Several women I know are making the choice to move to capsule wardrobes. It is economically and ecologically responsible to have what you need and no more, but it also offers the peace of mind that comes with most minimalist practices. Capsule wardrobes generally put an end to sartorial crises, feeling like you have “nothing to wear,” digging among your things to find that one favorite skirt, and all the other frustrating clothing moments so many of us suffer through regularly. At the same time, one acquaintance asked me, “How can I maintain my individuality and personal style with a capsule wardrobe?”
That’s a good question! Many women have gotten the impression from influencers and style blogs that capsule wardrobes are about restriction, when nothing could be further from the truth. If you have received the message that you should go out and purchase 40 coordinating pieces of black, white and grey clothing, and it must comprise 18 tops, eight bottoms, three coats, etc., etc., you have gotten the wrong end of the proverbial stick, and an irritating one at that! Capsule wardrobes are supposed to be about freedom. Freedom from “stuff,” from frustration, from weighty excess. . . those things that slow you down and take up too much mental and emotional energy. And they are absolutely not supposed to make you shop, feel or look like anyone other than yourself! Let’s talk about capsule wardrobes that are all about you, how you dress, and how you want to express yourself with your clothing.
Capsule wardrobes should start from the wardrobe you already have. Going out and buying all new is the opposite goal of a capsule wardrobe—think more about subtracting than adding, at least at first. Do a thorough closet clean-out, and if you are left with lots of mustard yellow because that is “your” color, so be it! That is who you are, and your wardrobe can center around mustard yellow if you want. Mine centers around pink because it is my absolute favorite and I wear pink literally every day! If someone’s capsule is all white, beige and navy blue because that is their taste, more power to them; it sounds like they have elegant style! But that’s them, and you’re YOU. If, after you get rid of everything you don’t really love, there is a pile of clothing in mostly mustard yellow, magenta, and navy blue, that’s what you’re going to run with.
Let’s extend the above example and say that you have ruthlessly cleaned out your closet and have no dress pants left. Would you go out in search of black dress pants, or navy blue dress pants? For many, many people, myself included, black is my go-to. I actually like black, I feel it complements my coloring and style, and wear it often. It sounds like that is not the case for the owner of our example wardrobe. They—you—should go for navy blue! Pick the neutral that is right for your wardrobe and taste, not what influencers tell you is the best. Maintaining your individuality while working from a capsule wardrobe begins with consulting your own needs and taste before any other conventional wisdom.
Are you short a blazer? Consider magenta! Do you need a couple of fresh tops to replace a bunch of ratty old T-shirts you purged? Choose your favorite colors or colors that mix well with all of them—olive green comes to mind! Remember that patterns including your main color choices will automatically mix well with other pieces you own as long as you remember to balance pattern scale as well as the blend of geometric and organic shapes. Showcasing your personal love of polka dots or florals is a great way to preserve your individuality while you pare down to essentials.
Your capsule wardrobe is about your daywear, the things you grab in the mornings, wear to work (whether that is at an office or in the home), wear out to dinner with your family. . . the real wardrobe workhorses that you can rely on. Your evening clothes, that one especially sexy dress you sometimes wear on date nights, your workout gear, and decrepit band T-shirts you only ever wear to rototill the vegetable garden are not part of or counted among your capsule wardrobe. Don’t stress or beat yourself up because you never reach a point where there are literally 40 items in your closet. That is not the goal, or even the point. Whittling down to what you really need and love, and making sure your day-to-day wardrobe is full of mix-and-match potential is the goal. Consider that some things simply don’t count as part of your capsule wardrobe, and you may feel more of the freedom and less of the pressure!
Do you have a peculiar love? I love lobsters! Most people think of them as nothing more than dinner, but I think they are beautiful and interesting and very cute. I have a few pieces of jewelry featuring lobsters, and one T-shirt with a lobster printed on the front. What do you love? Hedgehogs? Tennis? Semaphore flags? Show that with a piece or two of clothing, but remember scarves, earrings, embroidered belts, socks, tote bags. . . any accessory, really. Your clothing can offer a mostly blank-slate, mix-and-match wardrobe, while your accessories are pure, concentrated personality. You don’t have to wear pearls or tasteful gold hoops or faux-tortoiseshell sunglasses if that is not your style. Capsule wardrobes can be accessorized any way you see fit—not only with timeless items your grandmother would approve.
The advice you might read about building a capsule wardrobe is likely solid guidance for putting together a great-looking flexible powerhouse collection of clothing. Just remember that it is guidance, not law. Your capsule wardrobe is about you, your freedom, your taste. . . no one else’s. Paring down and embracing the new minimalism so many people are seeking right now is about freedom, feeling light, feeling smart, feeling unencumbered, not about imposing difficult or depressing restrictions on yourself. If you want to prune your wardrobe but have hesitated because showcasing your personal aesthetic with your clothing is important to you, realize that you absolutely can have it both ways with a little care, planning, and willingness to embrace your individuality!