I've been experimenting with a small capsule wardrobe. I'm surprised how much I love it and what a difference it has made. I'll try to articulate it all here. Don't worry there is a connection to health and wellness, so keep reading.
What is a Capsule Wardrobe?
"A capsule wardrobe is one made-up of key items and go-to pieces that can be worn on repeat to make your life easier" - VETTA
"A small collection of useful clothing that you love that changes with each season." - Lindsay Ostrom
How It Works:
Basically, I started by pretending I was packing for a week away, to an imaginary place that has the same climate as where I live and where I would be doing all the same activities I do here.
I picked seven of my favourite all-purpose outfits that I can wear around home, running errands, on client calls, hanging out with friends etc, one nicer "date night" outfit and one or two dresses I can wear to church. Each outfit I picked had to be comfortable, practical and fit well. I can also mix and match some of the items to create more than these nine outfits. I hung these items in my closet and then I put everything else in a storage tote. What is not included here are my workout / outdoor activewear clothes. I keep those in my dresser.
My plan is to change my wardrobe with the seasons. These are my late fall / early winter items and I will likely have to swap out some of the tops for warmer ones come January.
The important thing here is not what I'm wearing as I am one of the last people you should ask for fashion advice, but why I am doing this experiment, so let's get into that.
Why I Love It
Simplicity and routine puts my mind at ease. Less decision fatigue. Less mental and physical clutter. It feels like a breath of fresh air. I honestly do not feel limited in any way. I still have more than enough options.
It's easy to manage. My closet has plenty of space with only 7 tops, 2 cardigans, 2 sweaters, 1 or 2 dresses and some scarves hung in it. There are always enough hangers when I'm putting laundry away, and it's easy to see my options in the morning.
I feel more confident because I am always wearing something I like and that fits me well.
It has squelched my desire to go shopping. The previous two years I had challenged myself to some shopping bans: In 2019 I didn't buy any new clothes at all and in 2020 I only spent $100. In 2021 I took away all the rules and decided to see what would happen. Surprise, surprise, I frequented the thrift store often. I didn't always find something worth purchasing but I wanted to look. You know, in case there was a good deal. That is, until I started this capsule wardrobe experiment. Somehow having less clothes in my closet has resolved the desire for more.
I don't feel obligated to wear my less favourite clothes, just because I own them. I don't know about you, but I used to try to make sure I wore every article of clothing I owned at least once in it's appropriate season. That meant I was often wearing clothes I didn't love, which made me more self-conscious, less happy, and probably contributed to my desire to buy more clothes.
It makes it easier to donate the clothes I don't wear. If I haven't worn it during it's appropriate season I probably don't need it. If it doesn't make it into my top 10-ish outfits for that season, I don't need it.
It has helped me recognize my personal style. I am not saying my style is anything noteworthy, but it is my style and I think understanding it will help me make better shopping choices in the future.
Tips For You
If you'd like to try a capsule wardrobe of your own, here is some encouragement:
When choosing your capsule wardrobe it helps to think about choosing your favourite outfits versus eliminating others. It's easier to say yes to your favourites than no to the other ones.
Don't worry about donating all the other clothes immediately (unless there are some obvious things that need to go.) This will make it easier to commit to starting your capsule wardrobe. But don't be afraid to donate your unused items later, after you've had a chance to see that you won't miss them.
Make your own rules! Find what works for you. Maybe you're not ready to pair down this much. Maybe you should start with putting your out of season clothes in storage and donating any obvious items. It'll give you a taste of what a simpler wardrobe feels like. You could also try Project 333 by Courtney Carver like I did in 2019.
For the love of all that is good, please get rid of clothes that don't fit you. You deserve clothes that fit you, are comfortable and you love. You do not need to keep items that cause you shame and you do not need to squeeze into clothes that *almost* fit. I don't care if you're planning to lose 10lbs, you do not need to own possessions that make you feel bad in the meantime. Besides, research shows that keeping clothes that are too small is not an effective weight loss motivation.
If you do need to go clothes shopping, can I suggest you try a thrift or consignment store? I know, I know, it seems like a lot of effort. But the benefits are substantial! You can save a lot of money by buying second hand, you are helping the environment by reducing waste, you're putting less demand (aka support) on the fast fashion industry AND sometimes the money you do spend will go to helping people in need. Win win! Plus, if the item you bought doesn't work out long-term it's much easier to re-donate an item you spent $3 on versus a brand-new item that cost $30. If ever there was an affordable, ethical, environmentally-friendly shopping choice this is it.
How It Benefits Your Health
Oh yes, you knew I'd tie this into your health one way or another. The short answer is that systems that invite more simplicity into your life, like a capsule wardrobe, reduce overall stress and leave you with more time, money and energy to make healthy choices.
I already mentioned that owning and wearing only clothes that fit you and you feel good in can improve your confidence. When you feel confident you're more likely to tackle challenges - like exercising or eating more vegetables.
Making less decisions about what to wear and spending less time shopping for and managing your clothes can leave you with more time, mental and physical energy and money to practice healthy habits. You might find that having a less cluttered closet and bedroom makes you feel less frazzled and more capable of meeting your health and wellness goals. Personally, my whole life operates more smoothly when my house isn't cluttered.
I wrote an entire blog post about how simplicity can benefit your health. You can read that here.
I hope you've been encouraged by this blog post to invite more simplicity in your life. I promise it will be worth it! Let me know if you try any capsule wardrobe experiments. I'd love to hear about it and cheer you on.