Why Capsule Wardrobes Aren’t the Enemy

Lately, I’ve had a lot of mixed feelings about the word “capsule wardrobe.” Maybe you feel the same way? It seems everyone has something to say about it… They love it. They hate it. They love to hate it. Just the other day, I sent a pitch to a digital publication describing Cladwell’s new capsule wardrobe app, only to be forewarned by her assistant that she hated the term capsule wardrobe. But why?

When I got down to thinking about how I defined “capsule wardrobe,” I realized that hating a capsule wardrobe is like saying you hate when people have a healthy lifestyle or eat fruit on a daily basis. It made no sense to me. How could you hate something that promotes the idea of being a reasonable human being?

So why all the hate?

The term may have been coined by Susie Faux, but it’s been popularized by all manner of style bloggers. Somewhere in the midst of the popularity, the phrase has become prime for internet click-bait. It’s defined as a minimal, interchangeable wardrobe and has become synonymous with rules, numbers, and neutrals. Normally, “minimal” is the most controversial piece of a capsule wardrobe.

The thing is, most of us only wear 20% of our closet. Meaning, most of us actually live with a pretty minimal “capsule wardrobe”, but we are choosing to keep what’s currently stuffed in our dresser drawers as decoration. Or, at least that’s one way to look at it.

We like to trick ourselves into thinking that having a ton of clothes is just how it’s always been. After all, “Women like to shop.” So we’ve heard. But the reality of the situation is that this is a fairly new phenomenon that has been developed and honed by retailers over the last 20-30 years in order to encourage us to buy more and more. If in the 1930’s the average wardrobe had only 30 items, it’s not by chance that we decided on our own to quadruple the amount of clothes in our closets today. And even though these closets - full to bursting - aren’t solving our problem of having “nothing to wear”, we fight the term capsule wardrobe like the plague because that sounds miserable. It sounds boring. It sounds too “neutral” and “constricting.”

Well, it turns out, that Cladwell’s vision for a capsule wardrobe has everything to do with fighting this new consumerism that’s eating us alive and absolutely nothing to do with the color of your clothing. It has everything to do with new, healthy buying habits and nothing to do with restricting your personal style.

I believe that we hate the word capsule wardrobe because of the myths surrounding it, not because of the idea behind it.

So how do we define a capsule wardrobe at Cladwell?

At the end of the day, capsule wardrobes are about loving your closet, your whole closet. For us, capsule wardrobes mean loving and wearing 100% of the items in your closet each season.

Creating a capsule wardrobe comes down to these four elements:

  1. Know yourself and your style

    1. Start by discovering your personal style based on your colors and weekly activities. Each wardrobe should be 100% original.

  2. Eliminate excess

    1. Clean out your closet and figure out what you love and what you don’t.

  3. Be intentional

    1. Once you know what you love and what you don’t, don’t add anymore clutter.

  4. Create something new

    1. Your closet has more outfit possibilities than you know. Check out our new iOS app for daily outfit suggestions if you’re having trouble seeing those endless possibilities.

So what do we do about it?

People of the internets, I’m afraid we’ve been severely misguided. Here’s our chance to take it back, to re-define, re-think, and re-own what it means to have a capsule wardrobe. I legitimately get sad when people tell me that they don’t love their closets. It’s one thing in your life that you interact with every single day, assuming you aren’t a nudist in which case - more power to ya.

But sit with that for a minute.

Every. Single. Morning. You wake up to interact with something that you don’t like. I’m not a behavioral scientist but I can only imagine the impact that has on one’s life.  

So, once and for all, can we all agree that phrase capsule wardrobe isn’t the enemy? I’d suggest that a capsule wardrobe - rightly defined - isn’t the enemy at all. Instead, maybe it’s the key to creating closets we love.


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