So what is a capsule wardrobe, anyway? It's a basic wardrobe made up of a few items -- usually somewhere around 30-40 -- that can be combined in lots of different ways to make many different outfits. There are no hard-and-fast rules, and I've seen different ways of going about it. Some people stick rigorously to a specific number of items, while others are more flexible. Some include accessories and outerwear and formalwear; some don't. The general idea is to have a VASTLY narrowed pool of choices of what to wear, but all of the choices must:
- fit perfectly at this very moment, not at some point in the past or future
- make you feel great
The obvious appeal is in having to make fewer choices (because decision-making is exhausting!), and in knowing that everything in your wardrobe is flattering and comfortable and stylish. You'd have way more closet space with a capsule wardrobe. You wouldn't make impulsive clothing purchases, buying something because it was "a good deal" even if it didn't fit quite right or if it wasn't a color you love to wear. You could afford to have better-quality pieces because you'd have far fewer items. And most of us only wear a fraction of the contents of our closets anyway, however large the inventory may be.
I always thought a capsule wardrobe would be boring -- but I envisioned wearing the same few things day in and day out until they were past their useful life. In reality, many of the advocates of capsule wardrobes change their entire wardrobe seasonally (though some to it less often, and some "roll over" items into the next season's capsule). Some of them sell their previous items to fund new ones.
Does it save money? As it turns out, not necessarily. Of course it can, but you need to have reasonably high quality clothing if you're going to wash and wear it many times. And if you're changing your wardrobe seasonally, perhaps you're spending the same amount of money on clothes that you were before. The difference is that you won't have a large assortment of clothes of varying quality, perhaps bought on impulse, perhaps awaiting alterations that will never happen. You won't suddenly wonder how you ended up with ten similar items without realizing it. You won't fill your closet without thinking about whether you need each item. In short, you will be making thoughtful and considered purchases. Isn't that a worthy pursuit in itself?
I will readily admit that I do not have a capsule wardrobe. But I'm trying to apply some of these ideas to my closet. I thought I edited my closet pretty well, and have been through it for possible rejects many times in the last year alone. But clearly I wasn't ruthless enough, because I've just donated a load of clothes that didn't fit anymore. I also removed a lot of clothing that I found I just didn't wear -- for reasons I can't even explain. But it doesn't matter WHY I don't wear them. What matters is that they're taking up space in my life that can be filled with more important, more relevant, more meaningful things.
If you have kids who are old enough to choose their own clothes, have you realized that they may already be employing a sort of capsule wardrobe system? Mine do! They have a handful of favorites that they wear day in and day out, layered as needed (or as required by Mom) to cope with colder weather, with the occasional nicer items that they'll wear under duress. I used to fight this tendency and tried to get them to wear a wider variety of clothing. But maybe it's time to embrace their desire to wear a very few things, and to realize that they are the household pioneers in the world of capsule wardrobes.
How about you? Could you live with a capsule wardrobe? What do you think it could add to your life?