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!
I'm Jaquelyn Wahidi. I take the stress out of getting dressed. I'm 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. Addicted to blazers since 2004.