I sourced a ton of questions from people about capsule wardrobes and originally added them to the bottom of this intro to capsule wardrobes. Together, though, it turned into an absolutely monstrous post, so I decided to split them in half. Keep your eyes peeled for the capsule wardrobe FAQ coming later this week!
I thought I’d discuss a bit of my life that I don’t talk about much: my clothing, and in particular my capsule wardrobe.
My capsule wardrobe was very much a happy accident: I definitely had an abundance of stuff growing up, but years of moving, living in tiny spaces, traveling, and being more mindful of my purchases made a capsule wardrobe just kind of… happen.
(It also really helps that the only color I wear beyond black or grey is dark green so matching within a limited wardrobe is my only option.)
What is a capsule wardrobe?
Let’s start simple in this intro to capsule wardrobes. For those of you who may not know, a capsule wardrobe is defined as:
“a collection of a few essential items of clothing that don’t go out of fashion, such as skirts, trousers, and coats, which can then be augmented with seasonal pieces.”
You’re going to have a selection of long-lasting, cool-but-not-trendy items which you can then spice up with extra pieces. Basically, instead of shopping for a whole new wardrobe each season, you’ll always keep your core pieces and invest in a few on-trend items when needed.
How many items should my capsule wardrobe have?
The number of items in a capsule wardrobe, really, is up to you. Traditionally the number of clothing per season tends to hover somewhere around 30 items. I find that seems like a fair number – it gives you options but definitely limits you in terms of going out and buying more clothes.
Once you have your general “uniform” to stick to this number seems much more reasonable!
Everything in my closet for this spring/summer
Without any further ado, here’s my spring/summer capsule wardrobe. This isn’t really much more than I own, as my fall/winter additions are just 3 more sweaters and a bunch of scarves (shared with my husband) hanging out in half of a dresser.
Yes, stuff here is wrinkly because this is real life and real life Polly doesn’t own an iron. (Not for any noble and/or minimal reason, I’m just really lazy.)
1. Start with a final number of items in your wardrobe (let’s say 25)
2. Create the categories in your wardrobe
3. Rank the categories by importance.My general theory on deciding how much of each item to include revolves around laundry. I like to ensure that I have enough items in my uniform to last for a whole week (or more!) without washing. I need plenty of t-shirts as I may or may not be able to wear them twice. Cardigans – enough for variety, but I can re-wear.
Shoes and jeans are not a priority and can be rotated frequently. The 3-4 other categories are extra, non-uniform items and depends on a case-by-case basis.
From top left: Ann Taylor linen shirt (thrifted), light grey Everlane linen tee*, dark grey Everlane linen tee*, linen button-up shirt (thrifted), black cotton tee, black cotton tee from the best podcast ever, long-sleeved button up (thrifted), UNIQLOxMOMA collab tank (new from NYC trip), insane black and white cardigan (thrifted).
Green H&M cardigan (bought new), tan cardigan (thrifted), Gap cardigan (thrifted), grey Everlane cashmere cardigan*, J Brand sweater (thrifted), my two pairs of jeans: both 1969 Gap blue jeans and high-waisted black (both second hand), black lace-ups (TJ Maxx), reddish-brown boots (stolen from/gifted by my mother), brown lace-up boots (thrifted).
Not pictured: a long black skirt (second hand) and two formal-wear items, a Uniform jumpsuit and the Seamly.co convertible pantsuit. Both were bought new from companies I feel pretty good about buying new from since I had no luck finding anything suitable second hand.
The total? 22 items of clothing.
It may not seem like much but it encompasses everything I really need for my lifestyle plus leaves wiggle room for additional purchases I may want to make.
What’s counted/not counted in a capsule wardrobe?
That’s actually entirely up to you!
As it stands my spring/summer capsule wardrobe is made up of 22 items. This includes clothing, accessories, and shoes for the season. This covers both my day-to-day clothing and 2 “fancy” items for the rare times I want to look put together.
I don’t count coats, underwear, workout gear, or pyjamas.
Some people have a seasonal wardrobe, but I honestly dress in jeans and a tank top/t-shirt combo year-round so my colder weather items fit into one drawer of my dresser (except for my 5-6 coats which live in the coat closet). Those out-of-season items are not counted as part of the current season’s wardrobe.
So what to count? Like I said, it’s really up to you but my big rule of thumb is:
if a certain type of clothing takes up a significant portion of your wardrobe, it should count in your numbers. I count t-shirts because I have a lot of them; I do not count pyjamas or exercise wear because I only have one pair of leggings and a few old tees. (I bike to work so that’s my workout sorted!)
If you exercise regularly and have a drawer fit to bursting with workout gear, count it! If you’ve got a bit of a shoe problem – count those pairs!
Use your discretion and just remember that keeping items out of your count is absolutely fair game until it becomes a crutch to add more and more things back into your wardrobe!
How I choose my clothes
My main focus is on what I like and what I know I’ll actually wear. Yes, I’d love to be the girl in high-waisted skirts all day (because I look great in them, not gonna lie), but I don’t particularly care for skirts. Plus, my line of work prohibits skirts.
So instead, I have an informal uniform I stick to almost every day (even at work, where I swap out my usual top for a company tee): a tee with a cardigan, skinny jeans, and boots or lace-up shoes.
In terms of fabric, I’ve been drawn to linen and cashmere over the last few years, with a smattering of cotton thrown in. Usually the only non-natural fibers in my wardrobe are in my underwear or the odd, weird shirt I’ve bought from the thrift store.
I’ll go more into depth about how/where I buy my clothes in the FAQ post, but I’d encourage you to head to the second hand stores in the nicer parts of town to start – high quality items do exist second hand if you’re willing to be patient!
Other great resources for starting a capsule wardrobe
Into Mind: this is a great blog for very beginners in the capsule wardrobe game. This blog has scads of posts dedicated to finding your aesthetic, determining ratios, and laying out step-by-step how to create a capsule wardrobe. There’s even a book!
Project 333: Be More With Less and Project 333 skews more mindful than I generally prefer, but it’s a great challenge (33 items of clothing for 3 months) for those feeling like clutter may be taking over their closet – and their life!
Unfancy: Unfancy is the glossy magazine of capsule wardrobe blogs. If you’re not a tall, thin person in a creative field, you might not have much to gain from her, but Unfancy does show off some cool remix posts that show plenty of ways to re-style the same items.
Treading My Own Path: there’s not much in her capsule wardrobe tag, but I like this blog as a zero waste perspective toward a capsule wardrobe.
As I said, a major FAQ post is coming up after this intro to capsule wardrobes – before then, do you have any questions for me about capsule wardrobes? If you’re old hat at creating capsule wardrobes, do you have any advice for people?