For Those Of Us Afraid Of Capsule Wardrobes

My first day at Cladwell, I walked in feeling like an imposter. I definitely owned more (a lot more) than 30 items, and my friends wouldn’t let me forget the irony of working in the capsule wardrobe culture. For weeks, my biggest fear wasn’t living in a new city or settling in – but someone asking me just how many clothes I owned.

Closet Cleanout Guilt

My burgeoning closet at home haunted me as I looked nervously around an office dedicated to helping those with "too many clothes and nothing to wear."

To capsule or not to capsule? That was the question.

Sure, that was the question - but the problem was, I didn’t want to purge my closet to only 30 items. I had just graduated from college, and I definitely wasn’t in a place where adding staple items to my closet was financially feasible. Over four years of college, I had accumulated quality clothing items - albeit not carefully chosen for their interchangeability. This left me with quite a few Anthropologie dresses… not my most versatile move. But, the nagging thought remained in my mind: these are quality items of clothing and I love them and, most importantly, I wear them.

So, I kept my mouth shut – harboring irrational fears that if my office found out, they’d come to my house and force a closet cleanout upon me! I tried my best to wear a smug "I-only-own-30-items-smile" and kept my guilt in the same place I kept my numerous dresses.

What happened to this renegade Cladwell employee?

Well, while hiding my un-capsuled closet at home and working within the Cladwell culture, I unconsciously began shopping more intentionally. I realized that a radical change in my shopping habits had taken place when I was out with my mom at Madewell. She said she’d like to buy me some things (at my favorite store, God bless that lady), and I immediately clutched three beautiful tops close to my heart. On our way to purchase them, I paused. Yes, I loved these items. But I already owned tops I loved in similar colors and styles. This purchase wouldn’t actually add anything to my wardrobe; it only would make me not wear the similar items I already owned.

Then, I thought about my jeans. I only owned two pairs and one of them was on its way out. I gently put down the tops and opted for jeans and a white button-up which I had my eye on for months.

What had just happened?

I had consciously decided to make better, more intentional shopping choices. And as I wear and re-wear the glory that is a pair of Madewell jeans and one of their classic button ups, I couldn’t be happier about my choices. And as I wear and re-wear the tops I already own, I feel good, real good.

Yes, I finally cleaned out my closet. No, guilt was not involved.

So, a year after graduating, I finally did my closet cleanout. And wow, what a purge! But it wasn’t out of guilt. After a year of intentional shopping and better choices and habits, I knew exactly what I loved to wear and what I was keeping out of shopper’s guilt. I turned on a favorite movie and purged away; the dreaded cleanout became a pleasant evening at home, lightening the load of all the clothing I never ever wear.

And yes, I definitely kept those loved Anthropologie dresses, because the purpose of a closet cleanout isn't to get rid of items you love and wear - it's to find that items you do. No guilt. No one is watching over your shoulder telling you what to do – it’s just you and your clothes and your choices of what you love and what you don’t. Truly.

I felt absolutely no compulsion to slim my closet down to 30 items. But, I did create a spring/summer wardrobe of about 65 items to hang in my closet and place in my drawers that I love, wear, and re-wear. The rest was packed away for the next season. Done and done.

A Closet Done On Purpose

Almost one year later, that scared renegade employee is no more. I could hold up a card with the number of items in my closet with pride like that iconic Tyra Banks episode. Because it never was about the number.

It’s always been about being intentional. The synonyms for intentional are: premeditated, voluntary, designed, considered, intended, meditated, done on purpose. The idea I had in my mind of a capsule wardrobe was restricting, boring, and most of all something I could just never do. But the idea of having a closet that is designed, intended, meditated, and meant is something I can get behind one hundred percent.  

Our closets – these things we spend hundreds of dollars and hours on - shouldn’t just happen to us. They should be purposeful - meditated results of our priorities and preferences.

And at heart, that’s what I learned the longer I worked at Cladwell. And now, one year later: I think about what I own, what I love, and what I want to add to my closet. I am more thoughtful. And that has made all the difference. Capsule wardrobes just don’t scare me anymore because I have an intentional, guilt-free closet – a closet done on purpose.

And I love it.


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