Tuesday, 24 May 2016

The Perfect Wardrobe?

I went through a phase a few years ago where I wanted to feel more in control of my life. There were things going on I had NO power over whatsoever so I turned my eye to the domestic sphere to see what I could make decisions about. I was drawn to minimalism, loving the idea of having less, and what I did have meaning more. One of the areas I was especially interested in was sculpting the perfect wardrobe. I could create it, build it, and then never have to worry about it again; an area of my life permanently sorted.

In my research, I came across phrases like Capsule Wardrobe and Minimalist Wardrobe which are both very similar concepts. I hesitate to say they are the same as I am sure there are devout minimalists out there who would disagree. Anyway, the term capsule wardrobe was coined by Susie Faux
. The basic premise is that a person only needs a wardrobe comprising of a few essential items of clothing that don't go out of fashion which can then be dressed up with seasonal additions and accessories. Go on Pinterest and enter the term and you will come up with reams of images. The theory is that with a capsule wardrobe you can get dressed in the dark and whatever you put on will work as an outfit.


Example from Jo Lynne Shane blog

A minimalist wardrobe takes that premise a step further by setting strict limits on how many items that capsule wardrobe can contain. Miss Minimalist has written about this at length, and the chapter in her book The Joy of Less on wardrobe sorting is one I would recommend. This article from her blog refers to the 10 item wardrobe. Courtney Carver has also devoted a fair amount of time to the combined subjects of wardrobes and minimalism and Project 333 is a minimalist fashion challenge I have done a few times. 


From Courtney Carver's blog

In the course of my reading the importance of having the right colour palette was repeated over and over again. You can pay a lot of money to have someone ‘do your colours’ or you can search on the internet and see if your hair colouring, skin tone, eye colour make you an autumn, a winter, a spring or a summer.



A Pinterest find

Pooling all the information I had found, I tried this and that over a few years and learned some useful stuff along the way. A minimalist wardrobe tends to be low on patterned clothing. Patterns tend to be brought to outfits through scarves and similar. I found that I liked patterned stuff too much to go down the true minimalist route. I have no issue with plain trousers and jeans but I needed a bit of diversity in my tops and skirts. 

I realised that a lot of the items listed as ‘essential’ and ‘timeless’ on the average capsule wardrobe list were items I would not wear by choice. A crisp white shirt, for example, and a tailored jacket. I don’t do well with restrictive rules and with a reduced wardrobe you have to stick to a set colour palette for everything to match, something I found difficult to do. I would still say these lists are worth looking through as they help give you an idea of the kind of thing you do and don’t like. 

Another aspect to wardrobe building is the ethics behind what you buy. Beyond certain staples like stretch vest tops and underwear, I tend to get the majority of my clothes in charity shops. This is based on financial reasons, but also on ethical reasons. I like the idea of using something that has been cast away and giving to charity while not directly supporting those clothing manufacturers with dubious human rights records. I wear my clothes to death so knew I could not be one of those people who treat their clothes like treasured items and keep them going for years. Spending a lot of money per item unless it's on shoes is just not worthwhile for me.


Check out the Ethical Consumer website for more info

My approach to my wardrobe now is this:
Every 2-3 months, I take everything out of my wardrobe. Everything. I put it away in drawers and on shelves so that I am left with a deliciously empty wardrobe. A clean slate. I even gather up all my undies, socks, pyjamas etc and put them in a different place too. I would recommend this practice to anyone - it feels so satisfying!


I then let my wardrobe accrue naturally over the course of the next couple of months. The weather dictates what I need to wear and I have a look through my stored items to see what is suitable. It’s a simple pleasure to watch the those hangers fill up a bit and to try not to add to this tidier, smaller collection unless I have to. It gives me a sense of perspective on what I use and what I don't. Twice a year I have a good look at all my clothes and what I haven't worn or haven't enjoyed wearing ends up in a bag for the charity shop. 

From House for six

I wouldn't say my wardrobe is the true capsule dream as if I got dressed in the dark I might end up in some interestingly mis-matched get-ups. My wardrobe isn't minimalist either as while I do aim to avoid buying for the sake of it I'm not against buying a pretty top or dress in a charity shop or on sale that I might have no justifiable need for but find too lovely to pass up. 

I realised a while back that there is no such thing as a perfect wardrobe. Clothes come and go and personal tastes change too. What's important to me now is not ticking off certain items on a list but making sure that what isn't right for me can be moved on in case it's right for someone else.

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