If you are overwhelmed with closet chaos or just curious about the benefits of dressing with less and simplifying your wardrobe, this article will help you build a capsule wardrobe.
For a deep dive, check out Project 333, The Minimalist Fashion Challenge that Proves Less Really is So Much More is coming out on 3-3-20. If you do pre-order, please save your receipt because I’ll be announcing some really good resources and opportunities that come along with your book order.
There is something special for you at the end of the article to help you plan out your capsule wardrobe too.
What not to expect from this article
Recommendations on what to buy.
I share my looks on Instagram and write about my experience with capsule wardrobes and dressing with less to demonstrate that it’s possible, not to suggest what you should wear or own.
Before I started dressing with less, I remember thinking a dress I saw in a magazine would make me look beautiful or feel sexy. I thought scoring an amazing deal at a semi-annual sale would make me happy and finally complete my wardrobe, but it never did. I always needed more. There is nothing you can buy that will finally make you anything.
The secret to having it all is recognizing you already do.
Tips about how to build a perfect capsule wardrobe.
We each have different bodies and lifestyles and we deserve to dress for that unique combination. One perfect capsule wardrobe will not work for everyone. Let it be messy at first, as you figure out what works best for your body, and your lifestyle.
Figure out what works best for you with the free Project 333 Capsule Quick-Start Guide at the end of this article.
After dressing with 33 items or less every 3 months, including clothes, jewelry, accessories and shoes for more than 6 years, I’ve learned what’s important to consider while building a capsule wardrobe, and it might surprise you.
When I Googled the definition of a capsule wardrobe I found …
- a collection of clothes and accessories that include only items considered essential
- a person’s basic collection of coordinating clothes that can be used to form the basis of outfits for all occasions
- a set of clothing, normally around 24 items, which can be mixed and matched to create a wide variety of outfits.
I redefined “capsule wardrobe” when I created minimalist fashion challenge Project 333 to: A small collection of 33 items including clothing, jewelry, accessories and shoes that encourage you to wear your favorite things every day (not the trendiest things, the most stylish things, or the perfect things … your favorite things).
I recommend experimenting with 4 seasonal capsule collections a year (or fewer collections if weather permits). Many of your items, probably more than 1/2, will appear in several if not all 4 collections. Before we jump into the how, let’s start with the why.
3 reasons to build a capsule wardrobe
1. Figure out what matters.
If you are overwhelmed with stuff and busyness, you may have forgotten what really matters to you, how you like to spend your time, and the dreams you had for your life. Living and dressing with less helps you reconnect and remember. Sometimes to figure out what matters you have to get rid of everything that doesn’t.
2. Reduce decision fatigue.
Deciding what to wear requires mental energy better spent on other things. Instead of trying on several outfits getting ready in the morning in hopes of finding the perfect thing to wear, curate a small capsule wardrobe. Then there are no daily decisions required. You get to wear your favorite things every day.
3. Create more space and time for what you love.
Even if you don’t know what matters yet, or what you love, by dressing with less you’ll have a little more time and space to figure it out. A little more time and space to breathe.
If there are reasons you want to dress with less, write them down. Understanding why you want to create a capsule wardrobe will help you stick with it after you learn how to build a capsule wardrobe.
Put all of your clothes, accessories, jewelry, and shoes on your bed. All of it. If it’s on your bed, you’ll be motivated to finish the project before bedtime.
Seeing what you have is an important step in building a capsule wardrobe. Look at what you’ve acquired, what you’ve spent, and what you never wear. It might make you laugh or cry, but either way, you’ll never want to do this again.
Move the clothes on your bed to piles on the floor with a ruthless first pass sort. Don’t give it too much thought, just go with your first reaction. Sort items into the following piles:
- Love: I love these items. They fit me well and I wear them frequently.
- Maybe: I want to keep this but I don’t know why. (you know you have those items)
- Donate: These items don’t fit my body or my life.
- Trash: These items are in poor condition. (repurpose if possible)
Keep going until your bed is clear. Then …
- Roll around on your bed, kick your feet up in the air and scream, “almost there!”
- Drink water and eat snacks.
- Box or bag up your items to donate and bring them to your car or garage. Get them out of sight immediately.
- Throw out the trash.
Take a second pass at your two remaining piles (love & maybe). Try on clothing you aren’t sure about and ask the following questions:
- Would I go to the store and buy this today?
- Will I wear this in the next 3-6 months (or ever)?
If the answer is no, start a new donate pile and immediately add it to your other items for donation.
Make a list of your 33 items by category. Start with the items you already use every day, and your go-to clothing items. This list may change over time as seasons change, or work/life situations change.
I know the following things are usually going to start my list:
- simple t-shirt or v-neck
- button down shirt
- walking shoes
That’s 13 core items, so I have room for another 20 when building my capsule wardrobe of 33 items. A typical collection for me breaks down to 22 items of clothing including outerwear, 2 jewelry pieces, 5 accessories, and 4 pair of shoes.
I don’t count underwear, sleepwear, or workout clothes, but workout clothes have to workout. If yoga pants spend more time running errands than namstae-ing at the yoga studio, they count as part of my 33.
Do I have to give it all up?
Less isn’t nothing.
Once you’ve cleared your bed, taken care of the donate and trash piles, and picked your 33 items, you do not have to give up the items remaining in your love or maybe piles. Instead, box them up and hide them for a while. A little separation goes a long way.
After 3 months of dressing with less, revisit the items you chose to box up. Use them for a future capsule, or if you feel differently about them, let them go.
Use this guide on how to build a capsule wardrobe as a place to start. If you are ready to plan out your capsule wardrobe, sign up below for the free 3 page Project 333 Quick-Start Guide and experiment to see what works best for you.