It’s easy to literally buy into the culture of consumerism that constantly bombards us with messages inciting us to buy the latest and greatest gadget or to stay current with the newest trends by adding more to our wardrobes. Fast fashion makes it even easier to participate in this notion when clothes are sold so cheaply that they’re treated as disposable ; wear that dress a few times and toss it when it’s no longer in fashion, you’re sick of it, or it actually falls apart – whichever comes first.
I’ll admit that I fell deep into the consumer hole by buying things I didn’t really need or convincing myself I had to buy something on sale because I simply couldn’t pass up “a good deal.” Over the last year or so I realized that I was beginning to feel burdened by all of the “stuff” I had been buying. I found that I was actually equating satisfaction and happiness with the purchases, some impulsive, that I was making. When coupled with the fact that I was learning more and more about the prevailing ethics (or lack thereof) in mainstream fashion through my friends at The Ethical Writers Coalition, I decided that it was time to dig myself out of that hole and shed the proverbial weight of things I didn’t need or use, focusing instead on curating a quality, yet lean and versatile wardrobe with the goal of eventually building a capsule style wardrobe, all sourced ethically or secondhand.
As someone who has always lived in what I’ll generously call “organized chaos,” I found the process of editing my belongings down to the essentials and pieces that I truly loved and used a bit intimidating and overwhelming.
So, How To Do It?
The good news is that capsule and lean wardrobes are sort of en vogue right now ; apparently I’m not the only one who wants to embrace a more minimalist approach in life and in my closet.
There are myriad resources for tips and tricks to revamping your wardrobe (I really like the 10 Step Wardrobe Revamp by Into-Mind), improving your shopping habits, and adapting your current wardrobe to build the foundation for a seasonless capsule wardrobe. Designers that offer capsule based collections each season are emerging more frequently; some, like Vetta Capsule, offer a few pieces that can be worn multiple ways for a truly minimal yet beautiful and versatile wardrobe.
Depending on who you ask or where you look, the number of pieces that define a capsule wardrobe will differ: 30 pieces, 40 pieces, 37 pieces… I’ve found that it varies.
Not sure if a capsule wardrobe is right for you? This flow chart might be helpful.
Since this is a process I decided that I would be less focused on a concrete number, at least initially, and first focus on what I have, what I need to lose, and what I need to acquire in order to be truly versatile.
I did an inventory of what I actually have, removed the items that I don’t wear (all while resisting the temptation to keep them “just in case”), and noted which pieces I wore most often.
Next I wrote down the various outfit combinations that I found myself wearing most, which I refer to as my uniform (i.e. in the fall: tee shirt, flannel, denim, and ankle boots) which is actually quite helpful in identifying how you really dress and what your style actually might be.
I quite like this aspect of the process in part because one of my goals this year is to be more mindful and intentional in the choices I make, in my interactions with people, and generally how I live and move in the spaces I exist in – so I found that an exercise in identifying my personal style and how I most enjoy wearing clothes a really wonderful way to understand myself better and be more aware of what works and doesn’t work for me. Furthermore, truly understanding my style and knowing exactly what is in my closet means less time wondering what to wear and more time devoting energy to the things I love.
Once I really nailed down what my personal style is and considered how I spend my time and the pieces required for certain activities (work , travel, play , etc) I wrote down the items and quantities I would need. For example, for every day wear I love a neutral dress with ankle boots. This style can be dressed up or down and layered, so it’s a perfectly versatile piece for work, travel, dates, etc. Since this is a style I wear most often in the spring and summer I decided 4-5 pieces would be warranted. Buying in a neutral color palette ensures that you can mix and match shoes and accessories for different looks.
I have my sights on something like the Sami dress, by eco-friendly and sustainable brand Reformation
To further facilitate my vision in this stage of the process, I created a Pinterest board dedicated to ideas for my spring collection. This was very helpful in creating a visual representation of what I want my wardrobe to look like.
For acquiring some seasonless essential pieces that can be carried from season-to-season for year-round versatility, I turned to IMBY, an uber curated online shop of the essentials one needs for a lean, capsule wardrobe.
IMBY, which cleverly stands for “in my backyard,” is committed to providing ethically made and affordable pieces (everything under $200!) all manufactured domestically in the U.S.A.
I had my eye on this Miakoda shirt for some time, and decided to make the purchase since it would be a staple in my wardrobe all year. I’m happy I did, because it’s so seriously soft and will take me everywhere from the beach to a date with my husband.
Shops like IMBY are especially perfect for someone who is starting this process because there is no stress or guess work involved : everything available has been intentionally selected because of it’s quality, ethics and sustainability, and versatility.
Sara Weinreb, the brains behind IMBY, offered me some insight into curating a leaner wardrobe. She says,
Sara’s favorite IMBY pieces of the moment
The Cut Loose leggings by Joah Brown