June 11, 2017


Have you ever stood in front of your closet and felt like you have nothing to wear, even though your closet is filled with clothes?  Me too.

A few years ago, I became really overwhelmed by the sheer amount of laundry, dry cleaning, clothes that didn't make me feel good about myself, and pieces that were hard to match.  I sold, donated, or tossed over 150 items from my closet, and I have completely no regrets.  Having a limited but mindful capsule wardrobe has saved me time, efficiency and money.

A capsule (or minimalist) wardrobe is based upon key investment pieces that work well with a limited amount of items in your wardrobe.  The outfit combinations can take you from work to weekend events, based on your current lifestyle and body shape.  It's about getting as much dollar per wear out of your clothing, restyling them in new ways and shopping more intently.  In the end, you'll find that you're not buying necessary items and will end up saving money.

With a minimalist wardrobe, I am able to mix and match color-coordinated clothing quickly without giving too much thought.  No matter how tired I am when I get up, I know I can easily get dressed and feel confident that I look presentable.  By keeping things streamlined, I am more motivated to maximize wearing each item.  Because I love everything that I own, I feel like I have more incentive to keep it neatly organized.

This is my entire wardrobe for all four season.  There aren't any other pieces of clothing in other bins, drawers or closets.  This is it.  I realize that if I see everything that I own, I will wear it more likely and won't waste money buying a similar piece several months down the road.

The San Francisco Bay Area is a relatively mild climate, where the summers are rarely higher than 90 degrees and the winters don't drop below the mid 30s.  However if I'm in a location where the weather is more extreme, I end up layering items that I already own.

Here are the steps I took on how to build my year-round minimalist wardrobe.  This project may take a few hours to complete, so I would not suggest starting late at night.  Otherwise, you might end up sleeping on top of your clothes before you have a chance to sort everything out.

Start with a clean slate by emptying out your entire closet(s) and putting everything on the bed.  Once you can visually see everything that you have, you can start sorting it into 3 groups.

2  ::  PILE #1 - LOVE
Put back all the items that you absolutely love into the closet.  These are the pieces that fit you well and give you a confidence boost.  You know that you're going to be wearing this over and over again.

I like to group things by category and by color.  For instance, my closet order from left to right are:  tank tops, short sleeves, long sleeves, skirts, pants, dresses, blazers, jackets and then coats.  Each category (i.e. tank tops) are organized from light to dark.

Finding things and getting dressed is now much easier.

3  ::  PILE #2 - TOSS / RECYCLE
Items that are worn out, torn, need mending, ill-fitting, and faded are put aside.


Sell or donate items in good condition that no longer fit or are no longer appropriate for your lifestyle.   But before doing so, go through each piece and analyze why you don't like it.  This is a good way to learn from your mistakes so you don't waste your time and money the next time you see a similar item at the store.

After observing all of my piles, I was able to determine common brands, cuts, or fabrics that work best for me.  I also reflected on my current lifestyle.

I'm 5'2" & slightly curvy.  I do well with clothes that hug closer to my body in order to show off my figure.  Loose fitting tops make me look top heavy and pregnant.  In the past, I've actually been asked in more than one occasion if I was pregnant when I was wearing a flowy top.  I was definitely NOT pregnant.  Lesson learned - never again will I wear something of that could be mistaken for maternity-wear.

I've developed some "shopping rules" to stick to whenever I go shopping.  I keep these notes in a Google Doc so I can access it anywhere I go.  That way, I don't get distracted by all the pretty clothes at the store and avoid buying something that doesn't suit my needs.

Example - My Shopping Rules List:
  • Cut:  Lower neckline, sharply tailored jackets, narrow fit bottoms
  • Fabric: 
    • Natural, breathable fabrics that are easy to launder and don't require ironing.  
    • Knitwear tends to shrink over time, so I will no longer be purchasing when they become worn out.  
  • Color/ Patterns:  I like neutrals colors (i.e. black, white, navy, blush pink, olive, etc.)  Patterns are kept to a minimum.  I like small defined stripes.
  • Brands that Make the Best Cuts for My Body Type:
    • Tops: I'm not as picky about specific brands for tops.  High or low end is less of a concern.  I don't find a specific brand of tops that fit me the best.  But I do feel that Zara and Banana Republic make great basic tops with some special details.  
    • Bottom: Zara, JBrand, Hudson, Joe's Jeans, Diane Von Furstenburg 
    • Dresses: Diane Von Furstenburg, Rebecca Taylor
    • Jackets/ Blazers: Theory, Rebecca Minkoff, Zara
  • Wish List (Items I'm looking to add/ replace in my wardrobe):  Black blazer; workout tops

Look for a style icons that inspire you.  Is there a celebrity, model, or friend who embodies the style you're trying to achieve?  Collect images of them on Pinterest & Instagram, or YouTube video, and analyze what it is about them that makes you most attracted to their look.  It may be the way they drape their coat over their shoulders, the way their t-shirt is tucked, or the length of their pant hits the top of their ankle.  This will help you narrow down a pattern on what look you're trying to accomplish.  It also helps you stay focused on pieces you want in your closet vs. getting distracted & wasting money on trendy items that don't work with your wardrobe.

My inspirations include Rebecca Minkoff (designer), Emmanuelle Alt (Editor-in-Chief for French Vogue) and Melanie Huynh (fashion stylist; a former French Vogue editor).  They all look effortlessly chic and comfortable, wearing a neutral palette with streamlined cuts and some edgy rocker details.

Once you are ready to add new pieces to your wardrobe, consider the following before purchasing.  Does the cut/ color/ fabric work well with your existing clothes and with your lifestyle?  Try to buy items that are multifunctional.  Can you wear it for work, weekend and/or maybe a date?

In order to maintain a minimalist wardrobe, I regularly review my closet to see if items are faded, need to be repaired, don't fit, or look tired.  If it's something that I find I am just not reaching for, I will consider selling or donating that piece.  Making sure that items are put back in it's proper place (i.e. hung or neatly folded) after the laundry is clean is a good way to review your inventory.

By reviewing your wardrobe regularly, you'll notice some of the pieces may be pushed to the back of the closet.  You can pull those items out, look at them, and you are then more likely to wear them.  This maximizes your dollar per wear on those forgotten pieces.

You should love every item in your capsule wardrobe.  Each piece should make you look and feel your best.

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