It seems like everyone I know is all about the Capsule Wardrobe these days. I’ll be honest with you: I can’t do it. The idea of pre-selecting what I will wear for the next 90 days and then not deviating from those choices makes me anxious. Like breathe-into-a-paper-bag anxious.
Then again, packing for a long weekend makes me anxious. Because what if I get to my destination and I do not want to wear the things I have in my suitcase?!? WHAT WILL I DO THEN?!?
I have issues, you all.
why I can’t capsule
In theory, the capsule wardrobe should be perfect for me: I’m a huge fan of establishing a distinct personal style, of having a uniform, of repeating both individual items and entire outfits. It doesn’t bother me when people recognize something from the last time I wore it — in fact, I’m flattered when someone says they remember my sweater or shoes or necklace. I love the things in my closet, and I’m happy to wear them over and over and over again.
At the same time, I am not a big shopper, so I’m not drowning in unworn clothes — I tend to stick with brands and cuts that work for me, and when I find pieces I love, I will hold on to them forever. I’m not exaggerating — my favorite sweater is older than Henry. And I wear it ALL the time. That doesn’t mean I don’t make mistakes or buy things I regret. But honestly, those pieces are few and far between (and are always, always purchased in a moment of stress — but more about that later).
So why can’t I get behind the capsule wardrobe idea?
Rita says it’s because my wardrobe already is, essentially, a capsule, and I think that at one level, she’s right. The successful capsule wardrobe is not about eliminating options; it’s about focusing on a specific, defined style, one that is appropriate for real life, so that the clothes in your closet — or your capsule — are really and truly wearable, every day, for all the things you actually do with your time.
The capsule wardrobe also imagines a set of pieces that mix and match and combine together easily and without much planning or thought. I’ve got that down as well — the only things I really have to think about in the morning are what the weather is like and what’s clean. Beyond that, my closet is essentially Garanimals by J. Crew.
dressing for life
Getting to that place, though — the place where your closet is no longer full of clothes you wish you could wear and instead is entirely composed of pieces you really do wear, over and over and over — getting to that place requires not only a carefully defined personal style but also a recognition that the life you are living now really is your actual life. That’s the hard part, and I can see how a capsule wardrobe project could be helpful in making that transition.
Don’t focus on whittling down your wardrobe to a certain number of pieces. Spend time defining your style and assessing your lifestyle and eventually you’ll figure out your own perfect wardrobe size.
In my 40s, I have finally stopped buying clothes I wish I could wear and started focusing only on clothes I know I will wear. That encompasses everything from multiple pairs of skinny pants in neutral colors to a single fabulous black and white sequined skirt. I don’t wear the skirt as often as I wear my skinny corduroys, but when I need to get dressed up, it’s exactly what I want to wear.
I think the lifestyle part of the equation is the one most of us stumble over. Our clothes say something about who we are, and very few of us are exactly who we want to be at any given moment. The capsule wardrobe compels you — for better or for worse — to choose the most pragmatic version of yourself and to stick with it for as long as the capsule lasts.
I like the idea of the capsule wardrobe, particularly the part about how clothes you wear over and over in your real everyday life can be stylish and chic. And while I’ve made my peace with the fact that mine is a skinny cords and a crew neck sweater kind of life, I still like having the option to bust out some sequins at a moment’s notice, without feeling compelled to work them into my everyday closet. (Although I will totally do that if I think I can get away with it. Of course.)
*Apologies to Emily Dickinson. But I couldn’t resist.