6 Things I Learned While Shopping For My Capsule Wardrobe

After deciding to try the capsule wardrobe, I wanted to go shopping to put the wardrobe planner from Caroline at Un-Fancy to use. I was excited to try to shop within the practices of the planner, and with my new vision and acceptance of my current closet (all 99 pieces of it).

These are the 6 things I learned at the consignment store!

1 – I’m very drawn to the colors I filled out in the planner.

Writing down what colors I wanted to fill my capsule wardrobe with (shown in this post) made it easier to skip over some clothes because they didn’t fit my vision. I realized about two months ago that I wear a ton of gray. Like all the time. I’ll wear gray leggings with a gray shirt with a gray beanie around the house cause that’s what I’m most comfortable in!

So identifying that as one of my major colors was helpful because my eyes immediately sought out the gray section of the rack (Runway Fashion Exchange organizes by size and then color within that size – bless ’em). After that I’d move onto the black section, blue, sometimes green, sometimes the peach/orange, usually the white. And that’s it. I’d skip right over the reds and purples and browns. There were whole sections of the rack I didn’t even look at! Which is amazing! I’m so hesitant to make decisions and this helps so much!

Basically I learned what colors I like best, and make me most comfortable, and I only bought within those colors. This ensured the pieces I picked out were true to my style and would fit with the rest of the pieces in my closet.

2 – I’m less drawn to styles that are super cute, but aren’t me.

Identifying my go-to pieces in the planner helped me realize what I do and don’t wear. I never wear short skirts. Once a year – maybe. But the skirts always look so goddamn cute on the hanger. Same with breezy see-through shirts. They look so pretty and effortless. But I know that if I wear one I have to decide to either wear a camisole underneath to stop the see-through-ness of the top (annoying) or decide not to care if people see my bra (which I can’t always do). I think these styles are super cute and I am usually suckered into buying them and then never wearing them.

But not this time! Reflecting on my go-to pieces in the planner, and the shopping list I built from that, gave me a short list of the things I actually wear with consistency. So anything that wasn’t on the list stayed on the racks. Short skirts, breezy tops, maxi skirts, those super hot dresses with all the cut outs that I will never ever wear – I didn’t listen to their siren song and felt so damn independent.

3 – I feel better about clothes not fitting.

I’m sure y’all feel me on this – sometimes shopping is straight up hell. I would go to Target seeking retail therapy because I was dissatisfied with some aspect of my life, only to have all the clothes I try on not fit me like I imagined they would. And it made me feel bad and made my body image issues worse – which I would then try to solve by buying more clothes I didn’t need or even want.

But when clothes didn’t fit this time, that felt okay! It was even good sometimes, because that was one less option I had to pick from. It alleviated some of the choice for me because I’m not going to put something in my wardrobe (which I’m still hoping to shrink) that doesn’t fit me exactly the way I want it to.

Now, even though I’m at the bigger end of the rack, shopping is still much easier for me than for people with more severe eating disorders, body dysmorphia, or who are plus size/fat. I’m a large/X large in tops, usually around a 12 in bottoms, and a 9 1/2 in shoes. So my choices aren’t overflowing like some of the smaller sizes seem to be, but I can pretty much walk into any store I want and find something I like that also fits me. And I am super grateful for that, and send my love to people who are frustrated or hurt when they go shopping.

4 – I felt able to let go of old standbys in my closet that have served me well but don’t fit me like they should, are worn out, or don’t fit my new vision.

Because of my insecurities and body image issues, clothes sometimes became armor for me. If someone told me I looked cute in a particular outfit you better believe I was wearing that outfit every damn day. They’d validated my choice and it made me feel more secure to wear an outfit that someone else had approved. And that’s totally messed up.

It’s made me hold onto pieces for years because once someone said it looked good on me. Or if I had a great day in that piece, I’d associate that feeling with that particular article of clothing. And that’s not good because I was depending on my clothes to make me feel secure, as if I could control other people’s perception of me.

But the capsule wardrobe helps me focus on how feel in the clothes, not how the clothes make me feel (there’s a distinction there I swear!). So I could let go of this tank top that this boy once said made me look like a rainbow. Bye bye, I stopped liking you, tank top, like two years ago.

5 – I paid more attention to the fabric and practically of the pieces because I was shopping for the season.

There were so many cute clothes but as soon as I touched the piece I could tell it was too heavy for spring, or it was made of that damn breezy see-through material that gives me so much grief. I like long, flowy clothes or structured clothes and there are fabrics you can identify by touch that are used for different styles. The 4 new shirts I bought? All feel exactly the same. And they fit me the same and I love the way they fit me!

I’ve chosen to suffer for fashion before. Uncomfortable shoes, dresses that constrict my breathing, shirts and bottoms that need to be adjusted every time I move. And I’m so over that. If it’s not practical and comfortable then I can’t surrender space in my closet for it. Simple as that.

6 – I didn’t feel the NEED to buy something new.

This was the big one. I used to go shopping because I wanted to fill my life with something. I knew I was seeking happiness but all I ever got was more stuff. But I kept myself in that cycle and it was really unsustainable.

This time I went into the store knowing that at most I was gonna get a handful of things (honestly I was planning on only getting 3 so oops). And every time I put something back on the rack it was like a little relief – because I finally felt like I didn’t need it. I recognized clothes as clothes, awesome and fun, but not indicative of my happiness. I hope that I can continue to understand this and that I don’t feel the need to fill my life with unnecessary things in the future.

And for every piece I brought in I selected one to be donated – so I’m still at 99 pieces!

What have you learned from shopping for your capsule wardrobe? Did anything surprise you? As always, if you have any tips about capsule wardrobes or minimalism I’d love to hear them!


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Chicana, feminist, writer slugging through grad school with a job teaching composition.

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