The term “fashion” invokes excess. It calls for consumption—consuming clothes, consuming trends, consuming ads— and encompasses many aspects of an individual’s lifestyle. There are so many ways to be fashionable, and the trends constantly change. We engage in the fast fashion game, buying a trendy new item only for a new one to surface. As consumers, we might find our closets and dressers stuffed with a mass of clothes, jewelry, and accessories that are varying in style, perhaps so much so that it is difficult to put together a coherent outfit. The clutter (both in terms of the quantity of clothes as well as the visual clash of patterns, colors, and styles) as well as the mission that is creating a worthwhile look from the mess can be a stressful waste of time.
What if we could eliminate that stress from our lives? What if we could reclaim our time, space, and sanity? (And money?)
Enter the capsule wardrobe. If you haven’t heard of the capsule wardrobe before, here is what it is in a nutshell: it is a wardrobe that consists of about thirty items (or even fewer!) that can be easily arranged into different outfits. The items should be in basic, neutral colors and have a generally clean and versatile aesthetic. The idea of the capsule wardrobe was originally developed in the 1970’s for busy career women by Susie Faux. Faux opened a boutique in London catering to this philosophy, and encouraged women to develop an individual style that is rounded and complete, but simple and manageable.
Notably, in the past, most wardrobes were what we would now call “capsule wardrobes.” People actually simply owned fewer clothes; they were more expensive and of better quality than most clothes available today. But in the age of fast fashion, where clothing is cheap, trendy, and of lesser quality, the idea of owning only thirty items is intimidating. Additionally, many of us engage in more activities than others might have in the past. We need clothes for work, exercise, and any number of social activities.
But the concept of simple living seems to be making a resurgence lately. People who find the ever-changing trends exhausting, or sifting with the hodgepodge of clothes and accessories that clash from season to season a waste of time, have began to adopt a more minimalistic philosophy regarding their wardrobes. Companies such as Cladwell as well as numerous fashion and lifestyle bloggers aim to help frustrated individuals declutter and simplify their lives with tips on how to eliminate and formulas to create the perfect closet.
To accommodate this resurgence, many have adapted the idea of the capsule wardrobe to a more modern lifestyle, framing it as a personal challenge or allowing for seasonal, rotating wardrobes and other variations. But, as this particular rant reminds us, interested individuals must be careful not to turn the capsule wardrobe into something that it is fundamentally against: consumerism. The bottom line is that we eliminate our way down to the perfect wardrobe (unless vital staples are missing), not accumulate them.