Making A Wardrobe Capsule

We face choices many times per day but making decisions can be stressful, especially for a perfectionist like me.  I have learned that I make many decisions by process of elimination. Having too many choices overwhelms me so I must narrow the choices down by eliminating whole groups of items as I consider what is required of my choice.  

You may be like me in that you have a lot of clothes.  Standing in my closet to choose an outfit is befuddling because there are hundreds if not thousands of combination possibilities. I have stood for long periods of time like a deer in the headlights just staring at my clothes.  There have been times that I got so tired of standing there that I finally just sat down on the floor to wait for an outfit to materialize. I began to dread getting dressed each day.  It was ridiculous to the point that I knew I had to do something to fix this (first world) problem. Necessity is definitely the mother of invention.

My dilemma is partly due to the way I shop.  I am a Maxxinista.  TJ Maxx just has the things I like and most items are $10, $20, and $30 each! The return policy liberates me to take things home knowing it will be no problem to return them if I decide against keeping them (and you’d better buy it if you MIGHT want it because it most likely will not be there when you go back for it.  “Never the same place twice.”). My wardrobe is almost completely from TJ Maxx except for the beauties I get from the Talbots or Ann Taylor/Loft outlets I visit once or twice a year.  The problem with the way I shop is that I buy single pieces at a time which puts the burden on me to make outfits out of them.  It can be a fun burden but takes skill if I want to look put together.

This chore of making outfits helps me see the necessity of a wardrobe capsule. If I could separate my wardrobe into groups of items that go together, getting dressed would be so much simpler.  

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With the arrival of fall, I layed out all my fallish items.  From there, I made outfits and took pictures of them as flat lays.  I didn’t spend a lot of time making them artistic; I just wanted to see the items together. It took a lot of time and energy as I switched one part of an outfit with other options and climbed on and off the chair on which I stood to take pictures with my phone. Sometimes when I see a nice outfit on someone or on a mannequin, I have the thought that I never would have put those pieces together but it looks really good.  I tried to throw out my preconceived notions while putting outfits together during this process to allow me to discover combinations I normally wouldn’t make. It really did help me consider new options.

 I have been eagerly anticipating wearing these wide-legged capris this fall. I think any of these combinations would work and I can switch the capris out for my faux leather olive drab skirt. This exercise saved the flesh colored top in the lower middle picture; I was about to chunk it because I had never worn it but now I have used it several times after making these outfits.

I have been eagerly anticipating wearing these wide-legged capris this fall. I think any of these combinations would work and I can switch the capris out for my faux leather olive drab skirt. This exercise saved the flesh colored top in the lower middle picture; I was about to chunk it because I had never worn it but now I have used it several times after making these outfits.

 I thought these salmon-colored pants would be a good transition color from summer to autumn but I didn’t like any of my styling options so I returned them.

I thought these salmon-colored pants would be a good transition color from summer to autumn but I didn’t like any of my styling options so I returned them.

 Wondering if this is my style anymore.

Wondering if this is my style anymore.

 I like this skirt but the black blouse is the only one I like with it. Everything else is ho-hum. I’m starting to think it has something to do with pulling out the blocks of color—too much vying for attention.

I like this skirt but the black blouse is the only one I like with it. Everything else is ho-hum. I’m starting to think it has something to do with pulling out the blocks of color—too much vying for attention.

These pictures helped me see things that were right in front of my eyes all along.  It reminded me of when I chose my wedding china.  I would float my eyes across those great walls of china and through many glossy brochures but the same pattern caught my eye every time.  That’s how I knew it was the one.  The same happened as I flipped through my outfit photos: “blah, blah, blah, Oooo, I like this one!” I’m not excited and confident to wear “blah.” Life’s too short and I have too many choices for that.  I want to dress every day in “Ooooo!”

 I have owned this skirt for several years and never worn it. It seems like a good thing to have, right? And there’s Valentine’s Day, Christmas, Patriotic occasions. You can see how the jackets change the outfit completely. Should I keep it if I have to work so hard to like it? This process also showed me that the gray blouse in the lower middle picture can come off as lavender.

I have owned this skirt for several years and never worn it. It seems like a good thing to have, right? And there’s Valentine’s Day, Christmas, Patriotic occasions. You can see how the jackets change the outfit completely. Should I keep it if I have to work so hard to like it? This process also showed me that the gray blouse in the lower middle picture can come off as lavender.

 I could go for any of these. Which is your favorite?

I could go for any of these. Which is your favorite?

 Several of these can be dressed up or down with accessories.

Several of these can be dressed up or down with accessories.

That was a very telling process, but the process wasn’t over.  There’s a difference in how clothes look flat on a bed and how they look on my body. The color may not flatter me. The top may hit my hips at the widest point. It may be too tight or too loose. There are a myriad of other problems that could be revealed when I try them on but I’d rather discover them at this point than when I’m trying to get out of the door.

 Left: I liked this outfit better on the bed than on me. I am reminded why I stopped tucking shirts in: it adds bulk just where you don’t want it.  Middle: This soft, casual jacket finishes the look nicely and brings down the formality of the blouse. However, it also hides the detail on the blouse cuffs which is the best part.  Right: This is a casual look that could be dressed down further with less formal shoes. The knit tank top reveals the distracting lines at the top of my skirt though.

Left: I liked this outfit better on the bed than on me. I am reminded why I stopped tucking shirts in: it adds bulk just where you don’t want it.

Middle: This soft, casual jacket finishes the look nicely and brings down the formality of the blouse. However, it also hides the detail on the blouse cuffs which is the best part.

Right: This is a casual look that could be dressed down further with less formal shoes. The knit tank top reveals the distracting lines at the top of my skirt though.

 While you are trying on, experiment a little. These pictures show the difference in wearing a white versus a gray tank top underneath this sheer blouse. I prefer the gray.

While you are trying on, experiment a little. These pictures show the difference in wearing a white versus a gray tank top underneath this sheer blouse. I prefer the gray.

I photographed the outfit on me in the mirror. While I had it on, I experimented with accessories which told me which elements I lacked to finish the outfit. These items went promptly onto a shopping list. Now I know exactly what I need. Many of those times sitting in front of my closet, I was putting together outfits in my mind but they fell apart when I realized that I didn’t have the right sweater or shoes or hosiery. Lacking the right accessories can prevent you from wearing items that you really would enjoy wearing. Purchasing the right shoes may give you more outfits to wear than buying new outfits would.

Now that I had pictures of the outfits, I organized the pictures into albums on my phone.  I created the following albums: 

Casual outfits—cool weather

Dressy outfits—cool weather

Casual outfits—warm weather

Dressy outfits—warm weather. 

Now when it is time to get dressed, I can look under the appropriate category and choose.


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As I carve out time for wardrobe coordination, I will choose one theme each time.  I have plans to do a capsule of navy blue outfits and of Christmas outfits. There may be a favorite scarf that has never found its outfit and you just need to settle that once and for all. I have been known to wear purple to church every Sunday in February so that I could wear my amethyst birthstone jewelry in celebration of my birthday month. I will hang these garments together when the time comes.

For this fall, I have my fall items grouped in a section of my closet.  That signals to me that this is the area from which I am to choose. I now enjoy getting dressed with ease, knowing that the thinking is already done. As the weather gets cooler, I will replace the lighter weight pieces with heavier ones and continue to keep viable choices at the forefront.

 Yes, I still pull pieces from the rest of my wardrobe, but grouping my fall items together has given me a huge start on getting dressed each day.

Yes, I still pull pieces from the rest of my wardrobe, but grouping my fall items together has given me a huge start on getting dressed each day.

 I even gathered my fall scarves and hung them with my fall clothes. I am much more likely to wear them when they are next to the pieces I am eyeing.

I even gathered my fall scarves and hung them with my fall clothes. I am much more likely to wear them when they are next to the pieces I am eyeing.

Creating this one wardrobe capsule has shown me the value of this process. Here are three things it did for me.


  1. It acquainted me with what I have and what I need.

I had items in my closet that I thought should be useful but that I had never worn.  Gathering my fall items to make outfits forced me to consider those pieces and I have now worn things for the first time and liked them, things that were in danger of being purged. I would say this process gives you fresh eyes.

I also discovered that it was time to purge some things that I was just accustomed to wearing. I found that I had three dark gray jackets that all served the same purpose.  The one I bought most recently is butter soft and could be dressed up or down.  I know I will use it a lot.  One of the jackets just wouldn’t hang right so I took it back to the store since fortunately the tags were still on it. (Yep. TJ Maxx. Having no receipt got me a gift card. That’s fine.  I would have spent the money right back there anyway.)  The final gray jacket was just a little snug through the shoulders so it now hangs in my daughter’s closet. I am left with the gray jacket that I will truly enjoy and I now have more closet space. I will not continue to waste time trying those three jackets with my outfits repeatedly and coming to the same conclusion each time.

Knowing the items I need will keep me focused when I shop. The process helps you to prioritize those needs by showing you which items you need over and over for different outfits.  I now realize that brown boots and gray heels would finish off several of my ensembles.


2. It focused my attention on one look at a time.

As I have focused on dressing for fall, I have also incorporated fall hues in my make-up and nail polish.  I do not typically wear orange so I have made a project of finding orange shades that lean toward pink. This has given me time to experiment with blush, lipstick, and nail polish that work with my coloring and clothes. My nails are good to go for the week since I am wearing clothes of the same color palette every day.  I know I always have the right shade of lipstick thrown in my purse since it will match everything I wear this week.  And speaking of purses, I will use the same one all week since it coordinates with the look I am wearing right now, eliminating the need to daily switch purses.  Lots of winning and time saved!

 These cosmetics gave me just enough orange to feel fallish:  OPI Infinite Shine 2 Gel-Lacquer in “Excuse me, Big Sur!”  NYX Lipstick in “Tea Rose”  Tarte Amazonian Clay 12-Hour Blush in “Paaaarty”  Urban Decay 24/7 Glide-On Lip Pencil in “Manic”

These cosmetics gave me just enough orange to feel fallish:

OPI Infinite Shine 2 Gel-Lacquer in “Excuse me, Big Sur!”

NYX Lipstick in “Tea Rose”

Tarte Amazonian Clay 12-Hour Blush in “Paaaarty”

Urban Decay 24/7 Glide-On Lip Pencil in “Manic”


3. It simplified the daily task of getting dressed.

It’s crazy to call getting dressed a task.  It should be part of my pampering session as I get ready. It is nice to approach my closet with thanksgiving for my beautiful clothes and the artistry I am trying to reflect back to God in carefully crafting my outfit and doing it decently and in order. Stress is not something I need before I go out in public; being in public is already stressful for me.  I need to enter it with peace and focus on what I am going out to do, and this process has helped me tremendously with that.

I can see how wardrobe capsules are going to help a ton with packing.  That can be the worst part of going on a trip but to have things already grouped that work together and are interchangeable will make that chore much easier, and one purse and nail color will work for the whole trip.



My suspicion is that this process would solve other problems as well.  Being prepared really eases my mind and helps me do a better job. I am easily overwhelmed so I like my ducks in rows ahead of time. I have been Martha Martha at events so many times that I have finally figured out that I need to be Martha BEFORE the party so I can be Mary DURING the party (Luke 10:41-42). Making wardrobe capsules is just one way that I can attend to myself in advance so that I am free to serve others wholeheartedly.