My accidental capsule wardrobe.

My accidental capsule wardrobe.

The “capsule wardrobe” isn’t new, although it hasn’t gotten much buzz until the past few years.

The phrase was coined 40 years ago by London boutique owner Susie Faux to describe a woman’s core collection of wardrobe essentials: the basic pieces that wear well and remain stylish, season after season. The capsule is the foundation; women keep their wardrobes current by adding seasonal pieces to this core.

Faux called the capsule wardrobe a vital starting point for women who are serious about developing their sense of style.

Numerous style bloggers are riffing the capsule wardrobe these days. Un-Fancy built a blog on it.

At first glance, it seems like the capsule wardrobe would be up my alley.

Buy less, choose well: words to live by and the real magic of the capsule wardrobe

I love the idea of tightly constricting my wardrobe, in order to simplify my life and maximize productivity—to minimize decision fatigue and conserve my mental energy for the things that matter, and does what I wear every day really matter?

Every time I read about a blogger’s capsule wardrobe project, I can’t help but picture Caroline Ingalls and her fancy dress. Her one fancy dress:

Ma’s delaine dress was beautiful. It was a dark green, with a little pattern all over it that looked like ripe strawberries. A dressmaker had made it, in the East, in the place where Ma came from when she married Pa and moved out west to the Big Woods in Wisconsin. Ma had been very fashionable, before she married Pa, and a dressmaker had made her clothes. 

I love the capsule wardrobe concept, but not the idea of creating one. It’s not that I mind restricting my closet, not at all. It’s the thought and effort that goes into constructing these wardrobes that makes me want to run for the hills. (Or straight to the Big Woods, where I’d have exactly one fancy dress.)

my accidental capsule wardrobe

The capsule wardrobe proponents of the blogosphere lovingly curate their 37 pieces. They rave about the ability to mix and match to their hearts’ desires. They write about how much their bold experiments are teaching them.

But here’s the thing: I don’t wear my clothes in infinite combinations: I wear them in just a handful. I like it that way.

I don’t need a closet project and I don’t want to push the limits of my personal style. I just want to get dressed in the morning, with as little conscious thought as possible.

I was talking through this with Will the other night, and he asked me: How many clothes do you actually have?

I went to count them. In my closet right now, for the winter season, I have:

• 5 blouses: 3 everyday, 1 special occasion, 1 from Stitch Fix that I haven’t even worn yet
• 5 jackets: 3 jackets, 2 blazers
• 5 tees
• 5 sweaters: 3 lightweight; 2 chunky
• 1 button-down (it should be 2, but my favorite flannel is AWOL)
• 2 dresses
• 1 pencil skirt
• 6 pairs of pants: denim skinnies, tan skinnies, 2 pairs black skinnies, denim trouser jeans, bootleg jeans, and red skinnies I never wear (I got rid of several pairs of colored skinnies after reading this book, because they were complicating my mornings instead of bringing me joy)
• 7 pairs of shoes: gold flats, black flats, brown boots, black boots, green Hunters, and black Danskos

After a few years of deliberately buying quality, I don’t need quantity. I have 37 items in my closet right now: the exact number of items many of these modern capsule wardrobe experiments employ.

my accidental capsule wardrobe

The capsule wardrobe-ers emphasize the freedom of wardrobe scarcity. But here’s the thing: my wardrobe of 37 items doesn’t feel scarce to me. At all. I have 37 items that I love to wear (okay, 36—curse you, red skinnies!)

I feel like I have a ton of clothes. More than enough. Possibly too many.

Despite the fact that I have 37 pieces in my closet, I wear pretty much the same thing every day: a top and a bottom. Gold flats are my default; boots if it’s freezing, Hunters if it’s raining, Danskos if I’m walking the dog. If I’m going fancy, I wear a dress. (One-piece dressing at its finest.)

Most of my 37 pieces are in neutrals, so I add a necklace or a scarf. That’s the kind of morning decision I can handle.

I find having the right wardrobe extremely liberating. But if my 37 items consisted of numerous pieces that I could endlessly mix and match, it wouldn’t feel freeing. It would make me crazy.

I have an accidental capsule wardrobe, but it’s not the capsule part that’s magic: it’s the uniform.

(I would very much like to refine that uniform further for even easier mornings. I’ll keep you posted.)

I’d love to hear your thoughts and tips for capsule wardrobes and personal uniforms in comments. 

capsule wardrobe

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147 comments

    • I have. My kids have 5 or less of shirts and pants. The girls have more dresses, but really, it saves on laundry and decisions. Plus my kids already had a tendency to wear, wash, repeat-the same 2-3 outfits, no matter how much they had in their closets.

      • Anne says:

        “My kids already had a tendency to wear, wash, repeat-the same 2-3 outfits, no matter how much they had in their closets.”

        This describes my boys perfectly! My girls mix it up a bit more.

        • One week, when I wasn’t paying attention, my 5-year-old son wore the same pants 6 out of 7 days, and probably the same shirt too for most of those. Oops! My friend just gave me a huge bag of hand-me-downs for him, and I’m dreading going through it. The bag itself is the size of his dresser.

  1. Ashley says:

    My mom and I were just talking about this yesterday. The idea that a capsule wardrobe addresses the quantity in your closet, and a uniform is about your style.

    I find having rules (ie never buying a crew neck despite loving them because they look horrible on) helps curb shopping and pairing down your current wardrobe.

    I have also been bagging up lots of clothes to donate and skim down my closet. But I haven’t actually donated anything yet. I find I am more ruthless and am getting rid of more knowing that my things aren’t really gone yet. But so far I haven’t even thought about a single item I’ve bagged up, so off they will go!

  2. Sarah says:

    I recently realized one common theme among proponents of the capsule wardrobe: they work from home. In an office setting where people see me five days a week, the capsule wardrobe seems not only limiting, but also ridiculous.

    There, I said it.

    If you happen to know anyone who has written about her experience with a capsule wardrobe that works for going to an office five days a week, I’d love to read it!

    • Sarah says:

      PS…did that sound harsh? I hope not. I didn’t mean it that way! I love your accidental capsule, and I think the idea of a personal uniform is something I need to explore!

    • Anne says:

      That’s interesting. I assume you’re thinking about the internet capsule wardrobe projects? Because professional wear lends itself quite well to the original capsule philosophy (circa 1970s): well-made, neutral basics that you jazz up with accessories and a few choice seasonal pieces.

      (And check out the links shared here in comments!)

      • Bonnie says:

        I think we would all be surprised at how little attention most people pay to what we wear. And I’m guessing they care even less than that.

        • Jennifer H says:

          I am sure you are right. I work 3, sometimes 4 days a week in an office. I have 3 pairs of work pants that I rotate, all in neutrals, and probably 6 work tops, with 2 jackets that I rotate around (not wearing a jacket every day). Sometimes when I feel like I am always wearing the same thing, I’ll throw in something “new” from the closet I only wear once a month or so because I don’t love it. But I am sure that most people in my office don’t really notice my clothes – I know I don’t notice theirs.

          • Anne says:

            “But I am sure that most people in my office don’t really notice my clothes – I know I don’t notice theirs.”

            Yep. 🙂

    • Dorothy K. says:

      “In an office setting where people see me five days a week, the capsule wardrobe seems not only limiting, but also ridiculous.” I totally agree and don’t think it sounds harsh. I work in an office environment that is pretty business-casual at the moment. I know that I probably have too many choices in my closet at this point and need to weed before I add anything else new. Personally I love to shop at thrift/consignment/resale shops which do not break the bank, but give me unique pieces to complement what I already own. I also try to look for scarves, jewelry and other accessories to change up my look. Limiting myself to 37 pieces might feel like I’m on a very strict diet – starvation even! 😉

      • Ed Archer says:

        I work in an office, and have a job where I regularly present at conferences, attend evening receptions and events at Westminster. And for a whole year to raise money for the charity I work for I’m limiting my wardrobe to 35 items. I have been at it for nearly 7 weeks now, and besides the people that know about the fundraising and read my blog. NO_ONE has noticed. It’s a lesson in humility really – people notice loads less than you think they will.

          • Ed Archer says:

            Yep. People have noticed I’m wearing less vintage (didn’t think those 40 year old frocks could stand up to daily wear), but less variety, no.

            It’s actually been great for me (or for the charity) because I’m donating the money I save on clothes to them. I used to buy a new frock almost every time I had to speak publicly because I thought that was the done thing – & most of my formal dresses I kind of hate. This year I’m rotating 2 formal and 2 smart formal dresses that I really love with 2 skirts, 1 pair of jeans and a couple of tops – and apparently that’s fine! What a relief – I basically never have to panic buy again!

    • Kelty says:

      You’re absolutely right. I had that conclusion before I even saw your comment. I’m able to wear about 5 main outfits because as a WAHM mom, almost nobody sees me every day but my husband and kids.

    • That totally makes sense. It’s one of the FAQ’s on Un-fancy.com, which is the resource I’ve used for capsule wardrobe stuff. Here’s what she says:

      Try applying the general concept, but build two capsule wardrobes — one for work and one for home. Choose a number that’s right for you + your capsules. You could also try splitting them into 2 seasons instead of 4.

      Maybe that helps!

    • Courtney says:

      If I can chime in, I had a capsule wardrobe at my last office job (professional dress – no business casual). I actually had fewer items than Anne listed above! I only had three pairs of work pants – 2 black, 1 gray – and maybe 5-10 colorful tops that went with those pants. I wore the same pair of black flats everyday.

      If anyone ever noticed that I wore the same clothes all the time, they certainly never said anything to me about it! On the contrary, I received quite a few compliments on my clothes. I should note, too, that I’m in my 20s and I care about a professional presentation and some level of style, so this is definitely doable for the younger set as well. People notice what you’re wearing day to day much less than you think. 😉

      • Sarah says:

        I can see how a business professional environment would lend itself to the capsule much better than business casual. Perhaps I should adopt a business professional dress code even though the office doesn’t require it. Thanks for sharing your experience!

      • dori says:

        From my experience, people notice…I work in an environment were jeans are the daily basics, but I hear comments regarding other colleagues…and they are nasty.Some women comment on the clothes worn by other women (if they wear a pair of shoes for 3 years, if they saw the same blouse worn 2 times in a week).I know that is not their business and I don’t have more than 50 pieces I wear, but the comments are there.

    • Alissa says:

      I work 4 days a week out of the house and 1 day from home. I have blogged about my winter capsule here: https://lifeonlakeland.wordpress.com/2015/01/06/winter-capsule-reveal/ and my fall capsule here: https://lifeonlakeland.wordpress.com/category/what-i-wore/
      My office is business casual, although on fridays we can pay to wear jeans. And I agree people notice what you wear much less than you think.
      With my current winter capsule I am up to 36 different combinations of outfits.

    • Lea Colvill says:

      I have worn a capsule wardrobe for about 15 years and have worked in retail, schools and church offices. (Admittedly, I called it something else.) I started with black, white and red. I found this too limiting in the summer. So I added whatever shade of green was “in” that year. I picked patterns on the bottom but solids on the top. My experience is that I was willing to make bold choices because they were in my palate. I can whip through a department store, catalog or thrift store. I have walked away from clothes that were nice but too much trouble to add to my mix. That said, I have felt really put together. My dear friend’s adult daughters and some colleagues have teased me a little –until they tried my method. It is particularly helpful when a person is changing sizes. I have also used this method with my grade-school-age daughter.

  3. Julie R says:

    What, Jillian said. I had no idea how much of parenting young children is clothing management. Do you have any tips for simplifying wardrobes for kids?

    • Anne says:

      Yes! That’s a good post topic for another day. But in a nutshell: 1. Limit the choices! and 2. Buy stuff that coordinates so kids can mix and match. (That is, so kids don’t end up wearing a plaid shirt with striped pants. 🙂 )

      • Dorothy K. says:

        I might add (IMHO as the mother of 2 grown boys) buy sale items in multiple colors and sizes, because kids grow like weeds when you feed ’em.

    • Kelty says:

      So so true. Because of the size of our house and that our kids share a room, they each get 2 drawers and one shoe bucket. Pretty much just for space management, I’ve had to keep their clothing only to their current size and the current season. It means I have to go through their drawers about 4 times a year but I find that it’s more than enough clothes for them to wear.

      • Kelty says:

        Okay disclaimer, they’re 3 and 2.5. As they get bigger and their clothes get bigger, we’ll have to figure something else out, but this works for now.

  4. Melody says:

    Exactly! I have a similar number of items but found the idea of choosing all the pieces and making them mix and match exhausting and overwhelming. I just kept getting ride of items until I only had things I liked. Chronic under buyer here….I actually need items but get too hung up on finding the right item that is quality for the right price…..you get the idea.

    Any tips for the under buyer?

    • Anne says:

      I’m an under-buyer by nature, too. It helps me to know that it’s always going to hurt to get something new, so I should expect that. And I’ll be so happy if I actually have clothes I can wear in my closet.

      My mom taught me to ask myself, “Imagine you didn’t buy it. How do you feel?” and then decide accordingly.

      • Beth says:

        I’m an under-buyer, too, and Anne’s mom’s suggestion is a great one. My general rule is that I don’t buy anything I don’t love, but sometimes that’s a problem. For example–I’m now a stay-at-home mom and need comfortable pieces that can get messy. So even though I don’t love yoga pants, I would feel constricted without them in my wardrobe.

  5. Jenn says:

    When we moved to a new state and a much more economically rich area I started reading these style blogs to update my wardrobe. I ran into the same problem. I don’t want the decisions of mixing and matching. I want a uniform. Which I had already created without my knowing it.
    I have 3 pairs of jeans, 5 tops, and 2 cardigans. I also have 2 dresses which I keep for church only. That’s it. I will say that I stay home so no one sees me wearing the same things over and over. If I worked out of the home this number of clothes would have to be more.
    When I do go out I always get compliments on what I’m wearing. Which I think is pretty funny. It has taught me we need way less clothes than we think. And I have decided that even building a capsule wardrobe four times a year is way more time and energy than I want to spend on clothing. I go through my clothes spring and fall.
    I’ve finally embraced my “uniform” and am happy with the results of less time thinking about clothes and taking care of them.

  6. I actually just wrote about my attempt at a capsule wardrobe today! I know it’s a total fad now, but I’m someone who will really benefit from it I think. I had over 200 clothing items stuffed in my closet!! I’m down to 45 now, with some things in storage for other seasons. I feel like that number is high, but I blame my corporate job for making me keep my black and gray suits in the mix. I’m really looking forward to simplifying things. I know I didn’t wear most of the clothes I purged, so it’s nice to be rid of them.

  7. allison says:

    I have been dying to do a capsule wardrobe, because I am certain if I pared my closet down I would find I wear less than 40 of my articles of clothing on a regular basis. There are two things holding me back though, we currently live in Florida so seasons are out the window, and winter can range from 40 degree days to 80 degree days.. and 2 I am still nursing my second child, so many of my dresses and a few shirts I still can’t really wear because they are inconvenient, so what I grab now out of convenience may not be what I would grab if I wasn’t nursing. I love that you just ended up with one though, because some people (like me likely) will work REALLY hard to get a capsule wardrobe, and you just happen to have one on accident!

    • Jennifer says:

      I think you totally would! If I didn’t work in an office I would definitely have less than 40 items that I wear regularly. Starting a capsule wardrobe has been hard work (I’m still trying to get rid of all my extra clothes!) but I think it’s going to be worth it in the end.

  8. Delphine says:

    I love the idea of a capsule wardrobe. I did a Tidying a few months ago and pulled out a ton of clothes. I basically only have a capsule wardrobe now, but I feel like I could make it even better (filling in gaps, getting rid of things that are hanging in my closet for sentimental reasons, etc). I totally get your point about too many decisions though. Sometimes when it’s 6:30 am and I’m getting ready for work, I don’t always trust my my decisions! Uniforms are good that way.

    Great post!

      • MelissaJoy says:

        When I was a newlywed and setting up house a friend encouraged me to have at least a hint of red in every room because it adds life to it. Perhaps your closet is benefitting from the constant companionship of the unused red skinnies 🙂 Red is such a great neutral in a wardrobe though.

      • Kelli says:

        I was curious about the red jeans also. What made you keep them when you got rid of the others? Do you really like them or was is a “what if I want to wear them/need a color/suddenly miss them?” That’s usually my downfall. I start cleaning out with the best of intentions and then get derailed by the what if’s and suddenly everything has the need to be kept 🙂

        • Anne says:

          They were the closest to neutral, and I like my neutrals. Plus, I have actually WORN them this year, instead of putting them on in the morning and taking them off in favor of plain old blue or brown or black like I always did with the more colorful ones.

  9. Alyssa says:

    I recently pared my wardrobe way down, but won’t be blogging about it or taking pictures of every outfit. I think I left 30 items (excludes shoes, sleepwear or workout wear) and a few I still probably won’t wear.
    I was inspired by getting a few new items and my goals were to make it simple (maybe more of a uniform concept?)
    Black and gray are my neutrals
    My colors are jewel tone and solid
    I kept: my 3 new dresses, 4 skirts, 3 pants, 10 tops, 5 cardigans and a few others
    My goals were to open my closet and have everything FIT comfortably and have things to go with
    Dresses are so easy-less choice!
    I will accessorize with scarves, tights, necklaces and hats
    I’m a stay at home mom so this is really working for me!

      • Jennifer says:

        I love dresses because they are easy, but I feel like I stand out more in them, especially at work. I could rewear the same black pants and sweater each week without anyone batting an eye, but if I wear the same dress two weeks in a row people notice. Maybe I need to start adding a blazer or something to the dress!

  10. Ros says:

    I have significantly more items, due to lifestyle. I would honestly LOVE to narrow it down… but they’re all used and worn regularly! For people whose life is very much ‘get up, go to work/take care of kids, come home and hang out/go out with friends, go to bed, rinse/repeat’, I think that’s a good number of clothes, and it’s about what I owned when I had that lifestyle.

    Right now, though, my life alternates between country and city – my wardrobe has to basically work with everything from sick sheep to finger-painting with my kid to business trips to major cities (sometimes on the same day). Let’s just say that 37 pieces don’t give the variation necessary… especially if you’re not doing laundry every 2 days!

    • Anne says:

      It sounds like you need two separate wardrobes! One for city, one for country. Sounds like a fun life, even if it does involve lots of laundry. 🙂

  11. Tina says:

    I have a default capsule wardrobe as well. I lost 55 lbs this year and all of my clothes are to big. I’ve been packing and getting rid of them as I slowly get new things that fit. I am trying to be deliberate and thoughtful about what I’m buying.

  12. Corrie Anne says:

    I have sort of a capsule wardrobe right now at 9 months pregnant, and I absolutely hate it. Especially since it’s mostly neutrals, but who wants to waste that much money on maternity clothes? And I’m certain I have more than 37 pieces of workout clothes alone, but I guess those maybe don’t count!

    Limiting my shoes so severely would probably be the most trying because I feel like heels and other frivolous shoes are one of the perks of being an adult! 🙂 However, I have heard great things about having some sort of a mom uniform, and I know that reality check will be coming to me soon. Maybe with a separate shoe capsule? I’m definitely a huge fan of dresses too. People always comment that they are impressed by how frequently I wear them, but they are the easiest outfit ever!

    • Laura says:

      I’m pregnant right now too (earlier though) and want to clean out my closet but don’t know what to get rid of or what will fit after baby! My workout clothes take up a whole drawer of my dresser also! It seems like I need the spare shirts and shorts etc for days when everything is in the laundry. Really don’t want to buy maternity clothes /workout clothes now. Maybe I’ll just stretch out my current outfits and start a more limited wardrobe after delivery. ..

      • sarah k says:

        I personally have regretted cleaning out my closet when I was pregnant–bc I missed some of those old jeans, etc after pregnancy when I wasn’t back to my normal size yet! And it’s depressing to buy in-between sizes just to get you through (but it was do that or keep wearing maternity clothes for months for me…) If I were you I would wait until you get back to pre-pregnancy weight and then purge the closet. 🙂

        • Katherine says:

          Agreed! I am two months post-partum and appreciating some clothes that I don’t LOVE but that do fit for now. I’ll shed them later, but flowy tops are my friend right now so they’ll stay put for- oh- another 15 pounds or so:)

  13. Jennifer says:

    I cleaned out my closet at the beginning of the year and after I took out maternity clothes, unseasonal clothes, and clothes that no longer fit (I’m eight months postpartum and still have a little baby weight left) I was left with a capsule wardrobe of ten items (including shoes)! So, yeah, it’s in a pretty sad state. I’m in the process of building my wardrobe and at first I thought about buying a lot of super-versatile pieces that I could mix and match a la Un-Fancy, but then, like you mentioned, it started consuming too much mental energy. I would love to hear more about how you created a uniform and built your wardrobe on high quality pieces.

  14. I think the capsule wardrobe concept is more important to an overbuyer — I have a hard time narrowing my wardrobe down to specific pieces that will mix and match perfectly, but I don’t have that many clothes to start with, so I decided to stop twisting myself into knots over whether I had 5 or 7 shirts in my closet. (And I completely agree with you — my small wardrobe is more than enough! Removing things that don’t bring me joy is a more helpful closet paradigm for me.)
    But — for a clothing overbuyer, like my friend A who recently started reading Unfancy, paring down to a capsule is really hard. She was literally in tears over the thought of having to get rid of some of her 22 winter shirts! (This is the girl who has a “dress closet” and buys something new for every occasion.) I told her to just move half of them out of the main section of her closet and see if she missed them. Baby steps!

    • Dorothy K. says:

      I think I would have to agree about this project being for more of an over-buyer. When I was a young mom, my husband considered my wardrobe “blah”, “meh” and “dowdy”. So, he helped me shop for quality and attractive pieces, then I purged everything else. Now that I have a full-time job and grown-up kids, I have gone to the other side and need to think about limiting my purchases and streamlining my closet. But I don’t think I could get by with only 37 pieces – yikes! I’ll have to give this subject a little more thought and I’m glad Anne addressed it in her blog!

        • Dorothy K. says:

          Yeah, I guess I should forget about the “dowdy” comment and move on – haha! He also bought into the idea that my beautiful (but troublesome) long hair should go in favor of a more modern, short-ish, pixie style. But, little did he realize that he was creating a monster.

      • Bonnie says:

        You don’t know how lucky you are! While I’m no fashion plate, my husband used to buy me clothes that looked like something his mother would wear. It was awful.

  15. Laura says:

    I used Un-fancy’s guide recently and created a pseudo-capsule wardrobe. I ended up with more than 37 pieces, but not many more. As I was going through everything I literally wrote out some outfit combinations. To me layering makes my basics feel much more fun, but I never seem to think of that when I’m getting dressed of a morning! I hung the list of outfits on my necklace hooks so I see when I’m walking to my closet.

  16. Dana says:

    I am working on this idea and I love it. I taught elementary school in an affluent school and had to have nice clothes. I had probably 15 pair of black dress slacks, plus a few other colors and too many sweaters, tops and jackets. Since I retired last year I have been paring down my wardrobe. I gave myself a year to see what I would actually wear. So I am down to one pair of dressy black slacks ( for church mostly), 2 dresses which may be on their way out soon if they don’t get worn, 6 pair of jeans ( 3 boot cut, 1 straight leg, one flared leg , I boyfriend style). My tops are still a work in progress, but I am buying solid color tunic styles that can be layered with similar style sweaters/jackets. I just sent 6 bags of clothing to charity today ( lots of structured blazers departed, plus some dresses and things I no longer love).

    I think I have on pair of low heels left just in case, but otherwise I have flats and sneakers.

    I can get ready to go quickly..grab a pair of jeans, a top and a sweater and off I go.
    I am only buying things that fit in with what I have and wear…basics really and a few scarves.

  17. Kelty says:

    Love this! I find that I’ve done the same, where I’ve sort of backed myself into my own capsule wardrobe with mostly a few uniforms that I wear over and over. It helps that almost no one but my husband and children see me everyday. I’m only a little bit embarrassed to admit that I’ve worn outfits 2 days in a row thanks to learning the magic of undershirts. 🙂

    Anyway, I was slow to get on the skinny pants bandwagon but now I’m here and gosh, I hope it doesn’t go out of style anytime soon! It’s so so nice to be able to do the top + skinny pant + flats or boots and look decently put together. I’m gonna work that formula for as long as I can get away with it. Thanks for the fun fashion posts lately ! 🙂

  18. Angela Mills says:

    This idea does not resonate with me at all. I love clothes and getting dressed and fashion and shopping! I realize that sounds materialistic and ridiculous, especially because I am a stay at home, work at home mom. But getting dressed and choosing clothes has never stressed me out. I enjoy it.

    I have a good sized walk-in closet and my only limit is that I won’t buy more clothes than will fit in it. The only thing limiting me is cash 🙂

  19. Grace says:

    Wow, that’s awesome. I love the idea of a capsule wardrobe or a uniform, but I find it incredibly hard to implement. I have only about 30 items for my winter clothing, so maybe that’s part of the issue. What I find the hardest though is finding clothes that go with everything. My style is quite boho/hippie/lots of patterns, but when I see blogs of people who have capsule wardrobes they typically dress in all black, white, and grey with plain pants and tops. I don’t know if I can both have my style and a functional capsule/uniform.

  20. Carly says:

    I am really enjoying the capsule concept and have essentially been doing a monthly capsule since September. That is, I’ve tweaked the concept to make it work for me. I’m not strict about the total number of items, but I usually select around 35 (no more than 40 and not including shoes) items from my existing wardrobe each month – so I am not purchasing pieces specifically for the capsule. Then I wear those pieces in various combinations for the month. I like to shop (mostly thrifting), put together outfits, and read various articles and blogs about fashion so this is a fun challenge for me. This is after getting rid of lots of items that I don’t love and making an effort to make sure my things were working well together. I am definitely more careful about what I buy and have a better idea of what I enjoy wearing and what works for me, so the process has been helpful. I work part-time as a youth services librarian and do a lot of programs in the library and out in the community, so my capsule has a mix of casual and dressy pieces. I like to layer and add scarves and jewelry to the basics, too. Love this article and all the comments, too.

  21. I tried a capsule for the first time this fall, and it really paid off for me. I’m with you- I like uniforms. I don’t wear my clothes in endless combinations, but pushing myself to build a limited “capsule” helped me make sure I truly love and wear everything in my closet. I’m also overwhelmed by too many choices, so having fewer items to choose from in the morning makes a huge difference for me. Psychologically, I think I like the capsule for the same reasons you like your closet setup.

  22. Christina says:

    I like the idea of a capsule wardrobe. I really do. But I don’t like how limiting it seems. It may not be in reality, but it makes me feel claustrophobic thinking about it. I recently blogged about simplifying my style in keeping with my “less is more” mantra for this year, and I’ve already culled out my closet twice this month. I’ve kept only the clothes I truly enjoy wearing, but I have more than 37 items. I guess I’m a work in progress in this area.

  23. Jennifer says:

    I am working out my first ever capsule wardrobe for spring because I have lost 70 pounds since September and have about 20-ish more to lose. I now fit in sizes sold at any store, even boutiques and I obviously need an entirely new wardrobe. I have bought a few items on great sales and relied heavily on my local Buy Nothing Group for hand me downs in between sizes. But I am saving up money for a big shopping spree come March 24th when I finish my big diet/exercise/weight loss program and then head on a vacation for two weeks. I think a capsule wardrobe will work best. I normally have owned a small number of clothes but between my plus size, pregnancies (two kids 17 months apart), and nursing my clothes were more functional than well loved. So now I am ready to buy 30ish well loved, joy bringing items that mix and match and fit my lifestyle. And I am so excited!

  24. Rebecca says:

    You put words to my scattered thoughts on the matter. 37 does feel like a lot to me – especially 4 seasons. Creating endless outfits doesn’t appeal to me, but I love the idea of a simple wardrobe. (And I do like checking Un-fancy. She seems so classy and sweet). Thanks for sharing! Off to count my clothing!

  25. sarah k says:

    I love that you wrote this. I was looking at pictures of a blogger’s capsule wardrobe the other day, and I thought, “That looks like what I would consider a normally stylish person’s regular rotation of clothes.” I haven’t counted what’s in my closet, and I know I have old things I seldom wear and could get rid of if I had time right now for that kind of editing. But on an everyday basis, I wear about that number of things, and I haven’t spent hours curating my clothes and agonizing over outfit combinations. It sounds normal (and plenty luxurious, in comparison to most of the world) for a person to have a handful of pairs of pants, sweaters, shoes, etc that they wear regularly, and to buy a few new items at the beginning of each season and then not do much extra shopping for the rest of the season. I don’t mean this as a criticism, but I sort of feel like the capsule wardrobe concept is a manufactured problem, a fashion blogger’s attempt to simplify back to the clothing quantities of normal people. 🙂 But I’m sure if you are in the fashion world or your lifestyle requires it, you might have way, way more clothes than you need and that would be normal in your world. So I know my definition of normal is germane to my social circles, etc.

    Anyway–I think you hit the nail on the head. Congrats on the accidental capsule!

    • Anne says:

      Thank you! Another commenter said that these capsule wardrobes projects are how the pendulum is swinging back from the excesses possible because of fast fashion. Just food for thought. 🙂

  26. Jenny says:

    This really hits the nail on the head for me. I have clicked on so many “capsule wardrobe” posts and I always click away sweating and feeling creeping anxiety at the thought of tearing though my closet and making mix n match outfits. Too many options!

    I bet if I went in and counted, I’d find no more than 37 pieces in there at this very moment.

  27. Amy says:

    I’ve been using a capsule wardrobe according to the guidelines of project 333. (33 items, including shoes, outerwear, accessories and jewelry for 3 months) for a couple of weeks. I thought I’d try it for a month, and then do two more if I wasn’t losing my mind.
    At first it seemed impossible to narrow it down to that few, but once I started wearing them, I realized these were the clothes I would probably be wearing all the time anyway.

    And then earlier this week I read The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up (at your recommendation first, I think, but it seems like everyone is talking about it now). Per her suggestions, I cleaned out my closet first. Now I’m down to about 75 items total, and while time will tell, I think I’m going to be a lot happier with that amount. Plus, my closet is so clean and lovely now!

  28. Alissa says:

    I have jumped on the capsule wardrobe bandwagon and I love it. However, I don’t endlessly mix and match, I have my favorite combinations and I wear those a lot. But I also know in late January I’ll be getting bored with the same four sweaters so knowing that I can remix and figuring out how to do that is exciting to me. It’s totally made getting dressed this winter way more fun and since I never considered myself very stylish it’s really helped me refine my own sense of style. And I use the app Stylebook to track what I have and what I wear. It’s also helped me budget better for clothes and be more intentional about what I purchase. Oh and I’m wearing my red skinnies as I type this!

  29. Melinda Stanton says:

    Ever since I read your post about the book 7, this idea’s been percolating. I thought 7 items of clothes was an extreme idea for me, but maybe 7 of each TYPE of clothes would work. You’ve cut it down even more. I need to just do it! I’m encouraged by your saying you don’t feel like you have too few clothes!

  30. Linda says:

    I’m curious what your spring/summer wardrobe looks like. Could you share that as well? And where do you like to shop? It’s difficult for me to find cute, feminine clothes that are appropriate but maybe I just don’t know where to look.

    • Anne says:

      Spring and summer looks like a lot of stripes on top and neutral bottoms. Professionally, it looks like blouses and trousers. I wear many more dresses in the summer: they’re breezy and cool and just so easy.

      Most of my clothes these days are from Stitch Fix, Anthro, Ann Taylor, and Nordstrom Rack. We also have a local indie boutique I love: cute clothes, great prices. But they do great tops, dresses, and accessories, but I never have luck with their bottoms.

  31. Tamara says:

    “I just want to get dressed in the morning, with as little conscious thought as possible.” That’s me. The thought of mixing and matching makes me want to just crawl back into bed.

  32. Faith R says:

    Wow! I didn’t realize a capsule wardrobe was so big! I totally have about that many pieces – my be less. Unfortunately I have a bin in my garage and a black plastic trash bag in my closet – but the stuff hanging on my closet (and fielded next to it) is right about 30 pieces. I falter between getting rid of everything i don’t wear all of the time and then regretting it later, and keeping stuff that does to fit well/I shouldn’t be wearing anymore. It’s a constant tug of war. But I guess that’s life.

  33. Meg says:

    Wow….I feel very excessive and a little bit guilty with the amount of clothing I have after reading this and all of the replies. I started to count my Tshirts and stopped after 48. This is only my short sleeved shirts! Every time I start to purge my closet I get too overwhelmed. I honestly can’t imagine limiting my wardrobe to 40 items….I’d be doing laundry every day and clothes wear out the more you wash them. Does anyone else feel this way?

    • Wendy says:

      I have over 400 items of clothing… and that is after multiple KonMarie editing sessions and innumerable trips to Goodwill… I dream of having half that, and in my wildest dreams maybe a quarter, but 30? 37? 33? Gulp. Unimaginable!

  34. Jules says:

    I was a little amused when I became aware of the trendiness of the capsule wardrobe. When I was young (I am 52) this is how everyone dressed, as far as I can recall. Clothes were more expensive (as a proportion of your income) and fabric were different – few stretchy ones – so clothing was more structured. Every October and Easter my mother would go through our wardrobes, put away the past seasons clothes and bring out the next. Each item would be tried on, adjusted (lengthened, shortened, let out or in depending on us and fashion) or culled and then we would decide what was needed to fill out any gaps. If you live in an older home you will know how small the wardrobes were compared to the entire rooms given over the storing clothing today. I feel the capsule wardrobe and its variations are a pendulum swing from the excess of cheap clothing available today. For it to work items have to be of good quality so they last and in some way co-ordinate with other items so your jumper goes with your shirts and they work back with your pants. I am currently transitioning from work (with supplied uniform of unspeakably poor colour, fabric and style!) to being retired. Although I shall be glad to select my own clothes I am leaning towards the uniform style as I do appreciate the simplicity of dressing that way each day.. When I select clothing the feel of the fabric, comfort of the design and how it looks on are my criteria. All three matter to me equally. I have a small number of formal dresses (three) that I keep in my closet year round for weddings, funerals, fancy dinners etc. With appropriate jackets and cardigans (which can also be worn with less fancy outfits to perk them up) I am covered for every possibility in every season without a mad rush to shop at short notice.

    • Anne says:

      “I feel the capsule wardrobe and its variations are a pendulum swing from the excess of cheap clothing available today.”

      I think you’re right. Well put.

  35. Anne, I just love how you arrived at a truly accidental capsule wardrobe. That is amazing!

    I haven’t counted up my work clothes in a while (I work in financial services) but I hope I now have less 🙂 Because that is where I find a capsule “freeing” – it’s the not having too think too hard in the morning or the night before.

    Casual clothes are the place I over-buy though….

  36. Abby says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this! I especially loved that you included how many of each item you had. Making decisions is so hard for me. Whenever I start to simplify I get hung up on what I might need. This gives me an idea of what someone who is in a similar life phase as me uses and feels is more than enough. I am curious about how you approached quality over quantity. Is Stitch Fix where many of your clothing pieces come from? Where are good places to look for quality clothing items? Since I hate shopping and decisions I end up buying multilples of the same exact thing, which isn’t horrible, but I never feel particularly cute or stylish either!

    • Anne says:

      Making decisions is hard for me, too! The short answer is: it was a slow process for me, and more trial and error than I would have liked. I have gotten a lot from Stitch Fix over several years now. We also have a little independent boutique near me that does a great job with high-quality tops at inexpensive prices. (Everly is one of my favorite brands there, since you were asking about specifics.) For quality pieces, I like Anthro, Ann Taylor, and Nordstrom (preferably Nordstrom Rack!) but quality at those stores varies widely. My fashionable friend always says if you know what to look for you can find it anywhere. Since I don’t WANT to look everywhere, those are the stores I stick to.

      I’m thinking about writing a separate post to address these and related questions, so let me know if there’s more you want to know. 🙂

  37. Théa says:

    I love that you mentioned Caroline Ingalls’ one fancy dress. I find myself thinking fond thoughts of the Ingalls Family Wardrobe whenever I do laundry for my three daughters. One work dress! One dressy dress! One nightgown! It sounds heavenly–until I remember that Ma had to make those dresses herself. Ah, well 🙂

    But I love your take on the capsule wardrobe. I have an accidental one myself, and now I know what to call it 🙂

  38. Kira says:

    This is inspiring. I like to keep my clothing pared down to a degree but I’m definitely terrible at anything close to having a “capsule wardrobe.” I should definitely strive toward it though. At least I don’t have 50 shirts and dresses each anymore!!!

  39. Aya says:

    Anne, I loved this post! I totally relate about loving the idea of restricting your wardrobe size, but not enjoying the idea of mixing and matching in different outfit combinations. I also love defaulting to gold flats. I’d love to hear more from you on this subject.

  40. This is inspiring! I was just looking at my closet and dressers, and I have SO many clothes I don’t wear often if at all. I definitely need to go through and get rid of MORE than I already have so far.

    Thanks for the ideas, Anne! Loved this!

  41. Your wardrobe sounds delightful. I’m still wearing the same shirt everyday (update on that here http://romanreboot.com/2014/12/08/red-lips-to-the-rescue/), but I have yet to purge the rest of my closet.

    Some of that is for reasons other commenters cite. I’m still breastfeeding so there are certain clothes that don’t work right now. (Some day I will wear dresses again . . . ) I also have a few pounds to lose, and I don’t want to ditch anything prematurely.

    Also though, like you’ve mentioned, I’m a bit of an under buyer. I have gotten rid of all the low hanging fruit of things that don’t really fit or I never loved. Now I’m left with decent-ish clothing that I don’t really wear, but I hate to get rid of because of the “just in case” factor. What if I get rid of things and never buy more because that is my nature, but then I need something?? Ideally someday everything will be replaced with well-made pieces that I love. Always a work in progress, right?

  42. Reading these comments is so very interesting and I love that you already had a capsule wardrobe and just didn’t know it. I am working on my first capsule this year. My closets are very small in our home and I found that I was unintentionally accumulating a lot of one trick pony items in my closet. They were all beautiful (like Ma’s dress), but everyone remembered them and they were taking up space. The capsule for me is an exercise in discipline and thought. Since I am an over-buyer of clothes by nature, this really has helped me pare down my wardrobe and be a more thoughtful buyer. I am buying almost everything secondhand, but buying better brands because I need my items to hold up to the constant washing and wear, unlike my wardrobe before where I cheaped out on things or knew I only was going to wear them for a season.

    For me, it’s been life- changing. I know it’s not for every one and many people are naturally talented at living minimal. I have rid my life of six bags of clothing for charity, have a well-organized closet, and finally can say I am truly loving everything in it. 🙂

    • Anne says:

      “I have rid my life of six bags of clothing for charity, have a well-organized closet, and finally can say I am truly loving everything in it.”

      Congrats! That sounds like an amazing turnaround.

      • TLG says:

        I would love to see the items in your “winter capsule wardrobe” and how you put them into outfits 🙂 Possibly another blog?!?! Lol

  43. Angela says:

    I’ve never heard of a the capsule wardrobe. It sounds interesting, but not something I would touch because…well…um…I’m a clothes hoarder. There I said it. I’m also a bargain hunter so it’s a bad combination. I mean, I just bought a Nine West and Calvin Klein dress for $7.49 each and a Calvin Klein evening gown for $11.99. I can’t help it 🙂

  44. Jerilyn says:

    I think i have 37 clothes, shoes, scarves, jewery, workout, and pajama pieces total. Throw in 2 jackets and my year around total is under 40. We have 4 seasons. I do plan on adding coveralls once our farm gets up and going. 🙂

  45. Rebecca says:

    Hi, Anne – love the new site!! When I was looking at the capsule wardrobe items today, the very first photo had a beautiful brown leather (?) tote bag that looks perfect for me. Can you tell me the brand and where you got it? Thanks.

    • Anne says:

      It’s a great bag! It’s old, it’s from Stitch Fix, and it was only $40-something bucks with my buy-all discount. The only problem is I’m not sure that they have it anymore! (It’s their house brand 41 Hawthorne.)

  46. JulieK says:

    I love this post! Okay here’s a few things:
    1. Do you also have workout clothes not listed?
    2. What about accessories – since you say you wear neutrals, do you find you have a ton of scarves, belts, etc?)
    3. Do you live in a warm climate? I have 4 seasons (and the 4th is VERY COLD).
    4. I sweat a lot. (I think) So, sometimes I change my tops a lot.

    I just did a big purge of my closet and counted every item leftover… it turned out I have about 75 spring/summer items and 75 fall/winter items. (this doesn’t include shoes and outdoor coats). It’s too much but I am trying to figure out how to pare it down more.

    I also am very involved in church and tutoring, which require me to be pretty “dressy” – so I feel like I have “home clothes” and “dress up clothes.” This dual wardrobe PLUS the hot / cold weather contributes to me having more clothing than the capsules suggest… but since it all fits and I already paid for it, and I like or love what I have…. does it really make sense to ditch it? I welcome your wisdom!

    Lastly. In 2010 (?) I did the “One Dress Protest” (by blog of same name) for 30 days. Not too many ppl noticed I wore the SAME DRESS for 30 days in a row. Granted, I was not working outside the home, but I had to attend 8+ church services that month, so… that leads me to believe that generally people don’t notice. AND? I had SO much less to think and worry about that month (other than, how do I get this dress washed and dried by tomorrow! LOL).

    Thanks for the great post – sorry for my long-windedness… this is just a hot topic for me right now! 🙂

    • Anne says:

      1. Yes, I have workout clothes that aren’t listed.
      2. Not a ton, but a half dozen or so scarves and statement necklaces.
      3. We have four seasons here.
      4. I get that. 🙂

      Love the story about the one dress month! Also, you may find this newer post about the “ten item wardrobe” helpful. It’s not much different from the capsule wardrobe concept, but it clicked for me much better.

  47. Ally Ford says:

    My eighth-grade English teacher wore a uniform of a single gray tweed dress with different-color accessories for the entire academic year; she looked appropriate but was SO boring! When I became a teacher, I vowed never to wear the same look twice in one week, just to give the students a different view. As I was promoted to administration, I had to add more professional items yet still kept up with the variety; even in higher education, people noticed and complimented my appearance–the campus officials told me that they could always count on me to represent the institution very positively. My brains and effort make my programs work well, but my appearance helps me and my programs get noticed by the funding sources. It doesn’t take a clothing obsession to present oneself well.

  48. Jenny G says:

    It would be very difficult for me to pare my clothing down to 37 pieces. I love clothes too much. I love my dansko’s so glad to hear that someone else loves them too.

  49. cristina says:

    I’m starting to experiment the liberation of a capsule wardrobe. The idea of using only the clothes I love effortlessly is wonderful.
    I’m much more happy… And probably more stylish too 😉

  50. GalyaB says:

    I am all for minimalistic wardrobe. I’m drying my brain off to purge and pare down to only have as little as I can without getting ridiculors. But as far as uniform for someone like a teacher I would not go for a single outfit challenge. For I remember a teacher in my school who always wore her green knitted jacket all winter. Year after year. We called her Mrs. Green. Even several years later when she switched to a blue jacket. Don’t full yourself that others don’t notice. They do. Of course they don’t pay as much attention as we think they do.

  51. Nisrin says:

    When I first started reading about the capsule wardrobe, I kept thinking “I want to have 37 pieces!!”. But after trying to do that I decided it wasn’t for me. However, I was able to bring my closet to a point that I love wearing every piece in it. I wanted easy dressing in the morning like you said. I don’t want to have one fancy dress, I like have options…lots of options that I love! My capsule might be bigger than most but at least I enjoy it all.

  52. Simone says:

    I love this! I have a similar reaction to capsule wardrobes: my wardrobe already feels like one. I don’t want endless possibilities – just a few great pieces/outfits that I love to wear all the time. Thanks for this post!

  53. Yurika says:

    I have gone down in number of items and color palette and it has made my life much easier. I have not gone down to 37 pieces though. The next step is to find a uniform that I can feel confortable AND stylish with. I believe that after I have done so, my wardrobe will shrink a little more. On the other hand I hear my husband saying: “Please do not buy black anymore”. He loves color!

    • laura ann says:

      I choose blues and greens on top and neutrals on bottom (no white or ivory) mainly denim, navy and gray some khaki. (pants and capris or walking shorts.) Purses and shoes neutrals wear mostly active wear as retired with athletic shoes. No skirts or dresses, several dressy pants and blazers rarely worn (funerals, church)

  54. Ketutar says:

    It’s the same thing.
    Reminds me of my husband and writing. He is a writer and a good one, but every now and then he gets… er… seduced by me to experiment with things, like “planning” and “nanowrimo” and tidbits about how other authors do things. And that’s just confusing and limiting to him. Every time he does things my way, he loses his own. The thing is that he does all those things I do, but he does them his way and has his own name for them, so they work just as they work for every other writer 😀
    SO, if it makes you feel liberated to NOT call your capsule wardrobe a capsule wardrobe, don’t. A rose is a rose what ever one calls it, and it smells just as wonderful what ever one calls it. 😀

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