Capsule Wardrobes: An Antithesis
To anyone who has felt overwhelmed by the process of building a capsule wardrobe, this essay is for you.
There are two kinds of people in this world:
The kind that doesn't feel a small twinge of dread at the words "how to."
The kind that does.
It's a quiet afternoon alone, sunlight filling our home in all its spring jubilance. I'm settling down at the kitchen table with a mug of tea, a crisp new notebook, and my library's copy of The Curated Closet. I have butterflies in my stomach; this is exactly the book I had been looking for. A guide to teach me precisely how to create the perfect capsule wardrobe; one that expresses my personality and that I'm guaranteed to love for years to come. As my eyes skim over the pastel colours, the vibrant photographs, and the gorgeous outfits, I almost forget about the notepad. In fact, I jot down no more than a small handful of notes before I give up and just focus on the visuals, taking mental pictures of the pieces I liked. So much for a helpful how-to process!
Am I the only one who does this all the time? Let's get back to my inane "two kinds of people" opener.
I like to imagine that the first kind -- the 'how to' kind -- probably tolerates, even likes, bullet points and DIY guides. They enjoy writing lists almost as much as they get a thrill from crossing things off them. Capsule wardrobe, you say? Give them a detailed explanation and a manual and they'll get right down to it, God bless them, with their notes and their mood boards. Without these wonderful individuals, our world might fall apart. If you're in this category, please note that I admire you and wish we could swap brains. For a day, anyhow. What a ride.
And then, there is the second kind. The kind whose brains more closely resemble a Picasso than a blueprint. The kind that would prefer to wing it by a gut feeling than pay attention to the 'instructions.' The kind that shrinks away from the dull details. For the sake of simplicity, I will refer to this group as Type B.
I realize that all of this is overgeneralization – we all have a little bit of both in us. Perhaps I only see the two extremes because I myself, am on the extreme end.
I not only fit into the second category, but am the poster child for abstract, head-in-the-clouds thinking. I have a literal aversion to practicality. To, heaven forbid, multiple detailed instructions. Or really anything that remotely resembles a task that must be done for the sake of life puttering along. Calling the bank, for example. Or getting the oil changed. Or reading manuals. Data, numbers, all of it. Things that I like to pretend don't actually exist because they scare me, frankly. It sounds like a terribly inconvenient mindset to live with, and it is, sort of. But there you have it. Poetry and matcha and art are encoded in my double helix; more necessary things are not.
So, on that note, try to imagine me approaching a capsule wardrobe in the linear, follow-the-rules manner so many write about.
Have I ever actually counted how many articles of clothing I own? Nope. Have I ever formally taken stock of my garments, categorized them, or made lists about them? Er... no. Put a numerical item limit on my closet? Negative.
Trying to outline, plan, and follow one process for a capsule wardrobe -- with 'steps' and 'rules' -- sound about as appealing to me as an algebra test. Capsule wardrobe guides are helpful for many, yes. Even crucial. But the gears in my brain simply don't turn that way; intuition is my roadmap. And those of us on this end of the spectrum need feel guilty no longer.
How 'Type B' people can successfully curate a capsule wardrobe:
It starts with a frame of mind. And if all you ever have is that frame of mind – I mean, to really and truly believe in the why of capsule wardrobes: choosing less, choosing quality or quantity, choosing contentment over consumption – then you'll do just fine. The heart behind the principle is far more powerful than surface-level limitations.
There is no need to overcomplicate it, friends. Once you understand why you believe in a wardrobe of fewer, better clothes, start by simply donating clothes you no longer enjoy wearing, or have not worn in the last several months (be ruthless!), until you're down to just the clothes you love -- or at least can get by with until you have the resources to add pieces you do love.
Wear what's left over -- all of it. Then you'll come face to face with the true gaps; you'll be very familiar with what you need to add, and what you can be content with. Then, when you go to add an essential, do so thoughtfully and with consideration for the quality and timelessness of the piece. Aim to buy beautiful basics that will give you mileage for years to come. And do keep wearing the pieces you bought before you made the shift, if you still enjoy them. This, in my opinion, is a capsule wardrobe.
You see, I think a capsule wardrobe is what you make of it. It is not a maximum of 10 items, 20 items, even 40 items. No one can make hard and fast rules about what a capsule wardrobe is, or what it isn't. In the same way that minimalism isn't about owning exactly 100 items or less, having a capsule wardrobe is not about owning exactly 30 garments or less. I believe that a capsule wardrobe is an ideal more than an actual thing.
Despite not following any numerical 'rules,' I call my wardrobe a capsule one because:
I believe in wearing what I have.
I believe in not having what I don't wear.
I do not believe in bringing items into my wardrobe without a clear intention.
I believe in being so content with my wardrobe, and wearing all of it, that I have no choice but to come face-to-face with the glaring gaps in my closet. And those gaps reveal the essentials I'm missing.
I believe in buying only what I think are wardrobe essentials. And then, maybe, a few non-essential pieces that I truly love, and am convinced I will love for more than two years (ideally longer, but I'm inherently fickle).
I believe in a slow wardrobe that is built with intention, and takes into consideration not only the garment's appearance, but its source and the hands that made it.
It's not a perfect process, but it is a genuine one. Because it stems from what I believe, not from imposing unwanted limitations.
All this to say, by all means write those lists. Take stock of what you have. Count them over and over, come up with a maximum item limit. These are all good, even great, things. And if that's the only way you can successfully join the movement -- please leave this post and find a manual! My lovely friend Britt from the Flopsy Life blog has written a capsule wardrobe guide that I know will come in handy. But if the sound of that process is holding you back, please don't force yourself to do it. I certainly do encourage you to go through your clothes thoughtfully in order to donate which ones you're no longer wearing, because by sitting there they are doing you more harm than good. I do encourage you to think carefully about what you already have, what you can be content with, and what you need. I hope that you are aiming to have less than to have more. Simply bear in mind that there are no hard and fast rules about how to go about this.
So, capsule wardrobe. Build one. Whether you have a blueprint or a daydream.