An Inspired Capsule Wardrobe

by | Oct 20, 2014 | Capsule Wardrobe | 39 comments

You’ll find me at Blessed Is She today, discussing the parable of the rich man who stores up his grain . . .

I don’t have any grain, myself. But you know what I do have? Baby clothes. Washed and folded, sorted by size and separated into bins. I installed built-ins in the guest room closet to fit all the little seasons and sizes.

All so I could rest easy knowing that I had enough tiny sneakers and sweater vests to last me a lifetime.

Now, fortunately for all the little sneaker-wearing people who live in this house, my life has not yet been required of me. But, nor have I required all that stuff I so carefully hoarded for so many years.

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I wrote that post over a month ago, and in the weeks since then, it seems like I can’t swing a bag of cats without bumping into another capsule wardrobe post on the internet.

The first I heard of it as a concept with a name was on this blog and I was smitten. She’s just the cutest. But I guess this is where it all started?

In any case, I can’t get it out of my head. For years now, I’ve felt uneasy about all the all the all the clothes in this house. There’s this tug between wanting to use things for multiple children, and wanting to keep stuff for myself, just in case I need it . . . and, on the other side, feeling like I’m slowly drowning in stuff that other people could be using.

I wrote this post about how we pack for the kids, and ever since have secretly known that if my kids can get by on that amount of clothing for two weeks, then there is absolutely no reason they couldn’t get by on it for three months. Or more in Southern California. My boys really only need pants for church and January.

Then I wrote this post giving us all permission to get rid of stuff that’s cluttering up our homes, and ever since I’ve known that I could stand to do a better job of following my own advice.

Because the more I think about the concept of a small, seasonally appropriate wardrobe being the only thing in my closet the more I see it as not just a way to declutter and do less shopping, but as a step in the right direction in my Christian life.

We are called to be detached from our possessions. We are called to be “poor in spirit.” That doesn’t mean being unhappy. It means living a spirit of poverty, treating the things I own as not belonging to me, just as things I’m looking after, because everything belongs to God.

St. Basil says, “The coat, which you guard in your locked storage-chests, belongs to the naked; the footwear mouldering in your closet belongs to those without shoes. . . . Thus, however many are those whom you could have provided for, so many are those whom you wrong.”

These closets stuffed with clothes that I might need sometime are a symptom of attachment, and of a lack of trust in God’s providence. I have a vision of myself having to get all these clothes burned off of me, slowly, layer by layer in Purgatory. Am I being overly dramatic here? Perhaps.

But I’m thinking NOW is the time to pull the trigger on this thing. It’s finally started to cool down here in Los Angeles. So tomorrow, a terribly stylish friend is coming over to help me actually DO IT and not chicken out.

We’ll see what ends up happening, but my plan is to create a fall/nursing capsule wardrobe to put in my closet now, that will last me until at least advent. I’ll also choose pieces I like out of my existing wardrobe to create capsules for other seasons, and because I’m still in THIS part of my life, I’ll need to create 1-2 maternity capsules, plus a postpartum, and maybe a not-pregnant/not-nursing one too. Then everything else goes. Out, out, out. (And then on to the kids?)

I’ll be posting photos of the process and my picks, so stay tuned.

Now. Who’s with me?! Who has done this and can offer me advice and encouragement? Who keeps hearing about capsule wardrobes and wants to give it a try with me? Who keeps hearing about capsule wardrobes and just wants it to stop?

Do you have a blog post about capsule wardrobes we should see? Link it up!


  1. Molly Walter

    I'll give it a shot – I don't have a big wardrobe to begin with, but it could use a good purge and update.

  2. Brigid

    Yes, yes, yes! When I read Blessed Is She this morning, I immediately forwarded it to my mom and a friend.

    I commented on Jenna's most recent capsule post that I didn't want to invest in new pieces to fill out the capsule wardrobe where I'm lacking until I am at a weight I am happy with (not post-partum, but post-college-desk-job). She noted that just knowing that I like what I have in my closet could be good. So I am on that mission myself.

    Not only will it give me the chance to diminish my attachment to the material in my life, but to free my emotions and mind from the time and mental energy I spend focused on clothes when they can be used in much, MUCH more fulfilling and real ways. Spending 20 minute rifling through clothes I hate in the morning would be much better spent with prayer, a book, a peaceful cup of coffee…

    • Kendra

      Thanks Brigid. And, yes! I think that's a big part of it. To apply the concept of only having things in your home that are useful or beautiful . . . to your clothes. So, you just have a few items, but you like them and they work for your lifestyle. And, I figure if I'm a different size in a couple of months, which is always a possibility (!), I'll deal with that then.

  3. Jenna Wilber

    I can't wait to see your results! I was inspired by your post Blessed is She post today and am going to go through all my stored baby clothes today.

  4. Beth (A Mom's Life)

    Loved your post on Blessed Is She this morning! I,too, have seen all the posts on capsule wardrobes and my interest is piqued. I feel like I don't have an over abundance of clothes anyway but I am trying to make a concerted effort to buy more pieces that can work together. Can't wait to see what you come up with!

  5. Amanda

    I love Blessed is She and your post today.

    I know we have too many clothes, and I keep so many for future babies, but I have two problems: 1. The idea of having to buy more baby clothes. 2. I don't have anyone who needs this stuff, and Goodwill is tossing most of it. I think I would be more inspired if I had a need to fill. We have tubs and tubs of kids' clothes. I have tried to get rid of things I really don't wear.

    If you get rid of stuff, though, how are you going to make these fantastic kids' costumes? Tell me the poodle skirt stays!

    • Amelia Bentrup

      You'd be surprised at who you know who needs it. Just put out an email to any moms groups you belong to with something "I hvve winter girls clothes. 2t-4t, let me know if you need them."
      Of just think of people you know that thave kids the same sex and slighter younger than yours and ask if they would like the clothes. They won't be offended, I promise. And many people will be very grateful. It doesn't have to be a relative or close friend. We've gotten clothes from people we were merely acquainted with and were always very grateful.

    • Kendra

      Amelia is right, I'm always able to get rid of clothes at our parkday. SOMEONE always seems to need it. And for baby, kids, and maternity clothes, I can send them with my mom to the crisis pregnancy center at which she volunteers. Stuff that's in bad condition gets driven down to the Missionaries of Charity in Tijuana. (A benefit of living spittin' distance from the border.)

      The dress up clothes stay! We really do use them. My kids love dress up.

      But it's a good point to remember that I should save a FEW things. My mom isn't sentimental about stuff like that and has a beautifully uncluttered home, but she saved stuff like that handmade poodle skirt, and I'm grateful to have it!

  6. Celia

    I love the idea of it, but I get overwhelmed with the idea of a maternity capsule wardrobe (or two, depending on season), nursing/post-partum, and a "regular" one. We move a lot, and could end up in cold or warm climates depending on where my husband's job takes us. I don't like the idea of donating, then spending more money starting over. That said, I do keep out-of-season (weather and life) clothing in plastic Target tubs in my closet and try to go light on the stuff that's out. Makes laundry easier.

    I am going to go through my non-maternity clothes today, though, and probably get rid of a bunch of stuff I'm 99% sure I won't wear within the next three years. (Anything that I can't wear and nurse in, really.) I think that'll mostly be dresses that can't be adjusted to feed a baby.

    I can't wait to see your picks!

    • Rosie

      I've been working on this for a while, and have found that having staple items that work for transition periods is going really well – I have a lot of clothes that work great for the first trimester/post-partum, some things that work all the way through pregnancy and then again when I'm not pregnant, and every single thing in my wardrobe (aside from a few maternity items) is nursing-friendly because I've never weaned without being pregnant first, so there's no point in buying anything I can't nurse in!

    • Kendra

      Celia, I think what you're already doing really is the spirit of a capsule wardrobe anyway. You're saving useful items, but decluttering your daily use space. I think a big part of the concept is how standing there wasting time in front of a closet full of stuff that you don't like and aren't using isn't a good idea or particularly edifying for your soul.

      Rosie, I'm the same way, but I do have a couple of dressy dresses that I can't really nurse in.

  7. Amelia Bentrup

    I really liked your Blessed is She devotion. I've been doing that for several years now. Mostly because we've moved so many times and have livec in small houses, so no place to store anything.Allthough some things I'm REALLY glad I saved (things like winter coats) because we REALLY needed them.

    For the most part, my experience HAS been that we've been given clothes when we needed them. When my 2-year was born, I had saved ZERO baby clothes and we were given everything we needed.

    I'm not a fan of the capsule wardrobe post on Un-fancy though. It just seems totally against the spirit of simplicity and poverty to go out and spend 1000 on clothes every season for yoru "capsule wardrobe". I'd be thrilled if I had 1/10th of that to spend on clothes each season. So, I think if you're just going through your wardrobe and pairing down, that is great. However, if in the process of getting rid of stuff you start to feel that you "need" all these pieces to "round out" your wardrobe, then there is a problem. And really 37 pieces (as in the unfancy post) is not all that minimilaist…I would consider myself rich if I had 5 different pairs of booties to wear this fall.

    • Amelia Bentrup

      Wanted to add, I also think that when doing this, it's important to choose "classic' pieces, instead of those which are trnedy. Again, looking at the unfancy post, some of her choices are more "trendy" and things which will likely go out of style in a few years. So, when building a capsule wardrobe, I think it's important to stick with pieces that YOU like and will ALWAYS like and not just what is currently trendy or in style.

    • Kendra


      You're absolutely right. That's way more money than anyone who reads my blog will probably spend on clothes in a year.

      But, she's a fashion blogger. If you read some of her posts, you'll see that she started doing this to cope with her attachment to shopping. She plans to spend a lot on her first year of capsules, then just switch out a few pieces each year. But not buy more than she needs, and not buy in between seasons. I think, for someone who runs in her circles, and can afford it, it's a step in the right direction.

      For myself, I plan to follow the advice of the 333 blogger, and start with what I've got. Then change things out from there.

  8. Erica Saint

    I am enjoying getting Blessed Is See in my inbox, and I loved your devotion today.

    I saw a couple posts pop up about capsule wardrobes, but the only one I read was Kelly's post because I knew it would be funny. I clicked over to Unfancy to read it, and I was shocked. A thousand dollars for clothes you plan to wear for three months? I thought I was missing some information because it didn't really jive with St. Basil's speech at all. Then I clicked on Project 333, and it made more sense to me.

    I am looking forward to reading your posts on the capsule wardrobe. 🙂

    • Kendra

      Yes Erica, I probably should have warned people . . . "Attention: you are about to leave a Catholic blog and go to a fashion blog. Things will be different there."

      I have a friend who has been doing this in her kids' closets for years. (It just didn't have a name when she was doing it, and she doesn't have a blog.) And she gets all of their clothes at resale shops, so it's possible to do this without resorting to designer clothing!

  9. The Sweet Wonder

    Love everything about capsule wardrobes. I'm in the middle of one, but more by necessity since I can only fit into a handful of items this late in pregnancy! I can't wait to put together a winter/postpartum/nursing one next.

    I hope you write more about your decisions with your kids' clothes! Although I'm pregnant with my first, we hope to have many more and the idea of saving all of her things for future babies and then saving their things for future babies is kind of overwhelming…I hate the idea of boxes and boxes of stuff, but it also seems smart to reuse from child to child. Can't wait to read more from you on this!

    • Kendra

      I've tried and tried to pare down their wardrobes and always chicken out while I'm doing it. I save this because it was Betty's when she was little, and that because Gramma gave it to us, and those because we can't decide so we just keep them both. But hopefully, if you guys are watching, I'll actually be able to do it right.

      I second what Amelia says up there, if you are lucky enough to have a Catholic community we really CAN live like the first disciples did, holding all things in common. As least as far as baby clothes. I can give it ALL away, except for a very, very, very few sentimental items. Then when the next baby comes along, I send an email to my Little Flowers group or the homeschool group and I'm swimming in baby clothes before you can say "Bob's your uncle."

  10. Liz

    Thanks for this. I need to get on it.

  11. Bonnie

    I've missed all the capsule wardrobe posts. BUT I've been feeling the same urging, mine because of reading a book about JPII. Even when he was the pope he had holes in his underwear! When people bought him new underwear he'd give it to the poor!!!! So that made me feel like a jerk and like he's in Heaven shaking his head in disbelief at my closet.

    • Kendra

      When we went to visit the Missionaries of Charity in Tijuana, the Mother Superior was about to be transferred to a different center, somewhere in another country. She showed us all her belongings . . . they were the sari she was wearing, one spare for when that on was being washed, and a metal bucket the size of a gallon of paint for her personal effects. She said that's what all the sisters have. And I've never met a happier group of ladies.

      Also, she said something I'll never forget, when my mom expressed sorrow that she wouldn't be there the next time was came down, she said, "Oh don't worry. Someone will take my place. We are all the same." Achieved: humility level . . . expert.

  12. Four People Trying is a page that resonates with the St Basil quote you shared, Kendra. It's a suggestion for how to pass on the excess and help it find a home.

  13. catlanz

    Inspiring! I think about simplifying/purging my wardrobe frequently, but whenever I get around to actually doing it I never seem to put a big enough dent in the darn thing! Can't wait to see how your Capsule process unfolds. Less truly IS more.

  14. emy

    I also LOVE the idea of paring down, but more than the "what" that's hanging in my closest, I find myself asking WHO. And not in the sense of "does this represent my style, who I am?" so much as WHO made this? Where? What hands, minds, and hearts were involved in creating the possessions I am fortunate enough to own? Have they been treated with respect? I want the story of my stuff to represent my faith well, too.

  15. Amy @ Motherhood and Miscellany

    I've never heard of a capsule wardrobe, but after reading your Blessed is She post today, I have been really thinking about getting rid of most of the piles and piles of baby clothes I've been holding on to. I have kept everything, in the HOPE that I will have another baby someday, but your BIS post and now this one, plus the fact that my bible study was talking about pride/humility today, really has me rethinking why I am holding on to so much stuff. I could also really use a good purging of mine and my older girls' closets. I'll have to read up on the capsule idea. I'm looking forward to seeing how it works for you!

  16. Elizabeth@SuperSwellTimes

    I have way too many clothes — it's sort of a problem. I may need to take this as motivation to finally purge my closet of things that aren't seeing as much use as they should.

    Plus, you know, two week trip! That sort of requires a capsule wardrobe.

  17. Amanda

    Your Blessed Is She post was a true Godsend to me. I've been pondering this same thing in that distractible, vague, random way moms do. My boys' closet is big, way bigger than necessary, and so I've justified carefully storing all their clothes. I have 12 mos-size 7 stored by size in bins all neat and organized. But it takes up a ton of space, a ton! I was actually talking with my husband about us building shelves in there just to store those clothes but neither of us could get excited about the project because it felt so the opposite of our usual goals and lifestyle. But I've had the merits of hand-me-downs beat into my head so many times. Aren't hand-me-downs perfect and awesome and doesn't every good mom, especially every good mom with several kids, keep them all neatly organized ready for use? I used to think so, but now I am seriously questioning that.

    Question. let's say theoretically I give away all my bins of kid clothes that my youngest boy (4) has outgrown and that my youngest girl (2) has outgrown. Then we (God-willing) get pregnant again and have a baby. All is good for 0-6 months because hand-me-downs from friends are plentiful and who doesn't love buying baby clothes for a friend/family member's new baby? But then by 12 months the clothing donations start to dissipate and by 5 years old they are nonexistent. We're on a crazy tight budget with an unemployed husband who has never and probably will never a lot of money since he's trying to start over with a new career. We also have terrible thrift stores since everyone here is so low income nobody has anything worthwhile to donate and kids clothes are severely picked through. It could take 10 trips to find 2 outfits for one of our kids there. How do I clothe the next kid without spending a lot? Or maybe I'm overestimating the usefulness of our own hand-me downs? Maybe I could keep a small bin of winter coats and boots, the pricy stuff to replace that is gender-neutral, and give away the rest? But then that feels against my goal of simplicity and generosity. I don't know, just thinking out loud here and welcoming others to join in the conversation, I'd love to hear others' thoughts on this and you especially Kendra.

    Also, I love the simplicity of the Project 333 paired with the practicality of the Capsule Wardrobe. It'll take some mulling over on how to adapt them to my needs best but I am totally with you on wanting to do that! I'll try to blog and share about it if I get the time. I'm really excited to see how yours goes!

    • Kendra

      Amanda, this is tough. Part of me wants to be all, "Just trust! Lilies of the field! Arrayed in splendor!" But I think as wives, we also have a responsibility to not make decisions that are going to cause our husbands stress.

      For me, I was saving all the boys clothes, and they were in pretty sorry shape by the second or third or fourth boy and outfits were missing pieces, so saving clothes has meant that I have a bunch of ragamuffins living in my house. Plus, our grandmothers send them clothes, and I'd throw an Old Navy or clearance Target thing in my basket every now and again, but again, just pieces, so maybe there really wasn't anything that went with it anyway. And the closets are full to bursting and they STILL look like ragamuffins.

      My thought is that, if I get rid of stuff, but shop infrequently, mindfully, and in outfits, I'll actually be spending less than I was before. But it's an experiment we can afford to make. And there are tons of resale shops near us.

      I have been looking around online. Twice doesn't have kids' stuff, and ThredUp seems more expensive than sale prices on new stuff, but seems like it's got a pretty good selection. I might try that.

    • Kayla @ Number One Petersons

      What about going through the clothes and saving capsules for each gender/season? Like a boy 12-18 month winter, girl 12-18 month winter, etc? That way you are saving and being prudent, while also paring down and being generous?

  18. Miss Jill and Mister John

    I haven't done it but I want to do it. I feel like I am swallowed by my clothing and need it gone. But boy it is a hard thing to manage. Post inspirations for me!

  19. Andi Sligh

    My kids have capsule-ish wardrobes by default (i.e., school uniforms…) with a few other items thrown in for church – mostly handmedowns or gifts from Nana – and I wish my closet was so simple. Now that I'm in my mid-40s I'm pretty sure this body isn't going back to its early-30s shape, so a lot of what I have needs to go, some because it doesn't fit and some because it just doesn't "work" anymore. Problem is…I have no idea how to go about it, but I'm willing to try!

    Oh, and I have ZERO qualms about giving things away. We've moved several times and I've always purged with great abandon. Now that we've been in the same place for a record six years, I'm getting the itch to purge again!

    • Kendra

      I think that's been my main problem! We moved eight times in our first six years of marriage, and now we've been in the same house for seven years and I haven't done a good enough job of keeping up with the accumulation.

  20. Munchie Mommy

    We have lived most of our married life in a 700 square foot apartment (now upgraded to a 1300 square foot townhouse, and we are 5 of us), so I have thought A LOT about having less to save space. Here is my system: Think of how often you do laundry, and how many days you wear an item before washing it. I wash once a week, so need a maximum of 7 shirts, 3-4 pairs of bottoms (pants, shorts or skirts) per season. Nursing tank tops to go under my regular tops means that I don't need a separate nursing wardrobe. Also, I keep 1-2 dressy outfits (okay, I have a few more than this right now because I'm too attached to them…). Kids each get 1 dressy outfit.
    In terms of storing kids clothes, the same goes, I store a maximum of a weeks' worth per size/gender/season. But I'm trying to let more of this go, because as you say, there's always someone willing to give used kids clothes so I'm not to worried about the expense of buying more.

  21. Nicole Cox

    Yes! I decided to try this because I suffer from the classic "have nothing to wear" with plenty (too many) clothes. My problem is I'm SUPER cheap and hold non to things for years, just in case. I'd love to have a J Crew/Banana style, but it's not in my budget. Even if it were, I just can't bring myself to spend that much; it feels wrong. So we cleared out all my clothes, and pared it down. It's nice to have simplified, and also help define my style a bit. I know what pieces I need for the coming season and can shop for deals. It was great also to see how much excess I really had and be able to trim it down and donate (or straight up toss way old stuff!)

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Hi! I’m Kendra.

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