Learning From My Capsule Wardrobe

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I started 2016 with a mission to clean out my closet and live on a very limited wardrobe for three months at a time. Like most projects and I, they all start with good intentions and then fall into remiss. I do get the question, “so are you still living with a capsule wardrobe” every so often, so I figure I’d update.

Short answer: not really.

Long answer.

I went back and looked at my original posts last year to remind myself why I wanted to limit my clothing resources. At the core, I was frustrated by having a closet full of clothes and “nothing to wear/pack for trips/etc.” The sheer amount of stuff I had hanging in my closet overwhelmed me and I just went to the same 5 pieces during the work week anyway. Then I kept adding clothes to the mix. (Dumb idea.)

After I cleaned everything out and put together my outfits for the quarter, I felt accomplished! Packing for my business trips was easy. I even downgraded to a simple carry-on for most trips.

But things happened mid-capsule. The weather would change dramatically. My office would transition to a different dress code for a week, quarter, or busy time. I’d be traveling even more. I had fancier events at the dance studio. And the killer – I got bored with my closet toward the end of each capsule. I found myself changing out items mid-capsule a lot, simply because something called for it.

Needless to say, a capsule wardrobe life doesn’t fit my lifestyle at all. No matter how many articles of clothing or shoes I tried to pare down to, I always ended up with other items in the closet.

However, it wasn’t all for naught. I did learn several things and still keep those in the back my mind when looking at my closet.

I liked saving money during the capsule, so I aim to purchase new items for my closet from secondhand sources. My favorite is still ThredUp for convenience sake, but I’ll trade or buy items on Ebay, Facebook groups, or Craigslist. If I have a chance, I also check out thrift stores and consignment shops in the area. (But, shopping in person? Who has time for that?)

My aimless searching through aisles in Target or Ross for new clothes doesn’t really happen anymore. This has cut the Target bill down a bit per month. (Or goes toward Bean’s wardrobe budget.)

I attempt to shop smarter. Brand new items ideally come from ethically produced or conscious sources. I try to shop local shops, Etsy stores, or “made in USA” items. I try to cater my subscription box profiles to ask for Made in USA items so I can still enjoy the surprise aspect of personal shopping. I would love to one day have a “greener” closet, but this is a financial undertaking on its own.

I have become incredibly picky about what I buy. I try to avoid items that “just fit okay” or “are cute pants but don’t have pockets.”

I alter or repair clothes, rather than donating them to someone else who might fix them. (Unlikely.)

I now pack up and store my “dead of winter” clothes, rather than leave them out during the summer months. (I never did this and I’m not sure why.)

I adhere to a color scheme and avoid adding new pieces to my closet that don’t fit within those parameters. There is currently no red, orange, chocolate brown, or yellow in my closet, for example. No plans to add them either.

I don’t throw clothes in the wash after one wear. (Unless it’s gross.) Clothes are washed as closely as possible to the care instructions on the label. Lots of things get hung dry.


I’m not trying to discourage anyone from trying to clean out their closet and make their remaining items work. Pinterest makes it look so damn simple as well. But since I have so many different facets to my life, it was difficult to limit myself to a set number of months and items. And I spent more time during each “season” fixing my closet to cater to outside events and weather – which defeats the purpose of having a capsule!

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Capsule Wardrobe: Musings and Lessons

 

SeeJenDance - Capsule Wardrobe Musings and Lessons

As this capsule season comes to a close, and I prep my closet for the next season, I wanted to reflect on several things I discovered while living with a much smaller closet.

Okay, why did I do this again? My need for simplicity actually came to a head back in November. I remember I needed to pack for a three day trip to Disneyland and the fits of rage I had while packing. There were so many evens I could not. My problem was finding items that were casual enough, layer friendly, nursing friendly, and actually fit. Eventually, I found things that worked, but also realized I hated that nothing in my closet worked with each other. But I had so much! That was why I started cleaning out everything. Living out of a suitcase was going to be a near-monthly occurrence in 2016. Why make it more stressful?

I have to force myself to try things on. Sure, I love my online thrift shopping, subscription boxes and shopping services. They’ve replaced the hours I used to spend pouring through racks at Marshall’s and Ross. And usually, in the stores, I’d pick things off the rack that I thought were my size and just check out. “Oh, this looks cute and it’s a great deal. I won’t find this again.” From there, it’ll sit in my closet unworn because it didn’t quite fit as I thought. Or – it’s sparkly, so I’ll find a place for it. Since I do review my Boxes and share them with you all, it forces me to try items I receive on, make sure they fit, style it to make sure it works with my closet. If it doesn’t, I return it. M has now called it Jen-Shopping: I buy five items and return three. Every time.

I don’t really need that much stuff. And there was a lot of stuff. Throughout the season, I cleaned out my jewelry and either donated it to charity or to my dance team’s silent auction. I also further cleaned out my “maybe” pile of items and sold them online. I hadn’t worn some of those items in three months and didn’t miss them at all. I plan to clean out my diabetes supplies from long ago (really, I don’t need THAT many lancets) and Bean’s toys this season.

I shop when I’m bored and/or exhausted. For some, impulse shopping is their vice. For me, it’s something mindless to do. Aimlessly scrolling through good deals or garage sale sites for things that might work for you. It’s real easy to just say, “interested” or “add to cart.” Or after arguing with a toddler about dinner, sometimes it’s nice to just find something agreeable. (See: retail therapy.) My goal for next season is to find other light, enjoyable hobbies that don’t involve my wallet or moving too far from the couch.

I totally broke the “no shopping during a season” rule. But, the core of the capsule remained the same. If I found that an item was only there to be a number and I wasn’t enjoying wearing it, I removed it and replaced it with something else. This usually happened with ill fitted items I kept just so I could keep some clothing in my closet. I am going into the spring season with a better “base” wardrobe, so it should be easier to not shop for three months.

Laundry day was a day I didn’t mind, but also dreaded. When you work with a limited amount of clothes and have a toddler, laundry day becomes a necessity. There were several times I looked into my closet and wondered how EVERYTHING was dirty at the same time. Plus, everything needs to be hand-washed/line-dried, so I could be without a pair or jeans for several days. This is why I had an “at home” collection of clothes, which featured my ratty mom-jeans and several pairs of yoga pants. You really can’t get rid of that stuff when you have a kid.

I missed color. If you have ever looked on Pinterest, you’ll notice that capsule wardrobes tend to be, well, monochromatic. That’s because neutrals go with everything. The majority of Pins feature lots of neat, black and chambray wardrobes. (*yawn*) But guys – I like colbalt and purple and red and other fun jewel tones. Sure, an accessory is fun, but man, I love making a statement with color. All the time. Color mixing was definitely an interesting capsule concept I tried and look forward to trying again next season.

I’ll definitely be doing a capsule of some sort again. I’m still trying to figure out the logistics. This season involved a lot of “threes.” I had three pairs of jeans, three work pants, three cardigans… etc. I may do something similar for spring. Hell, these are my own rules to play with, right?

Capsule Wardrobe: Winter 2016 (Finally)

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Happy Superbowl Sunday… I guess?

I was tempted not to write a follow up since this “season” is about half way over. But after replacing, and further cleaning out my stash of clothes, I think I finally have a winter capsule worth writing something about.

Let me start by saying that I ended up with about 2.5 capsules. One is for work or leaving the house for social engagements. The other is “toddler safe” or clothes I can safely wear around the house and don’t care if I get slobbered on, food thrown at, snotted all over, or drenched. My 1/2 capsule are my collection of ballroom dance shoes and things I wear to the studio and special occasion wear which has been fitted for ballroom dance.

Here is what is included:

1 jean jacket, 2 blazers (grey, black), 1 navy dress, 1 gray pencil skirt, 5 blouses (2 plain, 3 pattern), 3 cardigans (2 work friendly, 1 casual), 3 sweaters, 6-7 pairs of shoes, 4 t-shirts/tanks, 3 misc shirts for work/play…

3 work friendly pants, and 3 pairs of jeans or jean like pants. (The toddler capsule of yoga pants and t shirts are on the right.)

If you include the 2 jackets I’ve been swapping out, that gives me about 36-37 pieces to work with. This has been surprisingly easy, unless of course, toddler messes occur while wearing said work capsule.

Scarves and Tide Sticks have been my saving grace. They hide everything.

What I like about it so far:

  • The business trip I took last week involved one carry on bag and about 10 minutes of packing time. Usually, I needed one large bag and packed WAY too much/never wore half of it.
  • Everything mostly works with each other so I very rarely feel like I’m wearing the same thing over and over again. (Even though, I am.)
  • I’m getting use out of pieces (like the magenta pants) that I only wore once in a while.
  • I was able to find a lot of pieces I was missing via second hand. (Either for this capsule or the next.)
  • Laundry isn’t insane and it’s impossible for clothes to pile up when you don’t have that many to begin with.
  • I’m shopping smarter. If I don’t like something, or it doesn’t fit right, it gets re-sold or returned.

My challenges:

  • As mentioned, the mess. While I can avoid my toddler most of the time, one coffee spill, and I can take out one of my key pairs of pants faster than you can say “skinny vanilla latte.” And I hate doing laundry mid-week.
  • Strange seasonal weather. Two weeks ago, it rained a ton… this week, the average temp is 70 degrees. When I was planning this capsule, the average temp was 45 degrees. Layers, layers, layers.
  • I didn’t really plan all that well for competing in west coast swing next week with the items I had. It’s not my preference to compete in long sleeves – but I guess that’s what I’m doing.
  • I hate hand-washing stuff.

I am planning to continue the capsule project April-June. I think this is going to need another 3 months before I decide if I want to keep up with it. M says I’ve been spending a lot of time in my closet cleaning and re-cleaning, so he thinks all the effort is stressing me out. (I don’t know – I kind of like this kind of organizational stress.) I’ve donated a lot of clothes and sent a lot to be consigned/upcycled at ThredUp(Affiliate link – I do get a wee bit of credit if you click that and sign up.) And I’ve been trying to use these same techniques with other areas of the house – like Bean’s toys, or my diabetes supplies. (Well, I’ve been so focused on the closet, I haven’t gotten to these projects yet. But, in due time.)

Capsule Wardrobe 2016: The Process

I’m nearly a week into this whole capsule wardrobe thing. My capsule still isn’t done yet, but I’ve still limited myself to just 36 items of clothing and shoes for day to day wear. So why isn’t it done?

Between getting some sort of nasty virus at the beginning of the year and the slowest shipping departments ever, my Winter capsule is well, not completely workable. I think it’s possible to make this doable and be satisfied with it, but I have five or six pieces that really can only be worn one way, so that defeats the purpose of having it in the closet.

I made the decision to do a Capsule Wardrobe maybe two weeks before the end of the year. I decided to do all of my shopping for new basics the last week of the year when everything was extremely cheap. Turns out when you ask for free shipping, the stores can take their dear ol’ sweet time shipping it to you. I won’t have all of my items until January 15th, and that’s assuming everything fits correctly and plays well with my other pieces.

January will definitely be a transition month. I know for next Capsule that I need to figure out the shopping sooner. But hopefully I won’t need much.

Building a Capsule Wardrobe for 2016

In with the old and out with the new.

2015 was extremely busy for my family and me. (Hence why this blog was essentially abandoned for a year.) I was tending to Bean’s growth and development, adjusting to the new sleep regiment (or lackthereof), introducing solids, switching daycares, switching CITIES, buying a house, selling a house… oh and dancing in between in my “spare time.”

When I was nursing Bean full time, I bought a whole “nursing” wardrobe, separate from my maternity and regular wardrobe. Clothes that were designed for easy access for emergency roadside feedings and stretched in various directions. When summer rolled around, I stopped using the winter nursing clothes and just started using my existing clothes. These items weren’t meant to be stretched, pulled, and Lord knows what else I did to them. My clothes needed a redux, but I didn’t want to replace the zillions of items I had overstuffing my closet with more of the same. And I didn’t want to use the clothes I had because they all screamed “I have an infant at home… but I’m also a ballroom dancer so here is some glitter.”

That’s when I decided to look into Capsule Wardrobes; or a mini wardrobe made up of really versatile pieces that you totally LOVE to wear. Off to Pinterest I fled, researching a variety of ideas, color palates, and motivation to only have 33(ish) articles of clothing and shoes in my closet at one time over a three month period.

My challenges and potential hang ups:

  1. The premise of a capsule wardrobe is to change it out every season/three months. This assumes that seasonal weather is three months long where I live. It’s more like 5 months of Winter and Summer, then 1 month each of Spring and Fall.
  2. I generally maintain the same lifestyle for a majority of the year. I go to work; I social dance; I go out to eat here and there. It is the small wrenches – like a surprise theme dance or impromptu formal event that I really wouldn’t have something specific in my closet for at that moment.
  3. Honestly, a super versatile  wardrobe is made up of a lot of black and white basics, so I had a hard time finding ones with colors I liked to wear.

Nevertheless, the closet needed to be cleaned out.

This is probably the lengthiest step – getting rid of (almost) everything.

I mostly followed the ground rules I read about:

  1. Take everything out of your closet and chest of drawers (still working on this) and begin to divide up your existing wardrobe.
  2. Separate into piles or bins: a) things you LOVE and would change into that second; b) things that needed to be donated; c) things that you could sell/consign; d) things that needed to be trashed; e) the maybe/Seasonal pile, which will be sorted after some thought.
  3. Loungewear, PJs, workout clothes, clothes you paint in are all exempt. I also added my ballroom costumes (duh), some dance practice clothing, dance shoes, and special occasion dresses for events at the studio to this list of exemptions.
  4. Some blogs include accessories and handbags in their capsule limit. I chose not to, but I will be culling the stock pile I have.

Once this is done, you narrow down your remaining items to 33 articles of clothing and shoes. If you don’t have 33-36 items of clothing by the end of this, you set a budget and go shopping for some basics. (Tip: after Christmas is a KILLER time to shop sales for capsule basics.)

The Purge was enlightening. I often clean out my closet, but very rarely do I actually try items during those mini purges. They were superficial and I only donated items I simply didn’t wear. Since pregnancy definitely changed how clothes and shoes fit me, I had to try on everything I hadn’t worn in several months.

I discovered the following:

  1. I had multiples of tank tops and camisoles in all colors. Seriously. There really wasn’t a reason for me to have 8 black tank tops in my closet, but I did. (Sad fact: only two of them actually fit me properly and could be worn by themselves.)
  2. I have a bad habit of finding a cheap shirt somewhere and buying the same shirt in three different colors without actually trying it on before buying.
  3. The camisoles from #1 made me feel like a sausage. (Thanks pregnancy!)
  4. The sentimental and souvenir t-shirts were the hardest to let go. Especially since the Disney ones were so expensive.
  5. My feet have grown since having a baby. At one point before pregnancy, they shrunk. A lot of shoes I hadn’t worn yet no longer fit me.
  6. I found one tank top hanging in my closet inside out and I don’t remember the last time I wore it. So it had to have been laundered and then hung like that for quite some time.
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EIGHT! Eight black tank tops!

 

Sell box on the left and Seasonal/Maybe pile on the right.  

Trash pile on the left and donate pile on the right (which got bigger after I took this.)

 

So many hangers. Current state of my closet. Still more work to do.

I still have some more work to do over the holiday and then figure out what was going into my Capsule for the next three months. But even if I don’t keep it to 36 pieces, at least all the items that do not fit or aren’t in good condition are out of my closet.

Where I am shopping for my basics and filler items: