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Why I’m Stripping My Capsule Wardrobe Back To Basics

I’ve got new rules, I count ’em…

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Every now and again there’s a post that I’ve planned to write that I put off writing for weeks. Case in point – this one – which I keep pushing back in my schedule, because each time I sit down to write it I’m not quite sure where to start. GET IT OUT WOMAN. So today I’m putting fingertips to laptop in an attempt to share my true thoughts on my capsule wardrobe journey and where I’m at with it all. I’ve made this whole thing sound terribly dramatic, when in fact it’s probably going to be extremely rambling and self-indulgent (nothing new there, eh?), but if you have a few minutes to kill on your morning commute, then let me distract you for a moment and you never know, maybe we’re on the same page? Let’s talk wardrobes, editing, sustainability and the itch for new things that feels *too* darn good not to scratch…

I began my experiment with the capsule wardrobe just after we moved down to Brighton in 2015. Our bedroom allowed for smaller wardrobes than we’d had in our previous flat and it felt like a time in my life when I was experiencing shift in my style. I’d just turned 25, had more disposal income than my previous life as a student and was finally realising that the whole ‘quality over quantity’ thing wasn’t just a nag from my elders, but actually wise words that were to be followed and thanks to no longer working in the student bar and scrubbing my forearms clean of Sambucca before going to bed each night, I could actually afford to.

Aside from reading about the concept in women’s magazines who suggested that all you needed was a stripe t-shirt, a blazer, pair of jeans and a pair of ballet flats hanging in your wardrobe, I first heard about capsule wardrobes IRL thanks to Caroline of un-fancy.com. Back in the day she shared worksheets and real life examples of what hung in her closet seasonally. A set number – 37 items – that included all clothing and shoes, aside from accessories, jewellery, pyjamas and workout gear, that she shifted four times a year with items that she kept in storage each time the weather changed. I wanted to change up a lot in my wardrobe and buy pieces that could see me through the next 10 years plus, and given the smaller space that we had, the idea of taking out the winter items and storing them under my bed during the summer and vice versa, seemed like the right idea for me. It was something that I was already doing as I’ve never had oodles of wardrobe space (a girl can dream of a walk-in wardrobe, right?), but the slightly more regimented routine fed my Virgo sensibilities (surprise, surprise).

I thought I’d started well. Nailing the 37 pieces and revelling in the fact that I had an excuse to buy a tonne of new items for my wardrobe and ditch the bits that weren’t feeling very ‘me’ anymore, but that was until I realised that there is a fine line between owning too much and too little. My clothes wore out quickly and I couldn’t do the laundry fast enough. Being *that* ridged, just wasn’t working for me. Then it swung too far in the other direction. I BOUGHT ALL THE STUFF, mainly under the guise of ‘work’ and needing to ‘mix it up’ (*screams ‘LIAR’ at self in Khloe Kardashian*). I’d always have to steal hangers out of Mark’s wardrobe (which is probably in his ‘top five most annoying things about me’ list), I struggled to get things in and out and became overwhelmed with what I owned. There was certainly nothing capsule about it and new items were being accrued at a rate a knots. It was time to strip it back to basics and think long and hard about what the capsule wardrobe process meant to me.

So I’ve found a way of making my clothing and therefore style choices, that fits my needs.  My version of a capsule wardrobe these days is that my wardrobe houses at any given moment, an edited amount of clothing that’s seasonally appropriate, with the rest of my clothing that’s it’s too hot/too cold to wear in storage and out of the way. Firstly, I reorganise my wardrobe every three months, making changes and giving everything a spot of T.L.C. Secondly, I try to add in new items at the point of reorganisation so that I can audit what I own and see what areas I’m lacking in. Finally, when making decisions over what to buy, I try to make sure that they are timeless pieces that I can have in my wardrobe for years and years to come. I’ve dabbled with colours and patterns and trend pieces, but it’s always the neutral pieces and basics with a twist that I come back to.

Whilst my capsule wardrobe videos are some of my most-watched, and the ones I enjoy making the most, ‘This is not a capsule wardrobe anymore!‘ comments are something that crop up often. Ultimately putting myself out there on social media comes with a pressure to do the right thing 100% of the time, please everyone, be mistake-free and a offer a perfect example of how to live your life in the most sustainable/visually-pleasing/cost-effective way; when that’s just impossible to completely nail. I’m someone who just wants to keep everyone happy, but throughout the nine years that I’ve done this, I’ve had to come to terms with that not always being the case. I could bore you with about four hours worth of commentary on this, but in the context of capsule wardrobes, it’s safe to say that my outlook has morphed and the goal posts have changed throughout the four years that I’ve been doing it and from where I’m currently standing, I just want to feel like it’s good enough. Do you know what I mean? Perfect it is not, but good enough is what I’m aiming for. A method that means that I buy less clothing than I have previously, try to make conscious planet-loving purchases where I can and make the odd clothing investment here and there? That’s good enough. And how am I going to go about that? Well I have a few new rules…

MY NEW CAPSULE WARDROBE RULES

NO MID-SEASON PURCHASES. I need to be really strict on myself with this one. I’ve hauled for my summer capsule wardrobe already (video on that here), so the next time that I can buy clothing again is September and you know what? I have *more* than enough to keep me going through the summer months without a ‘I DON’T KNOW WHAT TO WEAR’ meltdown. I spoke last month about how budgeting effectively has really changed the game for me and so now it’s easier to track my outgoings and where money is being spent exactly. More saving, less spending, more chance of having a home with a garden next summer (repeat x100).

MORE VINTAGE PIECES. I don’t own too many vintage pieces, but that’s something that I’d like to change. I’ve got so much wear out of my cream vintage blazer from my spring capsule wardrobe haul and if I’m going to add new items to my capsule, then it makes the most sense sustainability-wise to add vintage and second-hand items. It’s something that I’m researching more and more as I know that there must be some absolute gems in Brighton and London (I’d love to get round to doing a post on this sometime!).

STRIP IT BACK. Ultimately I love basic clothing; simple lines, chic shapes and neutral shades and denim that can all be interchanged without even thinking about it. I’ve dipped my toe into more ‘out there’ pieces, but it’s always the classics that I come back to time and time again. I’ve found my uniform that feels just right and I’m going to stick to it. That’s where it’s worth me spending money and investing, and whenever I’m feeling a little lost and uninspired style-wise I need to remember my basics and stop putting pressure on myself to try something new. Besides I had my experimental days wearing purple and black thigh-high socks with short skirts when I was a teenager *shudders*.


Photos by Emma Croman

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