Capsule wardrobes the latest time, money-saving fashion trend for busy moms

Courtesy Malorie Bertrand

A new school year is a great time to embrace a simpler, more streamlined wardrobe and shave minutes off your morning.

As a busy parent, you likely don’t have the extra time to be standing in front of your closet, wondering what to wear, or trying to put together an outfit from clothes that you don’t love or that don’t fit right.

Enter the capsule wardrobe, which has lately moved beyond minimalist culture into the closets of everyday people who want to save time, frustration and money in getting themselves dressed.

A capsule wardrobe, which consists of a pre-determined number of items (usually 30 to 40), allows you to pre-select what you’ll be wearing for a given amount of time.

When you have a capsule wardrobe, “you feel great in every outfit you own because you took the time to build a cohesive wardrobe that truly reflects your personal style,” says Malorie Bertrand, who taught a workshop on capsule wardrobes at the Westboro Brainery earlier this year.

Without knowledge of what they really need, people will keep discarding and buying items.

“What I find appealing about a capsule wardrobe is that it forces you to be a better stylist,” says Bertrand, founder and owner of online boutique Either/Or. “It forces you to take the time to get to know your personal style.

“You can’t start reducing your wardrobe and planning versatile outfits without knowing exactly what colours, patterns, silhouettes, hemlines, necklines and fits you like.”

With a hatred of clutter and a love of fashion, Bertrand says there are lots of pros to having a capsule wardrobe. “Fewer clothes take up less space, take up less of your time to clean and organize and put into outfits.”

Owning less and the simplicity of getting ready in the mornings are the biggest appeal, says Ottawa mom Carla Wittig. “Most everything goes together, so I can grab and go.”

When Wittig first started the process of building her capsule wardrobe, she was surprised to find that she owned more than she thought she did – and that she never wore most of it.

“I literally took everything I owned and dumped it on the floor in my living room,” says Wittig.

After weeding out everything she didn’t like, she selected the pieces she loved, and things that went with other items before dividing them by season. 

Her work and play wardrobe is about 35 items in the base colours white, cream, grey, black and navy, with an occasional pop of colour. She can mix and match so that she doesn’t have to wear the same thing to work twice in one week.

As a result, Wittig says she enjoys less shopping, waste, laundry and having more money.

“If you want more time for other things in your life then I would highly recommend it,” she says. “I have also implemented a ‘one-in one-out’ policy … this helps me make better decisions.”

Capsule wardrobes also work well for kids, says Ottawa mom Alison Goulais. “Almost everything mixes and matches well, and I don’t have duplicates that clutter up their drawers and closets.

“I generally stick with two neutrals (navy and beige/grey), and then choose two main colours to add in. I also make sure their shoes and hats match as well, so it all coordinates.”

For herself, Goulais is now more likely to invest in one quality piece rather than a than a few cheaper items.

Although the initial outlay for quality pieces might be higher, you end up spending less because you end up shopping less often, says Bertrand. People on a budget can find quality secondhand items.

And it looks like capsule wardrobes are here to stay. Bertrand says people are tired of constantly having to keep up with trends, sorting through their ever-expanding closets to make room for more pieces, spending money on cheap items that fall apart, and never having anything to wear.

“A lot of us live busy lives,” she says. “We are starting to address the elements of our lives that we can cut back.

“We’re simplifying things to make room for what truly matters in life, and a part of this simplification happens in our closets.”

Bertrand’s guide to creating a capsule wardrobe

  1. Get to know your personal style. Track your outfits for two weeks and take note of what you wore, what you did on those days, and how you felt in each outfit, says Bertrand. Doing this will help you take note of the activities you do on a regular basis, which pieces you like, which you could do without, and what you’re missing.
  2. Get inspired. Take a week or two to create a Pinterest or inspiration board of items and outfits that you love.
  3. Analyze your board. These patterns of colour, pattern, fit, silhouette, necklines, hemlines, fabrics and ways of styling outfits will become your guidelines for choosing new pieces.
  4. Analyze your lifestyle. Write down all the activities you do each day/week, and estimate what percentage of your day/week is taken up by that activity.
  5. Analyze your current closet. Make piles to donate, mend, tailor, store, keep and put in trial separation based on your lifestyle and needs.
  6. Edit your inspiration board and shopping list. Now that you have a clear idea of what you want to wear, what you have and what you