Capsule wardrobes are everywhere on the internet, but the concept itself isn’t new—it dates back to the 1970s, with Susie Faux credited as coining the term.
I love how they work: just a few pieces in your wardrobe, all in your colors, all in styles that fit you well and make you feel good, mostly all working together. This means that with just a few things, you could create infinite happy outfits.
There’s not a magic number for how many items you’re “supposed” to have in a capsule wardrobe; somewhere at some point, someone decided that 37 was the right amount. I personally think the number is: whatever works best for you. (You’ll know when it’s the right amount, in other words).
I’m almost 40 (side note: when did that happen?), but I still feel like I’m discovering my style and what looks best on me. It’s been a long process.
Yet—I think I’m really, finally figuring it out. Throughout my thirties, I’ve jettisoned items in my wardrobe I thought I was supposed to have, and slowly, slowly, I’m narrowing down my collection to my essentials. It’s still a work in progress.
But it’s oh-so worth opening my closet and liking every single thing in there.
Here are the three things that I’ve decided matter to me most when it comes to my clothes and accessories:
1. They’re quality (which means less quantity).
I’d rather have one perfect-fitting, made-to-last pair of shoes over three so-so pairs. Not only does this take up less space, but I’m way more likely to wear my fantastic shoes more often than my meh shoes. I’m owning this truth when I stick to quality.
This is also true for my jeans, t-shirts, earrings, purses, sweaters, and dresses. All of it.
2. They’re ethically-made.
Life’s too precious—for all of us that share the planet—to invest in shady-made stuff. I’m not wealthy, but I can afford more than so many other people around the world, and we all vote with our dollars. I’d rather spend a few more dollars on an ethically-made t-shirt and vote for a clean-conscience supply line than support a company cutting corners and endangering lives just because they can get away with it.
This happens slowly, as I can afford it. If something’s too expensive, I either do without until I’ve got the funds, or I shop secondhand at thrift stores, where at least my dollars aren’t buying extra new manufacturing.
Am I perfect at this? No. But I’m doing what I can.
- Related: Here’s our Ethical Shopping Guide to get you started.
3. They make me feel good.
Ultimately, a dress takes up valuable space in my closet if I never wear it because it’s not the right shape on me, it’s worn out, and the colors make me look blah. This is the main reason the Pareto Principle rings true with most of our wardrobes: we wear 20 percent of our clothes 80 percent of the time.
The more I ditch the things that just don’t work for me, the percentage of what I actually wear climbs to 30, 40, 50, and beyond. It’s a simple concept of less, but better.
If you’ve mastered the art of a capsule wardrobe, what tips do you have?