Ever since I was a little girl I’ve loved clothes, especially new clothes. Up until a couple of years ago I don’t think it would be an exaggeration to say I thought about new clothes almost every day. In the last 2 decades spent way too much of my salary and far too many hours shopping. I can recall Easter weekends spent almost entirely curating wishlists on ASOS. But somehow I also regularly had “nothing to wear”. My wardrobe was bulging with amazing pieces, mixed with mistakes bought in a state of panic and items I loved and wore to death alongside things that I only managed to wear once before the weather changed. I often tried on 3 different outfits before deciding what to wear to work and always bought something new if I had an event to go to or had to do something that scared me.
At the end of 2016 I decided to enter the world of capsule wardrobes. The decision to focus on a simpler, streamlined style coincided with starting the Mel Wells academy, which is where I met gorgeous Hannah. I think the process of learning to love myself and explore the things that light me up helped me to see that I could spend time enjoying clothes without needing to buy them all the frigging time. I also realised I use clothes to hide – my body sometimes, my lack of confidence in stressful situations often. And I use the serotonin buzz shopping brings to numb and distract when I’m feeling an emotion I don’t want to feel – sad, stressed, tired, anxious. You name it, clothes hide it.
I’ve always admired women who have a very clear sense of style. Coco Chanel in her Breton stripes, Diane Keaton in Annie Hall’s fabulous uniform, Alexa Chung and her cool nonchalance, Olivia Palermo and her sleek luxey look. So I decided to give capsule wardrobes a try. A quick google led me to Caroline Joy’s Un-Fancy blog and then to Project333. The rules vary slightly depending who you follow but basically you limit yourself to a very small number of items (usually between 30 and 40) and you wear only those items for a 3 month season. Each season you introduce a new wardrobe. Depending on how variable the weather is where you live and the volume of clothes you own you might swap out the whole lot or just a few key things at a time.
I’ve followed the process of building a capsule wardrobe every season for the last 2 years. I’ve had really successful seasons and less successful ones, but in that time I’ve become a complete convert. It’s not stopped me spending money on clothes – in fact I probably spend more on the clothes I do buy because I need them to last longer, but it has helped me in loads of ways, some of which I didn’t really expect. I’d go so far as to say it’s been life changing.
3 Ways having a capsule wardrobe has changed my life and could change yours
You free up space to focus on the things that are more important
Spending less time scrolling the Zara app and fewer days wandering around Westfield creates more time for other things. More time to do yoga, more time to spend with the people you love and more time to focus on looking after yourself.
It takes a lot less time to get dressed in the morning. And even more life changing, packing for trips is ridiculously easy. With fewer things to choose from you’d think that a feeling of panic would descend if you don’t have the perfect outfit but instead you just go with what you have, and over time you become much more aware of the things you feel are missing, and then just go out and buy them.
When you do shop it’s a completely different experience
It’s still OK to go shopping and to really love shopping. Just like any other addiction, the urge to buy things when stressed or down doesn’t entirely go away but in general shopping becomes a completely different experience. You focus on searching for the perfect pair of jeans or the perfect top in a particular colour rather than getting so overwhelmed with stuff and buying things that don’t go with anything else or look very similar to something you already own. You get to know which shops are the ones that most reflect your style and you gravitate to them first. The whole experience becomes a bit like a treasure hunt.
Capsule wardrobes also work for people who hate buying new clothes. Whilst personally I can’t understand how someone could not want to spend their Saturday on Oxford Street!! I have loads of friends who absolutely hate clothes shopping. They hate it because it brings up insecurities about their bodies – the hideous mirrors, the random sizing and the sadness that comes on when the idea you have in your head doesn’t match what you see in the mirror. Or they hate it because whilst they want to look great they can’t stand looking for clothes, they have no idea where to start and just find the whole experience really really boring. Focusing on a small number of items, centred on a key set of looks, and in a core colour palette really helps people find the pieces that will most work for them.
Spending time understanding your style helps you love yourself more
When you start focusing on what clothes make you feel and look good you stop blindly following random trends and start focusing on how your clothes can make you feel awesome. It becomes much less of a big deal if a trend comes along that doesn’t work for you. You realise it’s nothing to do with your body shape being ‘wrong’. You get less panicked about being ‘out of fashion’ because you’re focusing on owning your own style. When you find the ‘uniforms’ that work for you, you also generally feel good more often. You don’t leave the house in an outfit you later regret.
The occasions when I’ve tended to feel most self-conscious in the past weirdly now make me feel most inspired style wise. Parties, weddings, scary work occasions are now things I look forward to more because I’m developing more of a sense of what will make me feel good rather than panicking about finding an armour to hide behind.
Where to start?
There are some fantastic blogs and books on this topic but the best way to start is to just experiment. Set a total number of items goal and go with it. Be strict enough to make it a challenge but don’t be afraid to swap things in and out if your selection isn’t working and remember it’s supposed to be fun.
I could write a whole other blog about the process of building a capsule wardrobe but here are some core tips to get you started.
- Start with what you have. Pull everything out of your wardrobe and separate the things you love and the things you wear often from the rest. These items will form the starting point for your new style. Think about why you love them, test combining them in different ways. Throw out everything that makes you feel crap. Store everything else.
- Get inspired. Use Pinterest and Instagram to find people and looks that inspire you. Again, ask why – what is it about this person that gives me such a massive girl crush? What do I love about this look? Every season I create a mood board to help me focus on the overall aesthetic I’m looking for. Season by season and year by year I can see how my style is changing by the shifts in the overall mood.
- Find your colour palette. I’ve learnt that a capsule wardrobe works much better when you focus on a core set of colours. Things mix and match more easily and it helps as a quick way to filter when shopping. This takes a bit of time to work out, but once you understand what colours make you feel and look good the process becomes easier.
- Buy well. You end up wearing clothes more, which makes it more important to buy higher quality items. Many capsule wardrobe devotees focus also on sustainable brands. This seems easier in the US than the UK at the moment but times are definitely changing. It’s worth looking at the credentials of the people you’re buying from.
- Think about what you do in your real life not your ideal life. If you spend most of your time working from home and love hanging out in your leggings buy some gorgeous leggings and own that as part of your style. If you rarely go out to bars, you don’t need loads of clothes to wear to bars. See, simple!
Places to go if you want to know more…
Caroline Joy’s blog is a great place to start for advice on the process and gorgeous slow style inspo www.un-fancy.com
Courtney Carver’s style challenge Project333 is a good place to go for more advice on this topic https://bemorewithless.com/project-333/
The Curated Closest by Anuschka Rees is a fantastic book all about finding your style https://anuschkarees.com/curatedcloset/
The #whomademyclothes movement is a good place to start if you want to focus on building a sustainable wardrobe https://www.fashionrevolution.org/
And you can find me on Instagram @sallygetswardrobed to see my style hits, misses and moodboards