The clothes diet: 10 items, five days and no cheating

Is it possible to get by solely on a ‘capsule wardrobe’? Three women put it to the test


The capsule wardrobe has become fashion’s great myth: we think that all true fashion “experts” are choosing from a minimal wardrobe of classic pieces, with the odd “trend” item thrown in for good measure.

Capsule wardrobes, by their very nature, are monochrome – there’s a man’s white shirt, says Vogue, and InStyle recommends a camel mac. You can’t go wrong with a pair of black, flat-fronted trousers, says Glamour.

In a rare moment of collision between fashion and reality, we challenged three young women to live within a capsule wardrobe, with a maximum of 10 items, for a working week. Shoes and jackets were included in the 10 items, while accessories were a free-for-all.

So did anyone fall off the wagon?


Fashion editor of Stellar and Kiss magazines

l A striped top from Zara
l A yellow pencil skirt from Cos
l A Givenchy T-shirt
l Black jeans from Topshop
l A multicoloured top from & Other Stories (
l Leopard-print slip-ons from Gap
l Black boots from Zara
l A black leather jacket from Whistles
l A patent skirt from River Island
l A cashmere jumper from Zara

Items: 10
Cheats: 0
White shirts: 0

I thought it would be fun. I have a lot of clothes, so I thought it would be interesting to see how I could live within limits.

I always say 70 per cent of your wardrobe should be classics and 30 per cent trends. So I picked a few classics that went with everything – a nice T-shirt, a cashmere jumper, a bit of colour – and the leather jacket was a life-saver, because it pulled all of the items together. For colour and variety, I put in the pencil skirt and the multicoloured top.

I didn’t find it a challenge to put outfits together. When I go shopping, I always look at what I have in my wardrobe and, if I can’t put something together with three or four items I already own, there’s no point buying it. I think that’s the stylist’s brain. Doing this definitely pushed me, however, because I often dress for comfort, and this ended up being one of the busiest weeks I’d had in ages. It was nice to have all of my clothes laid out. The first morning, I thought: ooh, this is amazing.

Because some of the outfits were quite basic, there were days when I could compensate with make-up. I’d add a brighter lip, so I was doing my make-up a little bit more. It stopped me buying clothes too, because when I buy something new I usually wear it straight away.

By the end, I was starting to get a bit irritated – I was just itching to put on something new. On the Friday, I ended up wearing the black T-shirt, black jeans, black jacket, and it was a really sunny day. And if it had been freezing cold, I would have had a leather jacket and a jumper.

I didn’t cheat at all.

The idea of reducing your wardrobe to a capsule is having great-quality items you could wear, day in, day out, that would last and look good. I always think of what Vivienne Westwood says, about buying pieces you love and that are good quality, rather than fast fashion all the time.


Blogger ( and intern with fashion start-up Frockadvisor

l A pair of shoes from Barratts
l A leather jacket from H&M
l A striped dress from Penneys
l A grey dress from River Island
l A blue dress from Dunnes
l A black blazer from H&M
l A beige trench coat from Zara
l A leopard print shirt from New Look
l Black trousers from New Look
l A polo-neck jumper from Dunnes

Items: 10
Cheats: 1
White shirts: 0

Initially I thought: that’s going to be a real challenge, especially when the shoes are included. But I made a conscious effort to plan my outfits. I was really surprised at how many outfits I could get away with by changing the dress, or wearing the same dress with a different jacket.

I planned it so I had three dresses, three jackets and the same pair of trousers twice. I was very organised in terms of my schedule – and I loved using the three dresses because they were a whole outfit on their own; I just added a jacket.

It made my mornings much easier. With the extra time, I was able to do my make-up in the house, rather than on the bus on the way into work.

My wardrobe is very much made up of staple items: a couple of leather jackets, a couple of blazers and a lot of dresses, because they’re the easiest items for me to buy straight off the rack. Then I would have quite a few accessories – necklaces, pendants, scarves and sunglasses – and I just added them into my outfit as I do every other day.

I found it really freeing; by day two or three I was having fun, going: “Will I wear the leather jacket, the blazer or the trench coat?” If I hadn’t had the challenge I would have gone with the trench coat every day.

Nobody at work said: “Oh you’re wearing that same coat again.” My shoes were the same every day but I don’t think anyone was looking at my feet. I tried to change my hairstyle slightly every day.

I didn’t cheat during the five days – except when I went to Heartbeat of Home at the Bord Gáis Energy Theatre, and I did change that evening, into an outfit that wasn’t in my 10 items. That’s because I didn’t own anything that I wore that night except the tights and the shoes.

I don’t think I could survive forever with just 10 items. But definitely for two weeks – on holiday or on a city break. But if you don’t become bored with what you’re wearing, you might feel like people around you are becoming uninterested. In Ireland we’re big investors in occasionwear, so we like having something new to wear. It gives a small sense of euphoria
to have something new in your wardrobe, especially if you’re
going somewhere nice.


Investor relations administrator

l 2 skirts, both from Oasis
l A stripy dress from Oasis
l A black, collared jumper from Oasis
l A black slash-neck top from Dunnes
l A pair of black patent shoes by Kelly & Katie that I bought in the US
l A stripy top from Kaliko
l A blue blouse from A|wear

Items: 8
Cheats: 0
White shirts: 0

I always plan my outfits. I get up at 6.30am, so I lay my clothes out the night before. But I was surprised what I got away with. Having skirts, for example, was great, because you can mix and match your tops much more easily than you can your bottoms, I think.

It makes life easier to plan your outfits ahead – if my clothes are ready and laid out from the night before, I’m getting up, washed, dressed, and I know exactly what I’m wearing, from my shoes to my tights, top to coat. I have to plan my wardrobe ahead of time because my day is so long.

I have a pretty balanced wardrobe. I try to buy in outfits, and to buy pieces that I can mix and match. I’m starting to stray away from buying lots of cheap bits in cheaper shops, and trying to buy good-quality clothes that will last.

I didn’t really have any days where I wanted to cheat. I’d bought a few new bits for my wardrobe, so I was kind of excited to wear them. I also cleared away a lot of clothes I don’t wear any more, so it was good for me.

The idea of people at work seeing me in the same clothes would concern me, but I mix and match a lot. If I wear a black dress to work on a Wednesday and I rewear it on Monday, I’ll try to wear it with a different cardigan or a pair of coloured tights.

It would definitely be possible to live with just 10 items, if you mixed and matched them all the time.

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