Article and Photos by Michelle Farnsworth

What started out as a simple clean out my closet exercise, quickly morphed into changing the way I view fashion. I have always loved fashion trends and am a sucker for any kind of fashion box, latest and greatest must-have item, and bright and shiny objects.

If I won the lottery, I’ve always said I would rent a private plane, fly to Paris, and shut down Chanel. #ChampagneAndChanel

But since I’m a woman from Bismarck, North Dakota with no private plane, I need to plan accordingly.

I’m also a terrific impulse buyer, (I was going to say terrible, but it feels so good, so I chose terrific!) After years of impulse purchasing, my wardrobe is large and full of disposable fashions. Meaning they might be cute and trendy for one moment, but do not stand the test of time. #LatteFashions #WearOnceAndDone

What is a capsule wardrobe? When I first started discussing with friends the most common response was asking if I was going to bury clothes in a tube for someone to dig up and find in 50 years. No. But it does help your future in many ways.

The Wikipedia definition of a capsule wardrobe: “A term coined by Susie Faux, the owner of a London boutique called ‘Wardrobe’ in the 1970s. According to Faux, a capsule wardrobe is a collection of a few essential items of clothing that don’t go out of fashion, such as skirts, trousers, and coats, which can then be augmented with seasonal pieces.”

I am in the process of selling and giving away clothes and assessing my closet. I am not a minimalist by nature, so what are my goals?

  1. Downsize and Clean-Up My Wardrobe. This means making tough editing decisions. I actually use my editing skills as a writer when standing in my closet reviewing the pieces, like so many words on a computer screen. Haven’t worn in six months? Gone. Doesn’t fit at this moment? Gone. Too trendy? Gone. You see the method, right?
  2. Donate. Although the clothing I delete from my wardrobe doesn’t fit me or this project, the clothing is good, and I want women who are in need to benefit. Donating clothing to the Abused Adult Resource Center (AARC) in Bismarck means clients can select items directly and remaining items get sent to the nonprofit’s thrift store, Seeds of Hope, to sell.
  3. Efficiency. Many capsule wardrobe experts teach people to pare down to 30 to 50 items. (I just fainted.) By my current count I have already deleted 220 items. I am simultaneously impressed and ashamed to admit those numbers, which is why I am doing something about it.

I hope to maintain a wardrobe that will be easy. Instead of standing in front of clothing that doesn’t work, I will be able to quickly choose an option and get on with my day.

Gretchen Bell

Much of my inspiration comes from reading online articles and my friend Gretchen Bell, a stylist in Seattle, Washington.

Michelle: I’m in the process of finally cleaning up my wardrobe. I know, I know…I can feel your eyes rolling right now.

Gretchen: (laughing) Good! These days many of us are thinking about living with less. Less stuff, less waste. We have less time and little interest in added stress. You want to be buying pieces that will last for years to come. That is where the appeal of a capsule wardrobe comes in; European women have always shopped this way.

M: I’m very European, just ask me. So does this mean no more Target runs or trendy impulse buys in my future?

G: The first step in a Capsule Wardrobe is to clean out your closet and only keep the pieces you love and that fit you perfectly. Ideally your capsule will contain 20-35 pieces of tops, bottoms, dresses, and jackets.

M: Hold on! Not sure I can go that low! I was hoping to eventually get to the 100 pieces mark.

G: (Silence…then continues talking through my complaining.) It works best to stick with a color palette as well. Neutrals work great like grey, blue, ivory, white, and black. You can always add color and pattern with your accessories or jackets.

M: Yes, that’s my plan. I’ve always admired bold accessories and will continue to add those for conversation, and to not always be that woman wearing black.

G: Great quality items with interesting details can be found reasonably. Look for fun shapes, details like pleating, zippers, snaps, and flattering seaming. A capsule wardrobe is a great challenge for all of us to try. When living with less you will find getting dressed saves you lots of time and energy every day. Buying quality clothes will also save you money in the long run.

M: I guess the old saying “You get what you pay for” is very applicable to this process?

G: Who would object to that?    

For more capsule wardrobe tips, ideas, and inspiration, follow Michelle on Pinterest.


Michelle Farnsworth is a local writer and owner of her own Younique Makeup and Skincare business. Two humans, one fur baby, and her husband, Richard, occupy her free time.