How big is too big for a capsule wardrobe?

My thanks to Amber for her kind comments and question on the Fashion Forum page.

Amber asked “how much is too much” for a capsule wardrobe – and how many items should be updated each season?

I have found that when people feel they’ve over-bought, it’s generally because they’ve gone shopping without a good plan and budget for what they need. Or because they’ve not sought the help and advice of someone who is knowledgeable to help them implement the plan.

I think the ideal size of your capsule will depend from person to person.  There’s no hard and fast rules, here – the principle is that less is more so really what you’re trying to do is to make the most of your budget to create a working wardrobe with high quality clothes that will be sufficient for your lifestyle.

For example, if your job is one that involves travelling a lot, and all you’re really doing is travelling from office to airport, you could replace a heavy winter coat with a warm raincoat which has a dual purpose and can be used all year round. Accessorise with a scarf for extra warmth.

However, if you walk a lot, you’ll need a heavy winter coat.

If you’re going to be in hotels where laundry services can be dodgy, then instead of three shirts or tops for a typical week, you might need five or six.

If you’re starting to build a capsule wardrobe of high quality clothes from scratch, then the most practical place to start would be a coat or raincoat; a trouser suit and a skirt suit, made in fabrics that can be separated so that with an extra plain skirt or trousers you have virtually a whole week’s wardrobe; and shirts/tops as described above.

If your budget stretches to it, I’d go for at least three pairs of shoes (and I don’t include sandals or boots in here) as these are something that tend not to get replaced each year.  Having said that, as heel heights change you may need to add a pair each year.

If budget allows, I’d invest in a pair of boots in the winter as they can be worn under trousers or with dresses and skirts.

I’m not including evening wear as I don’t consider it part of a capsule wardrobe; although if you are short of money I’d suggest you ensure one of  the suits you buy is dark so it  could double up if you have an unexpected dinner to attend.

Of course, if the budget allows, a classic little black dress will last you for years – as it can be accessorised in lots of different ways.

Generally, we don’t think in terms of replacing items each season. Well chosen, the items in your capsule should last for many seasons, so what you buy each season should be adding to the capsule.

If budget is an issue, you can economise on tops, but even if you’re on a tight budget the three things you should invest in are jackets, skirts and trousers. And if you’re planning what you need in advance, you can make the most of the sales to pick up high quality clothes at lower prices that you’ll wear a lot; so get on the mailing list of your favourite shop and you’ll generally benefit from the first pick of the bargains.

(For more capsule wardrobe tips, click on the capsule wardrobe category link and you can read all the previous posts on the subject)

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