Allow me paint you a picture of what used to comprise a typical morning in the Porter Moses household. For starters, there's laundry. Everywhere.
The drawers in my dresser are slightly ajar, stuffed to the brim with shirts and jeans and leggings harkening back to collegiate days and summers spent in warmer zip codes. I open a drawer and pull out one of my three favorite pairs of jeans (they're on top of the ten other pairs of jeans I own that rarely see the light of day — because they suck). I move a whole four inches and face the closet: clothes are stuffed side by side so tightly that if a hanger happened to break, nothing would actually fall to the floor. The solid brick of clothing is so sturdy, in fact, that it has become a catwalk of sorts for Bowie, who uses the hanger highway to reach her favorite nap-time sanctuary just above our cold weather coats.
I pull out a series of tops (fast-fashion and formerly on-trend), try them on and discard immediately. They are visibly worn, or they don’t fit, or there’s a mystery stain and the shirt is from Forever 21, begging the question: Am I really willing to spend $11 to dry-clean a $16 shirt?
Inevitably, I turn to a beloved black button-up, or my tried and true chambray, or that white blouse that retains the perfect Jenna Lyons cuff through hours of wear. In a sea of options, I reach for my go-to's — for a small collection of trusted pieces. I reach for what I know makes me feel good, and fits well. And it only took 24 minutes and three outfit changes.
Sound familiar? Why? Why do we spend so much time, money, and mental capacity on clothing that doesn’t contribute to our daily happiness? Why not just let those things go?
If you’re like me, your rationale for holding onto clothes might include guilt from money spent coupled with general stubbornness. Or maybe you collect Leandra-worthy statement pieces, while neglecting the basics. Worse yet are the skinny clothes - the ones that fit the thighs of yesteryear, and that you just can’t bear to part with. Lastly, (and you'd better believe that I am still ensnared in the traps of this one), maybe it’s sentimental. We all have clothes that hold special memories and value. And that’s okay.
Whatever your reason, odds are that there are more than a few items you could bear to part with hanging in your closet this very moment. And now we dive headfirst into my new favorite talking point: the capsule.
A capsule wardrobe is a combination of 40 or fewer items you love to wear (though the exact number isn’t terribly important). It’s a season-based collection of versatile clothes, including tops, pants, shoes and outerwear, and it’s an overall commitment to dress in those pieces and only those pieces for a three-month span. Other contingencies include a moratorium on shopping for the duration of the season. Accessories, workout gear, and pajamas aren’t counted.
My reason for starting a capsule wardrobe mostly sprang from a desire to better use my limited resources. I read Caroline Joy’s overview and felt that adopting a capsule would force me to more acutely live within my means. It would necessitate some creative thinking about the items I already owned rather than compulsively purchasing something new for every event. What’s more, I had aspired to upgrade some older pieces with a few higher quality items. The capsule process gave me the push I needed to take the leap and invest.
I began by painstakingly sorting through the clothes in my closet and chest of drawers. Pieces I loved and could picture myself wearing with confidence went right back from whence they came. Seasonal items were grouped together, as were Crossroads and Goodwill appropriate selections. In the end I had five bags of clothing to cast off, and at least 40 unused hangers.
Whatever it was that compelled me commit to the capsule process seemed to give me super-human decisiveness as well. I was uncharacteristically ruthless, pausing only a handful of times to consider the outcome of once-favored pieces. I felt comfortable donating, realizing that though the item had outstayed its welcome in my home, it could find itself in a new and equally loving home after a short stint at Goodwill. That is not to say, however, that I executed the closet purge perfectly. Since this is my first capsule, I allowed myself to hold onto a number of items that I was not ready to part with, nor wanted to include in the main event. Those items are hanging off to the side now, and I have reduced their number throughout the winter season as I learn to trust both the capsule concept and my own choices. My first pass at this minimalist approach included a whopping 45 pieces, and over the course of the past month I have reduced that number to 40.
14 tops/ 7 pants/ 1 dress/ 3 blazers/ 9 shoes/ 4 coats/ 2 sweaters
I thought I might get bored with a smaller set of clothes to pick from, but sticking to the pieces in the capsule has been incredibly satisfying and far easier than I originally imagined. I love every piece in my closet dearly, and I adore finding new ways to mix and match and express myself without the fluctuating credit card balance. The capsule has provided me with a new sense of clarity about what I like to wear, what I prioritize, and where my money goes. This little 40 piece collection feels timeless. It feels cohesive. And though some Forever 21 items are spliced in, I know that I will have the majority of these pieces for seasons to come. It's something I'm proud of. Also, my drawers close now.
Not one to sugar coat, I must say the day-to-day capsule project is not without its hiccups. My greatest challenge has materialized just the way I feared it would. In short, it's hard not to shop. If you're considering a capsule wardrobe, or just a shopping hiatus in general, one of the most transformative steps I took was clicking "unsubscribe.” It's difficult enough to wean yourself from shopping in a physical sense, but having tens of "shop (insert promo here) sale" emails waiting in my inbox every morning was nothing short of painful. Take as many steps as you can to set yourself up for success.
The question of what to do with sentimental items is also a challenge - they don’t get worn, but they have significance. I haven't quite figured out what to do with them, so they're still hanging off to the side of my closet. I'll let you know when I find some clarity in this area.
Overall, I have days when I miss the thrill of the shop, but I also really want to travel, and pay off my student debt, and buy local farm-raised grass-fed beef from the farmers' market. It's a balancing act, and my capsule has helped me inch closer to equilibrium.