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It’s funny how the things you see every day suddenly go missing when you need them. But what if you could create a world where you know where the clothes you need are all of the time? A world where it takes no more than five minutes to decide what to wear. A world where you’re on time for things, completely free from outfit-related stress, and even save money?
Despite being able to sing along in fist-clenching, eye-shutting relatability to Alanis Morissette’s Ironic (she really gets you in times like this), there’s little joy to be taken in those frantic ‘WHERE IS IT?!’ moments, and that’s why creating a capsule wardrobe is one of the smartest, economic and most life-altering changes you can make.
Creating a minimal capsule wardrobe means that every three months, you’ll select and plan 24 interchangeable pieces, which can be mixed and matched so that you never have a bad outfit day ever again. Sounds dreamy. But a warning before we begin: it’s not for the faint-hearted. You’re going to have to be strict, realistic, and more than a little ruthless. So channel your inner Kris Jenner and let’s get to it.
1. The quick clear out
How many times have you heard yourself saying ‘I just don’t have enough space!’? Seeing as you’re here reading this, we’re guessing it’s a regular occurance. This is one of the biggest problems about having lots of clothes. That abundance of selection suddenly turns into a treasure trove of impossibility.
Start by taking each piece and asking yourself ‘have I worn this in the last 10 months’. If the answer is a ‘no’, throw it into a designated pile and move on. Try not to get distracted or think ‘but maybe one day I will’, or reminisce about the day you bought it. Just put it into the ‘no pile’. You’ve never worn it and you never will (told you things might get ruthless). You can either donate these to charity, try selling these online or with an app, or even hold a swap shop with your pals so you can see them go to a good home.
Nobody can wear a completely different outfit every day of the year, so unless you’re consciously committed to doing this, then you should have ruled out 50%+ of your wardrobe already. Put your ‘no pile’ into bags and move it out of the room, so you can focus on the next step.
Go back through all the clothes you have worn within the last 10 months and, this time, ask yourself, ‘do I absolutely love it?’. If your answer isn’t an immediate yes, then create a new pile. These are the clothes that you like, maybe for sentimental reasons, or maybe the fit isn’t quite right, but you can’t bear to part with them just yet.
This new ‘no pile’ can be put into a suitcase and put into storage so that you don’t have to make any tear-jerking decisions just yet. Try not to think too hard; it should be instinct. Listen to your gut; it knows best.
3. Defining your style
Now we’ve got all of the pieces you love and wear in front of you, it’s time to start planning your wardrobe for the next 3 months. Start by brainstorming a list of words that describe your style. These could be things like ‘vintage, boho, classic, rocky, feminine’.
Circle the three words that you think most define you. Next, note down the colours and prints that you like wearing the most, breaking these down into base colours and accents.
4. Thinking about events and occasions
Your life won’t be the same every three months. Maybe you’ve got a run of weddings coming up in your next 3 month period, or a holiday (lucky you), or nothing at all.
List all the events and then think about what’s in your ‘love’ wardrobe that you could use for these. Write all these down, along with any new pieces you think you’ll need.
5. Building your outfits
Now you know what represents your style, you can get to the fun part – building those all important looks for the next three months.
Start by pulling out your ‘go-to’ pieces that you love to death. If there are some key pieces that you need but don’t have (eg, a good leather jacket), write these down. Use Pinterest boards to help if you need inspiration, referring to your style and colour/print notes from earlier, by saving outfits that you like and are drawn to. Then think about how these pieces go together and build four outfits out of these (eg, striped t-shirt, skinny black jeans, strappy sandals).
Keep your list of key items you need to buy to one side.
6. Your final 24-piece shortlist
Your pieces should include workwear, casual wear and shoes, but not accessories or gym/loungewear, and the ones you pick will depend on your lifestyle (eg, if you wear workwear five days a week, then you’ll need more of these pieces and less casual clothes, so try to be realistic about your choices). As a starting point, try to narrow it down to:
Broken down, that could look something like:
1 day-to-night dress, which you can dress up or down with accessories, 1 occasion dress, 1 denim jacket, 1 light coat
1 pair of casual sandals, 1 pair of ankle boots, 1 pair of trainers, 1 pair of going-out heels, 1 pair of comfy heels
1 pair of jeans, 1 pair of shorts, 2 pairs of trousers, 2 skirts
2 t-shirts, 2 blouses, 2 camis, 2 sweaters, 1 statement piece
Using this as a checklist, take the four outfits you created (including any key pieces you don’t have and need to buy) in the last step and start ticking off the individual items on this list. Then pull in items from your shortlisted ‘love’ items in step 2 and start ticking these off until you’ve found your 24 items.
Remember, all the clothes you don’t pick this time round can just go into your three-month rotation, so don’t get hung up on wanting to keep all the items you love in your first three month wardrobe. Put all these items into a suitcase and store them away for now. You can bring these out in another three months time and it’ll be a nice change when you do.
It may seem overly-minimal and a little bit terrifying to begin with but, remember, you can use as many accessories as you want to change your look. Things like adding a hat, statement earrings or a block colour bag can give the same outfit a completely different feel so that you don’t get bored.
7. Shopping and maintenance
Invest in the missing key pieces you noted down from your outfit and events list and go shopping (hurrah!), so you can complete your wardrobe. Knowing exactly what you need will make it an even more fun experience, and you won’t end up being drawn into the sales and buying a mountain of clothes that you’ll never wear.
Now that you’ve created your perfect 24-piece wardrobe, there shouldn’t be any need to shop for the next three months, when you can repeat the whole process to spice up your look. Go back and review this the week or two before your new three month rotation, so that you have time to buy any key new pieces.
If all goes well, you should be saving a heck load of money from just buying what you need, dressing like you have a personal stylist every single day, and also saving a lot of precious time. And most importantly of all, you may even find yourself a bit happier for it.
Stay strong, ladies and good luck!