My Capsule Wardrobe Experience


I was first exposed to the idea of capsule wardrobes while scrolling Pinterest sometime in 2015. It felt like all of a sudden everyone and their mom was pinning how-tos and examples-of. I was fascinated by the idea, but also incredulous. I thought there is no hecking way that a capsule wardrobe could be as fun or functional as it looks, so I wrote the whole idea off.

I was not at all interested in the idea again until about a year later, when I happened upon a video from Cladwell:

Intrigued, I headed to their website (FYI: their blog is chock full of useful information!). They offer a customizable capsule wardrobe generator. If the numerous tutorials on Pinterest didn’t pique my interest, I knew that enlisting the help of a service would probably be necessary if I were to give this a shot. By the end of the day I had signed up for a membership and was at work creating my very own capsule wardrobe! I thought of it as an experiment, reminding myself that if after this season I hated it, I could go back to my old ways (Spoiler: I loved it and I never looked back!).

The first step in Cladwell’s capsule wardrobe process is called “Closet Cleanout” — and it’s exactly what it sounds like. You pull out literally every single item of clothing you own and place it all in one room. Then you go through the items one by one. I know it sounds overwhelming, and it can be, but hang in there! When I went through my clothes, I asked myself what I wanted to keep, instead of what I wanted to get rid of (a trick I learned from the KonMari method). This small shift in thinking made a huge difference in helping me find the items I truly loved. I made one “love it” pile (those items that fill me with good feelings when I look at or touch them) and another pile for "everything else” (this pile will be addressed later in another post). Here’s some Instagram posts from my own Closet Cleanout:

I know the quality isn’t great, and I apologize. I wish I had had the foresight to take nicer photos. Anyway! You can really see that I started from a pretty rough spot. I had a looooot of clothes, and yet still didn’t even really know what looked good on me or what my style was (or if I even had a style). I took the extra time during my Closet Cleanout to try on each item from my “love it” pile, and I asked myself to part with items that didn’t fit or look right on me, even if I was drawn to the item for other reasons.

Side note: I had gained a significant amount of weight after an injury took me away from my beloved distance running for about 2 years; I needed to be honest with myself about what items still fit and what items were flattering, and also not worry so much about fitting into old clothes. What’s the use of keeping something in my closet if I can’t wear it? I had been holding too-tight clothes over myself as some kind of sick form of torture to motivate myself to get back into a fitness routine, but all it really did for me was make me frustrated with my progress and less focused on what really mattered: healing, regaining strength, and loving and appreciating my body just as it was. If you happen to be hanging on to too-tight clothes for similar reasons, I encourage you to let them go. Honor where you are right now, and allow yourself clothes that fit you and make you feel good in this moment. If things change, excellent. If they don’t, then you haven’t wasted space in your capsule (or your mind) for items that don’t serve you.

I digress…

I was so excited to start this process, I dove in head first. Heck it, I cannonballed right it! In my gusto I made the classic rookie mistake of trying to make capsules for all the seasons and my workout gear right off the bat. While I gave it a valiant effort, this method was overwhelming (and, as I quickly found out, totally unnecessary). After a few days of trying to wrap my head around it, I almost quit! And if I had, I wouldn’t have had the wonderful and life-changing experience I did.

As I mentioned earlier in this post, I used Cladwell’s capsule generator, which I believe is now called Roadmap, to help me figure out what I really needed. After answering a series of questions, Cladwell gave me an idea of what kinds of items I needed, and how many. After doing the Closet Cleanout, I had a “love it" pile full of things that filled me with joy and that fit me and looked great on me. There was also an “everything else” pile. Prior to doing this, I didn’t think I really had a personal style; however, a pattern quickly emerged while creating the two piles. Colors, cuts, and patterns began to stand out. I love olive green, camel, grey, white, navy, and black, with rust orange or mustard yellow as accent colors, and generally favor solids over patterns, though I do enjoy a subtle stripe from time to time. I used as many pieces from my “love it” pile as possible to fill in the capsule, then tried my best to find acceptable items from the “everything else” pile to fill in the gaps. When all was said and done, there were only a few items I felt that I needed to buy to make the capsule work, and many, many items I was ready to part with. I was amazed at how quickly I felt like I had everything I needed.

The next morning after making my first capsule, I immediately noticed the difference: the ease of finding items, the removal of stress from getting dressed, and how much time it saved. I was hooked. Sure there were less items, but everything I was choosing from were items I loved, and it made getting dressed feel really special. The peace, freedom, and joy that has come out of this has been so worth it, I would do it all over again in a heartbeat.

If you’re like me, you may find that you wear many of your pieces year-round. When I was furiously trying to make a capsule for each season, I got stuck pretty early on because many of my pieces are "floaters" between seasons. 

(It was kind of like that scene from Gilmore Girls where the maid keeps trying to take Rory’s “off season” clothes at her grandmother’s request, despite Rory’s many protests. Except I was the maid, Emily, and Rory all at the same time, haha.)

I will keep items that only suitable for a specific time of year, like thick sweaters or heavy tops that are more appropriate for the colder months, safely tucked away for when I need them; otherwise my core capsule serves me throughout the entire year. This, of course, can lead to capsule fatigue — a topic for another day!

Something of interest to me: I haven’t done so yet, but I think I might like to make my own little display for my capsule wardrobe, something simple, beautiful, and eye-catching that houses what I've chosen for the season in an easy-to-see way. Maybe something like this:

Clothing rack with distressed wood platforms from Monroe Trades

Clothing rack with distressed wood platforms from Monroe Trades

I’ll be sure to post about it if I ever get around to making or purchasing something like this. How would you display your capsule wardrobe? What was your capsule wardrobe experience like? Let me know in the comments!

Regardless of if you DIY it, follow a how-to guide, or use a service like Cladwell, here’s my advice: start with one capsule first, just one! Keep it simple, and start with the current season.