Take one capsule

Annalisa Barbieri has always wanted an orderly, well-audited wardrobe. But is that ever possible?

My sartorial dream is not to have a walk-in wardrobe full of clothes and racks of shoes, like something you'd see on MTV Cribs; but rather to open my wardrobe and see maybe 20 perfect pieces. These pieces, like good and well-travelled friends, would all get along harmoniously and would all fit me perfectly. Dressing in the morning could be done without much thought or care, because the thought and care had all been done previously. The garments would hang on wooden hangers, with space aplenty between each one; therefore, getting clothes into or out of the wardrobe would not involve using both hands, and foot leverage, too.

The reality is different. I have a wardrobe that is three-fifths full of clothes that no longer fit me, but I cling foolishly to the hope that they one day will; it is one-fifth full of clothes that are autobiographical: they were with me at crucial moments in my life and I am therefore loath to part with them. These clothes don't fit me, either, but they should not be thrown away because they are important, and worthy of being found a little bit of space, somewhere. Finally, squashed into a little corner will be maybe a dozen things that I bought one day not so long ago, when I felt like shopping: and it is these that are the mainstay of my wardrobe.

I used to hate the term "capsule wardrobe", mainly because I thought it meant trouser suits for women and other business wear, rather than frivolous, fluffy things in chiffon with a Mongolian lambswool trim. But when I got pregnant I realised how liberating it was to have a well-audited, but small, collection of clothes. A bit like when you go on holiday and bring only your best and most relevant stuff.

When I was younger, I used to love prancing around in front of the mirror trying on different combinations of clothes. It was a fantastic way of making up new outfits. Sadly, these days, I have lost my love of prancing, so my clothes need to work without a dress rehearsal.

What I have "allowed" myself to do as I've got older (and wiser) is spend more money on fewer, but better, things. To that end, I have a little rule: over the age of 30, you should spend three times what you did in your twenties on any single item.

An example: you used to spend £5 on a T-shirt; now you should spend £15. In your forties you should spend four times what you did in your twenties. And so it goes on. Obviously there may come a stage when you pray for an early death, or risk bankruptcy, but you cross that bridge when you come to it. In the meantime it's justification for spending some money on clothes.

An irony to note is that clothes that will work really hard for you tend to look dull on the hanger. Barbara Bui trousers, for example, give no indication, hung up, of just how good they will look when you put them on, nor do they show just how high they will lift your bottom. This is such an amazing thing that you will need to resist the urge to scream from the changing rooms: "Look at my arse, look at my arse! Doesn't it look great?"

Be careful out there.