I’ll admit it. My passion for capsule wardrobes has waxed and waned. Back in the early days of this blog, I literally committed to 30-or-so items for 3 months, and made it happen.

That was then, this is now. What I learned in that process is that limiting your possessions is an excellent exercise– and at the end of the day, it’s not difficult per se.

What I also discovered, however, is that curating a wardrobe you love can be fun, and it doesn’t have to become the idolatrous activity some minimalists condemn it to be.

Rational sartorial creativity

Ever since I started working with Noonday Collection, I discovered that fashion can be not only a vehicle of creative expression, but also an avenue toward social change. It can celebrate art and craft traditions and create opportunity in vulnerable communities.

So it’s possible to dress with intention, be a minimalist at heart, celebrate handmade beauty, and make a social impact. Hurrah!

Furthermore, the capsule mindset helped me resist compulsive fashion consumption, and does ultimately increase the value I get out of the clothing I own. I no longer make purchases on a whim; shopping takes much less time because I know exactly what fits my lifestyle; and I am far more content with my appearance than I was years ago.

And part of being able to curate a wardrobe that reflects you, your taste, and your values, is growing in the ability to curate a lifestyle that does the same. I am constantly inspired by women who break away from trends and chart their own paths, from the outfits they put together to the books they read to the way they care for others. That uniqueness, the glory in each of us, is precious and worth pursuing.

Summer dreams vs. reality

Okay, on to today’s actual topic– your summer capsule wardrobe! There is so much excitement and anticipation around the summer season. The sun shines, temperatures rise, and everything is ice cream and pool parties and travel.

We love the summer dream. But for most of us, that’s not actually what happens in the hotter months of the year.

What actually happens is that life goes on, with occasional variety. Most of us still have as much work over the summer as we do throughout the year. Adults in graduate school have as much studying and research as ever. The only people who are really out partying– if at all– are kids. Maybe your kids are about to have a blast at camp, or spend week after week frolicking outdoors with friends.

But you and me? Not so much.

So the struggle is this. How do we balance that fun, romantic vision of summer with the reality that we’ll be showing up to many of the same places and obligations throughout these hotter months?

1) Start with a uniform (or two).

What is a uniform for adults? It’s the combination of clothing pieces that are tried and true for your body and lifestyle.

So for me, this is usually a feminine top with a high-waisted, flared skirt. Or, it’s a dress that flares outward (which doesn’t ride up when I sit down).

Your uniform might be any of the following:

  • Button-down blouse with belted skinny slacks
  • Dress with a belt
  • T-shirt with a pencil skirt
  • Tunic with leggings
  • Tank top with jeans
  • Loose blouse with shorts

Whatever combinations you find yourself constantly reaching for, keep these in mind. Most importantly, pay attention the silhouette that works best for you. A simple way to determine the silhouette is where you put your belt. Do you cinch the outfit right under your chest? At your natural waist? Or more at the hips?

2) Select essentials for your uniform.

About fifty to eighty percent of your summer capsule wardrobe should reflect your uniform. If you work at an office (or in a setting where there is an appropriate dress code), these pieces will need to take you from Monday to Friday. If you work from home or are not working, you may find yourself with a bit more room to play.

Whenever I shop, I keep two things front-of-mind: my uniform and what I currently have. Make a list of what you already own that you see yourself wearing this summer. Set aside the summer items that you might wear, but don’t fit your uniform (e.g., that off-the-shoulder crop top).

Depending on how large you want your capsule to be (most remain under 50 pieces but again, it’s not about the number), fill out your wardrobe until it is at least fifty percent full with uniform-appropriate clothing. Mix and match combinations to make sure they fit together. I try to vary patterns, colors, and fabrics, but you might prefer to stick to a certain palette.

3) Consider this summer’s calendar.

Summers are a popular time to travel or get married, so consider the events you’ve already committed to. If you’re attending a handful of weddings, perhaps you’ll need an outfit or two to rotate through. If you’re traveling, you may need a few specialized pieces for where you’re going.

Your summer calendar will keep you erring on the side of realistic when it comes to popular summer trends. For example, the aforementioned off-the-shoulder crop top might be one of your “fun” pieces that you anticipate only wearing a handful of times over the weekend or during a night out. There’s nothing wrong with having a few less-than-practical pieces in your capsule, as long as you recognize them as such. If you’re eyeing a brand new piece that falls in this category, simply ask yourself: Can I name at least 5 specific instances during which this would be the right thing to wear?

4) Channel your excitement toward accessories.

So what happens to that pent-up energy for summer fashion? If you’ve disciplined yourself in the clothing department, you likely have room in your budget for summery accessories.

This season, I love accessories that shout “summer!” without becoming inappropriate for work settings. Light, airy, colorful pieces are the perfect way to dip into the season’s excitement without wasting money on items you feel like you can never wear.

In this post, I’m wearing a few of my favorite summery Noonday Collection pieces- handmade by artisans all over the world who are making a difference in their communities. The white print scarf and long tassel necklace are from India; the short carved necklace is from Vietnam; the wrap bracelet is from Ethiopia.

Ready to get started? I made these worksheets for you.

Here’s what they include:
Step by step instructions based on this post
Questions and blanks to fill in as you work
A bonus list of questions to ask before very purchase

Get the worksheets in your inbox

How are you capsuling this summer? I’d love to know!