4 Steps for Creating a Capsule Wardrobe

CC BY 2.0. Geneva Vanderzeil

Eliminate clutter, indecision, and stress in your closet by adopting this sensible habit.

Are you tired of standing in front of your closet, struggling to figure out what to wear? How often do you have wardrobe crises, wasting precious minutes trying on multiple outfits that end up discarded on the floor? Do you ever leave the bedroom feeling like your clothes just aren’t right? Maybe it’s time to think about creating a capsule wardrobe. Not only will it make the daily selection process much easier, but you will feel comfortable and confident in clothes that are well-suited to every occasion.

A capsule wardrobe is a highly-edited version of a wardrobe, with every piece chosen deliberately to combine with others, to contribute to your personal image, and to suit the season. Ideally you would update this capsule wardrobe every three months or so.

There are many websites with differing methods for creating capsule wardrobes (and a TreeHugger intro to doing it), but the one that I’d like to highlight today comes from Caroline at Unfancy. She has created her own step-by-step process for putting together a great capsule wardrobe. The rules are clear, easy to follow, and inspiring.

#1 – Pare down your clothes to 37 items.

You may have raised an eyebrow, but 37 is less of an arbitrary number than you think. Caroline writes:

“I settled on 37 because of how it broke down in each category. For example, I knew I wanted 9 pairs of shoes, 9 bottoms, and 15 tops. Then the remaining 4 were just enough for 2 dresses and 2 jackets/coats. To me it feels generous yet minimal.”

The final 37 items do not need to include accessories, workout wear, pajamas and loungewear, bathing suits, underwear, or grungy clothes for cleaning/painting/gardening.

#2 – Wear these 37 items for 3 months.

#3 – Do not shop during this time.

#4 – Plan for the next capsule season.

Use the last two weeks to plan the next three-month cycle. Assess what you own and make a list of anything else you need to buy. It’s preferable to use what you already own, but in the first year of dressing in this way, you might have to make some strategic purchases to fill gaps. Caroline writes:

“The amount that you buy for each new season is up to you, but remember, this is a minimalist challenge. So, less is more, you know? That being said, style should be fun and picking out a few new pieces for my next season is my favorite part. I typically end up getting between 4-8 new pieces for each new season.”

A good rule of thumb is always to purchase items that can go with at least three other things in your closet. Also, stick with neutral colors and fewer colors, in order to simplify mixing and matching and to make shopping easier. The Vivienne Files recommends selecting two neutrals, two accent colors, and one white/cream color for a blouse.

For most of us who don’t spend a lot of time planning our wardrobe and outfits, it may seem like a silly amount of effort, but think of the time you’ll save when deciding what to wear, the money saved because you’re not spending on superfluous deals and random cute tops, and the overall sense of relief that you’ll always look put together.