How I Edited My Closet Down to a Capsule of 36 Pieces

And ended up with a million options I love.
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A few weeks ago, I stood frozen in front of my clothing rack. I was paralyzed, barefoot in my bra and underwear, looking over the hangers of clothes. I had a million options, but "nothing to wear," and was running late to work. Finally, I grabbed a white denim skirt and a striped top. The combo made me feel like a preppy six-year-old, which wasn't helped by the ill-fit of the blouse, but technically it worked. I fiddled with the shirt until settling on a half-tuck, then slipped on some slides and ran out the door.

Pick any morning, and you'd witness the same routine: Stand half-naked for ten minutes, settle on something "good enough," then spend the rest of the day quietly cursing my outfit. There was nothing necessarily wrong with my clothes—they were beautiful and did in fact spark joy—but I've had most of them since before college, and my style's evolved beyond them. It took me years to land on a personal style that feels like me, but you wouldn't know it looking at my closet. As a result, I had a closet full of clothes, but only a fraction of options I regularly pulled from. Getting dressed felt like finding a needle in haystack. 

Finally, I hit a wall. On a Friday night at home, when I should have been settling into a relaxing evening, I pulled every single item off of my clothing rack and laid them out on my bed. I held each piece to an impossibly high standard before hanging it back up: Not only did it have to spark joy, but it had to be something that easily went with several other pieces in my closet, and that I'd be happy to wear on repeat. I've never considered myself a hoarder, but... in the end, around thirty pieces were left, of the maybe 200 I'd started with. (Terrifying, right?)

The next morning, I took action. I put every item of clothing that wasn't still hanging on my Poshmark, then wrote down the items I needed to buy (primarily basic tees) to fill the holes in my closet. By the end of the weekend, I could safely say I loved every single item in my closet. Getting dressed became seamless (I'll be sharing three weeks' worth of outfits on the blog next week using my capsule wardrobe!), despite significantly culling my closet. Most importantly, I'm happy to say I cured my clothing rack paralysis. Here's how to create your own capsule wardrobe: 

The entirety of my "daily" closet (Shoes from left to right: Cupcakes and Cashmere, Sezane, Veja, Nisolo)

The entirety of my "daily" closet (Shoes from left to right: Cupcakes and Cashmere, Sezane, Veja, Nisolo)

#1

As soon as I went through the pieces, being incredibly selective about what I kept, I realized that every single item left hanging was either a t-shirt, denim, or flowy dress, plus one or two blouses. Message received. I had to admit, it was an accurate reflection of the outfits I feel my best in, so I decided to embrace it rather than fight it.

Here's another way to think about this: Only keep the items you'd be excited to pack for a week-long trip. Most of the items I kept are the same ones I packed for my trip to Paris earlier this year.

#2

Don't keep anything just because you feel like you "should" keep it. At one point, I felt like I had to have a denim skirt and a "going out" blouse to have a well-rounded wardrobe. But here's the thing: I never reached for those items. When I go out, I'm usually wearing the exact same thing I spent the day in, so why bother having a specific top I could only wear for going out? More often than not, the "should" and "someday" pieces are a waste of space. Keep and purchase only the items you actually wear and love, whether that means living in cut-offs, flowy dresses, or dinosaur onesies! I don't judge.

#3

Once I had a baseline of clothes I loved, I worked backwards. I'd been buying clothes I thought I could work into my closet, when I should have been working backwards from pieces I already had. I created a list to address the holes. My goal was to 1). Maximize the pieces I already own and love, and 2). Make sure I had enough to cover most occasions, from a work meeting to a day at the beach. From there, I cross-checked my list of wants with my favorite brands. I searched for deals whenever possible, but mostly prioritized investment pieces. The last thing I wanted was to make more compromises, only to find I didn't love the pieces I'd purchased a few months from now. Yes, it was expensive, and yes, it pretty much took all the joy out of shopping, but it worked. By the end of the weekend, I'd purchased two pairs of jeans, four tees, and one dress to round-out my collection.

#4

Before I bought a single piece, I carefully considered how it fit with others. Almost every piece I own now goes with most of the closet. And when I brought back a purchase that didn't go quite as well as I'd envisioned when I'd ordered it or seen it at the store, I returned it instead of compromising.

Read on for the break-down of items in my closet. Next week, I'll be linking to and showing you how I styled the pieces for three weeks of real outfits! 

1

4 Dresses:

4 floor-length, flowy dresses (a mix of Doen and Madewell)

5 Tanks:

2 satin camis
1 structured tank
2 casual muscle tanks

6 Blouses:

2 oxfords
3 casual floral blouses
1 versatile "formal" black blouse

7 Tees:

3 white tees
1 mock neck tee
1 grey tee
1 pink tee
1 navy tee

2 Long-Sleeves:

1 cotton turtleneck (I'm all about layers!) 
1 white layering sweatshirt

10 Pairs of Bottoms: 

1 skinny high-rise
1 skinny mid-rise
2 pairs of black jeans (distressed and new)
1 pair of vintage Levi's
3 pairs of wide-leg denim in denim, green, and guava
1 pair of overall shorts
1 pair of cut-offs (I don't love shorts, so I edited most from my closet!)

2 Light Jackets:

Cupcakes and Cashmere Military Jacket
Madewell Denim Jacket

*Sleepwear, workout wear, formal dress, and intimates not included since they make up such a small part of my closet, but mentions are linked for the curious! There are also a few miscellaneous items, like swimsuits and weather-appropriate, pieces not included in this list, which only encompasses the items I pull from on a regular basis (for work and weekend wear).

Check back in next week—I'll be sharing the specific pieces in my closet, and how I styled them for three weeks of outfits!

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