Recently, I read the book Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Fast Fashion.Written by Elizabeth Cline, it explores the current state of our fashion industry. The short version is, it’s appalling. If you’ve never read the book, I highly recommend you put your hands on a copy and read it. I checked it out at the library, but it’s worth a few dollars if you want to buy it.

My Clothing Situation

I’ve never been a clothes hound, and I intensely dislike shopping. Nothing looks good on me, even when I was at my thinnest. But lately, what few styles I’ve found that are passable are made of some pretty horrible fabrics. Clothing costs too much for what it is these days. Styles are unflattering, fabrics are too thin and  hideously ugly. In short, I hate all of it. As a result, I’m making strides to avoid fast fashion, and to work toward a wardrobe that is mostly handmade by yours truly.

Black t-shirt & jeansMy idea is to make a few basic pieces that will work regardless of the season. This should be pretty easy for me here in Houston where the average winter temperature is about 50 degrees. It may not be so easy for someone who lives in Alaska or Ohio. I prefer a style that runs more toward a classic look, not trendy items that are out of fashion in a season or two, so I want pieces that are fairly simple. I plan to go through my closet to see what I currently have that fits with the image I want to present to the world, but I already have an idea. Hint: Not much.

The Capsule Wardrobe Concept

In doing some research on what items I should be including in my new wardrobe, I ran across the idea of the capsule wardrobe. The term was coined by Susie Faux, a London boutique owner, back in the 1970s. The idea is to have around 30 clothing pieces that are worn year round and to add a couple of “signature” pieces a couple times a year that are more trendy. That number doesn’t include undergarments, or items like pajamas, of course.

The idea intrigues me, because I don’t wear many more items than that on a regular basis. It seems to intrigue others as well, but I don’t think most of them understand the true concept of a capsule wardrobe.

A Facebook group I recently joined espouses the idea of capsule sewing. Except, they don’t really. They subscribe to the idea that each season, you rotate in about nine new pieces of clothing. That’s a LOT of clothing over the course of the year, because to them, a season isn’t six months. It’s THREE months. I’m no math whiz, but nine pieces of clothing four times a year is 36 pieces – six pieces more than the original idea of 30 pieces TOTAL! And I doubt they’re rotating those pieces back in next year …

The Basics, Revisited

I found a checklist at Real Simple that claims to be a wardrobe “basics” listing. These may be basics for some folks, but they’re not all basics for me. For example, NO ONE needs to see me in skinny jeans. Even I don’t want to see that! And since when are skinny jeans a “basic?” Sounds like that belongs in the “trendy” category to me.

White Button up BlouseStill, there are some items on the list that make sense. Black tank top, short sleeved white & black shirts, cardigan, even a black dress for those who wear dresses … all those make sense. But for me, living in Houston where Christmas Day can be 80 degrees? I’m not investing in sweaters and long sleeved shirts. At least, not many of them. Black pants, yes. Khaki pants, yes. Jeans jacket, sure. Black cashmere wrap? Heh. No.

So I’m making a listing of the clothing I want in my closet, using some of the basics listed on this checklist and a couple others. I’m not a dress wearer, even though I think they’re cute and they look nice. I stopped wearing dresses when I worked downtown and had to fight wind and rain to get to the office four blocks from my car. My plan is to have a few pairs of slacks I can wear to work, along with a couple pairs of jeans and some khakis. The basic tops will also find a place in my wardrobe – t-shirts, button down, a couple of nicer pull overs. Maybe a polo or two.

To Plan or Not to Plan, That is the Question

Every single time I make a plan, I fail. That seems odd, right? But when I say I’m going to do this or this by that time, I don’t do it. I am making a list of the clothing I would like to see in my closet soon. It’s being written in the form of a checklist. I’m looking at my closet to see what I want to keep and what I want to recycle (more on that later). Once I know what I have, I will start to look at patterns to create those things I still need.

But a capsule wardrobe? I’m not so sure about that. I want clothing that is versatile and very much mix and match, but I’m not sure I want to limit myself to 30 or so pieces. The more I think about it, however, the more I want to challenge myself to stay below 50. That’s a possibility. I really need to do a count of how many pieces of clothing I wear on a regular basis!

Next week, I’ll share my final list. In the meantime, what are your wardrobe basic must have pieces?


1 thought on “The Capsule Wardrobe and the Modern Woman”

  1. Capsule wardrobes do limit your choices. And everything I have found about it, and the “recommended basics” are boring choices: black slacks, navy slacks, white button down shirt, white t-shirts, black turtleneck. It’s ALL black & white! Totally NOT what I want to have in my closet. I would be fine with the neutral slacks, and the white t-shirt (I mean, for me, it IS a staple). But if I’m going to have just one button down shirt, it’s not going to be white. It would probably be red, or some nice print. And a turtleneck in Houston is like asking someone to shoot you in the foot at point-blank range. I could do a mock turtleneck, with short sleeves, but I don’t know that I’d want it in black – maybe blue.

    When I look at what the official capsule wardrobe includes, it’s all white and black, with a little grey mixed in. Thirty years ago or so, that would have been alright with me, but these days I prefer brighter colors and some prints.

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