Home american made Buying Less: Adventures in Curating a Capsule Wardrobe

Buying Less: Adventures in Curating a Capsule Wardrobe

April 11, 2016

It’s easy to literally buy into the culture of consumerism that constantly bombards us with messages inciting us to buy the latest and greatest gadget or to stay current with the newest trends by adding more to our wardrobes. Fast fashion makes it even easier to participate in this notion when clothes are sold so cheaply that they’re treated as disposable ; wear that dress a few times and toss it when it’s no longer in fashion, you’re sick of it, or it actually falls apart – whichever comes first.

I’ll admit that I fell deep into the consumer hole by buying things I didn’t really need or convincing myself I had to buy something on sale because I simply couldn’t pass up “a good deal.”  Over the last year or so I realized that I was beginning to feel burdened by all of the “stuff” I had been buying.   I found that I was actually equating satisfaction and happiness with the purchases, some impulsive, that I was making. When coupled with the fact that I was learning more and more about the prevailing ethics (or lack thereof) in mainstream fashion through my friends at The Ethical Writers Coalition, I decided that it was time to dig myself out of that hole and shed the proverbial weight of things I didn’t need or use, focusing instead on curating a quality, yet lean and versatile wardrobe with the goal of eventually building a capsule style wardrobe, all sourced ethically or secondhand.

As someone who has always lived in what I’ll generously call “organized chaos,” I found the process of editing my belongings down to the essentials and pieces that I truly loved and used a bit intimidating and overwhelming.

So, How To Do It?

The good news is that capsule and lean wardrobes are sort of en vogue right now ; apparently I’m not the only one who wants to embrace a more minimalist approach in life and in my closet.

There are myriad resources for tips and tricks to revamping your wardrobe (I really like the 10 Step Wardrobe Revamp by Into-Mind), improving your shopping habits, and adapting your current wardrobe to build the foundation for a seasonless capsule wardrobe.  Designers that offer capsule based collections each season are emerging more frequently; some, like Vetta Capsule, offer a few pieces that can be worn multiple ways for a truly minimal yet beautiful and versatile wardrobe.

Depending on who you ask or where you look, the number of pieces that define a capsule wardrobe will differ: 30 pieces, 40 pieces, 37 pieces… I’ve found that it varies.

Not sure if a capsule wardrobe is right for you? This flow chart might be helpful.

My Process

Since this is a process I decided that I would be less focused on a concrete number, at least initially, and first focus on what I have, what I need to lose, and what I need to acquire in order to be truly versatile.

I  did an inventory of what I actually have, removed the items that I don’t wear (all while resisting the temptation to keep them “just in case”), and noted which pieces I wore most often.

Next I wrote down the various outfit combinations that I found myself wearing most, which I refer to as my uniform (i.e. in the fall: tee shirt, flannel, denim, and ankle boots)  which is actually quite helpful in identifying how you really dress and what your style actually might be.

I quite like this aspect of the process in part because  one of my goals this year is to be more mindful and intentional in the choices I make, in my interactions with people, and generally how I live and move in the spaces I exist in – so I found that an exercise in identifying my personal style and how I most enjoy wearing clothes a really wonderful way to understand myself better and be more aware of what works and doesn’t work for me. Furthermore, truly understanding my style and knowing exactly what is in my closet means less time wondering what to wear and more time devoting energy to the things I love.

Once I really nailed down what my personal style is and considered how I spend my time and the pieces required for certain activities (work , travel, play , etc) I wrote down the items and quantities I would need. For example, for every day wear I love a neutral dress  with ankle boots.  This style can be dressed up or down and layered, so it’s a perfectly versatile piece for work, travel, dates, etc.  Since this is a style I wear most often in the spring and summer I decided 4-5 pieces would be warranted.  Buying in a neutral color palette ensures that you can mix and match shoes and accessories for different looks.

I have my sights on something like the Sami dress, by eco-friendly and sustainable brand Reformation

To further facilitate my vision in this stage of the process, I created a Pinterest board dedicated to ideas for my spring collection. This was very helpful in creating a visual representation of what I want my wardrobe to look like.

For acquiring some seasonless essential pieces that can be carried from season-to-season for year-round versatility, I turned to IMBY, an uber curated online shop of the essentials one needs for a lean, capsule wardrobe.

IMBY, which cleverly stands for “in my backyard,” is committed to providing ethically made and affordable pieces (everything under $200!)  all manufactured domestically in the U.S.A.

I had my eye on this Miakoda shirt for some time, and decided to make the purchase since it would be a staple in my wardrobe all year. I’m happy I did, because it’s so seriously soft and will take me everywhere from the beach to a date with my husband.



Shops like IMBY are especially perfect for someone who is starting this process  because there is no stress or guess work involved : everything available has been intentionally selected because of it’s quality, ethics and sustainability, and  versatility.

Sara Weinreb, the brains behind IMBY, offered me some insight into curating a leaner wardrobe. She says,

The idea of buying less, and wearing less can be challenging mentally and emotionally— we invest so much in our clothes! I would encourage you to think about the items you would pack if you were going away for a week or two. Which items can’t you live without? Which are on repeat for you? Those should be the basis of your capsule wardrobe. You don’t have to feel bad for constantly wearing beautiful items that you love!
On a more technical side, I would encourage you to find the right balance between bottoms (I would include 4-6 options) and tops (10-15 to mix and match) as well as some dresses and accessories— depending on what you like to wear. I encourage everyone to have 50% of their capsule be seasonless so you won’t have to constantly be buying new items! Start with what you have, and then supplement with the items you feel like would be perfect for that season.
I found her tip to think about the items I would pack for a week long trip to be especially helpful. These are the items that we typically love or bring because they can be mixed and match and are worn with ease so why wouldn’t our day-to-day wardrobe mimic that?

Sara’s favorite IMBY pieces of the moment

I asked Sara what were her favorites in the shop, and although it was hard for her to pick — she personally curates everything in the shop, after all, — she decided on these:

The Cut Loose leggings by Joah Brown

the moto sweatshirt by Seamly, of which Sarah says “I wear this constantly, especially in these seasonal transitions.”
The organic circle shirt, by Miakoda (I purchased in white, but it’s also available in black) Sara says, “It’s so easy to wear with jeans or shorts to the beach, or dress up with a blazer for work.”
And while this truly is a process that can take some time, I already feel that it has made a positive difference in how I get dressed in the morning and just knowing that the items I have been purchasing are responsibly made or are second-hand, so I’m preventing another piece of clothing from going to a land fill.  My wallet is also happier because the little voice telling me to buy something I don’t need is much quieter these days!
I’m really looking forward to getting to the point when I have a solid year round foundational wardrobe that will allow me to spend my wardrobe budget on a fun, more interesting piece to mix in for that particular season.
Sara was kind enough to offer a 20% discount to my readers. Simply use discount code : KINDCLOSET20, which is valid through May 15.



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Alysse June 17, 2016 at 2:12 pm

Its so funny that I came across this post because I have really been trying to minimize my life lately. I’m definitely going to take some of your advice, thank you!

My Kind Closet June 18, 2016 at 8:33 pm

I hope it works out! It feels overwhelming at first, but it’s so nice to cut back. 🙂

Alysse June 17, 2016 at 2:13 pm

Its so funny that I came across this post because I’ve been trying to minimize my life lately! I will definitely take some of your advice, thank you!


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