The Capsule Wardrobe Experiment: Getting Started
The Capsule Wardrobe Experiment: an Introduction
The first time I heard of a capsule wardrobe was when I read Lessons from Madame Chic years ago. The author, influenced by French culture, edited her wardrobe down to ten seasonal articles of clothing. TEN! I was both captivated and horrified. How is that possible? Even though the thought of a simplified, yet chic, wardrobe fascinated me, I looked at my closet bursting at the seams and thought, there is NO WAY.
A capsule wardrobe is a limited collection of clothes that you commit to wearing for three months without straying or buying anything new.
Over the years I’ve made various attempts at a capsule wardrobe but never stuck to it for longer than a week. But the more and more stuff I accumulate, not only in my closet but throughout my house, I’m getting ever more disgusted with junk. I crave simplicity and discipline when it comes to spending. I dream of uncluttered spaces and tidy rooms. I love the idea of a cultivated closet - really narrowing down choices to only the most flattering and versatile pieces that I love and embracing the less-is-more approach. Clearly I can’t let this concept go. For the last five years I’ve read books, followed bloggers, listened to podcasts and watched documentaries all surrounding this idea of simplicity and minimalism. And, yet, I still haven’t “put these things into practice” as the Bible verse from James 1:22 says.
But I’m ready. After revisiting my favorite French-inspired books over the summer and listening to Jen Hatmaker’s 7: A Mutiny Against Excess, I’m ready to commit to a season. I mean, if Jen Hatmaker can wear only seven pieces of clothing for an entire month, surely I can edit my closet down to more reasonable numbers.
There are various guidelines for creating a capsule wardrobe and no one “right” way. I’ve read everything from having 10 pieces to 37 pieces - all with varying degrees of what’s permitted. There are many nuances to consider (do shoes count? where do workout clothes fit in?) but we’ll get to that later. For now I’ll share how my capsule wardrobe looks after many many rounds of editing.
5 sleeveless shirts
4 short sleeve shirts
3 long sleeve shirts
3 long-sleeve button downs
1 camo vest
1 black sweater
1 black long-sleeved knit sweater
1 pair khaki shorts (it’s still hot in Texas!)
5 pair jeans (1 black skinny, 1 grey, 2 blue, 1 blue with red stripe)
1 black blazer
1 wild card (Mexican poncho/cape)
30 pieces. That’s what I have for the next three months. Even as I type these final numbers it seems ridiculous that I could not live within these means. I work from home and live in a small town where I don’t even go anywhere. Seriously! What is my problem? I’ve read about corporate women who thrive on a capsule wardrobe. They have big-time places to be and people to see! Not me. This should be easy. And, yet, I feel anxious as I look at all the empty space where clothes used to be. I have removed well over 100 articles of clothing from this closet over the last week. Some I’ve donated, some I’ve thrown away and some I’ve stored for another season. I feel kind of panicky.
Let’s face it, this is a mental game y’all. The actual physical need for clothes can be met easily with just a few items; yet, our closets are jammed full. When I consider the final number of shirts I’ve decided on for this experiment - 15 - I think, how in the world could that not be enough? And do I really need five pair of jeans? (more on that later) In fact I feel kind of loserish, like I should be able to manage on less. But actually looking at what I’ve chosen makes me want to break out in hives. There used to be at least 30 more shirt options and 9 more pair of jeans - even if they weren’t great options, they were options…there just in case, like a security blanket. Ironically, all of this open space in my closet makes me feel restricted and trapped. Where are all of my OPTIONS?
The last time I tried this experiment I lasted about a week. My first fail was caving at Target. I know you sisters feel me when I say that I earnestly believed I needed THAT shirt to complete my life. But in the end, the clincher was my vanity. I was embarrassed that I was repeating my clothes. This from the girl who used to keep a clothes calendar in middle school so she specifically would not repeat outfits too often. True story. I’ve always been a clotheshorse. I’ve always loved shopping. And I can remember that by Day 4 of my last experiment with a capsule wardrobe I wanted to wear a sign around my neck to school pick-up saying:
Hey! I’m doing an experiment. That’s why I’ve worn these shorts four days in a row!
Why do I care that much about what people think? This in itself is another excellent reason for me to take on this challenge. (So when you see me at school pick-up in the same camo button down 80 times over the next three months you’ll know why! LOL)
As I mentioned, there are various templates for doing a capsule wardrobe. There are no hard and fast rules, except the ones you set for yourself. Going through this process has inspired a lot of thoughtful self-examination and contemplation that I’ll be sharing about. Interesting topics include seeking the perfect underwear and letting go of my favorite jeans because my husband said they made my butt look flat. These are important issues, friends. For now I’ll leave you with my “rules,” the goals I have set for myself in this challenge. Again, there’s more to be said about certain things like workout clothes and what I call “spirit shirts” that I’ll cover later.
Chelsea’s Fall Capsule Wardrobe Goals
Choose between 10-37 articles of clothing to wear through November 30th. (This does not include shoes, accessories, underwear, pajamas, coats, “spirit” shirts or workout wear. Hallelujah, but we do have to put some boundaries here.) I ended up with 30 core pieces.
Choose versatile pieces that coordinate and work together.
Dress well daily. Must wear items from the Capsule six days a week. One day a week can be a grace day to stay in workout or lounge wear.
4. Do not shop during this time! No more clothes!
And that’s it! So what do you think? Could you manage this? Want to join me? I’d love some company and accountability! Comment on this post ↓
If you’d like more inspiration here are some of my favorite resources:
Lessons from Madame Chic by Jennifer L. Scott
Unfancy Blog - Caroline Rector
7 - by Jen Hatmaker
Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less - by George McKeown
The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up - by Marie Kondo
https://dailyconnoisseur.blogspot.com/?m=1 - The Daily Connoisseur