Investing in the bones of your capsule wardrobe not only completely de-stresses the process of getting dressed each day but it also saves a lot of money. You will find you wear more of what you already own, you will spend less time feeling frustrated and exclaiming: “I have nothing to wear!!”
A worthwhile first step to building a capsule wardrobe is a wardrobe edit or clothing cleanse. Following these step by step will help you create your own, unique collection and highlight any basics you're missing.
Black ankle boots
Black leather jacket
Black skinny jeans
Keep your best blazers, but go ahead and sell or donate the ones that are uncomfortably too tight or faded far from their original colour.
Always maintain a solid selection of office-appropriate blouses in your wardrobe. Get rid of any ill-fitting or permanently stained blouses and button-down shirts.
When editing your dresses, ask yourself one question. Have you tried it on three times in the past year, without actually wearing it? If so, it’s time to realise it’s just not going to happen.
Try on every pair and make a pile of your favourites. From there, keep one or two of each jean style: skinny, cropped, boyfriend, distressed, boot-cut, and flared—you want to have options. Confession: A minor denim addiction isn’t entirely a bad thing, so we also suggest keeping a larger selection of the style that is most flattering for your body.
Check the bottom of your pants: are the ends tattered and stained? If so, it’s time to let them go. (Side note: if you properly tailor your trousers, this shouldn’t happen!)
Jumpers and cardigans
Did it shrink in the dryer? Donate it. Is it pilling like crazy? Donate it. Does it have moth holes that aren’t worth fixing? Donate it. Is it fine, but very similar to other pieces you already own? Keep two (ok, three) of your favourites, and donate the rest.
Hang on to a selection of the timeless prints: animal, polka dot, stripes, and gingham. Sift through the rest of your printed-top collection, keep your absolute favourites, and give away anything that’s too trendy or that you haven’t worn in at least six months.
Can you think of at least three occasions and ways to wear a particular skirt? If not, this may be the moment to officially retire it.
Is the neck stretched out? Donate it. Does it smell odd? Donate it. Does it belong to your ex-boyfriend? Donate it.
One of the best places to start on the journey toward clutterfree living is in your closet.
Think of it as ‘a room with a room.’ Decluttering this clearly-defined, tiny space will build your confidence and set you on the path to lighter, freer, and better living.
There are other benefits too. A wardrobe edit will:
Stage 1: Ready.
To prepare, ask yourself some key questions:
—What do I own too much of? Keep in mind that most of us wear only 20% of what we have 80% of the time.
—Why have I been holding onto things I no longer wear? Because I think it will come in handy one day… Or I can’t decide what to do with it… Or because of the nostalgic value… Or simply because I spent good money on it… Acknowledge these feelings, then let them go.
—Will I still enjoy fashion after my wardrobe edit? Absolutely! Fashion and beauty writer, Rae Ritchie says you can: “It’s a misconception to think that minimalism and fashion are incompatible. It’s still possible to remain up to date with major trends and have a small capsule wardrobe. You just have to be judicious in your choices. Treat how you dress as a fun creative hobby, a chance to play. With a foundation of versatile basics, you can easily drop in a few items that catch your eye.”
—So, am I ready? If the answer is ‘yes’, move to Stage 2.
Stage 2: Get set.
—Set aside some time, so you can really focus. Bring those old clothes down from the loft and pull out any stowed-away garments from under the bed.
—Have a good collection of hangers ready. Wooden ones enable your clothes to hang well, but you can also buy lovely felt-covered ones. When I decluttered my own wardrobe, I was astonished to discover over 20 yellow plastic dry cleaners’ hangers! Happily, they could be returned for re-cycling.
—Also, prepare some garbage bags.
—Finally, make sure you have access to a good full length mirror for trying on clothes.
Stage 3: Go!
—Review your clothes. Consider your clothes as though they were new items that you were going to buy (and spend a lot of money on). Evaluate each garment and consider the following questions:
Does this suit me? Compliment my shape? Fit (now – not when you’ve lost 10lbs!)? Work with my current lifestyle?
Is it in good condition? A color that suits me? Comfortable?
Am I happy wearing this?
Have I worn it in the last 12 months?
—Divide and conquer. Make a pile for each of the following 3 categories:
1. Items to keep
Identify, then return these to the closet, arranging by garment type, length or by colour. Hang trousers long to avoid creating a crease at the knee.
Try rolling items to be stored in drawers, KonMari style. Use shoe or gift boxes to store smaller items. As you look into the box, you’ll be able to see everything clearly.
Place hooks on the back of the wardrobe door for accessories such as necklaces.
2. ‘Maybe’ items
Would any of these things work with your ‘to keep’ clothes? Could they be cleaned, altered or mended? If not, relegate to ‘Items to let go’ pile.
3. Items to let go
To relinquish what no longer serves you, give them away, swish them (clothes swap), sell them (eBay/dress agency), donate them, or recycle them.
Stage 4: Maintain.
Now that you have created an edited wardrobe and clearly see what you own (and love), you’ll be surprised how easily you can imagine different combinations and identify any gaps.
To further maintain this edited wardrobe:
Store by season. Divide what you have into seasons. I have a summer/winter wardrobe, so I hang my summer clothes in small closet until I gradually swap them with my winter items when warmer weather returns. Take this a step further and try Courtney Carver’s Project 333, wearing just 33 things over a period of 3 months.
Adopt a ‘one in, one out’ approach. When you need something new, adopt the ‘one in, one out’ approach. As Gretchen Rubin writes in The Happiness Project, “It’s easy to make the mistake of thinking that if you have something you love, or there’s something you want, you’ll be happier with more.” Take the essentialist approach and keep one lovely item rather than several mediocre ones.
Change your mindset. Avoid shopping for specific occasions. Later this month, I will attend a friend’s 50th birthday party. With ‘cocktail wear’ specified, I will wear a favourite dress but certainly won’t buy anything new for the occasion. You know what? No-one actually notices what you’re wearing anyway and your bank balance will thank you for it.
Congratulate yourself on a job well done. So, now you’ve taken that first step. You’ve found confidence in your ability to declutter this little ‘room within a room’. Your journey towards clutterfree living has begun!
Most of all, enjoy seeing—and wearing—your favourite items every day.
Maybe you’ll even start thinking about which space to tackle next?