Curious About Capsule Wardrobes? Here's Where to Start

The key is to start slow and simple.

Female white sneakers and jeans, striped t-shirt on yellow background with copy space. Top view. Summer fashion, capsule wardrobe concept. Creative flat lay
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Have you heard of a capsule wardrobe? The idea behind it is to minimize the number of items in your closet to make it easier to decide what to wear each morning. At the same time, you'll reduce clutter, fine-tune your personal style, and be less susceptible to decision fatigue, saving your brainpower for bigger and better things throughout the day.

There are various decluttering and minimalism experts who offer detailed plans for creating capsule wardrobes. These are highly effective and helpful, but only if you're actually ready to take the big plunge. For some, that's asking too much; they'd prefer to dabble in the concept of the capsule wardrobe, to ease themselves into this strange new form of minimalism. 

So here's some advice for capsule wardrobe newbies, for those who are curious about the concept and want to try it without purging their entire wardrobe right away. You'll probably find that these beginner steps are pleasant, even addictive, and before long you'll be signing up for one of the hardcore programs.

1. Stop Wearing Accessories

Accessories complicate things. They have to be selected based on outfits and the day's activities, and this selection process takes time, as well as some trial and error. The simplest thing is to say "no more!" Try going without jewelry, a watch, a scarf, decorative belt, or handbag (aside from what's necessary to carry a wallet, phone, and keys) for a month. If you feel severely underdressed, put in a pair of stud earrings and leave them for a month. It's an oddly liberating experience.

2. Wear What Makes You Feel Good

This may sound like obvious common sense, but it still needs to be said. I've wasted so much time trying to wear outfits that I know look good, but feel forced or unnatural. For example, I'm not a casual summer dress person, and I feel silly every time I put one on (except for fancy occasions), and yet I keep trying just because there are some in my closet. The truth, however, is that all I want to wear every single day is a pair of shorts and a baggy t-shirt. It's taken me years to accept this, that I don't have to strive for other people's diverse fashion choices, but that I can (and should) wear what makes me feel comfortable, confident, and relaxed.

3. Repeat Outfits

Do not hesitate to wear the same outfits over and over again. Chances are, people won't even notice what you're wearing, and if they do, it's probably just a fleeting thought that you have a specific look. Who cares? Think of it as your personal uniform. (It's also more eco-friendly!) There's nothing wrong with realizing that you love white t-shirts or black turtlenecks and committing to them. 

4. Do a Closet Purge, but Keep One of Everything

Instead of packing up your entire closet, minus 37 items (or whatever number is recommended by a particular decluttering expert), try keeping one item from each category of clothing, while packing up the surplus. For example, keep one pair of jeans, one dress, one sweater, one bathing suit, one pair of sandals, one belt, etc. That way, when you're dressing, you won't feel like you're missing specific categories of clothing, but you will have eliminated extra choices. Put the surplus boxes in storage for several weeks or months, just to make sure you can do without them for the long term.

5. Get an Objective Opinion

I like this advice from Courtney Carver, of Be More With Less and the Project 333 wardrobe challenge. She suggests asking a friend to come over to help you sort through your closet and determine what's worth keeping. This person "isn't emotionally attached" to your clothes in the way you might be, and should be someone who can tell you bluntly if something looks good or not. She writes, "Trust them to help you let go."

Consider this an introduction to the capsule wardrobe concept, and if it goes well, you might be a good fit for the extreme version – paring down to the bare minimum. You can learn more about it here on Treehugger.