A Capsule Wardrobe in 12 Steps


I’ve had some questions about how I create my capsules, especially since I don’t follow a traditional formula of tops and bottoms. I am going to break it down here in 12 Easy Steps!

Before we get started, know that while this is a fairly lengthy process that can be completed in an afternoon, you can also break it down step by step, day by day.

The goal of a capsule wardrobe is to end up with a much smaller closet full of items you love that you can mix and match for a full season before either putting items into storage or transitioning items to the next season. When I make capsules I don’t fixate on a specific number of pieces, if you are interested in a more rigid capsule check out Unfancy or Project 333, instead I favour function.

Since I instagram and blog a lot, I also have my process set up in terms of pictures (but if you are a list maker you can also do it that way). If you plan on taking pictures, put on some makeup and get ready to shop your closet! That is to say, treat this process like a day of shopping at the mall: wear the right under garments and be critical 🙂

  1. Take Everything out of your Closet and Drawers
    This may sound silly, but every capsule building guide I know starts with this step for good reason. You need everything in one place and a clean closet to refill at the end of the day.
The madness begins

2. Try On Every Single Item An arduous task for some, but in order to figure out if an item has a place in your capsule you need to make sure that it fits. When I do this step I take a selfie or mirror picture of each item. This way I can look at each piece and, importantly, for me run the questionable items past an honest friend 🙂 I’ve also done this step with a friend in the room (or via Skype) — it can be fun!Tosstake.png

3. Sort the Items
As you are trying on items you should be able to sort them into 4 subcategories:

  • Love It! 
    If you put the item on and feel happy (we’re talking Konmari style “Joy” people), smile, take that selfie and then put it in your “Keep” pile.
  • Meh? 
    If you put the item on and are unsure of whether or not you want to include it in your capsule, first, think about how, if included in your capsule, you’ll likely be wearing the item upwards of 5-10X. Can’t imagine wearing it that often? It goes to subcategory 3. If you are still questioning it, put it in the “Maybe” pile and flag that selfie as one that you’ll ask a friend about.
  • Nope!
    This category involves items that no longer fit, are broken (that are un-repairable or that you know will sit in your “To be Repaired” pile for over a year), are unflattering, or just don’t make you happy anymore. Now, as this pile grows you may start to feel sick and guilty (look at all this money you’re about to throw away!). Stop, we’ll further subcatergorize this pile to include: “To Donate”, “To Sell”, and “To Throw Out.”
  • …But it was So Expensive OR …But I wore this that One Time…
    If you put the item on and you feel ambivalent but remember (possibly painfully) just how much this item cost and can’t bear to donate it, put it in the “To Sell” pile. If you can’t bring yourself to sell the item, or it holds Sentimental value, put it in the “Sentimental” pile.Still confused? Check out my Flow Chart!

    4. Itemize!

    First, take a break. This next step can be annoying and time consuming, unless you love making charts and lists.
    What you are going to do is look at the image (or title if you are a list-maker rather than selfie person) and write out the following:
    A) Item Title: What are you going to call this item when building your capsule. It can be as simple as “Pink Maxi” or “Bird Dress”
    B) Colour: What colour is the item?
    C) Type of Item: Where do you wear this item? Work? Work/Casual? Casual? Fancy events?
    *As you do this step, especially for the “Maybe” pile, you might end up tossing some items to the “Donate” or “Sell” or “Yes” piles — things are still fluid at this point!

5. Graph and Stats!
You don’t have to make an actual graph, but make note of the B and C. How many Pink items do you have? Or How many items are strictly Work or Casual? These numbers will become useful.

6. Life Pie Chart
Take a step back and think about your life. How much of your time is spent doing what? Can you visualize (making a pie chart might help!) the percentage of time you spend in Work clothes versus Casual?

7. Work versus Casual Split
Does your pie chart match your stats? That is to say, If you are spending 50-60% of your time in work clothes, but the pile of “Casual” clothes far outweighs the “Work” pile you might have a problem and vice versa. Take the time here to make the piles match the chart — if there were some “Maybe” pieces in your “Casual” pile and you are now aware that you don’t spend as much time wearing these pieces, it is safe to move some of those “Maybe” items to the “No” pile (to be split between “Donate” and “Sell”).

8. Closet by Colour
It is time to take the “Yes” items and the remaining “Maybe” items (this pile should be shrinking based on the steps) and either hang them up (I’m a visual person and prefer this method) or sort them by colour. While you already have your Stats from Step 5, this step should help flesh out your capsule building. What colours are most prominent? Write out the 3 colours that the majority of your items fall into. This is your new palette! Was one of those colours a neutral? If not, look at the closet, or stats again and figure out what neutral you see the most. You should now end up with 2-3 colours, and 1 neutral.

9. Determine the Outliers
What colours don’t fit into your palette or seem to be outliers? Think about these items? Why were you drawn to them? Did you feel like you *needed* to have a tan pair of pants or pink dress shirt, just because? Did you buy that graphic tee on an impulse? Well, this is *your* capsule. Unless these are items you can see yourself wearing a lot, move them to the “No” pile and subcategories.

One of these things is not like the others…

10. Whittle Further based on the Re-Wearable Test

In a Capsule, re-wearability is key! You are going to be wearing these items a lot and the smaller your capsule the more frequently you’ll be wearing those items. So, it is time to see if the items now hanging in your closet can pass the Re-Wearable Test. For each item you need to do the following:
A) Determine the Type of Item
B) Find 2 other items you can wear with it

See how I made these 10 items re-wearable! 
*If it is a Work/Casual item, you need to find at least 2, preferably 3-4 items you can wear with it.If it is a standalone item because of Fancyness** set aside. If it is either a Work, Casual, or Work/Casual item and it can’t pass the Re-Wearable test, think about the item for a minute. Do you love it enough that you will put it into the rotation often enough to warrant its status? Would you wear it more if you had X item?** If not, it is time for this item to transition to the “No” pile and its subcategories.

11. Craft Your “Repair,” “To Replace/Purchase” and “Fancy” Lists
A) “Repair” If you have an item that you know you will start wearing often and can envision working well with at least 2 other pieces that needs repairs, put it on a list. Take the time and money to dry clean the stain out of that dress, have a seamstress put a new zipper in that skirt, or hem those dress pants. If you can’t imagine actually doing these things, move the item to the “No” pile — there is no sense in having an item in your closet that you can’t physically wear.
B) “To Replace/Purchase” Maybe there was an item that through the course of these steps you moved to the “No” pile because of fit or wear and tear. This is your chance to re-coup those items. Make a list of the items that you love and can’t live without and when you have the money replace them. One of the purposes or goals of the Capsule Wardrobe is to move towards buying quality, or ethical, items.
Or, maybe there is an item in your new closet that you can imagine wearing a lot more if only you had a simple pencil skirt or a pair of flats. Put these on a list to purchase. In the mean time, add these items to your Capsule list or image file (I usually go online and find a version of the item I plan to buy and save it and put it in the file until I actually purchase said item).
C) “Fancy”
Throughout these steps there were probably a couple items that you love, but don’t wear often, or that didn’t pass the “Re-Wearable Test” because they are too fancy. They are special occasion items. This is totally fine. Dedicate a section of your closet for your “Fancy”  and “Sentimental” items and pull them out whenever you want. They exist in a separate realm from your Capsule because you probably don’t want to include that lavender dress you wear to weddings in your Capsule because it is fancy and special and doesn’t fit your everyday colour palette and wardrobe.

12. Test Period: One Month
Start enjoying your new, smaller wardrobe. Play with the items, mix and match them! I suggest starting out with all of your hangars facing one way. After you wear an item change the orientation of the hangar in your closet. A week away from the end of the month, note which items haven’t been worn yet and make a concentrated effort to give those items some play! At the end of the month, any items that are still facing the original direction obviously do not fit your lifestyle and should be moved to either the “No” pile, put in storage for a future season (maybe you weren’t wearing that navy sweater because it is just too hot out! maybe it belongs in your Fall capsule. If you want to keep it in your capsule, simply acknowledge that it is a weather-dependent item), or move to the “Fancy” section of your closet.

Enjoy! K


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s