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Less Clothing, More Outfits: Save Money and Time with a Capsule Wardrobe

Anna Akbari  |  July 31, 2019

Nothing to wear? Here’s how to create a capsule wardrobe using fewer clothes to make more outfits to save money and time.

What if I told you that owning less clothing would end your nothing-to-wear syndrome and save you time and money? That’s the theory behind a “capsule wardrobe” — a small collection of largely seasonless, versatile basics. Having an extremely flexible wardrobe reduces the number of items you sift through each day, while also giving you more options.

Here’s how to make your own.

First, Purge Things You Haven’t Worn

We love to hang on to pieces that have sentimental value or that were a bit of a splurge, but eliminating items you don’t wear can be a liberating, therapeutic process.

Sort your clothes into three categories:

  • What you love and will keep
  • Items to be discarded
  • Clothing you can’t part with, but don’t wear

Put that third category in a separate space and keep the pieces for one to three months. If you haven’t missed them after the season, it’s time to eliminate them.

What You Need

Your capsule can contain as few as 35 items (excluding workout clothes, undergarments and pajamas), but don’t beat yourself up if that exact number doesn’t serve you. To get started, here’s a sample capsule wardrobe, which you can adjust according to your workplace and lifestyle:

  • Two to three work pants (fewer if you work in a creative office and wear jeans)
  • Two to three dresses
  • Two to three tanks
  • Two pairs of jeans (dark, white or a lighter color)
  • One or two skirts
  • Three blouses (short-sleeved, long-sleeved sleeveless — depending on climate, body, preference)
  • Two or three T-shirts
  • Two or three blazers
  • Three to five sweaters with variation in weight and warmth
  • Five to 10 pairs of shoes (include boots, sneakers, flats, heels, sandals)
  • Three jackets (winter, spring/fall, raincoat)
  • Three handbags (year-round, summer, evening)
  • Two to three scarves (one heavy, one light)
  • Four to 10 pieces of signature jewelry

Most capsule wardrobes will be rooted in neutral colors and classic pieces, but it’s nice to have a few standout pieces with creative details and edge. Those items can still operate as some of your signature staples, despite the fact that they aren’t neutral. Remember: Neutral is relative — for some it may mean stripes, while others will interpret it as black or tan.

Fill in the Blanks

What key pieces are missing from your collection? Refer back to the capsule wardrobe list and check off what you already own, noting condition and fit. If a piece is on its way out, add it to your upcoming list of items you want to target and replace. If it’s questionable because of fit, make a pile for items that need to be taken to the tailor — then actually commit to taking them to the tailor!

Shop Consciously

There’s no room for impulse purchases in capsule wardrobes, so make sure each piece is deliberate and cohesive. Creating a budget is key. I find an annual budget to be more effective than a monthly allowance, as it’s efficient and practical to buy at certain times of the year.

Sticking to your list when you’re in stores or browsing online is essential. It’s easy to get derailed — so if something isn’t on your list, bookmark it or take a photo of it, and consider it for a while before making the purchase.

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