Is a capsule wardrobe cost effective or an expensive gimmick?
“Show me what you bought!” I exclaimed. I was dying to live vicariously through my friend’s shopping spree.
“Well, I bought these amazing shoes. Don’t you just love them?” They were adorable, I couldn’t deny, but they were very different than her usual style.
“I love them,” I said, truthfully. “What will you wear them with?”
“Well, they don’t go with anything I own, so I went and bought these 3 outfits to wear them with!”
Have you ever done that? Bought a wild-card item and then bought more wild cards so you could wear the first one? And then…you wear none of it because those wild cards are wild for a reason. They aren’t you. I confess I’ve done that in the past, but I don’t anymore (but even now #thestruggleisreal).
Twelve years ago, I was a new mom of triplets. I had just gone from a corporate business professional career wearing suits, pencil skirts, and heels, to a stay-at-home mom lifestyle — which was even busier than my previous life. We were up 3 babies, a new house, a minivan, baby gear times 3, and down an income. I had no time, little sanity, no appropriate wardrobe to speak of, and virtually no money to fix that problem. I had 3 more babies in the next 6 years, so the problem spiraled.
I limped along for years on a few plain tees, a couple of pairs of chinos, one (yes, one) pair of jeans, one pair of sneakers, and one pair of flats. I’m not exaggerating. For my birthday I always got a little money, and I used it to buy myself some new tops from TJMaxx — but I simply didn’t have the bandwidth to intentionally figure out my casual style, update my wardrobe, and start dressing to reflect my personality. I felt lost — like the put-together, style-conscious woman I used to be (and still wanted to be!) was behind me and I’d never find her again.
Over the years, I’ve encountered so many women who feel just like I did. When time, money, and resources are limited, it can feel totally impossible to start fresh and dress well without breaking the bank. The rising popularity of capsule wardrobes can seem to only reinforce that notion — that you can’t upgrade your look without spending a ton of money to upgrade every piece in your wardrobe.
But here’s what I’ve found out since then: creating a capsule wardrobe is actually the most affordable way to update your whole look and show off your individual sense of style. No matter where you’re at now, no matter how much time and money you do or don’t have, building a capsule wardrobe is totally attainable for you. You can start looking fabulous in clothes you genuinely love and feel great in, and you can stop agonizing about what you’re going to wear every morning, ESPECIALLY if you are ready to find your signature style and upgrade your look
Here’s why starting a capsule wardrobe doesn’t have to break the bank:
YOU’LL SHOP YOUR CLOSET FIRST
A few years ago when I decided I was ready to find my style again, I started in my closet. I pulled out everything that was classic in style (because that has always been the foundation of my style), and suited my coloring and body shape and put it at the front. It wasn’t a lot of pieces, but I mixed and matched from that, and I was surprised by how many outfits I was able to make! That is when I started to see the benefits and versatility of a capsule wardrobe.
Starting your capsule wardrobe doesn’t start at the mall — it starts in your closet. Once you’ve taken some time to figure out your personal style (take the quiz below if you’re not sure what yours is!) and you’ve identified the sort of color palette you’re most drawn to (I’m a Winter), head straight to your closet and go through your clothes one by one.
The foundation of your capsule wardrobe won’t be a bunch of expensive, brand-new basics that seem to be in everyone else’s capsule wardrobe — they’ll be the tried and true pieces you already love that you always seem to gravitate toward. Sure, you might want to go out and purchase a few pieces you don’t already have — but shopping your closet and eliminating the extraneous clothes that don’t really reflect you and your style is totally free. Shopping your closet is a key step in my Capsule Wardrobe Guides.
YOU’LL SPEND LESS ON THINGS YOU DON’T NEED
Even if you consider yourself a bargain shopper, chances are you’re spending way more money on clothes than you really need to. I totally get that — it’s hard to resist an amazing deal, even if it’s on a crazy print top in a color that doesn’t suit you and doesn’t really go with anything else you own, or a pair of shoes that pinch your toes but are perfect otherwise.
Putting together a capsule wardrobe will help you be more thoughtful about future clothing purchases because it helps you refine your style. Is that top super cute? It is…but is it perfect for you, or someone else? This process will help you see that. Will you really sacrifice comfort for style and live with pinched toes? Maybe you will. I sometimes do. But many women won’t, and knowing that is so important.
YOU’LL INVEST IN PIECES YOU REALLY LOVE THAT REALLY LAST
Which is really a better deal: a $20 top that will only end up collecting dust in your closet, or a $60 top you adore and wear once a week? The answer is clear — even though when you’re looking at the price tag, it may not seem that way. When you’re narrowing your wardrobe down to fewer special pieces, you get more out of the pieces you love. You’ll get a better cost per wear, and you’ll have to replace items less often. I used to be the queen of the clearance rack, but now I consider cost per wear. If I won’t wear it, it’s not a good deal, no matter how inexpensive. I’m willing to invest in items I will wear over and over and over.
So price-wise, how does a capsule wardrobe stack up against other wardrobe revamp options?
LESS THAN A PERSONAL SHOPPER
Hiring a personal shopper or fashion consultant can cost you $200 an hour, if not more. And that’s before factoring in the cost of the actual clothes! Does she really get you, your style, and your lifestyle? Or does she have a formula she uses for everyone? Are you learning anything about yourself, or will you feel dependent on her for all future purchases?
LESS THAN A CLOTHING SUBSCRIPTION CLUB
The clothing subscription services are often heralded as the affordable, hassle-free replacement for a personal shopper. However, with a $20 styling fee per box (which can only be used as credit toward one piece), an average price of $55 per item, and no real guarantee whether you’ll be happy with what they pick out for you, it’s not a very cost-effective or reliable way to update your entire wardrobe. Plus, they are really sending everyone the same things. It’s not as customized as you think.
LESS THAN WHAT YOU’RE PROBABLY SPENDING ON CLOTHES RIGHT NOW
Many of the Society members have found that after building and sticking to a capsule wardrobe (or an intentional wardrobe, if capsule wardrobes feel too small), they actually spend less on clothes in general than they used to. That’s all about being more intentional and thoughtful about your clothing purchases and your personal style. Even if you only spend an average of $40 a month on haphazard, screaming-deal clothing purchases — those purchases add up, and they don’t always pay off.
1) Is/would this be in [the Stunning Style Wardrobe] Guide?
2) Does it fill a hole in my wardrobe?
3) Do I really need it?
I passed up cute things that just weren’t one of my best colors/styles. I think the wardrobe savings started today!
SO HOW MUCH DOES A CAPSULE WARDROBE REALLY COST?
Of course, the actual cost of building your capsule wardrobe will depend on a lot of different factors.
I’ve had members who have literally found all of their capsule wardrobe pieces in their closet with the help of my Capsule Wardrobe Guides. For them, building their capsule wardrobe was simply a matter of identifying the Classic Style Twist they loved and then picking the pieces from their closet that fit the bill and putting the rest away.
On the other hand, I’ve had other Society members who bought a lot of new foundational pieces up front because they had finally identified their Classic Style Twist and were ready to cultivate a signature style — but since they were pieces that lasted them across seasons and years, they’ve agreed that it’s totally worth it in the long run. Since their first season, all they’ve had to do was buy a few special items each season to update and refresh their wardrobe.
Each of my Capsule Wardrobe Guides includes 30+ reasonably priced, high-quality pieces, with options catered to your individual Classic Style Twist. In case you don’t already have similar pieces to the ones I suggest, I include multiple shopping links for each item. The Guides also include over 100 outfit combinations using only those versatile pieces.
Many of my Society members only needed to purchase a few items when they started out (though most of them said they could have gotten by without buying any new pieces at all!), and others bought more. Some saved even more money by buying clothes from Poshmark, consignment stores, or thrift shops. Plus, not having to figure any of it out on your own, or walk into a store, and all the extra time having an amazing capsule wardrobe saves? Totally priceless.
Building a curated classically stylish capsule wardrobe that communicates your unique stunning style can cost as little as $50. It’s never been so easy! And never again will you be caught in the trap of buying all new outfits to wear with that wild card item that doesn’t go with anything else you own…or you.
ARE YOU READY FOR SOME CAPSULE WARDROBE INSPIRATION?
If you’ve been nodding along with this article, you may be ready to try a capsule wardrobe. Check out these posts to find more capsule wardrobe inspiration.
Looking for even more inspiration? Discuss capsule wardrobes and classic style with a fun community of like-minded women in the Classic Capsule Conversations Facebook group! You can also follow me on Instagram to see how I wear my capsule wardrobe!