How To Build A Capsule Wardrobe I The Mindset

Capsule Wardrobe The Mindset

First things first. The cornerstone of a capsule wardrobe is your mindset. Our closets, thoughts, and emotions are tightly intertwined, and will work either for or against us. Whipping these into shape is the most important step toward a versatile wardrobe.

Here are a few examples and how to turn the tide to benefit you:

How you feel affects what you wear and vice versa.

  • If you grab a pair of sweats and an old t-shirt to wear for the day, you will catch glances of yourself in the mirror, think you look tired, and then feel tired.
  • Shift your mindset so it works for you: Take a few extra seconds to grab those comfy jeans and a cute sweater or blouse. You’ll find yourself feeling energized.

The thoughts you have about your closet become a reality; they can function as invisible barriers and hold both you and your closet back. Here are two examples:

  • One: If you see your closet as holding “nothing” to wear, you will believe it. You’ll feel the need to add to it continuously to “finally” get it to where it should be. (Yet you never quite seem to get there.)
  • Change your thinking: Set a timer for 5 minutes. Head to Pinterest or your favorite style blog and look for an outfit you can “duplicate” with what you have. Don’t have a striped button up? Use a plaid, gingham, or plain one instead. Like a color combination? Use your pieces to recreate it. When you give yourself a little push to think outside the box and come up with new combinations, you’ll begin to see that no matter the size or shape of your closet, you have more outfits than you realized.


  • Two: Thoughts like, ‘I can’t wear that color,’ or ‘That is too nice of a shirt to wear,’ keep you in a self-imposed clothing rut.
  • How to move past these thoughts: Test them. If they hold up, great; if not, you just opened the door to at least several new combinations.

If you don’t take time to consider your goals, you will never purchase purposefully.

This will not only benefit you:

  • Going shopping without a list often results in us wearing a only fraction of our closets- most of what we bought was the thrill of a deal or a fun trend that lured us in. (I’m not against deals or trends, but they ought to be choices.)
  • Turn the tide: Taking as few as 10 minutes to consider what you want to add to your closet and writing it down in a notebook or on your phone can help you become a wiser consumer. By adding purposefully to your wardrobe, you will save time, money, and guilt.

Thoughtful purchasing can also help others:

  • Defining enough will simplify your life and the lives of those around you. Less stuff = less time doing maintenance and more time for important things, like family. And cheesecake.
  • Buying less has a positive impact on the environment and can even save lives. More on this later, but here are a few reads if you want to dive in now. (Redress : The Issues // Danielle L. Vermeer via Sarah Bessey: In which slavery exists because of me < this one will mess you up in a good way. Consider yourself warned. :))

Now that we’ve looked at a few examples, it’s time to take action.

Identifying and changing your mindset is great in theory, but can be difficult to put into practice. Remember: this is a journey, not a sprint. Trying to discover and reprogram your thoughts right this second is impossible. Give yourself some grace and remember some beats none. Set yourself up for success by setting an attainable goal. Here are my suggestions for a starting point:

Tiny Baby Step 1: Get accountable.

If building a wardrobe purposefully is one of your goals, let us know! GTR is a great place of encouragement. You could also tell your BFF, spouse, or your dog. (I don’t suggest the last one if you want crazy good results. Only lots of sloppy kisses.)

Tiny Baby Step 2: Take a few minutes and post an answer to one of the questions below:

  1. How does my outfit today make me feel? Why?
  2. How do I feel about my closet, as-is?
  3. What one ‘turning the tide’ action will I take today?

Interested in reading more about the thought process behind your clothing? You might like:
Are Your Clothes Talking to You, Too?
How to Expose & Destroy Invisible Scripts

Read more of the How To Build A Capsule Wardrobe Series.

About the Author


  • Jessica February 28, 2014 at 6:07 AM

    Love this post. Especially where you say: that shirt is too nice to wear. So true for me. I don’t like to wear my pretty clothes, because I’m afraid I will get stains on them or that I will ruin them in my washingmachine. I’m not very happy with my closet right now. Ít’s all very basic and I often feel I have nothing to wear. I’m going to look for a nice statement necklace or pretty scarve to make outfits interesting.
    Lots of love from Holland!

    • Caitlin Author March 2, 2014 at 9:02 AM

      Jessica- that’s a great way to add interest to your outfits. Thanks so much for taking the time to share your thoughts with us!

  • Marteka February 28, 2014 at 7:59 AM

    2. How do I feel about my closet, as-is?

    I have done a lot of “editing” to my closet the last year. I lost some weight (16 kgs) and needed to update a bit. However, being able to more often fit into the clothes I tried on in shops made me buy a lot more than I used to. I’m not going to beat myself up over this, but it is time that I stopped with that new habit. I now have a closet with feminine, classic and/or practical items, I have few wishes for wardrobe staples. I do feel that I sometimes dress a little bit too “pulled together”, not exactly playful or vibrant.

    I am currently doing a challenge with a friend that means NO SHOPPING for unnecessery stuff (that means no clothes, interieur things, luxurious cosmetics…) the first three months of the year. After these months, we’ll meet and discuss if we want to open up for some thoughtful shopping. I think I will suggest to her that we are allowed to buy clothes twice a year (update for warmer and for colder weather), only used clothes and only from a list we made before we went shopping.

    If she agrees, I’ll go looking for two short sleeved colorful tops (maybe with some kind of print?) and a fun (circle?) scarf in thrift shops as soon as daylight savings time begins. These items could add some fun to my outfits and layer well for both spring, summer and fall:-)

    • Caitlin Author March 2, 2014 at 9:03 AM

      Marteka- love reading your thoughts! It sounds like this challenge has been really eye opening for you, and the ideas you have of buying secondhand twice a year from a list? Brilliant. I’m so excited to read more about your journey!

  • Selah February 28, 2014 at 11:37 AM

    Great start to the series, Caitlin! Your first point about how your clothes affect how you feel is SO true! I’ve been making a conscious effort to get dressed in real clothes every day and it’s made a HUGE difference in my energy level.
    The “turning the tide” action I want to take is to change my perception of how much a garment “should” cost. I’m so used to buying inexpensive clothes that it’s really hard to see WHY I might want to pay more for a garment. I think I need to research whether or not clothes are REALLY better quality when the price goes up. I really fear spending $50 instead of $20 and NOT getting better quality.

    • Caitlin Author March 2, 2014 at 9:05 AM

      Selah, that’s an excellent point. I’m really interested in what you find out with that research!

  • Amy G February 28, 2014 at 1:38 PM

    I definitely agree that wearing jeans instead of sweats around the house can help you be more productive and act less tired. My husband doesn’t quite get this, and neither does my dad – they both think it’s weird to wear “good clothes” around the house. I kind of feel like if I don’t wear my “good clothes” around the house, it will make them last longer, but I also need to feel somewhat put together in order to be productive, so I’ve been trying to find a middle ground by wearing cute sweatshirts with jeans, or a long sleeve T that fit well with an old vest. They’re things that I wouldn’t wear to work, but are still cute.
    The fleece flyaway cardigan, grey tank, and skinny jeans I’m wearing today make me feel unrestricted, but still kind of cozy. The cardi can go off or on easily if I want to try on a sewing project or dance to the radio for 15 minutes to feel like I “exercised” today, and the sleeves can be pushed up for doing dishes. Some times, layering can feel restrictive, because the layers need adjusting if you want to do different things around the house, and sometimes I don’t do the things and let my cute look stay the way it is. I feel cute in this, though, and flyaway cardis feel a little more playful sometimes than button up ones, which is a good thing for a day off!
    How I feel about my closet seems to depend on the day. I feel good about my closet most days, but not all. I also feel like it could use a little de-cluttering, but the pieces in there that are questionable have stories behind them that make them difficult to get rid of.

    • Caitlin Author March 2, 2014 at 9:08 AM

      Ah! I just love hearing about everyone’s thoughts behind their closets. You make some fantastic points, Amy. It’s all about figuring out what fits your life, and I’m proud of you for looking for a middle ground to feel put together but not too fancy at home for doing things that need to be done.

  • Iris March 1, 2014 at 3:50 PM

    Hey Caitlin, to answer one of your questions, the outfit I’m wearing right now is my go-to polka dot jeans and gray sparkle sweatshirt with gray ankle boots. The reason is we had a family emergency late last night/early this morning and I had to some middle school commitments to attend to. It was so nice to be able to grab and go a simple outfit that I knew was comfy and looks put together. Working to get my wardrobe to work like this all the time with well-fitting, comfortable, timeless pieces that make me look put together in 5 minutes for any situation. I had a similar feeling when I needed to pack for this business trip. I felt confident and comfortable in every piece I packed.

    • Caitlin Author March 2, 2014 at 9:14 AM

      Iris- I hope everything is ok! It’s been fun to see your style evolve and the way you thoughtfully curate your closet. Looking forward to hearing more of your thoughts and wisdom through this series!

  • Madeline April 19, 2014 at 1:49 AM

    Hi Caitlin, I’ve just discovered your blog and am so excited to get a capsule wardrobe started. Having beautiful clothes is important to me because it makes me feels good. I’ve been feeling challenged and really unsatisfied with my clothing lately. I’ve been putting other things a priority over fashion because I have this silly block that it has to cost a lot of money to have beautiful clothes…. but I’m ready to change that belief with the capsule wardrobe concept.

    Also I am a nutritionist and am excited to apply the capsule ‘wardrobe’ concept to healthy and simple eating and share it on my blog!




    • Caitlin Author April 21, 2014 at 3:59 PM

      Madeline, I’m sorry to hear that you’ve been frustrated with your clothes lately. I’m impressed that you’ve realized that’s a block- that’s exactly what it is! Knowing that is half the battle. I’m also working on a post about how to look Luxe for Less- any specific things you’d want to see addressed in dressing well inexpensively?

      I’d also love to see how you apply the concept to your blog. Please keep me updated on that! I’d love to read it.

  • susan August 29, 2014 at 11:20 AM

    My outfit today is a cute red graphic t-shirt with black cropped leggings. It’s one of my favorite outfits because it is really, REALLY comfortable and the red suits my colouring. The thing I don’t like about it is I love it so much that the fabric is showing signs of wear :(

    My weight is constantly fluctuating and my closet is crammed with clothes that don’t fit right now so I have a frustrating experience shopping with never being sure if an item I am thinking of will fit. I am excited about the capsule concept because I may just be able to create a varied wardrobe with what I have already! At the least I can stop fretting over what to wear and learn how to mix it up a bit!

    My turn the tide action today is to invest in a full length mirror and try things on with an eye for fit. Anything that doesn’t fit right now gets packed up and stored till it either fits or I don’t need it anymore.

    • Caitlin Author September 1, 2014 at 7:48 AM

      That’s a great turn the tide action, Susan! I’m excited for you, and hope you’ll keep me updated on your remixing!

  • Ellenora September 28, 2014 at 8:41 AM

    Currently taking a break from standing in room full of clothes all over the bed, on the floor, and still some hanging in the closet. Feeling pretty overwhelmed (and like a straight up hypocrite, as the rest of my lifestyle aligns more with environmental and conscious-living values)! I’m paring down the closet to 37 things. With your help, and the advice from Caroline at Un-Fancy, I’m hoping to do this, and I’m excited for this challenge + clarity! Thanks for helping to spread this positive message :)

    • Caitlin Author September 30, 2014 at 7:03 AM

      Ellenora, that’s amazing! And hard. I’m so proud of you for looking at your closet and deciding how to run it instead of letting it run you. I hope you’ll keep me updated on your journey!

Leave a Reply