creating a capsule wardrobe

Posted on Location: , 3 min read

When most people update their wardrobe for spring, it usually means making new purchases. For me, refreshing my wardrobe means ruthlessly decimating what I already have. I feel so good getting rid of stuff – like a butterfly newly emerged from its chrysalis, ready to spread its wings and fly, unencumbered by excess weight. Probably Kim Kardashian felt the same way after lasering her hairline. Anyway, sometimes all it takes to give an old outfit a fresh look is a little tailoring.

People aren’t static, so your wardrobe should change and grow as you do. Like, for the past five years, I did not live a real life, and my wardrobe reflected that, consisting primarily of runway pieces completely inappropriate for walking, eating food, or being around humanity in general. I also had no idea who I was, so my clothes were only an expression of who others wanted me to be. Now, my clothing still connotes both the regrettable choices I’ve made and my propensity for attention seeking behavior, but it’s also well suited for my life right now. I also like to think recent forays into technological fabrics such as tencel symbolize the bright hope I have for the future.

Point is, no wardrobe “plan” should be so rigid it doesn’t allow for modifications, however sentimental or impulsive they may be. That being said, I have a few rules established for myself. I only wear full length coats, because I’m not an animal. Only seamed stockings, patent leather heels, and always matching lingerie. I’m over cardigans or layers of any kind, for that matter. A coat looks better over standalone pieces anyway. As far as keeping things minimal, I don’t consciously try to limit the number of items in my wardrobe. I have six pairs of shoes, but I wear all of them, so I’m not going to try and pare my collection down to some arbitrary amount. My best advice is to approach clothes shopping the way you approach relationships. For instance, you might find a really cute dress, but if it needs a special bra or major tailoring or a cami underneath to make it wearable, forget it, because that’s the sartorial equivalent of a project, and you will never change him. If you’re tempted to just settle instead of waiting for something better, don’t. Don’t lower your standards and get stuck with some sus option, because clothing is a gateway to other poor decision making habits, such as dating a guy who likes his own Instagram photos.

“My best advice is to approach clothes shopping the way you approach relationships. For instance, you might find a really cute dress, but if it needs a special bra or major tailoring or a cami underneath to make it wearable, forget it, because that’s the sartorial equivalent of a project, and you will never change him.”


Don’t look for labels. Learn to spot good finishing and fabrics. Visit a fabric store, touch everything, read up on warp and weft, train your eye to recognize overcast edges and handstitching.

With age, I’ve come to dread shopping. I have no patience for sifting through thrift store racks and only buy things I find quickly and fall in love with on the spot. I don’t look at everything, either- only the colors I like, that are already in my wardrobe or match what I already have (and if a place is not sorted by color, forget it. I can’t handle it). Everybody asks for tips on thrifting designer stuff. I always say the same thing: Don’t look for labels. Learn to spot good finishing and fabrics. Visit a fabric store, touch everything, read up on warp and weft, train your eye to recognize overcast edges and handstitching. Designer doesn’t always mean quality, but looking for quality materials increases the likelihood of finding branded items. For example, I was in Beacon’s Closet for five minutes and a cursory glance yielded a Balenciaga dress, Valentino shirt, Sergio Rossi and Ferragamo heels, Agent Provocateur lingerie and a white cashmere vintage coat. Some people are gifted musically, artistically, or kinesthetically. My gift is I can smell Prada.

My wardrobe consists of 36 pieces, mostly secondhand with ethical, fully compostable items breaking up thrift store finds. I have two uniforms I don’t deviate from, and I never tire of them- either a fitted top and jeans, or a fitted dress. Everything fits in a carryon, and I still travel more than a week at a time out of just a Longchamp bag. At home, I do laundry once a week, and when traveling,  I hand wash items as needed with Castile soap. Nothing needs to be ironed, everything dries overnight, and most all my clothing is odor absorbing and temperature regulating anyway, so it doesn’t need to be washed often. I freeze dry my things in cold climates, and air clothes in the sun whenever I can, too. Having a small, deliberate wardrobe makes maintenance easier, and I never get bored. It’s like love- when you find the right pieces, you stop looking, because you’re happy. Unless you’re poly.

All photos provided by Ariana Schwarz

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creating a capsule wardrobe