in the wardrobe

Field Guide To: Approaching Your First Capsule Wardrobe

Summer Capsule Wardrobe


If you’ve had any conversations with me about clothes lately, you know I’m all about the capsule wardrobe. Anytime I get a complement on an outfit I say “THANK YOU, it’s part of my 37 piece capsule wardrobe, you-should-totally-try-it, itchangedmylife!” Then I promptly direct them to this blog that is still my go-to resource for sartorial minimalism, and whose guidelines I followed pretty closely for my first capsule wardrobe. I’m seeing more and more talk about capsule wardrobes these days, so today I’m going to share how I approached my very first.

Quickly–why did I decide to minimize my wardrobe? There are several reasons, from a need to be more conscious about my spending habits to a desire to refine my wardrobe without adopting stuffy office attire. But mostly, I just really wanted to live with less. More on this on another day.

My first capsule wardrobe was Fall 2014. I was a month away from starting an internship and I looked in my closet and thought “I have nothing to wear.” The first truth was I had a closet bursting with clothes and a dresser of drawers that couldn’t close. The second truth was that I had plenty to wear, but my best pieces–and those that spoke to my style the most–were just totally cancelled out by the noise of everything else: cardigans that were missing buttons, jeans that hadn’t fit for five years, and a hoard of vintage dresses I was never going to alter.

So I put on some tunes and got to work. I sorted into three piles:

…the “why did I buy this” pile

…the “why am I shoving my body in this, it’s uncomfortable” pile

…and the “not appropriate for that season in Missouri in which it’s supposed to be cold” pile

The out-of-season clothes were stored, but the other items found a temporary home in a laundry basket in the corner of my room. Whatever was left became my first capsule wardrobe. It wasn’t exactly 37 pieces, but it was around there. It wasn’t perfectly coordinated, but most of it worked. And I didn’t 100% love everything that was left, but I had to strike a balance between want to keep/need to keep to make sure I actually had clothes to wear.

Throughout the next three months, I focused on wearing only those clothes from my “capsule” wardrobe, but I also allowed one thing to happen. Anytime I needed or wanted to, I “shopped” from that laundry basket. Sometimes I swapped items out of my capsule, sometimes I just added something outright.

I approached my first capsule wardrobe this way for two reasons. First, I was unable to actually spend money to build a capsule wardrobe at that time. So, I focused solely on paring down and then reworking what was left with the freedom of adding back in anything that piqued my interest again. This is a totally risk-free approach to building a capsule wardrobe. At the end of three months, I learned that I could mix and match a minimal wardrobe with success, but more important to me, my totally true, natural style started to emerge. A lot of black, a lot of skinny jeans, and a lot of ballet flats. And I totally loved it.

Three more capsule wardrobes later, I’ve started to figure out exactly how to make this concept work for me. I now commit fully to a capsule–no laundry basket of “maybes” lurking in the corner. Some capsules have been larger, some smaller. And this fall, I’ll be approaching the timeline very differently by exploring the idea of shopping for seasons that better reflect Missouri weather–like creating a macrocapsule wardrobe for “true winter” and a microcapsule wardrobe for that week or so between winter and spring that makes for a blizzard on a Tuesday with birds chirping you awake on a Wednesday.

So…are you up for trying a capsule wardrobe? If you need further convincing, read Becca’s post on how reducing the amount you own can make you feel awesome!


3 thoughts on “Field Guide To: Approaching Your First Capsule Wardrobe

  1. Kate

    I reeeeaaaallly need to do something like this, but I love the idea of keeping a separate pile/closet of clothes that I can “shop” from. I might have to do some cleaning out for this! 🙂

  2. cathrynannjones Post author

    Kate! I’m so excited. Definitely check out for some really good resources, and I’ll be back with more of my experience here on the blog. Thanks for reading!

  3. Pingback: Meditation, Smoothies + Crystal Jewelry | Danielle Dowling

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