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How Cleaning out Your Closet Can Actually Make You More Stylish

Last month I stumbled upon Un-Fancy, a new-ish blog written by the incredibly stylish Caroline. She hails from Austin, Texas and focuses on a less-is-more approach to shopping and getting dressed. I was immediately hooked. I’ve participated in style challenges before that limited my wardrobe to a certain number of pieces for a period of time, but Caroline has taken this concept even further by creating a small but super-efficient “capsule wardrobe” for each season. Intrigued? Read on.

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What first inspired you to create a capsule wardrobe?

On Black Friday 2013, I went on a clothes shopping binge, buying anything and everything in the heat of the frenzy. I got home with a mess of Forever 21 items that contributed nothing to my style or my needs – and immediately knew this was part of a bigger problem. Recently, I had noticed that I had a bad habit of using shopping as a way to jolt myself out of a bad mood with a little instant gratification. Not the worst thing in the world … but … it hit me pretty hard when I realized I wasn’t shopping for clothes, I was shopping for a high. No wonder my closet didn’t make any sense.

I wanted a change. I wanted to stop spending money on emotional purchases + stop buying clothes that were going to end up in the donation pile after a month + start finding my style and confidence. I started researching “How to find your style” and discovered the idea of the capsule wardrobe. In an extreme move, I whittled my closet down to 30 pieces + put the rest in storage + went on a shopping hiatus for three months, forcing myself to live with + make the best of my pieces that I’d bought in that Black Friday frenzy. Even with those 30 pieces that I didn’t completely love, I was surprised to find that I could make a ton of outfits. And I was even more surprised to find that I was honing in on my style with every day that passed.

Less made me feel prettier.

Less was nicer to my bank account.

Less actually reflected my style with dazzling clarity.

Less made me happier.

From that point on, I’ve been hooked.

 

What are the pros and cons of a capsule wardrobe?

In my experience:

THE PROS: I found my style, I feel more confident + comfortable in my own skin, I’m saving money + becoming more mindful about my spending habits in general, I have more time for the things that matter most, and I’m inviting more peace into my life.

THE CONS: It takes a good deal of planning + mental energy on the front end. And it takes a whole lot of self-discipline to limit yourself – that’s the hardest part.

Rules

 

What is the ideal size for a capsule wardrobe? Do you hold yourself to a number or just look for a combination that feels right?

Over on my blog, Unfancy, I recommend keeping a capsule wardrobe to 37 pieces. I like holding myself to that number because it gives me a definite stopping point. If I didn’t give myself a boundary, I’d probably keep shopping + justifying purchases.

But honestly? It’s not about a magic number. Different lifestyles call for different ideas. I love seeing people change up the “rules” + find their own number. The rules are just invented anyway, right? Might as well invent something that works for you.

 

Do you create a new wardrobe for each season?

Since this is my first year at it, yes. But it won’t always be this way. My hope is to build 4 really solid capsule wardrobes this year so that next year I can just pull them out of storage, maybe swap out 4-6 pieces, and go! People ask me all the time if I buy 37 new pieces for each wardrobe. The answer? Nope! Each capsule wardrobe is pieced together from three sources: (1) pieces I already own that I pull from storage, (2) pieces that roll over from last season’s capsule, (3) pieces that I purchase new.

 

Creative Freedom

Do you ever get bored of having a limited selection?

Surprisingly, I don’t. In fact, I think I feel more creative freedom in having less. It’s so refreshing to open my closet door and find a clutter-free zone, filled with everything I need and nothing I don’t. Lately, there’s been a lot of talk about the paradox of choice. That is, in short, we assume that more choice means better options and greater satisfaction, but it actually creates anxiety, causes doubt, and limits creativity.

The more I’ve limited my choices in my wardrobe, the happier and more creative I’ve felt. And if I need a quick shake-up, I just try something different with my hair or makeup.

 

What are some of your must-haves for a fall capsule wardrobe?

Cozy sweater cardigans + a flannel shirt in red buffalo check + a pair of leather-like leggings + black ankle boots + cozy joggers + a pair of high-top sneakers + a wrap coat.

 

Commit

If a friend came to you and wanted to start her own capsule wardrobe, what advice would you give her to get her started?

First, use a planner as you’re building your capsule wardrobe. (I have one available for free on Unfancy, but you can always create your own too.) Next, remember that it’s all about striking a balance between keeping it minimal + making sure it’s a fun experience. Rewrite the rules a little to fit your own lifestyle. If you need two capsule wardrobes (one for work and one for the weekends), do it! If you need more pieces, go for it!

And finally, commit, but just for 3 months at first. If I’m ever starting something a little scary (new workout routine, waking up earlier, moving to a new place), I’ll take the pressure off myself by playing a little mind game with myself. I call it: “I’ll give it 3 months.” Because putting a time limit on something scary makes it seem a little more sane – even fun. So commit with passion and give it 3 months. And then if you didn’t like it, you can move on + never do it again. Besides, what’s 3 months? Nothing. Or maybe everything.

 

Are you a budget shopper or do you prefer to splurge on higher quality items? How intentional are you in your shopping?

I think I fall somewhere in the middle. I’ve heard it said that cheap items are more expensive in the long run. While I think that’s true, I have to be realistic about what I can spend. I set a budget at the beginning of each season, and if I can afford the higher quality item, you bet I’ll get it! But if not, I let it go and plan to upgrade next year, if possible.

My closet is a mix of cheapy pieces from H&M and Target – and higher quality pieces from Marc Jacobs and Madewell. I like it that way.

 

Peace

Do you have “extras” from outside your capsule that you sneak in sometimes?

Actually, yes! And this brings up such a great point — the whole reason I live with a capsule wardrobe is to invite peace into my life — not to turn it into an empty ritual or feel guilt when I break the “rules.” Again, my goal is to strike a balance between keeping it minimal + making sure it’s a fun experience. While I like having boundaries in place, when I need to make an exception, I do.

For example, in my spring capsule I had this great striped dress. When spring was over, I put it in storage, thinking I’d give it a break and then pull it out again for the fall. Well, a few weeks into summer, I really missed that dress – so I pulled it out and started wearing it again.

 

You tend to favor neutrals. Do you think a capsule wardrobe is doable for women who prefer to wear more color?

Definitely! It all has to do with picking colors that compliment each other. Explore sites like Design Seeds to see what colors work well together. And remember to make sure that you’ll be wearing your colors — the colors can’t just be pretty to look at on paper, they need to be wearable. I’d suggest picking two to four main colors besides your neutrals. Then — here’s the key — let yourself have some wiggle room in the shades. You might have blush pink in your color palette, so let yourself get into the full spectrum of it. Embrace darker shades, lighter shades, more saturated shades, and less saturated shades.

And if you’re drawn to neutrals, like me, remember — color is the first thing that comes to mind when we think of ways to add interest to outfits, but don’t forget about the power of using shine + pattern + texture.

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Since I’m currently 9 months pregnant I am, by default, living with a capsule wardrobe of 3 things that fit over my belly. However, reading Caroline’s blog and talking with her has totally inspired me to take a more minimalist approach to my closet in the future. Doesn’t it sound so relaxing to have such a small, intentional closet to choose from? Would you consider creating a capsule wardrobe for fall?

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