Thursday, June 2, 2016

Cut into the Closet - The Capsule Wardrobe

And now the first step of my downsizing project. 

For some reason - perhaps because I've had a lot of practice over the past five years while learning to weed and refresh my daughter's wardrobe every three months as she grew - I chose to begin downsizing with my clothes.

Normally, this would have caused some anxiety but I dealt with this like a pro. Ever since making our decision to relocate to Chile, I've found moving forward on difficult projects to be actually quite exciting. And so I tackled my closet without trepidation.

I had vaguely heard of the "Capsule Wardrobe" concept before attempting to create my own. I think I was scrolling through Pinterest early one morning when I happened upon a pin featuring a neatly laid out capsule wardrobe.

What is a capsule wardrobe, you ask?

A capsule wardrobe is a small number of apparel items (including handbags, shoes, and accessories) that all coordinate together. They are usually geared toward a specific season. The easiest example to picture is the clothing you might put together for a two-week vacation. Usually you select clothes from a set color palate that you can combine in different ways to make 14 different outfits. And all the shoes and accessories go with (nearly) all the outfits. There are two approaches to using a capsule wardrobe - you either change it out each season, or you upgrade it every few months with a new piece or two to help you move into different weather.

Isn't a capsule wardrobe too much work? Why bother?

A capsule wardrobe makes selecting outfits easy because there isn't a lot of stuff to wade through. Getting ready in the morning is a cinch and takes only minutes. You keep and wear only your favorites. Typically the clothes you stick with are high quality that have lasting power. Because of this, you're not wasting a lot of money on throw-away clothes that wear out or warp in the wash. Plus, you aren't adding to the trash heaps of the world with your cheap and poorly made clothes.

Above all else, here's what you've got to remember: You've already got a capsule wardrobe!

I do, you ask? (While raising an eyebrow skeptically.)

Let me explain. Most of us only use a small percentage of our wardrobe on an everyday basis. Take a look at your closet right now if you don't believe me.

Ignore the clothes you only wear for very special occasions.  Ignore the clothes that shrunk or warped in the wash but you hang onto them anyways because they were expensive. Ignore the clothes that you are meaning to let out, mend, etc. Ignore the clothes that you'll be able to fit into once you loose ten pounds. Ignore the clothes that were gifts that you don't really like but they might work someday. Ignore the clothes from ten years ago that are still in good condition but you don't ever wear. Ignore the items you bought because you love the style but they don't really go with anything you have so you never wear them. many pieces are left? 20? 30? 40? There you have it - your capsule wardrobe.

How did I make my capsule wardrobe?

People have put together all sorts of guides for building the capsule wardrobe and I'm sure they teach a specific approach in fashion design school. But I'm going to tell you that there is no one rule for doing it right. There are a ton of resources, however, for those who want to give it a try. Check out my Pinterest board for some ideas:

Most of the guides online define capsule wardrobes with specific numbers of things such as X amount of skirts and X amount of shoes. The typical capsule wardrobe I encountered had around 20-40 items per season. I chose to shoot for a number of clothing items between 30-50 because I wanted an annual wardrobe that would include outdoor sporting and exercise clothes as well as professional and casual attire.

Once I had an idea of how many pieces I wanted and what purpose (year-round), I set some flexible guidelines for myself:

1. Only keep the items I love (and will wear).
2. Don't keep anything that isn't in great condition.
3. Don't keep anything that doesn't work with any other item in my wardrobe.
4. Make sure I have items for both warm and cold weather.
5. Make a list of essentials that I need to purchase (but keep it to ten or less things).

That's it. And here is a picture of the results. I recommend if you're going to try this, lay everything out so you can see how the colors and patterns work together and so you can get a quick visual of the types of items you have.

(Caption: From top left and clockwise - jackets, blouses, dresses, skirts, pants, and shirts at center.)

This picture isn't the best and you can't really see individual items but you can see a few trends - for instance, my color palate is predominantly dark. Before my research into the capsule wardrobe, I would have thought that was a bad thing. But it's not. I look good in dark colors and jewel tones (hence the fuscias and oranges) and most of my clothes go well together. (And no, I don't usually look like Wednesday Adams.)

My list of things to buy included: a blue jean skirt, new bras, new blue jeans, new running shoes, and a pair of neutral-toned booties.

Because we will be moving out of our house before I'm done with work; and because we plan to stay in the US camping and visiting family for an additional month; And then because we plan to arrive a couple weeks to a month before our shipping container arrives - I will need to live out of a suitcase for at least 3 months. So I'm cutting my capsule wardrobe in half and am shipping half in our container and toting the other half in a suitcase. Most of the suitcase clothes are geared for summer but, I've had to add a few warmer layers because once we arrive in Chile it will be the end of Winter.

Enough about clothes. Onto my books. For part two of the downsizing extravaganza, take a look at the next blog post: Break Up the Books.

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