Capsule wardrobes were and are still a strong special interest for me. I've enjoyed fashion and designing since I was a kid and I always liked the business casual look (though that may have been a way to appear older so people would take me seriously).
Anyway, a few years ago I got really into decluttering, minimalism, sustainable fashion, The KonMari method, and The Home Edit. Of course, capsule wardrobes popped up during that journey. As someone who struggled with sensory sensitivities and never had a language for it growing up, the idea of having a "uniform" and a curated wardrobe with only items that I loved (and were comfortable), greatly intrigued me.
But ow do you do this? Where do you even start?
I suggest beginning with the KonMari method. Now, clothing is the first category of five and you can do all five if you like, but clothing is the only one necessary for this.
If you're not familiar with the KonMari method, here's a list of steps you can follow:
Gather all clothing onto your bed (or in one room). This includes outwear, shoes, etc.
If you plan on donating anything make sure you have a box or two handy. A garbage bag for clothes that are too worn to donate is also a good idea.
Pick up each item one at a time and consider if it "sparks joy" for you. Consider what's pleasant about it, such as the material (is it soft?), the colour (is it a favourite colour, one that's pleasing to you?), and so on. This is the time to discard those items that you keep, but are sensory hell, like that all lace top, those too tight jeans, those heels that are beautiful, but you can't stand to wear. Get rid of them.
The next part of this process is to assess what you have left. And this is where our autistic brains are our greatest asset: what patterns emerge in these items that "spark joy"?
Sleeve and shirt lengths
Fit (fitted vs. loose/baggy)
My Emerging Patterns
For myself, my colour palette looks like this:
Black and white
Pastel Pink, blue, orange, and seafoam green
Navy blue, army green, dark browns
I became less a fan of colour as I got older and wore a lot of black, but I've since grown from that teenage angst experience and found colours that make me feel calm and confident.
Clothing I Look For
Crew, V, and scoop necklines (depending on the bra I'm wearing and the weather).
Leggings and tapered pants (like joggers)
Soft, stretchy fabrics
Clothing I Avoid
Mock, turtle, square, sweetheart, and cowl necklines
Satin or silk-like fabrics that will stick to my skin
Twisted, tied, or printed shirts
This isn't a full, in-depth report, but it's a place to start when I'm looking to buy new clothes an even getting dressed for the day.
Unfortunately, you do now have to put everything back in your closet - but keep in mind you'll likely never have to do it again or if you do it won't take nearly as long.
The Awesome Autistic Benefits
This process helps with intentionality. When going shopping you're more aware of what to look for, what you like, and what you need vs. what you know you already have.
You'll actually have a curated closet of clothes that feel like "you." For myself, I wear either leggings or joggers most of the time with a plain shirt or sweater. It's a very basic uniform, but one that can be dressed up and dressed down depending on the day (or hour).
By going through your clothing and learning to be intentional about what you buy, you'll now avoid sensory issues and only have clothing that you find comfortable. Keep in mind, however, that this can only happen when we let go of social expectations of what is "acceptable" to wear. As a child I suffered through the low-rise jeans trend because it was the only thing in stores and all my friends were wearing jeans. Now, I have like 3 pairs of jeans, they're all high-rise, and they're all comfortable.
It really won't take long to figure out what stores sell the clothing you like, that fits you, and doesn't trigger any sensory issues. For me there are literally a handful of stores I shop at and that is it. You can see Part 1 of this series for that list.
It's important to note that you'll still make mistakes. You'll buy something you don't really love or that is uncomfortable and you'll end up returning it, donating it, or throwing it out. I still buy things and then realize "what was I thinking, I'm never going to wear this!" It's ok, it happens to all of us. The point is to make those mistakes and learn from them.
I truly hope this process helps someone. If I had the language I do now around sensory issues, I never would have worn, let alone bought half the clothing I once did.
Extra Tips and Advice
Watch out for the neckline (no mock, turtle, square, sweetheart, cowl, etc.)
Sizing is everything, buy a size up if that's what you really want.
The right bra and panties can go a long way, try these two stores:
La Vie en Rose