Wardrobe Architect Week 9: The Capsule Wardrobe

Like Sarai, I was initially skeptical of the capsule wardrobe, a collection of 20–33 items of clothing that function as the basis of your wardrobe. Her issue was a lack of confidence and, as a result, enthusiasm: she was never sure if she’d picked the right items to make up her capsule wardrobe, so she tended to deviate from her plan, which perpetuated the issue of having nothing that went with anything else.

My issue, which stemmed from a misunderstanding of how it works once assembled, was concern that it would stifle creativity, both in dressing and in shopping/making. Since capsule wardrobes are often talked about in the context of minimalism, there’s a lot of stress on “paring down” or “purging,” and an unspoken expectation that once you’ve completed your capsule wardrobe, there’s little need to buy or make new things except for special occasions. In fact, there’s nothing left to do but cycle through perfectly mixed-and-matched outfits every day and breezily exclaim about how much easier it is to get dressed and how much time you’ve saved (or something like that).

Of course, none of these things are entirely or necessarily true. The truth is that a capsule wardrobe doesn’t have to be the end of your wardrobe unless you want it to be. It’s simply the thing you’re trying to match up to when you’re considering buying or making a new garment and ask yourself, “What would I wear this with?” It would, in theory, provide most or all of the pieces you needed if you had to make an emergency weekend trip and had 15 minutes to pack your bag.

To get the most out of a capsule wardrobe, you can and should set your own rules. The number and type of items isn’t something to be handed down by an “expert;” it varies based on the number and variety of activities you’re regularly involved in. You can re-visit and tweak your capsule wardrobe at any time. You’re not even limited to a single capsule wardrobe—based on your climate, you might have two, three, or four capsules to reflect the seasons.

And the best part about it? Having a capsule wardrobe is not incompatible with sewing frosting, or splurging on the perfect accessory that only matches one outfit. The capsule wardrobe is a foundation that you can build upon with more unusual or niche pieces. It’s not all-or-nothing. Whew!

With that said, here are some silhouettes that I’ve been thinking about for building a Summer 2015 capsule wardrobe:


Following Sarai’s example, these aren’t the exact outfits I want to make or the colors I’d want them in—for instance, I’m not sure if I’m keen on the neckline of the dress, but it was the best example I could find of a fit-and-flare dress with a circle skirt not modeled by a person—but I think they capture the spirit of the things I like to wear in late spring and throughout summer. I’ll probably throw in drapey cardigans as well. (The only reason I didn’t include them here is that I thought of them after I’d already started to put together my collage and didn’t want to disrupt the symmetry.)

I got stuck after two silhouettes, even though I knew I wouldn’t be satisfied with so few, so Justin very helpfully suggested #3. That, in turn, reminded me that a coworker had been wearing an outfit very similar to #4, and I took notice of it because I liked it so much, so I added that as well.

Reviewing everything together, I feel like I have solid options to work with. I can hardly wait to start matching silhouettes to colors and patterns so I have a guide for future fabric shopping and sewing projects!

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