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The Science Behind Picking Out a 20 Piece Capsule

The 20x20 Challenge

We recently completed the #ItsFromMyCloset20x20 Challenge where I, along with co-hosts @styleapproximately, @animalnecklaces, and @bashfulleo and an amazing community of outfit repeaters selected 20 pieces from our closets and restyled them for 20 days.

A lot of us have aligned intentions to continue on this journey of sustainability, and the new year seemed like a good time for a challenge so we could all start the year positively in a collaborative way. On a side note, I've never coined myself as sustainable. I did, however, come to realize that my new clothes buying habits, a portion of which included fast fashion, was just not sustainable for our planet.

I am personally at a place where I've replaced buying new clothes (minus underwear and socks) exclusively with thrifting or buying secondhand since September 1, 2019. It started with Oxfam's Secondhand September, where I pledged to not buy new for a month, and it just stuck. I guess it's true what they say about taking 30 days to form a new habit.

The shift from buying new to thrifting wasn't as hard as I thought it would be; but in all honesty, there's a part of me that realizes I've probably just traded one vice for another. For now, it is where I am comfortable. I'm enjoying fashion while not supporting the fashion industry, although in the long run, I know I need to generally consume less. I also know there are others who are at a similar place in their journeys, or are perhaps still consuming fast fashion, and if I can inspire them along in their journeys, that feels good to me.

My Revelations

The 20x20 capsule challenge encouraged me to use some creativity to mix and match my pieces, and helped me realize that my closet stretches quite far. I actually didn't even miss any of the other pieces in my wardrobe over the 20 days, which was surprising to me.

What is a Capsule?

First off, what's a capsule? It's traditionally a collection of interchangeable timeless pieces that you can augment with seasonal pieces to create your wardrobe. I like to think of most capsule pieces in the traditional sense as basics or foundation pieces, whatever that means to you and your everyday wear.

A capsule challenge dictates a certain number of pieces to wear across a certain number of days. In the case of the 20x20, you'd wear 20 pieces over 20 days. Some may choose very interchangeable pieces, others may dig out some lesser worn items, and some may challenge themselves with lots of color and patterns! The goal is to see what formula works for you.

The Science Behind the Selection Process

I wanted to share my analysis about how I selected my pieces. As it was my first 20 day capsule with 20 pieces, I had no idea what to expect. And, although completely unnecessary since the point of a capsule is just to wear, wear, and rewear, I wanted to challenge myself to create 20 unique looks. I went a pretty traditional route and focused my capsule on interchangeable pieces and varied texture, layers, and silhouette, instead of color (the pink sweater was an anomaly that I threw into the capsule as my 20th piece for Lunar New Year).

I am an emotional person and a lot of times getting dressed or even designing an interior is just a feeling. But when I started to delve a bit deeper, I realized that there is some rhyme and reason behind the way I pull an outfit together. I'll try to break it down.


COLOR: The easiest capsule for me is a neutral toned one, with a balance of light and dark, as that encapsulates my everyday uniform. I stuck with cream, denim blues, ochre, and black/grey that I could easily mix and match. I started with at least one top and bottom in each of these colors, knowing that at the very least I could create monochromish outfits for each of these colors. That's five looks right there!

LAYERABILITY: I honed in on pieces that I would be able to layer over or under other pieces (or, the holy grail of clothing--both over AND under). I especially love thin fabrics like silks and tencels because they layer well and can also have some volume, which means they have the potential to change the overall silhouette without adding bulk. I particularly chose a light blue tencel top and thin blue cotton dress with puff sleeves for this reason.

TEXTURE: For this winter capsule, I was drawn to chunky knits, rough or distressed denim, and patterns inherent in classic fabrics to create texture. I included a mix of fabrics, including tencel, canvas, cashmere, houndstooth, cords, and denim.

I think juxtaposing various textures (and thus fabrics) always adds interest and balance. I think of fabrics generally as smooth versus rough, cold versus warm, hard versus soft, and overall feminine versus masculine. For instance, I might start with an all denim look, but that could feel very rough, cold, hard, and masculine on its own, so I might throw in my light blue billowy top (smooth, warm, soft, and feminine), or a cream colored cable knit (rough, warm, soft, and feminine).

SILHOUETTE: I chose some longer pieces and some shorter pieces, oversized and fitted, and drapey and structured which all affect the silhouette. I ended up getting a lot of wear out of the denim dress because it was longer and buttoned up, so I could layer both over longer pieces and underneath shorter ones. The black mock neck dress is also a heavy hitter because it adds length and creates this black palette for layering.

Here are the pieces I started with. I think I added in about 3 more as the challenge went along.

And then the very "official list" of pieces. "T" just means thrifted, because I was curious to know how the numbers would pan out. It looks like I had 15 of the 20 items thrifted so far on the list.


Without further ado, here are all 20 looks. Which is your favorite?

Thanks for stopping by. I would love to get more into the science of getting dressed, and more outfit analysis. Stay tuned if you're interested!

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