How to Create a Capsule Wardrobe


I have always been fascinated by capsule wardrobes. How could someone have so few clothes but still be so well dressed?

It was a mystery.

But, to be fair, it was a mystery to me how anyone could dress so well.

My wardrobe was a hot mess. Before I found minimalism, I had no real sense of style. Every time I'd step into a store, I'd be all over the place with my clothing choices.

Maybe I'm this person? Could I pull off this style? What's even "in" right now?

I had a lot of options in my closet, but the problem was I didn't know how to put any of them together. I had 4 or 5 standard outfits (that friends of mine put together for me) and that's what I wore 85% of the time.

The other 15% I looked like a mess.

But even with those few outfits I knew worked, getting dressed took forever. I would still try on several outfits before deciding on the same old thing I always wore.

(How do colors even work?)

And the amount of laundry I had? Don't get me started.

Now, I only have 40 pieces in my wardrobe. That doesn't include pajamas, coats, and workout clothing, but does include accessories and shoes.

I know that doesn't sound like very many things, but I assure you it's plenty. And it makes getting dressed in the morning a breeze, even for someone as fashion challenged as me.

Choose Your Base

When you start building your tiny wardrobe, you want to start by picking your base. This will be either navy or black.

I suppose you could have both in your wardrobe, but typically you don't want to wear navy and black at the same time. The point of your capsule wardrobe is to be able to grab any combination from your closet and have an outfit that works.

Personally, I'm not a navy person. So I chose black as my wardrobe base. I wear a lot of black anyway, so that worked out great. 

All of my basic items are black: camis, pencil skirt, t-shirts, most dresses... Anything you can add layers too, make sure those are your base color.

Add on the neutrals

Once you have all your basics in your base color, you're ready to start adding some variety. Remember: neutrals are your friends.

My closet has 2 colors in it. Almost everything is neutrals which I don't actually consider "colors" when it comes to clothes.

You may be thinking that sounds so boring

I promise it's not. I find dressing in mostly black makes me feel incredibly classy. But the real seller of having mostly neutrals is that I can go to my closet, grab any two items of clothing, and know that I'll be able to wear them together.

Everything matches everything else.

This doesn't mean that your entire closet needs to be neutrals. We'll get to colors in a minute. But having a good selection of neutrals is going to make it easier to make outfit combinations later.

Pick your colors

Aside from the neutrals, I have a few items that are either a deep burgundy red or a feminine dusty-rose, and usually those colors come in the form of floral print.

For those of you who knew me at any point between ages 10 and 25, you know very well that I was not shy about my dislike for the color pink in any shade.

The colors in my wardrobe surprise me as well. I'll tell you how I got to those colors a little later.

When you start adding some color to your wardrobe, it really helps to have a color scheme in mind. Because I only have 2 colors in my closet, and they go well together, I can still grab any combination of clothes and have a decent outfit. 

That's the goal here. 

You don't have to stick with just two colors. You can pick whatever makes you happy. Maybe you love neon color, or maybe anything subdued and earthy. Whatever colors you love add them to your wardrobe.

I love adding color to my outfit using scarves, jewelry, cardigans... anything I can layer over my neutrals.

My wardrobe didn't become what I wanted it to be overnight. Even now there are things I don't wear, things I don't love, and things I'd like to switch up in the future.

It's a process. Be patient with yourself.

Toss anything that does't fit or has holes in it

This is by far the easiest tip for cleaning out your closet. And the most obvious.

Go through your clothes and get rid of everything that doesn't fit, has holes, things you had hopes of repurposing, and anything you really just find to be ugly.

(We all have those things).

This is the easiest step because you probably don't even wear any of the things you'll end up tossing. So you won't miss them.

Anything that is in disrepair, throw right in the trash. If you have things that are still in good condition, donate or sell those. Feel free right now to keep your sentimental clothing.

I still have some sentimental items hidden in my closet because I don't quite feel ready to get rid of them.

Now, for those of you who are holding on to clothes that don't fit now but you're hoping they'll fit one day, I encourage you to get rid of those clothes. They're only bringing you down. You don't need that kind of negativity in your life.

If you need more convincing, please read this Buzzfeed article. It'll help put things in a different perspective.

Turn all your hangers around

This is probably my favorite way to clean out the closet. It's simple and easy, but it does take a bit a longer. 

Turn all of your hangers backwards.

Your OCD is going to go crazy, but bare with me.

As you wear things, put them back in the closet facing a normal direction. After 2 or 3 months, anything on a hanger that is still facing backwards is something you haven't worn. It's safe to say you can probably don't need those items.

Now, please use common sense with this method.

If it's summer time, you're not going to be wearing your sweaters or winter coats. There will be some seasonal clothes that you probably won't wear in the couple months you do this exercise, but that doesn't mean you need to toss them.

Unless, of course, you have 5 winter coats like I did. At that point, it's probably safe to donate a few.

Some people use this method over the course of 6 months to cover more seasons.

I don't have that kind of patience. I only do 3 months at a time.

A fun side effect is that you'll start to notice trends in what you're wearing. For me, the clothes I was wearing the most were, more or less, all the same colors. That's how I was able to decide on my capsule wardrobe color palette.

What colors are you wearing the most? 

Repeat as often as necessary. I do this a couple times a year and every time there are things I don't even think about wearing. Even with a wardrobe as small as mine. 

Only keep what you love

After you've narrowed down your closet a bit, you can start thinking about which items you actually love. Which ones made you feel good when you wear them? Those are the clothes you should keep.

Everything else can be donated or put in the back of the closet until you're comfortable getting rid of them.

An effective method for this is take everything out of your closet. Everything. Lay it all on the bed.

If everything is on your bed, you have to finish your project before you can go to sleep. Talk about incentives!

Start by grabbing the items you love, Those are the clothes that make you feel like a million bucks. Put those back in the closet.

Then grab the things you like and wear often and put those things back in the closet. Take anything else that is "essential" but maybe you want to replace, and put those in the closet, but to one side.

Anything that is left on the bed can go far, far away.

And if you're feeling uncertain about anything? Try it on! 

Other ideas to Try

Another closet cleaning method I sometimes try is just seeing how little I can live with for a month. 

Grab your favorite things and some essentials (we're talking bare minimum here) and put everything else in the back of the closet.

Live with what you have out for a month. If something you put in the back really nags at you that you need it, put it back in your wardrobe. At the end of the month, if you don't miss any of you other clothes, donate them.

When I tried this, I didn't even notice that I'd removed clothes by the end of the month. 

After I'd tried this a couple times, I stumbled across Project 333. It's the same idea but you limit yourself to 33 items. If having a set standard and some rules help you out, then you'll want to go read about that!

I like to make my own rules. I'm a rebel. I never included shoes or accessories in my living with less exercises, but I think it would be fun to try.

Go at your own pace

Creating a minimal wardrobe isn't meant to be an exercise in suffering.

This is meant to free you and bring you joy. Only do as much as you're comfortable with. And don't be in a hurry.

Minimalism isn't a race. It's a journey. Go at whatever pace works for you.

If you do decide to clean out your closet, or if you find another method that works for you, congratulations! Share your success with us!

There can never be too many success stories.

And, of course, once you clean out your closet, the goal is to keep it cleaned out.

There's not point in getting your wardrobe down to just a few items if you're going to go out shopping and just fill your closet back up again. Shopping takes me forever now, and I've made a list of questions I ask myself before I buy anything!

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