To start small, to keep things within reason without feeling constrained, is that too much to ask, of a closet?
A capsule wardrobe seems like a good test for this; a barometer. A few weeks ago I used the Un-fancy Capsule planner to lay out my plans for summer projects, and so I decided to try out a true summer capsule, full of handmade, secondhand, and ethical pieces.
In the planner, you start by picking out eight pieces you love to wear, which came to me quickly since these were already in heavy rotation:
- linen crop top (me-made, upcycled)
- linen jumpsuit (secondhand, overdyed in indigo)
- cutoff jean shorts (secondhand)
- linen tee (from Zady)
- Hudson pants in woven tencel (me-made, deadstock from Feral Childe)
- striped tee (secondhand)
- sack dress (me-made, fabric from Fancy Tiger Crafts)
- Huarrache sandals (not pictured; from Nisolo)
As I’ve said, whether or not you actually want to create a capsule wardrobe, the Capsule planner results in a really helpful guide for making or shopping for clothes. The “top 8” exercise in particular is pretty genius — it’s almost like a mini capsule, and it serves as an intuitive foundation for color palette and silhouette. Clearly I’ve got a blue/white/neutrals thing going this summer. And a linen thing. A serious linen thing.
Moving on from that, the activities pie chart, weather/climate notes, and list of pieces I rarely wear, really helped me narrow down my closet. I set a few spring pieces aside for fall because I knew the Midwestern humidity was coming, and placed a few pieces in my “studio” for dye projects or the scrap bin.
Capsule planner in hand, I laid out my summer wardrobe:
- 5 dresses
- 2 jumpsuits
- 5 short sleeves tees/tops
- 2 long sleeve (3/4 length) tops
- 4 sleeveless tanks/tops
- 2 pairs of shorts
- 2 pairs of jeans
- 2 pairs of lightweight pants
- 1 skirt
- 3 sweaters (1 pullover, 1 cardigan, 1 shrug) + 1 lightweight Linden sweatshirt
- 1 jacket
- 3 pairs of shoes (2 sandals, 1 sneaker)
= 33 pieces
with room for:
- 1 new dress (wabi-sabi Dress No. 1 )*
- 1 new tunic (self-drafted)
- 1 new pair of shoes (for the wedding, then casual wear)
- 1 fancy dress (for the wedding, not sure it’s really a full fledged part of the capsule)
- 1 new shirt (upcycled linen/cotton penny raglan)
workout clothes, underwear, sleepwear, and what I consider specialty items for specific activities (like gardening, dyeing, etc — basically, my very beat up overalls, a smock, and a flannel shirt)
Does the number matter? I didn’t really try to restrict my closet, and ended up in the range of 35-40, which seems to be a common capsule number. Perhaps it’s more about perspective — there isn’t a mountain of clothes hiding behind this summer set. This is just about half of my wardrobe, including all shoes and outerwear but excluding the same things as above. I feel good about that, since I live in a climate with very dramatic, even diametric seasons, so it would make sense that about half of my clothes are suited for warm weather and half for cold.
On the one hand it seems there are more and more people embracing capsule wardrobes, and on the other hand it seems like there’s some polite backlash and already many people who have done capsules and are moving on to a less-restricted closet. In my humble opinion, as an observer and now, I suppose, a participant, I think it’s all good.
The tricky territory with capsules, that I have observed, is either the process merely supplants a regularly shopping obsession with a periodic shopping frenzy, or perhaps by not carrying over more items, the result is a very compartmentalized closet, not a cohesive wardrobe. I’ve also read frustrations that capsule wardrobes encourage a misconception that there is somehow a perfect capsule wardrobe, and that seems like a dangerous quest (emotionally) to attempt.
For me, for now, I plan to use capsule-ing as a tool to fully enjoy my wardrobe while taking good care of it, to make new items from stash that will fit in with my style, to choose secondhand first, and to move slowly, ideally replacing things as needed (or before they wear out) rather than adding more and more.
And I hope to use the capsule framework to reflect at the end of each season on what’s working, what didn’t get worn, and what’s worn out, and use that to guide my project planning.
*clearly I’m posting these out of order as I’ve just been jumping around whenever I have time and feel like writing down some thoughts. I finished Dress No. 1 and posted it here.