The Pareto principle states that we get 80% of the effects from 20% of the causes. This can be applied to all aspects of life but what that means for clothing is most people wear 20% of their wardrobe 80% of the time. That certainly rings true for me.
Knowing this, it makes sense to concentrate 80% of my attention and budget on the clothes that get worn most of the time. (Not counting athleisure of course.) Enter the capsule wardrobe.
What is a Capsule Wardrobe?
The term capsule wardrobe predates the blogging trend all the way to the 1970s. Coined by Susie Faux, owner of the London boutique called “Wardrobe”, a capsule wardrobe is a collection of a few essential items of clothing that don’t go out of fashion with the addition of some seasonal pieces.
Many people dress this way without thinking about it. Even with an overstuffed closet, a few items get the most wear. A capsule wardrobe makes sure you get the most wear out of every piece of clothing in your wardrobe. This saves time, saves money, and cleans up your closet, all while looking your best.
You save time by limiting your clothing options to clothes that work for your lifestyle, climate, and the season that make you look and feel great. No more trying on multiple outfits before heading out the door and still leaving in something you’re not happy with.
Capsule wardrobes save money by focusing on essential clothes that don’t go out of style or seasonal accessories that work with your basics. This helps cut down on shopping for the sake of shopping because you know you already have everything you need.
Clean Up Your Closet
How many pieces and what goes in your capsule wardrobe is up to you but often ranges from 20-40. More conservative work environments might mean having professional and casual capsules while casual work or student life means having multiple pairs of jeans and sneakers. The number of items depends on the size of your wardrobe and budget.
Making the Cut
The first step in creating a minimal wardrobe is getting rid of that unworn 80%. There’s no need to throw everything away, but try relocating clothes you don’t wear and enjoy the feeling of a spacious closet filled with your most flattering and versatile pieces.
There are plenty of items I’m just not ready to let go of. In that case, they get packed away or go in a different closet until I’m ready to say good-bye. Minimalism is a goal and a process. It doesn’t happen overnight.
Here are a few things to consider when reducing wardrobe clutter.
Do I look and feel great?
When paring down your wardrobe to the essentials, every piece counts. Anything that doesn’t make you feel good, or even great, when you put it on should go. There are flattering clothes at every size. Don’t settle for less.
Is it in good condition?
After lots of wear, favorite clothing can be pilled, stained and ripped. Any damaged clothing doesn’t present your best self. If these are clothes you wear all the time, consider replacing those jeans with a repaired rip in the butt or t-shirt with a coffee stain for your updated capsule wardrobe. More on that later.
When will I wear this?
Some clothes look great but don’t fit your life. Whether it’s amazing work clothes you don’t need anymore, party dresses that you never reach for, or that see-through shirt, get rid of anything that keeps sitting in the closet.
Is it in season?
Seasonal clothing depends on your local climate but most people can put away the sweaters and jeans for the summer and shorts and tanks for the winter. Keeping seasonal clothes out frees up space in your current wardrobe. Pack them up in a plastic tub until the weather changes.
Timeless basics make up the bulk of a capsule wardrobe. However, it doesn’t all have to be black, white, and neutrals. Those are easy colors to find and wear but there is plenty of room for color and pattern in a capsule wardrobe. Ideally, choose colors that work with each other. Another way to add color to a minimal wardrobe is with bold accessories like scarves, statement necklaces, or hosiery.
Shopping for a Capsule Wardrobe
Looking to start a capsule wardrobe can mean that you’re lacking in the basics. Here are some guidelines to filling those gaps.
A few high-quality foundation pieces make getting dressed each day easy. With fewer clothes, each piece gets more wear so quality is essential.
Some people say that plus size women don’t invest in quality because they don’t feel their current body is worthy of expensive clothes or hope to lose weight. I can relate to both but ultimately wearing higher quality clothes with a more flattering fit help me feel my best at my current size. It’s better to have one great pair of jeans or shoes than two just okay pairs.
Natural fibers like cotton, wool, and linen breathe, drape better, and last longer than synthetics like acrylic and polyester. Some synthetics like Lycra or spandex are beneficial by adding stretch to jeans, but most polyester pills and creates body odor.
There are exceptions though. Polyester can also be long-lasting, especially for bottoms, blazers, and coats. Trust your experience and fingers when shopping. Quality has a noticeable feel.
Natural materials don’t always cost more either. The price of clothing is often more about the label or trend than fabric. Be sure to check your labels. The materials are often listed in a tag at the bottom of shirts rather than where the size is.
The goal of a capsule wardrobe is to buy the best within your budget.
First, buying a lot of cheap fast fashion items that don’t get worn very often or last very long can cost the same or more than a few pricier quality clothes. If you’ve ever had a pair of super flattering expensive jeans, you know that the price-per-wear of higher cost items can be less than cheaper ones.
Another challenge curvy women face is fewer stores to choose from. There is a lot of fast fashion and expensive clothes but not a huge variety in between. This is absolutely true but quality clothes can be found anywhere.
Look for sales, used clothes, and quality value brands like Target’s Universal Thread and Uniqlo to make the most of your money. Checking out discount stores like Marshall’s and Nordstrom Rack are great ways to get the most for your money. Then, when you can swing it, invest in high-quality goods from reputable companies like Universal Standard.
Essential wardrobe items vary based on style and lifestyle. Here are 15 hardworking tops, bottoms, and shoes that are suitable for most women.
Loft Ponte Blazer – This is a modern blazer with a classic tailored fit thanks to the stretchy ponte fabric. It’s equally at home at with a button up shirt for work or t-shirt for play.
2. Neutral Cardigan
Go See Rose Kimono Cardigan – A newer brand catering to curvy women, Go See Rose focuses on fun and functional clothing. This abstract camo pattern is a neutral and statement piece at the same time. I really like interesting outerwear because it stands out from the sea of black in the winter and gets lots of use.
3. White Shirt
Van Der Nag Ginevra Blouse – Button up shirts are not always flattering to women, especially those with curves. Instead, look for feminine blouses that highlight your form. This breathable Tencel blouse is a versatile and beautiful. Wear it over skinnies, leggings, or under a cropped jacket. It’s also suitable for work with a pencil skirt, tapered pants, or a blazer.
4. Pop of Color
I.N.C. Mixed Media Utility Shirt – This highly rated shirt from Macy’s comes in a wide range of colors. In addition to adding a pop of color to a capsule wardrobe, this versatile blouse can be worn on its own or under a cardigan or blazer as well over jeans or tucked into a skirt.
Universal Standard V-Rex – A white tee is the ultimate classic that can be worn with anything. A V-neck is more flattering for most than the standard crew. If you’re like me and don’t wear much white because it can be revealing and shws every stains, this flattering shirt that combines equal parts Peruvian cotton and Modal with 4% elastane also comes in 6 other colors.
6. Striped shirt
Madewell Northside Vintage Tee in Sid Stripe – Stripes add both color and pattern to your wardrobe. We’re happy to see Madewell offering it’s classic yet trendy basics like this cute burgundy and white striped tee in extended sizing.
7. Pencil Skirt
Eloquii Neoprene Pencil Skirt – The fit and fabric of this pencil skirt is so popular that it comes in 10 colors and 10 patterns. While that may not be helpful in paring down your wardrobe, this flattering skirt is appropriate for work and play, depending what you wear on top.
8. Black Dress
Kiyonna Whimsy Wrap Dress – The wrap dress works well for all curvy women and is available up to size 5x. It creates a waist for apple shapes and highlights the narrowest area for hourglass figures. The fit and flare style is ultra feminine.
For a more bodycon look, check out this fitted number with flattering double ruching.
9. Skinny Jeans
Good American High Waist Skinny Jeans – Although there are lots of new jean trends, for a minimal wardrobe, skinnies will still be your go-to jeans. Good American was started by Khloé Kardashian and Emma Grede to create jeans that flatter curves up to size 24. This ultra high waist actually works for hourglass and apple shapes. Check the reviews, these jeans are worth the price.
10. Trouser Jean
NYDJ Isabella Trouser Jean – Dark wash jeans with a straight leg are universally flattering, especially worn with a heel or ankle boots. This cut is formal enough for many workplaces but also looks smart out on the town. Wear them with a classic white or black shirt or a crop top if you want to go trendy.
11. Black Pants
Torrid Studio Modern Straight Leg Pant – Classic black pants are great for work with a blazer or dinner parties with a fabulous shirt. Unless you’re on a wool budget, polyester can keep pants affordable and wrinkle-free. This straight leg pair is on the fitted side but there are also plenty of wide leg and boot cut options out there too.
What’s the most versatile color for a shoe? It depends. Neutrals pair with as many colors as black and can have a softer, more stylish finish. Better yet, have a few options.
Everlane Day Glove – There are all kinds of cheap and expensive flats out their from Target’s Mossimo to foldable Tieks and recyled Rothy’s. Our top pick based on value and style is the Everlane Day Glove, made from Italian leather. They will mold to your feet with some wear and for those with wide feet, should accommodate some stretching. They are $115 and available in 13 colors up to size 11.
Naturalizer Whitney – For more comfort, look for lower and wider heels. Wedges are a comfortable option but for a more traditional heel, the Whitney by Naturalizer is available in narrow, medium, wide, and double wide widths as well as seven colors.
14. Ankle Boots
Universal Thread Nora V-Cut Ankle Bootie Faux leather looks a lot like the real thing these days. I always want to splurge on an ankle boot and then think maybe they won’t be in style anymore next year and buy another cheap pair. I’ve had great luck at Target with great looking shoes that fit my wide foot for only $25.
Puma Vikky Platform Sneaker – Everyone needs some running around shoes. White sneakers are stylish and comfortable. Pick your favorite retro brands like Adidas, Converse, or Keds or try this modern update on a Puma with a slight platform heel.