Wardrobe Makeover Part 2: Capsule Wardrobe on a Budget

Unlike some people (maybe most people) I tend to keep a pretty small wardrobe. We’re talking 25 items or less. That’s not necessarily because I want to, but I purge my wardrobe pretty frequently. More frequently than I replenish it with items I love. Plus, in the last three years my body has changed considerably. I’ve had two children, breastfed both of them, and nothing I had before really fits quite right. While I’m working to get my body back into a fit & healthy state, I still need clothes to wear NOW. So I found myself at the start of this summer with nothing to wear and I wasn’t about to spend hundreds of dollars building up a new wardrobe. Especially if I didn’t plan to be this size for long. Enter the “capsule wardrobe” of simple, mix & match pieces.

I have always wanted to take on the challenge of creating a functional wardrobe on $100 or less. This past summer I did that, and it turned out surprisingly well! I wasn’t shopping at Gap or JCrew, but I still found some pretty nice name brands at “like new” quality. I spent a whopping total of $83 and got 11 items. Most of which can be mixed & matched creating many different outfit options. Here is just a sample of the outfits I wore this past summer. Hopefully you will be able to gain some inspiration for your own tiny wardrobe. This can also be great for packing to go away for an extended trip, without bringing your entire closet.

Now, my activities include staying home with my kids, running errands and the occasional birthday party or date night out. Even our church is pretty casual, so I don’t need to dress up often. Those were the things I had in mind as I built this wardrobe. Your needs may be different! Just tailor it to what fits you & your lifestyle.

This striped top is by Mikey & Joey and is the single most forgiving top that I own. It’s pretty loose, so I recommend wearing a cami underneath to guard against any slippage (or child yanking down the front of your shirt). My favorite camis are at Forever21 for 1.90. You really can’t beat that price. The 7Jeans coral capris are a denim material, slightly distressed, and were found shopping consignment.

Striped Tank purchased at Marshals for $9.99, 7Jeans Coral Capris purchased at Consignment for $11

This next outfit is one of my favorites. It’s super simple, but super comfortable. It’s what I call my mom uniform or “momiform”. I could live in this every day. The gray tee is so soft & the mint colored shorts are one of my favorite colors. This pair of JCrew shorts fits me like a glove. And not a super tight glove, but a comfortable one! Pants can be tough to fit, and even if it fits throughout the hips, it can be either falling down at my waist, or too snug to be worn when eating. Neither is preferable. This pair of shorts, and any other I’ve owned from JCrew, is cut perfectly for my body shape. They’re also the perfect length, and I think, very flattering.

Shirt by Active USA purchased at Marshals for $5, Shorts by JCrew from Consignment for $14

My wardrobe is pretty casual and comfortable, if you haven’t already noticed. I did feel the need to include at least one dress to round out this summer wardrobe, one capable of being dressed up or dressed down. This gray tee shirt dress from Walmart was the perfect addition. Surprisingly, this dress is super flattering, and not as form fitting as you might think. It has a way of grazing past trouble spots and smoothing everything out. I don’t usually shop for clothes at Walmart, but for basics on a budget, you really don’t need to go anywhere else!

Here the dress from Walmart ($9.94) is styled with a plaid top by About a Girl that I thrifted from Goodwill for $3.99
For dressier occasions, I can add a chunky necklace and some strappy sandals.

The plaid top I just mentioned above is one of my favorite pieces to throw on over something else. It’s light & breezy enough to wear during the hot summer months, but adds a bit of warmth in air conditioning or for transitioning into fall. My homemade cut off jean shorts and black tank make for a very southern, country look. Made complete by my red cowgirl boots from the Boot Store in Gatlinburg, TN. The ridiculous thing is that those boots cost at least double what I spent on this entire wardrobe.

Plaid top by About a Girl purchased at Goodwill for $3.99, Black tank by Tresics purchased from Marshals for $4.99, High Waisted Jeans by St. John’s Bay from Goodwill for $5.99

My mint green shorts are also paired here with this white, gold striped top. It’s another JCrew item and I have to say, I’m a fan. It’s an outfit I can put on without thinking about it and feel confident & comfortable. A step up from the momiform, but not quite at tee shirt dress level, it’s a great choice for looking nice without overdoing it.

Gold striped sleeveless shell by JCrew $6 from Consignment

I’ve had a chambray top from Gap before, and to be honest, it wasn’t what I wanted it to be. It was too stiff and didn’t fit the way I was hoping it would. This white washed, light blue button up is made from a material called “Tencel” and it is so comfy, soft and silky. It’s actually very hard to describe, but you should google it like I just did. It’s made from a fiber found in wood pulp & is an environmentally friendly fabric. Huh! Who knew?? Anyway, I’m all about the comfort factor and the layering. It works great as a swim coverup too, especially since it’s a bit longer in the back. This adorable pineapple tee just screams summer to me and I wanted at least one “graphic type tee” in my wardrobe. It is a cropped tee, so without a cami I will only wear it with these high waisted jean shorts. Even if I did have the abs and flat stomach to show off, I probably wouldn’t. (Ah, who am I kidding?! If I had ’em I wouldn’t mind showing them off a bit!)

White washed button up by Cloth & Stone $3.99 from Goodwill, Pineapple Cropped Tee by Roxy $3.99 from Goodwill

Finally, this bohemian peasant top also came from Goodwill. It’s extremely sheer, so again I wear it over a Forever21 cami. There’s something super feminine and pretty about this flowy top. I usually go for basic solids because I don’t feel very confident about wearing bold patterns. This aztec-y pattern stuck out to me as something I wanted to include in at least one wardrobe piece. The overarching color is one of my favorites (blue) which made it not so scary to wear.Wardrobe1

Obviously there are several other options for various outfits using these pieces. That’s what makes creating a capsule wardrobe so much fun: your wardrobe options are only limited by your creativity! Adding in a brightly colored skirt or maxi dress would be another great item to add to this wardrobe that would cause my options to grow exponentially!

So some final thoughts on creating this capsule summer wardrobe on a budget:

  1. Make a plan. Map out the pieces you want before you go shopping. You’ll be able to immediately pass over what you don’t need without being distracted by cute but random items that don’t go.
  2. Stick to the budget. Come up with a number you feel is appropriate and then make it work! The challenge is part of the fun. Keep in mind the average price you will be able to spend on each item in your plan.
  3. Shop inexpensively. If you are working with a budget, don’t go to name brand stores & expect to find much more than one outfit (excepting maybe their clearance racks). Marshals, TJMaxx, Ebay, Consignment shops, Thrift shops, Goodwill, Walmart, Forever21, all are good places to find various things pretty inexpensively. Know where you are willing to sacrifice some quality and where you want to pay a few extra dollars. A buck ninety for a cami to wear underneath your clothes can be a little “cheap” whereas the jeans you plan to wear with several outfits, you may want to spend a larger chunk of your wardrobe budget.

That’s it! I hope you found some inspiration here for creating your own tiny wardrobe. Let me know in the comments below which outfit was your favorite or what items you would put together. Now I’m off to collect my cold weather wardrobe items. Ah, cardigans, jeans & chunky scarves! Happy shopping, friends!

Amanda SignatureWardrobe2              



***All photos captured by Hope Elizabeth Photography

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