Revive your wardrobe without breaking the bank. Create your own capsule wardrobe over 40 with just ten essential pieces (and this free printable!).
Watch the video in the post below for more details and links to the capsule wardrobe I’m featuring today:
This is the Wal-Mart Haul That Will Make You Want to Up Your Style
For one month after high school graduation, I was an exchange student in France. I lived with a sweet family who were eager to teach me all things Francais. The two precocious, teen daughters made it their mission to initiate me to nuances of French fashion. I was a willing student.
I quickly learned that European fashion sense was very different from my American views. Tousled curls, body musk, armpit hair- not a problem! But, more than obvious hygiene differences, I noticed the French embraced the human body with greater acceptance and respect than the “Barbie doll” ideals I was use to.
In contrast to my American wardrobe of foreign-made, trendy outfits, the French preferred to own fewer items of higher quality. They generally mixed and matched the same three or four well-crafted pieces of clothing for a week at a time, preferring quality to quantity.
Inspired by European ideals, the “Capsule Wardrobe”, a term coined in the 1970s by boutique owner and author Susie Faux, is making a revival for today’s women. Here’s why.
“The basic idea is simple: by building a capsule wardrobe you will buy fewer clothes of a higher quality that you will wear more often.”Susie Faux, Wardrobe: Develop Your Style and Confidence
When was the last time you took a really good look in your closet? Is it an environment that invites you to launch your best self?
Too often, I’ve started the day with a sleepy-eyed glance down my closet rack. What begins with hope for a confident, fun look quickly ends in frustration, guilt, and a sudden urge to go to the mall.
…I call it “The Mocking Wardrobe”. It mocks you with its piles and racks of clothes that go unworn every time you open up the closet doors.”Wendy Mak, The Capsule Wardrobe: 1,000 Outfits from 30 Pieces
It Started Long Ago
As little girls, we looked forward to buying a special outfit for birthdays, holidays, and the start of a new school year. As teens, we exercised our freedom to express ourselves through the clothing we chose (ack-the 80s!).
Now, here we are in adulthood, the wardrobe wasteland of insecurity. We keep shopping without the slightest confidence we are “getting it right”. If you’ve tried to revive your wardrobe without a plan, you’ve probably realized it’s an expensive and frustrating endeavor.
Let’s face it, over 40 is challenging and full of change. Whether we’ve shrunk, grown, or redistributed weight in new places, most of us have learned to avoid the dressing room mirror like a notice for jury duty.
But that’s not all. In the rush to feed and clothe other members of our family, we’ve lost touch with today’s trends and our personal sense of style. Empty Nest Moms often tell me they’re not even sure where they like to shop or what clothes flatter them.
As a result, it’s easy to either follow the latest fad and hope for the best, or give up and stick to “the uniform”: a comfy sweatshirt and jeans.
“So many women find assembling the right clothes bewildering today. They’ve discovered fast ways to put food on the table, but they do not know how to get their wardrobes together easily.”Donna Karan
Revive Your Wardrobe
Curating a capsule wardrobe using this checklist will benefit you in many ways. I dove into the minimal wardrobe craze motivated by a frantic desire to end overwhelm in at least one area of my life: my closet.
Life over 40 is complicated enough: launching kids, helping aging parents and keeping up with changing hormones. In the midst of all the crazy, I’ve decided my closet, at least, can be predictable and organized.
And, guess what? Once I revived my wardrobe, the idea of keeping things simple started showing up in other areas of my life, as well.
- I realized I only use a few kitchen utensils, pots and pans and got rid of the rest.
- I no longer gave in to the temptation to buy something just because it was on sale.
- Instead of buying “things” for my family, I started giving them shared experiences like a special dinner out or concert event.
Less Consumer Impact
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you have come to understand that we are each responsible for helping our planet stay as healthy as possible. When you put together a capsule wardrobe using this checklist, you’ll cut way back on consumer waste, since you’ll be purchasing fewer factory-made items.
When you eliminate the clutter in your closet, you may even find you already own some or all of the items on the capsule list. Lucky you!
Empty Nest Budget
Perhaps the most compelling reason to revive your wardrobe with a Capsule Wardrobe Checklist is the money you’ll save. Planning for retirement while helping kids with their education means our family counts costs.
More often than not, just setting foot in a store ups the spending temptation significantly-for me at least. Curating a capsule wardrobe means I’m no longer shopping as frequently or willing to fork over cash for the latest, shiny object.
Because I have a limited number of items that look great and mix well, I now have confidence and direction when I shop. Since I’ve revived my wardrobe, I no longer need to spend my precious Saturday hunting for a new outfit for the next wedding, funeral, or marimba recital. I know I have something to wear that fits and flatters.
Start assembling your Capsule Wardrobe with this checklist by asking yourself a couple important questions. First, what environment are you dressing for?
- Will you create this grouping for work or leisure?
- Do you need items that can transition to both?
- Which do you value more-comfort or appearance?
Let’s be honest, 10 items probably won’t be able to span attire for a work presentation and evenings at the football bleachers. If your work and leisure require very different styles, you will need a separate Capsule Wardrobe for each.
One Big Secret
Once you’ve settled on a style for your Capsule Wardrobe, your next step will be choosing a color palette. If you’ve failed at minimizing your wardrobe in the past, this step was probably where you floundered.
You may already know the colors that flatter you and work well together. If not, go through your closet and identify your favorite items- pieces that make you feel great and get you lots of compliments.
Still at a loss? Check out my Pinterest Board-Shannon’s Closet, for color palette ideas.
Black and white are the foundation colors for my Capsule, with red as an accent. I’ve listed some other palette ideas on the Capsule Wardrobe Checklist. Print it out and get started choosing your 3-color palette.
This next part is important. Resist the urge to add more than 3 colors to the palette. Sure, some garments will have multi-color prints. But remember, adding colors will reduce the versatility of your items and can quickly defeat your purpose.
I need to make a confession. When I decided to embrace the Capsule Wardrobe concept, I felt a sense of loss. All at once, I realized how much I looked forward to hunting for and buying new clothes.
For me, “retail therapy” has been an unhealthy distraction from issues or insecurities I really needed to address. Instead of journaling, taking a walk, or talking through a problem, it was much easier to go to the mall and see all the pretty things.
I left my stress at the chrome-covered doorframe once I stepped into the lovely wonderland of the clothing store. (At least until I received the credit card statement.)
Don’t be surprised if you have some emotional hurdles when you get serious about reviving your wardrobe. After all, this is about more than just clothes. It’s about rediscovering yourself, maybe for the first time in years.
Just 10 Pieces
Without further delay, let’s talk about the 10 essential pieces you’ll need to start your Capsule Wardrobe.
- 4 tops
- 2 bottoms
- 2 shoes
- 1 jacket or sweater
- 1 bag
1. Tailored Blouse
Choose a solid, neutral blouse that fits you well. It should have a collar and long sleeves with cuffs, and button up the front.
This piece will get mileage as a dressier blouse, a lightweight jacket, or under a shirt or sweater.
2. Sleeveless Tank
The tank should be a solid, neutral color. My example has a crew neck, but choose a neckline style you love. For many of us over 40, a below the waist length tank is more flattering.
3. Striped knit shirt
For many years, I resisted anything with horizontal stripes. I’d been taught they widened the middle and sure didn’t want anything to do with that! But the striped shirt has been on trend for a while now and doesn’t look like it’s going anywhere.
Choose a thin stripe pattern in your color palette and have some fun with this piece!
4. Patterned T
Here’s where you can add a splash of color! My example shows plaid for fall and winter months, but any pattern with your palette will work well.
This T can be worn simply with jeans, or layered with the blouse and tank
5. Leggings or fitted bottoms
Have some fun with this! If you are not a leggings kind of person, explore another style of fitted or pull-on pant with support.
Choose a solid neutral for more versatility, or add some pattern, like I’ve done with the reptile print leggings.
6. Dark wash jeans
A great pair of jeans is worth the hunt. Dark wash, classic style jeans with some flexibility and support are worth their weight in gold!
7. Shoes, casual slip on
I believe in comfy shoes! No fashion is worth achy feet. But just because shoes are comfortable doesn’t mean they need to be frumpy. Search for a casual shoe that has a bit of style.
8. Shoes, classic flat
Whether you prefer a pointy toe or a classic ballet style, a classic flat in your palette adds class to any outfit and raises your style a few notches.
9. Neutral duster sweater
Find a longer button-up sweater or lightweight jacket that hits mid-calf. If you are on the shorter side, you may need to invest in an alteration to get this just right. My example is belted, but you can purchase a belt separately if you decide to.
10. Cross body bag
I’ve become a fan of the cross body bag, both for versatility and style. Although my go-to bag is a larger tote, I love the ease of a smaller cross body to free up my hands and add that slimming, diagonal line.
Have fun with this piece! Search for a trendy bag that incorporates your color palette.
I returned from my French exchange with a killer tan and a suitcase full of new outfits. But that trip gave me so much more. My teenage fashion tutors planted a seed of self-confidence that lay dormant for many years.
Somewhere in the family-raising frenzy, my personal style got lost under piles of dirty laundry, mismatched socks, and muddy cleats. But when I committed to revive my wardrobe, that little seed blossomed into greater confidence in my new role.
I’ll forever cherish long-ago memories of my teenage style tutors. The hairy armpits I can do without.