After simplifying and decluttering my home, I was asked by a few friends if I was going to create a capsule wardrobe. It’s become a very popular choice, particularly among women. But there are some things I don’t like about capsule wardrobes, so today I’ll talk about a simple alternative to a capsule wardrobe.
We’ll look at what capsule wardrobes are, the pros and cons, and the simple alternative to a capsule wardrobe that I do instead.
What is a Capsule Wardrobe?
The term ‘capsule wardrobe‘ was created by Susie Faux, who owned a London boutique named “Wardrobe” in the 1970s. She defined a capsule wardrobe as a collection of a few essential items of clothing that don’t go out of style that can be enhanced with seasonal pieces.
The concept became popular in American culture in the mid 1980’s thanks to Donna Karan who created an influential capsule collection of interchangeable pieces.
A capsule wardrobe has come to mean a collection of clothes that can be worn interchangeably to maximize the number of outfits that can made from them.
The idea is to have an appropriate outfit for just about anything without having excess. This is done by having staple pieces and coordinating colors.
Benefits of a capsule wardrobe
There are benefits to creating a capsule wardrobe. Some of them include:
1. Saving time getting ready
Do you have a closet packed full of clothes, but nothing to wear? Many women can relate to that feeling at one time or another.
The sheer amount of clothes can be overwhelming and cause decision fatigue. Creating a capsule wardrobe gives you fewer options to choose from which makes it easier to make decisions and saves you time getting ready.
2. Having quality pieces
Capsule wardrobes tend to focus on having fewer pieces, but also higher quality ones. While you may spend a bit more on individual items, you shouldn’t be continually buying lots of new things.
3. Creating versatility
Creating a capsule wardrobe gives you fewer clothes and most are interchangeable and will work well together. This means that you end up with more space in your closet and that you hopefully feel like you have more things you can wear.
What I don’t like about capsule wardrobes
Now that we’ve covered the good, I want to talk about the things I don’t like about capsule wardrobes. These are why I do a simple alternative to a capsule wardrobe.
1. Too proscribed
When I first started looking at capsule wardrobes a few years ago, I found all the worksheets and suggestions for which staple pieces should be included.
While of course you can tailor it to suit your needs and lifestyle, the exact number of what to have in each category was too confining for my taste.
I have rebel tendencies, which is part of why I focus on simplicity and not minimalism, and I don’t like feeling boxed in. Capsule wardrobes felt too formulaic to me.
2. Don’t want to buy more things
Many of the things I read about capsule wardrobes suggested that certain staple items were necessary so if you don’t have them, make that shopping list.
The fact was that, for me, I already had an excess of clothes before I decluttered my closet. I really did not need more of anything and I didn’t like the idea that I should purchase more to have all the ‘right’ pieces.
3. It felt wasteful
Not only did I not want to buy more things, but I didn’t want to get rid of 90% of my clothes in an effort to reach a very low number of items. While I love the concept of project 333, getting down to just 33 items for 3 months wasn’t going to be a fit for me.
While I believe that Pareto’s principle that you use 20% of what you have 80% of the time, is true particularly in our closets, I wasn’t up to getting rid of that much.
Here’s why. I am all about decluttering, but I am also frugal, so I am practical in how I approach decluttering. I’ll talk more in a bit about how I decluttered my closet, but it includes keeping what fits and that I feel good in. I did not want to get rid of them just to achieve a very low number of items in my wardrobe.
4. The laundry is the same
This is something I have always found interesting. Often in promoting getting rid of most of your clothes, the idea is presented that it gives you less laundry to do.
If you tend to go weeks without doing laundry, having less will force you to do it sooner, so it won’t be able to pile up. However, in the end, most people are wearing an outfit per day so the overall amount of laundry doesn’t change.
I really wish there was some solution to not having to do laundry or dishes anymore, but having less doesn’t automatically solve those problems. It just makes you deal with them sooner.
5. It didn’t fit my style
The idea of a capsule wardrobe, in theory, sounded great. However, in practice, most of the ones I have seen feel boring to me. Often they center around neutral colors, which is part of how they are versatile.
Some statement pieces may be included, but I tend to see ones that are muted and a bit, well, boring.
Taking capsule wardrobes one step further is the uniform concept, which Joshua Becker talks about in The Minimalist Home. While I understand the benefits of not having to think about what you wear, the outcome just isn’t my style.
I like pops of color and prints. I don’t need all my clothes to be able to go together a million different ways. Frankly, that gives me even more options than the shirt that only goes with a couple of other pieces.
While I don’t advocate for having tons of clothes, I found too many limitations with a capsule wardrobe. They are a great option for some people, but they just aren’t the right fit for me.
A simple alternative to a capsule wardrobe
Alright, so now that I’ve talked about what a capsule wardrobe is, the benefits to them, and why they weren’t a fit for me, I want to talk about what I do instead.
I needed a simple alternative to a capsule wardrobe. One without too many rules, but that still left with the benefits of a simplified closet.
The reality is that most people have way too many clothes in their closet and they don’t wear a great deal of them. If you walk into your closet and immediately feel overwhelmed and defeated, then it’s time to make a change.
Start by decluttering your clothes. If you have all day to work on it, you can take out everything and organize it by categories (jeans with jeans, tank tops with other tank tops, etc).
If you don’t have as much time to focus on it, start with one type of clothing at a time. Today you could just do t-shirts and another day do dresses. The pace it up to you.
To decide what stays and what goes, I focus on condition, comfort, and confidence. The end goal is creating a wardrobe that you love and feel great in.
The goal for me was never to get the absolute fewest pieces I could. Instead, I kept what I loved and felt good in. If that meant I still had 7 pairs of jeans, then so be it.
I don’t see any point in getting rid of clothes that you like and feel good in. The reality is that clothes wear out, so it’s nice to have backups. You’ve already spent the money on what you have.
As you declutter your clothes, be realistic about what you will wear again. Seasons in life change and the things you wore before having kids may never fit the same way again.
That’s ok. Part of the process of decluttering your closet is about letting go of the past. Those reminders in your closet about the size you used to be is not doing you any favors.
Imagine looking in your closet and seeing only clothes that fit and you feel good in. Pretty great, right?
To do that, be realistic with yourself. Let go of the past. If you’re on a weight loss journey or are still having kids, it’s fine to keep some of the clothes that don’t fit right now.
But, do not keep them in your closet. Box them up. Label them and give yourself an end date on them. If those clothes don’t fit within a year then let them go.
With this simple alternative to a capsule wardrobe, the intent is to have only clothes you love and wear in your closet. It requires being realistic as you make those decisions.
Having a decluttered closet will make getting ready easier and more enjoyable.
You won’t be pushing the clothes that you wished fit or that you regret purchasing to the side in the search of what to wear.
With this simple alternative to a capsule wardrobe, the goal is to maintain a simplified wardrobe. Having less is better. You just don’t have to be drastic with it if that’s not a fit for you.
Decluttering often results in realizations about your shopping habits. I came across many pieces of clothing I had settled for because they were ‘close enough’.
The reality was though, I didn’t like wearing the ‘close enough’ items. They didn’t fit quite right or were too fussy. I’ve grown very picky about the fabrics I like wearing too.
These realizations have helped me shop differently. I am more intentional with shopping. That means shopping less often and not just buying things for fun.
It also means not settling for ‘close enough’. This simple alternative to a capsule wardrobe has helped me save money. It didn’t require me to buy anything new and also made me much more careful with buying anything in the future.
If buying clothes has been a problem for you, try a clothing spending freeze. See how long you can go with what you have. You don’t need to buy the latest trends every season.
Some people are good at finding clothes for cheap or even free. The same concepts still apply though. Know your style and what you feel great in.
Don’t let your closet get cluttered up by other people’s cast-offs or great deals. It’s fine to acquire things this way as long as you’re being intentional about what you’re bringing into your home and closet.
If you don’t love it and wear it, it becomes clutter.
Enjoy your simplified closet with this simple alternative to a capsule wardrobe.
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