WTH is a Capsule Wardrobe, Anyway?

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I’m a working mom, so forgive me for not noticing when the world of fashion was turned on its head a few years ago with the explosion of the so-called “capsule wardrobe”. But as a generally busy person with limited space, I can see the appeal of simplifying my clothing situation. And, sure, I want to look good, too. So, I set out to answer the question, “What the heck is a capsule wardrobe, anyway?”  Here is what I found.

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What is a Capsule Wardrobe?

Through fashion bloggers sparked the modern-day obsession with capsule wardrobes, according to Business Insider, it was a 1970’s London boutique owner who first coined the term. She described paring back her clothing to 30-40 high-quality items.

But the essence of a capsule wardrobe remains the same: a small set of versatile clothing pieces that can be mixed and matched for an effortless and classic style.

Why Should I Bother Making a Capsule Wardrobe?

While the reason to take any approach may be personal, here are my top five reasons for doing a wardrobe edit:

  1. Laundry – I can only keep cycling my ugly free t-shirts to the bottom of the laundry hamper for so long before I have to ask the question, “do I even need to own this?
  2. Simplicity – I’m tired of looking at a closet cramped with clothing and still feeling like I have nothing to wear.
  3. Space – I live in a tiny house with a tiny closet, so I have to make choices.
  4. Style Decision Fatigue (SDF) – I don’t want to look like a bum, but I’m not ready to bite off full influencer-level wardrobe styling.
  5. Waste – Buying lots of clothing I barely wear is expensive, and ultimately wasteful. I want to do more with less.

What’s in a Capsule Wardrobe?

The internet has yet to decide exactly how many items are in a capsule wardrobe (between 10 – 50), or exactly which items are in it. But, after looking through a variety of capsules by Marie Claire, Harper’s Bazar, Who What Wear and others, here are the items they all seem to have in common.

Outerwear: leather jacket, denim jacket, blazer, hoodie, coat.

Tops: plain white tee, white button-down, black tank top, long-sleeved top.

Pants: jeans, black slacks, sweats, leggings, denim shorts.

Skirts & Dresses: pencil skirt, midi skirt, little black dress, printed sun dress.

Shoes: pumps, white sneakers, sandals, loafers, black ankle boots.

Other: choker, long necklace, bangle, hoop earrings, stud earrings, drop earrings, sunglasses.

Won’t I Run Out of Clothes?

While I like the idea of having fewer clothes, I bought the clothes because I was sure that I needed them. Naturally, I had some concerns:

Q: I want to simplify my wardrobe, but do I have to stop shopping forever once I do?
A: Shop for capsule clothes in cycles, rotating out new items seasonally, annually or whenever feels right to you.

Q: How can the items I wear at home also work for workwear?
A: Your wardrobe edit doesn’t have to be all inclusive. You can create specific capsules for situations – like a work capsule, or, as Glamour U.K. suggests, a Barbados vacation capsule (lol).

Q: What if I don’t want to be seen in the same pants every day?
A: Limit within reason. If you’re not ready to wear one pair of jeans every day for the rest of your life, three to four pairs may be more reasonable.

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