The Myth of the Capsule Wardrobe.

Twice in a week it was commented that I should post about ‘capsule wardrobes’, and it got me thinking. I don’t know when this term became so fashionable or the idea behind it so desirable, but it seems to be a large part of fashion mentality these days. I, for one, cannot endorse it. I did a bit of research on what is generally accepted to constitute a ‘capsule wardrobe’, and that in itself is something that’s just all wrong for me. 
Common consensus seems to dictate that the ‘essentials’ are: 

tailored trousers (no, I’m a 21-year-old student who interns at magazines. I do not need tailored trousers), jeans that can be worn with heels and flats (yeah, alright, I’ve got some jeans I like), a white shirt, preferably men’s (no, absolutely not. See my answer to ‘tailored trousers’, and see also my unimpressed face at the idea of me wearing a man’s shirt), good-quality cashmere (no, this is all sounding awfully grown-up. Firstly, I can’t be trusted with cashmere, and secondly, my high and relatively small waist means that jumpers don’t suit me), layering-suitable t-shirts (no, I don’t layer. I own two t-shirts, one black, one grey, that I wear under my Marc by Marc Jacobs striped jacket or with the occasional printed skirt), a classic trench (ok, got one of those, my lovely NW3 trench with the gingham lining), a black coat (nah, sounds a bit boring to me. Since I started uni, I’ve been wearing a gorgeous dove-grey wool cocoon coat with a detachable scarf made of the same material. I’ve taken it all around the world and I love it to death. Last winter I got a Henry Holland for Debenhams camel coat, which I will alternate with the cocoon this year. Coats are so beautiful and so exciting that I’m not going to piss on that bonfire by exclusively wearing black. And another thing, why oh why do we fetishise the black coat…?), a well-cut blazer (yes, this I can agree on. Since getting my divine ASOS shoulder-padded blazer, I’ve worn it a lot. I like having the black ASOS one to put over prints and the MBMJ one to put over neutrals/blacks/block colours), a ‘killer dress‘ (nah, sorry, don’t actually know what that means. How oddly un-specific. Why can’t someone define what this means? Is this dress for work? Or for going out? Is it important that it has sleeves? Oh, I don’t know), practical boots (no, sorry, I’m not Kate Middleton. I mean, yes, I love boots in the winter, but aren’t most boots without a heel ‘practical’ purely by virtue of being boots? England is not subject to the kind of perilously glacial weather that leaves pavements like ice rinks, so I think most boots are pretty alright) and extremely high heels (no, absolutely not. This is not a ‘wardrobe essential’. I know very few women who enjoy the action (as opposed to the effect) of wearing heels and even fewer who can last a night out in them. I refuse to participate in the bullshittery of wearing heels to ‘elongate my legs’ or to ‘remind men of porn stars’. If you want to wear them, fine, but I prefer to be mobile, able to dance and comfortable, and don’t feel too great an urge to compromise on these three important factors in the pursuit of attention).
So there you have it. That, ladies, is what you’re meant to have in your capsule wardrobe. It might just be my frivolous taste in fashion but doesn’t that sound a bit… boring? A little Spartan? Isn’t fashion meant to be fun? Sometimes I feel like the only girl int he world that doesn’t long for a capsule wardrobe, but I can’t be alone, can I? I love opening my wardrobe and seeing it bursting with colour, pattern, textures, sequins, satin, cotton, stripes, florals, brights, pastels, different lengths, different purposes. I simply cannot mix and match my wardrobe with ease, and yet it’s full of stuff I really, really love. My go-to evening outfit isn’t an embellished LBD with ‘killer heels’, it’s a black jersey jumpsuit with gladiator sandals. I’d rather have a tea dress than a pair of tailored trousers. What’s ‘useful’ to me is something that I enjoy wearing and that suits my look, not something that makes me look like every other middle-of-the-road young professional.
It seems, friends, that the capsule wardrobe is another thing invented by the fashion press (along with ‘statement pieces’ and ‘quality basics’) that doesn’t really correspond to the reality of what most women, especially young and frivolous ones, own or want. 
But if you completely disagree with me, at least I’ve helpfully enumerated the necessary components of your impending capsule wardrobe!

What do you think? Do you have a capsule wardrobe or a random assortment of clothes? Do you want one? Does it sound feasible?


11 Replies to “The Myth of the Capsule Wardrobe.”

  1. As someone who travels a lot and quite often abandons where I live at random because I've decided to, say, move to Italy and become a writer at a week's notice, I should love the idea of a capsule wardrobe, because you can take it anywhere… But you know what else you can take anywhere in a suitcase? An absolute shedload of dresses. I don't own a single pair of trousers (including jeans – I'm 5ft11 and shopping for them depresses me, so I just don't do it), and no t-shirts except for stuff I work out in, which meant that even with the meagre 20kg EasyJet baggage allowance, I arrived here with about 40 different dresses. And 40 different dresses is more fun than a capsule wardrobe. OK so it only works as a wardrobe in itself here while it's hot (my coats and blazers etc. are in storage at a friend's house back home), but I'll worry about that when it starts getting cold.

  2. I might actually just give up blogging because you get it spot on. For a while I really fetishised the idea of having a capsule wardrobe (and still do) but it was NEVER anything like the ones the fashion press seem to think you should have! I'd only have black jersey, chiffon shirts and flats. I have accepted that this is never going to happen, however, and that I mostly wear whatever is on the floor nearest the bed.
    I don't get the white shirt thing. I don't do trousers at all and I don't own a pair of jeans that fit me. I can't be trusted with cashmere either. I have a few pairs of killer heels but I never really wear them – I'm massively attracted to insane heels in a way where I want to frame them but they're only to be worn to dinner/house parties/theatre where I don't have to stand much! I hate the balls of your feet ache more than anything (though years of ballet mean I can walk in heels as if they were flat. I justHATE being in pain).
    Sorry, I wrote you an essay.

  3. God, I can't think of anything worse or more boring! And when are you meant to wash stuff with so few options? That said, I'm going away for a long weekend on Friday and am going to end up bringing something like six dresses and five cardigans, so maybe I need to give this more consideration…

  4. I completely agree with you. At 18, I do not lust after half of the pieces you noted – I don't need tailored trousers, and killer heels make me sad because I cannot walk in them. We should be happy buying stuff because we want it, not to create a capsule wardrobe! xx
    Sirens and Bells

  5. This summed up exactly how I feel and for some reason i'm reminded of the Sex and the City quote, "I like my money where I can see it- hanging in my closet"

  6. OH MY GOD! The strapline to your blog really does sum up my own thoughts and opinions I love it! xxx

  7. I totally agree. I can't think of anyone (apart from Kate Middleton) who this would apply to. Great post, as per. xxx

  8. Great post and I definitely agree. Especially about the coats! I HATE the thought of having to go out and buy something, a 'basic' or whatever because I might need one. No, go away and leave me to my flowery dresses! x

  9. "I refuse to participate in the bullshittery of wearing heels to 'elongate my legs' or to 'remind men of porn stars'. If you want to wear them, fine, but I prefer to be mobile, able to dance and comfortable, and don't feel too great an urge to compromise on these three important factors in the pursuit of attention."

    Genius! And my thoughts exactly. High-heels may often look gorgeous on the shelf but nothing's less sexy (if sexy is the look you're going for at the time, which, of course, it may not be) than someone hobbling around miserable after wearing them out for a few hours!

    Fab post 🙂

  10. Haha great post. I think the whole capsule wardrobe thing has been glamourised because it's always said French women have capsule wardrobes and only buy a few pieces every season. yes, French women have indecently expensive capsule wardrobes.

    I nodded happily along with this post anyway. A caspule wardrobe sounds dreadfully boring!

  11. I think the concept of a capsule wardrobe should be changed to the pieces in each individual woman's (or man's) closet that he/she simply cannot do without. That being said, attempting to list what should be in everyone's capsule is ridiculous. True, I do own most items that were listed in the post, and true, my wardrobe does mix and match well, but my capsule would undoubtedly include my Harley Davidson boots and leather pants. Nothing like the items listed, but I wear them often and with many other things. One's capsule wardrobe is as unique and intimate as one's personal style.

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