Everybody’s Doing It: My Capsule Wardrobe Experiment

Last week, I got completely enchanted by a blog titled, “Why I Got Rid of My Wardrobe” by a Dallas mommy blogger who made a big decision to get rid of almost all of her clothes and downsize into what’s referred to as a “capsule wardrobe.” The writer was inspired by Unfancy, a blog devoted to the capsule wardrobe experience of a really hip and cool blogger named Caroline. The concept is to create a significantly downsized, deliberately simple wardrobe, so downsized, in fact, that the writer was able to display a painting inside the closet. Because deep down, we all want a painting in our closet. 

The thought of applying this to my life felt radical and scary, but I was intrigued. A little background: I’m evidently a bit of a shopaholic. We live in a small home, and several years ago I moved out of my closet and into two large mirrored Ikea wardrobes. Never mind that the reason for moving out of the closet was to create a writing nook, which was a very cool idea, let’s focus on the fact that I moved out of one closet and into two wardrobes. And guess what? It still wasn’t enough space. The cute writing nook my sister and I worked hard to create ended up being another place to toss piles of clothes.

For a while now, I’ve been wondering what makes me continue to buy numerous cheap things on sale when I should choose to invest in one nice piece instead. I also wonder what makes me think I need new clothes for every event, or why my wardrobe has so many personalities. I also wonder why I spend so much time shopping and still feel I have nothing that I like. I wonder how much I spend on clothes and shoes. (We’ll talk about that in a different post).

I resolved to give it a try. 

Saturday morning, I woke up nice and early to start the project. Here’s Exhibit A: The Before Picture. 

Do you already have questions? I don’t blame you. Some answers:

1. Is that a sombrero on the top of your wardrobe? Yep, because you never know.

2. Is that a pile of clothes over what should be a desk? Yes, because look how crammed that wardrobe is!

3. But wait, you look fairly organized. Yes, despite owning way too many clothes, I do keep a method to my madness and I actually stay pretty color-coded. The system has evolved where the far left side is clothes I’m currently wearing, then there’s a tops section, a pants/skirts section, and a section for coats and nice dresses. I also have clear plastic boxes for my piles and piles of shoes. 

4. Are the suitcases on top empty? Nope. Those contain part of my winter wardrobe. Any available storage space is maximized with more clothes. Eek.

5. What’s in the white bag? My wedding dress and my dress from Symphonettes. Symphonettes is a debutanty-thing in my home town. I still have the dress because one day, I may lose a million pounds and bow for a roomful of East Texans again. It’s always good to be prepared.

6. Is that a laundry basket full of clothes at the end of the bed? Yes, because where am I going to put the clean clothes? And the ones I try on and toss into the basket? 

7. Is that the single cutest dog on the planet poking around down there? Of course it is. That’s Taco. He came to lend moral support, and boy, did I need it.

While I’m putting it all out there, I also have two identical dressers for accessories and underthings and pjs and jewelry. More winter clothes are stored in the other closet in boxes, and my workout clothes are in drawers in the first wardrobe.

I began by taking everything off of the hangers and throwing everything on the bed. I pulled out the immediate “no’s,” quickly and easily filling a large box. It was exhilarating. I kept going, and then I hit a wall and the pile on my bed completely freaked me out, so I did what anyone else would do in that situation.

I baked a quiche.

This won’t be funny to you unless you know me and how often I cook. The quiche was delicious! Purging was giving me mental clarity to cook quiche without a recipe! 

I went back for Round 2. It got easier and easier. I got very snobby about my choices. If it needed mending and I wasn’t completely smitten, it went in the garage sale pile. If it was made of cheap materials or didn’t make me feel fabulous after wearing it, I got rid of it. 

An example. Exhibit B: The Mossimo Dress with the Faux Leather Accents

This is a dress I bought on the sale rack at Target and never tried on. Trust me when I say that buying a dress and not trying it on is a terrible idea.

Target has a way of sucking me in when I’m going there to buy a birthday gift, garbage bags and laundry soap, and next thing you know I’m frantically zipping through the clearance rack and landing on this Mossimo number, a Mossimo layering tank (I have about 45), and a trendy Mossimo top that I wear once and the button pops off. How much Mossimo does a woman need to buy before she realizes it’s all cheap, terribly made junk? By the piles on my bed, it became clear I “needed” a lot of it.

I made the delightful mistake of buying this to wear to a party, and once I got it zipped, I looked like a slutty California Raisin. For those of you too young to to know what California Raisins are, imagine me sausaged into this terrible dress, and there you have it. 

Or this: Exhibit C: My Sexual Harassment Cardigan, Brought to you by Target (Not Mossimo, it’s Merona!)

I was mildly sexually harassed in this sweater several years ago. By no means am I making light of sexual harassment, but a creepy coworker once told me that I looked “minty” in this little Merona cardigan, and I’ve not been able to wear it since. However, because I’m crazy, I also think that if I wear it, I will get compliments, so I never get rid of it. My husband offered to sexually harass me in it, but I decided to put it in the donate pile and move on.

Lest you think that I only shop at Target, here’s an example of a dress I plan on keeping forever. Exhibit D: The LBD That Stretches. Like Crazy.

I wore this Maggy London dress to an awards dinner in Aruba in 2007. I paid full price for it at Nordstrom. I loved how I felt in it, it travels really well, but every time I try on dresses for an event, my sister gently encourages me to let it go and I can’t seem to do it. I am adopting the wardrobe capsule lifestyle, but I am going to keep a few sentimental dresses and who knows? I may wear this again one day. Right?

I kept going, and about dinner time I started completely freaking out. What in the hell had I done? Why was more than half of my wardrobe in boxes in the living room? Where did all the Mossimo go? 

So, I did what any other normal person would do at this juncture in the process.

I went shopping.

I am absolutely serious. I had a rain jacket that I bought at Nordstrom Rack that two family members confirmed was “boxy,”so I begged my husband to come with me to return it. And because I was planning on a classy capsule wardrobe of nice items, I would look for a simple pair of brown leather flats while we were there.

While shopping, I observed others. Were they all filling a void? Shopping for a special occasion? Celebrating weight loss with new clothes?

One woman was on the phone, shopping away while complaining about her job. Another woman was flipping through a clearance rack while arguing with her boyfriend/husband person, a man with missing teeth and ugly tattoos. A pushy woman who smelled like sweat and perfume stood by me while I tried on the only pair of simple brown leather flats because when I try on shoes at Nordstrom Rack, there is always that woman hovering around. Why is that?

After trying on a few items and asking myself if I would want it in a simple capsule wardrobe, I am proud to announce that I left Nordstrom Rack with a $70 credit and overflowing pride for not buying a single thing.

I celebrated by going home and working until 2:00 am. Other things came up in this process. I have too many clothes, but I also have too many “sentimental papers.” A good scanner purchase is in my future. I moved everything out of the closet-turned-writing-nook-turned-storage-place and put that stuff into the mirrored wardrobes. 

I’m not completely finished, but I’m close, and my seasonal wardrobe capsule will be a little weird because I’m starting mid-season, but here is where I landed:

9 shoes (3 dressy work heels, 2 casual heels, 3 pairs of flats, and one brown pair of flats or sandals left to purchase)

3 jackets

12 tops (includes tshirts, tanks, buttoned shirts and blouses)

10 pants/jeans

2 skirts

3 dresses

I went online and bought another pair of nice work pants and a white blazer to replace the cheap one I have, and I’ll discard one pair of worn-out black pants and replace with a better pair, and buy a pair of brown flats or brown sandals, taking my new wardrobe total to my goal number of 42: one item for every year I’ve been on this planet.

The Unfancy blogger doesn’t work in an office, so I knew that her goal number of 37 might be tough, but the idea isn’t to follow the formula as much as it is to follow the lifestyle. It’s kind of like when I went vegan but I refused to give up hot dogs. There are really no rules when it’s your life, right?

There is more work to do here, but in less than 24 hours, I had a finished product, and I effortlessly selected a cute casual outfit for the wine tour I took with my girlfriends. Voila!

Exhibit E: My Spring 2015 Capsule Wardrobe (with a photo I won in a charity auction and my Best Wife Award proudly on display). You will note that I am not afraid of color. The Unfancy blogger has an all-neutral palate, but that was a little extreme for me. 

Exhibit F: That’s me, top right, in my simple outfit that took 3 minutes to pick out: black tank, neutral cape cardigan, grey jeans, neutral flats. 

I’ll keep you posted on how things go, but so far, so liberated. 

You should try it, too! Let me know how it goes!

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