Anyone else struggle with capsules? I just can't do it!

I always love Angie's and other YLFers' capsule posts, and the Redbook mix and match capsules. That was one of my first posts, talking about doing a Redbook capsule challenge...well I never got around to doing it! After reading Angie's fall capsule post, I was all excited to try it in my own closet. I wasn't able to come up with a cohesive set of items that all worked together and that all passed my "feels like me" test. I can come up with lots of outfits, but just one at a time. The outfits are all different and each one needs specific accessories to go with it. I think the problem is I love color and patterns, and I do some pattern mixing but not all colors and patterns can go with each other. And I'm more into matchy matchy than mix and matching. I like to evolve a "perfect" version of each outfit rather than mixing things up just for the sake of mixing. I get bored if I'm limited to just a few subtle neutrals. This is why I can't do Vivienne Files or other minimalist capsules. And this is why my closet is so huge and chaotic looking! Well, it's organized, but a big riot of color and pattern.

I thought when I got pregnant I would pare down and do a maternity capsule. Well, no, I just ended up using my old clothes and buying stretchy stuff and still didn't dress in capsules. The closest I've come to a real capsule is to buy a bunch of Tommy Bahama clothes in similar colors, that could serve as a travel capsule. I think that's the only time I really need to dress in capsules, because I can only bring so much stuff when I'm travelling.

I sure wish I could learn to think better in capsules--maybe it would help me get dressed faster in the morning! Any tips from you capsule masters? Or should I just let it go and chalk it up to personality differences and embrace my method?

This post is also published in the youlookfab forum. You can read and reply to it in either place. All replies will appear in both places.


  • catgirl replied 7 years ago

    I feel the same way for different reasons. i just didn't find capsules all that fun to figure out at the moment. It is just too much time and effort for me right now. It is almost like the difference between being neat and messy - for me,focusing on being totally neat actually hinders my ability to function.

    Don't do it if it doesn't call to you!

  • Kristin L replied 7 years ago

    Yes! I've been having a hard time trying to figure out capsules as well. I love the idea behind them, but I can't figure out how to start. 

  • cobaltblue replied 7 years ago


    I think the capsule exercise is just one way to get the creative juices flowing. What you do is obviously working without it!

    Amazing closet, by the way!

  • TraceyLiz65 replied 7 years ago

    I just look at each item I buy and ask myself if I can think of three ways to wear it. When I get home I always come up with more. Capsules seem too restrictive for my spontaneous, creative nature. I think knowing I can wear each piece multiple ways is as organized as I can get to outfit creations. I can see and like formulas better than capsules.... For example a dress with moto jacket and booties works every time and never ceases to evoke a high happiness factor.
    Yup have fun in your closet and create great looks...relax and do what works for you. We are all different and while some crave the order of capsules, others feel restricted. Know and trust your instincts .

  • Adelfa replied 7 years ago

    Another thing is that you wear a lot of dresses. I think the capsule concept means less when you start with a dress, because the all-important decision of which top to pair with which bottom has already been made.

  • always trying replied 7 years ago

    Never herd of them until this board.  First time I tried it was shortly after joining when I had to pack for a short trip with my "out of my element " clothes.  Since then I have been working on a capsule for the dress up affairs, with pieces for what is called formal business, semi formal, and what I like to think of as dressy party.  So I now have a good handle on that, and am working on separate ones for dressy casual (usually no jeans, but do wear nice black straight leg  ones that to me work well as they don't scream jeans) and comfy casual for fall.  This I find easier in summer, and winter, but not as easy for transitioning.
    ONe thing I am finding more difficult is the colors working together.  But that is just me, as one of my favorite colors is purple, and so many shades don't go with other shades, so have to incorporate some grey, and trying to work with navy so I don't get too much balck..

  • Angie replied 7 years ago

    No one said creating capsules was easy. It takes elbow grease. But worthwhile after you have developed the knack for it - which many of our forum members have. There are people that create capsules very intuitively like Shannon, Sveta, Mary K, Day Vies and Shevia. There are other ways to create wardrobe discipline. At the end of the day, you have to think about how your wardrobe items relate to each other in order for your wardrobe to function. Wardrobe capsuling is one form of wardrobe discipline - and I believe in wardrobe discipline.

    Natalie, you don't have a closet full of separates. You have a closet full of dresses, that don't mix and match in the same way. And I agree with Becky - you are doing just fine - superbly well in fact - creating outfits your way. Keep it up.

  • replied 7 years ago

    What Tracey said gels with me, in that as long as I can think of a few things I can wear a new item with then I'm happy. My tastes are quite eclectic and Like you Natalie, I love colour. I love all the capsules created on the forum by all the fab ladies, but I'm afraid I would just never get around to it. I think I prefer formulas more for my wardrobe. The one Angie did on Friday suited me to a tee and I can think of a few variations that I could do.
    I think creating capsules takes a lot of time and energy and I never seem to have enough of that. At the moment health issues for me mean exhaustion sets in at the drop of a hat so projects have to be in short sharp bursts. You have a demanding family Natalie, plus a tiring job to hold down so thinking in terms of individual outfits probably just suits your lifestyle at the moment. I wouldn't worry. I'm just going to carry on enjoying everyone-elses capsules instead of mine :)

  • Peri replied 7 years ago

    I can't do them either, other than "oh I like these T shirts with both black and grey pants but this one only with black pants". That doesn't seem enough to call something a capsule.

    In my case I think it's the opposite, as I learned from my counting clothes post...I don't have very much, don't feel the need for very much, and most things are separates that go with most other things.

    Don't worry about's just a tool, one among many. If it doesn't work for everyone that's okay.

  • cobaltblue replied 7 years ago

    I think I, on the other hand, would benefit from getting down to the dirty work and going through the whole exercise. I tend to wear the same few things the same few ways, and that gets super stale. If I were to put in the time in one big chunk up front, I could do my usual grab and go, day to day, but maybe have more options.

  • Traci replied 7 years ago

    Firstly, if capsules don't really appeal to you in the first place, just don't do it.  

    If you're really wanting to try it and just feeling a little stuck, just jump in and give it a try.  Don't try to picture how it's all going to work out first, just grab things.  Using Angie's formula of 6 shirts, 3 bottoms, 2 toppers a dress and 2 shoes, I just grabbed for a variety of colors and shapes.  Realizing that I had so few items would mean I wanted each item to be distinct from the others, I was very mindful of picking a different items.

    As I was pulling them, I didn't have cohesion, I didn't have a sense of how it was all going to work.  I just grabbed my favorite items for each category, double checked for duplicates and then started popping on the outfits.  Rather than looking for what worked within the piles, I literally just methodically took each bottom and tried it with each top and each topper.  Even the combos that immediately stood out to me as "won't work" I tried anyway.  I tried to just let go of my preconceived notions of what was going to work and tried them all anyway.

    I'm not going to limit my wardrobe down to these 13 items, but I did learn about a couple of items that just need to go, some holes I wasn't aware I had, and some combination that I would have ruled out straight away that actually worked.

  • Angie replied 7 years ago

    Traci, I'm applauding your attitude and capsule process. WELL DONE.

  • lyn* replied 7 years ago

    Natalie - I think you and I have the same "problem" - it's easier to capsule with separates than it is with dresses.

    I'm pretty happy with my "loose capsules" - I know that X top can go with all of these skirts or under these dresses and that Y blazer goes well with which few dresses.

    I wouldn't let it bug you.

  • Suz replied 7 years ago

    Traci, that's brilliant! 

    The very same thing happened to me. I discovered a few things that needed to go, found some new combos (or remembered some I had forgotten) and recognized some holes. It's useful that way. 

    But Natalie, you enjoy your large wardrobe and don't need your clothes to do double duty as much as those of us with smaller closets. Plus, you wear a lot of dresses! And that is a valid approach, too. You get your "mix and match" thrill from finding just the right accessories for each of your looks, whereas someone else might get them from the combos of the clothes. 

    I guess we can all learn from each other. 

  • Scarlet replied 7 years ago

    Technically I have so many clothes it must be possible to create capsules, but the discipline is lacking. Until recently I was more like you in that I just like one best version of every outfit and still am like that to some extent, but going through so many body shapes in the last year has forced me to do more with less, so more mixing and matching, and that has been nice too. I am still a terrible packer though because I always want to bring my most favorite outfits instead of a practical calpsule. Then I spend hours deliberating where to make the sacrifices. sigh.

    ETA: as I said nothing about what you should do, I will just add, I am not sure! But I am reading the thread with interest.

  • Marley replied 7 years ago

    I'm probably one of the most UNorganized persons walking the planet right now, but regardless of that, going through the process of capsule development has been extremely helpful to me, regardless if its resulted in a well-defined capsule or not.  I have been able to define (with specificity) wardrobe orphans and wardrobe holes - and feel that I am getting closer to a more efficient and more fun wardrobe than ever before!  For me, the capsule concept provides a much needed structure to a very, very "all-over-the-place-brain!"

  • Laura (rhubarbgirl) replied 7 years ago

    Anybody recall the Cabi Canary 15 items, 30 outfits thing that they do each season with their new items? I was determined to replicate that for a month last fall (I think? or last spring?). I went as far as picking all the items, and doing a spreadsheet for all the combinations, and I even wore the first few days before something knocked me off my stride (iirc I got sick and never went back to the plan after I felt better). I was inspired by all the bloggers that have done month-long challenges but I had a really hard time with it. I am not a big pattern mixer and it seems like with a small capsule you end up either pattern mixing or looking very boring in all your solids some days. Not to mention that temperature fluctations or any other kind of practical consideration that may come up unexpectedly are impossible to plan for.

    That said, I am currently playing around with the idea of multiple capsules inspired by those that Angie and all the ladies here have posted recently. I glommed onto the idea of seasonal capsules and purpose-based capsules which for my life seems to make more sense than 'one capsule to rule them all' every day for whatever time period.

    I agree with others, it's not like capsules are mandatory around these parts or anything. :) They make more sense for separates and not so much for dresses and unless they are literally all you own in your closet for whatever reason, you can always choose to do something else for a day or three.

  • ironkurtin replied 7 years ago

    I don't think capsules are mandatory.  They're a good exercise if your brain goes that way.  I have lots of things that go well with lots of other things.  I don't need to capsulize them.  But others clearly find it valuable!

  • unfrumped replied 7 years ago

    Natalie, still, you wear your things multiple ways, as in miss Scarlett with many outfits, and your toppers over multiple dresses, and skirts with more than one top. So your mixing is looser and more fluid and not all your items play on the team, but some do.

  • Lyn D. replied 7 years ago

    Haven't read all replies yet, but it could be that because you have such a lovely closet set-up- you can see everything- capsules are not so important?
    I agree that it can be more important to find the best ways of wearing an item rather than multiples of so-so just because you can!

  • deb replied 7 years ago

    I think I want to do the capsule thing but right now it just does not seem fun. I like reading about them though so maybe if I read enough I will eventually do it.

  • Deborah replied 7 years ago

    I think the capsule thing is fun but I can't get my head around doing it the way some of our Fabbers do it. As Angie says I think there are different processes for different people. My closet is very tidy and organised and items are hung in my own "system"...this works for me and I rarely have trouble putting pieces together. I just prefer to do it on the spot rather than plan in advance so to speak.

  • In My Joi replied 7 years ago

    First things first- what a closet!!!

    @goldenpig @Iyn
    I too struggle with capsules, mainly because I have quite a few dresses (possibly more than 50) in my wardrobe. The blazers, skirts, and pants that I have do not readily sync up for mix & match. They were originally designated for another match-up - which I have since donated (recently donated 15 bags of clothing) or tossed. So I guess that makes them closet orphans? I also appreciate a broad range of colors and textures.

    Previously like @goldenpig I have been a matchy matchy gal, and enjoyed perfecting the art of each outfit separately. Now, I find myself ready for a new challenge. I agree with Angie, it will definitely take some elbow grease to get into capsule mode. But for the next round of new pieces that I buy, I am trying to incorporate what @Traci mentioned: Angie's formula of 6 shirts, 3 bottoms, 2 toppers a dress and 2 shoes. We'll see how it goes!

  • Mo replied 7 years ago

    I tend to balk at the rigidness of tight capsules and also find many of the outfits look so much the same, it's not really worth having 'x' variations because to my eye, one good one would suffice.  That said, I have done capsules - to take on trips, the BR one last year just to see if I could, and a winter capsule of sorts just this month to bring here to FL. 
    I agree that it can be a lot of work and I think I intuitively see what goes with what and can mentally pair up a top with 5 bottoms.  But the proportions can get you in the end if you don't try it on.  What theoretically goes together may flop once on your body.

  • froggiebecky replied 7 years ago

    Let me start with the disclaimer that I'm not sure I've ever successfully created a capsule for seasonal dressing. 

    But I have created capsules for things that aren't my main areas of life--gym clothes, workwear/professional conferences (I'm a phd student-most of my wardrobe is very casual), fieldwork, and fancy events/eveningwear. The goal in all of these is simple: cover most situations, and most temperature variations, with the fewest number of clothes. I move a lot for my studies, so my wardrobe has to fit into a couple of suitcases--space is incredible premium. If there are any overlapping items in these capsules, so much the better. 

    Also, there are lots of ways to think about capsule or seasonal wardrobe dressing. I first learned of the concept through sewing. A couple of the main sewing forums around the internet have seasonal wardrobe contests where the entrants have to plan and sew either a capsule (they define it at 6 pieces) or a 10- or 11-piece wardrobe. (These ladies have been running one for 11 years! If you check out the rules, they have have a few variations for people who prefer dresses to separates. Since you wear more dresses, you might see what kind of balance they suggest. 

    Though I agree with everyone here that if what you're doing is working for you, why not just stick with it, you could try to start building a capsule with thinking about this: "How would you pack for a 5-day work trip, if you only had one smallish suitcase?" The destination is your city, and your task is your job, and it's this season. The items you bought specifically for travelling (the Tommy Bahama stuff) is not allowed. Lay your items out somewhere. It might be that you "pack" 3 dresses, 1 skirt, 1 trouser, 3 shirts (in case you change your mind), and 2 toppers. It's not Angie's balance, but that's okay--it's yours. :)  

  • MsLuna replied 7 years ago

    @Natalie: like you, I find capsules challenging. Most of my wardrobe contains patterns and colour and its so challenging to mix and match! And like you, I wear dresses as well, though have shifted mainly to pants/top outfits in the last few months. I'm still boggled/confused as to how to make this work.

    And I'm with Angie with wardrobe discipline. There are, indeed other ways. You seem to have found your own system (wearing dresses/toppers) that work for you, and that's something to be proud of!

  • annagybe replied 7 years ago

    I don't do capsules. Well, I have an opera capsule, but that's just long sleeved dresses of various weights and some heels.

  • cciele replied 7 years ago

    I also don't do capsules! I just have a bunch of clothes that I put together, mix and match, for outfits depending on the occasion :)

  • Lantana replied 7 years ago

    Natalie, I have been mulling over an analogy which is a bit sloppy but I will run it past you FWIW.
    I was thinking about how in cooking there are different cuisines: Thai, Mexican, Australian etc and within those cuisines are a host of recipes. So, capsules are analagous with cuisines. Within any capsule you have a range of outfits you can wear and those outfits are analagous to recipes.
    In your case, you wear a lot of dresses so your ingredients are not as numerous as the skirt/pants+top dresser.
    When it comes to clothes I love the whole concept and exercise of capsules but do you know what? When it comes to cooking I have to follow a recipe. QED.

  • Day Vies replied 7 years ago

    Natalie -- don't torture yourself about this.
    My favorite thing about your style is that you make hyper matchy and theme dressing pretty, interesting, fun, and quite fashionable. Ironically enough I would not describe your persona as whimsy though your approach is decidedly whimsy. 
    Your mind map of outfits focuses on themes and whether items echo each others' patterns. This is a unique and fascinating approach to outfit making. I am sure if I let you loose in my closet you could pull together fabulous outfits I've never dreamed existed simply because of your approach. I am sure you already have capsules centered around what to wear for Halloween and what print matches that skirt with the tree branches on it ;-)

  • rae replied 7 years ago

    I totally missed this before, but the first thing that came to mind is that you already have many very small capsules deriving from your great love of matching. You have a black/white print capsule, a Scarlet red capsule, an ink blue capsule, your orange slice themed capsule... this includes your shoes and jewelry since you have some awesome thematic pieces. And some pieces definitely cross over for sure. 

    In my mind matching and mixing are opposing forces, so you need more, smaller capsules than others.

  • goldenpig replied 7 years ago

    Thanks everyone for such great insights! It's true that I'm so into themes and hyper-matching that it makes it hard to do a mix and match capsule. (Rae, I love your description of my "orange slice capsule". Now THAT is a capsule I can get on board with!) Plus I'm kind of a perfectionist and would want every item in the capsule to work with every other item, so that makes it tough. Although Angie is right, making a capsule is a very useful exercise for analyzing your wardrobe. I just bought a few casual items at Gap including a pair of camo jeans and a denim moto jacket, so I am actually excited to try coming up with a casual MOTG capsule when I get a little time to play around. Thanks again everyone for all the wonderful comments!

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