I’m sure that many of you will be familiar with the concept of the capsule wardrobe. However, if you haven’t, it is essentially is a small collection of pieces (sometimes, but not always, a particular number of items) which can be styled in multiple ways to make up a range of different outfits. As a basic example, think of a skirt, polka dot top, jeans and a t-shirt, heels and ballet flats. Out of the four items you can put together the following eight outfit combinations:
- Jeans, t-shirt and heels
- Jeans, t-shirt and flats
- Jeans, polka dot top, heels
- Jeans, polka dot top, flats
- Skirt, polka dot top, heels
- Skirt, polka dot top flats
- Skirt, t-shirt, heels
- Skirt, t-shirt, flats.
The theory is that a capsule wardrobe makes it easier to get dressed, gives you more outfits with less items, helps you re-style pieces you already have – thus helping you get more than 30 wears out of your clothes. As I mention here, building a slower, more sustainable wardrobe isn’t just about what brands you buy but also your wardrobe practices; how you take care of your clothes, how long they last and how many wears you get out of them. I don’t believe you necessarily have to have a static capsule wardrobe (I certainly don’t) but using these principles has allowed me to build a more cohesive wardrobe overall. So, below, I thought I would share the five step process I followed to build my own capsule wardrobe.
I began building a capsule wardrobe with a spring clean. Why? It allowed me to get a bird-eye view of my wardrobe and to sort the wheat from the chaff. By assessing the clothes I already had I was able to look at what was working and what wasn’t. It also gave me an opportunity to reflect on my purchases – how much have I worn them? Would I buy the same item again? Did I buy something on an impulse or was it a well thought through, intentional purchase? Did it go with other items? By parting with items that no longer serve me and leaving just pieces that I love and wear, decluttering gave me a blank slate to add to.
2. Analyse your existing wardrobe
The next step I took was to analyse my existing wardrobe. I think so often we can focus upon what’s missing from our wardrobes, but sometimes it’s a good idea to take inventory of what’s already there. Many of us probably already have a lot of those “wardrobe basics” which can begin to form the foundations of this capsule wardrobe (think jeans, a white t-shirt, black pants etc). By identifying the basic pieces you already own and experimenting with how many outfits combinations you can make (that you love and which feel like your style) within the confines of your wardrobe you can already begin building your capsule wardrobe immediately without even visiting the shops.
3. Make a list of what's missing
Once you’ve taken inventory of your existing wardrobe it this is when you can take stock of what new items you’d like to add to your wardrobe in the future. Ok, I’ll admit that my approach to lists can be a bit sporadic (I have a tendency lose them) I do like writing a list (on paper or even a mental list will suffice) or making a visual moodboard of those timeless foundational pieces that I still want to acquire (for example a trench coat, a white shirt, a blazer). I find that writing things down makes me less likely (I’m not perfect!) to get side tracked by pretty but one-off impulse buys and instead helps me be more intentional about my purchases and to save for those versatile, long lasting items which make my wardrobe more cohesive overall.
4. Slowly acquire these over time
Although some people do buy the items they are missing immediately – and there’s certainly nothing wrong with this – my process was to acquire these items more gradually over time. This was partly because I didn’t have the budget to buy high quality versions of these timeless pieces all at once so my approach was to slowly save up and add these pieces one at a time (in fact, I’m still adding pieces today). It was also partly because it often took me a while to find an item that fitted well or suited me. Whether you build your capsule wardrobe in one go or add to it gradually over time, the most important things is that you find quality pieces that you love as these will form the foundation of your wardrobe and will hopefully last for years.
5. The "30 wears" and "3 outfit combination" principles
When adding to my capsule wardrobe I like to ask myself whether I will get more than 30 wears out of an item of clothing. and whether there are three different ways I can re-style it. One of the easiest ways to build and add to a capsule wardrobe is to invest in versatile pieces which are easy to mix and match. Asking myself these questions before buying an item helps me to consider whether it will fit within the overarching framework of my wardrobe.