How a “Rolling Capsule Wardrobe” Can Help with Both Closet Chaos and Personal Style

The following is a guest post from Dianne, who lives in Brisbane Australia.  This is the story of Dianne’s battle with clothing chaos and how she’s conquering it through the use of an unconventional capsule wardrobe that she created herself.

If you would like to be profiled in an upcoming installment of the “Stories of Recovery” series (you can be anonymous if desired), please connect with me to share your thoughts.

From Strict Budgeting to Bags Full of Clothes

I love finding bargains. After years of not having money to spend on myself as a stay-at-home mum with three children, I got a part-time job and found that I finally had some extra money to spend on me. This coincided with my losing 12 kilograms of weight. I then had a new figure, a new life, and some disposable income to spend on clothes.

After years of strict budgeting, I didn’t spend that much at first. I slowly started to cultivate my “boutique,” my own shop in my home. I began to buy more and more, and suddenly I became the person who went shopping for sales and came home with bags full of clothes. At some stage, it occurred to me that I was bringing in so much clothing that I couldn’t possibly wear it all.  However, I dismissed this thought, as I was stocking my own private store.

sale shopping

I shopped at sales and came home with bags full of clothes. 

I never spent hundreds and never got close to going into debt but… then I found myself hiding purchases. Not that my family would have ever minded, but something just “clicked” that maybe this was not the normal way to shop. To compound matters, nothing ever left my home “store.” I also had not yet found my style, so anything that caught my fancy or was in fashion was fair game to buy. My wardrobe was now too large for one room.

Finding “Recovering Shopaholic” and Capsule Wardrobes

About that time, I found fashion blogs and started to experiment with my style. But all the while, a quiet discontentment was happening inside of me. I felt overwhelmed every time I looked into my huge expanse of clothing and had to find something to wear. Then I discovered Debbie’s blog and I was amazed to find someone else going through the same thing and actively doing something about it.

As Debbie suggested, I started writing down how certain items made me feel, which helped me to get a better sense of my style. I also started to research capsule wardrobes. I wasn’t a complete novice with this concept, as we travel overseas with small luggage allowances and I had already learned how to get the most out of mixing and matching my clothes.

I began to dabble in capsules, with my first attempt being a “20 items for two months” challenge. I work four days per week in a uniform, so thought this was one thing I could easily do. I only included clothes, not accessories, and choose a palette of blue, black, red, and white. I loved how it felt to have a smaller wardrobe, but found I was still favoring some items over others.

My next attempt was 15 items for three months. The color palette was navy, charcoal, orange, and yellow.  This was a great number, but by the end of three months, I was sick of the items I was wearing. I was also still buying things and gazing at my other wardrobe items, wanting to wear them and feeling guilty for not doing so. I followed this challenge up with a couple of other capsules, but the same thing happened. Then I had an idea…..

Enter My “Rolling Capsule”

Instead of the overwhelming activities of agonizing over my items and working out a palette, I decided that I would just let it evolve over time. I would still have 15 items in my capsule: 1 dress, 3 outerwear pieces, 6 tops, and 5 pairs of pants. I would start by selecting two outfits at the start, then add pieces to mix in until I reached my 15 items.

Then I hit upon my five wears idea. I would wear each item five times; after that number is reached, I could either recycle the item back into the capsule or swap it out for something else that would blend in with what was evolving. My hope was that this new practice would stop the boredom, allow for changing weather, and let my other items come in to play. It became a “rolling capsule.”

For me, this has proven to be the answer. I can still play in my closet, I can utilize more of my clothing, and still experiment with new styles. As I have progressed with my capsule dressing, I’ve gotten a much better idea of my style.  Five wears is enough to see if an item will interact nicely with the other capsule pieces, and I still have enough items to play with creatively. I love how changing an item out and putting something new in creates alternate outfits easily and injects new life into the capsule. If I ever get stuck for an outfit idea, Pinterest has been a great source of inspiration.

The Positive Aftermath…

The urge to shop has diminished considerably. I can now see how many of my new purchases are similar to what I already have, which means I am just “splitting my wears.” I no longer have “wardrobe mental overload” when choosing outfits, and there are times when I have fewer than 15 items hanging up for me to play with. I’m slowly paring down my other items as I discover more about my style. I feel like a snake shedding its old skin.

I can easily find an outfit within my capsule for most outings but do allow myself a free wardrobe pass for special events. Accessories (which I don’t limit) are the key for me, as they allow me to easily change up my looks. When I retire and am at home more, I may have to look more closely at my item numbers, but as I slowly pare down my wardrobe, I’m perfectly happy playing with my “capsule within a wardrobe.”

If you’ve ever thought about trying a capsule wardrobe, I would highly recommend it. Just remember that it’s your wardrobe and your decision how you want to adapt your capsules for your unique lifestyle. Most importantly, have fun with it! They are only clothes after all.

This has been my rolling capsule for the last couple of months:

Dianne's capsule wardrobe

Some outfits I have created with my rolling capsule (click for larger view). 

Questions and Answers

When I posted the above essay in my Facebook group, the following questions came up, so I thought I’d include them here along with my answers.

With the things you now buy, are they for your current capsule or are they things to put into the shop?”

Answer:  Some of the things I buy get put into “the shop” (my main closet) if they are bought off season. The items I have bought lately are being added into my capsule as soon as possible. I have bought far less in the past three months because I’ve realized that much of what I want to buy is similar to what I already have and I can’t wear it all.

So I’m getting a more realistic idea of how many clothes I need and how long it might take to get around to wearing them.  For example, I bought my snakeskin top well over a year ago and I’m just wearing it now. I love the items in my closet, but there’s just not enough time to wear them all. I think that’s why I have passed up so many items on sale lately.

Do you start over with a completely new capsule when the seasons change? How many times per year do you start a new capsule?”

Answer:  No I don’t start again each season. The great thing is that you don’t have to. By cycling things in as the weather cools down or heats up, you are slowly bringing new things in to adjust to the weather. So as it got hotter, I replaced long sleeves with 3/4 sleeves, then short sleeves, and then sleeveless. As it gets cooler, I will reverse this process. Same with pants… I went from long pants to capris to shorts. And I will slowly change things out again.

So there’s no need to start anew each time. Our weather doesn’t change overnight, so this gentle progression is easy. You don’t have to rethink entire capsules, just one piece at a time as you go. To be honest, I find it so easy.  But feel free to alter this “rolling capsule” to your needs; that’s what it’s all about.

A Few Extra Comments and Recommendations

  • I just find that I can wear more of my wardrobe by rotating items into my capsule without the overwhelm of choosing outfits from a large wardrobe. There have also been times when I’ve kept an item in my capsule for another five wears (if I love it and don’t want to stop wearing it)
  • You don’t have to use my item allocation numbers when you compile your initial capsule. For example, six tops may not be enough for you, so feel free to add more tops if necessary. Also, 15 is not a magic number; it’s just the number that works best for me.  If you want to include more – or fewer – items in your capsule, it’s your choice!
  • It can be helpful to just include 14 items in your initial capsule so you’ll have a spare slot for the “how did I forget that?!” item that we often think of. I regularly still have a spare slot open “just in case” or for when I can’t make up my mind.
  • If you think five wears per item sounds like too much, you can start with three or four wears – or even two – and work your way up. This way, you won’t scare yourself or feel overwhelmed by the challenge.
  • I think it’s a good idea to take a photo of each outfit you wear (either on you or on the hanger as in the picture above). This is a good way of knowing how an outfit looks on you and for keeping track of what you’ve done with your capsule items previously.
  • Don’t worry too much about getting it wrong, as that’s also how we learn lessons. The important thing is that this challenge is adaptable!

A big thank you to Dianne for sharing her inspiring story with us!  If you have any thoughts or questions regarding this story or would like to share similar experiences, please feel free to comment.  I’ll be back next week with my March accountability update and more posts on the topics of wardrobe management, shopping psychology and personal style.  Have a wonderful weekend!

19 thoughts on “How a “Rolling Capsule Wardrobe” Can Help with Both Closet Chaos and Personal Style

  1. Dianne’s looks are all so unique and creative. It is amazing she does so many looks from so few pieces!

  2. Dianne is a real inspiration to me as I simplify and streamline my wardrobe, while also maintaining individuality and variety. Well done, Dianne!!!

  3. I think the best part about doing a capsule this way is that it allows for the weather. It would be hard to switch from cold to warm in one day. Great post Dianne!

  4. What an innovative twist on a capsule wardrobe. I like the flexibility of this idea. It provides a good balance: the 5 wears mean you give everything plenty of wear, and being able to change things over after 5 wears allows for variety and reduces the pressure you might feel from sticking with the same capsule for months.

  5. What I really like about this blog is the openness to all kinds of ideas on wardrobe management. I love the idea of a rolling capsule and I may just have to try it. Thank you!

  6. Thank you for all your lovely comments. I’m so happy that I was able to share my story and hopefully give a different perspective on capsule wardrobes. And maybe even inspire you to try one.

  7. A lovely capsule idea Dianne, very inspiring and creative. I enjoyed peeking into your closet and ideas. Thank you for sharing this.

  8. What a good idea!

    I’ve also amassed too many clothes, and for the last 2 years have been doing seasonal capsules, building them up by adding outfits one at a time, usually till I’ve got about 40-50 pieces – then wearing just these for 3 months. It’s helped a lot to make outfit selection easier (less choice) and to weed out things that never get worn.

    However I find there is a switch-over problem (the sudden change after 3 months is always tricky, and doesn’t always coincide with weather changes, e.g. it was colder early spring that it had been in winter). The rolling capsule idea sounds much more flexible, I think I might try it! (already trying to work out how I could show it on a spreadsheet…)

    • Thank you Alice. I hope if you use the rolling capsule concept it works for you as well as it works for me.

  9. Thank you. Your method sounds do-able, I’m inspired to try since other approaches have not worked.

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