It seems hard to believe, but the less you have, the less you realise you need. Back when I had over 200 items in my wardrobe, the idea of reducing it to 100 seemed crazy. Then I got to 100, and realised I still had way too much stuff.
Something else I noticed: the less I had, the easier I found it to declutter.
Maybe this was because I was flexing my decluttering muscle, and it was getting stronger. Maybe it was because I could finally see the wood for the trees, and was being more honest with myself. Maybe it was because I began to realise what I actually wear, and it made less sense to keep the things I didn’t.
Even with 40 items, I know I have more than I need. Now I’m starting to build a capsule wardrobe: a collection of pieces I can wear year-round, along with a few extras for the weather extremes of summer and winter.
In Part 1, I talked about why you might want a capsule wardrobe to start with (even if you’re not a minimalist), and why it has absolutely everything to do with zero waste.
Here, I’m going to talk about how I’m beginning my capsule wardrobe.
I’m a show-and-tell kinda girl, and I thought I’d share some pics of what is in my wardrobe right now, what’s working, and what I’ll do differently next time.
Beginning My Minimalist Capsule Wardrobe (+ Lessons Learned)
I’m not a believer in numbers when it comes to minimalism, I’m a believer in “enough”. Building a capsule wardrobe means working out what is enough for me.
I also hate waste (you might have noticed)! I tend to wear my clothes into the ground. Many things I own are too tatty to donate. There comes a point when I no longer like to wear them (everyone has their own tolerance levels) and when that happens I will compost or repurpose.
I take the “slow” approach to wardrobe minimalism. If I still wear it, it can stay – so long as I know I will wear it again in the near future. If I know I won’t, there is no point in keeping it. Going slow has given me time to adjust and learn lessons along the way. As things wear out, I will choose better next time.
Building a Capsule Wardrobe: The Clothes I Started With
This is what remains of my wardrobe from my pre-minimalist and pre-capsule wardrobe days. I’m building on this and filling in the gaps to make my wardrobe more practical and wearable in future.
I really like the style of racing back tops, and find them very comfortable in the hot Perth summers.
The first three appear identical, although two are silk and the green one is polyester. They all have a slightly different cut, so of course, I have a preference (the orange one on the left).
The two blue tops are not that dissimilar, and again, I have a preference.
The bright coral top to the right is cotton and I purchased it new because it was cheap (before I thought much about these things). It feel cheap too, and the cut isn’t great.
I’ve realised that when I own two or more things that look the same, I will always gravitate towards one of them.
Unless this is the only type of top I wear (and it isn’t) it makes no sense to own five tops that are so similar. Especially when I wear one of them weekly, and the others sparingly.
As they wear out, I intend to keep one or two in my closet. No more than that.
These are my other tops. The purple one is very old and beginning to wear out.
Shorts and Skirts
Whilst I love the purple stripy skirt (it is silk), it is impossible to pair with anything. It goes with my green racing back top, and that is it. That means I can only wear it in the height of summer. In a capsule wardrobe, it isn’t very practical.
I’ve never faced the dilemma of getting rid of something that I like and I wear. I used to struggle with getting rid of stuff I didn’t like and didn’t wear (!) so this is quite a step forward. But to own something I will only wear a handful of times doesn’t really make any sense. At the end of the summer, I’m going to let it go.
Jumpers and Cardigans
I like the assortment of thicknesses and different styles. My husband hates my oversized jumper on the right, so that might not get replaced. I probably wouldn’t choose a short-sleeved wool jumper again, either!
Of the four dresses I own, one is for the depths of winter and one is for the height of summer.
The left one was an online purchase and is organic cotton, fairly traded. Thing is, the fit isn’t great, and the stitching around the collar is ripped where it wasn’t sewn well. I hate how I feel in this dress. My brother recently saw a photo of me in this dress with my sister, and asked her if I was pregnant. That was the final straw. I decided it had to go.
I have a pair of heavy denim jeans, a pair of thick cotton-denim trousers, and a pair of leggings. I had a thinner pair of summer jeans but they wore out, so I am looking to replace these.
Building a Capsule Wardrobe: What Was Missing and What I’ve Added
At the start of this year, a fair few things I owned completely wore out. This was my chance to fill the gaps with items I deem more suitable, practical and useful. My capsule wardrobe has begun.
What was Missing: Tops
Despite owning 8 tops, the styles of 6 of them are very similar. Most sit at the scruffy end of the scale. I’m giving more talks and running more workshops this year, and I need clothes suitable for presenting in.
Also, many of my tops are quite snug and short, and I’m not as keen on the tight-fitting, midriff-exposing clothes as I was in my twenties.
I decided the gaps were: something loose-fitting, a t-shirt, a top smart enough to present in. I also wanted a navy blue shirt.
A trip to the charity shop led me to these:
The t-shirt has not been a good buy. It was an expensive brand and looked unworn, but it has bobbled in the washing machine and lost its shape already. The dirty cream shirt is probably a better choice than the bright white shirt I already own, and is less fitted (which I prefer). The blue button-down shirt is exactly what I was looking for. The last top is 100% silk, and I really like silk in the summer.
I didn’t need to buy 4 tops, and I only intended to buy 3. I’m still experimenting with “enough”. I can take things back to the charity shop if in a few months I realise I don’t wear them.
What was Missing: Bottoms
Perth gets hot. I wanted another pair of shorts. Also, none of the new tops I purchased were suitable with any of my current bottoms. I thought a denim, navy or grey pencil skirt might work well. I also wanted a replacement pair of lightweight summer jeans.
I ended up with these:
Honestly, I would have preferred shorts without the embroidery and fake holes. But they fit the best out of all the shorts, so I took them. The skirt was exactly what I was looking for. It is more cotton than denim, and very lightweight.
These three items increased the wear-ability of all of my tops no end!
What was Missing: Jumpers and Dresses
I wanted a lightweight jumper, a casual summer dress (maxi dresses are too impractical for me to wear everyday) and a smarter presenting dress.
I found these at the charity shop:
I love the denim shirt. The sleeves are super long, and it can work as a cardigan, but with more practical uses. The first dress has been great in the really hot weather. I wasn’t sure if the stripy dress was more ‘fantasy me’ than real me, but it is so comfortable, and I’ve worn it. I love the dress on the end, but time will tell how easy it is to wash! I love colour, and it was satisfying to find something so bright.
It was never my plan to choose so much blue, but I already have a lot of colour in my wardrobe. I needed some neutrals to balance it out. My plan is to choose bright tops and dresses to mix in with these as I need to replace things.
In total, this is 34 items (with some to go at the end of summer/when they wear out). I also have two jackets, three scarves (one summer, one winter, on in-between), cycling shorts and top, a summer hat and a winter hat, swimming wear and underwear. Plus a few pairs of shoes.
I’m amazed when I look at this, that I can see there is still room to reduce what I have. Far from the days when I panicked about whether I would have enough to wear if I decluttered, I realise that I have plenty.
Now I’d love to hear from you! What are your wardrobe essentials? What staples do you seem to live in? What have been your worst “investments”? How have your wardrobe basics changed over time? What is your biggest wardrobe regret from your younger days? Do you have a capsule wardrobe, and if so, what tips would you add? Anything else to share? I love hearing your thoughts so please leave a comment below!