Finding My Style – A Capsule Wardrobe

In my last post, I talked about my history with clothes. I’ve spent my whole life trying to figure out my style; Trying to find clothes that were not only comfortable, but made me feel “put together” and polished.

A few weeks back, I came across an idea that just might work for me: Capsule Wardrobes. There are tons of different blogs our there that all have different takes on it, but I think I’ll start with Project333 and go from there. The idea is that you limit yourself to 33 items for each 3 month period (a season). She includes tops, bottoms, dresses, shoes, outerwear and accessories in the count, but not pajamas, underwear, and workout clothes (so long as you never wear them as regular clothes!). Some bloggers allow for more than 33 items (like 37), and some don’t include outerwear and accessories in the count (but shoes always count!).

So, right now would be the “Winter Capsule”. Everything not included in the capsule either gets packed away for another capsule, or you get rid of it. Since you’re limited to a small number of items, you better love every single one. It should fit, and be in good condition. Allowances are made if an item wears out, or gets damaged; You can bring in a new item to replace an old. Same if you lose/gain weight. Each season doesn’t need to be 33 totally different items; A lot of base pieces, like jeans, will carry forward from one capsule to the next. In areas with less distinct seasons, some people choose to only do 2 capsules: A Spring/Summer and a Fall/Winter.

Why do I like this idea? Because it helps clear away the clutter, and forces you to take action and make hard decisions. I have a small closet at the apartment for all my clothes. And it has a big duct that runs up the back, making it even smaller. Shoes litter the bottom of my closet, and, even with not having many clothes, the racks are full. I’m not even sure what all I have in there! I’ve started pulling things out of the closet, and clearing out the things that aren’t “winter appropriate”. After pulling out a bunch of T-shirts, and a variety of light weight shirts, and a few summery skirts, I was surprised with what was left. There were several things I’d totally forgotten about. And several items that I really like, but couldn’t wear in their current condition. Like the 2 pairs of jeans and 1 pair of dress pants that I love the fit of, but they’re 4 inches too long. Why have I not hemmed them? If I only have 33 pieces of clothing (including shoes!), I need to make sure that every item I keep is wearable!

With fewer things in the closet, it’s easier to see what you need. If you’re only looking at one season at a time, it’s easier to come up with colors and styles that are interchangeable. And when you set limits on the number of items you can have, you’re more likely to concentrate your clothing dollars on things you’ll get the most use out of. You tend to buy better quality items, instead of more items. People who follow the system say the first year is hard, since you’re filling in a lot of gaps, and trying to define your style. After that, you’re pulling capsules out from the previous year, so you really just have to make a few adjustments for style changes and wear/tear.

It’s also brought up a good question on how I view my clothes. I have several things that I really like, that fit well, but I don’t wear. Why? Because I’m saving them for special occasions. For example, when I had several interviews last year, I realized none of my old business suits fit. So, I bought a basic suit from J.C. Penney’s. I kept one old suit that is a size smaller, but all of my other old suits I got rid of; Even if I can fit into them someday, they have a somewhat dated look to them now. I love the way the black pants fit, and they’d make a great addition to my work clothes. But I haven’t worn them for anything other than interviews. Why? Because if I wear them, they’re going to get wear and tear, and fade, and they won’t match the blazer anymore! I tried buying a second pair, but haven’t been able to find another pair in that size/style.

The reality is, I may not even be that size anymore by the time I need to wear a suit again. I almost always need a different sized suit when I interview. I’ll have saved those pants for a special occasion that may never come. And they were only like $30 (after discounts), so it’s not like I spent a fortune on them. Why not get some wear out of them? I’m saving my clothes for someday, instead of getting some use out of them today. Sure, if I spent thousands of dollars on a suit, I wouldn’t turn it in to everyday wear. But for $30? Why not?

Right now, I’m not spending any money adding to my “winter capsule”. Why? Because I typically only buy clothing when I have spending money left over. Lately, things have been a little tight. Sure, I could cut back a little on the money I’m putting towards my student loans, but I don’t really rate new clothes higher than debt payoff. And, oddly enough, pulling all of the “excess” out of my closet has already helped me shake up my wardrobe a bit. I’m wearing things that I haven’t worn in forever, and trying new combinations of clothing. And, since I’m only wearing things that I love/that fit, I’m already feeling better about how I dress. I’ll probably invest in tailoring a few pieces, but that’s about it for now.

So, I’m going to give this whole capsule wardrobe thing a try. Maybe it will help me find my sense of style? At the very least, switching things out every season will help keep things from getting too boring.

What do you think? Would you try capsule wardrobing? How do you handle buying clothes?

– Cindy W.


  1. I know those problems of yours very well. Growing up with a very small choice of clothes, I never learnt to have a feeling for a good wardrobe. I don’t care very much, either. My first impulse in the morning is just to grab the next thing in my closet and off I go, just pullover/t-shirt and jeans. Working in the corporate world, this is impossible. What saved me some twenty years ago?
    I made an appointment with an image/color/style consultant. She was incredible. Since then, I know in what colors I look my very best, I know how to combine everything I know what cuts go perfect with the shape my body has (not model-like at all), and how to emphasize what is lovely about me (even didn’t know these spots before). She didn’t recommend things I wouldn’t go for, so I don’t have to wear things I hate just because I allegedly look great in them. There’s still enough that suits me and that I really like. Yes, the lady was expensive (the consulting took several hours). AND I think it was worth while because I dress myself with confidence, I *never* buy things I don’t wear afterwards, and I’m happy to present myself in the best possible way. This combined with capsule wardrobing might be the perfect solution for people like us! 🙂 I’m already only buying clothes to replace something old. Good luck!

    1. That does sound like an interesting idea, and I can definitely see it as being one of those situations where spending some money early on would save you a lot of money over the years on clothing mistakes. But where do you even find a good consultant like that? I wouldn’t even know where to look!

  2. Cindy, don’t you think you might find a consultant via Google or the Yellow Pages? Just search with the words that I used ( image color style consultant or coaching). Over here in West Europe you find them in many places. And yes, it’s an expense you only need once in your life! Good luck again! 🙂

  3. I actually used to do a little consulting like that! Not as formally — I’d take people shopping and help them identify what was really good for them — but I had a good time.

    I’ve never heard of this capsule idea but I actually really like it. I’ve just somewhat mysteriously lost a bunch of weight (about seven pounds, give or take) and suddenly nothing fits anymore except some of my smallest clothing. I’m not exactly upset about this development but it’s clear that if it sticks (I’m going to give it at least a month to see what happens) I need to upgrade my next shopping trip from “sometime this year” to “URGENT.” 33 items….hmm…. I’ll have to go do some blog research. Thanks!

    1. It is hard dealing with fluctuating weight! I never know how to balance having enough to wear with not spending a ton of money on a whole new wardrobe. Bryan and I are working on getting healthier. I’d love it if I could get somewhere around a size 8/10, and stay there forever. That would save so much money on clothes!

  4. […] also one I mostly forgot about: In January of 2015 I wrote about how I was going to attempt doing a capsule wardrobe. I didn’t completely forget. As the seasons changed I thought about how I should be doing a […]

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