Capsule Wardrobe Volume 2: What’s Hanging in My Closet

I know wearing elaborate, curated outfits can bring real joy to people – and I say go for it. I have friends that like nothing more than to spend hours poring over online shopping sites picking out new clothes. These same friends relish the opportunity to dedicate time – daily! – to make sure their hair, jewelry, and clothing set a specific tone for the day.

This isn’t me.

I appreciate clothing (for both function and basic aesthetic) but it isn’t a focal point. It is very common for me to put on the exact same leggings and shirt (different earrings, though) several days in a row. And I am very content to do so! It cuts down on laundry (I wash my clothes when they’re dirty, promise) and really limits my decision-making. I suspect this would make many people shudder, but it works for me!

Another note – it is perfectly acceptable in my working environment to show up in jeans and a sweater (most of the time I’m working remotely anyway). I realize that work clothes are a major component of many wardrobes but they don’t factor into mine.

Now let’s discuss clothes.

For a clothing item to stay in my closet:

1. It has to fit

For too many years I’ve held on to aspirational clothes. You know what I’m talking about. The dress that will “fit perfectly” when I lose 10 pounds or the pants that will look “just right” when I grow 3 more inches (spoiler alert: I’m not going to get any taller and this problem calls for a seamstress, not more lima beans. Now I either get my pants hemmed immediately or pass them on)!

2. I have to feel contented wearing the clothing

Not every item in my closet sparks joy. I appreciate what Marie Kondo tries to do with her technique, but I definitely have clothes that remain for utilitarian purposes only. That said, I have decided life is too short to wear clothes I hate. It’s shocking it has taken me the better part of three decades (the length of time I’ve had full say over my clothing choices) to come to this conclusion. Anything other than mid/high-rise jeans is a firm no. Anything that requires a camisole will not get near my closet; I no longer own a single camisole (cue gasp) and hate layering (cue bigger gasp).

3. it NEEDS to abide by the 1-in-1-out rule

When something new enters my closet, I almost always let something go (I either hand these items on to friends, consign them, or donate them to thrift stores).

I like to think of my wardrobe as undergoing steady, gradual improvement. You know the stories about people who start with a VW Beetle and trade up until they own a Ferarri. That sort of idea, but with (low-key) clothes and I’m trading up to Banana Republic, not Gucci – though I don’t give two hoots about the branding.

Because I have so few clothes (comparatively to others in my demographic; obviously I have far more clothes than I need), I know exactly what I have, the shape they’re in (e.g. is anything starting to stretch or wear thin), and I can be on the lookout for an “upgrade”.

4. IT HAS TO FIT MY formula

I know I like dark colours. I know I like flowing, thin-knit sweaters.

Since I know what I like, I generally stick within those confines when shopping. (I recently bought a hot pink coat, but can more than handle that pop of colour in my wardrobe because so much of what I own is in my comfort zone.)

Maybe I’ll enter a season of life where we’re living in a warmer climate (right now that sounds…amazing) and I can ditch the sweaters and long pants? Maybe I’ll get to a point in my life where I crave constant colour and bright patterned prints?

But, for now, I’ve identified what works and I stick with that, boring though it may be!

Where I get MY clothes + THRIFTING STRATEGY

My clothes come, almost exclusively, from consignment/thrift stores.

I don’t like shopping, but find thrifting to be low stress at the two SMALL stores I frequent. Most thrift stores are overwhelming, dusty, and cluttered. I have found two local places I love, and that is where I source almost everything in my closet.

Years ago, a friend and I started spending a few hours every week at our favourite thrift store. Our kids were in the same Friday-evening extracurricular and we would carpool and then spend a happy (and hilarious – some of the clothes we’ve seen just boggle the mind) hour or two browsing.

Visiting often is the easiest way to source clothes at thrift stores. I’m now in a rotation of going 6-8 times/year. Because I have a minimal closet, I have a good handle on exactly where there might be any gaps (I wanted a puffer coat, I knew Abby needed a new robe and some fuzzy leggings for under her snowpants). I didn’t go to the store with any of these specific items in mind, but because I have a running list of the things we need, I’m always on the hunt.

Longevity of clothes

I think I’m relatively “easy” on clothes. Lots of the items pictured below I’ve had, and worn consistently, for years. Multiple items are almost 10 years old. If it’s still in my closet it means I haven’t lost interest.

Much like I can eat the same meal over and over, I’m quite content to wear the same neutral pieces regularly.

breaking down my wardrobe

Without further ado, here is my “capsule” wardrobe.

  • This is exactly what I have hanging in my closet. I store my jogging pants (2 pairs), lined splash pants (1 pair), capri running tights (3 pairs), spandex (2 pairs), and pajama bottoms (1 pair) in my dresser.
  • I have about 15 items in a basement closet. This includes summer dresses/skirts, most of my t-shirts (which I don’t need this time of year in Canada), and capri pants. Shorts (3 pairs? I think) and bathing suits (3) are stored in a small tote in my storage room. I like to ONLY have clothing I’m wearing or is seasonally appropriate hanging in my bedroom closet.

PANTS | I have three pairs of jeans; two black, one blue. If I’m not wearing one of these “dressy” pants, I’m in some form of loungewear like joggers. Pants are tough; I have ample hips and a smaller waist and high rise fits are really the only solution for me. Even still, pants are my nemesis. These three are all high-rise and as comfortable as I’ve managed to find.

The grey and blue sweaters are workhorses for me. They are both fitted but not tight and hit at just the right place on my hips. I love the neck detail and the pop of bright orange on the cuff of the blue (Reebok) shirt.

The two turtlenecks I bought on the same day at a thrift store years ago. I still wear them regularly. The material is stretchy in all the right ways. They’re quite long, but because of the fabric I usually just tuck in the front and let the back hang down.

My “dressier” sweaters. Nothing overly exciting, but I like the beige one in particular.

There’s the grey cable-knit sweater.
The blue striped sweater.

I only have two T-shirts in my closet right now because I live in Canada and it is depressingly cold. I have a few “dressy” short-sleeved shirts and then a handful of exercise T-shirts in the guest room closet which will enter circulation as the weather warms up.

I wear both of the sweaters on the right a lot. The one with the button detail is new-to-me from a recent thrift store outing.

I wore this green shirt three days in a row. It’s comfy and…why think more about clothes? If I was going to be out and around people (other than my family who, thankfully, don’t complain) I’d change things up, but since I’m either home or going out covered in about 3,000 layers, that wasn’t relevant. Oh, and hello there, drywall hole. Remember, I don’t do everything!

In the summer I really enjoy wearing dresses because I find them so much more comfortable than pants. But in the winter, the only time I wear skirts or dresses is to church.

The green dress on the far right is likely the clothing item I’ve owned the longest – I’ve been wearing (and loving) this dress for almost a decade now! I wore it for family pictures when Abby was a toddler; I wore it to a preschool party when Levi was 2 weeks old. I wore it to church last Christmas Eve.

The green dress; Abby was about 3 years old and woke up sick in the middle of the night on the day my friend was to take our family pictures. I love the pictures from that day, but wow was I tired.

Skirts – I don’t wear these much in the winter. When I do, I wear a shirt tucked in. Everything is A-line for me because of body-type.

The items below are all placeholders. I don’t use any of them very frequently, but they serve enough of a purpose, I haven’t yet let them go to a new home. The two white sweaters + the robe were passed along by a friend, and the Ground Control To Major Tom t-shirt was a work-specific purchase (new), but all the other items pictured in this post were purchased at thrift stores (not even consignment!) for under $10/item.

And that’s it!

What about you – do you love putting together outfits and appreciate a full closet? Or, do you tend more to a minimalistic approach? (There is no right or wrong answer!)

Header photo by Andrej Lišakov on Unsplash

26 thoughts on “Capsule Wardrobe Volume 2: What’s Hanging in My Closet”

  1. I love this! I remember when you bought those turtlenecks. 😄 You know I’m right with you in terms of acquiring clothing. Thrifting is so satisfying. Need to get back to Frenchys and search out a swimsuit soon!

    1. Such great thrifting memories. I am all over a Frenchy’s run. Let’s schedule it in for late March and find you a swimsuit!

  2. Yes, I’m also a clothes minimalist and wear the same things over and over again. For some reason clothes have always been challenging to me- I’ll think I have it figured out but a year later I’ll look at a shirt and think “I thought I looked good in THAT?” There’s a part of me that keeps thinking I’ll someday magically figure out how to dress- considering that I’m 55, that’s bad. But you’re inspiring me to go through my closet and get rid of a bunch of stuff. I wish you could come with me to a thrift store and help me shop!

    1. I wish I could help you clean out your closet!!! Thrifting is a means to an end for me (I do enjoy it, but mostly enjoy sourcing clothes inexpensively!)…but clearing out a closet is just downright thrilling for me. Given the choice between a bag of chips and a messy closet, I think I’d actually pick the messy closet (and you know how I feel about chips).

  3. So fun to see! I have WAY too many clothes, yet feel like I still have plenty of clothing “issues”. I struggle to get rid of things- “what if I need that??”, and have unfortunately had this fear reinforced by occasionally getting rid of something, and then actually finding that I wished I had it!!! I also would like to slowly “upgrade” my wardrobe, as you said (also not looking to go Gucci, though 😉

    Pants are also my big nemesis. UGH, seriously, the struggle is SO REAL. Pants tend to just either be too short for me, fit weird in the thighs on me, need constant “readjusting” when I stand up/sit down or just feel really uncomfortable. I have actually wondered if I have some kind of sensory problem or something, because I just feel so hyperaware of the feeling of real pants on me that it drives me bonkers. I have the worst time finding pants that just feel “right”. (And, simultaneously look right.) I look around and see lots of people wearing pants/ jeans (obviously!) and always wonder if they feel comfortable in their pants? lol!! I refrain from going up and asking. hahaha.

    Totally with you on the re-wearing of outfits. I am perfectly happy to wear the same shirt/ sweatshirt/ legging combo multiple days in a row. I mean, it’s cold out, I’m not sweating…why not?! If I do a lighter (not super sweaty) workout, I will often fold that same sports bra/workout top when I’m done and plan to wear it the next day again.

    1. I have definitely gotten rid of things and then regretted it!
      I think pants, universally, are the most hated clothing item of women everywhere. WHO wears the pants that get designed? Every single person I know has trouble buying pants off a rack. Who buys these pants? I am really doubting you have any sensory problem at all and are just 100% normal because pants are objectively terrible.
      One of the things I like most about thrifting is the fact I often find higher quality pants and these tend to fit better (better suited to curves). I cannot walk in to a place like Walmart or Old Navy and get pants off the rack. I’m also quite short and find a lot of petite-length pants at thrift stores as well? The pants I have are relatively comfortable, but I still can’t wait to get out of them at the end of the day and in to something with an elastic waist.
      I won’t tell you how long post-delivery I wore pregnancy jeans. That flexible belly panel was genius and some of my maternity pants were the most comfortable pants I’ve ever worn…

  4. My wardrobe is pretty small. It’s not as small as yours, but it’s not huge. I have a fair number of dresses for the summer, but in the winter I mostly wear Smartwool underlayers and some Betabrand pants. I also rewear the same clothes over and over again, particularly in the winter because I’m not sweating through/getting sunscreen, bug spray on those clothes.

    But, as I’ve said before, my accessories are out of control. I have more scarves and necklaces than one person really should, but it’s harder for me to get rid of those things than it is for me to just chuck yet another pair of jeans that doesn’t fit me right.

    1. I know you mentioned the scarves before (which have deep sentimental attachments + sound like they’re downright lovely) and having a lot of necklaces. I’m curious if you mind having that many? If you love everything you have (even if you don’t wear it), why feel any pressure to downsize it?
      I like having very few clothes and only ones that fit/I feel comfortable wearing, but I know lots of people that genuinely like having a lot of clothes and I think that’s great too. If the only reason to downsize your clothes/scarves/necklaces is because of a self-perceived societal pressure, I’d ignore it completely. If, on the other hand, it actually weighs you down mentally in some way, then it might make sense to curate your collection?

    2. I recently heard of the concept of “quarantining” items you may want to live without for a period of time. This gives you the opportunity to see if you miss those items and if you enjoy having fewer things in a particular space.

      1. I do this (putting in-season items in the downstairs guest closet)! I’ve also tried the “turn the hangers around” trick – the idea being if you don’t turn the hanger back facing the right way after X amount of time you should get rid of those items but I just really don’t like having anything I’m not actively using in my closet…which means I really should move the white sweaters and black blazer downstairs! Even the skirts right now are just not getting any wear, though I want to keep those as I know I do have occasional reason to wear them.

  5. I definitely do not have a capsule wardrobe, but it’s something I aspire to have some day. In the last 5 years, I’ve gone from being very fit/trim for my wedding, then pregnant, then pumping, then trying to get pregnant, then pregnant, and now I am still nursing although I am trying to wean Will before I have a work trip in late April. Add in the fact that I’ve been WFH for 2 years and, well, that is a lot of change – both in my body and in the world around us. My company has really relaxed our dress code. We can now “dress for our day.” So theoretically, I could wear jeans every day, but most of my colleagues don’t. And I have client calls, so I need to look presentable from the waist up, but that doesn’t mean wearing a business suit. The expectations were relaxed while we worked from home but I would like to step things up a bit when I am back in the office. I went through all of my clothes earlier this winter and I have so many that fit so I really need to figure out what to keep/what to sell/what to donate. I feel like I need to be completely done BF’ing before I made many decisions, though. So maybe by summer I can go through my closet again and figure out what to keep. I also want to hire a wardrobe consultant to help me figure out how to combine outfits. I mostly wear fitted pants, crew-neck sweaters, and dresses. I have a bunch of skirts but I wonder why because I find it difficult to pair the right shirt w/ each skirt. I love wearing dresses and wear them year-round. I just wear tights with the dresses in the winter. My issue is that I can never dress for the spring/summer season because I am ALWAYS FREEZING! So I need long sleeve things or I need to wear a cardigan over things. Otherwise I will just freeze at work. I love being home and having a space heater next to me, though!

    1. Clothes in a work context can really set the mood (e.g. this is why in a church where most attendees where jeans and a sweater, I still wear dresses – not because of any form of legalism, but because it really helps me enter into worship; I feel better when I take the time to dress up!).
      I know SHU and a few other bloggers in that sphere had great experiences with the wardrobe consultant (LagLiv – a lawyer – as well, I think – who SHU mentions sometimes).

      I’m always cold too. Aside from the space heater, it’s why almost everything in my closet right now is long-sleeved…

  6. I’ve seen a few posts about blogger’s clothes lately, and I still haven’t been able to figure out how people are not cold all the time! All winter I wear sweatpants or lined leggings, and a long sleeve shirt plus a sweatshirt or fleece. Also a scarf and a hat inside at times. Maybe we just keep our house really cold?? Anyway, I do like your style and approach to clothes! I see a lot of blue in there, and I do the same. I only buy clothes that are blue/green/purple/gray/black.

    I also love when brown-haired people end up with blond kids. Genetics!

    1. We do keep our house relatively warm (I’m still cold). I sometimes wear a puffer coat inside (or my robe).
      I’m often cold, but layering doesn’t seem to help – it’s like I just get cold to the bone regardless of how I dress. It has been better this year as we did some big renovations (new windows/insulation) and I think the house is a lot less drafty overall.
      We also have a space heater in the office and I take long, hot showers at night.
      I am definitely Team Dark Colours!

  7. Thanks for sharing! My wardrobe is a mish mash right now. The pandemic, breaking a toe last year and the weather have meant a gain in several pounds. That then impacts wardrobe choices. My goal as spring emerges, if it every does is to get out walking more and get back to more choices in my closet. I am very slowly trying to upgrade to pieces I love that are also good for the planet. I have bought a couple of local slow fashion pieces, but they can be quite expensive. I will search for a thrift or consignment shop to hopefully give myself some more options. I am also Team Dark Colours.
    I am also cold in the winter – I almost always have some form of long sweater on or if casual then a fleece.

    1. Remember that song from elementary school: This Is The Song That Never Ends.
      Well…2022 where I live has been This Is The Winter That Never Ends.
      So sorry about the broken toe – ugh!

  8. Ooh, I love this post! I would absolutely LOVE to get to this point with my wardrobe.
    Your clothes are gorgeous, very similar to my own style!
    My own wardrobe is overflowing with far too many clothes. Things that I “think” I will get around to wearing. In reality, I wear the same few things over and over again.
    In fact, when we went to the caravan this last weekend, I thought I had packed my clothes and actually all I’d done was sort one basket of clean laundry and added some of those things (fortunately, all the underwear I’d need for the weekend) to the caravan bag. I packed no actual changes of clothes for myself. Hubby suggested we should go shopping for me, and I was like, erm, I’m fine in the same clothes for a weekend!? So high five on washing things when dirty and not just because they’ve been worn once!
    I’ve written about my favourite hoodie, which is so old it is now transparent with thinness, and has holes in…. but remains my absolute favourite top. I probably wear that 5 out of 7 days every week, with a black or white vest top and jeans. I only ever wear one pair of jeans at a time (even though I own other pairs), I just wash and wear until they literally fall apart.
    Hmm.. I’m going to give this some more thought because I love the idea of downsizing my wardrobe!

    1. I like wearing the same thing over and over (sounds like you do too!) so it just makes my life easier to only have things I wear a lot in my wardrobe – if not I just end up feeling guilty or dreading looking at my closet!
      I also, in general, don’t like choice. I’d rather go to a restaurant with two options than a restaurant with 15 options. So I think this is a great way to eliminate one source of (daily) choices.
      I also wear my jeans until they are in tatters. They’re so hard to find (for me) and so when I find a pair that works…I just wear them into the ground!

  9. This was fun! My closet is overflowing. I *should* do one in, one out, but I don’t. Well, I love clothes, what can I say. I’m glad this approach works so well for you! I think having clothes that fit and that you feel good in is the number one key to personal style. There is absolutely no sense wasting space on clothes that don’t fit, or that you don’t wear/ love. I like that Major Tom tee, very cute.

    1. Meh. Why do one-in-one-out if you love clothes? (My Mom has two closets OVERFLOWING, and I just cannot imagine doing this, but it works for her – though, I still find she wears the same 2-3 outfits on repeat but has dozens and dozens more outfits than I do.)
      And yes to having clothes that fit/feel confident being the number one key to finding a personal style.
      The Major Tom t-shirt is pretty cool. My husband works in drone tech and one area his company specializes in is ground control points (GCPs) which the astronaut is holding in the picture…they produced these shirts as part of a charity fundraiser so we bought matching shirts for the whole family!

  10. I just got a chance to catch up with you and imagine my surprise that you wrote about clothes, style, tactics. Having recently shared a quiz about that very thing I feel like you’ve taken it to the next level here.

    In answer to your questions: 1) I only like putting together outfits if I can do it quickly, no dawdling, no indecision; and 2) I tend toward a minimalistic approach to my wardrobe hoping that someday I’ll have fewer clothes, only ones that I adore wearing.

    1. Well, I love it anytime someone manages to find a way to sneak the word “dawdle” into a sentence, but I agree about NOT wanting to dawdle over clothes. I wouldn’t say I “adore” many of my clothes, but I do feel comfortable/presentable in everything I own. It would be nice to “adore” everything, but that doesn’t seem feasible in a climate where I have to dress so specifically for the weather. It is hard to adore bulky snow gear…although some is admittedly much more fashionable than what I own.

  11. This – like your earlier post – is just fascinating. I had no idea but I am apparently in the minority of people who do not wear things twice – other than bras, for some reason. That’s it. Oh, and things like fleeces and sweatshirts – those do not get washed every time. Nor do “real pants” but since I rarely wear those anymore (one good thing to come out of COVID!) they’re not really relevant anymore. 🙂
    I agree with Sarah, above – I cannot fathom wearing so few layers, particularly living where you do. I just want to put all the heavy sweaters in your closet so you will at least LOOK warm from my POV! Your clothes are quite lovely – and I do appreciate that you are focusing on quality over quantity. I need to be better about that, myself. I also love that you keep clothing for a long time – I do the same, myself, once I find things that I like that work for me. That… doesn’t always happen, unfortunately!

    This topic actually dovetails with the post I am drafting about why there are no photos on my blog – that will be an interesting one, connecting photography to clothing. Not quite sure how I will pull that off – we’ll see, I suppose!

    Stay warm – spring is almost here!

    1. It sounds like you actually wear lots of things multiple times!
      I think this has as much to do with how much I loathe doing big loads of laundry as it does with my minimalistic ideals!

      I know my lack of layering seems strange, but I honestly find I get just as cold with lots of extra layers, oddly enough. I’m either warm or cold (at the core level) and it doesn’t seem to really matter how many layers I wear. Though, I’ll admit right now I have on snowpants AND my puffer coat as I sit in the basement office catching up on work (except for this break to check blog comments – haha).

      I’ve never thought of my clothes as “lovely” but what a sweet comment. I do find I get good quality clothes at thrift stores because they tend to be name brands (ironically enough?!) that people donate.

      Looking forward to reading your post. Sounds like a fascinating topic.

      And yes, spring is coming. It’s slowly starting to thaw in this part of the world.

  12. I enjoy these posts so much. I lean towards a minimalist wardrobe (although I definitely have a lot of things to get rid off and I desperately want to pair down to the things I REALLY wear most of the time). This is a good reminder… and I really like the your way of approaching the decision if something stays in your closet or not. I have a bunch of sentimental pieces that I love (from afar) but almost never wear and I know that it would be wise to just let them go.
    I’ve lived in my workout attire for most of the last two years and when I was still going to the office, there really wasn’t a dress code (let’s face it: scientists are not the most fashionably dressed usually – haha), so jeans and t-shirts/sweaters were always fine.

    1. I LOVE clearing clutter and of all my favourite things to clear out, clothes is near the top of the list.
      A very interesting point – and not something many people have mentioned – about having sentimental pieces of clothing. I really don’t. I have one dress I love that was my mother’s – but I wear it every summer A LOT (it’s the polka-dot dress in my profile picture in the sidebar). Other than that…I can’t think of anything I’m sentimental about. I sold my wedding dress, so even that traditionally sentimental clothing item has been out of my closet for years and years.
      I like dressing up occasionally, but don’t think I’d handle it well daily. I really, really like to be comfortable and tend to get cold easily in traditionally “dressy” clothes.

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