Capsule wardrobe? Maybe...

Recently I’ve seen a few articles about creating a “capsule wardrobe.” This is a term coined by Susie Faux, the owner of a London boutique called Wardrobe. It’s a minimalist collection of essential, well-made items of clothing that don't go out of fashion, such as skirts, trousers, and coats. You wear these few items more often and add style with jewelry, scarves, and sweaters in the season’s newest colors.

The result for your “look” are that each piece fits well, and is attractive. The result for your practical living is that you spend much less time on figuring out what to wear, and never have overstuffed drawers or closets.

After you get the rules down, the next question is, “How many (or how few) pieces do I need?”

The internet is full of sample wardrobes and will tell you exactly how many pieces you should restrict yourself to. That’s where the lists stop me. There’s no way a generic list is going to cover the needs of every woman. And the lists are so restrictive that I imagine many women closing their computers and moving on to something else. Afterall, one woman is going to need office appropriate suits and the next will wear a uniform to work.

There's a better way than picking an arbitrary number of pieces.

Start with the space you have. We’ll talk about a closet here, but the theory works for drawers and shoe storage as well. I have only so much hanging space in my closet, and I’m committed to not overstuffing its contents. I use skinny felt hangers only, and this makes a huge difference overall, and looks much more pleasing to the eye. I have enough hangers for each item of clothing that can comfortably fit in the closet.

Lay out your clothes where you can see them. You'll likely be able to cull this collection easily at first. Next, pick your most important items. These are good quality clothes, that fit you well, and that look good on you. Hang these back in your closet, highest priority first.

When you run out of hangers, if you can decide to let go of the remaining items, great, you're done. But if you still have any items that you can't decide on, pack them in a box, mark the box with a date for 60 days out. Stash this box in the back of your closet. If you haven't missed any items by that date, give the box to charity. Do not open it first!

When I’m out of hangers, if I want to buy something new, something old’s gotta go. Because my closet can only maintain 30 skinny hangers without being overstuffed, that’s it for me.


  • Two of those hangers are pants and skirt hangers that carry four items each. 
  • The 30 hangers do include multi-season jackets, but not heavy winter coats.
  • I do have other hanging items, but those are off-season and stored away until it’s time to put them back in the rotation.

What you’ll find is that when you start with a finite amount of space, you tend to make better choices. Choices like the capsule wardrobe: quality, classic items that fit you well, accented by a few colorful trendy pieces.

A friend of mine once said, “I love it that I can reach into my closet, and anything I pick out to wear will fit me, and look good!” That, to my mind, is the gold standard of wardrobe building!