How Changing My Clothes Changed My Life

Happy 2023 and congratulations: you’ve just come across the perfect New Year’s resolution! 

It was August of 2022 when I decided it was finally time for a change. I was flat-out broke from my frequent consignment store runs and online thrifting hauls. Since seventh grade, I’d been buying almost all of my clothes secondhand. Under the guise of low prices and sustainability, I’d justified countless purchases which would enter my closet and never again see the light of day. It was like a fashionable black hole. Yet even with all these options, I felt like I had nothing to wear, and thus the cycle continued.

That summer, I had come across several fashion creators who were talking about something called a capsule wardrobe. I’d heard the term before in relation to traveling — i.e., packing clothes you could easily mix and match to get the most out of what little you could bring — but I’d never thought about applying that concept to my everyday life. So, with little else to occupy my time and distract me from the impending school year, I set out to give it my best shot.

Though I had only planned to keep this up until Thanksgiving Break, which was right around the three-month mark, I can confidently say I’m never going back.

The parameters: for three months, I would keep exactly 33 items in rotation in my wardrobe, which included tops, bottoms, jackets and shoes. (Some hardcore minimalists include jewelry, bags and all other accessories in the count, but I decided to cut myself a little slack. I was not about to sacrifice my earring collection for this.) Throughout the challenge, I switched out warm-weather items for those more suited to fall; for example, my favorite sandals and crop tops quickly became impractical after that one week in September where the seasons seemed to switch from summer straight into winter. I divided the rest of my clothes, deciding which ones I wanted to store out of sight until after the challenge and which ones I wanted to donate. Though I had only planned to keep this up until Thanksgiving Break, which was right around the three-month mark, I can confidently say I’m never going back. 

A capsule wardrobe doesn’t necessarily mean minimalism or owning strictly five pairs of boring, neutral trousers. It’s defined by the number — 30 to 40 pieces of clothing that you wear out, so sweatpants, hoodies and other loungewear pieces DO count if you leave the house in them — and that every item fits your body, style and life. My recommendation, if you want to try this for yourself, is to pull out the items in your wardrobe that make you the happiest, that you’re most excited to wear. Alternatively, you can think about what outfits you gravitate toward, but I’d encourage you to actually pull the items out and look at them. You’ll start to notice patterns; it might be a color scheme, a level of formality or casualness, or even a certain material. From this, you can figure out what to build off of to create a closet with a level of cohesion that works for you.

Dearest reader, you may be questioning my sanity at this point. Many of us own far more than 30 items of clothing — in fact, some of us might own close to that many sweatshirts…you know who you are. But there’s magic in this apparent madness. It’s not even about everything working together aesthetically, or every piece mixing and matching well. The real benefit to a capsule wardrobe, and cutting down your clothes in general, is opening up your closet every morning and knowing that you’ll be able to find something to wear that makes you feel confident and comfortable. Of course, we should get rid of clothes that are too small or too big for us, but you can expand the criteria of “fit” to include practicality, comfort and whether the piece of clothing makes you feel like your best self when you put it on.