Despite what you may have heard, for most of us, a 33 piece wardrobe is actually not a good idea. A few years ago, the idea of a very limited, easily mixable wardrobe took the world by storm. I'm not sure where the 33 items rule originated. Yet, it is by far the most common standard I hear from people who discuss capsule wardrobes. Of course, there are certain occasions when a person can be successful with a capsule wardrobe, like during pregnancy, travel, or some other temporary circumstance. Further, there are the die hard minimalists out there who feel even 33 pieces is excessive. For those situations, creating a capsule wardrobe is ideal. For the vast majority of us, however, the capsule wardrobe is unlikely to be successful. Why? There are a lot of reasons. Let's get real.
You have a job (with a dress code).
Sure, you can get a pair of white skinny jeans and a chambray shirt, but what are you going to wear to work? Say you swing the other way and throw out all your casual clothes and your 33 pieces are just ten different work outfits. Good luck going to Bed, Bath, and Beyond on a Sunday and not being mistaken for a real estate agent. Enjoy going to the beach in your sensible heels and shift dress. Clearly, a capsule wardrobe is suited best to someone who can wear the same thing for home, work, and play.
You have hobbies.
If you lead a very active lifestyle, you may need specific clothing for a beloved hobby. If you enjoy surfing, hiking, ballroom dance, yoga, or any other hobby that requires you to wear something other than jeans and a t-shirt, you're going to need more clothes than a typical capsule wardrobe allows.
Laundry is not your idea of a good time.
If you've only got 6 shirts, I hope you love spending your free time doing laundry! If you're like me, with two little kids, I know you're doing laundry everyday anyway, so this may not bother you. Most of my clients are older than me and gladly out of the dirty kids clothes' phase. They all tell me they prefer to do laundry as little as possible. Personally, I can't wait to get to the phase of my life where laundry is only a weekly chore.
You don't want to look like everyone else.
Once, I heard someone describe capsule wardrobes as Ikea dressing because everyone looked the same. There was no originality. Like everybody in college has the same Ikea coffee table and sofa, all of the capsule-wardrobe evangelists tend to have the same boyfriend jeans and striped Breton tee. I am falling asleep just thinking about it.
You will be bored.
If you're the type of person who reads about fashion (you must be--you're reading this blog right now) or enjoys shopping at all, you will tired of your capsule wardrobe in about an hour. You will have a weird feeling of deprivation, followed quickly by a strong urge to shop. Additional side effects include spending too much money at Nordstrom and attending clothing swap parties.
You live in an non-temperate climate.
In San Diego, a capsule wardrobe can work. Since our climate doesn't vary much, there is no need for snow boots or puffer coats. If you live somewhere with real weather, you will need more clothes to be warm enough in the winter. If you live in New York, you may wear 5 layers in the winter. With a capsule wardrobe, in 5 days, you would be completely out of clothes. How many trips to the laundromat/ dry cleaner are you willing to take in a week? I will go out on a limb and guess the answer is less than three.
The arbitrary rules will stress you out.
Capsule wardrobes are simply a concept, so hard definitions vary. Some people say it's 33 pieces total, for your whole wardrobe. Others say shoes and accessories don't count. Some people says it's 33 pieces a season (132 garments seems like way more than a capsule wardrobe to me, but I digress...). Anyway, the women attracted to creating a capsule tend to like rules and order. They feel bad when they can't get the capsule thing exactly right. This negates the entire purpose of a capsule wardrobe. It's supposed to make getting dressed easier, not harder.
When does a Capsule Wardrobe work?
As mentioned in the begging of this post, there are several seasons of life that call for a capsule wardrobe. These include
Instead of limiting your entire wardrobe to a capsule, I prefer to think of your wardrobe as a series of capsules. You are a multi-faceted person with a full life. You may have a gym capsule, a work capsule, a beachwear capsule, a weekend capsule, and even more. I've written about how to create unique capsule wardrobes before, you can click the tag or search. There are quite a few ways to build an interesting and functional capsule for a specific period in your life. And actually, reviewing this list I am the ideal candidate for a capsule wardrobe. After all, I'm a hobby-less laundress without a traditional job living in a beach city. I admit to having a small wardrobe. At last count, it was 68 pieces, but I crave more, especially more jeans and pajamas. I don't want to feel bad about wanting more. You shouldn't either. Have you had success with a capsule wardrobe? Or are you ready for the trend to die?
*A real one, not the one in your head before you order Domino's, Jaquelyn!
As a personal stylist, trip packing is one of my most popular services. It's not hard to understand why--figuring out what to bring, what to leave behind, and what to wear each day in an unfamiliar place is a daunting task. It's one of those sneaky chores that seems simple, yet is actually quite challenging. If you over-pack, you have to deal with overweight luggage at the airport and you can't fit any souvenirs in your suitcase. If you under-pack, you end up wasting money (and time) on things you don't want during your trip. Fortunately, the key to proper packing is simply being intentional.
Research the Location
The first step to successfully planning your wardrobe for a summer trip is to research your destination. This is actually my favorite part of the process. I love learning about the weather, reading tips from expats who may live there, and seeing local street style photos. One key thing to determine during your summer trip research is whether or not the location embraces the heat or pumps up the AC. For example, if I'm traveling to Vegas, I always pack jackets and scarves even in the 110 degree weather because every casino, store, hotel and restaurant keeps it a cool 68 degrees. It is important to know ahead of time if you have access to laundry facilities--and be realistic with yourself if you will actually use them. If you don't want to do chores while vacationing, or don't have access to a washer and dryer, you will need to pack a few more outfits than someone who does.
Plan Outfits around Activities
After you've determined the weather and local eccentricities, it's time to look at your agenda. Even if you have a less structured plan, know what activities you might be enjoying. Are you going to be mostly relaxing by the pool? Be sure to bring a few different swimsuits. Are you going to be sightseeing for hours everyday? It's best to bring at least two pairs of comfortable shoes. Are you fitting in a seminar or a business meeting during your trip? You'll need to bring a professional outfit too.
When I work with clients, I take photos of their outfits. I even do this for myself, especially if I'm feeling particularly great that day. You don't want to forget the combinations. Save them as photos on your phone and make an "outfit album". This is especially important when you're on vacation as you're already out of your element and prone to forgetting basic things--like where you put your phone. Plan your outfits and take photos of them. You can try them on, or lay them out and take a photo of the combination. This works best if you've already worn the outfit. Personally, I like to try on and photograph, as I get a better feel for the proportions and how I feel in the ensemble.
Create a Packing List
If you like to be prepared, you can plan your wardrobe weeks ahead of your vacation. If you follow the above steps, you can easily make a packing list of the items you'll need, based on your photos. Look at the photos and diligently list out all the things in them, including shoes, accessories, and watches. If you're truly overwhelmed, I have a sample packing list below.
Summer Vacation Packing List
Savvy, minimalist readers may realize this packing list also serves as a perfect summer capsule wardrobe. Use what you have or buy what you need and this list can easily get you through summer. If you'd like this in PDF checklist format, email me and I will send one over. Happy travels!
The Color Palette Method
Packing for a trip is like building a capsule wardrobe--you want all the piece to play well with each other. Just like my stay at home Mom capsule, I started this one from the printed piece (the cardigan) and built the color palette out from there. In this capsule, we're playing with red, white, grey, and black. I like black for travel because it hides spills and stains. I am pretty messy, and know many other women who are the same way. This is why Tide Pens and Shout Wipes are included on the packing list.
With the items below, you can easily wear the pants from the suit with the tops alone, with a top and the cardigan, or with a top and a jacket. Likewise, the dress can also be worn with or without the jacket or cardigan. The tops can be worn with the jeans for more casual events or during your downtime.
Three pairs of shoes may seem like overkill for a quick trip. For women who are on their feet for presentations or walking on a trade show floor, a variety of shoe options are necessary. It's another reason I recommend carrying a larger bag--so women can switch between flats and heels, or even alternate their heels during the day to relieve pain and pressure points on their feet.
Leave Some Room
While the shoe options are necessary when packing for a business trip, a ton of additional clothing is not. Most of the conferences and events businesswomen attend are in tourist destinations like Las Vegas, Palm Springs, San Francisco, Chicago, or New York City. In your downtime, you may want to do some shopping. You'll need room in your luggage for anything you pick up during your trip.
Shop My Business Trip Picks
Nic and Zoe Cardigan, $138
Eileen Fisher Tank, $148
Pleione Faux Wrap Blouse, $68
Lafayette 148 Top, $178
Tahari Dress, $128
Theory Jacket, $395
Theory Pants, $285
NYDJ Jeans, $138
Bella Vita Flats, $90
Sam Edelman Pumps, $120
Olivia Burton Watch, $150
Argento Vivo Hoops, $55
Kate Spade Earrings, $48
Argento Vivo Stick Pendant, $35
Ann Taylor Necklace, $80
Saint Laurent Tote, $995
The Ultimate Business Trip Packing List
I'm Jaquelyn Wahidi. I take the stress out of getting dressed. As a personal fashion stylist in San Diego, I help women organize their closets, define their style, and shop with intention. My blog features practical style advice for women everywhere. I've been addicted to blazers since 2004.