capsule closet


i read this thing on the internet about how to create a capsule wardrobe, basically how to prune your closet back to a few essential pieces of well-made clothing that you love, can where anywhere, and go with everything else you have. since i share a tiny reach-in closet with pierre and have exactly 1 1/3 dresser drawers for the rest of my things, i’m always interested in owning less. plus, i love going to the leslieville über swaps hosted by nathalie rose & co., but you have to bring 10 items of seasonally appropriate clothing (with life left in them) to participate. the spring swap is coming up and the 10-item minimum is always a challenge for me, as fashion isn’t really my vice and a lot of the pieces i do buy are second- or third-hand to begin with, meaning they get rejected by n.r. as “too worn.”

but i needn’t worry about not having enough swappables this spring, as i’ve just pruned my closet (tops, bottoms, and dresses) back to a spartan 44 items — and i have a whole garbage bag (contractor grade) of donations ready for the drop off day.

(including shoes and jackets, this number jumps to 66. neither count includes accessories like scarves, jewelry, and bags. i need an intervention for my tote bag collection.)

the starting point
the starting point

step number one is to create a concept, in other words define your style. i don’t have a pinterest board to reference, so i just looked at what was in my closet. i figure owning four long-sleeved striped shirts, a lot of pale pink and grey, a half a dozen pairs of brogues, and 1/3 of a drawer of skinny jeans pretty much defined my style.

the second part to this step is to translate your style into a list of pieces and elements, establish a uniform and a few variations on the uniform. kinda like school, when our uniform was a kilt, white collared shirt (short- or long-sleeved), tie, knee socks or tights, and black shoes and, come summer time, we could swap the kilt for shorts and the collared shirt for a white polo. blazers optional.

actually, now that i’ve brought that up, i should probably go ahead and posit that years of wearing said uniform is why i have very little interest in fashion and why this idea of a capsule wardrobe appeals to me so much. growing up, i wore the same prescribed thing (with a few variations) as everyone else — no comparisons or judgements were made based on what you wore. and i really had no need for too many after-school or weekend clothes. the ones i did have lasted a long time, since they didn’t get much wear. so i’ve pretty much had the capsule wardrobe thing down pat since kindergarten.

new uniform and variations:

  1. slim-fitting jeans + long sleeve shirt + flats (uniform)
  2. slim-fitting jeans + short sleeve shirt + flat ankle boots
  3. short sleeve shirt + skirt
  4. non-fitted knits + slim-fitting jeans


  • white
  • light pink
  • grey
  • denim
  • ballet flats
  • flat boots & brogues
  • scarves

step number two is to establish a basic structure, that is to develop categories and quantities so that your vision can become an actual wardrobe. the goal is for the quantities to add up to 20 to 30 and about half should be uniform pieces (e.g., slim-fitting jeans, long-sleeved shirts, and flats).

this is what i settled on:

  • slim-fitting jeans (6)
  • long-sleeved shirts (12)
  • flats (6)
  • short-sleeved shirts (12)
  • flat ankle boots (4)
  • skirts (8)
  • non-fitted knits (12)

this is well above the essential 20-30 pieces recommended by the article, but it’s still a lot less than what i started with. and, truthfully, it’s probably still more than what i will wear in any given three-week fashion cycle so i can always toss a few more things in the swap bag over the next couple weeks.


step three is the proper fun part: draft, or rather, go through your closet to see what you have that fits your capsule wardrobe and get rid of anything that doesn’t work within the parameters. i was surprised to discover i had over 80 pieces of clothing crammed into our tiny closet, in drawers, and on shelves. tossing the things that didn’t fit in was so easy, so much easier than ever before, when i would keep something because i liked it, never mind that i had nothing to wear it with and nowhere to wear it. i gave myself permission to say goodbye to the cardigan that didn’t match anything else in my closet and also the stuff that did match, but was overdue to be replaced. i tossed at least thirty things, which is way more than i’ve ever tossed at once before.


lastly (step four) is to craft a working wardrobe, i.e., figure out what is missing or needs to be repaired, altered, or replaced and make a list. knowing what you need to complete your wardrobe makes shopping (or swapping!) so much easier. i could see that i was short on grey, so will be on the lookout for a grey non-fitted knit and a grey dress this swap. i decided to replace a few things that i really like and still work but are looking worse for wear: my pink silk tank and dark blue denim shirt. and i took all my shoes to novelty shoe (best place in the city, they work miracles on shoes) for repair this winter, so i’m set in that department.

finished! everything i own

in order to tackle this task, i hauled our mulig clothes rack upstairs so that i could really get a good look at everything. i loved being able to see all my clothing choices all at once and i wish there was a way to make that an everyday display (to make sure i wear all my clothing), but it’s just so impractical in our teeny bedroom, too bad.

one more added bonus: i think this whole capsule thing is going to make travelling sooo much lighter. now that everything i own goes together, there will be no more packing of things that can only be worn once or require a certain pair of shoes. i think this even beats the one in, one out rule that is the mantra of most small home owners. man, nothing makes me happier than a solid purge and organize. how do you wrangle your closet? could you ever try a capsule closet?

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