How to Start a Capsule Wardrobe [5 tips for the fashion-challenged]

I am not a fashionista. So three years ago when a good friend told me she was following a fashion blogger who explained how to start a capsule wardrobe, I rolled my eyes and mentally checked out of the conversation.

Me? Read a fashion blog? What is a capsule wardrobe anyways? No thanks. 

how to start a capsule wardrobe for the fashion challenged

But soon after, I caught a glimpse of my default Lululemon uniform in the mirror and I knew it was time for a change. Even though I had an overstuffed closet filled with endless clothing options--I spent my days in yoga pants and Birkenstocks. Not exactly a haute look (I'll be honest, I am not even clear what the word "haute" means but it seemed like a good option to use here). 

When I discovered the beauty of living with a small wardrobe in 2015, I was quickly hooked. I wrote a blog post about my experience. It immediately went viral and set off closet clean-out sessions across the world. It felt ironic that this chic who had zero clue how to put an outfit together was suddenly setting an example for millions of women.

And the best part? Not only did decluttering my wardrobe lead to a tidier home, but it also left me with lower stress levels and less overwhelm. 

How to Start a Capsule Wardrobe (Tips for the Fashion-Challenged)

In the past few years I have learned a few things about living simple, buying intentionally, looking cute, and being comfortable. I have even built capsules for my kids. So if you want to start a capsule wardrobe and you are fashion-challenged, here are 5 tips to design a wardrobe that suits your needs.

1. Empty your closet and drawers

If you have an overstuffed closet, there is a high likelihood that most of the stuff in your closet doesn't fit well, doesn't get much wear, or that you just plain don't like it. Pull it all out and start with a bare closet--it should look like the day you moved into your home. Once the closet is empty, spend some time lingering over the empty space. We minimalists call this white space. White space is a very good thing. Whether it's white space in your closet, on your calendar, or in your brain--it's going to make you feel lighter and less stressed out. When you go to add clothes back into your closet, remember you have a new goal: Less is more. Preserve the white space.

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2. Choose a color palette

Select a set of colors that best fits your personal taste. This is a fantastic guide and set of color palettes with an explanation on how to choose. But honestly, I would try to get out of your brain when you make this decision. Scroll through the color palettes and choose the one that you are the most attracted to. The most important decisions are made with gut feelings, not over-rationalizing things in your brain. So if you are on the verge of a makeover for your closet--follow your intuition on the colors that you love and those which you are naturally attracted.

3. Pick 2 to 3 stores

When you are trying to simplify your clothing, it helps to simplify the buying. That means streamlining the stores and sources from which you are purchasing. Personally, I don't enjoy shopping for clothing all that much. So the last thing I want is to be on a wild goose chase running from store-to-store looking for the right clothes. You will be purchasing fewer pieces of clothing, so by choosing a select few of your favorite stores you will be able to focus on buying pieces that you truly love without the decision fatigue.

4. Subscribe to the emails

The minimalist in me is shuttering when telling you this. The last thing we all need is more emails, right? But when you are looking for a wardrobe overhaul, it is helpful to read and study the marketing materials from your favorite stores. The photos will give you a guide about how to put together outfits. It will show you how to pair shoes with jeans. How to roll up the sleeves and get the perfect cuff. How to ever-so-slightly tuck the front part of your t-shirt in your jeans. Trust me, these things will help your overall look to be more put-together.

5. Invest in the staples

I used to always buy jeans on sale. Not anymore. Since this is a staple item in my wardrobe, I want to be sure that they fit well and that I love putting them on my body each day. One great pair of jeans goes a long way. See those ripped jeans in the photo on this post? I bought those jeans under the assumption that they were far too cool for me--but I loved them anyways. Much to my surprise, my internal cool-factor goes up each time I put my leg in (even though I often put my leg through the knee, but that's another story).

For most of us that can't afford to immediately repopulate a whole new wardrobe: start by investing in the staples. Once you own a few pieces that make you feel great, you will be hooked on this core concept of the capsule wardrobe: less is more. 

For me, the [casual] capsule wardrobe staples I would begin investing in are as follows:

  • The Perfect Jeans
  • Simple Neutral Dress
  • Quality Button-Down Shirt
  • Well-Fitting Undergarments
  • Durable T-shirts

My most important words of wisdom on this journey? Don't be afraid to make mistakes. If you buy something and you don't love it. Or you outgrow it. Or it wears out after a month. Let it go. Holding on to clothes we don't wear (whether purchased on a whim or with intention) will lead us straight back to an overstuffed closet.

More about Capsule Wardrobes on YouTube!

What questions do you have about getting started? Leave them in the comments!

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how to create a capsule wardrobe

Denaye Barahona

Dr. Denaye Barahona is a loving wife and mama of two. She partners with families to tackle the challenges of raising children. Denaye is a minimalist who claims to be a decluttering expert (don't let her near your closet). She loves to travel, talk health-and-wellness, and give unsolicited advice. She has been featured on the likes of The Today Show, The Wall Street Journal, The Huffington Post, The Minimalists, Motherly, Becoming Minimalist, and numerous other media outlets. Denaye holds a Ph.D. in Child Development and is a Clinical Social Worker with a specialty in child and family practice.