Capsule wardrobe mistakes + tips on how to avoid them

I love my capsule wardrobe!

It helped me simplify my life, discover my style, improve my shopping habits and realise to stop caring about what other people think about my outfits – it changed my life!

But, as with everything, there is a bit of a learning curve, and I definitely did my fair share of mistakes when curating my wardrobe.

So to help you, I created a list of the most common mistakes and tips on how to prevent them.

MISTAKE #1 – RIGIDLY STICKING TO A NUMBER

My first attempt at a capsule wardrobe was Project333.

Now, a lot of people find value in this particular project, and as much as I think it’s a great test to see how little we actually need, for me, it wasn’t doable in the long run – I love fashion and I just need more to choose from.

And that is the problem with sticking to a number.

As a challenge, it might be a great idea, but as a way of living, I don’t believe it’s the best approach.

Because we’re all different, focusing on a certain number might make us feel deprived or even, that we have too much.

For a capsule wardrobe beginner, it’s common to believe we have to pick a certain number and stick to it or hell will break loose.

But I truly think we should trust ourselves to choose freely!

There is something so exciting about picking items without limiting yourself, and that is why I simplified the process of creating a capsule wardrobe and made it really enjoyable – you can check step by step process here.

But, if you still feel like selecting without a constraint will result in too much stuff, then give yourself an upper limit.

This is something you don’t want to go above off because you know it will make you feel overwhelmed and stressed.

From my experience (and I’m a self-proclaimed fashionista 😉 ), going above 80 pieces – including handbags, shoes, coats and fashion accessories like scarves, belts and hats, results in stress when picking out what to wear.

But if you’re just starting and you want to give yourself more room, than I would pick an upper number of a 100, but no more than that.

And don’t worry if this number seems high at the moment – with time, the amount will decrease the more you learn about your style.

Even three years in, I still see how I can optimise and simplify my closet for the next season, and the number of items keeps going down.

MISTAKE #2 – NOT GIVING YOURSELF A SHOPPING BAN

I’m not a fan of restrictions because they can often result in deprivation, but the number one thing I wish I would do differently when curating my wardrobe was to give myself some sort of a shopping ban.

Why? Because spontaneously adding whatever I wanted to my wardrobe kept my focus on things I don’t own instead of the things that I do.

But with shopping ban, we have no other choice but to focus on what we already have.

Suddenly we have to use everything that we have, find new combinations and with that, we learn a lot about our style.

That is why my number one tip to anyone who is struggling to find their style, is just to stop shopping.

It may sound silly, but chances are you have a lot of great things in your closet without even realising it. And chances are you haven’t yet experimented with all possible combinations and outfit formulas

I would’ve saved a lot of money and time if I would’ve just waited until I knew more about my style, likes and dislikes, before adding new items to my capsule.

So my tip for you is to experiment with short, medium or even long-term shopping bans.

If you stop shopping for a month, you’ll quickly realise you don’t need as much as you think you do. 

And even if you just do it for a week or two, you’ll still learn something new.

But my best recommendation would be to shop only every three months, which is right after the seasonal capsule finishes.

In the meantime, create a digital or physical wishlist, so that you can add an item to list, whenever the urge hits. And after the three month period is over, simply use your list as a shopping guide.

You’ll see that after some time has passed not all things seem as urgent to get as they did when you added them first.

MISTAKE #3 – NOT STAYING TRUE TO YOUR FAVOURITE COLOURS

When I was a teenager, I wanted to have every colour in my wardrobe. I believed the more colours I have, the more I have to choose from.

But with time, I learned that the opposite is true – sticking to your favourite colour palette is the best way to optimise your wardrobe and feel your best.

And shopping becomes really easy once you learn that.

Now I only try on things that are white, beige, black, navy, grey, pink, orange, red and maroon, and I never buy things that are yellow, green, blue (except jeans), brown or purple.

Knowing what colours work for you is life-changing, and I would recommend you track your wardrobe to discover which colours you love:

  • Start by going through your closet and creating 3 piles: things you love, things you like and things you don’t like. Now look for any commonalities – examine which colours you use most, and which ones you use the least? Take a mental note.
  • Do the same observation for patterns. Do you love polka dots, but never wear stripes? Or are you a fan of solids? Look at the piles and try to find what you like and what you don’t.
  • The other way is to track your daily outfits: take a picture each morning for a month, and then you can look back to see which colours you wear the most.
  • I would recommend doing this for every season because chances are you navigate towards different colours and patterns in different seasons. I, for example, love maroon in winter, but I would never wear it in the summer. And with navy is the opposite; I love it in the summer, but I don’t wear it in winter.
  • If you feel like you need to declutter your wardrobe, I created a little system where you declutter and analyse your style at the same time, and you can read all about it here.

Once you have your data, you can use it to shop smarter and only add things that are within your colour palette.

This way, you’ll avoid creating a mismatched and confusing capsule.

MISTAKE #4 – HAVING A LOT OF DUPLICATES

Have many white t-shirts does one need? My answer would be only one.

Yet, we are so used to owning duplicates. I used to have many black tops, black dresses, skirts, white sneakers etc. All pretty much the same but with minor differences.

But if we want a cohesive closet it’s best we pick our favourite version of a particular style, to avoid feeling like we have nothing to wear.

This will also help us save space in our wardrobe, shorten our time when getting ready, and stop us from buying the same thing again.

So go through your wardrobe and pick your favourite version and let go of everything else.

The only exception something can stay is if it’s a really different fit or style (for example – one item is oversized and one is fitted, or one is made out of cotton and the other one out of wool etc.).

This is just my advice, but if you wear some version of a uniform, then skip this step.

And funny enough, when it comes to loungewear, activewear and underwear, I love duplicates because it’s effortless to pick something to wear, not to mention wash 😛

MISTAKE #5 – COPYING OTHER CAPSULES

This is a very common mistake, especially when we’re just beginning and we don’t know where to start.

It can be easy to look at what someone else is doing and apply the same rules to ourselves.

But the problem is that what works for them probably won’t work for us – we have a different lifestyle, body type and budget. Plus, we also have different likes and dislikes.

I’ve even seen some magazine or articles listing 10 or 20 or 30 capsule wardrobe essentials and I cringe every time I see that.

For example, I don’t own a leather jacket. Not in black or any other colour, yet every time I see the ‘essential list’ there it is – a black leather jacket!

If I didn’t know myself very well, I might’ve bought into it and got it in good faith that it will be a wardrobe staple for me as well.

But then I would never use it, and my money would be wasted.

So use other people’s example of a capsule wardrobe as an inspiration, not as a shopping (or even decluttering) list.

I personally love a sneak peek in other people’s capsules, but only to get some extra inspiration and motivation to realise I don’t need new stuff, and I can further simplify my life.

With all the information and advertisement around us, we must learn to filter the information and apply it to our lives only when it brings us value.

MISTAKE #6 – CREATING A CAPSULE WARDROBE FOR YOUR FANTASY SELF

My husband would be the first to tell you how many times I bought something for my fantasy version of myself.

We make fun of it now, but back then I genuinely bought things for my ‘special occasions’ that weren’t even on my calendar!!

It still makes me laugh how far we can go to justify a purchase.

But my point is to be careful of the idea of ‘a fantasy self’. 

We all have these ideas of how we would dress or look in the ideal world – my fantasy version would wear designer high heels all the time, plus she would dare to wear all-white outfits even when it’s pouring outside.

But that is not my reality.

Comfort is my number one priority, so a collection of high heels for my fantasy self, would be pretty much unused, and a bit silly.

When I explain it like this, it might sound ridiculous, but we all do this in one way or another.

If you don’t believe me, answer this: have you ever bought or kept a smaller pant size as a motivation to lose weight? I rest my case, hehe 😛

So my tip for you is to create a capsule that works for your body and life now, not for your future reality that may or may not come true.

And if you’re not sure where to start, one of the best ways to keep ourselves grounded is to write down our day to day life: how many days a week we work, what we do over the weekend and how many times we go out to socialise.

Whatever your answers are, your capsule wardrobe should represent your activities.

And if you still feel like you may use some items in the future, put them out of your closet and store them somewhere safe. Over time you’ll know if you still need them, and you’ll be able to let them go if not.

The other tip I have is to find a middle ground.

For me, the toughest part of my wardrobe to declutter were my high heels.

Even after decluttering, I kept a lot of them and I also bought a few new pairs, despite rarely wearing them. I knew I was keeping them for my future fantasy self, but that didn’t help!

So then I asked myself what do I like about high heels: my answer was that I feel successful, elegant and polished.

Then I asked if I can get that same feeling without wearing them, and two things came to mind – blazers and fancy flats.

The good news was I already owned blazers, so instead of wearing them every now and then, I started wearing them with everything, even my sneakers.

The other thing I did was slowly add two luxury pairs of ballerinas that replaced my high heels, so I get that polished look that is also suitable for everyday wear.

My compromise 😛 two fancy pairs of flats, instead of uncomfortable high heels.

So if you still feel like it’s challenging to let some bits of your ideal style go, ask yourself how can you incorporate your fantasy into your daily life in a way that it makes sense.

Sometimes this can be as easy as permitting yourself to wear what you were saving for special moments, on a weekly basis.

Other times, we have to find a more creative solution – if you keep elegant dresses for special occasions that never happen, maybe add an everyday dress that has that special oomph 😉

Have fun with this one, but remember to stay mindful and not go overboard. I would suggest only adding a piece or two.

MISTAKE #7 – NOT SEEING EVERYTHING YOU OWN

When I was doing capsule wardrobe surveys, I found that a lot of women don’t see everything they own, which makes them forget what they have, and sometimes, they even buy it again!

So to avoid making this mistake, make some effort to make everything in your capsule wardrobe visible and organised.

I wrote a whole blog post on closet organisation, but the key points I want to make are:

  • Hang as much as possible: this is the best way to see everything, but it is true it’s not the best for every garment – thick sweaters and heavy items are best folded to avoid stretching out. And I personally prefer having my jeans, skirts and shorts in my drawer as well.
  • Use slim hangers if you have limited space: mismatched thick hangers are a sure way to make your closet feel overwhelming and hard to pick from. Plus, slim hangers save a lot of space, giving you the chance to hang even more items.
  • Organise your drawers and baskets with vertical organising: I used to put things on top of each other because I just didn’t know any better, but since learning about the KonMari method, I fold my jeans, skirts and shirts so they stay upright and I see everything.
  • And if you want even more tips, click here.

MISTAKE #8 – EXPECTING PERFECTION

The last mistake is chasing a perfect wardrobe.

Despite believing a capsule wardrobe can transform our style and life, there is no such thing as a perfect wardrobe.

Sometimes our budget won’t allow us to replace some older items, our taste or lifestyle will change a little bit, or we’ll feel a little bit uninspired.

That’s absolutely normal.

As long as we love about 80-95% items in our wardrobe, we’ll feel all the amazing benefits a curated closet has to offer.

So focus on doing your best, and remember that finding your personal style takes time and it’s best not to rush it.

Allow your style to grow with you, and in the meantime, experiment, experiment, experiment.

Let’s stay in touch…

What is something you learned when curating your closet? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below or write me an email 😉

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And if you want to read more, check out my latest posts!

2 thoughts on “Capsule wardrobe mistakes + tips on how to avoid them

  1. This feels like such a comprehensive overview of this subject – lots of food for thought. Thank you!

    1. Thank you! 🙂 I learned a lot when curating my wardrobe and I wanted to share everything in hopes to help someone on their journey as well 😉

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