Five Years of Capsule Wardrobe Lessons

Jessica Rose Williams
by Jessica Rose Williams

Last year I bought less than 5 items of new clothing. This wasn’t because I was doing a low buy year or because none of my clothes needed replacing.

It was because my mental health was in tatters and the last thing on my mind was buying new clothes. This is actually progress for me. Shopping used to be my go to pick me up whenever I felt low and it usually ended in bad decisions, more stress to handle or debt.

As the year came to a close and I found myself feeling more settled in my new home, especially when I had a wardrobe to call my own; my mental health improved and I felt the familiar urge to reconnect with my capsule wardrobe. I’ve been committed to a minimalist wardrobe for over five years now and I have no plans to go back. I have however learnt a lot along the way. This latest capsule wardrobe audit felt more important than the routine ones I embark on at the turn of each season. Not only had my day to day lifestyle changed but I felt a shift in personal style and I ended up changing more than I’ve changed for a long time. As I sifted through the mine of online shopping, panning for gold it hit me how much I’ve learnt since those early capsule wardrobe days. 

I thought I’d put together a list of lessons I’ve picked up in the hope they’ll either resonate with fellow capsule wardrobe obsessives or help you on your own route to a simpler wardrobe.

You’re going to make mistakes

You can read all the capsule wardrobe books, blog posts and Instagram posts you like but there is no one size fits all formula available. Dressing our bodies and all the insecurities we may have about them is a path fraught with detours, set backs and realisations. This is normal. We’re going against everything we’ve been taught (or not taught) about shopping and there’s a lot of rewiring to do. Embracing this shift as a process as opposed to a tick box exercise will make room for much more learning and this is where the most value lies. 

There’s no such thing as investment pieces

Clothes do not make us money, well it’s very unlikely. Buying the right clothes however will save us money in the long run because when we buy quality clothes that reflect our personal style and we’ll wear regularly we can buy less. Instead of tricking ourselves into overspending on so called investment pieces, it’s better to think of price per use. The more often you’re likely to wear something the more you’re getting for your money.

Your style will change

If you’re not growing and changing, you’re not human. Sure some things never go out of style but this is about your style and that means factoring in humanity like having babies, divorces and job changes to name a few. At the beginning you may feel like you don’t need a style of your own, or perhaps you think you’ve found your forever style. This is great and it will work for so long but evolving is all part of the process and should be embraced, not feared or suppressed. Allow the real you to shine through, the you at that moment in time. This time next year or the year after you may be a completely different person - and that’s ok. Honouring who you are right now is self-love and you deserve that in abundance.

Some clothes will last longer than others

It’s unrealistic to expect your clothes to last forever and some pieces will outlive others. I used to think my entire capsule wardrobe would last decades and although this may be true for some pieces it’s setting ourselves up for disappointment. Accessories like evening bags, occasion dresses, jewellery and coats will always last longer than say basic tees. Being realistic about life expectancy will help you decide on an appropriate budget for a new piece and save you the expense of any fantasy-like thinking.

It won’t be easy but it’ll be worth it

The awareness and intentionality that we cultivate from practicing a capsule wardrobe is never a waste of time, even if you decide you’re a 100 or even 200 piece kind of person. We so often underestimate self-awareness but we can never have too much. You may realise things about yourself you don’t like, spending habits that are born out of emotional webs you’d rather ignore but learning to shop intentionally and dress your body to reflect who you are on the inside will give you a sense of synchronicity money can’t buy. Add this to other perks like the money you’ll save, having less washing to do or feeling like you’re shopping a boutique every time you get dressed and you’ll be glad you withstood the temporary growing pains.

The 8/10 rule is a reliable friend to savour

Although striving for perfection is understandable, it’s a slippery slope and in the end pointless because perfection doesn’t exist. On the flip side settling for clothes that don’t make us feel good isn’t fruitful either because we deserve to feel our best in our clothes. This means we have to find a balance and here’s where I like to use the 8/10 rule. Everything in your wardrobe and any potential new purchases should feel like at least an 8/10 when you look in the mirror. If it’s higher, great! Any lower and it’s time to let go or get a refund. Know your worth and honour it.

I know so many of us are passionate about capsule wardrobes. If you’ve got any lessons that you’ve learned from your experience share them in the comments so we can all feel better about the mistakes we’ve made too. 

If you’d like a step by step guide to creating your version of a simpler, more sustainable year round capsule wardrobe you can find out more about my ebook A Simplified Wardrobe here

Jessica Rose Williams
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