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. This is not the case for most of my clients. They 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 tire 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 beginning 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 "capsule wardrobe" in the search bar.
There are quite a few ways to build an interesting and functional capsule for a specific area of your life.
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!
In San Diego, the casual pant of choice for most women is a pair of leggings. Yet, even in temperate San Diego, leggings can be a disaster in the summer. I find it a chore to get into them on a regular day, let alone when the temperature is above 80 degrees. I do not appreciate how thick a pair of quality leggings can be on a humid day. On top of it all, wearing leggings in the summer means you're relegated to athletic wear for tops, and my friend, those articles present the same issues as leggings: too tight, too thick, feels like a workout just to put it on... So what's a girl to do when she wants relaxed comfort? Wear a pair of chic, casual pants. I promise these are easier to get on and more breathable than your favorite yoga pants.
Vince Side Strap Jogger Pants
Vince Side Strap Jogger Pants, $295
For those who prefer a straighter leg, these black Vince joggers work well. Dress them up with a button down blouse and pumps, or keep it casual by pairing them with a striped tee and red flip flops. These run true to size.
Splendid Classic Camo Joggers
Splendid Classic Camo Joggers, $128
One thing to keep in mind when shopping for casual pants is their shape. You want something that has a feminine cut, otherwise you run the risk of getting lost in a pair of ugly sweats. These sassy joggers, with their cuffed ankle and tapered legs are as flattering as they are comfortable. Pair with a white tee and chic sneakers or a coral top and funky sandals. These run a bit large, order one size down if between sizes.
Caslon Linen Jogger Pants
Caslon Linen Jogger Pants, $35.40 / Plus Size Version Here
Like the Splendid pants above, these linen joggers from Caslon offer a very attractive shape as well as incredible comfort. Currently on sale and under $40, they are begging to be added to your cart. Pair with a graphic tee and flip flops. They are available in petite and run large. Order one size down. Avoid them if you have very thin calves; the cuff will be too loose.
James Perse Jogger Pants
James Perse Jogger Pants, $245
For the perfect white jogger, look no further than this style by James Perse. They are insanely comfortable and more flattering than any sweatpant-adjacent article of clothing should be. Rendered in 100% cotton, these are perfect for those with sensitive skin. Pair with a blush tee and nude sandals. These run large, order one size down.
Ann Taylor Jogger Pants
Ann Taylor Jogger Pants, $59.99-$79
If there is such a thing as a dressy jogger pant, this is it. Despite being polyester, these pants feel incredibly luxe. They look as good with sandals as they do with heels. I love these in the darker colorways: black, navy, and olive. Tip: if you are petite and want these to hit below the ankle, order the regular fit. These joggers run true to size.
Loft Fluid Drawstring Pants
Loft Dotted Fluid Drawstring Pants, $69.50 / Plus Sizes Available Here
For those of you who prefer to avoid cropped pants, these fluid pants from Loft are a perfect fit. Dress them up with a black wedge and button-down top or go for a more casual vibe with a t-shirt and flat sandals. When wearing a looser pant, it is important to balance the proportion with a more fitted top. These drawstring pants are available in petites, plus, and run true to size.
A.L.C. Pierce Crop Pants
A.L.C. Pierce Crop Pants, $345 / Beige Version Here
With their ultra-flattering high waist and button detail, these fashion-forward casual pants from A.L.C. are a treat. Something about them makes you feel special, like you're about to board a yacht. They are also available in beige at Neiman Marcus. These run true to size.
Ralph Lauren Wide Leg Crop Pants
Lauren Ralph Lauren Wide Leg Crop Pants, $145
If you're interested in wide leg crop pants, look no further than this linen version from Lauren Ralph Lauren. They are definitely a dressy casual pant, with a coordinating blazer available for purchase. However, I prefer them with a graphic tee and sandals. They run true to size and a bit long. For those of us under 5'5", these will not be cropped.
Caslon Wide Leg Crop Linen Pants
Caslon Wide Leg Crop Linen Pants, $65, Similar Plus Size Version Here
For those of us on the petite side, Caslon has another great wide leg option. Pair with a striped tee and sassy sandals for that French Riviera-chic look. I find this length perfect for travel, as it prevents the bottom of your pants from being dirtied by city streets, sandy coasts, or gravel roads. These run large. Order one size down.
Sanctuary Eyelet Cargo Pants
Sanctuary Terrain Eyelet Cargo Crop Pants, $109
Cargo pants can be difficult to pull off. If they're too baggy, it looks like you stole your husband's pants. If they're too tight, they can look dated and tired. This eyelet version from Sanctuary avoids those issues by offers a flattering fit, feminine details, and functional cargo pockets. Pair with a blush tee and nude sandals.
I'm Jaquelyn Wahidi. I'm a personal fashion stylist, writer, and entrepreneur in San Diego. I help women organize their closets, define their style, and shop with intention. My style blog features practical fashion advice for women everywhere. Addicted to blazers since 2004.