Nothing to Wear? Is a Capsule Wardrobe Right for You?

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Colleague: Come on let’s go!

Me: But they didn’t call our rows yet…

Colleague: Let’s just go, they aren’t going to say anything.

Me: What if they do?

Colleague: Then you say, ‘I’m sorry I thought you called my row already’- no big deal, I do it all the time.

So, I went and stood in line with the first-class passengers to board the plane coming back from a business trip in Michigan. I showed my ticket (not first class), the flight attendant took it, looked at me, smiled and scanned it through. I walked down the tunnel relieved that I didn’t get called out, stepped onto the plane and found my seat along with all the other ‘priority’ passengers, mostly white men in business suits.

Lesson learned: Never ask permission, ask for forgiveness instead and look the part.

On that trip, I had to pack light because I wasn’t checking any bags, but had to look professional enough to present our new line to a customer. What I needed was key pieces that would be comfortable enough to travel in while also looking presentable. Along with the key pieces, I also needed variable or trendy pieces to liven up the outfits. I’ve been dressing like this for years, because it’s easy and effective, but now it has a name ‘the capsule wardrobe’.

The ‘capsule wardrobe’ is very popular now, but has been around for a long time. Its origins are how designers have been designing collections for decades.

What is a capsule wardrobe and how can it help you dress Modestly?

Do you ever stand in front of your closet that is full with clothes and say to yourself I have nothing to wear, then wind up putting on the same ‘uniform’ you wear every day? Then a capsule wardrobe is for you. It simplifies your life, makes getting dressed easier, you look good in whatever you put on and it saves you money.

What is it? A capsule wardrobe is a limited amount of key quality neutral pieces (usually black, navy, grey, tan, brown or denim) that are timeless used with a limited amount of more trendy pieces so you can easily mix and match to create multiple outfit choices.

Some people change their wardrobe every season, but a more economical approach is just switch out the trendy pieces each season (i.e. spring, summer, winter, fall).

The capsule wardrobe is usually made up of about 30 pieces, could be more or less depending on your lifestyle. The 30 pieces include tops, bottoms, dresses, jackets and shoes. Accessories, formal wear, pajamas, underwear and workout clothes are not included.

A capsule wardrobe is great for you if:

  • You are on a limited budget.
  • You like to get dressed quickly and easily without having to think too hard.
  • Anyone wanting to minimize their wardrobe and simplify their life.
  • You are in between sizes and still have to be presentable. (this would be less than 30 pieces)

How do you start?

Now if you wear everything in your closet and all your clothes fit you well, then you have already mastered the art of looking good every day! Congratulations! You probably won’t benefit from a capsule wardrobe.

For those of you who have clothes that no longer fit and just need to ‘lose 20lbs’ to start looking ‘good again’. Stop. You are who you are now, cherish it. Don’t wait to start looking good, there is no better time than the present.

Now if you’re actively going to the gym and eating healthy, right now– then great. Those 20lbs will be off before you know it, and you can keep your clothes. If you’re not, do yourself a favor and clean out your closet and drawers of clothes that no longer fit. You can pack them away so when you do lose that 20lbs they will be ready for you.

Declutter, organize and clean out your space.

There are two ways that I have found works. Either block out some time and clear everything out at once or systematically get rid of items every few weeks.

Get rid of everything at once.

In her book, The life changing magic of tidying up, Marie Kondo uses this method. She recommends you take everything out of your closet and drawers at once and put it on the floor. Start with off-season items first and before putting it back in the closet or drawer ask yourself,

“Would I want to wear this right away if the temperature suddenly changed?”

If it’s not a definite yes, then put it in the donate pile. Once you finish off-season items, start the in-season clothing. Go through the same process for these items as well, if you don’t love it, donate it. I will add, if it doesn’t fit you properly i.e. too tight, too short, shoulders are slouchy, pulls in certain areas, bunches up in other areas, the waist is too high or too low- donate it.

Systematically get rid of clothes

It was Peter Walsh, the organizing expert, who said it first, but I heard of this system on Oprah. Take everything in your closet out and rehang it in the opposite direction you would normally hang it. If all your hangers point back, then rehang the clothes with hangers facing front or vice-versa. Every time you wear something, hang it back in the closet the regular way. After about two to three weeks (he says 6 months to a year- too long) start getting rid of the clothes that are hanging the wrong way.

Items such as scarves, gloves, winter coats, beachwear, accessories and formal/ special occasion items, I would go through separately. Using the same criteria ask these three questions; Do I wear it? Do I love it? Does it fit? If you don’t answer yes to all three, donate it.

Now that you have room in your closet it is time to see what you have and build your capsule wardrobe around it. Look out for the second part of this series where I dive into developing your Modest capsule wardrobe around your lifestyle.

What is your go to outfit? Let me know in the comments!

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