Thursday, October 1, 2015

What is a Capsule Wardrobe?

So I’ve mentioned I’m trying to have something of a "capsule wardrobe.” But I realized some of you might not know what that is. I thought I’d touch on that before I go on and on with posts on my clothes.

I was introduced to the name “capsule wardrobe” by the blog un-fancy. She does a really good job of explaining everything, breaking it down, showing her outfits after showing your her clothing inventory. She even has a handy dandy planning guide.

But…little did I know, I had actually test drove the concept by accident, or more so by emotional-need-for-this with my kids clothes way back when. After I had my second child, I felt like my girls had so many clothes (all kindly given to us) that they could never wear them all, and I never really had to do laundry. So that when I finally did the laundry it was totally overwhelming. Additionally, since their clothes were given to us, we didn’t have many things that went together. It was all outfits (the pieces only worked with each other), or just parts of outfits. I was never finding anything I needed in their overfull drawers (“Where’s the shirt to these pants?”) Eventually I broke down and thought, “This is crazy, we DO NOT need this many clothes!... How many clothes do kids need?” I googled and found this checklist online and followed it in a way that worked for us (not to the super exact amounts, but generally what it said.) (Apparently they have generalized the list, no longer giving amounts. Here’s a (poor quality) picture of the old version with numbers.)

I remember the response to that post was something like, “Woah, that’s like NO clothes!!” But after doing that I felt amazing. Because of the fact that I had to think it all out when I chose what to keep in the drawers, my kids had outfits that could mix and match with pretty much anything I kept. And they were all things I liked. Laundry day came sooner, but it was WAY shorter. And putting the clothes away felt like a piece of cake because I wasn’t shoving things into impossibly small spaces. I was SO SOLD! I felt sure there was no reason to ever not be doing this. (Other than the fact we always wind up with more clothes again somehow. :) )

But for some reason I didn’t really correlate that experience whole heartedly to my wardrobe. I did narrow my stuff down. But I didn’t fully embrace it, so I didn’t ever have that “wow” moment like I did with my kids clothes. So when I saw un-fancy’s blog I started to embrace the idea. But I didn’t quite get there fully. (Mostly because of pregnancy, and then un-ending sickness. But also because I was still trying to find the right groove.)

Let me pause and tell you what I think a capsule wardrobe is. You can find people doing many variations of it. (And the concept has actually been around since the 1970s.) So you’ll see different rules and guidelines around. But what I think it all boils down to this:

But basically it boils down to this:
It’s taking a step back and thinking of your wardrobe as a whole entity, not a piece of cute clothing here, and another cute something there. It’s thinking about the big picture and making sure your clothes can mix and match and create lots of useful outfits, not just a single cute option from two pieces. And it’s limiting yourself to an amount of clothing that initially feels restrictive, but eventually makes you very creative; and no longer overwhelmed, but pleased and inspired when you open your closet. It’s making sure you only have items you love, that way you love what you are wearing all the time.

It’s a thoughtful closet. It’s not created from whims. (So often those random clearance racks grabs.) It’s planned and purposeful shopping. It takes some effort to create. But once it’s in place it’s easy and wonderful.

So here’s some stuff you need to consider when you make one.

  • A color palette. You want everything to be able to mix and match. So sticking to a certain color palette makes that possible. You don’t have to do neutrals. And you can still use a lot of color. You just want to make sure that your clothes look nice next to each other. (Example: Tons of jewel tones. They might not match-match, but they play well together.) 
  • You want to consider your complexion when choosing your color palette. You want to find colors that make you look good. You’ll enjoy your clothes so much more! (Need help? Here’s a good site.)
  • You’ll want to consider your body type. Finding things that flatter you will go a long way to helping you feel good inside them. Rules are meant to be broken, so you can go outside the lines here, but if you feel your best in them you will wear them. Knowing body shape “rules” really can help you aim your sights well. (I like this sight for help determining your shape, and good tips on dressing it.)
  • And then instead of jumping on trends, you want to go for things that will last beyond “what’s in right now.” Those classic timeless pieces are great (white shirt, black blazer, Little Black Dress) But also just buying things you like and look good on you makes things stand the test of time as well. Trends come and go, and they usually only flatter certain people (at times they don’t look flattering on anyone.) So it often winds up a waste of money trying to pursue a look that will never feel good on you. Don’t worry about the trends. Go with what works for you. “Every generation laughs at the old fashions, but religiously follows the new.” -- Henry David Thoreau, “Walden"
Those are the biggies, often stated when creating capsule wardrobes.
Here’s a picture to kind of visualize how this works. (This is for travel -- but the concept of making a lot of outfits from way less clothes is what a capsule wardrobe is all about.)


But then there is another very important aspect. And this is the one I’m really focusing down on the most right now.
You want it to fit the life you are living.

There are plenty of beautiful and awesome capsule wardrobes out there -- but many of them will not work for me. I’m a stay at home mom. If I followed along and just bought what some people are wearing, I’d think wow this is cute, but I’d never wear any of it because I wouldn’t want it covered in ketchup and I wouldn’t be comfortable in my days spent with three kids.

I did find this mom talking about how her wardrobe works -- I found it very helpful. I’d point any stay at home moms here, to get started figuring out mom-friendly nice clothes (I’m guessing her concepts would help working moms as well.)

As I was trying to figure out my “lifestyle” aspect of this ordeal I was looking at Un-fancy’s wardrobe planner. It has this pie chart to fill out, depicting how you spend your time, to show you what types of clothes you need.
Initially I laughed as I filled it in with 98% of it saying “At home” and 2% split between church and a trips to either the library or the grocery store.
So I felt like that chart wasn’t helpful. And I felt kinda lame.
But then I tried it again, only this time I was more detailed about my time at home, and that actually really helped me.
When at home I:
Nurse the baby, cook, clean, teach homeschool, paint my house and furniture, work out (well I hope to get back to that.)
Nothing earth shattering there. But once I wrote that out thinking about my clothing choices it suddenly made me value choice of options better -- I needed my options to look cute to me, but allow me to do these things (as well as go to church, library or grocery store.) 
So with the idea that I do clean bathrooms in my real normal life, I want to keep some outfits around that I don’t mind the risk of cleaning products ruining. My clothes need to be nursing friendly. I need stuff that I can sit on the floor comfortably with when I teach my kids.

So in practical words: I’m keeping (and counting in my clothing count) my yoga pants. I don’t care who wants to rant online about how terrible they are when used as clothes. I’m big enough to admit I’ll be wearing them some days as my clothes. But, if my options of stuff I wear them is nice, then I’ll feel more put together even on my “I need the yoga pants” days.

(I will say, that on this journey, I have gotten rid of some (not all) equally as comfortable leggings that looked worse on me than my yoga pants. Personally yoga pants do not depress me or make me feel blah. But a number of leggings I own did. (This may be due to my body shape and the fact that bootcut is more flattering than fitted all the way down cropped styles of pants.) So I got rid of the leggings that always made me feel like I was having a bad day. And the yoga pants are there for the “must have comfort” days. And side note: Personally I’ve been aiming to put make up on every day because, for me, that makes a big difference in how I feel about the day, yoga pants or not.)

But here’s the best thing: Even though I’m keeping the yoga pants…now that I’ve planned such a comfortable AND cute wardrobe, I actually only reach for the yoga pants on rare occasion. My normal clothes are pretty much as comfortable but look pretty. Why would I pass that up? And with my clothes all going so well with each other, I can literally just blurry-eyed reach for a top and bottom before my brain has arrived yet, and have a decent, to great, outfit made with zero thought. What more could a tired momma want? (Besides sleep :) ) And that’s the sweetness of a well planned wardrobe -- it actually HELPS you get dressed. 

One random stay at home mom thing I decided about my wardrobe:
      After assessing my time at home more specifically and thinking about dressing for it -- I  learned that I want to look for some sort of shoes that I (only) wear around the house all day. For some reason my feet hurt after this pregnancy (relaxin?) and I also notice if I have shoes on I feel like getting more done. I’d like to find something cute and very comfortable that I kind of use as slippers, but are really shoes. A literal take on “house shoes.” Why? Because it sounds good to me -- it fits my life. (If anyone has any super comfy but cute recommendations -- I’m all ears.)

Capsule Wardrobe users often have a set number of clothes they try to stick to.
     I personally I’m not getting caught up in the “rules” of how many pieces I can have. I want less. I tried to par it down to a number that felt uncomfortable to me. So as to get the gist of the goal -- “less is more.” 
     I know I’m a busy mom who doesn’t have time to really sit down and go through ALL my stuff to even get this capsule made. For example I’m not going to go through my jewelry and par that down right now. (Some people count jewelry in their mix.)  It just doesn’t matter to me right now if I par that down -- I hardly wear it (baby yanks), it’s organized, I’ll just totally ignore it for now.
     Additionally, I have to admit that my laundering needs are different right now that a lot of people doing capsule wardrobes. Not everyone is getting covered in spit up on the regular. So I’m going to need to address that. (Some capsule wardrobe numbers would have me doing laundry every three days and I’m really only wanting to do laundry once a week right now.) One example of how I’m dealing with that idea inside my capsule wardrobe is: I have 7 white Hanes Tee Shirts I like to wear -- I count those as one shirt when limiting down my clothes. Why? Because honestly, there was one day where I wore almost all of them due to how often I got covered in spit up (and I didn’t want to smell it anymore.)

I also know my wardrobe is going to be shifting as I, and my baby, change. So I’m not holding myself to the often used “3 months of the same clothes” rule. I’m just going to work with what I have, as long as it works, and switch things when they don’t.

What I’m getting at here is: If you want to give this capsule idea a try -- don’t get hung up on the “rules,” just adopt the philosophy in a way that fits your life. The point is to improve and simplify your life, not burden you with rules and hardships.

If I have piqued your interest and you want to read more, you can see the pins I’ve saved on the topic here. (You’ll see pins on people blogging their capsules and ideas on them. You’ll see some pictures of capsules of traveling mix and match idea. And you will also see some stuff that applies to me that helps me figure out what I’m doing -- tips for my shape, specific clothing items I might like to use.) Or you can just google away. There is TONS of info out there on the subject.

You don’t have to shop a whole new wardrobe when starting this journey. Actually most (American) people have enough clothes in their closet that they can just pick out enough of what they already own to work with, and will have a lot to remove . (You can just pack it away, to give this a test drive, if you aren’t ready to get rid of it completely. Project 333 is a nice starting point if you want to dip your toes in.) And then now with fresh eyes, maybe you see that you just need 'this or that' to really make what you have versatile -- and then you can take your time to shop for one of those, that’s just right

    Now for me --- Emotionally --- I will tell you that the day I went through my clothes was hard, and depressing. I had to go through my bin of clothes with my pre-pregnancy stuff in it to find my in between size stuff. But That was not fun to look at because there is also my normal weight clothes in there -- “Sheesh how was I ever that small? Will I ever be again?” And then I had to face the cruel hard reality that I will never actually wear that amazing blazer, I got for so cheap, and it’s got to be from some time around the 1950s, and is perfectly timeless…. because... I will never be able to bend my arms in it -- it’s so stiff, nothing will change that. So owning it tt will always just make me wish it was wearable, but never actually be for me. And a bunch of stuff like that. So I was burnt out and sad that day. (I mean I was also fielding the mom-job on top of it.)
         BUT once I was done and my closet was pared down and in order -- I felt amazing. I seriously feel like my closet is a store. It looks so nice in there. And anything I reach for fits me (I mean I still wish I was smaller -- but they look decent on.) Prior to this I had the too baggy maternity clothes, mixed with the too tight (to look nice) maternity clothes, plus a bunch of stuff I didn’t know if it fit now (never had/took the time to even bother to find out after baby got here), and a lot of stuff I never liked anyway. No wonder I was staying in pjs or crazy clothes. Once I got my closet in order I got dressed way, way more.

    I’m really happy I did this. My closet isn’t perfect.
    I’m postpartum so I barely have any pants I like to wear. (My favorite maternity jeans sag down all day, my actual pants muffin top me, and some in between size I have also like to slide down to plumber-butt.) So some of my shirts I left in my closet don’t look great with skirts, so for now I won’t wear them much (there are occasions I’ll wear the pants and just deal, but not often)-- but life is life. I’m not going for perfection. Just “ah that feels better.” So my wardrobe, is pared down, but I could probably par it down even more now that I think of it.
        I’d like to sew myself a few more skirts --- both for fashion and options, but also for laundry-spit-up issues and getting a better balance there.
         So I’m not settled into “This is my fall line up perfection” by any means. I’m just enjoying having less and all the “more” that comes from it.

    I’m going to keep trying to show you what’s in there in case it helps anyone out. (I’ve had a couple really sweet responses and I get so happy to hear someone else feels better about themselves now after trying these concepts out. I also get really happy to learn these concepts actually DO work, that it’s not just in my head! ha! So please let me know if you’re enjoying this series. It gives me the fuel to keep going.)


    1. I love these posts! I've long been wanting to work on a capsule wardrobe for myself (but keep putting it off - maybe after this next baby), but I've never thought of doing it for my kid - we totally have the issue you had of too many clothes (mostly generously given to us) that also don't go together easily. I'm finally realizing it will totally be worth getting over the guilt of parting with a large quantity of my son's wardrobe!

    2. I am very much enjoying these posts. I recently had my first child (daughter, 6 weeks old today) and am realizing I have way too many clothes. I'd like to go through my closet this week and start narrowing my selections down. Thanks for the inspiration and information!

    3. I am very much enjoying these posts. I recently had my first child (daughter, 6 weeks old today) and am realizing I have way too many clothes. I'd like to go through my closet this week and start narrowing my selections down. Thanks for the inspiration and information!

    4. Find out how 1,000's of individuals like YOU are making a LIVING by staying home and are fulfilling their wildest dreams TODAY.


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