Greetings and welcome. Today I am going through some things I learned while putting together a capsule wardrobe. When my children were younger, poor things, I experimented on them. The goal was to save me as their mother, both time and energy. One memorable family outing included accompanying their parents to the store where we bought them a bunch of mix and match Land's End uniform clothing. That day we went home with some fairly unrealistic expectations. Part of our downfall was the fact that the school they attended did not require them to wear a uniform, and despite being a woman, and having been a girl, I failed to realize that even very young girls can have some basic curvature. About the only success was the purchase of several polo shirts that both girls wore, probably because they were what was available at the time, and I'm particularly proud of one dark pink polo that my oldest wore for school pictures as it's one of my favorites, but that has more to do with her lively facial expression than the unfortunate clothing that was forced upon her.
Here is what I would do if I was doing it all over again. First I would do more research. Today I have both Carol Tuttle's book; That's Just My Nature, and Sam Samboura's real style (note, he doesn't capitalize the words so I am following that convention here. I have read many other articles and books, however these have remained on my shelf as they have proved to be good resources. Sam gets into body types and composition, his book is for women although I'd imagine there must be similar writings for people of other genders. Carol is more into personality type, and that's why I listed her book first. Once you know what is going to flatter your energy type, then you can apply what Sam or other experts advise. One author, whose name I have since forgotten, advises you remember why you want a capsule wardrobe in the first place. I feel like this is an obvious exercise, but include it here since it did help me think about what I wear, how, when, why, etc..., I am donning the particular item I have chosen.
Some suggestions, I hesitate to call them rules although they may be perceived that way. 1. Keep what fits and is flattering, and it must fit and flatter. I could add; be appropriate, but I have an inner wild child so I'm less likely to follow this particular edict. 2. Start inside and work your way out. What this looks like in real life may frustrate some, or even many, but in my opinion it is a key step, and not one I've seen often elsewhere. Every outfit can be considered a system, the weakest links are going to be the most apparent, and an old engineering principle reminds us that decisions made earlier in the process affect the outcome more than later ones so it is imperative to start with what is worn beneath and under clothing despite these items typically remaining invisible, or seldom seen. I remember trips through foundation departments and struggles with garments designed for someone shaped very differently than myself. Get a fitter if you are having trouble, and avail yourself to this person because you never know what they may know that you don't.
How many outfits and what your wardrobe will look like when you are finished is up to you. If you lack the funds to buy what you really want, at least try it on and notice the difference between what fits, and what interferes. I was under the impression that I knew a lot more than I really did about basics, and have gained considerable knowledge and education by paying attention to what fitters recommended, however, I have also learned lessons the hard way when I followed expert advice since these people are also human, and there are times when we know ourselves better than a stranger, or even a friend. Case in point; an expert bra fitter got me to expand my black and ivory color palette a bit, and now I fume every time I see that stupid purple bra that she talked me into. There's really nothing wrong with it except I am not a purple person, and I'm irrationally angry about this for reasons I won't get into here. You will make mistakes, the more you make, the more you learn, so there's really nothing to be lost other than time, money, and energy by immersing yourself in the experience. (That was supposed to be a joke, I get that it's far from easy).
You may have guessed that somewhere I would be talking about footwear; so here we go. While you are shopping, or going through your own closet, dresser, laundry, etc..., for your unmentionables, you can start selecting which socks will accompany you moving forward. Perhaps none of them will make the cut, maybe all of them will. I won't go into too much detail here out of consideration for the overall concept, but I have many words and ideas on who should be wearing what and when. I started this with the intention of having a full work week's worth of clothing plus one outfit that I could wear to a more formal event such as a job interview or a funeral, and yes, I did start with socks because the more comfortable your feet are, the better off your entire body is, and the same can be said for items that reside most closely to your skin. Skimp here at your own peril. You have been warned. Once you have your inner layers addressed, you can move onto outer layers that more will see.
Again, I am recommending that footwear be a priority since you will want to consider hem lengths, if your clothing has them, and that's impossible without knowing which footwear will be worn with whatever. A discussion on color is beyond the scope of this post, but I would urge you to consider which neutral best suits you, and go with that as frequently as possible. Perhaps you feel that this will be bland, or boring, and I admit that this is a downfall of the capsule wardrobe. Maybe you want to indulge yourself with patterns and prints on your intimate apparel and be more conservative elsewhere. Or you can let your freak flag fly and go all out, it really doesn't matter to me, this is your wardrobe, and ideally you are comfortable with whatever items make your final cut. Black is an obvious choice here, however it can feel heavy, or look stark so consider alternatives such as navy (which can be hard to match). This is also a time to contemplate accessories such as a belt, or watch.
At work we have a very loose dress code, YMMV. It's technically business casual, on one side of the building the manufacturer requires everyone to wear a suit coat or blazer, gentlemen are expected to wear a tie and dress shirt, ladies have more leeway here. I'm fortunate because the side I work on cares less about that type of thing, and management is lax about enforcing infractions unless someone is grossly out of line, and even then I've seen some eyebrow raising shenanigans pass without so much as a whisper from above. Previously I worked in sales, now I am in service, and the dress code is even more relaxed which is great for people like me who get cold, and dislike getting dressed up. An article I read long ago had sage advice that I want to pass along here. Buy one product that will do ten things rather than ten products which will do one. I can walk out of my place, be gone all day, and generally fit in for the most part which was another one of my goals.
Another suggestion that you have probably figured out on your own is scout for sales and shop them when possible. I hit the jackpot when I found several pairs of casual black dress pants in my size for $30.00 USD, and I was smart enough to seize the day. Since I shop there when I can the store personnel was familiar with me, and I was able to get two more pairs shipped to me. At the time I was nervous, did I really need this many pairs of the exact same item? What if I gained weight? What if I hated them? You can drive yourself crazy with this mentality. It remains one of my best capsule wardrobe moments, and I was so enchanted with this success that I bought enough compression hose to get myself through one work week. Since I live in an area with extreme temperatures layers are important, I wear several during the winter, and have had the good fortune to work at a place that sells some clothing that I can purchase at a discount.
When I was trying to determine what I had, and what wardrobe holes needed to be filled I got into the habit of laying things out on my bed and then asking myself if I had everything I needed from the skin out to make it through an entire work day. Keep in mind that I would work a twelve hour shift at least twice a week, and maybe more, and was expected to attend things like fundraisers and other company sponsored events where I would be subjected to whatever weather Wisconsin had to offer at that particular event or day. Here is another mistake I made, I thought that since the polo shirt is a ubiquitous item it would be savvy of me to stock up on them, the only problem is, and I don't know why since I have worn them in the past without problem, is I didn't end up liking to wear them. As I said, you will make mistakes, the sooner you can acknowledge the lesson they taught, the better off you will be.
Since I wear virtually the exact same thing to work day in and day out, I thought that might elicit some feedback, but apparently not. It's inoffensive corporate drone type stuff for the most part, again, this is what works for me and is certainly not intended to be a prescription for anyone other than me. It makes laundry a breeze, I do sometimes change my mind about what to wear, but that is because I left myself with too many options. I bought a striped turtleneck thinking I would be cute and fun, and wore it exactly once. I still like it, but whenever I put it on to wear to work, I end up taking it off again. Another mistake, this one puzzling since as I mentioned, I actually like the garment in question. No matter the reason, the less sentimental you can be about things of this nature, the easier it will be to achieve your goal.
What has worked better for me, and a closet staple of mine for many years is 3/4 length tops. I prefer black, but I have had orange, yellow, pink, and green; mainly as summer options. I have a spring/fall jacket, a lightweight winter one, and a ski jacket that is very warm. Eventually I'd like a more formal wool peacoat or something of that nature, but for now, I'm happy with what I have. Since I work in the service drive and walk outside at least ten times a day I keep several pairs of thin gloves with textured palms near my desk to better grip the steering wheels of cars in chilly weather. I have two necklaces, ten scarves, ten vests, and I could easily downsize, but when you walk into my closet on any given day, there really isn't much to see. Part of it is the way I have it organized. Scarves are on the back of my door hanging from a rack. I hang my pants, and layer vests over tops with tanks folded directly above them. I have two pairs of yoga pants, a thin athleisure style jacket, and two pairs of pajamas.
Ultimately what you do and how you do is really up to you. I have more clothes than I need, but when I try to weed through things, I don't end up with nearly as much as I did in the past, and this feels like winning in my book. I would estimate that I have spent several thousands of dollars on my wardrobe which sounds like a lot, and it is, however it is justified to me since I like what I own, and it gets worn (outside of rare exceptions such as the aforementioned striped turtleneck). Anyone can let me know that plans have changed at a moment's notice, and I can quickly grab a fresh set of clothing off the hangers, and be ready to go as soon as I am showered if the occasion warrants another one. I feel as if I have a nice mix of business clothes that can pair well with more casual items, and this has given me a real confidence boost I lacked earlier.
Another byproduct of this system is that articles belonging to me are immediately recognizable, and that's worked to my advantage more than once. I was at my desk when someone from another department entered ours. He rarely ventures out of his area so I was surprised to see him until he held up the hat I had dropped on my way into work. This was when it first started getting cold, and I don't think he had ever seen me wear it, he said he found it near one of the picnic tables so it could have belonged to one of the other women at work, or even one of men as it was a gender neutral color and knit, but it was returned to me before the freshly fallen flakes had time to melt. We also had a discussion about my scarf collection after a guy at work asked what I had around my neck. I told him it was a scarf, but he said he had never seen one tied like that before.
I have spent good money on wool and silk scarves, and found bargains at thrift stores like Goodwill. My favorite scarf is a very fine Merino wool that features a black and gray stripe pattern where the first set of stripes runs the length of the scarf while the ends run perpendicular to the longer stripes. It's thin enough to wear in summer and remains warm in winter. I've owned it for years, and pray it has years left of service left in it. I'm happy that the things I wear bring joy to me on most days, and hope that this was helpful, if only in a very small way. There's obviously a lot of material here, and probably things I missed, but I wanted to do a quick overview rather than something that would take too much time to read. If you are sorting your own clothing before venturing out, you may find strangers, enemies, and Friends helpful as this is a strategy I continously employ.
tl;dr If you want a fast and easy monochromatic capsule wardrobe, buy a bunch of black and wear it regardless of what your fellow employees say. Life is short, drive fast, and take chances; you should have a lot more time on your hands now that you no longer have to devote so much mental energy figuring out what your corpse will be wearing when they finally catch up with you.