The Capsule Wardrobe: How to Reduce Your Closet to 37 Pieces

Is it us, or does it suddenly seem like less is so much more? While the minimalist lifestyle has been gaining traction for a while now, lately it seems the trend has narrowed in on an area dear to our hearts: the closet. Whether it’s Marie Kondo’s often wardrobe-focused tidying technique or Matilda Kahl’s choice to wear one outfit to work for three years, many are looking to trim the fat in their closets. After all, who doesn’t have and resent a large selection of unworn, often low-quality items? We know we’re guilty.

One closet-reducing program that’s especially buzzy as of late is the capsule wardrobe. While many have jumped on the clothes-purging bandwagon—blogger Harben Porter has whittled her wardrobe down to 40 pieces, and popular lifestyle blogger Oh Happy Day has cut her closet down to an impressive yet terrifying 12 pieces—the authority on the capsule wardrobe movement is Caroline Rector of Unfancy. Below, we explore what a real capsule wardrobe looks like, Rector’s methodology, what it’s done to change her life, and how to start your own capsule collection.

Scroll down to see our how-to and what the capsule wardrobe looks like IRL so you can start simplifying your closet and your life.

How it works:

In the words of Rector, a capsule wardrobe is “a mini wardrobe made up of really versatile pieces that you totally love to wear.” Each season (spring, summer, fall, and winter), you clear your closet except for a set number of pieces to be in your capsule wardrobe. Rector’s golden number is 37 items, but it varies by season. Your capsule collection is made up of a combination of items you already own and love to wear, as well as new, quality items that you can shop for once a season. Learn more details about how it works on Unfancy.

The benefits:

According to Unfancy, a capsule wardrobe represents more time, more money, and more energy for the things in life that really matter (i.e., not your clothes). By shopping only once a season, you save money on frivolous items that add up. Rector also says that by narrowing her wardrobe, she was actually able to define and understand her style more. Plus, she always feels like she has something great to put on, as every single item hanging in her closet is something she would love to wear right at that moment.

How to start your own:

Rector has a five-step approach to building your own capsule wardrobe.

1. Pare down your closet to 37 items.
2. Wear only those 37 items for three months.
3. Don’t go shopping during the season until…
4. During the last two weeks of the season, plan and shop for your next capsule.
​5. The amount you buy for the next capsule is up to you, but less is more.

Check out Rector’s additional tips and rules for paring down your closet.

What a capsule collection looks like in action:

cardigan + striped shirt + skinny jeans + Birkenstocks

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Unfancy

This easy pairing will be your weekend go-to.

white tank + plaid shirt + skinny jeans + ankle boots

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Unfancy

The perfect concert outfit, if you ask us.

denim jacket + white T-shirt + track shorts + white sneakers

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Unfancy

Athleisure at it's finest.

vest + white tank + jean shorts + lace-up sandals

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Unfancy

And a scarf for good measure.

jean jacket + white tank + gray jeans + slip-on sandals

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Unfancy

Denim on denim will never get old.

blazer + graphic tee + denim shorts + sneakers

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Unfancy

Get more use out of your blazer by styling it with casual pieces, too.

jean jacket + striped shirt + gray jeans + open-toe boots

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Unfancy

Spring is an especially good time to get use out of your favorite jean jacket.

jean jacket + white T-shirt + jogging pants + pointed-toe flats

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Unfancy

Chic comfort at it's finest.

button-down shirt + track shorts + Birkenstocks

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Unfancy

This is making us realize how many uses for a button-down shirt we've been overlooking.

jean jacket + gray dress + lace-up sandals

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Unfancy

Shop more denim jackets here

graphic tee + gray jeans + pointed-toe flats

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Unfancy

Tonal dressing is having a major moment right now.

sleeveless denim shirt + indigo jeans + Birkenstocks

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Unfancy

You could style this with any pair of shoes in your closet and it would still look good.

sweater + jean shorts + white sneakers

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Unfancy

Sneaker days are the best days.

vest + white tank + skinny jeans + ankle boots

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Unfancy

The perfect casual Friday outfit.

cardigan + plaid shirt + white T-shirt + jean shorts + slip-on sandals

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Unfancy

Layering made simple.

gray tank + wrap skirt + slip-on sandals

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Unfancy

Give your jeans a break every once in a while and opt for a classic skirt.

button-down shirt + distressed jeans + open-toe booties

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Unfancy

The uniform of so many stylish women.

sleeveless denim shirt + wrap skirt + pointed-toe flats

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Unfancy

Pointed flats elongate your legs for an always-flattering look.

If you have more questions—what about a professional work wardrobe? What about workout or formal clothes?—head over to Unfancy's very helpful FAQ section.

This story was published at an earlier date and has been recently updated.