Can a Capsule Wardrobe Actually Save You Money?

Capsule wardrobes have become something of a trend these days. Along with a general push to radically declutter Marie Kondo-style, simplifying one's wardrobe seems to be an attractive lifestyle change. But can a capsule wardrobe save you money? Always one to try something new if it saves me a nickel or two, I set out to find out.

A capsule wardrobe appealed to me for a variety of reasons:

  • I didn't wear about three-quarters of my wardrobe. Some of the items I'd been keeping around included dresses that no longer fit, poor quality pieces that had become misshapen or worn out in the wash, and clothes that didn't match anything else.
  • I was tired of spending time putting together the right outfit. I was longing for a wardrobe in which everything matched and I could easily throw on an outfit in the morning without thinking.
  • I wanted to both save money, and get better value for my money. My current system of impulse buys meant I was spending money without a clear idea of where it was going. I wanted to set a clothing budget to track my spending, and a capsule wardrobe was the best way I could think of to do that easily.

1. The First Step: Purging and Evaluating

The first thing I did was purge. I took everything out of my closet and evaluated each piece of clothing. I kept only what still fit, what was in style (or a classic style) and in good condition, and that I really liked or loved. I let go of pieces that didn't fit, were out-of-date, and worn-out clothing that I hadn't worn in years.

In the end, I ended up bagging two-thirds of my wardrobe to donate to my local Salvation Army. Getting rid of so many clothes might seem like a waste, but I hadn't worn those clothes in years, and this way, someone else could potentially get some good use out of them.

Evaluating my wardrobe in this way also helped me to realize what articles of clothing did work for me, which would help me immensely in building my capsule wardrobe.

2. Building the Capsule Wardrobe

The concept of a capsule wardrobe entails limiting your wardrobe to a certain number of pieces per season (out-of-season clothes can be stored for another time, and this doesn't include workout clothes or special occasion clothes). After purging my closet, I already had 23 pieces that I wore frequently. This included pants, skirts, tops, sweaters, and cardigans. (I didn't include shoes or accessories.) This wardrobe was already working quite well for me, so I decided to allow myself to purchase only four more small items for the current spring season. These purchases were carefully considered and were calculated to fill holes in my current wardrobe. They were also planned to match with most of the other clothes in my capsule. (See also: 8 Essential Pieces for Your Capsule Wardrobe)

3. Crunching the Hard Numbers

To see if having a capsule wardrobe could really make a difference in my finances, I started by adding up everything I had spent on clothes (not including shoes or accessories) in the three months before I started my capsule wardrobe. I'm naturally a frugal shopper, and I generally shop sales and clearance racks. Not including tax, I spent about $230.

I was actually surprised that I spent so little! I guess I'm more frugal than I thought when it comes to clothes (that, or having a baby strapped to me tends to put a damper on shopping). Of that $230 of clothing, $60 worth of those clothes were wasted, because I either hated them after a week, or they were so low quality I was only able to wear them a few times before they looked worn out.

Next, I set myself a budget for the next season. I already have some warmer weather clothing I can pull out for the spring capsule, so I only needed to buy a few more pieces. I gave myself a generous budget (for me, anyway) for the four pieces I wanted to buy, in order to ensure I got quality pieces that would last. My budget for the next three months was $95, and I gave myself an extra $30 buffer in case I needed to replace something. My next three months' clothing budget is $125. If I stick to it (aye, there's the rub), I'll be cutting my clothing expenditures by nearly half.

Bottom line: If I can resist impulse buying for the next three months and truly stick to my carefully considered clothing choices, I'll have a better quality wardrobe in which almost everything can mix and match, for less money than I was spending on cheap impulsive purchases. (See also: The High Cost of Cheap Clothes)

4. Non-Monetary Gains

In addition to saving money, I've already noticed the following benefits of having a capsule wardrobe:

  • Less time getting dressed in the morning.
  • Everything matches, so there's no need to think too hard about an outfit.
  • Less guilt about all the unworn clothing (or trying to fit into too-small clothing).
  • No more cramming clothes into overstuffed dresser drawers.
  • My wardrobe reflects "me" better, because it's made up of pieces I love.
  • Buying less gives me the freedom to splurge without guilt on fewer, higher-quality pieces.

At this time in my life, I believe a capsule wardrobe will work really well. If you have a tendency to shop impulsively, a capsule wardrobe can help tremendously to simplify your purchases and to reduce spending. A month in, I don't feel limited by the capsule wardrobe — I'm not a huge fashionista anyway, so I don't feel the need to try on every trend, and being able to carefully consider what pieces I'm going to buy helps me to buy clothing that works better for me.

Have you tried the capsule wardrobe trend? Did it help you to save money?

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