Capsule Wardrobe Saga: Part 1

You all are always super nice and indulge me whenever I feel like introducing a new topic here on the blog. So I'll give you the heads up right now that this entire post is about clothes. Specifically, my clothes. Less specifically, starting a capsule wardrobe. I'm hoping at least one of you will find this interesting!

I read a lot of blogs and spend a good amount of time on Pinterest, so new ideas are always coming into my head, and usually they leave about as quickly as they came. But every once in a while an idea pops up and then keeps popping up. So I can't tell you about the first time I heard about a capsule wardrobe, but I came across enough floating information to make me take notice.

Before I get too carried away, a capsule wardrobe is simply the idea that you have a limited number of clothing items that all work together. I first saw it in the context of traveling, but then I realized people were doing it just in everyday life. I read countless articles all with people expressing the recurring theme of owning lots of clothes but having nothing to wear. I think all of us can relate to this in some way, and after reading enough articles I finally started to take notice of what people were saying.

▲ Clearly bright colors are not a new fad for me. A peek at the shirts I wore while backpacking.

Unlike a lot of people I did not have years and years of accumulation in my closet. When we left Korea four years ago, I left behind pretty much everything but the clothes on my back. The clothes I left behind at that point were well worn and not worth shipping back to be stored until who knows when. While we traveled for a year, I lived out of a backpack. This was a capsule wardrobe to the extreme and when we landed in Jordan to stay I was left with the task of trying to build up a new wardrobe in a foreign country. I ended up creating my wardrobe from a weekly flea market that sold used clothing. I'd go to the market never knowing what I'd find, and occasionally find something that fit me and wasn't too ugly. Those were my strict criteria. Fast forward two years later and that mishmash which had already started out used was quickly dwindling and I was faced with the fact that I was pretty desperate for clothes.

Hopefully it's becoming clear that hearing about this capsule wardrobe idea was in the right place at the right time for me. Many of the articles I was reading suggested doing a serious clean of your closet, getting rid of anything that you didn't wear, that didn't fit or that was falling apart. So I started there. If I hadn't worn it recently, I gave it away. A few things I was unsure about, or the season was wrong and I didn't want to decide now, I moved to another closet. It was at this point I realized I was pretty desperate. Once I moved out the unseasonal clothes and gave away the things I wasn't wearing, I was left with very few and very worn items of clothing.

▲ Searching for something at the Amman Friday Market.

My closet at this point was an interesting combination of very relaxing and very stressful. It was very easy to get dressed in the morning. I had very few options, but I knew they all fit, so I just put something on. However, I knew I was at the end of the line and I was really unsure about what to do next. How and where do you get a new wardrobe?

It was at this point that I realized the capsule wardrobe was the perfect solution. I needed to focus in on what was essential, as I needed clothes that worked and I didn't have money to waste on buying lots of things that weren't just right. But even when I committed to a limited wardrobe, I was still pretty lost how to proceed. I had hardly shopped for myself as an adult. The few things I had purchased were purchased in stores around the globe. The last time I shopped in the States I was in college. Now, I'm almost 30 and living in a small town with very few stores. I could drive somewhere, but where would I go, what would I buy?

2014-12-19 10.07.54.jpg
▲ Not looking too shabby these days.

At this point the story may become less useful to you because the only reason this whole thing ended up as a success was that my mother took me shopping and told me what to buy. She's always been interested in fashion and simplicity, and had been reading about different solutions herself. It was her clear eye that searched the store and found everything I needed. We had planned to go to several stores, but it turns out a few hours in Old Navy was all we needed.

To be continued...

Need more details on capsule wardrobes right now? This is a great site to start at.

Recent Comments

Gillian Lane
Gillian Lane Fri, 01/23/2015 - 15:59

This is a link to a very interesting series on recreating your wardrobe into something that suits you:

It's written by a clothing pattern designer, but is equally relevant to those who buy rather than sew their clothes.

Deanna Patterson
Deanna Patterson Fri, 01/23/2015 - 06:28

This is just what I have been looking for. I didn't know I was looking for it, but I keep telling myself I have too many clothes. I am getting up out of my chair this morning and I am going to start the process. I can't say I will be getting everything out of the closet today but I am going to start ridding out. So tired of so much stuff.

Tom Sauter
Tom Sauter Fri, 01/23/2015 - 05:36

Marisa, as always I enjoy your writing, and have since you were old enough to hold a crayon. Thanks for sharing your insights about a capsule wardrobe. I've leaned on your mom for clothing insights as well. She has always helped me dress for success. I look forward to part 2.

Dawn Baldwin
Dawn Baldwin Thu, 01/22/2015 - 22:11

You may find this interesting

Donna Bell
Donna Bell Thu, 01/22/2015 - 14:55

This is useful information for anyone and clothes aren't the only things to downsize. Several years ago I started this in every area of my home. As I get older I need less stuff to leave behind for others to have to sift through. Clothing is a good place to start...your new wardrobe that all goes together is a great plan for any age.

monique houlmann
monique houlmann Thu, 01/22/2015 - 08:09

thanks for the sharing Marisa , I do love reading you and I agree with your views about clothing ...

Julie Cowan
Julie Cowan Wed, 01/21/2015 - 15:24

Something that fits and isn't too ugly? That's been my MO my entire life! :-)

Vicki Iseminger
Vicki Iseminger Wed, 01/21/2015 - 04:00

Thanks for the article and the website link! I'm at the point I really need to do some serious shopping but I have such a hard time finding things that fit. This may be the way to go for me.

Lórien Rezende
Lórien Rezende Tue, 01/20/2015 - 09:57

Very cool - and useful - post Marisa. I need to reduce the ammount of clothes I have - but for me it´s a bit hard because I really fear to need the clothes and not having money to buy new ones...

Faith Anderson
Faith Anderson Tue, 01/20/2015 - 04:38

I've just retired and realise I have "work" clothes and not much else, but like you LOVE colour, when most of my work wear was black. I hear a clear out calling. Look forward to seeing your buys.

Mollie Peoples
Mollie Peoples Mon, 01/19/2015 - 18:19

I LOVE Old Navy! They were really the only place I could find maternity clothes that fit me - because calling me busty is an understatement and SO many maternity clothes are fitted around the bust in SOME form or fashion, so IF I managed to find something that fit my bust, the rest of it would look like a circus tent around me. :/ But, Old Navy saved the day! (And I still wear some of it 'cause it doesn't look maternity-ish.)

Lizanne Killian
Lizanne Killian Mon, 01/19/2015 - 15:43

My mom told me, after college & starting out in the working world on a very limited budget, that the best thing to buy were classic pieces because they'd always stay in style and you could mix & match them. She said buy a couple pieces of the latest "fad" here & there (be it scarves, jewerly, accessories, shirts, etc.) but primarily stick with the classics. Those are hard to come by these days, but I still find things via LL Bean & Eddie Bauer. They may be a bit more expensive, but they're well made, will hold up longer & will always be in style. I really wear my clothes out & one of these days am going to need a new wardrobe also. And, just like you, I live in an area without a lot of stores so I either have to travel several hours to shop or buy online. I signed up for emails from those companies with pricier clothes as they're always offering special deals & sales to their email customers only. Helps a lot. And I've learned the hard way when their outlet stores are having a good sale, be there first thing on the first day because it goes quick!

Susan Cantin
Susan Cantin Mon, 01/19/2015 - 13:50

I have done this since my first job back in 1966 .... I took my paycheck and went shopping all in one day buying mix and match items which took me through the whole winter. It helps to bring your clothing purchases down as well, saving you money because if it doesn't fit in the mix you don't buy it. I love your colours ... it's like a rainbow in a drawer :)

Robyn Denton
Robyn Denton Mon, 01/19/2015 - 13:32

I do love that concept too, Paddy, about "something that fits and isn't too ugly"!

Years ago, magazines were full of wardrobe made of co-ordinating separates, and I guess this capsule wardrobe is much the same idea: you buy basic items in a limited palette that you know suits you, and then add other items in colours and patterns that go with those basic items.

Paddy Wolf
Paddy Wolf Mon, 01/19/2015 - 13:02

lol! "something that fits and isn't too ugly" - just realized i shop for clothing with that exact same criteria :D