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How I Created a Capsule Wardrobe

June 19, 2017

For the past two years, I’ve been wanting to put together a capsule wardrobe — a skimmed down version of my closet that contains versatile pieces that I really love. Then last Saturday, after lots of thought and the toddler sleep gods blessing Jameson with a marathon nap, I went to work on my closet. And I’m totally stoked about the capsule I created. 

What is a capsule wardrobe?
Capsule wardrobes have become a trend within the last two to three years, but apparently the term has been around since the 1970’s. The basic idea is that your closet consists of a small number of items, usually around 30-40, which you mix and match for a duration of time — some people start with 30 days and others choose an entire season. Those 30-40 items include tops, bottoms, shoes, and outerwear, but underwear, lounge/sleepwear, workout clothes, and accessories are excluded. There’s also often a commitment to not do any shopping for new clothes during the 30-90 day window you’ve set for your capsule. You simply work with what you’ve got.

Why did I want to create a capsule wardrobe?
I have a decent size wardrobe — not the craziest, but certainly more than enough clothes. And still, I would often find myself staring up at my closet for way too long and feeling like I had no idea what to wear. My biggest motivation in creating a capsule wardrobe was the potential that I’d be able to simplify my life by having fewer choices in the morning. I have a lot to think about between family, work, and social obligations, and the thought of not having a closet that overwhelmed me was very appealing.

I figured a capsule wardrobe could work well for me, because my lifestyle allows me to dress on the casual side on most days, so I wouldn’t need to work hard to include both business and casual clothes. I also liked the idea that my capsule would only include things I absolutely love, so theoretically, I should always feel great about my outfit. I loved the idea of being challenged to get creative with select pieces. As an aspiring minimalist, I loved the idea of my clothes taking up less space. And I loved the idea of thinking about clothes shopping less.

What did my wardrobe look like before?
Here are some pics of my closet before putting together my capsule. What was the process?
I started off by looking online at sample capsule wardrobes to get some ideas. Caroline Rector, who writes the blog Unfancy, is kind of the capsule wardrobe expert, and some girlfriends told me I should check out her site for inspiration. When I got there, I realized I had pinned this post with her content over two years ago, because so much of what she had in her capsule already lived in my closet.

After looking around the internet, I decided I wanted to aim for a summer season capsule with 37 items that I’d wear for the next 30 days. 

There are lots of people who might build their capsule by buying items — my goal was to work with what was already in my closet and eliminate things I didn’t want to include.

Some people also strongly believe you should start with a color palette. I wasn’t so thoughtful — my first step was to set aside the items that I reach for over and over again, and it just so happened that a color palette emerged on its own based on my choices. In general, I love shades of blue, grays, and other neutrals, along with hints of pinks and corals.

In addition to picking out my favorites, I also thought about the things in my closet that would be really versatile — for example, is the item good for layering? Or can this top go with a lot of different bottoms? etc. A lot of capsules I’ve seen avoid items with patterns, but I threw a few into mine, because I thought it made it more interesting.From there, it was time to start setting things aside. The items that are for cold-weather days were the first and easiest to go. Then I started removing things that I’m luke warm about. Then things that don’t really fit my lifestyle. Then the things that I like but wouldn’t wear frequently. I set a few things in the garbage and a whole bunch in a giveaway pile.

At this point, I was feeling really good about the pile of excluded clothes on my bed and the little remaining in my closet. I was patting myself on the back for all I had set aside.

And then I tallied up my items. I had 52.

hmmmm.Jameson, what should Mommy put away??The process to eliminate the remaining 15 items was the hardest part. There was a pair of jeans I wear regularly, but they were very similar to another pair I planned to wear a lot. I excluded them. There was a dress I absolutely love, but it’s better suited for spring weather, so I excluded it. I got ruthless, and I managed to get to 38 items (one item more than my original goal, but I’m ok with that).

What did I do with the clothes I left out?
Because my wardrobe wasn’t monstrous to begin with, I was able to pack most of the clothes away in a storage container that slides under the bed. I also didn’t pack away the shoes I excluded, but I did move them to higher sections of my closet and brought together just the shoes for my capsule.In the end, I packed away about 75% of my wardrobe (some of this was cold-weather stuff), which included:
– 17 dresses
– 8 skirts (which is all of my skirts!)
– 9 pairs of pants
– 28 tops
– 14 sweaters
– 6 pairs of shoes

What’s in my capsule?
When everything was packed away, here are the tops and jacket I was left with:And here are the one-pieces/dresses I was left with:So when put together, along with my pants drawer, this is all of my clothes for the next 30 days:Can I just pause here for a moment and tell you how happy these pictures and looking in my closet makes me?! To me, it just looks soooo pretty. I’ve wanted to do a capsule for a long time, but I definitely didn’t think looking in my closet could make me feel so good.

Below is a composite image of what’s in my capsule. There are a few things I didn’t include, because they were items in a specific print from several seasons ago (a lot of my clothes are pretty old), and I couldn’t find the image in my web searches. I also included some images that are very similar to what I have but not exact, just so you can get an idea. Below the image, I listed the contents of my capsule and linked to the items when possible.

For the next 30 days, I’ll do weekly posts on what I wore the previous week and how this whole thing is going. Should be fun!

I’m curious — what are your thoughts on the whole capsule wardrobe thing? Have you tried it? Any tips?

Tops (15):
Light-gray tank top // Blush pink tank top (similar) // Gray tank top with embroidery (similar, also similar) // Silk floral tank top – not pictured (old) // Chambray tank top (similar) // Black tank top // White t-shirt (similar) // Floral t-shirt // Gray t-shirt //  Multi-colored blouse (old) // Black graphic t-shirt (boutique) // Demin jacket (similar) // Denim lyocell button-down (similar) // Blue swing top (similar) //  Oatmeal Cardigan (similar)

Bottoms (7):
Distressed denim shorts // White jeans // Light blue mom jeans // Fatigue joggers (similar) // Blue high-rise jeans // Black joggers (similar) // Black high-rise jeans

Dresses/One-pieces (9):
Striped romper // Strapless jumpsuit (similar) // Oatmeal maxi dress (boutique) // Navy maxi dress (similar) // Off-shoulder chambray dress // Gray swing t-shirt dress // Coral chiffon dress (old) // Sleeveless denim dress (similar) // Blue floral chiffon dress (old)

Shoes (7):
White converse sneakers // Gold oxfords (similar) // Sandals (boutique) // Brown heels (similar) // Gray Adidas ultra boosts // Tan suede Birkenstocks // Huaraches

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  • Reply
    L. Lucas
    June 19, 2017 at 10:53 am

    I love this idea. I do rentals. Keeps down on overcrowding in my closet, less goodwill drop off trips, no dry cleaning trips and tons of cute options.

    • Reply
      Jessica Rice
      June 20, 2017 at 9:58 pm

      Rentals is such a good idea! I’ve used Rent the Runway before and love it – which companies do you use?

  • Reply
    June 19, 2017 at 11:54 am

    Love this idea! So inspiring and something that I will like to undertake pretty soon, I’ll update you on my progress. I share the same sentiment with the idea of not having enough space and looking at my closet for way too long.

  • Reply
    June 19, 2017 at 12:19 pm

    Way to go, you! So excited you made this happen! Can’t wait to hear how it goes over the next 30 days. Also (and this is just me) I’d love to hear how you care for your clothes over the next month since you’ll be wearing them more frequently!

    • Reply
      Jessica Rice
      June 20, 2017 at 9:58 pm

      Thanks for the motivation. And I’ll definitely share details about caring for the clothes – great suggestion!

  • Reply
    Lindsay Travis
    June 19, 2017 at 1:55 pm

    Loved seeing your final selection!

  • Reply
    June 19, 2017 at 1:55 pm

    It certainly simplifies daily life! Happy mixing and matching!

    • Reply
      Jessica Rice
      June 20, 2017 at 9:57 pm

      Thanks, Aunt Jean! I definitely had you in mind as I put this together.

  • Reply
    June 19, 2017 at 2:35 pm

    That’s a big capsule Jessica! I’ve never done a capsule because I always thought about them as having fewer items. This is cool. I still have to put my winter things away. Thanks for the inspiration!

    • Reply
      Jessica Rice
      June 20, 2017 at 9:56 pm

      There are some people who do the 10×10 challenge, which is 10 items that can be turned into 10 outfits. But I’m feeling pretty good with just being sub-40 items. :-)

  • Reply
    Erinn D
    June 19, 2017 at 10:14 pm

    I was wondering when you were going to do it, I’m so glad you finally did it! I can’t wait to hear how you like it :-)

    • Reply
      Jessica Rice
      June 20, 2017 at 9:49 pm

      Thanks! Yes, I’ll definitely keep everyone posted. So far, so good!

  • Reply
    Lindsay Travis
    June 20, 2017 at 2:01 pm

    Also the link to distressed denim shorts isn’t working 😭😭😭.

    • Reply
      Jessica Rice
      June 20, 2017 at 9:31 pm

      Oh no! I’m not sure what happened there — it should be working now. :-) Also, the link goes to the actual pair that I own (and love), but they’re different from what’s in the composite image.

  • Reply
    June 22, 2017 at 6:56 am

    I remember you were telling me about this when I was stressed about packing for Paris! I’m so impressed by how you did. My problem is that I love dresses too much. I may give it a shot for winter.

    • Reply
      Jessica Rice
      July 27, 2017 at 12:06 am

      Dresses are my weakness too! Those were the hardest to cut!

  • Reply
    June 22, 2017 at 9:34 am

    I’ve been toying with the idea of shrinking my closet moreso because I have a lot of close but I don’t wear most stuff because a. It doesn’t fit or b. I’m not that girl anymore. Thanks for the inspiration. I’ll tag you in my post once I’ve completed. 🤗

    • Reply
      Jessica Rice
      July 27, 2017 at 12:07 am

      Yes, it’s funny how we can hang on to clothes that we know deep down we’re not going to wear again. Love the updates. :-)

  • Reply
    Mimi Ewell
    July 3, 2017 at 5:39 pm

    This makes so much sense for me as a missionary who’s always going somewhere. My constant goal is to take what I need for weeks at a time, and not get bored with the same outfits. And always come in under the luggage limits! It’s a challenge, but this concept will definitely help with that. Thanks for breaking it down. Seems simple. :-D

    • Reply
      Jessica Rice
      July 3, 2017 at 10:18 pm

      Yes, I think a lot of how I pack (with a color palette/mix and match items) helped make this process easier for me. I think you’d like it!

  • Reply
    June 23, 2018 at 5:49 pm

    Love this post and LOVE your capsule! I’m working to create a capsule wardrobe too, and this post is great inspiration. One practical question for you — how did you create the composite image showing your entire capsule? I would like to create an image that keeps track of the various items I buy so that I can see where the gaps in my capsule are. But I can’t figure out how to create a composite image. Please tell me specifically how you did that (e.g., what software, app, etc.).

    • Reply
      Jessica Rice
      June 24, 2018 at 9:26 pm

      Thanks, Natalie! I’m so glad this was helpful. As for creating the composite image, I used Photoshop. It was a fairly long process to find all of the images and remove the background coloring from each article of clothing and also to resize them for the final composite, but it was a really good learning experience too.

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