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Monday, May 29, 2017

How to Start a Capsule Wardrobe in College



Hello, beautiful! I don't know about you, but this year I packed wayyyyy too much for college. Like, way too much.

Maybe I had overestimated how much space I would have (it was only my freshman year after all...speaking of which, check out my list of 100 Things I Learned my Freshman Year of College here!). Or, maybe I overestimated how much I would need those random pair of shoes from July 2014. Regardless, by the end of the year, I had clothes spilling out of my drawers, all of my hangers were full and I still didn't feel like I was 110% happy with my wardrobe.


That's probably why sometime around January, I became really intrigued by everything to do with minimalism and reducing my wardrobe. After being inspired by Marie Kondo and KonMari, I did my first thorough clean-out of my wardrobe at school when I came back for the spring semester. Then, when I came home for the summer, I decided I was going to start investing in a durable capsule wardrobe to help me transition into adulthood.

I've only just started the process of creating a capsule wardrobe in my own life. However, I've already learned a bunch of tips and tricks I wish I knew before diving into this process. So, today I'll be sharing with you some of the things that have really helped me minimize my wardrobe and start creating my capsule! Let's get started :)

Step One: Purge your closet


Building your dream closet should be a marathon, not a sprint. Rather than impulse buying tons of cheap clothes you'll regret in a week, if you're unhappy with your wardrobe, you need to pinpoint the cause of the problem before it spreads. 

That starts with pulling everything off its hangers and taking a good, hard look at everything in your closet. And I do mean everything! 

Marie Kondo says you should hold every single item in your closet in your hands individually and ask yourself, "Does this bring me joy?" If it doesn't, it has no place in your wardrobe. The clothes you do love, on the other hand, will become the foundation of your capsule wardrobe.

You'll probably find that the clothes you love and wear the most all share certain traits, like a color scheme or flattering cut. Take note of this, because when you start buying new pieces, you'll want to buy similar items that can all be mixed-and-matched with one another.

Deciding which clothes to keep is the easy part. When it comes to the clothes you don't want, figuring out what to do with them gets a little tricky. I'll talk about this more in the next section, but as I was cleaning out my closet, I made three piles of the clothes I didn't want. Those piles were: 

  1. To sell. Clothes that are still in good shape, haven't been worn much (or still have the tags) and aren't too gross (no used undies or socks, please) can be sold to consignment stores or on sites like Poshmark.
  2. To donate. Clothes with less noticeable stains, scuffs or marks on them might not be in the best shape for selling, but places like the Salvation Army and Savers will still appreciate them.
  3. To throw out. Don't waste your time selling or donating things with egregious rips, tears or stains that can't be salvaged, or nasty things like old underwear or socks. These can go straight into the trash! 
Once everything is sorted neatly into piles, you're ready to move onto the next step, which is....

Step Two: Dispose of your old clothes


...getting rid of the stuff you don't want! Once you see how big your piles are, tackling this step can seem overwhelming. I found that moving through it one pile at a time was key to my success. 

First, I started with the easiest step: throwing out any clothes I couldn't donate or sell, which was as easy as a trip to the garbage can outside. Don't get me wrong, this step is still hard - throwing away your clothes is like throwing your money in the trash. However, while I felt a little bad seeing how much stuff I was getting rid of, it's not like anyone would want my old sweaty t-shirt or torn-up period underwear. Still, I tried to throw away as little stuff as possible and opted to sell or donate as much of it as I could.

Secondly, I went through the pile of clothes I planned to sell and listed them online. I opted to make an account on Poshmark (follow me @haleymarie90712!), but there are plenty of places to sell your old mint-condition clothes, such as:

  • Consignment stores. These shops are like thrift stores, but instead of simply donating your old clothes and being done with it, you receive a portion of the sales. Try Googling consignment stores near you - you might be shocked by the number of places willing to take your old stuff!
  • Poshmark, which I use, is an app where you can sell your old clothes and check out other people's cool used stuff. Poshmark takes a small commission out of every sale, but usually this is only a couple of dollars - plus they pay to ship your items, which makes a big difference! 
  • ThredUp. ThredUp is an online thrift/consignment store that will pay you for your gently used, on-trend items. Simply order a "Clean-Out Kit" from them and send it back with the clothes you're trying to sell! Items likely to sell quickly will give you a payout once they're sold, while more unique, slow-to-sell items will pay you on the spot. 
  • Tradesy. Tradesy works like Poshmark and ThredUp, but with a smaller commission fee. Once your item sells, the company sends you a pre-made shipping kit complete with packaging. 
  • MaterialWorld. Got old designer clothing laying around? Trade it in for gift cards at Material World! They love pricey, high-end brands like DVF, Christian Louboutin and more.

Since I decided to sell my clothes on Poshmark, I knew there would be a bit of a waiting period while my items sold. So, I went out to Target and bought a $5.00 storage bin that I could neatly store my listings in until it was time to ship them out.

With two categories checked off my list, I moved on to the third and final pile: clothes to donate. I simply put these items in a garbage bag and stored them in my closet until I have time to bring them to the thrift store. I'm planning to donate my leftover clothes to my local Savers, but you could try the Salvation Army, Goodwill or your favorite local thrift store. After that's done, it's time to move onto step three!

Step Three: Determine what you need


Step three, determining what you need, can be completed as you're cleaning out your closet or afterwards - whatever works best for you! I did it afterwards, so I knew exactly where there were gaps in my wardrobe and wouldn't forget anything important.

Your favorite clothing, which you're likely keeping, will become the basis for your capsule wardrobe. So, be sure to take note of what cuts, colors and silhouettes have begun to populate your closet. As I mentioned before, the main idea behind a capsule wardrobe is that all the pieces can be worn together! (Neutrals and navies will therefore be your best friend.)

Once you've gotten rid of all the clothing you don't love, you'll probably start to notice things you wish you had - the more I got rid of, the more I found myself thinking "Oh, this top would look great with a nice denim skirt" or "Man, I wish I had some tights to wear with that dress." Be sure to write down those thoughts, because those are the things you'll want to go shopping for in Step Four. 

Remember, a capsule wardrobe should be a fixed (and fairly small number) of items - Caroline Rector's original capsule was only 37 pieces! - so don't go too crazy. (In other words, if you don't think you'd wear something, don't buy it just because it made my list.)

If nothing jumps out at you as something you wish you owned or need to own, here are some staples you'll likely want to include in your capsule wardrobe...not a complete list by any means, but a good starting off point for anyone who's stuck! 

Capsule Wardrobe Staples



  • Black blazer. A black blazer is the perfect work-to-happy-hour essential. Wear it with work pants in the office, and throw on a pair of skinny jeans to take it into nighttime.
  • Trench coat. A classic tan trench like the classic Burberry coat is an absolute staple for any working woman. This light jacket works perfectly in temperate or rainy weather to protect your clothes from the elements in style.
  • Striped boat-neck top. Favored by French women the world over, a classic striped top works well for casual and work settings alike.
  • Dark wash skinny jeans. I love dark wash jeans not only because they hide spills better than light wash (just kidding! well, sort of), but because they can be dressed up or down depending on the circumstances. Light wash jeans just don't go business casual the way dark jeans do!
  • Blue button-up shirt. The light blue pinstripe button-up work shirt screams "girl boss" more than any other item in a lady's wardrobe. Don't be without one by the time you hit 30!
  • Black pencil skirt. A black pencil skirt belongs in the working girl's wardrobe for obvious reasons. If you don't own one already, GET ONE. Stat!
  • Chambray shirt. I love the chambray shirt because it's a trend that will never go out of style. Wear it solo for a casual rustic work, or layer with a cashmere sweater and statement necklace for a work outfit with a bit of flair.
  • Nude pumps. If I could only own one pair of shoes for the rest of my life, these would be it. 
  • Cute scarf. A scarf makes the perfect layering accessory to take a spring blouse from work to play! Or, throw it over a skater dress in the fall to stay warm and cozy without looking matronly. 
  • Rose gold watch. The rose gold watch looks gorgeous for work, special occasions or weekend wear alike. Invest in a high-quality one and it's the only watch you'll ever need to own.

Step Four: Start shopping for your dream closet


Now that you have a plan, it's time for the fun part to begin: let's go shopping!

Obviously, this step won't happen all at once. Unless you're lucky enough to have thousands of dollars to shell out all at once, you'll need to start making small investments periodically over a year or more in order to build your perfect wardrobe.

The best way I've found to do this is to wait until you receive a paycheck. Then, invest a small portion of every paycheck back into your closet. The way I think of it, investing in a wardrobe I love is an investment in my confidence, meaning I'll be more likely to earn my money back later by dressing for the job I want like a #girlboss.

The most important thing to remember as you're shopping for your new wardrobe is to invest in quality pieces that will last. Part of becoming an adult means leaving the days of cheap Forever 21 tops and H&M body-con dresses behind! Ideally, the clothes you will buy now will last you 5-10 years (or longer!), so start looking at retailers like Kate Spade, Ann Taylor, J. Crew and other high-end designers whose pieces will withstand the test of time.

However, there's a catch to shopping designer as a broke millennial. As I mention in my post 10 Ways to Feel Rich on a College Budget, you should never pay full price for ANYTHING! And, that includes clothes.

To save money on expensive staples, be sure to shop outlet stores for your favorite designers (I especially love Nordstrom Rack for your workwear needs). Stores like TJ Maxx and Marshalls also offer great choices for a lower price - typically, these items are discounted because they have small, imperceptible defects detected by the manufacturer, but don't worry: these problems are usually invisible to the naked eye!

You might even want to check out some secondhand sites like Poshmark and ThredUp, which are just as great for buying as they are for selling! As a self-professed Poshmark addict (yup, I even got Ryan hooked), I've learned a thing or two on how to navigate the app in style. My best tip for shopping Poshmark? Try looking for the label NWT, which stands for "New With Tags" - even though these pieces are brand-new off the rack, they're often sold for mere fractions of their original price on secondhand retail sites. Also, be sure to haggle on EVERYTHING - never accept a first offer!

Altogether, these tips should help you build the capsule wardrobe of your dreams :)

Step Five: Supplement as needed


Building a wardrobe you love will take some time. However, over the course of a couple years, you should (finally) find that the gaps in your closet are all filled up!

At this point, you'll probably be wondering: what's next? For the most part, nothing. When it comes to a capsule wardrobe, less is more. You shouldn't be shopping until you truly need something - meaning one of your wardrobe staples either no longer fits or is broken beyond repair.

That means you'll want to start laying off the impulse purchases whenever possible. The idea behind a capsule wardrobe is to invest in quality pieces that will last you a long time - not the kind of cheap, disposable clothes you're likely to buy on an impulse.

As a bit of a shopping addict myself, I know just how hard it can be to avoid impulse shopping. Thankfully, I've gathered a couple of tips to help us both avoid regressing into our old material ways:

  1. Avoid stepping into a mall until you truly need something. In fact, unless you REALLY need to try the item you're thinking about buying on for size, opt to shop online instead of browsing around a hundred stores. Stores in the mall are literally designed to make it difficult for you to resist! 
  2. Talk yourself out of buying something. Ryan does this to me so often that I've started to hear his voice in my head whenever I walk into a TJ Maxx. So, next time you find yourself trying on a dress or a pair of jeans you know you don't need, imagine what a close friend or family member would say about you spending money on it - I promise it's effective!
  3. Download the Mint app. Mint is a money-saving app that allows you to safely link your bank accounts and create a budget. It also enforces the guidelines you've set up for your budget by sending you push notifications anytime you exceed it, making it a great tool for nipping impulse shopping right in the bud.

Would you be interested in starting a capsule wardrobe? LMK in the comments below!



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