Whittling Down The Wardrobe

by Alison Gerber


So I decided I would do it after all: I will give the capsule wardrobe experiment a go. I have no idea if it will work for me at this stage – having only a few pieces accessible, and rotating every season – but I have to do something about the tidal wave of clothes that crash out of our walk-in wardrobe every time I open the door. At the outset of this exercise my clothes filled (get ready for it): one side of a walk-in, one dresser with 8 drawers, one coat closet, and six large plastic tubs. Plus the floor of the walk-in was covered with my clothes. There were a lot of clothes. Some of which I had never worn, or hadn’t worn in 5 years.

Now we come to the obvious question: how? How does one go from 100 million pieces of clothing to 37 pieces of clothing?

I decided that 100,000,000 -> 37 was too insane a step to make, so I started last week by simply whittling down what I owned into a pile of clothes that could possibly be part of my capsule. My method for doing so is kind of laborious but I do think it’s the only way that actually works. Here it is in a nutshell: you have to try everything on.

Everything. Every single thing. Even the things you wore last week. Even the things you really think aren’t going to fit or look good any more. Everything.

As I did so, I created 4 piles of clothing: leaving, storing, mending, possibly capsule-ing. I determined what went where by asking the following questions.

1. Does this item fit me? Does it fit on my arms, around my waist, my bust? Clothes that didn’t fit did not stay in the wardrobe. That’s just depressing. I let myself keep a couple of items in the storing tub that were in the realm of possibility of fitting me (just slightly too tight) but the rest went in the leaving pile. There were some that didn’t fit because they were too big! I couldn’t believe it. They went in the mending pile, as I might be able to make them smaller.

2. Does this item look good on me? This question is hard for some people to find an answer to, and I would say if that’s you – invite a stylish friend to help you out. In the meantime, here are the questions I ask: Is the cut flattering? Does the color make me look alive and bright or dull and washed out? Does it make me feel “yeah!” or “meh”? Would I wear this on a date? Items that looked good went in the capsule-ing pile. Items that didn’t go in the leaving pile.

3. Is it worn out beyond the point of looking good anymore? I actually had a number of these: mostly sweaters. I wear sweaters forever and then they start looking pilled and stretched and gross. Most of the sweaters went in the leaving pile – or in the trash. It’s kind of scary to suddenly go from a whole bunch of sweaters to very few sweaters but I am consoling myself with the fact that this is part of the process: determining what I actually need.

4. Do I like wearing this item? Let’s be honest, some things fit and are flattering but are a bit ho-hum. Not everything excites me to get dressed in the morning. I ask myself the question: would I buy this at a store again if I had the chance? Stuff that I really didn’t care about anymore, also went in the leaving pile. It’s time to let someone else have the chance to enjoy my unloved clothes.

It took me about 8 hours (across 4 days) to try on every single thing. But through this process I managed to empty out 4 of the 6 tubs, half the dresser, half the closet and there are no longer clothes on the ground in my walk-in. Oh baby, it feels good! It’s so weird but I actually feel like I’ve lost weight. For real. Now when I look at my clothes in the closet, everything looks amazing. Next step, to make the capsule!!

(Image: I wish these were my socks! Kelly’s photo at the madebywhite blog. Check out her awesome style!)