A capsule wardrobe experiment (part 1)


Although I buy and discard clothes fairly regularly, my person style hasn’t changed much in the last ten years. It’s a little bit all over the place but is mostly leggings with dresses and boots, worn with layers of cardigans and scarves and beaded jewellery. These days, I’m feeling a bit of a disconnect. I am craving more simplicity – less colours and patterns. I am also just not wanting to dress in the same way as I did when I was in my early twenties. Now unable to deny that I am in fact, in the latter half of this decade (I turn 28 in June), I want to have a more grown up style.

Whenever I have felt inspired to change the way I dress in the past I have immediately rushed out on a shopping trip. I buy a few items that are “different” and then these items get put into my regular wardrobe and have generally been worn as part of a very familiar looking outfit. This time, I have approached it like the grown up I want to be: with stated aims, numbered lists, and a budget.

A few weeks ago I was wandering Primark during my lunch break, and finding myself drawn to the white shirts and black skinny jeans. “I would love to have a smart, tailored wardrobe, based around that silhouette,” I thought to myself (I spend a lot of time thinking about clothes). “But it’s so different to what I currently wear. How can I explore this side to myself without throwing everything out and starting again?”

On my walk back to the office, I wondered if an approach similar to Project 333 might be the way to do it. I have tried (and failed) to do Project 333 in the past, but that was different. I was doing it because other people I like on the internet were doing it, and that seemed as good a reason as any. Now, I want to use it as a tool to help me explore a new style idea I have.

How I designed my capsule wardrobe.

    1. I set a time frame. Unlike project 333, I chose 2 rather than 3 months for my experiment. This was partly to make it less scary, and partly based on the weather. I didn’t want to include summer dresses or shorts in my capsule wardrobe, but hoped (this is all you can do in the UK) that it would be warm enough to wear them in June. And then I couldn’t wait until April to get started, so my time frame is 2 and a half months.
    2. I wrote list of everything I would like in my “ideal wardrobe” based on the look I wanted. It was important for me to start with this list, not with my existing wardrobe. I made this mistake in the past, and the initial inspiration gets waylaid with thinking about all the clothes that you own and like, and how to make the idea fit those clothes. To do this, I wrote “wardrobe component” headings – skinny jeans, tank tops, shirts, over sized jumpers and cardigans – and then worked out how many of these I would need to have a workable wardrobe between each time I do laundry (about once a week). Like Project 333, I excluded workout clothes and clothes to sleep in from this list. Unlike Project 333, I also chose not to count jewellery.
    3. I went down my list marking whether this was something I already owned, or whether it was something I would need to buy. I also (mainly to see how I compared to the Project 333 thirty three items) added up how many items were in each category and in total. At this point, I added a few things into my list. For example, red jeans didn’t enter into my original list, but I have some and they fit into the overall “look”.
    4. I then made a shopping list based on what I needed to buy. As this wardrobe is quite different to my usual style, I was surprised that I only needed to buy 5 items. That probably demonstrates a) that a lot of clothes are very versatile b) that this wasn’t as a dramatic a change in style as I thought.
    5. I set a budget. Even if money is no problem for you, I think setting a budget for your capsule wardrobe experiment is a good idea, but that might be because I love structure and rules! Anyway, money is an issue for me, mainly because of all the other exciting things I want to do this year (honeymoon, start a masters degree). I chose a fairly low budget of £50, because I’m also going skiing and getting a tattoo finished this month.
    6. I packed up all the clothes that weren’t in my capsule wardrobe. I found this harder than I thought I would, and kept wanting to add things into my capsule wardrobe. But I didn’t, reminding myself that this is just an experiment – I’ll see them again soon!
    7. I went shopping! This is the fun part. I set out on Saturday afternoon, and only managed to buy three items before the crowds drove me home. But I have what I need to start, and can get other items in my lunch breaks, if needed.
    8. I started wearing it and collecting compliments. On the first day, almost everyone I met told me that I “looked smart” or complimented me on my shirt. I’m looking forward to the challenge of dressing with less in the next 2 and a half months, and of trying out a new style.

This is part one of my capsule wardrobe post. In part two I share a breakdown of my wardrobe, and the results of my shopping trip.

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