Minimalist and Capsule Wardrobes: The Pros and Cons

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From capsule wardrobes to this super popular book, people all over are purging their closets (and the rest of their homes) in an effort to save time and money while simplifying their lives. Sounds pretty good, right?  Think it might be a good idea for you? I’ll lay out everything you need to know before you embark on your own closet purge! 

Capsule wardrobes and minimalist style is quite the trend, but is it right for you- We've got the pros and cons of each.

The phrase “capsule wardrobe” is a thing lately.  So much so, that several people have been asking me about it! Try Googling it (or asking any fashion blogger about it) and you’ll find a variety of opinions on the matter. So, what is it? And should you try it?

Capsule Wardrobes

First off, the phrase has been around for awhile, but blogger Caroline of Unfancy made it popular recently. She started her blog roughly a year ago and shared her experience with a super streamlined wardrobe. (She’s currently on hiatus for a few months but you can read more about it here.) So, what does it entail? Basically, it’s a “mini wardrobe” made up solely of pieces you love. Well, that makes sense, doesn’t it?

Her plan involves getting your wardrobe down to under 40 items that you wear for three months/a season. You don’t shop during those three months until the last couple of weeks as you prepare for the next season. For Caroline’s purposes, her wardrobe was paired down to 37 pieces per season. She broke it down to 9 pairs of shoes, 15 tops, 9 bottoms, 2 dresses and 2 jackets/coats. She insists that the number 37 isn’t the crucial part, but to find a number that works for you. Basically, your wardrobe is limited, but not a super crazy amount. Plus, you’re updating/changing out every three months, which includes shopping for the upcoming season. You can view her spring capsule wardrobe pieces here

Caroline is certainly not the first to encourage a smaller closet. Other capsule wardrobe methods include only 10 items! So do I think capsule wardrobes work? Sure, for some people. I love her idea of spending less time, money and energy on getting dressed every day. And for some of you, this may be a great way to do it! A few pros and cons:

Pros of Capsule Wardrobes: 
  • More closet space! Especially if you separate your closet space to where you only have that season’s clothing. 
  • Less can be more. Fewer pieces can mean less time swimming through 42 skirts the next time you’re getting dressed. Fewer options can save you some stress.
  • The chance to be creative. 37 pieces can sound like quite a bit, but since that includes shoes too, you are definitely going to be looking for new ways to wear your pieces. By the sixth time you’ve worn that top in the past few weeks you’re going to want to try something new!
  • If you know your personal style doesn’t vary much, this should be a pretty easy challenge. Wear the same couple pair of jeans and the same dozen t-shirts constantly? No problem! Do you rotate your three business suits with a handful of blouses and a few dresses every month? Sounds like you’re already following this plan! 
Cons of Capsule Wardrobes:
  • You’re not necessarily saving money. Unless you’re someone who is out shopping year-round and wanting to curb your spending habits a bit, this plan still involves shopping- just not as often. Plus, you may end up spending more, since you’re not shopping as much, on “investment” pieces. Not saying that’s a bad thing, just make sure it works for your budget.
  • That 37 items is really closer to 148 items- if you’re using totally different items each season. So before you think you’re clearing out your closet for just under 40 items? Think again! 
  • Frustration. Not everyone likes spending time thinking up outfits. And while putting in the time to pair down your wardrobe every season seems like you’d be left with an easy closet to work with, you may get a little tired of wearing the exact same outfit once a week if you’re not someone who finds outfit planning fun.
  • Limitations. Kind of obvious, but depending on your job, this size of a wardrobe may prove to be too small. Say you’ve got a corporate job and a casual home-life (you know, one where you don’t wear your tailored dresses and suits at home with your kids), you’re going to have to limit yourself in both areas. Or, break some rules, which is fine because this is your life we’re talking about!
  • Climate plays a role. If you live somewhere with “regular” seasons, you shouldn’t have a problem. However, in a place like where I live (Oklahoma), it’s not unusual to have an 80 degree day followed a few days later with a blizzard. (Not even kidding.) With such seasonal changes, one day I’m reaching for a sweater, and the next, a tank top.
  • If you’re like me, I love experimenting with my style daily and getting dressed is a fun part of my day! I personally love the fact that my closet is full of lots of items I can mix and match daily. Sure, I have some favorite pieces I wear more than others, but for the most part if it’s in my closet, I try to make sure I’m wearing it. (And let’s just say I have a little more than 37 pieces of clothing!)

As for the other trendy home purge method? Japanese organizational guru Marie Kondo has recently made waves with her book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing. People are following her method and loving their simplified, decluttered lives! Her basic plan: get rid of anything that doesn’t “spark joy”. 

spark joy

Step 1, take everything out of your closet.

Step 2, get rid of anything that doesn’t give you joy. (Sounds a little similar to my own closet-clean out plan, doesn’t it?)

If an item doesn’t give you joy when you see it, she insists you get rid of it. Those shoes you loved a few years back but aren’t really your style right now? Out. That dress you bought because it was on sale and think you might have a reason to wear it one day? Out. Those completely impractical shoes you wear once a year because they’re super uncomfortable but you just ADORE THEM? Keep! Even if you aren’t using/wearing an item, if it “sparks joy”, it’s yours! 

Personally, I think I’m more on board with this second method. The thought of purging all your belongings except those that truly bring you happiness? It’s a like a whole life of only being around the “best of the best” of your belongings. Sounds like a simple, joyful life!

My opinion: If you make use of the items in your closet, I don’t think it’s an issue if you have five pairs of shoes, or 50. Some people have a lifestyle that calls for a larger wardrobe, others don’t. Your wardrobe size should reflect your life, and that can include your budget, day to day activities, and your priorities. Some people like to spend a larger portion of their budget on nice meals, golf games, or a creative hobby. Others (myself included) like to shop occasionally and find joy and creativity in how they dress. There is no magic clothing number. As long as you are contributing to helping others and aren’t compromising your values (or budget!), you won’t hear any complaints from me on how you shop!

Have you tried a minimalist or capsule wardrobe? Share your experience!

Originally published May 11, 2015

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Jamie

Jamie

Stylist and Blogger at JK Style
Jamie loves a little black dress, chips and salsa, and is obsessed with subscription boxes. She tries to maintain an air of sophisticated city life while actually living next to a wheat field. Or is it alfalfa? Corn? She doesn’t know. You can find her blogging about style and shopping at JK Style. She lives in rural Oklahoma with her husband and baby boy.
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