My Capsule Wardrobe Came with its Own Luggage


capsule wardrobe

By now, you’ve probably heard the term “capsule wardrobe” a thousand times. Maybe you’ve toyed with the idea of creating one but haven’t gotten around to it.

We actually create one every time we pack for a trip.

I experienced my mini capsule on my first business trip when I packed a couple of interchangeable pieces that looked great together.

So why did it take me another 5 years to actually pull the trigger on a capsule wardrobe?

Capsule Recap

The term capsule wardrobe was coined in the 1970’s by a boutique owner, Susie Faux. Then popularized in the 1980’s by Donna Karan’s 7 piece collection.  But it didn’t really take off until the 2008 recession.

Since then, it seems as if every fashion, minimalist and even budgeting blog did a feature on this.  Pinterest pins on capsules exploded.  The trend might have waned as the economy rebounded, but has been supported by the backlash against fast fashion.

The gist of the capsule wardrobe is to simplify your closet and therefore your life by only wearing 33 pieces of clothing. This doesn’t include underwear and workout gear, thank goodness. But it does include shoes. So if you’re a shoe-aholic, you might need more allocated to shoes than you do to tops.

Actually, the rules for exactly how many pieces need not be exact, some have more and some have less.  If you want to see all the varieties, a quick Google search will show all the different takes on it.

Still, the essence of the capsule styles is to be more with less.

Good Things Come in Small Packages

Capsule wardrobes offer a lot of benefits. With just 33 pieces to mix and match, standing in front of your closet wondering what to wear isn’t much of a thing.  Either this top goes with these pants or they don’t.

Actually, if you take a little care to select which pieces go into your capsule, it’s easy to match pieces together because almost every piece will be curated to match each other.

You spend less because you aren’t always looking for the next ‘it’ piece. You have your staples and maybe a little something ‘extra’ but extra isn’t your whole closet. Your capsule is self-contained.  There are no open loops like a shirt that doesn’t quite match any pants which causes you to look for something at the mall.

It’s a great feeling to only look at things you like. Pull out a sweater and it’s always your favorite.  Put on a pair of jeans and they are the ones that make your butt look great.  You didn’t keep the jeans that used to fit or the dress that draws attention to your tummy. Nothing that brings up negative feelings.

Oh, and extra space!  If you’re like me and live in the city, you probably don’t have a lot of extra space.  By getting rid of clothes I didn’t like, I freed up a lot more space in my closet. I was able to fit all my suitcases in my closets and rent out my storage locker for some extra cash.

Excess Baggage

After all these perks and even my own mini experience of the capsule wardrobe, why did it take me so long to create one?

I had plenty of excuses: I can’t start during the summer because I love all my summer clothes! And when it was winter, I’d say, winter clothes are so dreary that variety and bright colors are needed to combat SAD. Or after I tossed all my drab winter sweaters, I couldn’t make a capsule because I ‘needed’ to buy sweaters I loved first.

The excuses never stopped coming.

Turns out, I was carrying a lot of baggage that had nothing to do with clothes.

Baggage Check

Last summer, a friend recommended Denise Duffy-Thomas’s money mindset book, Get Rich, Lucky Bitch, to me.  To be honest, I thought it would be another psychobabble book like The Secret where it asks you to believe hard and then things would just appear.

Instead, the book talks about how we continue to tell ourselves certain money stories over and over again.  Most of the time, these stories formed when we were young.  Either we inherited these stories from our families or we developed them to make sense of the world.

One of the exercises in the book is to write about a money memory that made you feel a strong emotion. Feelings like shame or indignation or anger. It could be a positive memory too, but if you had a lot of those, you probably wouldn’t be reading a book on money mindset.

Figuring, it couldn’t hurt, I did the exercise. Funny enough, I wrote about buying my first piece of clothing with my own money.

Oversized Bag

The background was that I was the second of two girls.  And in many frugal families, the second ends up wearing hand-me-downs.  Especially if the siblings are close in age as me and my sister were.  Aside from the drawback of hand-me-downs, mine also didn’t fit.  My sister and I have very different body types, always have.  So I spent most of my youth in baggy, ill-fitting clothes.

At 14 or 15, I saved up my allowance for a whole month (I earned  $5/week by completing my daily chores), went to the mall and bought a new top. It was a crop top.  (I grew up in the 90’s, ok?) I was like any teenager, trying to fit in with peers, but trying to be my own person with my family.

But when my mom found out, she reamed me out for buying something without permission.  Then she went on about how skimpy the top was.  It really wasn’t the conservative style she approved of.  I wasn’t made to return it, but every time I wore it, it had a tinge of anger, shame, guilt, and rebellion.

From this exercise, I realized I equated buying new clothes and having a lot of it with defiance and bucking authority.  It was as if to prove I wasn’t under anyone’s thumb and I didn’t need permission to do anything.

No wonder I had massive resistance in creating a capsule wardrobe!  The clothes in my closet weren’t just clothes.  It had become an issue of independence!

Unpacking Baggage

From this exercise, I see that paring down was fraught with other thorny issues.

As a result, I resisted every step of the way. In fact, it is probably exceedingly common. For me, it was clothes, but for others, it might be books or music or concerts. My colleague goes to 2 to 3 concerts a week.  He says it was something he could never do when he was younger so he’s “making up for lost time”.

You fill in your own blank.

Carry On Conclusion

First is to find what is the real story behind the excuses.  As I mentioned earlier, we heard a lot of stories when we were little.  Stories that our parents read to us, stories they told us.  Many of these stories had our parents’ biases hidden within.

We accepted these stories because we trust the source and also, they served us.  They helped us make sense of the world and they instructed us on how to act and what to expect.

Next is to rationally determine if this story still serves us.  I was holding on to an old story that didn’t fit my adult life anymore.  The physical manifestation was that I was literally holding on to clothes that didn’t fit my body anymore. No metaphors required here.

Finally, we re-write this story. What story would serve us better? I look at how hectic my mornings are and wouldn’t a simplified routine help? With a limited amount of choice, I wouldn’t second guess if my outfit looked ‘right’.  I could confidently walk out the door on time instead of scrambling.

While these 3 steps sound easy, they do take a bit of work.  Starting a capsule wardrobe sounded easy to me too.  Turns out I actually had other things to toss besides just clothes.

The good news is that I have curated my capsule wardrobe.  What’s more, I’ve donated my extra clothes to a women’s charity which makes me feel good while the clothes I kept makes me look good.

Now the question is, what story are you going to rewrite?

Comment below to let me know!

If you liked this article and would like to read more about how I actually curated my closet in my next post, subscribe below (or on the side bar).

4 thoughts on “My Capsule Wardrobe Came with its Own Luggage”

  1. What a great message that I needed to hear as I’m in the process of creating my own capsule wardrobe!
    I love the idea of “rationally determin(ing) if this story still serves us,” much as I’m doing with my shoes!

  2. that’s great you were able to unpack that memory! sometimes those types of buried blueprints really stay with us. my capsule wardrobe is not so well curated – I feel like I should start over! did you go with a formula on the internet?

    1. Hi Anna! I did read and download a couple of formula/templates from the internet. But I didn’t follow them directly. I read the fundamental elements and I’m sure I still have more than 33 pieces. What I did learn was to coordinate so maybe the templates could direct you. My next article will be about how I built my capsule wardrobe without spending a ton of money where I go into more details. Hope you’ll stick around to read it!

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