Tuesday, September 6, 2016

The Capsule Wardrobe - What the heck is it and how do you do it?

The beginning of September! I love September.  It means pumpkins, fall, boots, pumpkin spice lattes and every other basic white girl thing I love. It also is when I change my clothes over. It's a magical time in the world of Sarah. Because of this, I’m doing a series of blogs this week about my capsule wardrobe.

Meet my closet. It’s glorious.

This is a panoramic of my closet.  The left and middle are mine, Aaron gets the right.
I’m very blessed to have a husband that allowed me to spend a ridiculous amount of money on a closet system when we built our house. I used the Elfa Closet System from The Container Store. I love it. I have a wall of shoes, people. A WALL OF SHOES. It doesn’t get much better than that. But I also have a lot of clothes.  Before the wonderful closet happened, I lived my wardrobe life by the season. It was the only way my closet could handle my clothes.  Now, I’ve done a major overhaul of the closet (as required by the husband), but I still live by seasons. I have what many call a capsule wardrobe. Or at least a modified version.

What is this thing?
So what is a capsule wardrobe? It’s basically a pared down version of your closet that you wear for three months at a time. Most people do it by season.  You have a set number of pieces that make up your capsule wardrobe and you wear only those pieces in the capsule during the three months.  I first found out about capsule wardrobes through the blog Un-fancy.  The blogger did a year-long capsule wardrobe experiment and used 37 as her magic number.  You can read about her experiment here. Most people also stick to a certain color or color palette when creating their capsule wardrobe as you want to be able to mix and match everything.  Another blogger/photographer that I know from high school also did a capsule wardrobe post.  You can read about hers here.  She has awesome graphics that I do not have the skill to do, so use them!

Why would you do that?!
So now you’re thinking “WHY?” I imagine it said much like I say “WHY?” when watching the HGTV show about tiny houses - confused and incredulous as to why someone would do something so unnecessary.  Most people do it to reduce the amount of clutter (and laundry) in their life.

I’ve been doing my modified capsule wardrobe since January of this year and I love it. You could say that I have a shopping problem.  In my world, material gain makes many things better. Especially material gain at a discount. I found that I bought a lot of items just because they were on sale and then I never ended up wearing them. Enter the capsule closet. It changes how you buy things, why you buy things and how you wear them.  You’re forced to become more intentional about the pieces that you buy.  At this point, I have to love an item and be able to make at least two separate outfits with it before I buy it, preferably more. You appreciate what you have and the “more, more, more” mentality changes. For example, I have a ton of shoes from when I used to buy shoes like a crazy person. Now, I buy shoes maybe two to three times a year.

How it Works
I’ve been working on this series of posts as I’ve been preparing my clothes/wardrobe for fall.  The last month of the season, I start working on the clothes for my next capsule. I look at what will transition from my current capsule and think about what I need to add.  I spent the month of August getting my fall wardrobe ready.

I structure my seasons like this:
  • Fall: September – November
  • Winter: December – February
  • Spring: March – May
  • Summer: June – August
My structure is based more on how the weather works in NC and an easy, full 3 month basis. And as weather is crazy in NC, you have to account for seasonal overlap, or seasonal schizophrenia, whichever you prefer to call it.  Fall and Spring wardrobes look weird.

During this post I'm going to go over what's counted and not counted in my capsule wardrobe and how I stage it in my closet.  The next post will show you the general make-up of my capsule and some sample wardrobe mixing I can do with my pieces. The last post will talk about how I set my capsule up and how you can do it without losing your mind (and all your clothes...and money!).

What's in my capsule? 
  • Number of pieces – 50 total
    • I use 50 instead of 37.  I work a full-time job that requires me to dress professionally. While a lot of my clothes do double duty, I have specifically casual and date-night/non-work items too.  50 allows me to have plenty of work AND play clothes.  I also never start with 50 items so I can add a few things in during the season. I think you're supposed to not shop once the capsule is set. I don't abide by that rule at all, but I do make sure to stay within my number when adding in the new stuff.
  • What I DON’T count – This is important when talking the number of items in your wardrobe.  Some people get really strict and include jewelry, shoes, outerwear, etc. I don’t. Here's what's not included in my 50 items (it's a lot).
    • Shoes – I don’t count my shoes in my pieces.  I have a ton of shoes and, honestly, I wear them seasonally. But my goal is to get as many wears out of my shoes that I already own as possible, therefore, I don’t restrict what I wear.  I do restrict how many shoes I buy now and my husband and I agreed on a shoe buying rule – for every pair I buy, one must go.
    • Camisoles/Undershirts – I have a lot of these, but I don’t count them in my pieces.  Most people don't. I consider them like bras and underwear, something that I wear to help my real clothes look better.  The best way to think about whether or not to count an item is whether I would wear a shirt by itself or not.  If I would wear a tank top alone, then it counts.  If it never sees the light of day and is always under another shirt, it doesn’t count
    • Jewelry – No. Just no. I have way too much. And I wear it all, all the time.  I did do a major overhaul of my jewelry when first starting this adventure, though.
    • Belts/Scarves – I hate belts, so I don't have many of them. The one that is worn most frequently (meaning maybe twice during the season), I wear with one dress. I also don't really wear scarves and when I do, it's considered like a coat. 
    • Suits – I don’t count my two suits and the shells/camisoles that go with them. I don’t wear suits as part of my regular work wardrobe, but it’s important to have them.  If you did wear suits as part of your regular wardrobe, then I would recommend counting them as part of your capsule.
    • Fancy dresses – Mine currently don’t fit me and I’ve been using Rent the Runway for my fancier dresses lately, and will continue to do so, but I haven't included them as part of my count because I don’t wear them on a regular basis.
    • Workout clothes – Don’t even go there. I have a lot because I’m in the gym 5 days a week. And those are not “oh we can re-wear this!” workouts.  I am conscious about what I buy as I’m working on replacing many of my older, more worn out pieces. 
    • Outerwear - By this I mean coats. Not jackets that you would wear as part of an outfit (those do count), but a coat you put over your outfit. I have three - a fleece, a raincoat, and a trench.
    • Purses - I buy one purse every six months or so, sometimes longer. I only switch out if I'm traveling and want a smaller bag.
  • What I DO count
    • Tops - includes sweaters, button downs, t-shirts (not the ratty ones your work out in), tops for date night, cardigans, blazers, ponchos, etc.  If you can wear it by itself or if it is a top layer, it counts.  
    • Bottoms - skirts, shorts, pants, jeans, and I'm now adding leggings thanks to my newfound interest in Lularoe.  I'm still not convinced they are pants, but I'm wearing them out in public, so they go into the count.
    • Dresses - dresses I wear to work, wear on the weekends, wear for date nights, etc.  Super fancy dresses that I only wear to weddings or events, I don't count. Really, though, Rent the Runway is your BFF for those situations. I don't know that I will ever buy a super fancy dress ever again. 
So how do you set it up?
Some people set up their closets with only the clothes they are wearing that season in the closet and store the rest.  I have a lot of room, so I set mine up a little differently.  Also, part of the deal of getting my closet was that I had to contain all my clothing (out of season or not) in our bedroom.

Here's how it works in my closet.

The left and center walls of the closet are mine.  I was nice and gave Aaron the right wall (which he doesn't even fully utilize!).

The clothes portion of my closet (step stools are necessary!)
The left side of the left wall of my closet has the hanging tops that are out of season and a set of drawers that hold my camisoles/undershirts, in-season items, out-of-season items, hoodies and flip flops and slippers. Only the second drawer has clothes in it that count in my 50 pieces. For the fall it holds my sweaters, shorts and capris.  During the summer it held my shorts, capris and a few holiday-esque ('murica!) tops. 

Left side of my closet. The second drawer and the first half of the hanging items, up to the dresses, are in my count.
The right side of the left wall has shelves that hold my jeans and a long hanging rack.  I only have 4 jeans in rotation, but 6 total pairs on the shelf.  I'm between sizes and anticipating being able to size down in the next month or so. The new jeans will replace the old, so I will still have 4 jeans. The items at the front (the skirts, pants, and three dresses) are the in-season items. Everything after the in-season dresses aren't counted in my 50 items because they are either out-of-season or fancy dresses (that don't but maybe one day will fit).

On the center wall, I have a short-hanging section and the wall of shoes.  The top portion of the short-hanging section holds all of my in-season tops, cardigans and jackets.  The bottom section holds my out-of-season cardigans,jackets, and skirts and my two suits.

The center wall of my closet.  Sadly, about a third of the shoes aren't even in the photo due to wall angles.  The top hanging row is in season, bottom is not.
Essentially, when getting ready in the morning, I'm only looking at three areas - the second drawer with in-season items, the front of the long-hanging items and my jeans, and the top of my short-hanging section. And my shoes, my glorious wall of shoes.

Some ideas for how you can tailor the capsule wardrobe to work for you:
  • Be brave - do 37 pieces and include everything (please tell me how you do it!)
  • If you wear scarves and belts a lot, include them in your count.
  • Include shoes.  Honestly, if I didn't have so many, I would add them in to my count.  But my closet isn't really set up to handle that.
  • Include purses if you swap those out regularly. Or limit yourself to one really nice purse per season if you have purse problem (no judgement). 

What do you think? Does it sound horrible or brilliant? As you can see, I have a lot of clothes. The cool thing about the capsule closet is that it's to help you, not necessarily restrict you. So 50 items might be too many for you.  If you work at home, 37 might work perfectly. Next post, I'll show you how my capsule breaks down by pieces and how it all works together! 

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