Finding the sweet spot somewhere between an overflowing closet and not having enough to wear can be a challenge. Maybe this is one of the reasons why promoters of capsule wardrobes often suggest a specific number of items we should aim for. But I think it’s worth the investment in time to take a close look at your lifestyle and requirements first. And then decide how many pieces of clothing or complete outfits you really need.
How to Get Started
If you follow my suggestions on building a well-curated wardrobe, you’ve probably already analyzed your lifestyle. If so, you’ve compiled a complete list of activities and occasions you’re involved in. You also have an idea of how regularly you pursue these activities and how frequently certain occasions occur. Now it’s time to decide what you want to wear.
Always think in complete outfits and start with the things you do daily. Below, I took ‘daily run’ as an example to guide you through the planning steps.
Once you’ve figured out what you need for the major part of your life, look at vacations, special occasions, and everything else.
What Is a Complete Outfit?
A complete outfit covers everything you want to wear for a specific activity or occasion – clothes, shoes, and accessories. It also includes outerwear. If there are particular demands, undies too (e.g., when you need a strapless bra for an off-shoulder dress).
Take These 7 Steps
- Determine your basic outfit.
- Add seasonal items.
- Consider your laundry schedule.
- Find overlaps in your outfit planning.
- Assess what you already have.
- Finalize your outfit planning list.
- Add the missing pieces to your wardrobe wishlist.
1. Determine Your Basic Outfit
First of all, decide what you want to wear for a specific activity or occasion. Start with a basic (minimum) outfit.
Example ‘Daily Run’
Let’s say you go for a run daily. This is a regular activity for which you need a complete outfit. Your basic running gear consists of these items:
- Clothes: leggings, t-shirt, light-weight jacket, sports bra, socks
- Shoes: trainers
- Accessories: baseball cap
2. Add Seasonal Items
Once you’ve matched activities/occasions with complete, basic outfits, consider seasons and weather conditions.
Example ‘Daily Run’
Let’s say you can wear your basic running outfit throughout the year. But, the winters where you live can get very cold. Thus, you have to add a few seasonal items:
- Clothes (seasonal): long-sleeve shirt, warmer jacket
- Shoes (seasonal): –
- Accessories (seasonal): warming headband
3. Consider Your Laundry Schedule
I’m stunned how minimalists get on with their tiny wardrobes. I couldn’t live with just a couple of t-shirts. And this also because I don’t manage to do my laundry that often. That’s why I always recommend taking the laundry schedule into consideration when planning your wardrobe.
Example ‘Daily Run’
Now, we have to decide how long we could wear each item. Assuming that you run every day and do your laundry once a week, you’ll need:
- Socks (change daily) = 7-8 pairs of socks
- T-shirt (change every other day) = 3-4 shirts
- Leggings (wear for 3 days) = 2-3 leggings
If in doubt, go for a lower number first. You can always add to your wardrobe later on.
4. Find Overlaps in Your Outfit Planning
To think in complete outfits for planning purposes doesn’t mean that you can’t wear the same item for another activity or occasion. On the contrary, I’d recommend investing quite a bit of time trying to find overlaps. Because the more outfits share the same items, the fewer clothes you’ll need in total.
Example ‘Daily Run’
Leggings and sports bra work for your yoga classes too. And you could possibly wear the same trainers, jacket, and baseball cap for running errands.
5. Assess What You Already Have
The list of outfits you NEED for everything you’re up to is probably quite long. But up to this point, we haven’t checked yet what you already HAVE in your wardrobe. And this is where your wardrobe inventory comes in.
Assessing every single item you own is not only necessary to complete this outfit planning step. It’s also an invaluable opportunity to discover which clothes appeal to you, what you hate, and what has piled up without being worn.
If unsure how to prepare a wardrobe inventory, this post can probably help: Wardrobe Inventory: Questions Beyond “Does It Spark Joy?”.
6. Finalize Your Outfit Planning List
I’m sure you took a lot of notes along the way. If you like, prepare a final outfit planning list to have everything in one place. Here is the template I’ve used. It also comes with my workbook.
To finalize your list, ask yourself …
- Do I have at least one complete outfit for every activity and occasion I identified?
- Are there sufficient items for daily/regular activities, considering my laundry schedule?
- Do they work for all seasons? What do I have to add?
- What works for several outfits (activities, occasions)?
- Can I instantly put together complete outfits from my existing wardrobe, or are there any gaps?
7. Add the Missing Pieces to Your Wardrobe Wishlist
We’re almost there 🙂 Now, check your outfit planning list and mark what’s missing. Meaning the items you think you need but don’t have in your wardrobe yet. Add them to your wardrobe wishlist. But before you rush out and shop, ask yourself …
- Do I really need these items, or can I condense the list further?
- How much do I want to spend in total and on each of these items?
- Do I exactly know what I want, recognizing my style and preferences, for instance, in terms of silhouette, color, and fabric?
Probably, you can’t answer the above questions right away. Often this is because your wishlist needs further refinement. The clearer you become about your style and preferences, and the better you can specify each item on your list, the better choices you’ll make. Refer to my Ultimate Guide to a Well-Curated Wardrobe for more information, and also to this article here: How to Create and Refine a Wardrobe Wishlist.
How Much Is Enough?
Thoughtfully planning and curating your wardrobe helps you buy (and keep) the right amount of the right clothes, shoes, and accessories. But what does ‘right amount’ mean?
I certainly think there’s no rule, no arbitrary number of items one should or shouldn’t own. By the way, the pronounced focus on numbers is also why I’m not an unconditional supporter of certain types of capsule wardrobes.
How many outfits or pieces of clothing you need largely depends on your lifestyle. Moreover, it depends on how much variety you prefer. Someone who enjoys wearing a style uniform (think jeans and T) needs probably less to be happy than someone who loves playing around with various outfit combinations.
So, don’t worry so much about the lengths of your outfit planning list. It’s entirely up to you to remove items or to add some because you love fashion and feel better with more choices. Or just because you do your laundry less often.
The key is to love and regularly wear all the things you own. Your clothes should add value to your life and not gather dust in a forgotten corner of your closet.
And there you have it – these are my tips on planning your outfits plus my thoughts on how many of them we really need. Let me know what you think!
Your Way to a Well-Curated Wardrobe
This article ties in with phase 02 of wardrobe curation, which focuses on our closet’s composition and how to shop smart and mindfully.
Please refer to my Ultimate Guide to a Well-Curated Wardrobe for a complete overview. I wrote this guide for all of you who want to be more strategic about their choices and build a wardrobe that perfectly suits their life and style. So, if this is you, check it out!
I also created a printable workbook to support your journey. Sign up below to get it instantly delivered to your inbox.
The Well-Curated Wardrobe Workbook
Enjoy a well-curated wardrobe that perfectly fits your life and style.
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