I haven’t always been a capsule wardrobe convert. There was a time when my closet was bursting with clothes that felt like a bargain when I bought them, but felt like a compromise (at best) once I owned them. I can remember countless mornings standing in front of the closet with a piercing frustration about the fact that I had to put on things that didn’t feel good, and then go to a job that felt worse because I spent my day tugging and pulling at these very same clothes. Or, even worse, having an out-of-the-ordinary event to attend and not having the first idea of what to wear. (Not-so-fun-fact: I have bailed on things at the last minute because I couldn’t put together clothes that made me feel good about going.)
I had no idea that there was a way out of this daily rage. You hear the jokes all the time, how women have a closet full of clothes and nothing to wear. I thought it was just my lot in life. And then my best friend changed my life. Granted, she’s changed my life many times since we met at 13. Other times she’s changed my life: the time she cut my hair with regular paper scissors; when she taught me how to make guacamole properly (no cumin!); the time we drove to Santa Cruz as new college students and we ate candy for all of our meals, because we were now adults.
But this life-changing time was the best time. She introduced me to the tenets of the capsule wardrobe. Once I started following them, I stopped starting my day in frustration. I saved so much time and money and emotional energy. And I feel better generally. The best part? It’s so easy.
There are many ways to start a capsule wardrobe. Here are my tips:
Stop buying patterns
Here’s the thing with a pattern: it’s limiting. One item of clothing with a pattern is fine -- you have a whole bunch of solids to go with it. A closet full of patterns? That’s when you’re wondering why nothing goes together. With the exception of leopard print, which my bestie claims to be a neutral, patterns are doing you no favors. Stop buying them and get rid of the ones you have.
Stop buying things because they are on sale
If you’ve been coveting a piece for months and it finally goes on sale, then buy it. But if you see something you wouldn’t purchase at full price, but suddenly that slash-through pricing makes it more appealing, just stop. The discounted price is not something that translates into making you look good. The two things aren’t related. When you spend money on something you wouldn’t normally buy because it’s on sale, you haven’t saved any money at all. You’ve spent money.
HALT-AB before you start
When we were in high school, my best friend taught me HALT. It stands for Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired. I added the AB on the end to include Anxious and Bored. It’s a way to slow down before making a decision when you’re not in the right frame of mind. Often people binge buy clothes because they’re trying to soothe some other need. So, if you’re about to buy something to solve something else, take a moment to HALT-AB. Pause and ask yourself, am I hungry, angry, lonely, tired, anxious or bored? If so, wait to buy that thing.
My best friend also taught me BRAT, which is what you’re supposed to eat when your stomach is upset. Bananas, Rice, Applesauce, Toast. (She’s really smart. UC Berkeley grad and all.)
Get rid of everything that makes you feel bad
I’m going to start this with a story. I’m a daily bike commuter. One day, I was listening to a bike shop owner give a speech and she said, “bike seats don’t have to feel bad.” My entire world was rocked. I had ridden so many miles in discomfort, I thought this was just my life. And then...this. After that moment, I tried several saddles and found one that feels like nothing at all. Life. Changed.
I want to give you this same gift: clothes don’t have to feel bad. We keep clothes that feel bad for many reasons, but you don’t have to. Here are clothes you don’t have to keep any longer: clothes you bought because they were on sale (we covered this above); clothes that you’ll fit into again one day (you don’t need a daily reminder of past lives and their sizes); clothes that you bought for that one thing (stop buying things that serve a single purpose, if you need a one-time thing, buy it at a resale shop, or try a clothing rental company); clothes that someone else likes you to wear (I’m looking at you high heels, thong underwear, too-tight jeans or too-short skirts); anything that you have to pull or tug (it doesn’t fit right); anything you haven’t worn in a year (you won’t miss it).
Pro-tip: When you do dump all of these items, separate out the denim, and send it to us.
After the bad-feeling things are gone, you may be left with an empty closet. Lucky you! It’s time to rebuild with clothing that feels good. This means higher quality items, things that fit, and classic styles. You won’t find these things in your normal fast fashion store so you will spend more on a single item of clothing than you’re used to, but you’ll spend less on clothing in general. A different friend often comments on how expensive my clothes are. I have one small closet and one small dresser. This friend has three closets and three dressers and has a constant stream of Amazon packages arriving at her desk. I bet I spend far less on clothing than she does, but yes, my one black tee cost $100. And I’ve had it for two years now. I don’t dry it. I rarely wash it. I wear it often and when it gets a hole, I will buy one to replace it. (Don’t get me started on laundering clothes. No one needs to wash clothes as often as we do.)
Finding designers who make clothes that feel good is getting easier. Start by asking that stylish person at work where she shops. Visit a few local boutiques and ask the owners about promising designers whose clothes can be used in a capsule wardrobe. Visit some local resale shops. Often you can try out a few designers there and see what you like. Check out the Instagram accounts of designers we like: Elizabeth Suzann, Ozma, Emerson Fry.
When you’re ready to purchase a pair of jeans for your capsule wardrobe, try Bluer Denim. We’ve made these jeans in classic styles, with quality materials so they are the perfect denim addition to your capsule wardrobe.
Okay. We’re at the end of the blog post. Here’s your permission to start wearing clothes that feel good, and stop wearing things that make you feel bad.