How I Cleaned My Closet, Made a Capsule Wardrobe, and Found My Style in 3 Steps

Back in March, when California was starting its stay-at-home orders, I saw on Instagram that our VP of Influencer Marketing Rachel Zeilic was preparing to turn her closet into a home office. I immediately DM'ed her requesting she document the process to turn it into a story on Who What Wear. With her 10-month-old baby at home, Zeilic needed a dedicated space to make the most of her working hours (though, aren't almost all hours working hours for parents at home these days?!). The only problem? The walk-in closet was cluttered with boxes and binsnot an ideal state for maximum productivity.

closet clean out was in order, and Zeilic decided to take it a step further and use the opportunity to create a capsule wardrobe, too. Zeilic knew a typical capsule wardrobe wouldn't work for herthe normal draconian approach where you have to reduce your entire closet to a handful of pieces felt too restrictive and like it could be ripe for regret.

As we've learned, it's best not to make too many rash decisions during this time (I'm looking at you, DIY bangs). Rather, she created a mood board to help "really define" her style. "Having a reference point for what to move into my 'this season' section of the wardrobe, and what to keep, toss, or give away makes it a lot easier to clean out my closet. The mood board also helps me to shop more intentionally to fill in the gaps," Zeilic shared.

As for anything that didn't fit the mood board? If she thinks she may want to wear it down the road, it simply gets stored into bins for future use. For those of us who are attached to our clothes (um, all of us?), it's a way more realistic approach to curating a new look for yourself and paring down your closet.

Photo:

Who What Wear

Step 1: Create a capsule wardrobe mood board. Zeilic used the Unfold app to make the pretty mood boards below. She shares, "The vibe of my (post–stay-at-home) mood board is 'Boss Mom.' With my baby, I have little to no time to get dressed in the morning. Going with neutrals means I can just throw anything on in the morning and the chances are it will all go together. The stay at home mood board was an extension of that. The light, neutral tones make me feel calm in this moment of craziness, and I wanted to add in a little bling to feel a bit glam and look good on Zoom calls."

Step 2: Separate items that fit into your capsule. This will allow you to see what pieces you're missing and can shop more thoughtfully to fill in the gaps. You'll also be able to select your outfit more quickly each morning, as you already have a go-to section of your wardrobe. Bring in any pieces you need to enhance your wardrobe organization. Zeilic bought the below nail polish rack, which ended up being perfect to store sunglasses and accessories. As you go through, note things that need to be cleaned, ironed, or repaired. You'll never wear them if they're not ready to grab and go!

Step 3: Sort leftover clothing into "store," "sell," and "donate" bins. Zeilic recommends putting on your favorite playlist or podcast to do step three, which is the most intensive part of the process. Some of her favorites are The Tim Ferris Show and The Skinny Confidential if you feel like learning, or Who Weekly, if you feel like zoning out to some mindless gossip.

A peek at the before and after. From clutter and boxes to room for my new desk and office chair. Win! 

Shop My Mood Boards:

Photo:

@nycbambi/@madisonelainechertow

Both of the mood boards are heavy on mix-and-match neutrals with a special emphasis on creams and tans, which feels particularly fresh this season. Ribbed basics, which always look more expensive than they are, and matching sets are also aplenty.

This shirt is going on my wish list, stat.

I've heard such good things about the Skims line, and these boxer brief–inspired shorts are calling me.

It's so good in this warm gray color, too.

A racer-front turtleneck is just the kind of easy chic we're after.

In case it's too hot for sweatpants where you live, consider the sweatshorts set.

Shop the matching Cashmere-Blend Shorts ($50).

The wide legs on these make them feel more elevated than typical sweats. 

Fashion's love affair with New Balance rages on.

This set will be useful now and for any long flights in the future.

Add a dash of peach just in case black, tan, and cream gets a little too repetitive.

When life returns to (a new) normal, the neutrals scheme will be carried forward with fabrics like satin, silk, and leather. Accessorizing will be key to amp up a pared down color scheme, and tailored pieces will be on heavy rotation. 

The blazer of choice to further the tailored-separates agenda.

This style of link can be spotted on all the most stylish fashion girls.

Sleek leather shorts on speed dial.

Buttery yellow is a fresh alternative to the cream machine.

My new office go-to that works as a dress and a sleeveless layering piece.

A going-out top that's equal parts alluring and sophisticated. 

The neckline makes this simple dress a standout.

A pair of everyday hoops are a must.

Flowy pants are a stay-at-home norm that is definitely being carried forward. 

Next up, check out how our senior market editor tackles closet organization.

Related Stories