CAPSULE WARDROBES & how to make them (with help from a PRO)
Wikipedia describes a capsule wardrobe as a collection of a few essential items of clothing that don't go out of fashion, such as skirts, trousers, and coats, which can then be augmented with seasonal pieces. A collection of clothing that is composed of interchangeable items only, to maximise the number of outfits that can be created. The aim is to have an outfit suitable for any occasion without owning excessive items of clothing. This is usually achieved by buying what are considered to be "key" or "staple" items in coordinating colours.
So.. why would you want one? What is wrong with your current wardrobe? And how, on earth, do you get your wardrobe down to a mere 37 pieces (a popular number among ‘capsulists’… not something I personally stuck to nor something you are required to follow by law).
To find out the answer to a, b & c, and to get started on my own I was LUCKY enough to team up with the incredible Steph Bellamy Stylist. Steph is an internationally trained and qualified personal stylist, and having worked and lived between London and Auckland- she knows her stuff. This was also her first visit to C-City, so naturally I took her on a tour of Innes Road and pointed out our fancy lil Terrace for the next time we go for a boogie.
Let’s chat… I am a hoarder. Like most of you, I am sure. I tend to buy pieces of clothing and after I am sick of them, I hold on to them JUST IN CASE I want to take them on one last joy ride (hint: I never do). So whilst the idea of a capsule wardrobe HORRIFIES me, it’s a nice challenge that I was willing to partake in. I’m also a sucker for positive peer pressure so having to explain to Steph why I need 4 cropped jackets was a good personal development move (and lets just say I only kept 2).
Before we start I want to make something clear (something I did NOT understand before this). You won’t only own 37 pieces (I can hear the sighs of relief). You will simply have 37 piece in front of you per season. A ’typical’ capsule wardrobe would be just one collection of clothes, around the 37 piece mark. However, Steph’s version of a capsule wardrobe is four capsule wardrobes; one for each season. With less focus on the total number of pieces it makes it a WHOLE lot less daunting for the fashion fiends among us, but still gives you a refined and cohesive collection for the season. This minimises getting-ready time, forces you to be more creative and pair pieces you mightn’t have previously, and gets you excited about changing up your wardrobe seasonally. This is a huge bonus for all of us as we focus on being more sustainable, as I have already noticed I shop more mindfully as each piece must fit a few other keys in my capsule. The remainder of your clothes (for me, my spring, summer and autumn staples) can go away into storage until the warmer weather comes round. I recommend doing this in vacuum storage bags (they are EPIC) or tuck away in a suitcase. This way you can pop them under your bed or at the top of your wardrobe for easy reach when it’s time.
WHAT YOU ARE GOING TO WANT TO DO:
— Take everything out of your wardrobe. EVERYTHING. Give it a good clean, dust, wipe and a reshuffle of the shelving if neccesary.
— Create three piles; winter, summer and trans-seasonal (tip: start by separating the items that are strictly only appropriate for winter; heavy coats, chunky knits, and the items that are strictly summer; linen strappy dresses, denim shorts etc… whatever is left over is your third pile; the trans-seasonal pile which will be items that can cross over between the different capsules). During this stage you may like to cull as you go on some obvious donate or sell pieces. I had a few tops for example that I haven’t worn in years (and won’t) and a few pairs of pants that needed to be altered. These went into a pile immediately to be taken to a seamstress- otherwise they just take up space! (more on culling below!)
— Next, choose your absolute favourite items to wear - these will be your hero pieces to start building your seasonal capsules around. For me, as it’s winter, we established my winter capsule and therefore my favourite winter pieces were as follows…
MY HERO PICKS —
Zara Printed Dress. long sleeved. lightweight. mid calf length. easy to layer. one-piece wonder.
Ruby Hera Pant. in both black and white. wide legged. flattering shape. neutral. comfortable. goes with everything.
Thrills Belle Pant. neutral. comfortable. elongates my legs. easy to dress up or down.
H&M Coat. warm but not too warm. little bit of colour. perfect length.
Fashion Boundary Blazer. neutral colourway. dresses up an outfit. can style easily. comfortable.
Ksubi Denim Jacket. easily my favourite piece of clothing. flattering colour. oversized fit.
Zara Leather Jacket. incredibly warm. pop of colour in the lining. oversized look.
By Mary x Designed By Rosa tee. oversized fit. vintage look. easy to style.
Glassons black jumper. dropped hem. knotted at front. good to layer.
Country Road White Tee. cotton tee. loose fit. absolute staple.
— From these picks, if you weren’t already sure you’ll be able to see a trend forming. For me, my value in clothing lies in comfort, versatility, neutral colours and its ability to be layered and dressed up/down. This forms a basic framework of my personal style and it immediately made it super clear that the beautiful summery blue dress (which I love) isn’t going to be staying in this lil wardrobe of mine!
— Now’s a good time to know your colours. By this, I mean hit Steph up for a consult and chat to her about what colours suit you best. You know when you put a piece on and everyone goes ‘are you sick’. Yeah.. let’s avoid that. I learnt that rusty, deep warm tones are my jam because I am an Autumn. I suit deeper hues and I would be best to steer clear of black… or white… (I worked at MAC for 2 years so the black clothing pill was a hard one to swallow). For me, picking up a navy or cream piece would flatter me the most, or if opting for black, choosing items (like my jacket) with warmer detailing. I can also up the anti with gold jewellery and a warmer makeup look (win/win, I love both of those).
— CULL. We culled with 3 questions: is this going to go with a piece on my ‘heroes’ rack? is this the right colour/shape/fit for me? can i see myself wearing this as the weather gets colder/warmer?
If the answer was no, it went into a donate/sell pile (immediately out of sight- don’t give it a second thought). If the answer was yes or maybe, we hung it up next to the ‘heroes’. From here, categorise all of your jackets, bottoms, tops, dresses etc and start picking seasonal choices. For example, I own about 8 jackets. A few of them are super heavy duty warmer pieces and some are lighter weight blazers. Whilst I could easily wear the blazers in winter, I can’t wear the heavier pieces in spring.. so we removed the blazers and lighter weight jackets and popped them into the vacuum sealed bags for easy storage until spring time! This way I’ll be excited to get them back out when it’s warm, but I’ll get a good few months wear out of the other 3 jackets/coats that I bought to… (shock horror), wear. This bit took a bit of to-fro between Steph and I, so it’s a really helpful thing to do with a friend if you’re terrible at making decisions!
— ADD BACK IN. Add your remaining winter and trans-seasonal pieces to your wardrobe!
— HOW ARE WE LOOKING?! Once you’ve done those steps to each portion of your wardrobe, you should have a few pieces lined up for the picking. Don’t panic- I had less than 37 and some people have up to 60. There’s no right or wrong number, just what suits you and your lifestyle. I for one, have a drawer thats excluded from my number full of trackpants and tee’s- because thats my #selfemployed uniform and what you’ll find me in 5 days out of 7. I should also add that we excluded occasion-wear and accessories (I probably change my handbag 6 times a week).
— Now check your pairings. To make sure everything’s on the right track- we went through and made sure each piece went with at least 2 or 3 other things on the rack (the whole purpose of this wardrobe). If anything’s too much of an outlier, maybe reconsider adding it in next season or selling.
— Fill the gaps!! My favourite part of this exercise is it made me acutely aware of what was missing from my wardrobe. I have 3 black skirts but not a single plain black tee. I have 4 pairs of boots (all amazing) but no casual winter shoes that aren’t white sneakers… So make yourself a list. You know a lot more about your style now and can hone in on your values when it comes to clothing (to refresh, mine are comfort, versatility, neutral colours and its ability to be layered and dressed up/down) and so shopping will be done with more purpose and direction. (aimless scrolling be gone).
VOILA. Honestly, as a fashion fiend and someone who is very much used to trend-based shopping, the idea of this initially terrified me. Steph made it so simple, much less daunting with the seasonal capsule approach and I can confirm- I am loving it so far. I’ve just been down South and not only was packing a breeze, but I wore everything I took and didn’t have any random tops that didn’t match a bottom. I highly encourage you give this a go- and let me know how you find it!! Steph and I have teamed up for this exercise which means if you head over to her blog, you’ll find what I’d call "STEP TWO of creating your capsule wardrobe- it’s like doing a masters at uni! Congrats, you graduated, here we go again! Haha but honestly once you’ve got your basics down, Steph’s post will have you mastering the art of the capsule in no time. PLUS (more bonuses, it’s like Christmas!!) we have put together 2 IGTV makeup looks to compliment your new flashy wardrobe. You can find these on either of our Instagrams in the IGTV tab.
As a side note, I wanted to add that the fashion industry has a huge impact (the second largest!) on our environment. Make sure you’re shopping mindfully (doesn’t mean it has to be expensive) and passing your second hand pieces on so someone else can love them. I’d recommend donating any work wear style pieces to Dress For Success or popping by your local Recycle Boutique.
Lots of love and happy wardrobes,