Closet

How to create a capsule wardrobe (or just make more room in your closet)

Do you find that even though your closet is stuffed with clothes, you tend to wear the same things on repeat? We gravitate towards the items that are most comfortable, or versatile, or that make us look and feel good, and tend to wear the rest infrequently. What if ALL your clothes were your favorites? Sound good? You might be ready for a capsule wardrobe. A capsule wardrobe is a small wardrobe of versatile pieces that can easily be mixed and matched to suit any occasion. It saves you time and mental energy (we already have enough decisions to make in a day!) when you are choosing what to wear, it fosters greater sartorial creativity, and allows you to have your own “signature style.” Years ago I discovered The Uniform Project, a blog by Sheena Matheiken, in which she wore the same black dress every day for a year, creatively reinventing it over and over with an arsenal of accessory items. (You can check out the video collage of all her looks here. ) Her project is on the extreme end of minimalism, but still I was incredibly inspired, and saw that I could definitely do without some of the things cluttering up my bloated closet. I am not going to declare that your wardrobe needs to have a set number of items (I’ve heard 37 is the standard… that seems a bit arbitrary to me!) How much, and what you want to keep are very personal decisions, and will vary from person to person (and will even change for you over your lifetime). Here are some guidelines that will help you figure out what works best for you when paring down your wardrobe.


First, go through your closet and find your favorite items, the clothes that you wear the most.

Set these clothes aside, to use as a starting point for your wardrobe. What do these items have in common? Are they flattering shapes? Do you love the colors or patterns? Are they soft against your skin? By really tuning in to what you like, you can later avoid the temptation of buying something flashy or the latest fad when you’re at the store. If you stay true to your taste, you will be happy with what you choose and get a lot of use out of it.

Let go of clothing that is ill-fitting or just not “quite right.”

If something is uncomfortable, or makes you feel unattractive, why keep it around? Remember, you want every item in your closet to make you look and feel your best, otherwise, what’s the point? We often stubbornly hold onto things we bought on a whim because of “sunk cost” (“I paid a lot of money for this, so I’m going to keep it even if I don’t really like it.”) Get rid of it already! It’s causing you more distress by keeping it around.

Let go of clothing that needs repair or requires accessories you don’t have.

The other category of unused clothing is the “this would be great if…” category. This is clothing that might need some buttons sewn on it, some repairs or tailoring, or maybe has a stubborn stain that needs special treatment. How long have these items been hanging around unused? Give yourself a deadline of a week to fix these issues, and if you haven’t gotten to it by then, it’s time to let it go. The same goes for pieces that you don’t wear because you need to buy other things in order to wear it-a matching top, or bottom, or the right shoes...You want your clothing to be immediately useable and versatile.

Remove off-season clothing from your closet and store it elsewhere.

Having ALL your clothing displayed at once makes for a cluttered and chaotic closet, and can make choosing what to wear unnecessarily overwhelming. Box up your off-season clothing (it helps to roll, rather than fold and stack items) in sturdy plastic bins and store them outside of your closet (if possible). This has the added benefit of making the clothes feel new again when it’s time to open the box for a new season. It’s like reuniting with an old friend you haven’t seen in a while!

Figure out what categories of clothing you need and how much you will keep/acquire for each of these.

Do you need clothes for work? Play? Working out? A specific hobby? How much do you realistically need for each of these categories. If you go to the gym twice a week, you may not need 30 pairs of yoga pants. There may be some overlap between the categories. With a really versatile wardrobe you can change the look of an outfit to fit multiple occasions.

Decide on your “look,” and supplement your wardrobe with a few pieces for the season.

For each season, figure out the styles of clothing that flatter you, and get multiples of, or variations on these shapes. Choose a color scheme that will allow you to mix and match items. This doesn’t mean you have to wear all black or some other “neutral”. Having a few items that “pop” keeps things interesting. Or maybe you love layering different bright colors and patterns. You do you! You want to build up some “classic” items that will be your staples, and then supplement each season with some new items (the fun part, yay!). When shopping for new pieces, remember your criteria for clothes that make you feel good, and consider how each new piece will integrate into your wardrobe.

Experiment with accessories.

Yes, I’m going to sound like a cheesy teen magazine right now, but accessories can really help to stretch your wardrobe, and prevent you from getting bored with your closet. Jewelry, scarves, tights, shoes, belts, layered clothing...there’s so much you can use to enhance or transform what you already have.

Go easy on yourself.

You absolutely do not need to whittle your clothing down to 10 items. Creating a capsule wardrobe can take some time and experimentation. It should be fun, and not stressful! As you get better at figuring out what you need, you will find it easier to pare down.