30 November 2012

Building a capsule wardrobe

Ever since I read Lauren Conrad - Style, last year I've been thinking more and more about the concept of a capsule wardrobe and how I could achieve something similar.  As an ironic example of my level of excessive purchasing I have since been unable to locate said book as it is probably residing in a suitcase or under a pile of books somewhere (is there such a thing as a capsule bookshelf? I think I might need one).

Further evidence came to support this notion when I read Gala Darling's article on 'Why too many choices make us miserable', which, if you ever had one of those mornings where you're getting ready for work and you end up trying everything in your wardrobe on before declaring that you hate everything you own and hiding under a quilt, you might be inclined to agree with.  In the years prior to now (as I've mentioned several times on here) I generally adhered to a 'quantity over quality' attitude to shopping, the result of which is a wardrobe crammed to the rafters with dresses from Primark circa 2009, things that don't fit me anymore and things I've never worn.  I think we all have those things in our wardrobe that we skim past when looking for something to wear because we know they're unflattering, uncomfortable or just plain uncool.  What percentage do those items make up in your wardrobe? I'd say I'm at about 80% (or was prior to my clearout).  I recently yanked everything out of my wardrobe and pulled out five giant Ikea bags' worth of things I didn't wear.  Surprise, surprise, the things I don't wear are almost entirely Primark or H&M - things I bought because they were a bargain, or because for £3 it didn't matter that I only kind of liked them.

ah... one can dream!
// img credit: stylebakery.com
My new approach to shopping is to identify where the gaps are in my wardrobe and buy one item now and then that's good quality and will work with lots of other items.  So I'm slowly building what one might describe as a capsule wardrobe, although achieved in a way that breathes life into other loved items that need a friend they can go out with!

If you suffer from a crammed wardrobe (coathangers a little too friendly with each other? This is you) then some tips I have are, pull everything out of your wardrobe.  EVERYTHING.  Then get rid of...

  • ... anything you haven't worn in the last 12 months
  • ... anything you tell yourself you'll slim into (or worse, anything that doesn't fit you since you've lost weight, get rid of it or it might come to fit you again!)
  • ... anything you don't wear but you keep because it was expensive
  • ... anything that's unflattering (you wear it, but you don't like how you look in it)
  • ... anything that needs repairing, dry cleaning or altering 
Once you've done this you should have a good set of clothes you wear regularly and feel good in.  Then identify the gaps and only buy those essential items that will complement what you already own.  Buy for quality, not quantity.  Never buy anything you wouldn't buy if it was twice or three times the price. (My personal tip is if you preferred what you were wearing when you walked into the fitting room, don't buy what you tried on!)

I think a capsule wardrobe is personal to the person - for instance a cashmere jumper may be very chic but I rarely wear jumpers! An amazing pair of jeans I'd say is a must-own, but if you're not a trousers person I'd say it's probably a no-go and you should invest in a killer dress instead.

The things I wear endlessly that are staples of my capsule wardrobe are; pair of ballet pumps, pair of ankle boots, plain t-shirts, high waisted skirt, pair of jeans, pair of leggings, pair of skinny black trousers, blazer, shift dress, cardigans, tights and blouses.

I have a couple of gaps and things currently on my to-buy list.  These are...
  • a pair of court shoes with a low-ish heel (partly inspired by Elgin Avenue's gorgeous Kandee heels and turn ups!) for wearing during the day
  • a wool coat
  • more non t-shirt tops (sleeveless shirts, peplums and the like) for wearing to smarter occasions or dressing up jeans
  • an iconic handbag
One question I have for you is, how much does blogging and reading blogs feel at odds with the concept of a capsule wardrobe and 'less is more'? Do you think there's pressure to post about new things and keep up with new season styles (along with temptation from wishlist posts)? I think I'm going to have to get more in the habit of, when I buy new things, old things have to go, though I've never been one to clear out things as they go out of fashion.  But this is one habit I want to keep to - no more coathanger wars and reams of unworn Primark clothes for me!


  1. I recently did 'the cull'. I'm left with a very, very sparse wardrobe indeed. Somehow though I felt much better after dropping the rest off at the various charity shops in town (like to spread the love a little!) and seeing how few clothes I have that I enjoy wearing and that fit me well. I'm going to take a much more ruthless approach to what I buy in future - i.e if it does't scream 'buy me' it won't be purchased!

    Love your tips Rosie!

    Jem xXx

  2. I dont really have a comment on capsule wardrobes, as I'm constantly culling items from my own wardrobe (I'm being very strict about it!). However, I thought I would comment on your offhand comment about capsule bookshelves! I've been downsizing my book collection slowly but surely, by using two rules:
    1) I love this book (like isn't enough!)
    2) I WILL read it again.

    You'd be surprised how many books you keep just for the sake of it! Set them free! Give them to friends, sell them on eBay or donate them to charity!

  3. I need to cull soon - think I'll do it when I'm on holiday over Christmas. I am trying to pick quality over quantity these days, but sometimes a Primark bargain just looks too good! x

  4. Reading blogs has made me buy way more things than I actually need - over the past month, for example, I have bought three things because I saw them on a blog and thought to myself "I CANNOT GO ON WITHOUT THESE CLOTHES". I need to sort this out! Also, I bought a crapload of clothes last year because I lost weight, but now I've put weight back on so I don't fit into anything anymore! Waaahh! Haha! So I am determined to lose weight again so I can be reunited with my beloved clothes once more. Although I should probably give the majority of them to charity :)

  5. Absolutely agree with you about blogging and that feeling of "oh I can't blog that skirt/top/shoes again because they've already had an outfit post!" which is definitely not the way to think. I couldn't ever have a capsule wardrobe, I love shopping too much.

  6. This is such a good idea but I can never make myself throw clothes away because I always think I will want them next season, and I always seem to buy more I don't need to make up for it haha.

  7. I do often feel like my outfit posts are boring because I only tend to wear classic pieces and only buy quality items, which (as you said) means buying less and so my posts have less variety...but to be honest I won't change my habits for the sake of my blog!

  8. I'm totally with Becky above on this. I despise shopping and am proper poor so I never buy anything new. In order to make me part with my money, it's got to be really bloody special. Like the coat I just bought from Zara, I'd had my old coat for about 4 years and I've seen cheap coats in H&M that I 'sort of like' over the years but I knew as soon as I saw the Zara one that I had to have it.
    It's weird because I've never felt like blogging made me feel under pressure to buy more stuff but when I worked in an office I felt under pressure to buy new things. Now that I'm a freelancer I spend most of my time in comfy jumpers and jeans as it's usually only my husband that sees me!
    That said, there are two things that I feel are missing from my wardrobe right now, a pair of black skinny jeans and a pair of flat, black chelsea boots.

  9. I constantly clear out my wardrobe.... and then regret it :( I remember an item of clothing and start hunting for it only to realise it's probably being worn by someone else now via the charity shop!
    I also put my summer clothes away each year in a big bedding chest and vice versa, so I'm not fighting with flimsy, strappy clothing in the wardrobe, trying to get to the jumpers on a frosty day :D xx

    1. I've done that too when I'm trying to smarten my wardrobe up, it's maddening when you regret giving something useful away! :)

  10. I'm starting to think about trying to devise some sort of capsule wardrobe, too. I do exactly the same thing as you - buying stuff just because it's cheap!

    # ❁ teen dreams...
    Musings of an indecisive cat lady.

  11. An excellent question - I don't do as many outfit posts now because I don't wear the variety of clothing I did even a year ago, and I don't read as many blogs as I did then either, so I guess that removes the temptation slightly! The most worn items in my wardrobe are my black leggings, a raincoat, a variety of Converse and some oversize tops, they make a good base for most weather I find :)

  12. I really need to invest in a few capsule pieces too, my wardrobe is full of cheap Primark finds but nothing very classic and versatile. I love the shirt you picked too :)
    I hope you're having a great weekend :) xxx

  13. I've been wanting to read her book for quite sometime. I feel like I too can learn a lot from her. And I am so in need of a closet cleanse for sure!

  14. Thank you for this post, good tips!

  15. Thanks for the tips. My tip is if you try it on and you don't say YES! then don't buy it. This is really good for thrifting. Well that is what I have been doing. Now I've got to think of the big picture. Which is my new years resolution come early. Buy only wardrobe essentials. I have so much stuff in my closet that I love but doesn't go with anything or only goes with one thing. Time to get back to basics.

  16. My wardrobe sits mostly unworn because I have gone from being free to wear as I choose at work to being restricted to business :(

  17. I've only been blogging for a year or so and I always post about old things in my wardrobe which I guess goes against the grain. I read blogs for inspiration, rather than direct links. I wish I had the willpower to majorly cull my wardrobe but I always wimp out at the last minute! Maybe it can be my New Year Resolution.

    Shopped and Dropped

  18. I wish I had a wardrobe like the one in the photo! I also wish I could be a little stricter when it comes to shopping I love Primark and probably always will but sometimes I wish I could stop myself and save up for something that I'll keep for a lot longer and is of better quality. Sometimes though I just don't have the patience to save up! xx

  19. Love this post Rosie. I am a definitely hoarder. Think I am going to have a clean out very soon xx

  20. Great post. I recently had the exact same revelation and it dawned on me how many great things I could own with the amount of money I've wasted on hundreds of so called "bargains". Life is so much better now I don't have the option to wear these questionable items anymore.

    Elise x


  21. Absolutely love your blog such a gorgeous layout! ASOS blouse is cute but also love the floral skirt it's teamed with!

    Please check out my blog :) www.sophie-acrosstheuniverse.blogspot.co.uk


  22. I think you already know my thoughts on this subject- maybe a bit too well? Love the tip on how you feel walking into the changing room and then once there.

    I think blogging has an interesting effect for me, I see people wearing the the things that on a hanger in a shop, I'd never consider, and start to realise how the could be the piece I was missing out on in my wardrobe. My uniqlo trousers were definitely such an item for me, and ankle boots have also been a similar thing. I would never have picked them until I saw bloggers style them, and then realised just how well they'd fit my wardrobe.

  23. Rosie, great article!! Thanks so much for the mention re: jeans and low heels - was super happy to see this : )!

    Lauren Conrad's book is great (how amazing are the pictures?!). I think all of your tips are on point - definitely worth baring in mind when having a wardrobe cull (which I desperately need to do in January!).

    In terms of buying or keeping, I always try to say to myself "Do I LOVE this?" normally I can tell in a heart beat. If it's love, it's got to stay.

    Hope you've had a gorgeous Christmas hun!

    MB x

  24. I love this article, it's really intresting!


Thank you in advance for your lovely comments, they mean the world to me! If you have a question or want to get in touch, tweet me at @rosieoutlook.