When the New Year rolls around, we often have the desire to simplify our lives and get things in order – which may well include sorting through an overflowing wardrobe.
Chances are, you have more items than you really need; perhaps during 2023 you made too many impulse buys you only wore once, or maybe it’s just time to clear out some pieces that have been hanging in your wardrobe, unworn, for far too long.
If getting dressed feels more chaotic than you would like it to right now, it’s probably a good time for a wardrobe re-set. Try adopting a more mindful approach to dressing by building your own capsule collection.
Attitudes to fashion and shopping have changed dramatically over the years. Instead of being swayed by passing trends and one-hit wonders, many of us are now trying to take more of a considered approach to what we buy and how we shop. With sustainability increasingly at the forefront of conversation, there has been a shift in focus to quality over quantity, adopting a curated edit and investing in pieces that will stand the test of time.
If you would like to embrace a more considered approach to fashion, but feel that you need a little help on where to start, read on.
What is a capsule wardrobe?
When a wardrobe is considered ‘capsule’, it tends to mean a streamlined edit of items that all work well together. This helps to ensure that nothing goes unused. Traditionally, a capsule wardrobe sticks to neutral hues so that everything coordinates (but this doesn’t have to be the case), and is made up of around 10 to 20 pieces such as staple jeans, the perfect white T-shirt, a classic trench coat, a crisp blazer, dresses that can be styled up or down, and comfortable knitwear. With that said, a capsule wardrobe will look different to everyone – ultimately, it should be comprised of pieces that work for your lifestyle, that make you feel good, and that you love.
“We all have those same few pieces that we wear on repeat, regardless of how many clothes we have in our closet, and we need to be encouraged to build from that,” Brazilian fashion commentator and writer Aleska Servian tells us.
Instead of trying to create a wardrobe of what we think is a capsule classic, we should build around those pieces that we already wear to death. We don’t all have the same job, lifestyle or live in the same climate, so a capsule wardrobe should be a considered edit of pieces that you can rely on all the time, and that work together for you. It won’t look the same for everyone.
Where do I start?
First off, you definitely do not need to clear everything in your wardrobe out and start from scratch. Curating a capsule wardrobe is about working out what you wear a lot, and want to keep, and identifying anything that is missing.
“There’s no need to toss everything to start over from scratch if you don’t have to,” Lakyn Carlton, an LA-based personal stylist and sustainability expert, explains. “Evaluate your wardrobe and pull out the things you already wear, create new combinations from the old, and then if you absolutely need to add something, figure out what that is.”
But, if your wardrobe is overflowing and out of control, it can be daunting to know where to begin. Fanny Moizant, president and co-founder of the pre-loved designer site Vestiaire Collective, advises us on how to detox our wardrobes in a smart, effective way.
“You need to give yourself a couple of hours and commit. Start by splitting up your wardrobe by season,” she notes. “Clear out the previous season so you can focus on what you’ll be wearing for the next few months, and then ask yourself these questions: ‘Is the item something you still wear? Is it a timeless classic? Does it still fit you?’”
What if you’re unsure about an item? Moizant relies on the ‘hanger trick’ when she’s clearing out her own wardrobe so that it feels fresh and under control. “At the beginning of the season, place all your hangers in the same direction,” she tells us. “Each time you wear a piece, turn the hanger the other way. Very quickly within the season, you’ll see what you wear and what you don’t.”
It is also important not to be totally unrealistic in thinking that you will never purchase anything again. Allow yourself the opportunity to buy a new item every now and then – just try to be mindful about what you are purchasing and how much you will realistically wear it.
“Don’t buy an item just because it looks great on someone you admire or follow on Instagram,” says Charlotte Warburton, founder of capsule-wardrobe brand TBC (To Be Created). “Really think about your shape and size and whether their lifestyle relates to yours before you let yourself be influenced by someone else.”
How to identify what you’re missing
When re-evaluating your wardrobe, try to identify the areas that need a little work so you can make the most of the pieces you already own.
Perhaps you love to make a statement with the clothes you wear, and have a wardrobe filled with bold pieces, but you feel that you’re not getting enough wear out of them day-to-day. If you have more staple pieces – such as T-shirts, a good pair of jeans and trans-seasonal boots – these more statement-making pieces can be dressed down, and ultimately made more wearable.
The same rule applies if you’re a minimalist. You might need to invest in some stand-out pieces like jewellery or a great coat that will give your neutral items a new lease of life. Consider how to style what is already loved in your wardrobe, and only invest in something new if it is going to help you to wear these more.
Can I wear trend-led pieces and keep a capsule wardrobe?
A capsule wardrobe is supposed to represent you and your personal style. And, for many of us, it is not realistic to never be tempted by trends. Sometimes, we want to experiment with something that feels fun and fresh to wear, and it’s hard to deny the thrill of that feeling of newness. But, purchasing these pieces – those which may not stand the test of time, and may quickly feel dated – definitely does not align with the idea of a capsule wardrobe.
This is where resale and rental services can come in handy. Renting rather than buying for a special occasion will give you that feeling of newness, without impacting your carefully curated edit. For interchangeable pieces like bags, shoes and jewellery, renting is a great way to add something new to your ensembles at a fraction of the price. It’s also a great way to experiment, and figure out whether or not a certain item should belong in your permanent collection. If you wear something and really love it, you could consider investing in one for good. Likewise, if you did purchase something that you no longer think you’ll wear, consider reselling so that someone else can give it a second life.