Summer is an on-the-go season here in the South. So much so, perhaps, that it can often be hard to keep pace with all the fun to be had. Fortunately for us, summer also lends itself well to a simpler lifestyle. Flavor-packed produce turns summer cooking into a no-fuss affair, while outdoor activity in the long daylight hours gives a natural glow to our skin and an appearance of overall health, which simplifies our beauty routines. Taking inspiration from summer’s natural simplicity, why not target another area of our daily lives that could probably use a paring down: our closets? The lately-trending concept of the capsule wardrobe is not only a savvy way to get you dressed and out the door faster, but it may even change the way you think about clothes—and life—altogether. 

As its name suggests, a capsule wardrobe is a mini wardrobe made up of a set number of items worn for a single season. Items counted toward the set number typically include tops, bottoms, dresses, shoes, and outerwear. Other items, such as sleepwear, underwear, and gym clothes are included, though not counted. The number of pieces included in a capsule wardrobe popularly ranges from 25-40. However, all capsule wardrobe gurus agree that in order to experience the benefits of a streamlined wardrobe the number chosen should represent the minimum for your particular lifestyle. Minimalism is the goal.

As suggested before, the most immediate benefit of dressing with less is the simplicity it brings. We’ve all experienced the frustration of staring at a closet full of clothes yet concluding there is “nothing to wear.” Most times this problem stems from having too many items in our closets that we’re not wearing, such as those that don’t fit properly, don’t match each other, are out of season, or with which we have negative associations. Having to mentally work around these items when choosing what to wear in the morning is a lot to ask of a foggy brain. Cutting out the duds will leave you with a manageable selection of those tried and true winners you regularly gravitate toward. Capsule wardrobers find that having fewer options staring back at them in the morning makes for a simpler choice and time saved.

Despite common concerns, a capsule wardrobe doesn’t have to be bland or boring. Minimalist fashion blogger Caroline Rector assures, “It’s possible to live with a tiny wardrobe, and still have impeccable style and tons of options.” In fact, Rector argues that the process of building a capsule wardrobe actually hones in on your personal style and amps it up over time. Narrowing your wardrobe down to those core items you regularly wear highlights which styles best represent who you are as an individual, while analyzing the characteristics that tie them together reveal the specific colors, cuts, and brands you feel most confident wearing. These insights can help form clear criteria for future purchases, saving you money by steering you away from duds you’ll never wear. Moreover, knowing your personal style and what you feel comfortable in can help you pull together variations on those dominant themes, a powerful tool for building a versatile wardrobe full of coordinating options. 

Finally, minimalist fashionistas agree that the most compelling reason to transition to a capsule wardrobe is the freedom and contentment it promotes. We’ve all fallen for the tactics of marketing campaigns that appeal to our emotional needs and desire for social acceptance to make a purchase. Their overt and implied promises of how their products will add meaning and value to our lives sound pretty good when our self-esteem needs a little boost. Caroline Rector describes the all-too-common experience, “I had a bad habit of using shopping as a way to jolt myself out of a bad mood with a little instant gratification…it hit me pretty hard when I realized I wasn’t shopping for clothes—I was shopping for happiness.” We’ve all been there. For those wanting to break this cycle of frustration and find freedom from the binge shopping it often comes with, the capsule wardrobe offers a practical solution. The structure and practice of a minimalist wardrobe puts healthy parameters around this area of our lives. When we are able to manage our material things we are free to enjoy them without their managing us. What’s more, we’re freer to give our time, attention, and resources to the people and activities that actually do add meaning to our lives. This shift of thought has the potential to change our outlook on many things in life. “As I started living with less, I noticed the biggest change happening in my heart.” Rector concludes. “I realized that happiness, contentment, and joy come from within—not from stuff or external circumstances.” 

Summer may lend itself particularly well to a less-fuss approach to life, but simplifying our daily routines is a change we can benefit from all year long. While the challenge of dressing with less may seem intimidating, experimenting with a streamlined wardrobe can pay off in more ways than we might imagine. Counter-intuitive as ever, the old adage still proves true: less, as it turns out, actually is more.

Visit Caroline Rector's blog, Unfancy, for resources on how to start your capsule wardrobe. (Photo credit: Unfancy)

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