I hear this a lot: “Caroline, I really love this capsule wardrobe idea and all … but … don’t you get bored with your clothes?”
In a nutshell … no.
This process has changed my whole approach to clothes in the best way possible. It’s pretty much brainwashed me. And my secret plan is to show you cute outfit after cute outfit to
brainwash you too show you that dressing with less doesn’t equal boring. :)
(Unless you just really don’t like my style. Then my plan will probably backfire.)
Last season I blogged 58 outfits from my tiny wardrobe. Here’s my question/challenge to you: Can you create 58 outfits you’d love to wear right this second from the pieces you currently have in your closet? If so … you are awesome and I want to know your secret — call me. If not, well … see what I’m getting at here?
There’s been a lot of talk lately about the paradox of choice. That is, in short, we assume that more choices means better options and greater satisfaction, but it actually causes anxiety and limits creativity. The more I’ve limited my choices in my wardrobe, the happier and more creative I’ve felt. It’s so refreshing to open my closet door and find a clutter-free zone, filled with all I need and nothing I don’t.
Here’s how I make sure my wardrobe is versatile enough + will work over an entire season.
I call it my “Rule of Three.”
It goes like this:
Typically, when I start planning my capsule wardrobe, I start with shoes since shoes can make the biggest impact on an outfit. I like having about 9 pairs of shoes so I can have, for example, 3 pairs of flats, 3 pairs of heels, and 3 pairs of boots. For each of these sets, I include one basic, plain pair + one crazy-fun statement pair + one pair that falls between the two.
Next in planning, I move on to bottoms: I like having 9 bottoms too – for example, 3 pairs of jeans, 3 pairs of shorts, and 3 skirts. Again, in these sets, I include a basic pair + one fun, statement pair + one pair that falls between the two.
Then, I like having 15 tops. I bet you can guess where this is going. I’ll use the “Rule of Three” rule here too. For example: 3 sweaters, 3 tee shirts, 3 button up shirts, 3 tank tops, and 3 vests. All broken up into basics, statements, and in-betweens.
Pretty simple right? Include 3 of each kind, and of those have one plain option + one statement option + one in-between option.
Works like a charm.
Leanne Caroline says
Agree, thumbs up, amen to your paradox of choice statements. This is exactly why I’ve been gradually whittling down my wardrobe. (Also recently read Barry Schwartz’ book of the same name, so am über inspired for more culling). Great rule of three tips, I think I unconsciously do this in every outfit (that works). I’ll find myself wearing one basic piece, one in-between-er and one statement item. A good balance. Thank you Caroline, as always.
Rebecca Lately says
That is such a good idea. I had been wondering how you pick your pieces. I am seriously thinking about doing a capsule wardrobe for the fall season to see how I like it.
Thanks so much for sharing this! After finding your blog, I decided to start with a fall capsule wardrobe. This is such a great tip and takes care of some of the issues I had (not enough variety..boring clothes..etc etc).
I did have one question that I would appreciate if you could answer – how do you factor in workout/lounge clothes? Do you apply your philosophy there too, or do you count those separately?
Thanks, and I absolutely am LOVING your blog :)
Hi Gretchen! I just adore you for asking this question — I’m actually working on a post to answer that question right now. Can’t wait to share. xo Caroline
Awesome! I’ve been waiting for an opportunity to ask (didn’t seem appropriate for your normal outfit post!) So excited to read it!
I am excited to hear this answer too! I’m new (as of yesterday) to your blog but the capsule concept has been something I’ve pondered for a while. I’m an art teacher at a public school which can be a messy job. I don’t like to wear my non-work clothes to work and vice versa. I still want to feel like myself at school but not in my regular clothes. It’s a constant battle.
thank you thank you thank you for sharing this tip!!! now it makes sense to me…i’m going to go tackle the closet today in a new way!
I love the rule of three’s and how accessible all of your posts are! I also second Gretchen’s comment – how do you work minimalism and your rules into sub-capsule wardrobes of workout and lounge clothes?
Eloise G says
This is truly a great post! I’ve been trying to do something like this for a while. thanks so much :)
This tip makes it sound so easy. I’m getting more and more inspired to create a capsule wardrobe for fall. The only thing I worry about though is how well business casual work wear will fit in. But I’m willing to accept the challenge!
Kristiana | http://www.love-loft-life.com
Matilda @Woman on Top says
I’ve just planned my summer capsule wardrobe. Not sure I can actually create 58 outfits but I am going to try. This process of creating and trying and applying should not be boring for sure.
caroline this makes so much sense! thanks for sharing! i just downloaded your wardrobe planner and i definitely want to get started but i don’t want my wardrobe to be stale. although, if i’m being honest, i wear boring lounge clothes all the time. hoping participating in this capsule wardrobe will get me out of my boring dressing rut!
Thanks so much for this – and with all the style attention put on ‘pop’ or ‘statement’ pieces, it’s neat to be introduced to the concept of the ‘in-between’ piece. I’m a super-big fan of basics, and yet I love my wacky, fun pieces (Hello, Fluevogs!), but hadn’t thought about the in-between.
My wardrobe falls heavily to solids and neutrals, and my summer wardrobe has gotten a bit schizophrenic, with black in one half and color in the other – but now if I look at my colored pieces as my in-betweens, it makes sense!
And BTW, I was so inspired by your blog (which I found courtesy of IntoMind) that I did my own wardrobe purge – down to 38 pieces in my work wardrobe – and revived my languishing blog to document the process. Thank you!
I mean this to be an encouragement to you, not an unkind comment: I don’t particularly love your style, but I love your blog and find these tips very helpful, so your plan is not backfiring : ) It’s brainwashing me too and I have a completely different style!
Hi Carissa! Girl, I love your honesty + totally get what you’re saying. Your comment made me smile. :) xo Caroline
Amanda Bee says
I’ve been reading a lot about capsule wardrobe planning recently, and this is hands-down the BEST thing that I’ve read. It makes sense, it’s easily do-able, and I can totally see how it would work.
A lot of “guidelines” for capsule wardrobes that I’ve read (stick with a color family, pick one base neutral, stick with classic shapes, etc.) are really useful but do paint the picture that having a capsule wardrobe limits choices. I just really like that you’ve explained how you work in statement options, while still including basics. I’ll totally use this when I’m planning out my fall capsule wardrobe!
Caroline, your blog has so inspired me – I only found Un-Fancy two days ago but already I’ve cleaned out my closet, identified the “holes,” and am committed to giving this a try for the next three months. I’ve been frustrated with my wardrobe – and, more importantly, with my sense of style – for the last year or so, and in moving to Hawaii (where I live now) I have been even more confused with how to mesh my personal style with my new life here PLUS the laid-back attitude and breezy weather. The fact that Hawaii doesn’t have distinct seasons may seem like a boring addition to a capsule wardrobe challenge, but I’m looking at it as a way to get the most out of what I already have by essentially shopping my own closet every “season.” I can’t wait!
I think you might start a small colour wardrobe :)
I love your blog and your style! So inspiring!
I think it would be interesting to see the inside of your closet and how you organize your clothes and accessories. Future post maybe? :)
Sara Jane says
I agree with this! That would be a great post to do someday, just for fun!
the paradox of choice, brilliant!
my mother had a, shall we say, humble upbringing. she was never for want though and whatever she did not have she MADE. she was able to translate that experience into a creative profession and is an amazing artist as a result.
i have way too much in my closet that goes unworn and have been wanting to purge but kind of felt overwhelmed (where do i start? what do i keep? how much do i really need?) the capsule wordrobe gives such a clear direction and i can’t wiat to get started. SO inspired, thank you.
This is absolute genius! I’ve also planned to slowly transition my closet into a minimal one but feared I’d run out of things to wear since I plan on a neutral/muted palette. But the more clothes I purged and the less I kept, the more I got to enjoy my favorite closet pieces! The rule of three is an awesome idea for keeping my “uniform” from getting too dull. Thank you for sharing!
I love this! I had no idea about the “Rule of 3” when I planned my summer capsule wardrobe about 2 weeks ago, but I can totally relate to the whole less is more mantra. I am loving walking into my nearly bare closet and feeling like I always have something that I LOVE to put on! It’s liberating. I have you to thank for that! Great post. I can’t wait to try applying this rule to my fall capsule!
ah! thanks for this awesome tip! totally getting ready to do this with my wardrobe soon!
Just wanted to stop by and tell you how much I love everything about you and Unfancy…the concept, the visuals, the gentle encouragement…all so beautiful! Thank you! My family has been on a months-long journey to simplify our lives, and I’ve been afraid to tackle our closets until now. After reading through your posts I am so, so excited to do this for myself. More importantly – I’m going to try to do it for my two kids ages 9 and 7. I’m not sure if/how it will work for them but you’ve inspired me to try! We are drowning in laundry and I want that time back to just be with them! I’m so excited to follow along and see what amazing things you continue to do. Cheers!
Love to read that you are thinking about it for your kids. I have been trying to build a “Back to School” capsule for my daughter by pulling things she already has + purchasing just a few new pieces. I just looked over what I have today and was excited to see what I have so far!
Thank you so much for your encouraging words! They are so appreciated. :)
Excited for you + your family!
I’m a french reader who just discovered your blog and I have to say that I love it ! Your style is perfect to me, I love how you keep think simple but with always very efficient and nice looks.
As I am also very tempted to built my own capsule wardrobe, I was wondering : do you also have a beauty capsule for make up, moisturizers and stuff ? I have to admit I begun my minimalism transformation with my bathroom by simplifying things in my beauty routine and all.
I would love to ear what’s your routine !
My mom, sister, some friends and I are HUGE fans of your blog. We are all on our first capsules and have enjoyed learning from you! We specifically loved this post with the rule of three. Wondering if you would share your current capsule broken up into the three [basic, statement, in-between]? It would be so nice to see it mapped out because we all want to do the same!
I’d love to see examples of all three as well, especially in-between. I get the ideas of basic and statement, but I’m having a lot of trouble visualizing “in between” and how it’s used. Like Katie, I would find it really useful if you could go through your current capsule and show us some of the items in each category.
I absolutely love this post, and this quote stuck out to me for an unexpected reason:
“The more I’ve limited my choices in my wardrobe, the happier and more creative I’ve felt. It’s so refreshing to open my closet door and find a clutter-free zone, filled with all I need and nothing I don’t.”
I have been vegan now for close to 4 years, and people always ask me “don’t you miss x? don’t you get bored with the choices you have?” and this is a perfect response! I’m more creative with cooking/baking than I ever have before — and I’m putting all the necessities in my body with no clutter ;)
Next up, my wardrobe!
I just discovered your blog via Into Mind and I absolutely love it. I have been so inspired to try out a capsule wardrobe and I can’t wait. I’ve been reading all of your posts, I love these Q&A ones and save them for reference so I can use your tips for my own wardrobe. I have a few questions, I’d love to see how you do this for workout clothes (as mentioned above) and I’m really keen to see how your store/organize your clothes in your wardrobe. I’m also curious as to whether you ever feel like you have to dig into your storage items for a special occasion, or has there ever been an occasion where you feel like you need to adjust your capsule wardrobe and how flexible it is once you have set it. Finally, I think the most challenging thing for me would be to be content with what I have, what do you do if you see an item that you really love, do you wait until the season rolls around? I’m always paralzyed with the fear that I’ll miss out.
Can’t wait to read more about your wardrobe
I love these questions — I think a lot of other people would be interested to hear the answers too, so thank you for asking. :) I’ll be sharing more on these topics each Wednesday. In the meantime, here’s a post I wrote about staying content during the three months of no shopping: http://www.un-fancy.com/capsule-wardrobe-101/qa-contentment/
Yes, that’s a good question from Kimberley. How do you stop yourself shopping and wanting more?! I love reading fashion blogs and always see things that I absolutely have to have! I’m clearly addicted to shopping, has this approach helped you stop shopping? Love the blog by the way!
Hi Jo! Creating + holding myself to this Unfancy method has really helped me get my shopping under control. I used to shop constantly, so I totally get where you’re coming from — I’ve been there. The first season of going three months without shopping was super hard for me. But I ended up learning a lot + feeling like it was worth it. The second season was still tough, but a little easier. And the third season (where I am currently) has been really enjoyable. :) It takes time, and I won’t say it isn’t hard, but for me it’s totally changed my life — worth it. :) xo Caroline
P.S. Here’s a post I wrote a while back on staying content while not shopping: http://www.un-fancy.com/capsule-wardrobe-101/qa-contentment/
Mo Ray says
Ok, this system is like music to my ears (…or should I say its like a great book to my eyes? *shrugs* lol). Been struggling for ways to revamp my wardrobe into a stress and clutter free one filled with good quality pieces and I think this one great way to do it. Thank you for sharing this fab and simple trick! :)
P.S. Newbie alert- found your blog via Sophie’s blog (The Private Life of a Girl) :)
I can create 58 outfits :) I rely on accessories.
My new challenge is to include sexy look because according to hubby, my clothes are plain. Any suggestions is greatly appreciated. I think hubby is very typical to want to see very sexy like some women dress where they show a lot. Another problem is I can’t walk or even stand in stilettos.
I think I have less clothes then you do. My staple outfit is a dress I wear for every season (I live in Canada) that is my personal choice of neutral colour (blue or should I say navy blue). My other pieces work around this “It” dress.
Another challenge is finding the right piece to include in your key wardrobe because of my body type. I’m not slim and have a non-typical body shape.
I really look forward to continue reading the rest of your blog :)
Way to go, girl! You sound like a seasoned pro, so I’d expect no less. :)
leticia justus says
Christina , I really like this seasons maxi skirts that can be found at many stores including walmart , target and ross. I think they are flattering to any body type ! Maybe with a V-neck t- shirt . Those add nice shape without being overly flashy . Find a color that brings out nice tones around your face . Something that makes you glow . It doesn’t have to be orange :) Plum / dark purple looks good on most skin colors . For a higher heel , try a sandle that is wedge shaped . And when fall and winter come around find a black or brown boot with a little heel . Sometimes just a 1 or 2 inch heel makes you feel and walk different ( in a good way ) . I live in Montana so I totally understand what you are going through as far as weather . And moving out of your comfort zone isn’t easy . Being stylish and dressing lady- like doesn’t have to be overtly tight or low tops or short skirts .
I save those things for private times with my husband . And it makes him feel special that I wear those types of things only for him . He appreciates that wear modest but cute clothes.
Anyways , I suggest you try Pinterest . Find body type wardrobe helpers and find women that do have your body shape and if it looks cute on them it will look cute on you too .
Find me on Pinterest leticia w – j if you want …
good luck :) leticia warwick justus @ kingmakerblog.com
So smart! The rule of 3 is a new idea for me. I think it will be a big help and will add some “controlled” interest to my minimalist wardrobe. Like it … Fresh approach … Thanks!
Wow, what a great rule ! Will definitely be trying this out.
leticia justus says
This is such a wonderful idea ! I just recently bought 34 of those velvet / fuzzy hangers . Wanting to keep just those hangers , mostly because they all match and look so pretty , I have been paring down my closet . I have 2 pairs of jeans and one black skinny jean that are folded . And a few coats that are not included in the number . I love the look and feel of the closet and my wardrobe is down to just “me” items.
Love your blog ! Found you via Small Things :)
leticia @ kingmakerblog.com
I think you are right about the choice thing. I fall into that trap of wanting a billion choices and then getting overwhelmed all the time. When I am thinking clearly, though, I like to think of your concept as “freedom within limits” or something along those lines. Really like the idea of threes, though. I’ve been contemplating your wardrobe idea. I think it would be good for me, but I haven’t gotten to the point of commitment yet. It’s so hard to limit all those tempting choices…. ;)
I see you also live in Texas, I’m in Houston. So how do you get away with a few pairs of shorts? That’s pretty much my entire closet. Of course I have my business casual stuff for work. Houston is a really casual city and I suspect it’s because of the heat.
I find that in a hot and humid climate, the capsule wardrobe is really difficult. I really don’t have a lot of clothes, but I find that it’s hard to layer on a sweater/jacket or a scarf to make my outfit more interesting or different. Sometimes even a heavy belt in 90 degree temps with humidity is too much. HELP!
I really like the concept of a capsule wardrobe and your spin on it.
I found your blog like two days ago or did it find me? I am absolutely excited and looking forward to try the capsule wardrobe. Mine ist cramped up and not capsule at all and i don’t like much of it. Somehow i wasn’t able yet to create a wardrobe for the style i think is mine. But with your help i will tackle the problem and i am sure will succeed.
I like very much your cute dog and the fact, that he is adopted.
Thank you very much for sharing your amazing tips and outfits.
I absolutely adore your blog – I’ve been following it for two seasons now during my journey through minimalism. I’ve been paring down my belongings the last few years – a result of living a bit of a nomadic lifestyle and being a student. There’s something so zen about open space in all areas of life, especially one’s closet!
Having now completed my academic career and launched into my professional one, I have been trying to strengthen my commitment to minimalism. Two months ago, I undertook the 21 day minimalist challenge – which has been incredibly eye opening. I plan to redo it soon to pare down once again for AW ’14.
Having cleared out so much of my wardrobe – I still find myself bored and yearning for a creative streak in my morning routine. So finally, I am going about my preparation for fall the unfancy way. I’m so excited!
Thank you for your unending inspiration Caroline.
I love this I have always had a problem holding on to the if’s and maybe one day’s. The capsule wardrobe do you include workwear too? i really hate to wear the same thing in work and outside what do you suggest? thanks Jodie
More awesome tips! I’m loving reading your blog!
Carrie Tyler says
Great site. I started simplifying years ago by limiting my palette except for accent pieces. Slowly overtime I have dwindled down my wardrobe further and further. Not quite 37 pieces, but next spring clean, I’m going to try to get to that number. I live by the rule of three’s already, and love the suggestions and ideas.
Christina I love your blog and only discovered it a few days ago but have already MAJORLY emptied my closet. Donating a ton of items and only kept some pieces as a ‘maybe’ pile to store. If I don’t fish anything out anytime soon, it’s all getting donated too. My problem is though that I live in Florida. I wish I could separate my capsules into the 4 seasons but we basically have the same season here year round…it’s called HOT! It was even hot on Christmas last year :( It’s definitely not as fun to do the capsule wardrobe as there is not as much option for variety. Do you have any suggestions of fun ideas how to split up capsules so I don’t get bored with too many repetitve pieces since I can’t really do it by season.
Hi Rachel! Texas is similar, in that we pretty much only have two seasons — hot and cold. :) But I still like to split up my clothes into four seasons because it gives variety and a sense of a fresh start. I usually use color to break up the seasons. For autumn I’m doing reds, but for winter I’m doing icy blues and whites. :) xo Caroline
Thank you so much for this post – It makes the process so much clearer to me! Wish I had read this a few weeks ago, ha!
I just started living ‘un-fancy’. After reading your blog I felt inspired but could not translate it into my own closet. I had no idea where to start, so I just picked a bunch of bottoms/tops/shoes, put the rest in a box and have started altering based off that initial try. (I wanted to start some how!). This ‘rule’ outlines a potential wardrobe very nicely.
The only question I have run into is how do you put aside ‘down’ clothes? Say, I need to go work in the yard/paint/other messy job. Or I just want to run to the store but don’t want to get dressed up.
I feel that there is a middle wardrobe that I am missing. (I have compensated by making my pajama and work-out clothing drawers extremely large, but this feels like cheating!). Any suggestions are appreciated. Thanks for all of the help through your site! It has given me a lot of clarity.
Bronwen Bowers says
Despite being in a different season I will be following your fantastic idea. Thanks so much for the inspiration :)
Just stumbled upon your blog serendipitously as one of my goals this year is to live simply, starting with paring down my wardrobe! What a simple, fantastic, method! I’m super motivated/inspired to start going through my closet and getting rid of the excess. Thanks so much!
Hi, I am live in Australia, and we have a variety of temperatures and I have found your blog so helpful. I love your look as I feel it is suitable for all ages and simplicity is definitely the key.
I actually try to copy your ideas, and put my own twist on my outfit.
I am not as young as you but thought Id post this so other mums with teenagers could feel included.
Keep on with this as you are great.
This is such a genius idea!!! I have been feeling pretty unfashionable and I always feel that I have no clothes to wear despite the actual amount of clothings available in my wardrobe. I think I would start trying to create my own capsule wardrobe! I love your style too!!
Jazzmin Cunningham says
I love this breakdown and totally think you should add these details to your Capsule Wardrobe Planner. Your suggestion for amount of pieces and type of pieces in each category is very useful!
Dear Caroline. I was mind blown by finding your blog. How interesting is it when you have your mind set to something and suddenly (or not so sudden) you start attracting other things alike!! My name i Fernanda and I am a passionate coolhunter and funder of the soon-to-be-launch Manifesto Minimal website (mminimal.com.br). It is a brazilian website with a few main goals:
– to help brazilian emerging fashion designers of minimalistic aesthetics through a directory of fashion and beauty brands that share our same values
– to help emancipating a minimalistic lifestyle, where you only need a few pieces of minimalistic clothing and a box-full of accessories to be happy and be stylish. Which doesn’t fall far from what you do.
I will love writing a blog post about what you do with proper links to your website (of course) and invite readers to try and do the same, if you are ok with that. I’d also love to invite you to visit M/Minimal as soon as we launch it, but i must say that for now it will only be written in Portuguese (ugh!).
Thank you thank you for sharing all this.
Great article ! The Fashion Rule of Three, or Power of Three, is the principle that things that come in threes are inherently funnier, more aesthetically pleasing, or more effective, than other grouped number of things. You give the perfect example. Thanks !