Now that I've given you a brief look as to why I decided to shop for ethically made clothes, I wanted my next post on the topic to be a little more lighthearted. How do I determine what stays in my closet vs. what goes? And how do I approach shopping for new clothes?
01 | determine your personal style
This might take some trial and error...at least for me I did! I bought a lot of items for my first capsule wardrobe that weren't really "me". Instead of picking things that fit my own style, I used guidelines based off of others capsule wardrobe "must have" lists. My first tip is to reflect about your personal style by asking yourself a few questions: What is your favorite piece of clothing? What makes it your favorite? What are the items you already own that you feel yourself in? Whose style most resembles your own? What colors do you like to wear the most?
For example, I would say my style is feminine, comfortable, and laid-back. I feel the most like myself in a pretty floral sun dress and sandals. My closet color palette consists of mostly neutrals (white, tan, and black) with lots of blues and greens. Blue is my favorite color, so that is what I tend to gravitate toward the most. This allows for lots of mixing and matching my outfits because everything is in a cohesive color scheme.
Fashion is something that allows you to speak about yourself without using words. There are no rules. I don't think you need a fixed number of clothes in your closet to have a capsule wardrobe. And you don't need a little black dress or a white button down shirt just because you read in some magazine that says you do. You decide what works with your style and what doesn't and that will save you from a big headache in the long run.
02 | consider your lifestyle
Think about what an average day in your life looks like. If you're a stay-at-home mom, then you'll probably have a different criteria for buying clothes than someone who is a young professional working a 9-5. For me, my number one clothing requirement is that my clothes must be comfortable. If it's not comfortable, then I will not wear it. I've also learned that I need my clothes to be functional: nothing too short or too low, something that works for pregnancy and nursing, and it must be made out of breathable fabrics made of natural materials (linen and cotton being at the top of my list). Also, as mentioned in my previous post, ethically made garments or buying secondhand are a top priority for me.
Some questions to consider: What is your current favorite outfit? What are you most comfortable in? What fabrics do you gravitate towards? If you're working, what items do you need to wear for your job?
03 | plan ahead
Just because you decide to adopt a capsule wardrobe doesn't mean that you need to swear off shopping forever. You can still shop for new things! My number three rule when purchasing something new is to start slow and do your research. Trust me, it will pay off if you are patient and take your time planning before pulling the trigger.
THE LIST | In order to help me plan out my closet, I like to use lists. I keep a mental checklist when considering a purchase, and if it doesn't fit my clothing criteria mentioned in tips above, then it's not even up for negotiation. Then there is a physical list on my phone of things that I want to potentially add to my closet or if I feel like my wardrobe is lacking in a particular area. I also periodically take inventory of garments that have excess wear or have holes in them and add that to my list as a note to replace them eventually. The list has helped tremendously with impulsive shopping because if it's not on my list then I do.not.buy.it.
For example, I look at the season ahead to see what gaps need to be filled in my wardrobe to complete my seasonal outfits. A grey cardigan or coat, a black long sleeve shirt, and a pair of closed toe shoes are on my current list of new things to buy for fall and winter. Thinking and planning ahead before buying these items gives me the time to brainstorm different outfit combinations and the time to save up my spending money for a new item.
Some questions to consider: What pieces are lacking in your closet? What needs to be replaced? When buying new clothes: Is this item on your shopping list? Is the garment timeless or trendy? How many different ways could you style this piece? Can you wear this shirt/dress/skirt year round or is it only seasonal? What would this garment look like worn with the clothes you already own?
04 | purge
Now it's time to purge your closet. I am a little bit addicted to this part of the capsule wardrobe process...it just feels ohhhhh so satisfying to get rid of excess stuff. This can be a bit overwhelming at first. My purging steps begin by asking myself one simple question: do I like it? or do I love it?
If I just like it then it either gets donated or sold online (ebay, poshmark, and thredup are great resources for selling your unloved clothes). If I love it and it follows all of my wardrobe rules (1-3) then it gets to keep its place in my closet. After fine tuning my purging and purchases, I am happy to report that my closet is 1/4 of the size it was when I started this process three years ago. And it's filled with items I genuinely love to wear and feel good in! Amazing right?
05 | purchase
You've done the hard work, now it's time to add quality garments that you bought using the tools outlined above. You're buying with intention now with a goal to love everything in your closet, so that means no more impulse buys or emotional shopping. You don't need that new cocktail dress for your friends wedding next month...remember that you have a perfectly good one in your closet that you feel good in!. If you buy something online or in store and you come home realizing that you don't love it love it then it needs to be returned.
Once you decide on those new pair of jeans or that new blouse to add to your capsule wardrobe, it's time to make a purchase. If shopping ethically isn't a priority for you then feel free to ignore this next bit -- Real talk time: ethically made clothing is expensive. You may need to spend more money on one item than you normally would. How much money you wish to spend is up to you. I just know that I have spent way too much money on clothes that I never wore, so spending more on one dress I loved or pair of jeans that will get worn a million times was fine with me.
These tips are what has worked for me. By following these guidelines, I became free from the emotional shopping cycle that has trapped me for years. I hope they help shed some light on how I approached my capsule wardrobe. I am by no means an expert at this topic, so if there is something you want more clarity on, just let me know. There will be more tips and tricks in upcoming posts so stay tuned! And look out for my first ethical wardrobe outfit post next ;).