Select Page

Thoughts on Capsule Wardrobes

Capsule wardrobes are everywhere on the internet, but the concept itself isn’t new—it dates back to the 1970s, with Susie Faux credited as coining the term.

I love how they work: just a few pieces in your wardrobe, all in your colors, all in styles that fit you well and make you feel good, mostly all working together. This means that with just a few things, you could create infinite happy outfits.

There’s not a magic number for how many items you’re “supposed” to have in a capsule wardrobe; somewhere at some point, someone decided that 37 was the right amount. I personally think the number is: whatever works best for you. (You’ll know when it’s the right amount, in other words).

I’m almost 40 (side note: when did that happen?), but I still feel like I’m discovering my style and what looks best on me. It’s been a long process.

Yet—I think I’m really, finally figuring it out. Throughout my thirties, I’ve jettisoned items in my wardrobe I thought I was supposed to have, and slowly, slowly, I’m narrowing down my collection to my essentials. It’s still a work in progress.

But it’s oh-so worth opening my closet and liking every single thing in there.

ripped jeans

Here are the three things that I’ve decided matter to me most when it comes to my clothes and accessories:

1. They’re quality (which means less quantity).

I’d rather have one perfect-fitting, made-to-last pair of shoes over three so-so pairs. Not only does this take up less space, but I’m way more likely to wear my fantastic shoes more often than my meh shoes. I’m owning this truth when I stick to quality.

This is also true for my jeans, t-shirts, earrings, purses, sweaters, and dresses. All of it.

2. They’re ethically-made.

Life’s too precious—for all of us that share the planet—to invest in shady-made stuff. I’m not wealthy, but I can afford more than so many other people around the world, and we all vote with our dollars. I’d rather spend a few more dollars on an ethically-made t-shirt and vote for a clean-conscience supply line than support a company cutting corners and endangering lives just because they can get away with it.

This happens slowly, as I can afford it. If something’s too expensive, I either do without until I’ve got the funds, or I shop secondhand at thrift stores, where at least my dollars aren’t buying extra new manufacturing.

Am I perfect at this? No. But I’m doing what I can.


3. They make me feel good.

Ultimately, a dress takes up valuable space in my closet if I never wear it because it’s not the right shape on me, it’s worn out, and the colors make me look blah. This is the main reason the Pareto Principle rings true with most of our wardrobes: we wear 20 percent of our clothes 80 percent of the time.

The more I ditch the things that just don’t work for me, the percentage of what I actually wear climbs to 30, 40, 50, and beyond. It’s a simple concept of less, but better.

If you’ve mastered the art of a capsule wardrobe, what tips do you have?

Reading Time:

2 minutes





  1. priest's wife @byzcathwife

    I WISH Everlane had XL clothing…. I’ve asked multiple times on their FB- they always answer questions quickly except that one…maybe they think XL clients would ruin their rep? 🙁

    • Kristina

      Yeah, I am pretty consistently a L, but find that in addition to Everlane not having XL, their products seem to run a bit small, too. I like their production model and their look, but have sort of given up. When you consider their choice to use models who are so very slight — hard to have any idea how an item would look on anyone who isn’t a pretty specific shape — and how dicey their fits are if you’re over a size 8 or so, it just gets to be a waste of postage.

    • Annette

      I am small, and I’ve had trouble with the fit of Everlane’s clothing. I finally just decided to stop doing business with them.

  2. leigh

    I am 67,and live in the country,so I don’t need a lot of clothes.It took a long time for me to realize I don’t like anything with a pattern or picture on it….I wear a lot of jewelry,and plain clothes are the backdrop for that jewelry. I only shop at thrift stores..I only have black,white,and gray clothes,shoes,and purses.Just try to think before you buy,and you will be more satisfied with what you have

  3. Linda Sand

    I stick to three colors that go well with one another. Right now my colors are black, sapphire and persimmon and it is winter in Minnesota so I can layer those few pieces in multiple ways. I’m still buying cheap, though, as my weight is currently going down at least one size every season. Yay!

  4. Tyra

    My selection of clothes is currently very small because I’m heavily pregnant, and even a lot of my maternity clothes are too small for me now! I’m going to reintroduce normal clothes very slowly (especially given they need to be nursing friendly) with a goal to end up with a capsule wardrobe of sorts. Plus getting old clothes out gradually will make them seem new again!

  5. MK @ The One Week Wardrobe

    So much yes to #2! This year, I’m limiting myself to just seven outfits (well, I guess 14; seven for hot and seven for cold) to see if less is hard, though I’m guessing it’s not. I’m allowing myself to buy one ethically made item per quarter. I’m looking forward to doing what little I can to change the landscape.

  6. Aubrey

    I recently realized that my favorite clothing item is the plain black v-neck t-shirt that I stole from my husband’s dresser. The material is so much thicker than the ones they make for women, and I can literally pair it with anything – a fun flowy skirt, blazer and heels, or good ol’ jeans. As long as I get to keep my scarves, I could probably get rid of all the other shirts in my closet!

  7. June@thisSimpleBalance

    This is so funny! I just wrote about the capsule wardrobe yesterday. When we pay off our debt and our budget increases, I hope to invest in higher quality pieces and consider ethically sourced items as well. Do you purchase ethically sourced clothes for your kids as well? If so, what are some of your favorite places to shop for them?

  8. Emily at The We Files

    I’ve adopted a capsule wardrobe, and at first I was overly concerned with the number of items. I would encourage people to loosen up about the number. I found too, that I felt too boring without some things that were more “fun” or trendy. I live in Seattle, so it’s very easy to pick up some things secondhand that are lovely! I also adore ThredUp for secondhand lady and kid clothes. Finally, I think some things that really helped me were identifying some goals of my style. For example, I try to go classic, comfortable, feminine. This helps if I’m picking up a new item. It never hurts to be more selective and take the time to find a right piece, if you’re working on creating a more efficient wardrobe. There’s totally a sweet spot. I am also aiming for ethical. It’s worth it! Cheers!

  9. Yasmine @MommyCriesToo

    Interesting fact, Tsh!
    While I love the idea, I’m far from a capsule wardrobe. I recently pushed myself to get rid of four garbage bags of clothing plus shoes. Finally, it all fits in my closet!
    I have to be realistic about my lifestyle now. No need for blazers, heels, or work dresses. The ones I couldn’t part with yet have gone into a small box. If I don’t open it by summer, I’m donating it without even looking.

  10. Molly

    I have been keeping this idea in mind for the last year. I don’t have a capsule wardrobe, but I am much closer than I used to be. Initially, I had a number in mind, 31. So, I stood in front of my closet and pulled my favorite things (it was more than 31) out onto the floor. When I looked back at my closet, I realized that the left over items were the clothes I was rarely excited to wear. I donated most things, and kept some “maybes” in a box just in case. The experience of getting ready every morning dramatically improved! It’s weird that when I got rid of stuff, I actually felt like I had more to wear. I also subscribe to the “Color Me Beautiful” philosophy, so my clothes blend together well.

    • Melinda

      I like the idea of pulling out a certain number of pieces, and donating the rest. We did something similar with kids toys. Picked the favorites. Should work well with clothes too. It’s easier for me to actively decide what to keep than to actively decide what to get rid of. Such a psychological game 🙂

Join thousands of readers
& get Tsh’s free weekly email called
5 Quick Things,

where she shares stuff she either created herself or loved from others. (It can be read in under a minute, pinky-swear.)

It's part of Tsh's popular newsletter called Books & Crannies, where she shares thoughts about the intersection of stories & travel, work & play, faith & questions, and more.