If you are wondering how to start a capsule wardrobe, but aren't sure where to begin, this post will break it down into five simple steps!
Today I'm sharing all about how I simplified my wardrobe, stop shopping for random stuff at TJ Maxx all the time, and created a more sustainable (and economical) closet!
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How To Start A Capsule Wardrobe: Minimalism 101
- How To Start A Capsule Wardrobe: Minimalism 101
- The Backstory on Capsule Wardrobes
- Our Backpacking Trip Abroad
- Minimizing & Cleaning Out The Closet
- Why A Capsule Wardrobe Was Needed
- What is a capsule wardrobe?
- How To Start a Capsule Wardrobe: Five Steps
- Before you begin your capsule: Two Tips
- Step 2: Establish your base color for the capsule wardrobe.
- Step 3: Using your base color to start, add in neutral pieces.
- Step 4: Add in colors, patterns & textures to your capsule.
- Step 5: Accessorize with shoes, scarves, jackets, jewelry, and more!
- Step 6: Store, donate, or put away clothing you aren’t using for this capsule.
- Final Thoughts: Capsule Wardrobes
The Backstory on Capsule Wardrobes
After living out of a backpack for six months on our trip around the globe, I began to see the appeal of being a minimalist. Capsule wardrobes had been on my mind for a while, and embracing the “less is more” mindset became a necessity when we arrived back in the USA.
We came home to the reality, and the anxiety, of all of our crap. Bags and bags of clothes, the belongings we had left behind at my parent’s house, and finally, an overflowing 10-foot by 10-foot storage unit. Once we managed to move all of our items from storage into our much smaller, one-bedroom/one-bathroom apartment with barely any closet space, I quickly realized something.
WE HAD TOO. MUCH. STUFF.
Before we left, Dylan and I did manage to get rid of/sell/donate some things we no longer needed, but it barely put a dent in the seven years of belongings we had accumulated. But when we came back from living nomadically, we weren't the same people that left six months before.
Our Backpacking Trip Abroad
During our travels around the world, we lived out of two backpacks each. By the last month of our trip, we were down to just one per person. Every item had a specific reason for being in our packs. If it didn’t serve a purpose, it didn’t get a spot. And if something was misplaced, it was a really big deal!
When we got our first look at all of the stuff we left behind after six months on the road, it was mind-blowing. It was such an extreme to go from having daily life fitting inside of a bag on your back, and then witnessing, right in front of you, what "normal" used to look like.
Minimizing & Cleaning Out The Closet
Coming back to reality, Dylan and I realized we wanted to carry that minimalist, traveler's mindset into our home and daily life, and we wasted no time.
Together, as we unpacked, we decided to do a better, and more thorough, clean-out of our belongings. With our backpacks in mind and the fact that storage was limited in our new place, it helped make the process much easier.
When Dylan went back to work in July, I slowly, painstakingly went through every box, bin, and bag. I organized items into piles to donate, sell, and throw out. I sold items on Craigslist, ThredUp, and Facebook Marketplace. I participated in BuyNothing Groups and made multiple trips to GoodWill. Slowly, the “stuff” began to reduce and become a lot more manageable.
In total, we got rid of ¼ of the belongings that were in our 10x10 storage unit.
The other aspect of our clean outs that I focused on was the closet, and transforming my disorganized and messy closet into a capsule wardrobe. Here's how I did just that!
Why A Capsule Wardrobe Was Needed
Shopping was always a terrible habit of mine. I never blew my entire paycheck on new clothes, but I didn't have a great method of how I shopped. I frequented TJ Maxx almost every weekend.
But after years of doing the same random shopping trips, my closet and wardrobe had no system. With only a few items that matched, I rarely had enough key pieces to build an outfit. While everything was fashionable trendy, nothing coordinated. So I would say, "I need to go shopping", and buy more random items I thought were cute.
And without fail, every morning before driving to work, I'd find myself in the same spot - standing in my towel, freshly showered, staring at a closet full of clothes, thinking:
“I have nothing to wear."
What is a capsule wardrobe?
A capsule wardrobe is a sustainable method for building a closet wardrobe. By selecting a small group of coordinated pieces that you can mix and match, it's the perfect base to build a closet.
You start with the clothing you already have and pick a season. Then, you decide on a base color, add in some neutral tops/bottoms, and then accessorize with fun colors patterns, prints, shoes, and jewelry. But the key to a capsule wardrobe is this: everything has to coordinate. By specifically choosing pieces that mix and match well together, you give yourself tons of options for outfits!
Building a capsule wardrobe has been the answer to curb my old shopping habits. Getting ready in the morning now takes a few seconds, and I can always find something to wear. For the most part, I stick to my capsule's color scheme and never run out of options.
Note: this is my capsule wardrobe, and might look different from others. There are some that are more in-depth than this, or others that are more minimalist. Take whatever inspiration you need from this post to start your own capsule wardrobe!
Here's my five step system for how to start a capsule wardrobe!
How To Start a Capsule Wardrobe: Five Steps
Before you begin your capsule: Two Tips
Before you build a capsule wardrobe, I highly advise you to do two things: assess the clothing items you already have, and decide on your season.
First, take a good look at the clothing you own. Spread out everything on your bed, couch, or floor - you want to have everything within eyesight to see all of it when choosing your pieces.
Next, think about the time of year for your capsule wardrobe. I started this process in September and planned my capsule wardrobe for the fall/winter season. This means I will be using long pants, a few capris, cardigans, and boots, while keeping shorts, tanks, and sandals packed away until the warm weather returns.
Step 2: Establish your base color for the capsule wardrobe.
Now, with your season in mind and all of your clothing within eyesight, it's time to establish a base color for your capsule.
This base color will help everything coordinate and stick to a theme. Most capsule wardrobes recommend you choose either navy blue or black. I saw an overwhelming amount of black in my closet, making it an easy choice. From here, I started taking the pieces that were black and placed them on hangers back in my closet.
Step 3: Using your base color to start, add in neutral pieces.
The next step is to add neutral-toned items that match with black or navy blue, such as white, beige, gray, and chambray. These can be tops or bottoms - pick whichever ones you like!
The key for starting a capsule wardrobe is that we want to make it as simple and easy as possible when picking out outfits. To do that, we need enough neutral toned pieces that can go with patterns/florals/prints, to balance them out. I always had too many patterns, not enough neutrals, hence my complaints about having a closet packed full with nothing that matched!
Step 4: Add in colors, patterns & textures to your capsule.
To make your capsule wardrobe unique to you, add in some pieces that are seasonal, a pop of color, texture, or patterns! This is a chance to make things fun, and let your own style come through. I love floral print tops, so I made sure to add those. Try a colored cardigan, a striped shirt, or other patterns too.
Step 5: Accessorize with shoes, scarves, jackets, jewelry, and more!
At this point, you can add in shoes (make sure you have some in neutral colors to make it easy), scarves, denim jackets or other outerwear, and fun jewelery!
Step 6: Store, donate, or put away clothing you aren’t using for this capsule.
After selecting items for your capsule wardrobe, see what's leftover. If it seems like you could reduce or purge a few things, consider reading Tidying Up with Marie Kondo, (it's life-changing) selling some pieces, or donating to those in need. Then, store whatever items you don't need for this capsule/season that you plan to keep.
I placed all of my spring and summer attire in a duffel bag, including my sandals, shorts, and tank tops. Then, when the weather warms up, I will repeat this process again, and store my fall/winter clothes instead.
Here's a look at my final fall capsule wardrobe!
With the items above, I can mix and match your outfits and build any fun outfit I want. Everything goes together because I've planned and organized it that way, which makes getting ready a breeze! There's nothing to worry about, no real decision-making to be done, and it keeps things simple. The best part is - if I want to add to this capsule, I can, as long as it coordinates in some way.
Final Thoughts: Capsule Wardrobes
When learning how to start a capsule wardrobe, you might feel like you are doing it wrong. But you aren't! There's no right or wrong way to go about this. Do whatever works for you and makes you happy. This process isn't set in stone - feel free to experiment and see what works for you.
If you find you are lacking key pieces to make this long-term minimal wardrobe work, go for it! It's okay to not have everything in your closet right away. I made a few small purchases for some neutral items (what I was lacking) that have helped me mix and match with ease.
I'm happy to report that to build my capsule wardrobe for the fall season, I only spent $80, and it lasted me for 4 months (September - December). In the winter, I put away the capris and purchased a few additional pants/long sleeve shirts, which cost $110. The winter capsule wardrobe lasted me from January until May.
That's less than $200 for 9 months of outfits, when I used to spend that much on clothes every few weeks. Isn't that crazy?
Capsule wardrobes aren't only minimalist and more sustainable, but when you approach them this way, more economical. Make sure to evaluate & use what you have in your closet first, before making any new purchases. Upcycle what you own and bring it to life once more. To be even more sustainable, consider purchasing second-hand clothing from thrift stores before buying new.
Now you should have the tools for how to start your own capsule wardrobe this season! I'd love to see how yours looks and what pieces you chose. Please let me know if you have any questions or would like to see an update with a spring/summer capsule too!
What are your thoughts on capsule wardrobes & embracing a minimalist mindset?
Have you ever started a capsule wardrobe?
Let me know in the comments!
Jennifer Scott says
Thank you! I've been needing a change to my wardrobe and wasn't sure how to go about it. Appreciate the time you took to write this out!
Jennifer Fitzpatrick says
You're very welcome, Jennifer! It's still my go-to way of buying clothes and it's been over two years since I started. Good luck and I hope it's helpful for you!