On capsule wardrobes: Simplicity is not everything

Capsule wardrobes — the love child of fashion and minimalism — have become the shortest definition of style.

50 items are enough. To be able to pack all your clothes in one suitcase is the ultimate fashion statement. The quality of this one plain white shirt blows out of the water all 5 you owe so throw them away and keep just the One. Don’t ever buy weird pieces that don’t fit in your wardrobe color scheme.

Capsulating our choice of outfits is supposedly freeing up time and space for other things, making washing easier, making us less succeptable to consumerism, and generally happier.

That’s what advocates, magazines, and countless bloggers tell us.

Give up unnecessary items and stick to classy basics. Ok. That’s doable.


Let me tell you that this obsession you’re all glorifying is pointless, snobbish and actually tasteless.

  1. 50 (I’ve seen guides for 30 as well, gosh, poor girl) items are not enough for a modern, financially OK woman (or man) to do with. Life presents you with all kinds of situations and I’d prefer to be dressed well for the occasion, rather than scramble to pull off a decent look, thank you. What if wear my only LBD to a date and have to wear it again to an important work meeting the next day? Before I’ve had time to wash/ dry clean/ at least air it. Yikes.
  2. Right now, I own about 250 clothing items including hiking and athletic clothes, jewelery and evening wear. If I divide that by 4 seasons ( did you know there are such countries with extreme of 60 degrees Celsius amplitudes between summer and winter?), I get item count between 50 and 60 for each season. Yey, I fit in the “50-piece summer capsule wardrobe” frame.
  3. Quality is key, they say. OK, I admit a well-made piece is worth it and looks better. However, if I only wear it and nothing else, how long will it last for? I don’t know about you, but I like to wash my clothes. And no shirt or sweater is made to last forever.
  4. Plus, for the same amount of money I’d spent on a quality capsule wardrobe, I could have twice as many items to change and wash less often. So much for eco-friendliness.
  5. You can call me a typical victim of consumarism. First, stop eating and drinking out of plastic containers, or getting a plastic bag for every potato you buy at the supermarket; start recycling; drive less and walk more; unplug your effing laptop from when not charging; stop printing out emails; start thinking about all you do every day in that context and then tell me if I kill the environment with my second pair of sneakers.
  6. If a capsule wardrobe is the ultimate way to show style, how do I explain wearing the same pair of jeans every day? I bet that even my male colleagues will notice, not to mention the female ones paying attention. Will they wonder if I’m deep in debt? Sure! Just the signal I wanted to send with my expensive and carefully selected new wardrobe.
  7. Plus, having 3 identical white tees (the generous solution to washing too often of every capsule guru) is absolutely the same as having 3 identical but different-colored tees. And I won’t look like I don’t know what’s else to wear with either jeans, skirts or shorts.
  8. More on imagination: having less items to choose from supposedly makes it easier to pair them. Or, if you ask me, makes you look like you can’t think of a decent — let alone creative — outfit yourself so you take the ready “striped top and white jeans” look as the paramount in fashion. That’s sad. Maybe you’re a bit wider in the upper part and shouldn’t wear horizontal stripes. And white jeans are not suitable for any kind of weather. And wearing all black is not stylish in any circumstances — it depends on the combination, materials, cuts and so on — it’s playing it safe. It’s being afraid of mismatching colors so just dropping them altogether. It’s not knowing your own body and what fits well on it. I have a friend who only wears jeans and sweaters because she’s too lazy to try different skirt lines and dresses to find her fit.
  9. You can’t have one item of evening wear. Even if you’re not Instagram-obsessed, you can’t go to every friend’s wedding in the same suit/ dress. There are pictures and — admit it - you do care.
  10. So I’m allowed to have one pair of winter boots. Cool. What happens if I get incredibly wet in the snow one morning while walking the dog and have to go to work in the same boots?
  11. In my country, I go through about 5 different items of outerwear winter to summer because I need a varying degrees of warmth, waterproofing and wind-stopping. When I factor in special occasions, the numbers goes up because I don’t go to the theater in a parka.
  12. Color is good. All capsule wardrobes focus on black, white and maybe military green or grey. The boldest ones — named after Audrey Hepburn (yeah, she never had more than one skirt, right), feature an accent piece on red. Oh wow how splashing. In case you haven’t noticed, some women look really good in green (myself included), orange or marsala. Others shine in a crowd in turquoise. Why not if it suits them? Why should my coat always be black? So I blend in? So I’m indistinguishable from the rest? Thank you, but no, thank you. The eyes enjoy a well-chosen pop of color. It creates a certain mood, brings out the best in a woman’s body and features, and shows personality. I refuse to be boring.
  13. It doesn’t take so much time coming up with outfits. I use a free app and it’s absolutely awesome. There are Pinterest, Instagram and what not to help you come up with ideas. Don’t be lazy, it’s for your own good.

So this is it. Of course, don’t take my word for it. Look around the subway and you’ll see that teenage girls are already rocking the capsule thing. Because they usually buy the lower class basics in stores and have little taste developed yet. Yes, they’re all about the black jeans and denim shirts and black running Nikes.

But you…you have places to ensure and things to do. And can afford to dress a little better. That’s the irony — normal is the middle ground between splurging on overpriced “eternal” items and their cheap copies in the basics section.

Narrowing your clothes choices is sticking to the lowest common denominator. It’s safe, approved and well, basic. If you want to be described as basic, go ahead. Join the movement. But those bloggers you read get the clothes from brands for free. Go ask them how many they own.

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