Introducing the capsule wardrobe

Carley's room in hall 2014

When you enter my space in the hall where I live, it’s impossible not to notice my abundance of clothes. Between the huge antique-style wardrobe, chest of drawers and my overfull and never empty laundry basket, clothes are a big part of my life. But when I realised that I had given away / donated four big bags of clothes last year and yet I still had too many, I figured something needed to change. Enter the capsule wardrobe.

I first came across the idea of a capsule wardrobe via Unfancy, the blog of Caroline, an American girl in Texas who had committed to the capsule wardrobe lifestyle. At it’s heart, the idea is that you carefully curate a wardrobe with a limited number of pieces, which work together and showcase your personal style – and then you wear those pieces (and nothing else!) for a season / 3 months. Caroline suggests 37 pieces is a good number of pieces for a capsule wardrobe, which includes outerwear, jackets and shoes. Pyjamas, gym clothes and underwear are not included in the 37 items, and neither are accessories, although it’s suggested that less rather than more is a good idea here as well.

Just some of Carley's clothes
Here is just a small selection of what I donated to friends and charity.

The idea of a series of capsule wardrobes appealed to be immediately. When I first moved back to St Andrews last year, I came only with a single suitcase which contained clothes for two weeks of work and socialising. These clothes were worn and washed and matched together, and I found I was perfectly happy with my outfits without needing to spend half an hour each morning working out what I was going to wear. Then, when I hired a van and brought the rest of my wardrobe back home with me, I was overwhelmed by the sheer amount of stuff I had – and not only that, I was buying more. I started to realise it just wasn’t sustainable.

The events of last year really made me stop and evaluate what is important to me, and I’ve realised that however much I like shopping, it can’t be therapy for when I’m sad or worried. It was the realisation that Asos had become a replacement for actually dealing with things that made me stop and look at what I was buying – and how much of it got chucked in a drawer and then ignored.

Carley trying to clear out her room 2014
Trying to clear out my unworn clothes and shoes…

During December, I did a really big clear out of my wardrobe. Once I realised what I never wore or was holding onto for sentimental reasons, it was easier to say goodbye to some of those things. I offered my friends first refusal of any of my clothes that they loved, before sending the rest to the charity shop. Looking through what was left made it a lot easier to work out what my personal style was, and which shops made clothes I truly love and wear over and over, and which colours I gravitate towards. All of these things were key in designing myself a capsule wardrobe for winter in Scotland.

The thing which I kept coming back to as a stumbling block for my capsule wardrobe was that my life can effectively been split into 3 distinct areas; my office life, where I am expected to keep to a smart-casual dress code, my social life, which swings between leggings and sweaters and the occasional ‘let’s go to a club’ outfit, and my warden life, where I could be woken at 4 am to deal with fire alarms or drunken students. It is the latter that caused some consternation in my wardrobe planning. As an assistant warden, we have hall polo shirts and rugby shirts in the hall colours of navy and purple, which we’re expected to wear if possible when we’re on duty. Add to that the fact that at 4am, I’m more likely to reach for my sweatpants than for anything else in my wardrobe, and I realised that I couldn’t expect a capsule wardrobe to work in this area of my life. Due to this, I have allowed myself access to my super comfortable Victoria’s Secret joggers and my hall clothing outside of my capsule wardrobe – but only for when I’m in hall and on duty!

My usual wardennial uniform

Once that decision was made, it was a lot easier to work out what pieces were must have for my first capsule wardrobe. I did a lot of looking at blogs, working out what was ‘in’ this winter and then bought a few new items of clothing, keeping an eye on my 37 item limit. I ended up with 7 pairs of shoes, 3 jackets, 3 dresses/playsuits, 7 bottoms, 5 shirts, 5 sweaters and 7 other tops… And so far, I have been loving my pared back but very me wardrobe.

I hope to detail more about my current wardrobe, including talking about how hard it is finding outfits which are going to be both warm enough and hardy enough to survive a Scottish winter – in another post, but if anyone else is thinking of moving to a capsule wardrobe, I’d love to hear from you in the meantime. I’m currently wondering if I’ll still love all of my items of clothing quite so much come the end of March!


3 Comment

  1. Amanda says: Reply

    My wife does this and pulls it off wonderfully. I have discovered that it takes somewhat of a fashion sense to do it. Congrats on being able to!!! You come off as quite smart looking. Well done!

  2. Vicky says: Reply

    Thank you Amanda for posting your capsule wardrobe page/blog. I have been decluttering for at least 2 summers and on this 3rd summer I want to finish the task. It’s my wardrobe that is the final challenge! I have so many clothes from way back and I couldn’t seem to let go of them whether it be on ebay or at car boot sales. However having read your article today I believe this is time to really “pare” my wardrobe to reflect the new focussed and efficient me.
    I would love to whittle my wardrobe down to 37 items (Winter/Spring). I can hear the dresses screaming “make it 40…..” Well I have my suitcase out and I’m ready to tackle my winter/spring collection. Thank you Amanda for the helping hand online…..

  3. Vicky says: Reply

    Opps… Thank you Carley

Leave a Reply