capsule wardrobe | what and why?

Simplicity.  Necessity.  Style.  Freedom.  Purpose.  

These are words that have been used frequently in our home for the past two years as we strive to live this lifestyle.  About a year and half ago, we started Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University... life changing and I cannot recommend it enough.  About six months ago, my oldest sister Katie started sharing inspiring lessons from Joshua Becker's becoming minimalist blog and we have been renovating and recreating our home and life.  While we still have a ways to go to create the life of a minimalist, our quality of life has improved SO much.

About a month ago while chatting about a simplified life with friends over dinner, my friend Lindsay asked if I had heard of a capsule wardrobe.  As she explained it to me, I was so intrigued and thought, "Yes!  I need this in my life!"

The next day, I found myself on Caroline Rector's blog reading all about it.  She puts a call out for a challenge and I was ready to take it!  Right then and there!  BUT, I was knee deep in our master bedroom renovation so it would have to wait awhile.

Here's a little history on the Capsule Wardrobe:

The term "capsule wardrobe" was coined by Susie Faux, owner of the West End boutique "Wardrobe", in the 1970s to refer to a collection of essential items of clothing that would not go out of fashion, and therefore could be worn for multiple seasons. The aim was to update this collection with seasonal pieces to provide something to wear for any occasion without buying many new items of clothing. Typically, Faux suggests that a woman's capsule wardrobe contain at least "2 pairs of trousers, a dress or a skirt, a jacket, a coat, a knit, two pairs of shoes and two bags".

The concept of a capsule wardrobe was popularised by American designer Donna Karan in 1985, when she released her "7 Easy Pieces" collection. Her aim was to fill what she referred to as "a void in the marketplace" for a stylish and practical wardrobe designed with working women in mind. When the collection debuted, she showed eight models dressed only in bodysuits and black tights. The models then began to add items of clothing such as wrap-skirts, trousers, and dresses, to demonstrate her interchangeable style of dressing.

As a term, "capsule wardrobe" is widely used in the fashion media; for instance, the fashion sections in British newspapers The Independent and The Daily Telegraph have recently run dedicated capsule wardrobe features, as well as British Marie Claire and Elle magazines, among others. The concept has been further popularised by several television programmes, including Trinny and Susannah's 'What Not to Wear', which aired on the BBC 2001–2007, and Gok's Fashion Fix, which aired on Channel Four from 2008 onwards. Presenter and stylist Gok Wan asserts that a capsule wardrobe is an especially important tool in a recession as it allows people to look good on a small budget.  This is perhaps part of the reason that the idea has endured since its conception in the 1970s.

General Rules

  • Choose a colour scheme. This would typically involve choosing one or two base colours that go with everything, such as black, white, brown, grey, or navy. Items such as trousers, handbags or coats would be bought in shades of these colours, so that they can be put with anything else in the wardrobe. After choosing the base colours, choose one or two accent colours, which are brighter than the base colours, and co-ordinate with each other.  These would typically be used for items such as tops, dresses, or accessories; once a colour scheme is established, all the items in a wardrobe should be interchangeable, as the colour of the pieces always complement each other.
  • Consider your body shape.  Some cuts of clothing are more flattering than others; for instance, stylists often advise that women with wider hips wear cap sleeves, as they make the shoulders appear wider, and more proportionate to the hips. If the items of clothing chosen are flattering, the wearer is more likely to want to keep them in their wardrobe.
  • Consider your complexion. As with cuts of clothing, some colours are more flattering than others, to both skin tone and body shape. If the colours are well-chosen, then the items are more likely to remain in favour.
  • Choose classic shapes and patterns.  While some cuts and patterns of clothing go in and out of fashion, others are considered 'classic' because they do not date. It is wise to choose classic pieces for a capsule wardrobe, as the wearer intends to keep them for a number of years.
  • Choose high-quality fabrics.  As the idea of a capsule wardrobe is to own a few items of clothing that can be worn different ways, individual pieces get lots of wear. Therefore, it is a good idea to choose clothing that is well made and continues to look good despite wear.

When I saw this quote (and her awesome branding) on, it was love at first sight.  As I read on, I loved her modern take on the capsule wardrobe.  She's also as cute as a button and I kind of feel she could just have one item in her closet, a paper bag, and be adorable every day:

Here is her challenge:

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Rule #1: Pare down your current clothes situation into a happy little 37 piece capsule wardrobe. Your 37 pieces should include: tops, bottoms, dresses, outerwear, and shoes. Your 37 pieces should not include: workout clothes, jewelry, accessories, purses, swimsuits, pajamas/loungewear, underwear, and the jeans you wear when you paint your living room.

Why 37? After trying out different numbers, I settled on 37 because of how it broke down in each category. For example, I knew I wanted 9 pairs of shoes, 9 bottoms, and 15 tops. Then the remaining 4 were just enough for 2 dresses and 2 jackets/coats. To me it feels generous yet minimal.

And honestly? The point of this is just to try something new if we don’t like our current closet situation — it’s not about getting obsessed with a number. If 37 isn’t your thing, find a number that’s right for you.

Rule #2: Wear only these 37 pieces for 3 months–what I refer to as a season. I split up my seasons like this: Winter (Jan-March), Spring (April-June), Summer (July-September), Fall (October-December). And remember, since accessories aren’t included in your capsule wardrobe, you can mix them in to your heart’s content. Yay.

Rule #3: Enjoy your capsule wardrobe, and don’t go shopping during the 3 month season. Like, at all. That is, until you get to Rule #4…

Rule #4: During the last week or two of the season, plan + shop for next season’s capsule wardrobe.

Rule #5: Okay, not really a rule, but still really important! The amount that you buy for each new season is up to you, but remember, this is a minimalist challenge. So, less is more, you know? That being said, style should be fun and picking out a few new pieces for my next season is my favorite part. I typically end up getting between 4-8 new pieces for each new season.

See more details and get more helpful info here.

I will be sharing my fall capsule wardrobe with you tomorrow and be posting the adventures with you under the category capsule wardrobe.  I am pretty excited about taking on this challenge and hope some of you will join me in the journey of "less is more"!

fashionJanie EdwardsComment