Capsule Wardrobe thoughts. [workbook]



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Lovelies! Usually, I am excited to get starte547o/9/m/d on my next capsule wardrobe, it means shopping and all things girly that go along with creating a wardrobe. This fall I started out excited to open, put together, and then close my wardrobe but I quickly ended up frustrated and hating my closet.

What?!? That is NOT what a capsule wardrobe (for me, anyways) was intended to do. It is intended to free up my brain, free up my time, free up my pocketbook, and make me excited to know that I look gooood without much thought and energy. Because this is crazy...

In 1930, the average American woman owned nine outfits. Today, that figure is 30 outfits — one for every day of the month.

Each year chicks spend more than 100 hours on 30 trips to shop for clothes, 15 shoe-shopping excursions taking 40 hours, and a full 50 hours per year window shopping.

~Forbes Magazine

I want all that time spent on drinking coffee and reading books not thinking about closets, thank you!

A capsule wardrobe absolutely HAS BEEN a game changer for my day to day life. It has given me more confidence, time, energy, and joy. I am a big advocate of the concept. But, this season's creation of a capsule wardrobe has me rethinking the capsule wardrobe altogether. Kind of. Mostly.


The lessons I learned this fall has me rethinking my use of the concept. But, more of that later. Right now let's talk about what went wrong for this season's capsule wardrobe...

Mistake #1: Buying items online.

Because a capsule wardrobe is made up of only a few very good pieces of clothing, I really should intend to try on and feel every. single. piece. in my closet. Each piece has to fit and feel amazing to be worth the space in my closet.

I am passionate about not purchasing clothing from brands and stores that aren't free trade/ethically sourced. Because that is quite difficult to do in brick and mortar stores to do I ended up ordering several pieces online. They didn't cost me a whole lot because I did get several on sale however, it was enough for me to be dedicated to making the pieces be AWESOME for me regardless of what it took.

Problem: it took me several weeks to realize how much I DIDN'T like them. Really, really didn't like the cuts and the style. But because I had paid good money for them, and couldn't return them, I was bound and determined to pretend and force them to work. And I knew that if I repurchased pieces they may not have the same free trade status.

Note: I did buy a few pieces from traditional brands. But, I was lucky to find quite a few pieces at our local vintage store. Score!

Mistake #2: Not listening to myself.

The clothing I got online was from a very reputable and high quality company making me feel like the problem was with ME and not with the clothing. I convinced myself that the clothes really did look good and I just couldn't quite see it. That thinking is probably partly true. But my capsule wardrobe journey isn't for anyone else but me. If I don't love the clothes... it just doesn't matter. I simply didn't listen to myself from the very first time I tried those pieces on and knew they weren't something I loved.

Mistake #3: Getting it right.

When I first realized those clothes were all wrong I should have put them in a bag and gifted them to someone else.. and tried again. Instead, I tried for several weeks to wear them every which way and get the look right. I put tops with pants I don't like so that it might "work". I even bought an accessory just to get a look I might like. Mistake, mistake, mistake! But at 37 years old I didn't want to admit that I STILL don't always understand my own style. Geesh. That sounds so looserish. Yet, if I had admitted it and simply tried again I wouldn't have several weeks under my belt of being frustrated every morning getting dressed, feeling a bit off in my own skin, and wondering why on earth I did capsule wardrobes in the first place!

Mistake #4: Following the rules.

I believe in lists, organization, and plans for your wardrobe when working with capsule wardrobes. Frankly, for any kind of wardrobe. I think they save you money, time, and energy. I don't want to purchase shirts that only work with one pair of pants. Or a pair of shoes I can never wear simply because I loved them in the store. Having a wardrobe plan, color, and style is always a good idea.

But I followed the plan far, far too carefully and didn't allow myself to get a blouse just slightly off the plan because I loved it. You know maybe, I could get a white shirt instead of a white button down? Just maybe that would work?

Of course it would. But I was so set on conquering the list and getting  the white button down checked off that I settled for something that I secretly hated. Sure,  I felt like a champ for finding a white button down from a great brand. I CONQUERED that list!

The list is a guideline. Go off course a bit if you want. Your wardrobe and clothes are there to serve YOU, not the other way around. I let that list run my closet. Darn it.

Mistake #5: Only including one season.

Here's that rule thing again. I have committed to 38 pieces of clothing in my capsule. This fall I had allowed myself to go up to 40 to allow for the need to have clothing from temperatures of 40 degrees all the way to 75 degrees. Yes, this is a typical MN fall. And, it's not like it's cool in the morning and warms up in the afternoon kind of weather where layering is effective. It's 50 degrees for a couple days and then 75 degrees for a couple days and then oh gosh... 40 degrees the next. We are talking full outfits for both seasons need to be in the closet. I totally underestimated what that would do to my closet. It was stressing me out. I really, really needed a few more items in order to easily use my wardrobe. But those items didn't fit, gosh darn it.

Mistake #6: Having fun.

I'm a girl. I should love to shop, right? Well, to be truthful, I've never been one whom loves shopping. This is partly why the capsule wardrobe appeals to me... it limits my shopping. However, I do love to shop SOME.  But this fall, I was hating it. Nothing was fitting the rules. And every store, every brand... stunk at life.

Of course it was me, all me, that was the problem. Once again I was obsessed with the rules and order that I forgot the rules were intended for me to better enjoy my wardrobe and the process of putting it together.

Gah! Will someone slap me next time, please!

When I finally figured out they I was way too absorbed with the rules and threw them out the window for a day... I found my groove. I kept my goals in mind when I shopped but allowed myself to try on a top that I simply thought was pretty. And you know, I still didn't buy anything that didn't fit within what I actually needed, I found I really didn't like them. But funny enough, I found that I truly DO know my style. I know what I will or will not wear. I simply need to allow myself to enjoy looking at things I find pretty knowing full well I'll probably not bring it home. It's okay to look, try on, and enjoy something totally outside what you know is probably best for your wardrobe. And hey, if you bring it home and make it one of your items...own it and have fun with it!

Mistake #7: The "maybe" pile.

When I would go shopping to fill my list I would have three piles in the dressing room...

Pile 1: Hate it.

Pile 2: Maybe. Fits the rules, would work well with outfits.

Pile 3: Love. Yes Yes Yes!

Pile 2 shouldn't exist. Ever. There are so many clothes in the world that if I don't love it... it goes. Yes, I will find something else I love. It's simply a mathematical probability. And no, it doesn't matter how deep it is on sale, or what brand, or how perfect it fits into the rules... it goes if I don't love it. And that, my lovelies, is a very freeing moment. That moment when you allow yourself to "love" what you put in your closet. Not that it looks good, or your friends like it, or it fits with what is currently trendy. That YOU love it. No maybe's, only love.


And so, I'm keeping the idea of the capsule wardrobe. The lessons of simplicity, purpose, and waste that I have learned. But I'm challenging myself to make my own rules. To be thoughtful and purposeful of every. single. thing. that comes into my closet. And frankly, my home... but that's another story that I'm excited to bring you.

Yet, I am scrapping the capsule wardrobe in my own life. The "mistakes" I made are simply lessons for the future of my closet. Going forward I will have a Purposeful Wardrobe.

(yes, I totally just made that name up. "Purposeful Wardrobe". It's good, isn't it!)

More posts in the capsule wardrobe series are:

CAPSULE WARDROBES: the ultimate guide
CAPSULE WARDROBE: beginners guide
CAPSULE WARDROBE: is it for you?
CAPSULE WARDROBE: accessories
6 Steps for successfully using thrift stores8

26 thoughts on “Capsule Wardrobe thoughts. [workbook]”

  1. I'm sorry, but those jeans.... the biggest pet peeve ever!! Stumbled on this article upon on Pinterest. I almost given up registering for mails.... just wanted to let you know.

    Capsule wardrobe on The Vivienne Files saved my life so I am intrigued.

    1. The jeans that look worn out, already? Is that the pet peeve? I'll have to go check out The Vivienne Files, love learning new and handy things!

  2. I stumbled across this on Pinterest and I have to say I made many of the same mistakes last fall. The result was a wardrobe that didn't work for me and too much wasted money. The good thing was I was able to turn it into a huge learning experience and was motivated to create a winter wardrobe of only 21 pieces! ( Excluding work clothes as I'm a musician and my concert black clothes don't translate well into my daily life nor is that an area where I tend to over buy.)

    A few things that spoke to me in this post.

    "The clothing I got online was from a very reputable and high quality company making me feel like the problem was with ME and not with the clothing. I convinced myself that the clothes really did look good and I just couldn’t quite see it."

    YES YES YES!!! This hit the nail on the head for me. I know this sounds completely backwards but when I try to spend up on higher quality items this is what inevitably happens. Part of this is my body type as it seems many of the more upscale brands are geared towards people with smaller frames than mine. I'd like to have higher quality clothes but when they don't fit right it's a bad purchase no matter how well they're made. This past spring I spent a ridiculous amount of money on some knit shirts that are simply too long and I don't feel good wearing them. But since they were expensive and from a "reputable and high quality company" I convinced myself they worked. Thankfully they can be repurposed as pajamas but that's not always the case. Don't get me started on the denim shirt I convinced myself I "needed" even though it didn't go with most of my clothes. Honestly, I'm better off sticking to less expensive stores as long as I'm careful about not buying certain kinds of items I know won't hold up for more than a season. I'm getting much better at this.

    I also made the mistake of assuming poor fit could be fixed with alterations. I'm 5'7" but have freakishly short legs so all of my pants need to be altered. Last fall I bought a pair of black jeans (because I convinced myself this was an item every good capsule needed to have, and it was the only pair of pants that worked with the denim shirt I mentioned above!) and because they were too long I neglected to notice they simply didn't fit right in the calves. For some reason I assumed that having them shortened would make the fit magically perfect. Um, no. After they were altered they still didn't fit right but I forced myself to wear them because I'd paid good money for them and had them hemmed. Ugh.

    Secondly, the whole string three month capsule simply does not work for me. I live in Wisconsin where spring and fall weather is always a crap shoot. And interestingly, those are the seasons I tend to make the worst clothing purchases. It's not practical to have a rigid capsule during times of the year where the weather is all over the place so I've learned that during those months (September/October and April/May) I need to have more than one season of clothing available. What I did for this coming fall is decide which items would get switched out for heavier alternatives as the weather cools. So instead of a set number of items I'll pull out in September I will gradually swap things out as the weather transitions into late fall. It's not as clean and neat as a traditional capsule but it's more practical.

    You didn't address this but I have to add it anyway. Most of the capsule wardrobes I stumble across for fall and winter seem to be built for a more mild climate than where I live. I'm sorry, but when the temperature is in the negative digits it simply doesn't work to layer a lightweight sweater over a long sleeve t-shirt and call it a day. ;-) We live in an older house that isn't very well insulated and I would freeze my ass off if I was trying to wear my fall clothes all winter long. My wardrobe for November and December is drastically different than for January and February. Granted, I've been able to account for this and keep my capsule for those months much smaller. Like the 21 items I mentioned previously.

    Anyway, I love this article. I don't think you're missing the point of the Capsule as mentioned above. While the strict rules may work for some I think the whole point of a capsule is to be intentional about clothing purchases and build a wardrobe that works for you. Regardless of whatever rules or structure others use.

    1. Thank you so much for commenting and giving such a great perspective! Living in MN I totally agree about the capsule wardrobe being harder for those living in cold climates. The pure number of different kinds of weather days we have here makes it impossible to be worried too much about following the rules. Sometimes a cold cold day requires a bit more pieces on our bodies :). Thanks so much for adding such great info!

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