How to Save Money Clothing Your Family with the Capsule Wardrobe Method


This comment from Jay Bee on yesterday’s post caught my attention:

For clothing, our whole family functions on capsule wardrobes. Our whole family’s four-season wardrobe fits into a single carry-on suitcase. That includes shoes. So, it’s not that expensive, really.

Reading Jay Bee’s comment, I assumed she meant each member of the family has a carry-on suitcase for his or her own clothing. Beyond that, I had no idea how this “capsule” approach to clothing would work. But I liked the sound of it. “To the Google!” I shouted.

Wikipedia credits Susie Faux with coining the term “capsule wardrobe,” and gives this definition:

According to Faux, a capsule wardrobe is a collection of a few essential items of clothing that will not go out of fashion, such as skirts, trousers, and coats, which can then be updated with seasonal pieces.

The basic guidelines (offered by Ms. Faux) of the capsule wardrobe method are:

Choose a color scheme.

Work with two base colors that match everything (black, white, brown, gray, etc). Add a couple of brighter colors that contrast with the base colors. The base colors seem to be what you’d wear on your lower half (jeans, slacks, pants, skirts), while the accent colors would go on top (shirts, sweaters, jackets).

Choose classic shapes and patterns.

Not really sure what this means, but I’d like to say that when I see dudes wearing “skinny jeans” I take it as a clear sign of the apocalypse.

Choose high-quality fabrics.

Because you’re working with such a simple wardrobe, each item will get lots of wear. You’ll want higher quality, more durable clothing.

With those rules in mind, I took a stab at building my “capsule” wardrobe. I also estimated the annual cost, factoring in price per item and purchase frequency. I realize my estimated annual cost seems ridiculous – I know I don’t spend over $900 per year clothing myself. Then again, I’ve only been budgeting for six months – maybe I do spend that much.

Item Quantity Item Cost Annual Purchase Frequency Cost per Year
Running Shoes 1 pair $100 2 $200
T-shirts 5 $25 1 $125
Dress Shirts 2 $50 1 $100
Suit 1 $500 0.2 $100
Shorts 2 pairs $40 1 $80
Jeans 1 pair $60 1 $60
Pants 1 pair $60 1 $60
Dress Shoes 1 pair $200 0.25 $50
Nicer (non-dress) Shirts 2 $50 0.5 $50
Coat 1 $150 0.2 $30
Jacket 1 $80 0.33 $27
Dress Belt 1 $75 0.25 $19
Ties 3 $50 0.33 $17.50
Everyday belt 1 $30 0.25 $7.50
Everyday shoes 1 pair $100 0* $0
Annual Total $926

*Old running shoes double as everyday shoes.

Accurate or not, it was a good mental exercise to estimate my annual clothing cost. What do you think of my numbers? More importantly, what do you think of men wearing skinny jeans? (Just kidding.)

If there any capsule wardrobers in the audience today, I’d love to hear how you’re making it work.