Friday, 27 April 2018

The Irony of Capsule Wardrobes

First coined by Sussie Faux in the 1970s, the term 'capsule wardrobe' refers to a collection of a few essential items of clothing that don't go out of fashion, such as skirts, trousers, and coats, which can then be augmented with seasonal pieces. The aim was to update this collection with seasonal pieces to provide something to wear for any occasion without buying many new items of clothing—according to Faux, for women, this typically consists of 2 pairs of trousers, a dress or a skirt, a jacket, a coat, a knit, two pairs of shoes and two bags. It was later on popularised by Donna Karan, an American designer who, in 1985, launched a capsule collection of seven interchangeable work-wear pieces. Nowadays, the term 'capsule wardrobe' has been used to mean a collection of clothing that is composed of interchangeable items only, to maximise the number of outfits that can be created, often rotated according to the seasons. It is essentially a great way to look good on a small budget.

Today, a lot of people have implemented the capsule wardrobe method to their daily dressing—often having only 30 pieces to wear in a season and rotating it every 3 months. By that definition, this would most likely be a great way to advocate for slow fashion and the minimalist lifestyle. Having a capsule wardrobe should lead you to a life, in which you don't feel the need to shop for a long period of time, until such time that your clothing has worn out or gone beyond repair. Unfortunately, in the process, it doesn't seem to be that simple anymore. Capsule wardrobe today has, in fact, seemed to become an excuse for people to shop and 'update' their clothing collection before the next season starts, whether or not they physically need to have new items injected to their wardrobe.

It is inevitable, for me, to start questioning the purpose of a capsule wardrobe, in relation to a minimalist lifestyle. If capsule wardrobes were meant to create a system, in which we live with a limited number of clothing items, wearing them on rotation and leaving nothing hanging eternally inside our wardrobes, shouldn't it also teach us that we don't need to frequently go out and add new items to what we already own? What good does it do, if a person goes out to buy the clothes before creating their capsule wardrobe and doing so every season? Wouldn't it go against the minimalist lifestyle and implement the wear-and-toss mentality?

Okay, I admit: this is coming from a person who's never tried the whole capsule wardrobe method. And let me throw in two excuses for why: one, I live in the tropics, where the weather is as predictable as the stock market—it could be sunny one minute and thunderstorm the next—so any kind of clothing needs to be available to me at all times; two, I don't have much storage space, which is probably due to my non-minimalistic lifestyle, but it really hinders me from storing my stuff away for a period of time. However, without having joined the bandwagon on capsule wardrobes, I feel like I have been rather good in wearing most of my clothes and refraining from indulging in retail therapy or such things. To be fair, I was basically forced to this change of lifestyle, due to my deteriorating finances. It's got me thinking about priorities—financial and ecological. Instead of blowing off my money on cheap, easily damaged clothes, I'd rather save up for travels or mortgage or new equipment for my career.

Personally, I find this method more helpful and effective, because I get to look all the things that I own and assess which ones I haven't worn in a while and which ones I keep on taking out of the rack. This is also another reason why I don't really put my clothes in storage. We humans seem to stick by the 'out of sight, out of mind' principles, in which we tend to overlook or neglect things we cannot see—on a superficial level: our clothes, our trash and our credit card bills; on a deeper level: wars in other countries, oil spills and landfills. But, if we have them right there in front of our eyes and we continue to neglect them, we will feel bothered by their existence. We will feel the need to trim our lives in such a way that will create as little nuisance and noise in our minds as possible. In short, it gets shit done.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not against capsule wardrobes. By all means, go ahead and do it! But I do feel that most people who practice the capsule wardrobe method these days tend to inject their collections with new items every season, defeating the whole purpose of it in the first place. It, to me, seems rather pointless to a degree, because, even though you have only a limited number of clothes to wear this season, there are most likely still plenty more hidden in your storage—threatened to be forgotten. Not to mention the new items that you 'must' acquire for the season—adding to the heaps in your basement. It would have been better to cut down your clothing pieces altogether and create a permanent capsule wardrobe, in which there are no more collecting dust in storage. What do you guys think? Have you ever tried capsule wardrobes? Do share your experience!

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