A few years ago, a friend introduced me to the concept of a capsule wardrobe.
The theory behind a capsule wardrobe can vary depending on who you’re talking to, but the basic idea is that you have only 35-40 items in your closet at any one time, then switch out a few items at each change of season.
It might seem like a shock to those of us who enjoy shopping for clothes. 40 items seems like it wouldn’t be nearly enough to choose from! BUT – this minimalist clothing theory is supposed to help with many things, including choosing outfits more easily, saving money by eliminating unnecessary purchases, assisting the slow fashion movement, and of course, packing more easily for travel.
Not long after I first heard about the capsule wardrobe idea, I decided to try it out. I started by going through everything in my wardrobe to stocktake what I had and see if there was anything that wasn’t necessary. There were a few things I hadn’t worn in a while or that were starting to look ratty, and so I gave those items away to charity and threw out anything that wasn’t worth passing on.
After this, I went deeper by picking out items that I barely wore because they were ‘too dressy’ or didn’t match many other things. I went through my accessories as well (including shoes!), and kept only the pieces that I used most often.
I managed to whittle down my wardrobe until I had just under 40 items, total. Instead of feeling woeful about all the things that I’d gotten rid of, I felt invigorated. Everything in my wardrobe was now a useful item that I wore often. Nearly everything matched. My choices for what to wear were now obvious – there was no longer a need to stand in front of the wardrobe umming and ahhing about my choice of outfit each day.
Ever since then, I’ve had a similar number of items in my wardrobe. If one of my clothing items gets damaged or old, or if I get sick of it – I throw it away or give it to charity, then go shopping to replace it with something new that will tie in with my other pieces.
Having a minimalist wardrobe also makes it SO easy to pack for travel. I have slowly reduced the size of my luggage from a large suitcase to a carry-on, and that small suitcase basically fits 2/3 of my entire wardrobe! I don’t have to pick and choose what items to pack for a trip – I just pack everything I have that will be appropriate for the weather at my destination.
I generally take 7-10 days worth of clothing, then depending on how long I’ll be away for, I plan to do a few loads of laundry throughout my trip. Packing lightly has never been easier.
If you’re curious about the idea of reducing the number of items in your closet, here’s my tips on mastering a minimalist wardrobe that’s absolutely perfect for travel!
Reducing your wardrobe:
First up, you need to purge! This will be the hardest part, especially if you’re in the habit of going on frequent shopping trips and coming back with armfuls of new purchases each time. It will be hard to let go of these things, but you’ll feel better afterwards! Here’s how to do it:
Get everything out – Yep, everything must come out of your wardrobe! Lay it all out on your bed. Put back only the items that you really love and that you wear regularly as those are your staples.
Consider seasonal items – There are a few things in my wardrobe that I don’t wear often because they’re seasonal, like my big winter jacket (It cost and arm and a leg so I ain’t throwing that thing away!). It’s inevitable that you’ll have a handful of items like these, so if there are some things that you will wear once summer/winter comes around, you can put those back, too.
Mix and match – It’s very important that everything in your wardrobe can be mixed and matched with another item (or ideally, another few items!). Can the pants that you’re considering keeping be matched with all (or most) of your tops? If so, great! If not, don’t keep it.
Use the 3 items rule – If you’re not sure how many items of each type to keep, sticking to 3 is a good rule. If you have 3 each of tees, sweaters, jackets, and shorts, and pants, that should be an appropriate amount. If you want to keep more or less of one item type, go ahead! You don’t have to be too strict on yourself – this is your wardrobe, after all.
Underwear and sleepwear – You can keep as many pairs of underwear as you like, though if you want to keep with the minimalist theme, be sure to throw out any underwear that you don’t use often. I probably have around 10-15 pairs of underwear and socks, and 2 sets of sleepwear.
Shoes and accessories – It may be difficult to let go of shoes, handbags, and other accessories, but there’s no point keeping items you barely use. I actually have just one handbag, and only 7 pairs of shoes, which is plenty enough for me!
Box up the rest – With any items left remaining, consider whether you actually wear it often enough to justify keeping it. If there are some items that you aren’t sure about and don’t want to throw out ‘just in case’, try packing them into a box and storing them away somewhere. If you haven’t had to open the box to find something in a few months time, then you’ll know you made the right choice – donate the box to charity!
Shopping for new items:
Reducing the number of items in your wardrobe doesn’t actually mean that you have to stop buying new clothes. In fact, you may find that you need a handful of new items to tie together your remaining pieces. Be thoughtful about your future purchases, and concentrate only on buying items that actually add value to your wardrobe. Here’s a few things to take note of:
Figure out what you need – It might be worth living with your new wardrobe for a few weeks before deciding on which new items to buy. This way, you’ll have time to discover if there are any key pieces that you’re missing.
Invest in good quality clothing – There’s no point whittling down your wardrobe only to have to replace items every month because they’re cheap and crappy. I’ve stopped shopping at H&M and similar fast fashion stores for this reason, and instead I spend a little more money on items that will last longer.
Be wary of trends – It’s near impossible to avoid trends when buying new clothes, but you should think about whether the trendiness of each item will last another season or two of wear. If not, don’t buy it!
Resist spontaneous purchases: It may be tempting to whip out your credit card when you spot an item that tickles your fancy, but resist! Leave the item on the rack, go home and think about it for a few days, and if you still want it, go back to the store. That way, you’ll be sure that it really is what you want.
Remember, the process of creating a minimalist wardrobe is supposed to be a fun way to challenge your lifestyle, so look at this as a way of opening up your wardrobe choices instead of limiting them. You should feel lighter with less clutter and happier with having a more curated range of clothing to choose from when you’re deciding on something to wear.