What I Learned from a Year of Capsule Wardrobes

I started my first ‘official’ capsule wardrobe in December of 2017. By then I had already spent some time decluttering my closet and trying to be more minimal. When I stumbled across the concept of a capsule wardrobe – a perfectly curated and functional collection of clothes – I just knew I had to try it.

It’s a year later, and I’m now doing my capsules for a second time, again starting with winter. I’ve learned a lot about my closet and myself in that time, and also learned a lot of tips and tricks when it comes to setting up and using a capsule wardrobe. I wanted to share all of that with you today in this article – what I’ve learned, how I’ve changed, and where I plan to take my capsules in 2019. Let’s get into it!

1. Intentionality

The first and most prominent thing I’ve taken away from my experience with capsule wardrobes is being more intentional about my closet. I never used to look at it too closely – I would shop for what I wanted, buy way too much, and let it all pile up in there. Then I would look at it all and feel frustrated, but I wasn’t sure where I was going wrong. Was I buying the wrong things? Did I need even more?

The answer was definitely not more – it was less. Becoming more intentional with my closet and my purchases was what finally turned things around. I stopped buying so much, focusing only on pieces that I really loved or truly needed. I decluttered what didn’t spark joy for me (btw, anyone else binging Marie Kondo’s series on Netflix right now?). I started taking a closer look at the companies where I was spending my money and their practices, and started to align my shopping habits with my values.

The benefits of this one simple thing – bringing more intention to my closet – were enormous.

The benefits of this one simple thing – bringing more intention to my closet – were enormous. I saved money; I stopped feeling the constant need to shop because I ‘had nothing to wear’; I started investing in pieces that made me feel confident and that I loved wearing. I felt happier and lighter, and it didn’t stop at my closet. I became more intentional about everything. My possessions, my work, my relationships, my schedule, my mental health. I finally felt like I had the space – physically, mentally, and emotionally – to focus on what really matters in my life.

All of that came from just decluttering a closet. I’m oversimplifying a little bit there, of course – it took me a lot of time and it was a process to get to that point. But it all started with limiting my closet and bringing more intentionality into habits that up until that point had been completely mindless.

2. My personal style

In the last year, I also learned so much about my own personal sense of style. Because I had a limited number of items to wear in any given season, I became much more attuned to how I was dressing on a daily basis. I started to notice when I wore things a lot or didn’t touch something in my capsule wardrobe. I learned what my ‘uniform’ is: a basic tee, cozy knit sweater, comfortable denim, and a pair of boots or sneakers.

Also learned what I don’t like. I have included skirts in many if not all of my capsules, but I hardly ever wear them day-to-day. Being more cognizant of my wardrobe ensured I caught this instead of just mindlessly continuing on with my wardrobe full of skirts (I have exactly four, and have maybe worn one of those consistently in the past year).

Now I know, and will donate or sell the ones I’m not wearing instead of hanging on to them ‘just in case’. That in itself now saves me so much time, effort, and money that I invested previously in a style which really didn’t work for me.

That in itself now saves me so much time, effort, and money that I invested previously in a style which really didn’t work for me.

3. Planning is key

When I first started researching how to put together capsule wardrobes, the first step in a lot of cases was to just roll your sleeves up, get in there and start decluttering. In my experience, this is a very enticing way to begin – it offers immediate results and a feeling of accomplishment when you’ve just gotten rid of a bunch of clutter.

However, in doing the process myself, I found there was one step that increased the likelihood of success and of the capsule wardrobe actually working for me: planning. Without a plan, I found it hard to decide what to keep and what to throw away. I held on to too much for the worst reason – ‘just in case’. Because I really didn’t know what I wanted out of my closet.

Having a plan makes the whole rest of your capsule wardrobe process much easier.

Having a plan makes the whole rest of your capsule wardrobe process much easier, from decluttering to making outfits and shopping for your seasonal refresh. Taking the time to look up inspiration (I love Pinterest for this), evaluate your lifestyle and how you spend your time, plan a handful of outfits, assess gaps and put together a shopping list will give you a guide that will walk you through the rest of it.

Not sure about decluttering that top? Well, what does your plan say? Can you made any outfits with it? Does it fit your lifestyle? It might take more time at the beginning, and if you’re like me, you’re impatient to just get in there and get started – but trust me, it’s worth it.

4. Progress over perfection

At the end of this year, I still feel like I have too much stuff. I certainly have more than I need, and my wardrobe isn’t what I would call perfect. But I think I’ve also learned that it’s impossible to have the perfect wardrobe. There will always be something else that you need, a better version of something you already have, a more flattering colour palette – the list goes on.

Instead, I would recommend focusing on your progress over perfection. I’ve made a lot of progress in the past year. Instead of the two closets, wardrobe, and two chests of drawers I used to need when I lived on my own, I now have one closet and half a set of drawers. My clothes don’t infringe on my partner’s space. I’ve reduced the number of clothes and accessories I own by more than half, and am no longer addicted to shopping for something new every week. The benefits of minimizing have spread to other areas of my life, and I’ve also been able to share them with friends, family, and you!

If you can go at it with this mentality, you’ll have the best relationship with your wardrobe that you’ve ever had.

Sure, I might have a couple extra things or a few things that aren’t quite right, but it’s good enough. If you can go at it with this mentality, you’ll have the best relationship with your wardrobe that you’ve ever had.

These are the four main things that I’ve taken away from my year of capsule wardrobes. There are a lot of little things I’ve learned that I didn’t include here, though, like how to ethically get rid of clothing and how to take proper care of my clothes to ensure they last. I’ll continue writing about all of these little tips and tricks in the new year, so stay tuned!

As for my capsules in 2019, I am hoping that they will better reflect my own personal style. Instead of striving for the perfect capsule, I’m going to keep them really authentic and true to what I’m wearing every day. I also hope to do more of my shopping at thrift stores, followed by ethical companies instead of fast fashion. It’s still a work in progress, but I enjoy it and am okay with taking it one step at a time.

I’m so grateful you’ve been along with me on this journey the whole way, and hope you learned something from my experience, too. I’d love to hear about your experiences with capsule wardrobes and what you’ve learned in the comments below! As always, thank you for reading.

To read more about my capsule wardrobes and see each seasonal capsule, click here.

Until next time,


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What I Learned from a Year of Capsule Wardrobes - Emily Lightly

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  • It was really inspiring to read this. For me, the trigger was : money and space. I checked how much I spent this year and realized it represented a nice trip somewhere :-(. Also it’s taking more and more space and feeling a little ‘claustrophobic’. So I’ve stopped. Very recently, but truly determined. The relief I felt immediately was psychological, no longer searching for the ultimate outfit. Now I bruise Pinterest or social media to get ideas of how to associate my current clothes. Well, this is my challenge for 2019 : zero shopping. (Excuse my English mistakes, I’m French.)

    • Your English is perfect! I would try to respond to you in French but it would be way worse, haha. So glad you have made a good change and are feeling relieved. It’s amazing what becoming free from that cycle of constantly wanting and buying more can do for your mental state. Good luck with your no shopping challenge!

  • I’m so excited to have come across your Pins. This is what I need to start doing – my wardrobe is not well-planned at all, and I always realize it when it comes time to pack for a girls’ weekend. I can’t wait to get into my closet, start purging, and start making more intentional choices about pieces that will work together. Can’t wait to see more from you! 🙂