Updated: Oct 6, 2020
Aaah fall. I love ALL the fall cliches - the smell of crisp air, pumpkin spice everything and of course:
The start of a new season coupled with the fact that I'm now working from home full-time had me rethinking my wardrobe. I scaled down my wardrobe a few years ago and for the most part I've been pretty good at following the "one-in, one-out" rule but noticed lately that many of items in my closet no longer serve me. Whether it's because it no longer fits, it no longer makes sense with my lifestyle or I simply doesn't bring me joy anymore, one thing is for sure - it was time for a wardrobe reset!
A good friend of mine recently streamlined her wardrobe by embracing the philosophy of Project 333. For those of you who aren't familiar with Project 333, the concept is reducing your wardrobe to 33 items for 3 months. I looked into this and I wasn't sure it would work for me. The idea of only having 33 items in my wardrobe is super scary! Even for an organizer who embraces the philosophy of less is more. Also, how do you survive Canadian winters with only 33 items? Layering is critical!
So I began to look into the concept of a capsule wardrobe. According to The Good Trade, a capsule wardrobe is a practice of editing your wardrobe down to your favourite clothes, remixing them regularly, and shopping less often and more intentionally. That sounded exactly like what I was looking for.
I began to Google capsule wardrobe tips, guides and checklists and I noticed one thing - most of them were a SPECIFIC list of items or a defined NUMBER of items (e.g. 33 items in 3 months or 10 X 10 - 10 days, 10 items). I could not find anything that helped me narrow down what I need based on the PURPOSE OF ITEMS and how it fits into my lifestyle.
So I set out to create my own wardrobe organization system and design a handy-dandy tool that anyone can use to create a customized capsule wardrobe! Something that will work for my lifestyle and that can be adapted based on different stages of life. Should be simple enough, right?
Turns out the process takes a bit of time but the end result is simple!
To create a tool that anyone can use to create a simplified, streamlined and organized wardrobe. In other words, a CUSTOMIZED capsule wardrobe checklist.
Step 1: Identify likes, dislikes and fave colour palettes
I started by doing a visual scan of what I already owned and making a list of what I like, what I dislike and taking note of the colour palette that exists in my wardrobe.
As you can see from the second picture, it turns out I have A LOT of neutrals (white, black, grey) with some bright colours (reds, oranges, greens, stripes and floral). It was a really interesting exercise for me to do because it made me see how my tastes and preferences have evolved over the years. A decade ago my friends called me the "queen of jewel tones" but now when I look at my closet I have mostly neutrals. I think its because I no longer care about fashion as much. Don't get me wrong - I like to look put together and cute but I now care more for practicality and simplicity. In other words, I don't want the process of picking my clothes to take 15 minutes. I want to pull out a few items that I know will work together in just a few minutes. I also care way more about comfort than style now. Maybe that's what happens when you work from home full-time or just what happens in your late 30s. Regardless of why it's happened, I didn't like anything in my closet that was too tight or fitted. I want looser tops and pants with an elastic waist pant.
I should add that I actually pulled EVERYTHING out of my closet and drawers and tried on items I haven't worn in a long time (work trousers - I'm talking about you). That was a sobering/enlightening experience. So many of my work clothes no longer fit me but you know what? I'm A-OK with that. For the first time in my adult life I don't feel bad about gaining weight. We're living through a pandemic now and I'm healthy and safe. That's what matters. If I lose the weight, great. If not, I'm OK with it. I genuinely just want to be healthy and love how I look and feel my clothes.
In this process, I ended up donating a lot more clothes than I anticipated. And honestly, I have no regrets!
Step 2: Create categories based on your lifestyle
One of the things I didn't like about the capsule wardrobe checklists I found online was that they weren't customized to my lifestyle. For instance, I saw one that included leather pants. Some girls can rock leather pants, but I always think I'll end up like this:
The other thing about the available templates, is that they make you think that you need to toss or donate all your clothes that aren't on the list. But what if the things NOT on their list are things you LOVE and that SPARK JOY?
I'm a big believer in function over form. Keep clothes that work for your lifestyle. I really didn't want to discard clothes in my closet simply because they weren't on a pre-existing checklist someone else had created.
With that in mind, I started to think about how to group the clothing I have to fit my lifestyle. I decided I needed to create a list categories (or events) based on my lifestyle. Where do I spend my time? Where do I go?
I narrowed it down to the following categories:
Everyday basics (things I wear everyday like underwear, bras, socks, gym clothes, PJs)
Working From Home (WFH)
Working in the Office
Everyone's life is different. Also, how you spend your time and the kinds of clothes you need will likely change with shifts in life. A couple of years ago, I would never have a WFH category. Had I done this exercise when I was in my twenties, I probably would have had a category called Going Out (throwback to the "going out tops" that used to fill an entire drawer). If you're a new mom you may have a category called Everyday Loungewear.
The point of the template I have created is that you have a tool to help you edit your wardrobe down to the pieces that work in your lifestyle, remixing them regularly and shopping less often.
Step 3: Write down clothing needed for each category
This is the part where you need to sit down and actually visualize what kind of clothes you need for each category. For example, I recently added the WFH category. When the pandemic started my WFH clothes consisted of leggings, tee-shirts and hoodies. But as it progressed I felt the need to look a bit more professional for Zoom/MS Teams video calls. I started to visualize how I want to look on these calls. I pictured myself wearing comfortable bottoms (i.e. anything with elastic waist band or stretch) and loose fitting blouses with a cardigan. I could switch it up with a nice sweater in the colder months, or a sleeveless blouse in the summer. I then repeated this exercise for each category listed above and included footwear.
To make this a bit easier, I did this sitting in front of my closet. Doing this using the clothes I already own would not only save me money, but reminded me of what I currently love to wear!
This step is what differentiates my template from others. Others will simply give you a list of clothes someone else thinks you should have. This template and process gives you a custom list based on what you want to wear!
This is probably the most time consuming step but it is the most important.
Step 4: Determine the quantities needed for each item and whether you own it already or need to buy it
The last step is to think about how many items you will realistically need within each category and denoting whether you already own it or need to buy it. Using my WFH example from above, I decided for the fall I needed 2 pairs of jeans, 2 leggings, 1 pair of dark joggers, 2-3 long sleeve blouses and 2-3 lightweight sweaters. Keep in mind that many of these items will also be used in other categories (e.g. leggings and joggers are used on weekends)
The pictures below will hopefully help you see how the tool works. There is a quadrant for each category and within each category I listed out the items I need, the quantity and whether I have it or need to buy it. I also broke things down by season but that is mostly because Canada has such dramatic variation between seasons.
Note: I didn't repeat items between categories. For example, I wear blue jeans when I work from home in all seasons. However I only listed it in WFH (fall).
The buy column clearly shows what items I actually NEED. I keep this list handy and refer to it whenever I am tempted by an online sale. I will only buy things in the "buy" column!
Any good organizer will tell you that YOU NEED A SYSTEM! Filling out this template alone is only the first step. You need to commit to the one-in, one-out rule and only buy the items listed in the "buy" column.
I realized after it was too late, that I probably should have used an erasable pen or a pencil to complete the template. That way, whenever I buy something I can easily modify the document without printing a new one.
As your life evolves, it's a good idea to see if the categories and items still make sense.
WHY SHOULD YOU TRY THIS?
If you're not sure a capsule wardrobe is right for your, here are some of the benefits of a creating a CUSTOMIZED capsule wardrobe:
Reduces the amount of decision making in your life Most women have a zillion decisions to make. Why should picking your outfit take up so much of that time? Once you complete the process above, you'll find that you will waste less time thinking about what to wear. Everything in your wardrobe has a purpose and goes together.
Save money Have you ever bought something not knowing whether it will work with everything else you own? Or bought it because it was on sale? And consequently it sat in your closet unworn for months or even years? The benefit of this template is that it clearly tells you what you NEED to buy. If you commit to sticking to ONLY this list when shopping you will save money by not buying unnecessary items.
Less comparison Once you create your capsule wardrobe based on your actual lifestyle needs, you’ll pay less attention to advertising messages, trends, and what anyone else is wearing.
Overall happiness I sincerely mean it that since I've done this I feel happy, EVERY time I open my closet doors. The simple act of knowing everything in my closet will work together and helps me live the life I want to live sparks joy for me! And I hope it does for you too :)
I really hope this was an interesting read for you and that you're motivated to embrace the capsule wardrobe concept! I've showcased screenshots of the template (blank pics and completed) throughout this post. I would be THRILLED to send you the complete capsule wardrobe checklist template I created along with some other free printables. Simply sign up here to have it delivered directly to your inbox!