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How to Create a Capsule Wardrobe for YOUR Unique Style

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Are you struggling with how to create a capsule wardrobe for your unique style? Now, I'm not talking about ten really basic and boring items everyone needs but don't really express you. I'm talking about a mixable and match-able closet that screams YOUR name, with clothing items that can be worn year after year.

I was sick of buying clothes that didn't really work for me and then getting rid of them after one or two wears. It was such a waste! I knew I had a very classic and preppy style, but I still didn't know where to start in creating a capsule wardrobe beyond what I was seeing online -- which was groupings of about ten basics that were fine for anyone's closet, but not really unique to me.

I've spent about two years working on how to create a capsule wardrobe in my own life, and I waited until I really felt like I had accomplished this task well enough that I could provide you with really good advice.

Below are the exact steps I took to create my own capsule wardrobe, and how you can do the same.

Frequently Asked Questions About Capsule Wardrobes

What is a capsule wardrobe?

A capsule wardrobe is a minimalist set of clothing that is timeless and has longevity. The items in it can easily be mixed and matched. However, your capsule wardrobe should not just be a set of basics. It should also speak uniquely to you and your individualist sense of style.

How do you start a capsule wardrobe from scratch?

To start a capsule wardrobe from scratch:
1. Read the best books about sustainable fashion.
2. Clean out your closet.
3. Define your unique style.
4. Shop mindfully.

Below, I discuss the best books about sustainable fashion which started me on my own capsule wardrobe journey, followed by the remaining three steps on how to start a capsule wardrobe from scratch. Then, I offer some advice on how to create a capsule wardrobe on a budget and give you some recommendations for the best sustainable fashion that's affordable.

How to Create a Capsule Wardrobe

Step 1: Read one or more of the best books about sustainable fashion.

Knowledge is power, and these books are exceptional in getting you to master how to create a capsule wardrobe.

4 Best Books About Sustainable Fashion

This is a book blog and all my new journeys begin by reading books, so first, these are the best books about sustainable fashion that TRULY changed my way of thinking and got me in the right headspace to create a capsule wardrobe.

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo

  • #1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
  • ONE OF THE MOST INFLUENTIAL BOOKS OF THE DECADE—CNN

Chances are you've heard of the mega-bestselling book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up or watched author Marie Kondo on Netflix asking people whether certain items in their homes "spark joy."

So did I! After watching her and reading The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, I began my own journey to clean my own closets out, organize them, and plan better for less waste in the future.

Two top things I took from her were to organize my clothes by color and to store folded items vertically, rather than laying them flat, so I can physically see everything in my drawers.

What more to say about The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up? It's an absolute game-changer.


Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion
by Elizabeth L. Cline

Highly rated on Amazon

In learning how to create a capsule wardrobe, the next book I read was Overdressed, for a really eye-opening documentary-style look into the fast fashion industry, from the toll on the environment, garment workers, and even our own satisfaction with our clothing. This one is for learning the hard facts in order to inspire change in your own shopping style.


The Conscious Closet: The Revolutionary Guide to Looking Good While Doing Good by Elizabeth L. Cline

  • My Top Pick
  • Highly rated on Amazon

Next, I read Cline's second book, The Conscious Closet, which forever changed the way I look at fashion. It takes the data from Overdressed and gives you a practical primer on what you can do about it in your own life.

A few of my biggest takeaways: Donated clothing is often wasted, not used by people in need. The average cycle of a clothing item should be about 30 wears. And I also learned how to properly launder my clothing and how to sew a button!

But, honestly, those were just three takeaways from The Conscious Closet, one of the best books about sustainable fashion, which has become one of my favorite books of all time.


The Curated Closet: A Simple System for Discovering Your Personal Style and Building Your Dream Wardrobe by Anuschka Rees

  • Highly rated on Amazon

The last book I read in learning how to create a capsule wardrobe was The Curated Closet. This one helps you come up with a unique plan suited to your style, which provides clarity and cohesiveness, then informs your future purchases.

You will use visual guides to learn how to come up with things like master outfit formulas and color palettes to follow and curate a closet of pieces that are fewer, but better, and so perfectly suited to you.

My master plan is something I always think back to when deciding whether to purchase a new clothing item.


Step 2: Clean out your closet.

Whether you use Marie Kondo's methods from The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, get rid of everything that is not serving a purpose for you NOW. Yes, this will create waste, but it's, unfortunately, the first step to a better future.

As you do so, try to note what you are tossing and why. For me, there were a lot of things I bought because they were really cheap and were "fine" for a certain purpose like work, but they weren't really 100% really and truly "me." Or, they were trends I felt like I "should" purchase.

I now know these were my weaknesses and can avoid making these mistakes. What are yours?

Step 3: Define YOUR unique style.

This is the fun part. Whether you read The Curated Closet, create what I like to call your own "style guide." Mine is simply a note on my phone, in which I annotated the following things that felt most aligned with me 100%: brands, signature outfits, colors, inspirational places and people, your favorite items you already own and the like.

I also took a color season analysis quiz and learned that the Deep Winter color palette works best for me.

Lastyl, I maintain Pinterest boards for these purposes, and I unfollowed ALL influencers who didn't align with me 100%, as well as any bargain-hunting influencers and groups.

Step 4: Shop Mindfully.

Now it's time to think about the future. Once your closet has been cleaned and your style has been defined, commit yourself to shop more mindfully and purposefully.

For me, this involves asking myself the following types of questions before I make a purchase:

  • Does this item fit into my style guide 100%?
  • Will I wear this item 20-30 times?
  • Do I already have something that serves this purpose?
  • Is this item likely to break (i.e., beads that may fall off) or too hard to care for (i.e., dry clean only)?
  • Am I committed to properly caring for this item per the instructions?
  • Am I interested in this item only because it's a good deal?
  • Is this item an environmentally friendly fabric (like modal and tencel; unlike polyester)?
  • Is this a good color for me and/or a print I won't get sick of?
  • Is it worth forever losing my money (and any potential investments with this money) for this item?
  • Am I on the fence about this?

More Mindful Shopping Tips

Think quality over quantity.

Yes, quality can be more expensive, but if you are focusing on wearing something 20-30 times, as suggested above, quality will be important, and it can actually be cheaper per wear.

If you are still concerned about cost, I provide some tips below in this article about how to create a sustainable wardrobe on a budget and the best sustainable fashion that's affordable.

Think about the long-term impacts on the garment industry and the environment.

If you read Overdressed and/or The Conscious Closet, you will better understand the long-term impacts of fast fashion on the garment industry and the environment. You can keep this in the back of your mind every time you are tempted to buy something cheap or trendy you feel like you need... but really don't.

It's a great way to motivate yourself and find a bigger purpose in your mission on how to create a capsule wardrobe.

Shop consignment and/or rent clothes when you can.

If you read Overdressed and/or The Conscious Closet, you will have also learned that most donated clothing ends up wasted, not used. So, if you can shop consignment at all, or rent clothing, you are helping a bigger cause. And, it will likely save you money too.

A few great retailers for consignment and/or rental clothing:

  • eBay (I've been shopping and selling there for decades.)
  • Poshmark (You can shop or sell here too.)
  • Rent the Runway (Great for special even clothing. I've had great experiences renting evening gowns from them.)

Rent the Runway tip: You can rent one item at a time or choose a monthly plan, starting at 8 items per month for $99 per month for your first two months (at the time of posting; pause or cancel anytime.)

Check the current prices.

This would be great if you get sick of clothes fast or are going on a trip to a location that has a climate much different than where you live!

Use a wish list and a budget.

To keep me on track of what I really want, need and can afford, I maintain a "Wish List" board on Pinterest and and track my budget on the app Every Dollar. I set aside a certain amount of money for clothing and, each month, I decide what to purchase on my wish list.

This helps me feel more confident making larger, more long-term purchases, and it also helps me track the items on my wish list for sales. I have found this to be really helpful in how to create a capsule wardrobe for my unique style.

Take the time to return items that aren't 100% right.

When I first did my own Marie Kondo-style closet clean out, I realized I was getting rid of a lot of clothes that I knew on Day 1 just didn't fit me right and/or that I just didn't absolutely love, but was too lazy and/or cheap to alter or return them.

Since I was then getting rid of these clothes, it was actually more expensive in the end for me to have kept them. I decided at that moment that, from then on, I would ask myself if an item was 100% right before I kept it and, if not, invest in altering or returning it.

Take care of your clothes.

I can't stress enough the importance of learning how to care for your clothes! It creates unnecessary waste in your wallet and in the environment when an item wears out before it's time.

As mentioned above, I only purchase clothes if I am committed to laundering them the right way with quality products.

Laundry Tip: I use, and highly recommend any and all products by The Laundress, which are high quality and non toxic. The women behind this brand are insanely genius and have studied the science of clothing and laundering it at an Ivy League school. I swear by this specific stain solution, which have helped me remove even red wine and blue dye.

The Laundress website usually offers generous seasonal discount codes (check here) as well as discounts when you sign up for emails. I find the best deals here, especially when I buy these specific kits.

How to Create a Capsule Wardrobe on a Budget

If you want to know how to create a capsule wardrobe on a budget, I can offer a few tips for how I save money on my own capsule wardrobe.

Besides using a "Wish List" and waiting until items go on sale, I love using the following resources to save even more once I have decided to buy an item.

Rakuten: An app/browser extension, by which you get cashback on online purchases at a really wide variety of common stores. It's as easy as the click of a button, and I have earned THOUSANDS of cash back over the years.

For more information, read my full review of Rakuten.

Raise: A retailer of discount e-gift cards at tons of major retailers. I simply check there before I make a purchase to see if there are currently any good discounted cards for that specific retailer.

I also take advantage of credit card reward points and make sure to pay off my bill each month.

Lastly, if an item is truly a long-term investment, sometimes I purchase it on steep discounts at the end of the season and save the item until the next season.

Best Sustainable Fashion That's Affordable

While your capsule wardrobe does not have to be sustainable, as I see the goal to be finding items that suit you 100% and will last a long time whether or not they are truly sustainable, you may be worried that sustainable fashion can often be more expensive than fast fashion.

Below are just a few retailers that sell the best sustainable fashion that's affordable from my own personal experience:

Everlane

Everlane is a super popular retailer dedicated to sustainability and transparency at reasonable prices. They are known for very universal styles and basics. They also have excellent sales.

A few popular items I really like from Everlane are:

Sizing tips: I generally size up in clothing from Everlane, but I buy my regular size in shoes.

Allbirds

Allbirds is a popular sustainable sneaker and casual shoe retailer. These specific tree breezer flats feel really light and breathable, yet they are still the warmest shoes I own because they are lined with wool, so they feel like you are wearing socks when you aren't!

For more information, read my full review of Allbirds Women's Tree Breezers.

L.L. Bean

While L.L. Bean is not a sustainable retailer per se, their clothing is built to last, which ultimately creates less waste. For example, I have heard people say these specific Wicked Good Slippers have lasted a decade.

For more information, read my full review of L.L. Bean's Wicked Good Slippers.

Nordstrom

The popular mid-range department store retailer has an entire online section devoted to women's sustainable fashion. You can easily browse a variety of brands without having to research them yourself here!


You have now learned how to create a capsule wardrobe, based on the exact steps I used to create my own, very personalized capsule wardrobe!


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