Do Capsule Wardrobes Actually Work?

I hopped on the capsule wardrobe trend two years ago. It took me a few seasons to curate my clothing collection to the point where it might be considered a proper capsule wardrobe, and you can check it out further down. But now that I’ve got it almost nailed down, I thought I’d talk about how successful it’s been.

Black dress with oversized scarf and cross body bag

What is a Capsule Wardrobe?

On the off-chance that you missed that whole thing and want to know what a capsule wardrobe is, it starts with pairing down your wardrobe as much as is practical for you. When Susie Faux coined the term in the seventies, she suggested a basic wardrobe of 12 classic, quality pieces, worn throughout the seasons. You might supplement it with a couple of additional trend-led pieces a couple of times a year, but that was it.

The current capsule wardrobe thing is definitely more generous. A general guide is 30-something pieces of clothing (including shoes and, in some cases, accessories), which can be partially updated each season. The idea is that you stick to a specific colour palette and plan your buying, so that everything co-ordinates with everything else. It’s supposed to be more efficient because you save money, spend less time planning outfits, generally look more put together, and avoid owning things that you never wear or don’t truly love.

Curated wardrobe in restricted colour palette by Ode to Sunday
Clothing collection by Ode To Sunday

Curating a Capsule Wardrobe

You start by getting rid of anything that doesn’t make you feel amazing when you’re wearing it. Boom, done. Then, you pick a colour palette and start curating a wardrobe of coordinating pieces in that palette.

Here’s where the first complication arises. You might be starting a capsule wardrobe from scratch, but you probably already own clothes (just maybe) and they probably don’t all fit into your new limited colour palette.

Spoiler alert: I did indeed own clothes, and they didn’t all co-ordinate. I didn’t bin all of these. There was one maxi dress with a tonne of different colours in it. I liked it a lot, even though it didn’t go with the rest of my olive green / blush pink / neutral colour palette. I kept the dress for two summers, but eventually stopped wearing it because I wasn’t into it anymore. Then I donated it.

If you’re good at being brutal, you could just donate stuff like this at the beginning of the process, but equally, if you don’t want to trash things you love, then fine – hold on to them. It’ll mess up your overall wardrobe co-ordination, but once that clothing has run its course, even if it takes a few years, you can be intentional about replacing it with something that does match, and all will be well with the world your wardrobe again.

So, basically, it’s all good as long as you realise that it’s going to take a while to nail the capsule wardrobe thing properly.

Capsule wardrobe by Amanda Krovic
Image by Amanda Krovic

Maintaining a Capsule Wardrobe

This is where my biggest peeve about the whole thing comes into play. Now, I really love Susie Faux’s intention of carefully selecting a few pieces that will last forever. That’s why I was happy to spend £70 on a pair of jeans. That’s a kind of lot for jeans, man (to me at least). So they should be at least decent, right?

Wrong. Everything is shit quality now and if you own less clothing, you wear things more often, and they fall apart quicker. My £70 jeans ripped at the knee within three months, by the way. I’ve had the same issue with super cheap stuff from places like H&M and with more expensive places like Anthropologie and Mint Velvet (although both brands were really good at offering refunds). My point is, I am waving my cane in the air and saying that they just don’t make stuff like they used to.

Grubby Converse on a pretty rug

Sticking to a Colour Palette

This is where I thought I might have the most issues when I started my capsule wardrobe. Like, am I really going to want to wear the same few colours over and over forever more? Turns out, I’m (almost) totally cool with that. I did expand a smidge on my initial colour palette. There are a few items in blue, which I already owned and still love. I’ll phase the blue out eventually, but for now I’m treating it as an extra neutral, so it works. (That’s what I’m telling myself.)

Speaking of which, perhaps you’d like to see what I’ve been wearing for the last season? Obviously, it would’ve been better to post this in March, because most of it isn’t available anymore, but I’ll link to similar items where I can.

32 Piece Capsule Wardrobe in Olive Green, Blush Pink, Navy and Neutrals

Tops: Pleated tanks | Cream Vest – Hush | Striped Tee | Black Vest

Dresses: Black Shift Dress (similar) | Navy Tank Dress (similar) | Ruched Skirt Dress

Cardigans: Pink Cardigan (similar) | Olive Cardigan (similar)

Shirts: Pink Wrap Shirt (similar) | Chambray Shirt

Jackets: Striped Blazer (similar) | Leather Moto Jacket | Green Bomber Jacket

Pink Jumper (similar)

Bottoms: Olive Harem Trousers | Camo Crops – H&M | Grey Harem Trousers (similar) | Black Biker Jeans (similar)

Scarves: Far right | Others sold out

Shoes: Heels – Clarks | Birkenstocks | Black Sandals | Lace-Up Sandals (similar) | Converse Slip-Ons

Bags: Leather Tote (similar) | Blush Cross-Body Bag

And here are a few of the outfits that those 32 pieces combine to create…

Capsule Wardrobe - Spring Summer 17 - Outfit Combos

So do Capsule Wardrobes Really Work?

Well, yes and no.

Yes, they simplify getting dressed in the morning BUT it takes at least a few seasons to get to that point.

Yes, you look more put together.

Do you spend less money? Probably not, because most things are horrible quality so you have to rebuy anyway.

Do you spend less time shopping? Yes, because you plan out exactly what you need and don’t buy extra stuff you probably won’t wear anyway.

Will I stick with it? Hell yes. Despite my little gripes, I love having a capsule wardrobe. Mainly for the looking-put-together factor, but also because all my clothes fit into less than a third of my closet. A fact I lord over my husband and his twenty-four blue shirts on a regular basis. So if you’re thinking about it, I’d definitely encourage you to just do it. I’m in the process of tweaking mine for Autumn and Winter, and I’m probably way more excited about that than I should be.

Camo crops with cream tank & black infinity scarf

1 Comment

  1. July 6, 2018 / 2:35 pm

    This is lovely, I love my wardrobe to be as simple as possible, I am living in a small apartment and the space is really small.

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