More with less
Around ten years ago, I began practicing the “do more with less” concept regularly. There are several ways that a person can do this and several reasons someone may choose this lifestyle. One area of my life that continued to add unnecessary pressure, was my wardrobe. My clothing purchases over the years had no organization, coordination, didn’t fit, and caused a burden on my busy personal and work schedule. Less than one year ago I made a change that has proven effective, a capsule wardrobe. This term has been floating around for some time and several people have made this change with great success. A capsule wardrobe is essentially a manageably sized wardrobe with few pieces that coordinate with each other.
Why I started a capsule
The point of no return that forced me to throw my hands in the air and change, was when the frustration was too much and I was no longer confident. I struggled with finding an outfit every morning and the time spent was more than I was willing to give, staring at a garment in my closet. On average, I was spending upwards of 20 minutes, only trying to decide. Once I decided, I was unhappy with my choice and I felt less confident to tackle my day. It was a choice based on, “you must wear something!” Disorganization or frustration is no way to start your day. I am naturally an organized person who loves some structure and balance in life. My closet was none of the above. I would open my closet to a large assortment of clothing choices, but, I literally had NOTHING to wear. I would look at new pieces I had just bought, older pieces that I loved, pieces that had sat in my closet waiting for the light of day, and the dollar signs showing their ugly and wasted face. I had hundreds of clothing items that didn’t coordinate at all.
What I was doing wrong
Normally, I would treat myself to a new outfit maybe twice a month. The outfit would be a random shirt or blouse and maybe a new skirt. A piece with wild patterns, color variations, and style. I know myself well; I am always attracted to shiny, sparkly, and bright colors, but this was not something I would wear regularly. I would tell myself, “oh this is so cute, I can wear this!” That beautiful piece would find its way into the back of a dark closet full of other victims that were loved for a few minutes, then forgotten. Just because it’s cute or pretty, doesn’t mean you should buy it. Waste of money and time. I had been practicing ‘less is more’ with many other parts of my life, clothing was my failure. I never felt confident in my outfits. My outfits were never complete. I wanted to feel better about what I was wearing and I wanted the empowerment to take on the day. I couldn’t find this when my outfits made me feel small and hidden.
In one year, my capsule wardrobe will have saved me $1200 ($100/mo from unnecessary purchases) and 120 hours. That is five full days, 7200 minutes, and increased confidence to take on the day!
There are a few options for your goal of a capsule wardrobe. You can focus on seasonal wardrobes; this would usually mean about four small sets. Each set should make a variation of outfits and then set aside until the next season. Or create a yearly capsule wardrobe with slightly more pieces; this was my choice. This was ideal to me for two reasons:
1. I live where we only have two seasons; extreme hot and mild cold.
2. I was not ready to tackle multiple wardrobe’s.
How I started a capsule
I began the transition on a Saturday. I needed the additional time of the weekend to feel less rushed. That way I knew my decisions would be well thought out and the plan would have a better chance of success. First, I needed to set in stone what my true style was, and what I should focus my color palette around. Next, I explored Pinterest for outfit ideas. The color pallet is an important decision. This will help later when you are choosing which clothes you already have to keep and filling in any gaps later. Perhaps you feel best in darker colors like red, green, blue and black. Or you may like the lighter color tone like pinks, grey, and white. I am more of a lighter tone kind of gal. When I found something that I felt was truly me, I saved it and watched my feed grow with more outfit ideas. I focused on outfits that were simple but possibly dressed up or down, worn on the weekend and a casual work outfit. I caught myself a few times falling for an outfit that didn’t fit in this category (shiny and bright, dark tone, unrealistic pattern; equals hand slap).
Next, I opened the curtains wide in my room for the best and brightest sunlight. I moved the closet doors to a disaster that has haunted me each morning. I started with picking 10 pieces that I knew I absolutely loved and would cringe to part with. These items were the ones I felt most comfortable in and usually resorted to when all else failed. I set aside these pieces as I moved through the rest of the wardrobe. I created three sections in my room; one for keep and thoroughly think about, one for throw away (usually items worn, stained, or needed mending that I never got around to), and one was the donate/sell section. I held and studied each piece critically. If I loved it, hadn’t worn it in six months, too small or too big, and it didn’t fit into my style, I put it in the donate pile.
It took me an hour to get through my wardrobe on the first sweep. I was successful at keeping 40% and the rest were to donate or toss. Next, I went back to my Pinterest inspiration and read more on versatile colors, gave myself a mental break, then I hit my keep pile once again. I focused on two questions:
- Does it fit my style and color scheme?
- Could I make at least three outfits with this one piece?
If I answered yes, I put it back in the keep section. If I was up in the air or answered no, I put it in donate/sell. I continued this process with my shoes. Using the same questioning and critical thinking. Finally, I went back to the initial 10 pieces that I believed I couldn’t part with and gave these a critical look. It surprised me to discover that my initial thought process was hazy, and I determined only five pieces to be realistic. What an eye opener!
Plan of basic pieces
Based on my research and experience with the transition, I’ve compiled a list of essentials. Below are basic pieces that every woman should consider for a capsule wardrobe. I have learned that these pieces are the most versatile with any color scheme, have a dress up or down option, and are easy to coordinate with others.
- White & Gray T-shirt (Long or short sleeve, Button-up Blouse, Striped Shirt, Chunky Sweater)
- Black Denim Jeans, Blue Denim Jeans, Gray Slacks
- Little Black Dress, Gray or Black Skirt (Pencil or Midi)
- Denim Jacket, Neutral Cardigan
- Biker Jacket, Thick/Warm Jacket in a Neutral Color, Rain Trench Coat in a Neutral Color
- Booties, Flats, Heels in black and nude
- Belt (reversible), Black Scarf
Train the mind
After completing the initial change, I put the donate box away for a week. I held on to the items for a small timeframe to ensure I didn’t have any change of direction. An overcome with confidence phase. This was good for me as I retrained my outfit thought process. Sitting on the pieces meant that I would not feel rushed, again giving me the best opportunity for success. I didn’t want to not allow myself a break from the choice, feel regret, and purchase more to replace. After a week, I knew that I was good to go with letting these pieces escape to a different woman. I took the box to a donation center and said goodbye. As I learned how to coordinate my new minimal pieces, I sat down and made a list of items I didn’t have that would help me coordinate all. My list had the following items:
- White t-shirt, Button up blouse, Black denim jeans, Chunky neutral sweater, Reversible belt, Neutral slacks
I boldly traveled to my favorite stores, looked at my list and searched the racks. Instantly attracted to a style that got me to this point years ago. It wasn’t mine; flattering with shiny and bright, pretty patterns, popping color that didn’t fit. I picked up the item and reminded myself of the goal. I looked to my list, thought about my color palette and put the item back on the rack. Success! Training the brain to look at clothing different was a huge milestone and a lot harder than I thought.
Money and time savings
Now I shop less, waste less money, and I spend less time deciding what to wear. Sometimes I can plan the next day outfit the night before. Other times I can take a fresh look at my minimal wardrobe and find an outfit in under five minutes. I finally feel good when I leave for the day. Occasionally I may introduce a new piece to my wardrobe but only if I have a piece that is getting worn out and I can find a replacement (personal rule). If I want to freshen my wardrobe with a new piece, I swap another piece that I can donate. My wardrobe consists of 83 pieces for the entire year. This may seem like a lot but the 83 pieces include shoes, scarves, and outerwear. In the process I have learned about styles that are most flattering for my height, shape, and what I am most comfortable in.
The simple change to a wardrobe can carry huge benefits; mind, financial, and time. Comfort doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice a style that you love, and style does not mean you must pay a pretty penny. You deserve to feel good about yourself inside and out. An outfit you are proud to wear, is a great start to a productive day!