Imli Diaries

Tamarind Chutney

What is a Capsule Wardrobe? (And How to Make an Indian Minimalist Wardrobe)

How would it feel to spend less time, money, and energy on your clothes and look fabulous every day? (AND also be sustainable - oof, what a combo). Fantastic, right? It’s now time for a shopping trip - to your closet. Because we’re shopping for your capsule wardrobe.

What is a Capsule Wardrobe? 

Building a capsule wardrobe is a way to simplify your closet down to long-lasting, high-quality clothes that you love and wear often. Caroline Rector of Unfancy, an authority on capsule wardrobes, defines capsule wardrobes best as:

"a practice of editing your wardrobe down to your favorite clothes (clothes that fit your lifestyle + body right now), remixing them regularly, and shopping less often and more intentionally."

In practice, that looks like selecting a limited number of versatile, can’t-do-without clothes from your existing closet that reflect your personal style and shopping for a few high-quality pieces, if needed, to build your wardrobe for an entire season (or more!). Some capsule wardrobe creators swear by the number 37, but there’s no rigid rule you have to follow.

Can you live with 37 clothes in a capsule closet? Hint: You can!

Once you’ve built your capsule wardrobe, there are no more impulse buys, no more overflowing closets with nothing to wear. You end up with a minimalist wardrobe that you love to wear frequently, and end up saving money while you’re at it. 

Now this may sound intimidating and restrictive, but it's honestly liberating. Capsule wardrobes challenge the fast fashion mentality of “more more more”, pushing you to think about what clothes you actually wear and whether each piece in your closet is serving you well. By being intentional about your wardrobe, you clear out the clutter and find what really works for your personal style. It can be a creative and fun process of discovering and expressing who you truly are. 

Benefits of capsule closet

One question that arises in the Indian context: can you build an Indian minimalist wardrobe? After all, we have so many festivals and special occasions! Plus, it seems like every ethnic outfit needs its own coordinated items. The short answer is: yes! You can totally make an Indian capsule wardrobe that’s versatile enough for special events (PS: check out our post on diwali outfit ideas to see how your capsule wardrobe could double up as a rocking festive wardrobe, too).  

How to Make a Capsule Wardrobe 

To create a capsule wardrobe, you pare down your closet to a set number of items. But first, here’s what doesn’t count as part of your minimalist wardrobe:

  • Underwear and socks (duh!)

  • Accessories

  • Loungewear 

  • Activewear and sportswear

Your minimalist wardrobe will have tops, bottoms, dresses, outerwear and shoes you’re going to feel joyful wearing for the next season. You can decide how many of each type of clothing you’re going to keep, or go with the 37 formula if that sounds too confusing - that’s 9 pairs of shoes, 9 bottoms, 15 tops, and 4 dresses/coats. Personally, we’d cut down on the shoes and make room for more dresses or kurtas, so feel free to play around. 

Whenever you’re ready, it’s time to shop your wardrobe. Here’s how:

1. Find your favourite clothes. 

It’s time for a closet evaluation. Pull out all your clothes (yes, all your clothes!) and lay them all out. Go piece by piece and sort your clothes into four piles: 

  • Enthusiastic yes: I LOVE this and wear it all the time

  • I’m not sure: Something about this is off. Maybe it doesn’t fit well, it’s not too comfy, it’s old and faded, or maybe it’s not who you are anymore (and that’s okay too!) 

  • Nope: Clothes that you definitely won’t wear for whatever reason. If they’re in good condition, you can donate, thrift, or gift these clothes. Otherwise, they’ll have to be repurposed or trashed. 

  • Next season: Maybe it’s your fave summer shorts or coziest winter jacket. If it’s not meant for the season, keep it aside for when it’s relevant. 

Evaluate what’s in your “yes” pile. Why do you love these clothes? You’ll find some common themes emerging: maybe it’s a certain cut or pattern, some colours you love, or just how well they fit your body. This will help you refine your own style.

2. Select your capsule wardrobe. 

From your “yes” pile, select the items you’re going to wear this season. Ask yourself:

  • Is this comfortable to wear right now

  • Do I like how this fits my body? 

  • Is this versatile enough to be paired with different outfits? For example, you may love a pair of hot pink pants, but there’s no point in keeping them if you wear them with only one top.

  • Is this durable and of high quality? If not, let go. Build a capsule wardrobe that will last you. Here are some tips on shopping for high quality, sustainable clothes that last

If you need to supplement your wardrobe, get yourself some sustainable clothes you love! You can thrift, rent, swap, or shop new from ethical and sustainable fashion brands. Pare down till you’ve found the perfect capsule wardrobe for you, for that season.

3. Rejoice.

You have conquered the clutter, the fast-fashion impulse, your bank balance. In short: you’re a boss with a closet full of outfits that slay. 

Hold up! How do I select an Indian capsule wardrobe?

Good question - don’t think we forgot. Here are tips for selecting an Indian minimalist wardrobe:

  • Mix and match: Pick your favourite kurtas/sarees/other Indian wear. Now, select complementary bottoms or blouses that work with multiple ethnic clothes. Black and white churidars, for instance, work well with most kurtas. 

  • Pick flexible clothes: Choose clothes that can be dressed up and down depending on how you accessorize instead of one-time wears. Try to pick clothes that fit into both your western and Indian capsule wardrobe, like tights, palazzos, and blouses that double up as crop-tops (or vice versa). Contemporary, stylish, artisan-made clothes will be your best friends here. 

  • Plan for the season: When you know the festive season is coming up, include a couple of festive outfits in your Indian capsule wardrobe. And, we repeat, REPEATING is a-okay!

  • Keep aside special-occasion wear: Sometimes, you need heavy ethnic clothes for special occasions like weddings. Allow yourself to have a separate closet of a few ethnic clothes you love to wear and aren’t afraid of repeating. 

Thinking about experimenting with capsule wardrobes on your sustainable fashion journey? We’d love to hear how it goes! Share your experiences in the comments.

PS: Need to supplement your closet with sustainable capsule closet essentials? We've got some great stuff for you. Shop now!

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