Sartorial musings – The capsule wardrobe

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about clothes. I find my thoughts turning to the things I wear, the things I’d like to wear, and what other people wear, surprisingly often. It’s not as if this is something new; I’ve always been interested in these very deep and important things. However, since reading Women in Clothes by Sheila Heti, Heidi Julavits and Leanne Shapton, which I received as a Christmas present, there have been a lot of clothes-related questions in my mind. This, combined with more and more frequent occurrences of the dreaded ‘a closet full of clothes and nothing to wear’ morning scenario (one of my least favourite ways to start the day, by the way), meant that I’ve been doing some sartorially focused soul-searching.

In trying to answer the question ‘What would my dream wardrobe be?’ I found inspiration from a very unlikely source. Not from all the fashion and style blogs I peruse daily, not on a Pinterest spree, not from leafing through glossy magazines, not from films and TV (although that’s not entirely true, Blair Waldorf is a huge inspiration). When it came to defining a basic, everyday wardrobe, I realised I wanted to have what my boyfriend has.


Now, The Boy, is not fussed with fashion one bit, but I suppose he does have his own style, in the sense that he knows what he likes and stays pretty consistent with what he wears. I’ve always been jealous of his small collection of merino and cashmere jumpers in shades of blue and grey. In fact, I believe he actually has the perfect capsule wardrobe. He has a very pared down wardrobe, where everything goes together and is the right size, he wears all his clothes often, and perhaps most importantly, he likes pretty much everything he owns. This came in sharp contrast with what I found when I went through my own closet. I own many, many items of clothes that I never wear. They are either the wrong size, or they have the wrong fit, or they don’t suit my lifestyle any more, or they are too old and worn. I realised that not only do I spend more money on clothes than The Boy does, I also have a closet that is full to bursting with clothes that don’t even make me happy. Something had to change.

This is how I came to form my first Wardrobe Resolution:

“I will work towards building a wardrobe consisting of fewer, better quality items that fit my taste, my body, and my life.”

My goal here is to have a closet that is not full to the brim but instead contains pieces that work together and that make me happy. I love that feeling I get when I wear my favourite Breton top, or my favourite white summer dress. It seems like the days when I am wearing something I consider to be ‘my favourite’ are a little bit happier. Do you find this to be true for you? There is absolutely no point that I can see in having dozens of shirts if I only love and wear a handful of them. To me, the perfect Capsule Wardrobe consists of fewer pieces that are the best quality I can afford, fit me perfectly, are consistent with ‘my style’, and are ‘my favourite’.

The first step towards this goal is to sell, donate, or recycle all the clothes, shoes, and accessories that don’t fall in the descriptions above. This is hard for me, I expect to be sentimental about quite a few things and invent silly reasons not to get rid of them but I will do my best to be ruthless. This will certainly highlight what’s lacking in my wardrobe. I’m also hoping that this will leave me with enough stuff to actually wear… I will keep you posted!

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. Do you care about clothes? Are you happy with your wardrobe? What would your dream closet contain? Really, any thoughts on this that you feel like sharing are most welcome; I find that this is a subject I can talk about to eternity.


15 thoughts on “Sartorial musings – The capsule wardrobe

  1. Iris says:

    “It seems like the days when I am wearing something I consider to be ‘my favourite’ are a little bit happier. ” YES.

    Also basically yes to everything else in your post.

    I dread dressing each morning and going through the “I have nothing to wear even though my closet is very crowded” ritual every day.

    And I’d love to have actual clothes that I know pair together, instead of having to make everything up on the spot and never feeling you get it right somehow, hence a crisis.

    Somehow, my dressing was much easier when I had to wear maternity clothes and thus only had 6-7 things to wear, knowing I didn’t have much choice but mostly liking my choices for what it was worth (there is not much choice in maternity wear in my price range so I was more easily satisfied with what I had somehow? also knowing it is temporary probably helps).

    Will you tell us how your adventure continues? I am quite curious to know how the process turns out for you.

    • Maria says:

      The fact that when you had fewer options you found dressing to be easier gives me hope, as I worry a bit about getting rid of so many things that I won’t have enough.

      But I am looking forward to wearing favourite clothes every day!

      And yes, I plan to share more about this little adventure soon. 🙂

  2. mdwordsmith says:

    Good morning, and thank you! I have trimmed (purged, ransacked) my wardrobe several times in the last ten years, and am on the verge of the (maybe) last edit. The most recent clean-out was occasioned by a move to smaller quarters, and the governing rule for what went and what stayed was “If it doesn’t fit in the closet/drawers/shelves, there’s no room for it”, and out went things I didn’t wear enough to justify the space. I did keep my fabulous formal “Dior” gown that is equally good looking with lots of rhinestones, ethnic jewelry or just a shawl, but I am desperate for comfortable dress up shoes. My red Capezio “character pumps” are almost worn out.

    I am retired now, so I no longer need clothes for the office, but I do need to keep a couple outfits suitable for conferences, meetings and the like. I detest jeans, so am glad that the last pair are finally wearing out. Winter is easy, I LOVE tweeds and cashmere, am just fine with silk undershirts and cozy long johns. Summer is a dreadful time, fashion-wise. What is the hot weather equivalent of tweed and cashmere? I do wear linen slacks, nice t-shirts and have a few cute summer jackets, but by the end of August, I am sick of wrinkles. Maybe I need to start collecting Hawaiian shirts or ethnic tops again . . .

    Shoes are not a talking point. I wear Birkenstocks and Merrels and that’s that. Hats, however, are different. I am all about hats, and have a ridiculous number of them from the thrift store, waiting to be restyled, retrimmed, or just slapped on and worn as-is.

    I aim to be a sharp dresser, noticeable in a crowd, but not “mutton dressed as lamb”. It’s a job!

    • Maria says:

      Thank you for your comment!

      It’s true, even though I don’t like all the hassle of moving house, it does force me to cut back on my possessions and only keep things that are useful or make me happy.

      As for the summer versions of tweed and cashmere… that’s a riddle right there!

  3. joyweesemoll says:

    I care about clothes more than I used to — and, in caring, I’m much less patient about pieces that don’t fit or are worn or just don’t look right. Excellent resolution!

    • Maria says:

      Thank you! I think you are right; in the past I have been tolerating ill-fitting or worn clothes, or clothes that just didn’t work for me, and that hasn’t worked very well. I’m trying to be more ruthless from now on!

  4. nerdybookgirl says:

    I’ve been thinking about clothes quite a bit. I celebrated by 35th birthday in April and realized that I’m tired of waiting around to wear nice clothes. I’m obese and I’ve put off buying nice clothes in order to save that for when I lose weight. I’m working on ditching the clothes that I hate or fit poorly and I’m working on planning a wardrobe that best expresses me and will be acceptable for my career (I’m a library parapro so luckily I don’t need to buy formal business suits… yay!). This post was very inspirational! I might refer to your post and resolution when I get around to writing up my own wardrobe inspiration.

    • Maria says:

      Oh I’m glad this post inspired you Amanda!

      In the past I’ve been guilty of not wearing things and saving them for best & of buying/keeping clothes in the vain hope they would someday fit me.

      Nowadays, I try to never buy anything thinking “this will look great once I lose some weight” and it’s not that hard to do really.

      But I still struggle with saving “nice clothes” for later. Of course, this is just silly; I’d much rather like the clothes I have and wear them and enjoy them now than save them for some imaginary occasion or my imaginary body.

  5. Trish says:

    Yes yes yes, this has been very much on my mind since reading Life Changing Magic (and maybe even a little bit before when I first started hearing about the book). I HATE getting dressed in the morning. Same things you mentioned–clothes not fitting well, not my style, looking too old and worn. And you know what’s really crazy? I “save” my nicer clothes…the ones that I love…for later. And later never comes. Why shouldn’t I wear them all the time?

    Love your resolutions Maria!

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