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Why Your Capsule Wardrobe Is Failing

I followed best practices, and the capsule wardrobe didn't work... untill I cracked the code.
May 30, 2024
By Leah Prescott

My Life As A Thrifty Shopaholic

Once upon a time, as a young 20-something, I was a thrifty shopaholic (definitely an oxymoron on several levels) with absolutely no wardrobe rules. I shopped often and haphazardly as a relentless deal-seeker; if the price was right, it didn’t matter if the colors, styles, or fabrics fit my needs.

Heck, even my size needs were only loose suggestions since I was really only searching for the thrill of the hunt. Finding the deal was the fun part, fitting it into my life was an afterthought. In fact, my wardrobe was so eclectic and so thoughtlessly un-curated that I couldn’t tell if I even had needs or what to do about it if I did.

Wearing My 3D-Knit Cardigan - Oliver Charles
My Life As A Thrifty Shopaholic - Oliver Charles

One day, while browsing the internet, I found a new term, at least to me: capsule wardrobe. Following link after link on Pinterest, I got deeper and deeper into the capsule wardrobe concept, pondering if this magical clothing formula could be my solution. I was star-struck by the aesthetic, pin-worthy flat lays I found.

The romanticized travel wardrobes, the sophisticated work capsules, and the cute and comfy stay-at-home mom uniforms.

Certainly, a curated collection of clothing that could be mixed and matched in nearly endless combinations was an exciting idea and a definitive departure from the status quo of my closet.

Could this idea fix what was obviously broken about my wardrobe?

Romanticizing My Capsule Wardrobe - Oliver Charles
How My Cardigan Blends With My Green Dress Perfectly - Oliver Charles

Build A Capsule Wardrobe With Clothes You Love

I was excited to embark on this adventure in textiles and began collecting the recommended clothing items from my closet and any convenient and bargain-priced store. Following the conventional recommendations, I looked for the commonly recommended pieces as I set my sights on the ultimate wearable solution.

As my first of many strategic errors, I ignored my personal preferences in selecting these pieces, with the hope that the overall result would still be a success. For example, every capsule wardrobe recommended a white button-up blouse, so I included one, despite my strong dislike of the style and inability to successfully wear the color white.

This method also led to frustration and failure, as some pieces were difficult to find or didn’t fit my climate or lifestyle. However, to achieve the magic a capsule wardrobe promised, I doggedly trod on, locating the prescribed jean jacket, quilted vest, corduroy pants, and statement necklaces. After all, if any piece were missing, I was sure the equation would lead to “no solution.” Finally, it was time to shove this hastily cobbled experiment into the light of day.

Build A Capsule Wardrobe With Clothes You Love - Oliver Charles

Minimalist Wardrobe: The Big Reveal

I was ready for this transformation, and outfit one was a success. A floral dress and long cardigan proved to be an easy outfit to wear and the addition of a statement necklace did make a difference.

Day two also seemed to work fine, as I paired a black and white striped tee with jeans, flats, and the same cardigan and necklace. I didn’t mind repeating items in my outfits; it was a relief from the chaos of my previous morning routine.

However, this is about where my success ran out as I began to run into challenges. The moment I tried the striped shirt under the floral dress, the entire plan began to unravel before my eyes, like the polyester thread from a cheap skirt. It turned out that just because you can wear a striped shirt under a floral dress doesn’t mean you should.

I slowly began recognizing that many suggested combinations were not practical, comfortable, or logical. Also, while striking on a tall, skinny model from the blog post, many pairings left much to be desired in the fluorescent glow of my bathroom mirror.

My Hopes Fading...

Some of these combinations were ridiculous, unflattering, and uncomfortable. But the bigger challenge was availability. My enthusiasm began to fade like black jeans in the wash when I realized that the myriad of potential outfits promised from the capsule wardrobe was almost instantly and drastically diminished as early as day two into the wash cycle.

Once the little black v-neck tee was in the hamper, it rendered any outfits calling for the little black v-neck tee to be unavailable. So I washed more clothes than before because that shirt seemed the crux of my entire wardrobe. Frustratingly, these core pieces needed to be washed after every single wear without fail because synthetic fabrics grab onto odor and bacteria and tightly hold them in their fibers.

Since constant washing seems to be the quickest way to ruin cheap clothing, each big box closet staple I brought home was a ticking time bomb to deterioration. Rather than having more outfit options, I seemed to constantly wish for different pieces to rescue me from the laundry quandary I had wandered into.

It would be years before I cracked the code for closet nirvana, but once the lightbulb went off, it was a different experience. I shifted to more versatile pieces that lasted longer without needing a wash.

For instance, my 100% Yak Wool Winter Cardigan from Oliver Charles is a staple that I've been using to complete many different outfits in my refined capsule. Check out some of the many outfits I can put together around this one go-to piece, and read my takeaway at the end. I finally feel like I've built a capsule wardrobe that works, and you can too. Trust me, it's worth it!

Pairing My Cardigan With A Flowy Floral Top - Oliver Charles
How Well My Floral Top Goes With My Cardigan - Oliver Charles
Layering My Cardigan Over My Floral Dress - Oliver Charles
Wearing My Cardigan As A Casual Top - Oliver Charles
Matching My Minimal Outfit With A Dainty Necklace - Oliver Charles
Layering My Cardigan Over My Purple Dress - Oliver Charles
Layering My Cardigan To Create A Chic Look - Oliver Charles
Layering My Cardigan Over My Fave Light Linen Dress - Oliver Charles
Pairing My Cardigan With A Black Top And Bottom Ensemble - Oliver Charles
Pairing My Cardigan With A Linen White Top - Oliver Charles

A Capsule Wardrobe, As Pinterest Intended

With a framework of natural fibers like Wool, Linen, Yak, or even SeaCell, you have the potential for a capsule wardrobe that actually serves the intended purpose.

For example, if you start with an Oliver Charles Summer Scoop Neck rather than that cheap polyester blend V-neck tee we talked about, you can wear and re-wear without worrying about constantly washing. As I mentioned in my last blog post, the laundry burden for natural fibers is refreshingly light.

You’ll also benefit from a legacy-quality piece that will stand up to season after season of use rather than finding it looks ratty a few weeks in. The personal comfort of those pieces truly can’t be overstated, either, and for me, that’s a very high priority.

Finally, with classic designs rather than passing trends, you won’t find the core of your wardrobe quickly looking dated or feeling out of fashion. With more durable, sustainable, and classic pieces, that one sweater-for-life ideal can be fulfilled in a natural fibers capsule serving you well, season after season. Start slow with one sweater, and tap into the benefits of a mix-and-match wardrobe capsule that works for your daily life!

Leah Prescott is a blogger and wool expert who runs the Facebook Group WoolObsessed. Leah writes with special emphasis on natural fiber wardrobes.

If you believe that every good wardrobe starts with owning less and owning better, consider buying yourself an OLIVER CHARLES sweater.
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