Are Capsule Wardrobes All They’re Cracked Up To Be?

This outfit is like the Fast & the Furious series... too many sequels!
This outfit is like the Fast & the Furious series… too many sequels!

Just before I embarked on my honeymoon, I completed my capsule wardrobe challenge. Two+ months of wearing essentially the same 35 things. (You can read about the challenge here).

Wow, I learned a lot.

For example, people don’t notice what you are wearing all that much.

Zero people mentioned that I wore a buffalo check shirt to my brother’s rehearsal dinner…

Ready to party, Paul Bunyan-style!
Ready to party, Paul Bunyan-style!

…to the airport on the way home from my brother’s wedding…

The dog makes almost as many appearances in the pics as this shirt. 
The dog makes almost as many appearances in the pics as this shirt.

…to Thanksgiving…

I really like this shirt.... can you tell?
I really like this shirt…. can you tell?

…and Christmas…

Holding hands/paws for grace.
Holding hands/paws for grace.

… and to work a few times, to a movie, when I filmed my first Hey Eleanor webisode, dinner with friends. I’ve easily worn this shirt 20 times in the past 60 days.

Layering is key!

Wearing a mix of high-quality, luxe-feeling pieces makes you feel really put together, even if you’re dressed casually.

Exhibit A:

Clearly I am trying too hard to look bookish. Patsy is confused. 
Clearly I am trying too hard to look bookish. Patsy is confused.

I started out believing that a capsule wardrobe meant investing in “nice” pieces.

Aka expensive. Truth be told, my two favorite pieces (the buffalo plaid shirt and the grey sweater dress below) came from the Gap & Old Navy, respectively, and cost less than $30 apiece.

My cheapie sweater dress. 
My cheapie sweater dress.

Other notes (many of which I’ve discussed at length in previous posts):

Having less clothing to choose from made my life markedly easier.

It hardly ever took me more than five minutes to pick out my clothes and get dressed in the morning. Once I dialed in a few great outfits, I returned to versions of those over and over again. My morning stress nearly disappeared.

I loved my breezy, mostly empty closet.

I could actually see everything I owned. What a concept.

I just can’t have needy clothes.

For example, this great shirt.

Oh how I love and hate this shirt. 
Oh how I love and hate this shirt.

I loved it. It accidentally wound up in the drier and shrunk. After much hemming and hawing, I decided to replace it. Well, guess what? My husband dried the new one. It shrunk.

You know what I learned? I care more about sharing the laundry responsibilities with Josh than I do about having a few select items that can be machine washed, but not machine dried. So instead of micromanaging the laundry, I’ve decided to avoid “lay flat to dry” items.

So… will I continue with this capsule concept?

To some extent, yes. I have no desire to look through the clothes I put away last November. I don’t even remember what I don’t have in my closet. I’ve spent less money on clothes, less time shopping, more time writing and exercising and substantially less time getting ready.

I’m no longer of the “I need that shirt in every color” or the “you can never have too many jeans” mindset. I just need enough, and enough turns out to be barely any.

However, a strict 35-item rule doesn’t currently work for me. There were still things I wore all the time, and items I hardly ever wore. I think I am still struggling with is the idea of personal style. Do I have one? What is it? I was hoping this would give me a little more clarity in that regard, but it hasn’t. Maybe it’s time I switched my mindset from capsule to uniform.

I just need to make sure my uniform isn’t yoga pants and a sweatshirt.

* * *

Your thoughts on keeping a limited closet? And do you have a uniform? How’d you pick it? I am stumped, but maybe I actually do have one and am not even aware of it.

The best part about this entire challenge was cleaning out my closet. Check out the before and afters and maybe you’ll be inspired to do it, too. And if you are so tired of this stupid topic (honestly, I kind of am! How can people exclusively blog about 30 pieces of clothing?!), here’s a link to an interview I did with a porn star.

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Comments (9)

  • Eliza H. 6 years ago Reply

    I have a capsule wardrobe for my job. I’m a lawyer, and my uniform is dress+jacket at court or at a meeting with a client, dress+cardigan around the office.

    I have three jackets: black, gray, and navy, and three cardigans: black, gray and navy.

    I have 11 sheath-style dresses (three of which are the match to my three jackets so I can wear a full suit). All of my dresses match one of those jackets. I try to buy dresses that are black/gray/navy.

    And not only do I have a capsule wardrobe, I actually wear my dresses in an order! Monday-Thursday^ I grab the first dress in my closet. I organized the order, so there’s variety between suit-dresses and printed-dresses, color (e.g., not three navy dresses in a row), etc. At the end of the day, I put the dress back on the hanger (if it’s not dirty), and put it at the other end of the closet.* The next day, I grab the new "first" dress. There are enough dresses that I’m pretty sure no one knows I wear them in order. And the dresses are similar enough that people kind of don’t notice. It’s my uniform, and it makes my life so easy!

    ^It’s slightly complicated, because on Fridays I wear a weekend dress (from my tiny evening/weekend capsule wardrobe). This solved one of my problems in the beginning of not wanting to wear a really formal dress on a Friday. I also have 11 dresses, not 12, so that the days of the week are staggered, since some clients I only see on Tuesdays, and I only go to court on Mondays, etc. I didn’t want it to be that obvious that I have such a rigid system!

    *I actually labeled my hangers, so if I throw the dress in the laundry or bring it to the dry-cleaners, I still put the hanger at the end of the line so the order is maintained…!

    molly mogren katt 6 years ago Reply

    This is so fantastic. I love it!

    If I had to look nice for work, I think your method is the only way I could do it without going crazy every morning. Figuring out what to wear with jeans every day is hard enough, even when I only have a handful of things to pick from.

    And the odd number of dresses is such a good idea because you don’t want people to start anticipating your outfits… "oh, must be wednesday, Eliza is wearing that tweed number again."

    Thanks for sharing!

  • Shash 6 years ago Reply

    I used to have a capsule wardrobe until i got a big closet AND started doing contract work. Every employer has different standards.
    Pick a color: black, blue, or brown and build your wardrobe based on that color. You can include other colors as long as they can be worn with you’re base color. Never buy something that you cannot match to at least two other wardrobe items that you already own. Always have a good white blouse and a white, long-sleeve tee. The shirts become formal or casual based on accessories or jackets. You’re on your way!

    molly mogren katt 6 years ago Reply

    All great closet rules to live by. I realized when I was traveling earlier this month that I should try to keep most things in my wardrobe to black, white, gray, olive green and denim and build around that. I’m so boring, but I think it’s time i just embrace it. 🙂

  • Justine Smith 6 years ago Reply

    I just began a winter capsule wardrobe on January 1 after finding your blog and Unfancy. I started doing a capsule wardrobe because 1) I was spending way too much time and money shopping and 2) I had a full closet but "nothing to wear."

    For the most part, I absolutely love it! I’m with you on how nice it is to have a closet where you can literally see everything. And it makes picking out clothing SO much easier. I, too, am having struggles though with wearing certain pieces over and over and not wearing some at all. I think that means I know which pieces fit my personal style and I should probably find more things like that.

    It’s kind of crazy that hate that I’ve been hearing about capsule wardrobes. How they’re severe, restrictive on your personal style and make you shop more somehow. I think a capsule wardrobe is whatever the heck you want it to be. If you want to limit yourself to 30 items, that’s awesome, but if 60 is more appropriate for your lifestyle, then go for it.

    Anyway, really enjoyed this post! Loving your blog!


    molly mogren katt 6 years ago Reply

    I’m so glad you tried it!

    It’s sort of like a clothes diet, isn’t it?

  • Neens Bea 5 years ago Reply

    I remember once when I was young and worried about stepping outside in what I was wearing, my mother got fed up with me said: "Do you really think everybody is just staring at you?" It wasn’t a very friendly remark, but it turned out to be a very useful one. I realised quite early that people are far too worried about what they are wearing themselves to pay much attention to what others are wearing. I think I’ve been wearing the same black top to church most Sundays for a year now. Probably combined with the same pair of trousers, too. No one has noticed. 🙂

    molly mogren katt 5 years ago Reply

    I know– it’s a great lesson to learn that none of us are all that important. No one notices you as much as you think!

  • Kristin 5 years ago Reply

    I’m pretty sure I live in your neighborhood and I am ABSOLUTELY sure that I MUST know who cuts your hair. I moved here a year and a half ago and I still save "haircut day" for when I fly back to my old city to visit friends (haven’t had a haircut since May and it is now January…)

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