like you are buying pieces to fill the gaps in your wardrobe with intention, making sure they will work for multiple seasons, etc. That’s great! I love that you have a goal in mind for how many purses you’d like to let go of. That makes it a lot easier! Good for you for all the hard work you’ve done! Thanks for reading and good luck as you continue 🙂

  3. I think this is the inspiration I need. I’ve been slowly getting rid of some things, but I think I’m ready to create my version of a capsule wardrobe. Years ago I did this, although, there was no name for it. I was ruthless with my wardrobe and only kept what I loved and felt good in. It was small, workable, and just awesome! I loved going to my closet! I’m ready for that again!! 🙂

    1. That’s great Shileen, I’m so glad you feel inspired to create a capsule wardrobe again. I completely agree with you, having a capsule wardrobe is the best decision I’ve ever made in regard to my clothes. It makes getting dressed so easy, and I absolutely love my wardrobe and closet now. Keep me posted when you make your capsule, I’d love to hear how it goes! Thanks for reading 🙂

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