7 Steps To Starting A Capsule Wardrobe on A Budget


I really like the idea of a capsule wardrobe, as it perfectly encapsulates the wardrobe philosophy I’ve had my whole life. Buying less clothing with the intent to wear it often just seems to make so much more sense to me than having a tonne of trendy items you’ll wear once. I also like having a smaller, more edited closet, as it makes it easier to get dressed in the mornings. So the whole capsule wardrobe trends makes me one happy chappy!

But the only thing that bugs me is that so many bloggers seem to promote this as justification for making crazy expensive designer purchases. Obviously that is their perogative and I do appreciate looking at a pretty designer bag, but it needs to be said that you can create a perfect capsule wardrobe on any budget. So if you’ve never done a capsule wardrobe or are just interested to see how I do mine on a strict budget, find out below.

  1. Seasonality

I know a lot of of your capsule wardrobe guides will tell you start each season off by stowing the previous season’s wardrobe and replacing it with the current season’s wardrobe, but that doesn’t make much sense to me as Cape Town’s autumn is pretty erratic – yesterday it was ice cold and rainy and today it is basically summer.

So a typical autumnal wardrobe wouldn’t work for me. I basically organise my wardrobe into three sections – cold wear (coats and boots), hot weather items (sandals and sun dresses) and inbetween items(cardigans and jeans). This gives me the most options as I can transition pieces. Like for instance, right now I still use pieces from my summer wardrobe, but I’ll add a cardigan. It allows me to really get the most out of my wardrobe.

Unfortunately seasons aren’t as predictable as we’d like, so just ensuring you’re covering all the possibilities could help.

Jumpers Hanging

2. Taking stock

So right now, in autumn, I’m looking for cold weather wear and inbetween pieces. So I’ll take out things I likely won’t be wearing any time soon (shorts, bathing suits, etc) and move them to the spare bedroom. It isn’t time to move my coats into my closet just yet, but it is worth noting if I’d like to replace one of them as shops are already selling them.

Then I start making piles of my autumn/winter clothes – bottoms (jeans, pants, skirts), t-shirts, blouses, cardigans, jumpers, jackets and shoes. As I work in a fairly informal environment, so I can get away with wearing jeans and flats on most days. So separating my work wardrobe from my weekend wardrobe isn’t as important for me, but if your workwear is more formal this might be a necessary step for you.

Going through one stack at a time, put aside items you want to donate and make notes of things you’d like to replace.

I don’t subsribe to having any specific number of pieces in your capsule wardobe, but the number 37 has been thrown around a lot. I’d say if you can cover all your day-to-day situations with your wardrobe and have enough pieces to last you for at least a week or week-and-a-half’s wears you should be fine.


3. Budget

Now that you have a rough idea of what you need, its time to take a look at your finances and set yourself a realistic budget. We make a yearly clothing budget, which we roughly split in half and try not to exceed in the first six months. You could be more specific, setting yourself a monthly budget or whatever works best for you.

I just like the idea of not restricting your shopping to a specific time frame, as it might result in impulse purchases or ones you’re not 100% satisfied with. I also find that it’s best to shop your basics at the beginning of a new season, as that is when you’re the most likely to find your preferred colour and size in stock.

Blouses Hanging

4. Identify your colour palette

There is no shame in it, 80% of my closet is black and grey. When I do add some colour though, I gravite towards blush pinks, coral reds and army green. Noticing a trend like this in your wardobe can help you quickly asses whether a new colour would work with your existing wardrobe.

5. Make lists

Now that you know what you have in your closet and what needs replacing, is a good time to make a list of everything you need. Make basic notes – two t-shirts, one work pants, etc. We’ll get into more details later and add a list of wants later. This will prevent you from becoming distracted and spending half your budget on an insanely beautiful, albeit unnecessary, coat at the beginning of the season leaving you with too little basics.

I also like to keep a separate list of items I want to add to my wardrobe, but don’t necessarily need. Often times these are trendy pieces or more pricy items like the perfect trench. I’ll also add to this list as the season wears on, especially if I spot something in a shop that I want. It allows me time to think it over and avoid making an impulse purchase.

It is also completely fine to have things like this on a list for more than one season, as you don’t need it for your wardrobe to work – it would just elevate your outfits. Right now I am looking for a Burberry-inspired stone trench (Zara usually has them, but I’ve yet to find it on sale) and an olive or tan leather jacket. Both are pieces that I’ll have in my wardrobe for +10 years, so it’s worth the wait to find the perfect pair.

Capsule wardrobe inspiration6. Inspiration

Now that you already know where there are gaps in your wardrobe, is the perfect time to consult magazines, Pinterest and Instagram. Doing it this way around will allow you update your general list of necessities with more specific items. Something like a ‘jumper’ might now become ‘navy striped jumper’, or ‘blouse’ might become ‘nude fluted sleeve blouse’, etc.

It also adds more structure to how you shop, as with a restricted budget there is a chance you might not be able to afford more than the necessities.


7. Shopping

Armed with your (fairly comprehensive) list, I’d say aim to get the basic necessities ticked off first. These are the items you noticed are missing from your wardrobe or that need replacing. Most people would encourage you to “invest” in your basics, but buying quality clothing doesn’t have to equate to spending a lot of money. It is a little bit of knowing when to spend versus when to save and also knowing that things don’t always have to be the best to be great. A cotton jumper can be just as amazing as a wool one (and sometimes less itchy!) at half the price. I’ll share some of my favourite budget shopping resources later this week.

I think it’s worth getting all your basics in one or two shopping sessions, so that it is out of the way. Then you can tally up the total and find out how much of your budget is left for you to either replace items, save the money or put it towards something on your want list.

I like shopping throughout the season, as it means that you won’t panick purchase anything just because you’re only allowing yourself one week to shop for the whole season. It means you can wait for the perfect piece, but at the same time having the basics taken care of really takes all the stress out of it.

A capsule wardrobe can be fun, it can be done on a budget and it doesn’t have to be boring! The longer you stay at it, the happier you’ll become with your wardrobe.

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