The Three-Step Capsule Wardrobe: Getting Started


I received a few requests after my wardrobe editing posts to write something more specific about why I purchased certain things, how I settled on a color palette, and how I coordinated items. I hope this answers those questions sufficiently and isn't just a rehash of previous posts, but I have to say, it was sort of an accident. I didn't do a spreadsheet or employ precise methodology, I thought about what I already liked wearing and what I wanted to wear.

For spring, take colors you feel good in and wear them together, whether they theoretically match or not. Try treating favorite colors or patterns as neutrals- for instance, you can mix red, green, purple, and leopard with anything- then add a few accents and statement colors for variety. Once you figure out what colors you like wearing, you can organize a functional capsule wardrobe. Note: This is not advocating capsule wardrobes necessarily. I myself don't have a capsule wardrobe, I just don't own many clothes.


I. Select Key Pieces


Before relocating, I got rid of clothes that screamed "I'm a tourist" and weren't practical for my new life- giant heels, loud prints, fragile coats and sweaters. Later, I gradually parted with things that didn't fit my changing body or new lifestyle, keeping favorite, "signature" pieces, pictured above. Key pieces are the ones you love best. For me, these are the items that fit well, garnered the most compliments, and were comfortable, versatile, and durable. Don't fixate on a particular number, only focus on everything you truly enjoy wearing.

II. Choose Complementary Basics


Fleshing out the rest of my closet took time. My clothes were pretty drab, so working off the colors in the sunglasses, I subconsciously lightened my wardrobe over two years, countering dark pieces with blush tones. To me, basics are all the clothing and accessories you need to carry you through everyday life. Whether shopping your own clothes or purchasing new-to-you secondhand items, select things complementing both your lifestyle and existing wardrobe.

I'm not going to preach about quality or investment pieces. Sometimes, you need a pair of shoes, and don't have the cash or time to wait around for "perfect" ones. I've bought less-than-satisfactory placeholders before, and so will you. Try to buy as little as possible with the object of wearing as long as you can. Brand names don't always guarantee quality- clothes are best when they're not overly precious anyway.

If the idea of basics doesn't excite you, define your own. Not everybody needs a white shirt. Look for items with variation in texture or detailing, well-constructed pieces in beautiful fabrics and non-neutral shades.

III. Add Extras


It's nice to have some pieces that serve no purpose other than to make you look and feel good. Here's where to experiment with new trends, or indulge in impulse items within reason. People think I follow some self-imposed ban on shopping, but I let myself browse and buy things secondhand. I allow more than ten items per season, I just know I won't wear anything else. My wardrobe already feels complete. 

This capsule approach isn't extreme. Many people don't have as many clothes as I do. Others have specific work clothes or outfits they wear regularly; I have friends with seemingly endless closets, who often repeat the same favorite pieces. My standard formula is a dress or t-shirts with a skirt and jeans, which I mix up by switching footwear and layering. I get the ease of a uniform, and the variety of a larger wardrobe. I like deciding what to wear every morning! To see my whole closet, click here.

Paris to Go

20 comments:

  1. Hey Ariana!

    How do you care for your lovely nude flats (and other shoes)? Do you wear little secret socks or shoe inserts by any chance? I also only travel by foot or public transport and my favourite shoes are struggling to keep up and quite frankly don't feel all that fresh anymore. I sometimes wear little socks but they always lose their elasticity and bunch up under my feet during the day or show over the edge of the shoe which I absolutely loathe. But going without seems to be more detrimental to the shoe in the long run and even natural materials still make my feet moist after a long day. Any advice on regular shoe care (specifically on the inside) would be great!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Bianca! I always wear little socks with them. I used to be so anti-socks and anti stockings but they go a long way in keeping my shoes nice. They show a tiny bit over the edge but they are almost the same color as my skin so I don't mind so much.They used to bunch but then I started layering two pairs of socks in my shoes and for some reason they stayed in place after!

      The shoes themselves are durable and very comfortable (I got them because all the old ladies in my family have been wearing their pairs for 50+ years and barely needed to resole), but I did have them stretched at the store first. I like patent shoes because they last longer (in my experience at least!) and are easier to clean. I wrote a little bit about how I care for the inside of my shoes here, but if that isn't helpful I'll do some asking around and research! I never use inserts, I don't know why, I guess because I can't find any without plastics? Shoe trees are the best thing for keeping the insides fresh though. I don't know how I lived without them.

      Delete
  2. Oh thank you Ariana, I actually looked in your wardrobe archive for tips on shoes and that post didn't pop up for me for some reason! Thank you it's just perfect (and hilarious btw). I think I need to try your double sock suggestion and get myself some harder wearing shoes. I have the most pathetic feet that blister at just about any sign of rigidity in a shoe so all my shoes end up being rather flimsy :(

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You're right, I didn't label it wardrobe! Thanks for letting me know. Oh man, I think I was in the same boat as you with the blisters. I stopped getting them as frequently only a few years ago. Does this mean they are that hard and calloused now? What kind of socks do you wear? Maybe somebody knows of a good one. Double socks work for me because my toes get weirdly cold but it might be uncomfortable for other people.

      Delete
  3. Hi Ariana, just wanted to say how much I appreciate your blog and insight into minimalist wardrobes. I love that you speak from experience and aren't just a blogger trying to jump on the capsule wardrobe train. It really does seem easy when you break it down like this, instead of imposing a ton of rules. Thank you for sharing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Caitlin, that is so sweet. Thank you so much! Everybody's clothes need to be different and I'm no expert in colors or body types or style at all, so who am I to make rules? Thanks again!

      Delete
  4. Love your blog. My mom turned me on to a product called toe cover. It's nylon and poly. so may not be inline with zero waste but the stay in place and still gives the freedom in the rest of the foot. They have grip pads on the bottom. Made by Hue. One pair has lasted me almost a year now and still going strong.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi, thanks for the tip! Well, if it preserves your shoes and lasts a long time, that doesn't sound very wasteful. The few times I've been in the hospital, I wore those socks with the grips on them and I'm pretty sure they weren't plastic-free :) Everything in moderation. Thanks so much for your kind words and the recommendation!

      Delete
  5. This approach is so refreshing ! No rules from the books or editors. And so personal. You are a real minimalist, i think that helps. Capsule wardrobes usually sound like compromises for recovering shopping addicts.

    I am going to make mine inspired by this post. This has been really helpful. Thank you.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Archana, thanks, this is so nice! I haven't read much about minimalism but this worked for me, I hope it works for you too! Thanks again :)

      Delete
  6. Arianna this post is exactly what I needed. It rings true and doesn't make me feel like I need to toss all my clothes and go shopping, which is how I feel after reading some of the other so-called "minimalist" blogs. I hope you do more wardrobe posts because it seems much more reasonable and simple, which is what I'm striving for. Keep it up!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi, thank you! Yes, I think the point should be simplifying, not complicating your life with lots of rules and shopping.

      Delete
  7. Fascinating. I would be interested in knowing how you accessorise these few pieces and tie them together - scarves, belts?
    I can really see how it works for you. Rather like a simple, old-fashioned wardrobe used to be for our mothers and grandmothers, really...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi! My accessories are all the items pictured- I don't really like scarves or belts on me, I guess I don't feel comfortable in them. Although my coat and two dresses came with belts, I only wear one on my coat and gave the others away.

      It all looks pulled together to me with the addition of shoes, a purse and my ring and watch. I used to wear earrings and lots of rings but when I started traveling, I always felt overdone. That's just my personal preference of course!

      Yes, my grandmother went to med school and worked at a hospital full-time in three dresses. That was a lot compared to what she grew up with in Korea! Now she has a big walk in closet, and Koreans in general love to shop and change up their wardrobes every season. Still, both the old and new generations of my family think nothing of me having so few pieces. The older generations lived full lives with much less, and my clothing looks sufficiently "fashionable" to the younger ones :)

      Delete
  8. Ariana, I love that your blog isn't the same old "minimalist" style that is all about striped shirts, big scarves, and zero color. You don't come across as holier than thou or try to cop typical "fashion blogger" style. I've spent hours reading your archives and it is so helpful seeing step by step, practical ways to incorporate minimalism and zero waste steps into a real life. Sometimes I read things that seem like a fantasy or not useful for city dwellers like us. This is like peeking into a zero wasters diary or journal. Though I think I'm not quite hardcore enough to give up toilet paper like you ;) I'm seriously reconsidering my wardrobe and how much I do need.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Heather, this is such a nice comment, I appreciate your taking the time to encourage me! I could never pull of fashion blogger style- I just don't know how to layer or come up with arm parties. I'm not much for grey or stripes either. Keep me updated on your wardrobe and zero waste changes!

      Delete
  9. Ariana,
    I found your blog via Grechen's Closet and it's truly inspirational, even for someone like me - much older and with a child. How long have you been working with your relatively small wardrobe? Do you know many women at different life stages (e.g., senior consultants over 40, stay-at-home moms in their 30s, bosses of any background in their 50s) who live in a similar way in terms of constrained spending as far as clothes and waste despite living in a city full of commerce and ads and shopping?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi, thanks for your comment! You are so sweet! I've been dressing like this since 2008. From elementary school to high school my brother and sister and I each had less than 40 articles of clothing, one bag, one bookbag and four pairs of shoes for the whole year (we grew up in Cleveland- extreme weather!). I went through a phase from senior year of high school to sophomore year of college where I went crazy with shopping, but reverted back to a streamlined wardrobe when I started working two jobs in school- I didn't have time to shop! My major was sustainability and I also went on my first solo trip outside the country that year, so I think this plus childhood training helped me adjust to a small wardrobe more easily.

      I do know several women who live similarly and lead really full lives! Actually, this week or next I'm going to share the story of a practice manager for the US Public Health Service, she is 45, she has two boys, and travels frequently... she's a runner too. She retired two years ago but her minimalist lifestyle started long before then, she grew up living in many different countries and cities so her relationship to possessions is really refreshing. I want to share two of my friend's stories too- a stay at home mom in her 30s, in fact, who volunteers full time here in Paris and had a minimalist maternity wardrobe, and a vice president of a major steel corporation (I'm not sure what age she is though... I'm not sure she'll tell me!) whose apartment and closet is so modest and pretty and functional. Please be patient with me, I have a conference this week and next weekend and some out of town visitors the two weeks after that, so I may be a little behind on posting :)

      Thank you so much for reaching out!

      Delete
  10. Hi Ariana,


    Don't feel any pressure, please.
    I am sure I can speak for many readers here, that we are happy every time you post, but please don't feel the need to hurry.

    Live life and enjoy!

    Just a few words of gratitude. Thank you for your very honest way of writing, for living so true to your values. It is something I struggle with often, and sometimes get stressed about.

    Your blog, also in a big city (I live in the small city of Ghent, Belgium), makes me happy, it makes me want to do even more, without getting stressed about the "zero waste" rules.

    I am 28, (curious about your age), and for the moment a little solo in this action. My man is not a 100% on board, but he loves me, so we make an effort, him in creating less waste, and me in not freaking out about the waste.

    Good news is, that is getting more widespread, in Ghent we get our own Zero Waste Shop!

    So, sorry for being a little off topic, but just felt the need to applaud you.

    In gratitude
    Emma

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Emma, how are you? That is so exciting about Ghent's zero-waste shop. I love Belgium... you live so close!

      Thank you so much for your kind words, you are so considerate. Good for you having a positive effect on your man :) he probably appreciates how reasonable you are. My husband is not 100% either, I still buy toilet paper and conventional deodorants and toothpastes for him, but he is making changes too. Like you probably, I find it's easier when I don't tell him to do things and just set the example, then he wants to make changes too (switching to a bar soap instead of body wash and shampoo, eating less meat, etc).

      I'm 25... I really appreciate your comment, so nice! Thank you Emma!

      Delete