My capsule wardrobe experiment
In March 2021, I rebranded my business. The new brand, Nu•U Image, is simple, fuss free and minimalist – just the way I like and want things to be. My intention with the rebrand was to return to basics and to build the new brand into one that would be associated with quality over quantity, people over money and, most importantly, honesty and integrity.
"Getting back to basics involved decluttering my own life and wardrobe, getting rid of anything that didn't serve me well, bring me joy or serve a purpose."
It was time for me to practice what I preach to my clients: “You don't need a wardrobe full of clothes in order to have something to wear.“ And so the idea of a capsule wardrobe challenge was born.
What is a capsule wardrobe?
A capsule wardrobe is a concise, curated selection of (preferably) timeless clothing pieces that can be mixed and matched in a number of different ways. It can vary from person to person based on our differing lifestyles, but the best pieces are the kind that can be worn to work, dressed up for a night on the town, and dressed down on the weekend.
I have what is called a “Sporty Classic” style personality, which means that I prefer timeless items, such as jeans, button shirts, blazers and clean lines. I also prefer my clothes to be comfortable, staying away from anything too fitted or revealing, so when I started planning my capsule, I gravitated towards the classic chic and minimalist style of the Parisian women and built my entire capsule around that look.
Is a capsule for everyone?
I would like to believe that a proper capsule that is curated with a person’s lifestyle, personality and preferences in mind, could work for just about anybody, but if you have a creative or dramatic personality, you may find it boring after a very short while. For those personalities I would really only ever suggest a very small capsule wardrobe that can be updated every month to six weeks.
I have a rather boring style personality, and my capsule was based on a French minimalist style - very much my preferred style. I even had all of the items already in my wardrobe. It was easy to mix and match and getting dressed definitely didn’t take much time in the morning.
Interestingly though, I soon realised that although I could literally dress myself with this capsule for two years, even my style personality would eventually get bored with it, as it didn't offer enough colours, prints and textures to keep me interested for longer than two months. The key really is to keep it simple and flexible.
Here's how it's done:
The success (or failure) of a capsule depends on the versatility of your core items. Core items are those items that form the basis of your wardrobe. These are the workhorses of your wardrobe. These are the ones you spend the good money on: The neutrals, the timeless, classic pieces that never go out of style. Think straight or tapered trousers and skirts, a shift dress, jeans, trench coats, white t-shirts and blouses, blazers, turtleneck sweaters, a good winter coat and black pumps. These items can easily be dressed up or down, can be mixed and matched with just about anything else and can be worn for many occasions.
I have a cool undertone, so for my capsule, I stuck to a cool neutral palette of black, white, grey, stone and denim for my core items. If you have a warmer undertone, you may decide to go with a warm neutral palette of browns, creams and tans. It doesn’t matter what your core palette is, as long as it suits your skin tone.
These are the additional items that link the core items together. Think tops, sweaters, cardigans and accessories such as sunglasses, hats, and scarves. Go for simple or classic prints such as leopard, polka dots and stripes. Add a spot of colour to create interest.
These are the fun items, the trendy items, the items that can complete your outfit, dress it up or down, and change its mood. These are great items to keep creative or dramatic personalities interested in a capsule wardrobe, because they are more playful in colour and design. They are, however, often passing trends and for this reason, you shouldn't spend too much on them. Think tassel earrings, neon colours, bold or unusual prints and patterns, and unusual designs.
Capsule Wardrobe Formula
Start with a bottom or a dress.
Add a top (bear in mind that tops can be worn underneath or over your dress).
In cooler weather, add a layer (sweater or knit)
In cooler weather, add an outer layer (coat or jacket)
How many outfits can you make?
My capsule consisted of 21 clothing pieces and 18 accessory pieces, which included my shoes. If one were to use the 3 x 3 approach, ensuring that every item can be styled with three other items, theoretically I should have been able to create around 62 different outfits. However, I deliberately chose my items in such a way that each item literally could be worn with just about every other piece in the capsule and this increased my options exponentially, resulting in 750 different outfit combinations - and I’m not even sure that I thought of every possibility! I couldn’t believe it myself, but I have the spreadsheet to prove it.
So what did I learn from my experiment?
As I mentioned earlier, even with my "boring" style personality, I eventually got tired of my capsule wardrobe. There were just too many items, with too little variation, and too little interest. The next time I do this, I will choose fewer items to give me fewer options, and I will add more colour to create more interest. I will also add more accent items to keep it fun.
I will most definitely not attempt to create a capsule for anything more than one season at a time. Sure there will be those items that remain in a capsule all year round, but changing it up every three months or so is essential to ensure that it never gets repetitive.
My most creative outfit choice?
Nothing too outrageous. I wore a button shirt under a teal midi dress, with a colourful sweater over that, my coat and boots – it was a cold day!