Skip to Content

Building Your Perfect Compact Wardrobe

Clothes can be overwhelming. Between choosing what to wear and trying to find things in an unorganized, tiny closet, your day can quickly get off to the wrong start with this frustrating and draining experience. Even after implementing a few closet organizational tools, your real problem remains — too many clothes you don’t even wear.

As many famous people who tout the ‘Uniform Project’ or the ‘capsule wardrobe’ attest, getting this part of your life in order is an important step to simplifying your life, freeing up time, space, and creative energy, and ultimately finding greater fulfillment and success in more important pursuits.

“But I love my clothes…”

The concept of a more functional, compact wardrobe might sound appealing, but also stir up a few concerns. For clothes-lovers like me, the idea of downsizing to just a few pieces may incite feelings of panic and vulnerability. Unlike those who don’t want to ‘waste’ time on clothing decisions, some of us enjoy putting together stylish outfits. It’s easy to think that minimizing our wardrobe will stifle our sense of fashion and creativity.

Getting past this hangup, as with many other minimal-lifestyle concepts, depends on realizing that a compact wardrobe isn’t necessarily about owning fewer clothes. A 6-piece wardrobe might work well for some people, while others don’t drop below 30. It’s not about how many pieces you have, but rather transforming your clothing from a collection into a statement.

From Collection to Statement, Size to Function

Take a hard, honest look at your wardrobe. What does it say about you, if anything? Do you wear everything in your closet on a regular basis? Are there items that don’t fit right, things you’ve never worn, or pieces you just don’t like (but were on sale)? Most of us only wear a small handful of what’s in our closet. If you need proof, separate your clothes as you wear them (some people use the flipped hanger method), and you’ll see exactly which items you wear frequently, and which never make it out of your closet, even though you may try them on repeatedly. You’ll probably discover you’re already wearing a capsule wardrobe of, at most, 20-30 items you feel most comfortable in that define your personal sense of style.

Defining Your Personal Style 

Although they vary in their methods, most wardrobe-minimizing experts agree that before you can create a compact, functional wardrobe, you need to define your personal style. This will guide you in deciding which items to keep, which to ditch, and how your wardrobe works together in creating looks that express your personality.

Start by examining the clothes you’ve determined you wear most often, and ask these questions:

  • What styles, colors, themes, materials, etc., do they have in common? 
  • What might these pieces indicate about the types of clothes you’re drawn to (a love of certain colors, a preference for comfort, a classic style)?

Next, use visual organizational tools such as Pinterest boards to help you collect and define what composes your personal style. You might discover issues, like styles or elements you’re drawn to but don’t work for you. It’s okay to admire these things, or work them into other aesthetics like art and decor, but free yourself from the frustration of trying to force them into your wardrobe. On the other hand, you might find key styles you gravitate towards because they accentuate your best features and make you feel great wearing them.

Out With the Old, In With the New

Using this information, begin to weed out items that don’t fit into your personal style, and make a list of items you need to fill in the gaps (or things on your virtual style boards that aren’t in your closet, but should be). As you donate what might be a significant portion of your current wardrobe, don’t feel like your wasting money or resources. Not only are you helping others, you’re creating a framework that will prevent you from wasting money, time, and energy in the future.

As you start to shop, focus on quality. By making careful, limited selections directed by your personal style formula rather than what’s on sale, you can afford to invest in quality clothes. Of course, price doesn’t always define quality, so it helps to learn how to recognize good fabric and tailoring (check out this blog for a detailed guide). Higher quality clothing will look better, feel better, and last longer in spite of heavy wear.

Methods and Systems

As a counter-culture movement, building a compact ‘capsule’ wardrobe has become a very popular concept. Thankfully, this means you’ll find many ideas about systems and methods for creating the ideal wardrobe. Some capsule concepts are based on a certain number, like 6 or 30, while others focus on color themes or versatility. Some are seasonal while others are designed to function year-round. The method that works best for you will depend on your needs — your career, your weekend activities, the climate you live in, or even how often you need to do laundry.

Find what works for you, and embrace it. The process of reinventing the way you approach clothes and discovering your personal style can take time, but a functional, self-defining wardrobe is definitely worth the effort.

Follow Tiny Living on Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram to get our latest tiny house updates!