My experiences with a capsule wardrobe

My husband was completely unimpressed when I started a capsule wardrobe. Not only does he not care at all about fashion (except his distaste for electric neon leggings and pajama-wearing in public), but he already has a minimalist wardrobe. Jeans, t-shirts, cargo shorts and sweaters—this is his wardrobe all year, each garment worn until it frays to bits.

Many guys are like him, which is why I explain capsule wardrobes as “how a dude dresses all the time” to people who don’t know what they are.

After adopting a minimalist approach to my clothing, I realized what he’s known all along: It’s better to have less.

Here’s my experience with a capsule wardrobe (which eventually evolved into a minimalist wardrobe)

Creating my first capsule was energizing. Like most people starting out, I focused less on finding quality garments and more on downsizing my wardrobe. I whittled my wardrobe down to about 35 items, including shoes (but excluding undergarments, pjs and exercise clothes), stored a smaller portion of things I wasn’t ready to get rid of yet, and donated the rest.

I’ll confess that I went through a short-lived but awkward phase of feeling like I didn’t have anything to wear. Temporarily this actually made me more indecisive about what to wear, and added more time to my morning routine. And definitely I had a few moments of regret, feeling like I’d over-purged.

Fortunately this awkwardness resolved itself fairly quickly as I settled into a smaller wardrobe. And after six months I found myself reducing even more. I got rid of almost all of the things I’d set aside for storage, plus more. My entire wardrobe now consists of less than 50 things for the whole year, and each season I find myself purging just a little more.

Needless to say, I’ve saved money on clothing, though like a lot of capsule wardrobe wearers, I’ve spend more on a few things (ex. this shirt) than I normally would have otherwise. But this list is small.

Also, a minimal wardrobe has completely resolved the “what should I wear today?” morning deliberations, saving me time getting ready. I now dress as fast as my husband does.

If you’re a guy reading this you may be like, “Duh. I don’t get what the big deal is.” But you’d be surprised how much time and energy women will invest in fashion. Shopping, looking at styles, talking to each other about clothes, trying things on, planning outfits—there’s a reason fashion is a 3 trillion dollar global industry. Stepping out of the stream is liberating, which is why I think capsule wardrobes are gaining popularity (ex. here’s a chart of searches for “capsule wardrobe” in the past year).

Interested in trying a capsule for yourself? Here’s how to start one:

  • If you’re easily pulled into fashion trends, start by unsubscribing from retailer emails, fashion newsletters/magazines, and avoid stores
  • If you want to start by decluttering your closet, read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.
  • If you’re influenced by social issues and inequality, read Overdressed.
  • If you are interested in discovering your own uniform, read this and this.
  • If you want someone to plan a capsule for you, try Cladwell.
  • If you want to plan a capsule yourself, download Unfancy’s capsule planner.

I’m curious: Would you like me to share some tips for influencing your significant other to start downsizing their wardrobe?

What’s a capsule wardrobe?

capsule wardrobe Cladwell

capsule wardrobe Cladwell

I started wearing a capsule wardrobe in early 2015, and one of the most common questions I get about it is, “What’s a capsule wardrobe?” Because my answer (“It’s how a guy dresses all the time”) is insufficient for some, I thought I’d let someone else describe it. Welcome Cladwell.

Cladwell—started by three gents named Blake, Tim and Chris–is a new fashion service specializing in capsule wardrobes. These wardrobes, as they describe them, are built on a small number of quality pieces meant to be worn seasonally (or longer, depending on your preference). By intentionally restricting the number of garments, you simplify your wardrobe. But by rotating your capsules 3-4 times per year, you keep from getting bored.

According Cladwell, in 1930 the average woman had 36 items in her closet. Today she has 120. This increase is primarily due to one factor: The recent availability of really cheap clothes in the US. And while this cheap clothing boon has been exciting for many, there are some unfortunate side-effects to the trend, including clutter, child labor, pollution, and a TON of clothing waste.

I was personally attracted to the idea of a capsule wardrobe because I wanted to simplify my morning routine. I was tired of standing in front of my closet every morning trying to decide what to wear. I also recognized that I wore certain things over and over, and left the rest (more than half my closet) untouched. So I reduced my clothes down to about 35 items and never looked back.

Based on my experience, I agree with Cladwell’s listed benefits for keeping a capsule wardrobe: It reduces excess consumerism, keeps clothing out of landfills, helps you avoid trends and settle into a personal style, and simplifies your routine.

Because this isn’t a fashion blog per se, I won’t go into more details about my wardrobe now. But if you’re interested in starting a capsule, here are some excellent places to start:

The capsule wardrobe trend is one the rise, and garnering more press and attention with each new week. Expect to keep hearing more about it here, including more discussion about why it’s connecting with people.