How to Curate Your Own Capsule Wardrobe

Cut back on time, money, and decision fatigue with these tips for building a capsule wardrobe that reflects your personal style. 

For many of us, deciding what to wear in the morning can be an unnecessary stressor. Often, the culprit of this stress is decision fatigue. With so many choices to make on a daily basis, deciding anything at all can become overwhelming.

Enter: the capsule wardrobe. This small, curated collection of clothes—usually 30 to 50 pieces in size—has the potential to unlock many long-term benefits, including eliminating decision fatigue. Once you've pared down your closet to a more manageable list of versatile favorites, you'll begin saving time and money, while gaining clarity and having a positive impact on the environment.

"Keeping only your favorite things is not a sacrifice," says Courtney Carver, founder of Be More with Less and inventor of the capsule wardrobe challenge Project 333. "It really adds quite a bit of joy and relief, especially from brain fog."

If the idea of curating your own capsule wardrobe feels unrealistic, Dacy Gillespie, a personal stylist and founder of Mindful Closet, encourages you to reframe your perspective. "I want people to know that you already have a capsule wardrobe," Gillespie says. "It's just buried in your closet with all the other stuff. So take away the pressure that you're building something from scratch."

Viewing the capsule wardrobe as an experiment is helpful, as well. Any choices you make can be undone, there are no hard and fast rules, and you'll learn more and more with each attempt. Here, Carver and Gillespie offer their tips on how to set up your first capsule wardrobe.

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Take stock of your closet.

Before you can build a capsule wardrobe, you need an understanding of what you like to wear. Spend a couple of weeks taking notes of your dressing habits. Do you wear the same jeans time and time again? Is there a certain color you wear most often? Use your hangers as visual clues to your most-worn items. Each time you wear and launder an item, simply hang it in your closet backwards, with the hook facing you. Your observations will help build confidence when it's time to create your capsule.

If you're looking for a quicker solution, consider jumping straight into a challenge, like Carver's Project 333, which teaches followers how to go three months with only 33 pieces of clothing. "For me, creating a challenge was what I needed because I wanted some accountability and guidelines," says Carver. "I wanted to make it a fun experiment, so then I would then have more information to later declutter the way I really wanted to."

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Know your style.

Once you have a better idea of your habits, you'll be more confident in defining your style. "We get this impression from Pinterest images that capsule wardrobes all have to be a simple, classic, minimalist style, and that's totally not true," Gillespie says. "The idea of the capsule is just that you're working with fewer things. If you love pattern mixing or you love prints and color, your capsule can be all prints and colors, just fewer items, that interact with each other in a cohesive way." It's essential that the items in your capsule wardrobe reflect your style. Otherwise, experimenting with a capsule wardrobe will not evolve into a sustainable solution.

Besides style, it's beneficial to know which colors work best for you. If you need a little help in this department, consider making a color analysis appointment with a professional consultant. Companies like House of Colour employ consultants across the country who have been trained to help clients identify the shades that best suit them. By knowing which colors work for you, you'll be able to slim down your closet with less regret and more certainty.

RELATED: Can Wearing Certain Colors Affect Your Mood?

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Set parameters for yourself.

One person's capsule wardrobe may not look like someone else's, nor should it. Just like your style, your wardrobe preferences should be reflected in your capsule. If you decide to follow a challenge like Project 333, this might mean breaking some rules. Realizing this, Carver dedicated an entire chapter to the topic in her book, Project 333: The Minimalist Fashion Challenge That Proves Less Really is So Much More.

"We have to look at things in life that can benefit us, and if it seems like there's a complete deal-breaker, find a way to make it work for you so that you can experience some of the benefits," Carver says. Shoe-lovers might decide against cutting back on their footwear, while someone obsessed with floral skirts may cringe at the thought of only keeping a few. "My sister always joked that if she were to do this challenge, she would have 32 handbags and a pair of jeans in her collection," Carver says. "Also, 33 isn't a magical number. If your number is 35 or 44, try it like that and you may discover that you can pare it back even more, or that you found the sweet spot."

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Curate the capsule.

Selecting items for your capsule should be easier once you've assessed your wardrobe and style. Having a picture of your day-to-day life is also useful. "What I recommend people do is evaluate the ratio of how they spend their time to the kind of clothes in their capsule," Gillespie says. "For instance, if you spend 60 percent of your time outdoors or being active, your capsule should not be 60 percent work clothes. That's not realistic to your lifestyle and how you spend your time."

With this in mind, begin removing any items that don't speak to you. The goal is to visually isolate your must-have pieces of clothing, Gillespie says. "For me, I'll keep my favorite and most-worn things, as well as anything I might need to make those items work, like basics. Everything else gets set aside so that I can just see the things I want in my capsule." Pack those remaining items into storage bins. This way, you're not tempted by items outside the capsule, but they're available should you decide to make substitutions along the way. Remember, any decisions you make are temporary and can easily be undone.

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Keep up the lifestyle.

Set yourself up for success by creating a running shopping list. Anytime you notice a gap in your wardrobe, jot it down in your notes. This will help you resist the daily temptations of mass consumption like commercials, digital ads, upcoming events, and social pressure. "Your list will keep you honest," Gillespie says. "Be very specific so you know what you're looking for. Then when you get into those tempting situations, you have that list to refer back to."

Your first few attempts at building a capsule wardrobe should be viewed as an experiment. You will have learned a lot about yourself, your style, and your dressing preferences after a few weeks. Allow yourself to adjust by adding, taking away, or swapping out items as needed. "The first time you make a capsule, it's not going to be perfect," Carver says. "It's like making a budget. The first time you do it, it's a disaster, but you keep getting better the more and more you do it."

RELATED: I Shop Amazon for a Living, and These Are the 10 Wardrobe Basics That I Wear All the Time

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