I've had a capsule wardrobe for 10 years—This is what I've learned

What I've Learned About Capsule Wardrobes

It's hard to escape the chokehold fast fashion has on our shopping habits that causes our wardrobes to overflow with cheap clothing. The concept of a capsule wardrobe offers a refreshing and sustainable approach that can transform our relationship with fashion.

I began exploring capsule wardrobes back in 2014 as a way to define my personal style and be more intentional with my shopping habits. I started my own minimal wardrobe with a few simple rules borrowed from the '5-piece wardrobe' technique. Later I developed my own capsule wardrobe method using personal style goals that prioritised shopping less, thrifting more, and repeating outfits.

The goal was always to create a wardrobe where quality took priority over quantity and personal style was always more important than trends; with a small yet carefully curated selection of versatile clothes tailored specifically for my life and style.

Over the years I have discovered all the benefits of having a capsule wardrobe and why capsule wardrobes fail. I've created a capsule wardrobe I love that has stood the test of time. I've poured everything I have learned into style guides to help others do the same including my own capsule wardrobe process.

Having a capsule wardrobe has taught me invaluable lessons about mindful consumption, personal style, and sustainable habits. This is everything I've learned from creating a capsule wardrobe with all the best tips and tricks for finding your personal style and buying clothes you'll actually wear.

What I've Learned About Capsule Wardrobes

What I've Learned About Capsule Wardrobes

A Capsule Wardrobe Is a Tool Not a Goal

Don't expect to create a capsule wardrobe and then never have to think about what to wear ever again. Having a capsule wardrobe does a lot of the hard work for you, from inventing a cohesive style to making getting dressed easier. But it does require a certain amount of upkeep.

Due to lifestyle adjustments, seasonal changes, style evolution, and the natural wear and tear of clothing, a capsule wardrobe requires maintenance if it's to remain functional. To keep your wardrobe aligned with your evolving needs and preferences, you'll need to invest time and effort into regularly evaluating, updating, and decluttering your clothes.

Over the last decade, my capsule wardrobe has gone through various different iterations as I unpicked my problematic shopping habits, educated myself about fast fashion, and gained confidence in my personal style.

Don't Follow Any Capsule Wardrobe How-To Guide

Unless you want to be told exactly how to dress in basic outfits that have no personal style, never follow any how-to capsule wardrobe guide verbatim! They offer such generic advice they are useless and often incredibly out-dated too.

These capsule wardrobe guides all contain a list of "must-have capsule wardrobe essentials," including: skinny jeans, white tees, a blazer, and some sneakers. While there's nothing wrong with these easy to style items, there's nothing inspiring about them either.

Nothing about my capsule wardrobe fits the mold because I've learned it's better to honour your personal style and wear what makes you happy. It might take longer to find the outfits that truly feel like you—but that's better than letting someone else tell you what to wear!

A Change in Shopping Habits is Required

Without a more considered approach to fashion that shifts your shopping habits from impulsive shopping to mindful consumption, a capsule wardrobe is never going to work for you. Each purchase needs to be carefully considered for its longevity, versatility, and alignment with your personal style.

Fast fashion promotes frequent and impulsive purchasing of cheap clothing that doesn't last. The very antithesis of a capsule wardrobe, which prioritises quality over quantity. This more thoughtful approach to fashion results is a wardrobe full of high-quality, durable, and timeless pieces.

Watching The True Cost, a documentary about fast fashion, was the shock I needed to change my shopping habits and take responsibility for the impact of my purchasing decisions. What I learned was that not did this help to reduce clutter and save money, it helps personal style to flourish.

A Wardrobe Inventory Makes Planning Fun

Putting together a wardrobe inventory might be time consuming but the effort is so worth it. Having a catalogue of every item in your wardrobe not only makes getting dressed easier, it makes the process much more fun too.

A wardrobe inventory can be used to put together seasonal capsule wardrobes and travel packing lists. As well providing a way to test out outfits without having to dig through your wardrobe and try everything on. If you use an app, like Whering or Acloset, it's possible to track wears too.

I use my wardrobe inventory to plan outfits and put together capsule wardrobes. It's a way for me to experiment with the clothes already in my wardrobe, trial new outfits, and consider my option without having to physically play dress up.

The Number of Clothes Doesn't Matter

Although the general rule of thumb for how many clothes a capsule wardrobe should have is between 30-40 items; the actual number of clothes really don't matter. They're not important because everyone's capsule wardrobe should be uniquely tailored to their life and style.

Sticking to an arbitrary number of clothes can make a capsule wardrobe feel so restrictive it ends up stifling your fashion choices. Likewise not decluttering your wardrobe and having far too many clothes can result in overwhelm!

I've found that a capsule wardrobe will eventually find a resting point where it hovers between a certain number. Once I really figured out what I enjoyed wearing and how to style my clothes, I noticed my wardrobe would always contain between 50-70 items with seasonal capsules having around 20.

Personal Style Rules Are Essential

A cohesive wardrobe relies on clearly defined style rules or goals. These are the guiding force that keeps a capsule wardrobe on track to being both versatile and cohesive. They provide a clear direction and purpose for your purchases and outfits choices.

That doesn't mean you can't ever break these rules! But they do help you to make considered choices about the items you buy and what you wear, ensuring your wardrobe always reflects your unique personal style.

The most important style rule would be defining a wardrobe colour palette. Once I had found the colours I enjoy wearing, my capsule wardrobe suddenly became so much more fun and interesting to style.

Thrifting Makes Fashion More Affordable

Finding your personal style takes time and experimentation. The latter often costs money, which can result in impulse purchases and buyer's regret. Buying second-hand clothes offers a way to experiment with fashion, find your personal style, and save money in the process!

Thrifting is a budget-friendly way to experiment with a capsule wardrobe. The affordability of pre-owned clothing provides the freedom to explore personal style and diversify your outfit options without financial constraints.

The majority of my capsule wardrobe is thrifted. I enjoy having items that are one or a kind or hard to find, and that I've carefully selected to work with my existing wardrobe. If I want to try out a trend or aesthetic, I thrift items instead of buying new to save money and avoid supporting fast fashion.