Why Capsule Wardrobes are a Lie


I’m going to be a little bossypants right now. Shocking, right? I want you to close your eyes (well, you may need to squint so you can keep reading, but you get the idea) and picture me in your closet.

Naturally, I’d be standing on a stool. I’m 5’2″, and 5’1″ of that is hair, so a stool would be mandatory. So there I am, sorting through your clothes and dividing them up into two nice, neat groups, which are:

The Keep Pile

Clothes you love and wear.

The Toss Pile

Clothes you don’t love and don’t wear.

See how simple that was?

I know that you have sentimentality and labels and money and memories and dreams invested in your clothes, but, and I shudder to say this, they are only clothes. The memories and dreams and fantasy life they represent can remain. You just need to let go of the clothes.

I am not Marie Kondo, although she is gorgeous and I am sure her system will work for many. We’re all busy, many of us are moms. So I will not ask you to take every item in your closet, press it to your cheek, and see if your heart skips a beat. Who has the time? We are lucky, at best, to have an hour in our closets. Maybe 2.

So here’s what I suggest.

Sift through your closet, category by category, and do a quick yes-no-yes-no.

The Keep Pile

Clothes that fit

Clothes that flatter

Clothes that you love

Clothes that you actually wear, again and again, and feel great in! (This second part is key. If you wear that tattered sweatshirt solely because it’s comfy and it fits, it doesn’t belong in the Yes Pile.)

The Toss Pile

Clothes that don’t fit (unless you really-truly fluctuate between two sizes, and even then, you’re pushing it)

Clothes that make you feel okay. You know, not naked, but not fabulous either.

Clothes that are stained, pilled, worn or torn (except destroyed denim, because, well, it’s denim). You deserve better.

Trendy pieces whose moment has passed.

Shoes that genuinely and truly hurt so badly that you wince. Unless they are fabulous, in which case, you need to buy some Still Standing Spray and wear them anyway. They’re worth it.

Clothes that are too tight, too short, too bare, or too, well, anything.

Clothes that you don’t wear. Ever. Or hardly ever.

Next, take the entire Toss Pile out of your closet. Don’t look through it first, attempting to rescue some items and reconsider others. Just get them out of there. Where you put it is up to you, but here are some suggestions:

  1. Under your child’s bed. The dust bunnies need company.
  2. In one of those big plastic storage bins, tucked into a hall closet.
  3. The trunk of your husband’s car. Trust me. He’ll hardly notice.

Now, go back into that closet, and look at the Keep Pile. For many of us, what remains, if we are truly honest, is about 10% of what we started with. If you’re an especially talented shopper, or have a strong sense of your own personal style, it may be more. But 10% is true for most women.

What you are left with is your actual wardrobe. Your own personal capsule wardrobe. The rest of the stuff was just clutter. And now the work of creating a truly personal, workable, beautiful wardrobe can begin.

Now, I’d like you to create more specific Capsules: A Cool Weather Capsule and a Warm Weather Capsule, for example. Or a Casual Capsule and a Business Casual/Church/Dress-Up Capsule. Aim for 2-4. Here, from my own closet, is a sample capsule:

Cool Weather Casual Capsule Wardrobe

  1. Grey Velvet sweater
  2. Chambray button-down
  3. Grey knit Matilda Jane jacket
  4. Red Free People ruffled sweatshirt/jacket
  5. Taupe Paige skinny jeans with black piping
  6. Pink Carolina Herrera sweater
  7. Free People intarsia sweater
  8. THML Fox sweater
  9. Dark red Joe’s skinny pants
  10. Joe’s boyfriend jeans
  11. Tory Burch flowered cardigan
  12. Black DVF cashmere wrap dress
  13. Rock & Republic studded sweater
  14. Red long sleeve ruffle dress
  15. Cream Donna Karan jersey top
  16. Isle Patterned top
  17. Isle black jersey top with sheer hem
  18. Striped black and white tee from Zara
  19. Dark green sweatshirt dress
  20. Grey tee-shirt dress

Now add your favorite and most frequently worn shoes. (Never count shoes. It’s like counting hugs. Why limit yourself?)

Cool Weather Capsule Shoe Wardrobe

Black knee high boots

Red heels

Neutral flats

Colorful flats

Black booties

Leopard heels

Metallic heels

And then the accessories…

Jewelry Capsule

Long crystal Jewel Kade necklace

Long gold Beje necklace

Short crystal J. Crew necklace

Layered pearl J. Crew necklace

Melinda Maria gold bangle

Melinda Maria silver hoops

Dean Davidson gold hoops

Diamond cross necklace

Diamond stud earrings

Colorful statement necklace

Next, take these items, the items from your closet that you wear and love and actually own, and mix them with the items found in a capsule wardrobe. Here’s mine, to get you started, but most feature the same list of items, more or less.

Core Capsule Wardrobe

Basic capsule wardrobe featuring: tees (black and white), tanks (black and white), button down (white or chambray), black skirt, black shorts, black dress, black pants, black jacket or other neutral jacket, black cardigan or knit jacket, and dark jeans.

Basic capsule wardrobe featuring: tees (black and white), tanks (black and white), button down (white or chambray), black skirt, black shorts, black dress, black pants, black jacket or other neutral jacket, black cardigan or knit jacket, and dark jeans. (Use dark and light neutrals of your choice here, of course).

And this is why, in my opinion, most capsule wardrobes are a lie. There is no way most women will want to be limited to a very pared down, personality-less selection of basics. A capsule wardrobe was never designed to replace your existing wardrobe; it was simply designed to supplement it. And, when combined with the cute stuff you already have hanging in your closet, it allows you to create multiple combinations of cuteness. (I think I’ll brand that. Multiple Combinations of Cuteness).

When I combine my Cool Weather Casual Capsule Wardrobe (the cute stuff I have) with the Core Capsule Wardrobe (the basics), I get Multiple Combinations of Cuteness:


(Disclaimer: My Tory Burch cardigan looks nothing like this one, but I couldn’t find a picture of mine to use. Plus, this one is much cuter).

So now that you know the real truth about Capsule Wardrobes, I hope you’ll consider creating your own today. Need help! I found the coolest online tool for you to check out! It’s the Capsules App from Cladwell. It takes you step by step through the process of creating your own capsule wardrobe, from choosing a color palette to cataloging your favorite items to shopping for the missing pieces. It’s genius!



  1. Mindy says

    My take away from the capsule wardrobe craze is that it is acceptable to wear the same clothes all the time just because you love them. There is no reason to force yourself to wear the weird thing you bought on a whim to fulfill some fantasy of being a fabulously artistic style icon.

  2. says

    Absolutely Mindy! Then these clothes become your signature! Wear what feels most true to you, and pick up only the trends and silhouettes that work with your body and lifestyle!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Anti-Spam Quiz: