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Want to have more style with less stress? Ready to make tons of outfits out of just a few pieces? If you’ve always wanted a mix and match closet, a Capsule Wardrobe might be just the thing you’re looking for.

In this episode, I share what a Capsule Wardrobe IS, who should (and shouldn’t try one), what make the Everyday Style Capsule Wardrobe Guides unique, and share a few tips for starting your own Capsule-style wardrobe.

If you’ve wondered what all the hype is about Capsules, this episode is for you!

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Read the full transcript below:

Hello Hello! I am so excited to have you back for another episode, and I just want to thank you for listening to the Everyday Style School. Whether you are a long time listener, or you just found us, I am grateful for you. With a million podcasts out there, thanks for choosing this one.

Today, we’re going to talk about Capsule Wardrobes, and before you think this is a 30 minute commercial for my Spring Capsule Guide coming out next month, one of the things I’m going to share with you is who a Capsule Wardrobe isn’t right for. I don’t want you to buy our Capsule Guide so I can sell stuff, I want you to buy it because it makes your life easier, and more stylish and helps you feel great about yourself. 

But what I’ve found, is that a lot of women don’t know what a Capsule Wardrobe is, or how to start one, or why they should try one…and that’s what we’re going to focus on today.  I think Capsule Wardrobes are one of those things that are top of mind for me so much that I kind of forget that not everyone is as immersed in Capsule Culture as I am. 

First though, we’ve got a Lesson from Linda to get things started.  

I’ve wanted to share this one for a long time, but since it has to do with clothes for work, I took it off of the list until it felt more timely. To be super honest with you though, I am so tired of saying things like “when we get back to normal” and “in these unprecedented times”, so I’m just going to put some of these things back on the calendar, and you can do with them what you will. Also, what’s really at the heart of this story is still true, pandemic or not.  So here it is. For the record, this is one of my all time favorite Lindas–both in terms of a person I just loved being around, and the transformation.  

Linda called me out of the blue, having heard about me through a friend. Unlike a lot of my Lindas who were just tired of feeling bad about themselves in general, and wanted a wardrobe upgrade, this Linda called me with a purpose, and a mission. Linda wanted a promotion.

Linda had been doing well in her career, but she’d reached a point where she wasn’t getting promoted. In fact, she’d been passed over more than once, and she was tired of it.  She went to her boss and asked why, and she was told, you don’t look like a leader.  Ouch. That must have been hard to hear, but on the other hand, it was a concrete issue she could fix–and fairly easily.

Linda wasn’t sure if she just wanted to go shopping with me since she said she had nothing to work with, or do a closet edit and then shop. Clients always say they have absolutely nothing to start from, but that almost always turns out to be not true, and often doing a closet edit saves them money so we decided to start with her closet and then do a shopping trip.

I got to Linda’s house, and as I was looking through her wardrobe what I found was your basic business casual wardrobe. The same trouser pants in 4 colors, a whole bunch of cardigans and print shells, and round toe flats that had seen better days. My apologies to the ladies who are wearing that outfit right now, but I call that the Junior Employee uniform.  Truly, I mean no offense, but I have seen that exact outfit a million times, and it’s never on an executive.  Just reporting what I’ve seen.  Anyway, while her wardrobe didn’t exude confidence, power, polish and ambition, it wasn’t  offensively bad. It was just kind of nondescript. I didn’t quite understand what the issue was.

Then we started to try things on, and I saw what her boss was seeing. Every single piece Linda owned was too big.  There wasn’t one item of clothing that fit her properly. Not one. The sleeves of the cardigans were too big and went past her hands unless she rolled or pushed them up, and then they didn’t stay well. The shells were too big so they hung on her body, and gapped at the neck. And then there were the pants. The giant, giant pants. This story took place so long ago that I used to jokingly call my clients with too big pants “Jared” after the Subway commercial guy showing his too big pants. Clearly that joke didn’t age well, and I also can’t joke with my clients about their Bill Cosby sweaters anymore. These terrible men are ruining my best material! Thanks guys. 

Anyway, she had those kind of pants. Linda was a crazy good sport, and just wanted to learn how to dress better, which is my favorite kind of client. It takes a lot to be able to put aside your feelings and ego, and not get defensive, but like I said, Linda was on a mission, and she was going to do whatever it took to change her situation.

As we were trying on clothes, we talked, and I asked about the too big clothes, and she said what a lot of clients say–well, they go on my body and they’re comfortable, so I assumed they fit.  Also, she had gone through a lot of body changes, and hadn’t bought new clothes since she’d lost weight, which is something I never hear! I hear of women not wanting to go through the hassle of buying bigger sizes, but most women are ready, and excited to buy smaller sizes. Not this Linda though–which kind of gave me an insight to how she thought about clothes–or rather, didn’t think about clothes.  

I also asked her why she hadn’t upgraded her work wardrobe over the years, because by the time I met Linda, she was already doing well for herself, and she said, I always thought I’d have to dress differently when I got promoted.  She was waiting for that change to make a wardrobe change.

On one hand, we didn’t really need to do the closet, as she truly had nothing to work with. On the other hand, if we hadn’t had that experience, I wouldn’t have gotten the insight to how she really felt about clothes, and she wouldn’t have really understood why you can’t wear giant clothes. We would have shopped, bought clothes that fit, and she would have gone home and worked the new things into her old things, wrecking the whole effect. So it was a good thing we did it.

A week later, we hit the stores, and we put Linda in clothes that fit. Instantly she looked more professional, confident, capable–you know….like a leader.

We got a couple of more refined cardigans, but we also got some comfortable jackets, which is one thing I wish more professional women would embrace.  We put her in dresses, which were made for her body shape, but also, dresses are one piece wonders when it comes to professional clothing. They’re easier to style than a two piece outfit, but they’re more polished. We swapped out her sad round toe flats for more structured point toe flats and added a couple of pairs of heels. We found pants that fit properly, and were a more modern silhouette. We also picked up a few blouses, which are more polished than the tired cardi and shell combo.

In short, she looked like a million bucks. So, did Linda get promoted? Yep, she sure did! Within a couple of months, in fact…and less than a year later she had taken a huge position with a new company, Her career was off to the races. Was it all the clothes? Absolutely not. But the clothes removed the barrier so people could see her in bigger positions, and the clothes gave her the confidence she needed to go after those things.

There are a few things I want you to take away from this Linda:

First, and I want you to take this to heart, and really remember it–Clothes are a better catalyst for change than they are a reward. So many women say, I’ll upgrade my wardrobe when–when what you should be saying is “I’ll upgrade my wardrobe, so”  Linda said she’d upgrade her wardrobe when she got promoted, but it turns out, she upgraded her wardrobe SO she could get promoted. If you find yourself saying “When”, change the phrase to “so”. When you dress like the person you want to be, its easier to become her.

Which brings me to the second lesson, which is–that old adage about dressing for the job you want, not the job you have, never stopped being true. Never. Not even in these unprecedented times. When you show up to that zoom meeting looking just a little more polished than your coworkers, people notice, and it gives you a competitive edge.To me, this is low hanging fruit, professionally speaking. Its an easy thing you can do to help yourself get ahead.  The fact is, well-dressed people go places. Sorry, but it’s true.

I talked about this last year when I was asked to speak to the University of Minnesota women in business group, and of course, as I always do when I talk about this, I got the “isn’t that sexist” and no, absolutely not.  I would say the exact same thing to men. Looking put together gives you an advantage.  Plain and simple.

The other thing I get when I talk about this is people who say “But its what you know that counts”. That’s a wonderful idea, isn’t it?  But it’s not 100% true. We live in a visual world, where people make all kinds of assumptions about us in the first 7 seconds of meeting us. And 7 seconds isn’t enough time to convey you’re a knowledgeable, capable person with leadership skills. Nope, a lot of that comes from visual clues.  If you’re tempted to send an email saying that’s awful, I agree, but I’m also not going to pretend it isn’t true. You can absolutely use the way you look to convey the message you want people to see. Besides, dressing with intention isn’t just for them. Almost everyone feels more confident when they’re put together–and when you feel more confident, you project that. 

The final thing I want you to take away from my time with this Linda is that if you don’t have fit, you don’t have style. I know I’ve said this a million times, but I will probably say it a million more. Before anything else, your clothes need to fit you properly.  A lot of women don’t know how clothes are supposed to fit–and for you ladies, I have an episode on that, that I’ll link in the shownotes. Most women are wearing their clothes too big, and especially in a professional setting, that doesn’t do good things for you. When your clothes are too big, you look like you’re playing dress up in your mom’s clothes–and that’s not a leader-y look. The instant we put Linda in pants that fit, she looked like a grown up.  Paired with a top that fit, she looked like a leader. Fit matters friends! Start there first.

When we come back, we’re going to talk about all things Capsule Wardrobe

Ladies, this is the last time I’m going to be telling you about the Style Circle, because in just a couple of weeks, our membership will be closing its doors until June, and I don’t want you to miss out. If you’ve been listening to the podcast and feeling like it’s time to figure out style, and love the way you look once and for all, the Style Circle is the best way to do that. In just a minute, we’re going to be talking about Capsule Wardrobes, and as a member of the Style Circle, you get access to the Current Capsule Guide before anyone else–it’s an awesome benefit for sure, but I get people asking all the time–how do I swap pieces that are better for my body, or shape–and the best way to do that is by knowing what’s right for you! The Style Circle has video classes to help you do that, so you can create a wardrobe that is personal, and right for you. Plus, as a member, you’ll have access to personal advice, and the most supportive women on the internet. They’re there to give you help and advice, and tell you how those pants really look on you. They’re an amazing group of women, and I’d love to have you  join us before the Style Circle closes again.  Head to our website and sign up!  

And now, back to the show. 

Let’s get in to all things capsule, to help you figure out if this approach to your wardrobe is right for you. 

First, What is a Capsule Wardrobe?

When the concept of a Capsule Wardrobe originated in London in the 70’s, a capsule was your basics–the foundational pieces that never changed, like a good pair of jeans, a little black dress, the perfect white dress shirt. Those capsule items were the constants, and then trends and fun pieces came in and out. 

The concept has evolved though and is now a seasonal, mix and match wardrobe, but the definition I’d use is that a Capsule Wardrobe is a small collection of clothes that you love to wear, that has been carefully curated to add up to more than the sum of its parts. Let me break that down. 

First, it’s a small collection of clothes–most Capsule Creators, whether professional or amatuer, work with a defined number of pieces, usually in the 30’s which we’ll talk about more later. That might sound like a lot, but Capsules include tops, bottoms, layering pieces dresses, shoes, and accessories, so trust me, that’s not a lot at all. There’s no room for one off, “I might wear this” some day pieces in a Capsule wardrobe. Every spot is precious.

Which is why you need to love every piece. The goal in any wardrobe should be to love everything in there, but when you only have a handful to choose from, it’s important that you love, and want to wear, everything in it. Every season, when a new Capsule Guide comes out, someone will ask me something like, I don’t like that dress, or I don’t like booties–should I just suck it up and buy them anyway?  No! Never. You should never put things into your wardrobe you don’t absolutely LOVE. Capsule wardrobes are made from pieces you love, and want to wear. 

The third part of my definition is that Capsule Wardrobes are carefully curated–which basically means, they’re put together with intention. When I put Guides together, I spend a lot of time thinking about which shoes go with which pants, because I want women to have a few pairs of shoes that go with lots of stuff, rather than shoes that go with these 3 pants, and shoes that go with that 1 pair. You need a lot more stuff when you just buy things and hope it works in your wardrobe once you get home from the store. When you add things with the intention of working together with the things you already own, you need less.

The last part of of my definition is that Capsules add up to more than the sum of their parts.  This is how a Capsule Wardrobe is different than just a small wardrobe. Small wardrobes just have fewer things. Capsule Wardrobes have fewer things that work together to create a big wardrobe. My capsule guides have were traditionally 34 pieces that combined in different ways to make 150 to 200 outfits.

On my website, I have a free mini guide that shows you how to create 30 outfits, from just 10 pieces. That mini wardrobe fits in a weekend bag, and could dress you for an entire month.

I shared a story of a Linda who couldn’t wait to make outfits, but what I found was that she didn’t have the ingredients to make outfits. Capsule wardrobes are about putting the right ingredients in your wardrobe to make a lot of different stuff.

Almost every client I ever worked with said one of her goals was a mix and match wardrobe. They didn’t know what they were asking for was a capsule wardrobe, but that’s really what it is. 

When I was working with clients, I was creating Capsule Wardrobes all the time, without realizing there was an actual term for it. I was working with a lot of women going through body and life transitions–like after babies, going back to work, retiring…what have you.  They all needed a full wardrobe, but didn’t have the money or desire to buy a ton of stuff, so we got strategic.We bought pieces that could be used in a lot of different ways, that all went together, and at the end of our session, there was a seating area in the mall with this huge ottoman, and I used to lay out all the bottoms we’d bought and then start switching tops around, you can wear this with this, or this with this, or this under this, or this over that, and my lindas would just be snapping pictures–other women shopping would gather to watch, and say, oh that’s so smart, that makes so much sense. But in the end, my linda didn’t have a ton of stuff, but she had a lot of options. That’s the goal.

What are the benefits of a Capsule Wardrobe?

Which brings me to what are the benefits of a Capsule Wardrobe. 

First, Capsule Wardrobes are the easiest way to have more style with less stuff and less stress. When everything works together, you can’t help but to look put together. You don’t have to stress about “does this look right” because of course it does. 

Capsule Wardrobes also save you time–in two ways. First, you’re shopping with a plan. There’s no aimless trips to the mall, or late night online sessions. Capsule shopping is hunting, not gathering. You get in, get what you need for the season, and then you’re done. The other way they save you time is in the morning. Instead of a overstuffed closet full of “meh” choices, you can pick quickly from these things you already know you love to wear and move on. If it saves you 5 minutes each morning, that’s 30 hours each year, and I know women who spend a whole lot more than 5 minutes figuring out what to wear. The less stuff you have, the faster you can make decisions.

The third benefit of a Capsule Wardrobe is that it saves you money.  Because you don’t need as many pieces, there’s less to buy overall. And because you’re buying with intention, you won’t waste money on things you have nothing to wear with, or pieces you’re not sure you love, or things you’ll only wear once or twice. Capsule Wardrobes help to keep you out of clearance sections, which you know I think are the biggest wardrobe money traps, full of things you buy simply because they’re cheap. But remember, waste, no matter how small, adds up, and instead, you could have one thing you love, which is the better wardrobe investment.

I’ve got an article on the blog that shares a few more Capsule Benefits, I’ll link to it in the shownotes.

Who are Capsule Wardrobes Good for? 

 But let’s move on to who are Capsule Wardrobes right for…and who should probably stay away from this wardrobe approach

First and foremost, Capsule Wardrobes are great for women who want to have more style and confidence, but don’t have the energy, time, or desire to figure it out everyday. They’re for the woman who doesn’t want to turn on music, pour a glass of wine, and spend a few hours playing in her closet. Some of you listening are like, that sounds like so much fun! While others are thinking “Good lord that sounds miserable” If you’re in that second group, but you still want to look put together, Capsule Wardrobes are a great option because they take the guesswork out of all of it. 

Capsule Wardrobes are great for women who don’t feel confident about style. While you need to put more thought and planning into the beginning of a season, once you’ve done that, you don’t have to make style decisions every day, but you know everything works together, so you can feel confident all season long.

On a practical note, Capsule Wardrobes are great if the parts of your life are closer together, in terms of wardrobe formality. Let me explain, and I’ll use myself as an example. I can wear the same wardrobe to volunteer at my kid’s school, go to work, go to church, go on dates with my husband, or out with a friend. I don’t need a hugely different wardrobe for all parts of my life. . Over the last year, I think a lot of us are living more that way, but the closer the parts of your life are together in terms of wardrobe functionality, the easier a Capsule Wardrobe will be. Can you have a work capsule and a weekend capsule? Sure you can, and we’ll talk about that in a bit

Finally, Capsule Wardrobes are great for women who just want less stuff–maybe who flirt with minimalism, or are tired of getting rid of bags of clothes every couple of years, and never feeling like they get their money’s worth out of their things.

So, who Capsule Wardrobes not right for?

First, women with hugely disparate parts of their lifestyle. One of my favorite Linda stories was the client who wanted one mix and match, go anywhere wardrobe, but had a high-level, corporate job during the week, and worked her family’s goat farm on the weekend. There’s no wardrobe that can go both places appropriately. In this case, we did have to create two separate capsules, and we paired down in each as best we could, but her idea was simply impossible.  

Capsule Wardrobes also aren’t great for women who need a ton of variety or who have to have all the latest trends.  Let’s talk about variety first. Some women love clothes so much and just want to wear a lot of different things–like getting dressed is the point of getting dressed–kind of like a Carrie Bradshaw. Capsule Wardrobes are never going to work for you ladies, they’re about functional style, not super artistic expression.  What I’ve seen more over the years though is that a lot of women think they love variety, but what’s really going on is that they haven’t figured out what they truly love, so they buy a lot of stuff, and call it variety. Their closets are a mash up of signature styles, not one clearly defined, and they’re searching for a way to make it feel personal. So if you love buying clothes and having those closet experimentation sessions, and you love getting dressed, I’d say you’re in the variety category. If you buy a lot of clothes, and wear a lot of different things, but it brings you no joy, I’d say you’re not in the variety category.  

As far as trends go, when you’re working with a small collection of stuff, you have to utilize a lot of more classic basics. There are pieces in my Capsule guides that have been used over and over, because they’re a good canvas for the more current things we put in there, and while we do give a nod to what’s current each season, we still have to decide WHICH trends to feature-whether its a specific color, or a shoe trend, or a pattern. With 30 some pieces that need to work together, you can’t put everything in. So if wearing nothing but the latest and greatest is your jam, don’t attempt a Capsule.

What are the Everyday Style Capsule Guides all about?

If you’re feeling like more style, with less stuff and less stress is what you want, but you’re not sure how to go about it, you can buy pre-done Capsule Wardrobe Guides. There are a bunch out there, but since I’m an expert in mine, I’ll tell you how the Everyday Style Capsule Guides work. 

First, the Guide itself is a downloadable e-book, that covers just one season.  We show you pictures of what to buy–again, tops, bottoms, dresses, layering pieces, shoes and accessories–and then every item has a page in the book showing you all the ways you can wear it, combining items from just the capsule. So for winter, one of the most popular items was a Fair Isle Sweater.  That sweater had a page where we showed all the different bottoms it could go with, the different shoes with each bottom, different accessories..the works. So it’s a visual guide of what to do with each item. Often women will look at the page in the guide that shows the seasons collection and think, nah, I’m going to skip that sweater, or dress, but then they look at the outfits they can make with it and think, actually, that’s kinda awesome, I’m going to give it a try.

We also give a database of shopping links, so for that sweater, for example, you get links to items that are similar, in all price points and size ranges. One question we get a lot is, are all the links expensive? Not in our world. We source from Target and H&M, as well as Nordstrom and Anthropologie. We give petitie links and plus links as well. We do not give maternity links or out of the US links, but its really easy to search for Maternity fair isle sweater, or just fair isle sweater in your country. We give you descriptions of what to search for to make it easy

In the ebook we also show you two ways to pare the capsule down if you really want a minimal wardrobe. One way is by showing the essentials. These are the “buy these first” pieces to make the Capsule look like the guide. The other way is the Vacation Packing Guide. On this page, we show you how to pare down the capsule for a 7 day trip

We also give you tips for saving money on the capsule, and a page of photo inspiration that show what the outfits can look like in real life.

One of the things I do each season is record an overview video that helps you make the most of the capsule. I talk about why I put things in there, simple swaps if you want the capsule to be more trendy, or dressier, what have you. I want to make it as easy as possible. 

But the biggest thing I want to share about the Everyday Style Capsule Guides is that ours is a 3 in One capsule guide. Our Capsule Wardrobes are designed to dress you for 95 percent of your life, which means we show super casual athelisure pieces, some dressier, business casual pieces, and our core pieces, that are what I would call, smart casual–line jeans and a cute top. I’ve seen Capsule guides out there that are just athleisure, or just workwear, and that’s great, but it means you have to buy 3 guides, and 3 wardrobes, and the pieces from each don’t necessarily talk to each other. I don’t think that’s how your wardrobe should be. I love pairing a cute graphic tee and cardigan with dressier pants and sneakers for brunch.  That uses pieces from all 3 parts of the Capsule. The more you can get the individual pieces of your wardrobe talking with each other the less stuff you’ll need, and you’ll wear more of what you own. To me, that’s the ultimate mix and match wardrobe.

The other thing I want to share is our commitment to reusing pieces. Buying 30-some pieces each season is a lot, and is super wasteful, which is why we reuse as many pieces as possible from year to year, or season to season. Over time, all you have to do is add a couple of pieces in a new color or pattern, throw in a trendy shoe or accessory, and you have a wardrobe that looks completely fresh and modern without a major overhaul or spending spree each season. 

In the shownotes, I’ll have a link to the Capsule Guide page where you can read more about our capsules, and a bunch of frequently asked questions.

The biggest question people have about Capsules in general though are “aren’t they boring? Don’t you get tired of wearing the same pieces for a whole season?  And the short answer is no, in my 5 years of creating Capsule Guides, what I have heard more than anything is how much more style women discovered they had, and they weren’t bored at all. I guess it starts though, by what you put in your capsule. If it’s just black, gray and white basics, sure, that would probably be boring, but you can also have a capsule with bright colors and fun patterns and unique pieces.

Putting together a Capsule Wardrobe on Your own

Now, if you are the DIY type, and you want to put a Capsule Wardrobe together on your own, fantastic. Lots of women want a completely done for you solution, and other women like the process of figuring it out, and making it 100% personal. If that’s you, here are a few tips to get you started.

First, clean out your closet, keeping ONLY the things you love and want to wear. If you don’t do this first, you’re going to be overwhelmed with options, and it’s going to be difficult to see where to start. 

Second, choose a defined color palette. When I design Capsules, I put in the colors that are having a moment in stores, combined with neutrals for versatility, but you can really do anything you want. The easiest thing is to start with what you have a lot of.  

Third, figure out how many categories you need, like athleisure, casual, dressy, and how much of each you need…if you live 60 percent in casual clothes, 30% in athleisure, and 10 % in dressy clothes, your capsule should reflect that.  

Pull out the tops, pants, skirts, dresses, layering pieces and accessories you want in your capsule You can decide how many pieces your capsule will be. 

Next, start making outfits for all the things you do and places you go. Take pictures of each so you can remember what you put together. Make a shopping list of the pieces you’re missing, or things you’d like to add to make your Capsule feel fresh and current. 

Finally, do your shopping for the whole season. Block of 3-4 hours and hit the mall or internet and knock it all out at once. This is a much better strategy than creating a capsule over time–you’re never truly done that way. A lot of people have asked if they can use Stitch Fix to build a Capsule, and you can, but it’s a super inefficient way to get it done. One of my favorite Capsule comments was from a subscriber who said she got her Capsule Guide on a friday night, and by the next morning she was done shopping for the season, and then didn’t shop again for 3 months. 

Friends, That’s success to me, no matter how you’re putting together your wardrobe! Remember my favorite quote from diana vreeland–that’s not about the dress, its about the life you live in the dress? The goal should be to put together a wardrobe you love in a short amount of time, and then focus on living the life you want, confident and dressed for anything. 

All right, I hope today has clarified what Capsules are, and whether you should try one or not.  If you’re not part of the DIY crowd, hang on girl, help is coming. Our Spring Guide will be out in just a couple of weeks, so make sure you’re on our email list, or keep an eye on the website, so you can have an effortlessly stylish wardrobe that helps you do more with less!

Your homework this week is to do a mini Spring de-clutter in your closet. Whether you’re doing my Capsule or doing one on your own, or not doing one at all, this is a good time to quickly go through your wardrobe and pull out things you just don’t love anymore. Set a timer for 10 minutes, and start there. It will get your closet in better shape for spring.  

Next week, we’ve got a fun interview coming your way, so stay tuned, and we’ll see you then! 

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