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The Beauty and Science of Limited Choices: Why You Should Invest in a Capsule Wardrobe

Alene Dawson Avatar Image Alene Dawson
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Your morning routine becomes more streamlined with quality basics.

Back-to-school shopping isn’t just for kids. Autumn is the optional time to refresh your wardrobe and show off the hard work you’ve been doing (or that awesome CoolSculpting you did a few months ago!) to get your body into tip-top shape for the holidays and beyond. Investing in a capsule wardrobe now can save money, time and sanity—yanking you back from the late-night black hole of online shopping and the fatigue of brick-and-mortar excursions.

A capsule wardrobe is a collection of essential clothing with classic pieces such as a skirt, dress, pants, tops and coats that can be mixed and matched to perfection, creating 40+ outfits that come together with just a few items. Don’t worry, you can personalize and add flair with a few trendier or favorite pieces, if the feeling moves you. For example, now is a good time to add a multi-functional jumpsuit to the wardrobe-essentials party.

There are scientifically proven benefits to reducing options, saving you from what psychologists call decision fatigue that can trigger exhaustion and self-defeating choices. Productivity masters have long understood that a secret to success is freeing up your time and brainpower by simplifying everyday decisions (for example, taking the basic step of writing a to-do list or using a Post-It to remind you of the most important matters of your day). As President Obama told Vanity Fair, “You’ll see I wear only grey or blue suits … I’m trying to pare down decisions. I don’t want to make decisions about what I’m eating or wearing, because I have too many other decisions to make.” What’s important is to figure out which companies offer silhouettes that suit your personal style and body type, as well as your work and life needs.

An added bonus of the capsule wardrobe is that a designer has done the styling for you, with an eye on ease and sophistication. Several companies have dedicated themselves to the idea of versatile clothing with a through line. Here are a few ideas to introduce you to the glory and creativity that lie in lovely limitations:

For The Casual Dresser

A California start-up, DSTLD, focuses on pared-down but refined premium denim and other casual, core wardrobe essentials, with an eye on sustainable materials, natural dyes as well as eco-friendly practices and techniques where possible. The jeans (yes, even the white ones) have just enough form to hold you in where needed, but just enough stretch to highlight your shape and flatter. Take a look at the t-shirts, suede skirts and roomy totes as well. The men’s selection pairs jeans with tees, sweaters and jackets, for dressed-up or down looks.

For Work

ADAY, a New York-based company markets itself as a seasonal and sustainable wardrobe choice loved by feminists, visionaries, entrepreneurs, activists and travelers, among others. For those who feel “overwhelmed with the amount of stuff in the world” and want to “do more, own less and spend time on the things and people that matter to us,” standouts and best sellers include the It’s A Wrap Vest, Waste Nothing Jacket, Something Borrowed Shirt, Throw & Roll Leggings and Like a Boss Sweatshirt.

For the Luxe Fashionista

Need something functional with personality? Look to a brand, perhaps one that’s already one of your favorites, that may offer a classic seasonal collection but with enough personality to take you through several years of fabulousness. This season, for example, LA-based brand L’Agence, known for staples with Parisian flair, offers a lovely mix of silk blouses, tanks, coats, jumpsuits, jackets and more in colors, prints, fabrics and elevated feminine details that feel special and can take you from work to date night.

For the Men

Esquire magazine recently published a stylish list of “20 Things Every Man Should Have In His” Wardrobe including slim navy chino trousers, minimalist sneakers and a white, button-down shirt, of course. Men can start building their own modern capsule wardrobe with interchangeable pieces classic enough to endure several seasons from Theory (it has a whole Tech Travel section); stalwarts J. Crew and Banana Republic; and for those seeking a lower price point, Uniqlo, which offers its own take on capsule closet necessities.

When you’re thinking about choosing pieces, think quality over quantity, which saves you time and money in the long run, because you’re not shopping and replacing items as frequently. And the more you edit your closet, the more time you’ll have to work, play and live.