Today's post is going to be a little Q&A session focusing on capsule wardrobes - a topic I get quite a lot of questions about. Below you’ll find my answers to typical questions on three aspects of capsule wardrobes: Its relation to the rest of the wardrobe, how to start building one from scratch and whether having a uniform is a prerequisite. Feel free to email me or send me a message on Facebook should you have any other questions. Click here for the original step-by-step guide on how to build a capsule wardrobe and here or here to see a complete 20/25-piece sample.
1. Surely you must own more than 20 - 30 items! What proportion of your entire closet is a capsule wardrobe supposed to represent?
I do own more than 30 items, but my seasonal capsule wardrobe is only about 25 pieces strong. The idea of curating a capsule wardrobe is to ensure you have a solid foundation of key pieces that represent your style and provide you with a good number of outfits to wear for all of your activities (i.e. combat the dreaded ‘I have nothing to wear’-feeling). Although it should be developed to work on its own (for travelling for example), you can of course combine it with other pieces from your wardrobe. For me, building a capsule wardrobe at the beginning of a new season is a good way to redefine my style, reassess my lifestyle and make sure that both are well-represented by my wardrobe. Once I’ve sorted out my 20-30 pieces, I know I have a functional set of clothes sitting in my closet, and can just buy a few pieces here and there should I feel like it as a supplement, but it is not a must. If you are working with a capsule wardrobe, besides your 20-30 pieces and some extra items you will also have a few subsections in your wardrobe for stuff like underwear, lounge wear, special occasions etc. Those subsections are not a part of your everyday wardrobe, but of course just as essential! If you are just starting out I would recommend you focus on building a strong capsule wardrobe first before you address the rest of your wardrobe. After that you can tackle your subsections if you want to, for example your bag collection.
2. My wardrobe is an absolute mess but I don’t have the money to buy a whole new set of clothes. How can I build a capsule wardrobe without spending a fortune?
First of all, you need to investigate what it is about your wardrobe that makes it a ‘mess’. Do you have few single items you really like (= your wardrobe does not reflect your personal style)? Do you have lots of items that you like but that don’t mix well and can’t be combined into many outfits (= no wardrobe structure)? Or do you have a lot of outfit options but only for a few rare occasions, not your everyday life (= your wardrobe does not reflect your lifestyle)?
If your main issue is the latter, your first step should definitely be a thorough lifestyle analysis to help you identify over- and underrepresented areas in your wardrobe. If you feel like you have many individual items that represent your style, but that somehow don’t work well together, you need to bring a bit more structure into your wardrobe, for example by developing a uniform, identifying your main categories or focusing on one or two methods for creating outfits. The trickiest scenario is the first one: If you don’t feel inspired by the majority of your clothes, chances are your wardrobe just does not match your true personal style. If that is the case, the only solution is to start from the very beginning: find and analyse inspiration, pick out themes and specific elements and bit by bit create a new style concept.
Depending on the specific issue of your wardrobe you might not have to buy a lot of new items to make it work again. If your wardrobe has a weak structure for example, rethinking the way you build outfits, identifying your main categories and a few new basics might be all you need to rediscover the wealth of options your wardrobe has to offer. However, if your wardrobe really does need a considerable amount of work and you don’t have the budget to do it all at once, aim for a smaller, but still coherent set of key pieces first and expand it item-by-item. Instead of 20 - 30 pieces, try to curate 10 or even just 3-5 pieces that truly fit your style. That way you will always have at least a few outfits and perfect items at your fingertips to combine with less-than-perfect items, until you have the budget to replace those as well.
3. I don’t have a uniform and prefer a bit more variety. Can I still build a capsule wardrobe? Yes, although a uniform is a great starting point for a capsule wardrobe, you definitely do not need to have one to build a functional and expressive capsule wardrobe. You do however need to develop some sort of framework that will give your capsule wardrobe structure and ensure that your clothes support the way you build outfits. Even if you don’t consciously follow a certain method, you will probably employ a few different techniques to pair individual items, for example balance out a colourful piece with a simpler one. Check out this post for a quick overview of the most common methods and see if you can recognise your own approach in one or several of them.
As a second step you can then decide on an overall structure that will support those outfit-building methods, for example if you prefer the basics/statement pieces approach you could try a three-fold structure of basics, mid-range and statement pieces, like in this post. Then, use your favourite proportions to pick a range of item categories. Item categories can be very specific (e.g. skinny jeans or loose-fitting, button-down shirt) or more general (e.g. longsleeve top or flat shoes). Broad item categories will allow you to create a greater variety of outfits, because you can choose a wider range of items for each, for example ‘flat shoes’ could mean sneakers, loafers, brogues, etc. Feel free to use relatively broad categories to build your capsule wardrobe, but make sure that your structure and final set of items match the criteria for each one of your preferred outfit-building methods (e.g. a coherent style concept and colour scheme for the modular approach).
*image via leibal.com