The Maximilist's Guide to An Ethical Capsule Wardrobe
You may have noticed I’ve been a little MIA from the blog recently. That’s because I’m moving. Today. Allllll the way across America from Los Angeles, California to my husband’s hometown of Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Lancaster is an interesting city. It sits in the heart of Amish country but was just named by Forbes as being one of the top 10 cities in America to visit. It’s a liberal hub amidst a deeply conservative state. In a famously white part of the country, it boasts an impressive 40% Latinx population. This city of 60,000 packs a big punch. While I’ve wanted to make this move for a while, we’re going under less than ideal circumstances. We have a sick family member and we’re going to help out. All this is to say this move is...complicated.
While I’m thrilled to move to a city I love and be surrounded by people I love even more I’m also scared. Scared of leaving the big city with all my professional contacts. Scared of leaving my independent life and relying on my husband’s friends and family. Scared of slowing down. And yet...I’m so heckking excited.
The transition to finding a home out there will take some time which is why my husband and I decided to putt most of our stuff in storage for the next few months and live out of one suitcase each. In other words, duh duh DUUUUMMMM I had to build a capsule wardrobe.
As a self-proclaimed maximalist and emotional dresser the idea of creating a capsule wardrobe scared me almost as much as the move itself. I’ve always been intrigued by the idea of capsule wardrobes. Americans throw away a whopping 85 pounds of clothing a year and being able to divorce yourself from the desire to consume more more more sounds like a fantastic way to break the cycle of shopping. But that’s not how I approach my closet.
For me, shopping is not about trends or consuming for the sake of consumption. In fact, for me, ethical fashion is a way to emotionally heal myself. For years my body dysmorphia had me convinced that I was hideous. One of the biggest tools I used for combatting my eating disorder and body dysmorphia was fashion. My mind begged me to wear clothes that would cover me head to toe, instead, I wore mini-skirts or crop tops. When I wanted to disappear I wore sequins. I took all the fears I had and faced them through fashion. I still use fashion as a tool for emotional healing and reclamation of my body. The thing I hated for so long is now the thing I adorne with the most beautiful things I can find. Choosing my clothes is a daily offering of love to my body, a way to say “I see you, I honor you”.
I use ethical fashion to give me strength when I feel weak (you can’t feel weak in a pair of combat boots), or happy when I feel blue (try wearing something bright when you feel down). With such a drastic life change as moving to a rural city, now did not feel like the time to abandon my coping mechanisms. But life doesn’t give a shit about my feelings. The reality is I only have room for one suitcase.
I turned to google and found pages and pages of examples of capsule wardrobes, but they all looked blah. Where was the punch? The pizazz? It was boring ass neutrals with and an occasional stripe for as far as the eye could see. I’m not knocking this style for other people at all, I get other people love simple minimalistic styles. It just doesn’t work for me. I want color and prints and exuberance! When I looked at the capsule wardrobe examples it felt like I was giving up my happiness and that’s not what fashion should be about.
But again life reminded me, “hey lady you still only get one suitcase.” That’s why I created my own version of the capsule wardrobe. One that kept my closet trim, but also helped me maintain a sense of identity and groundedness. I need a closet that reminds me of who I am at my core even while everything around me changes.
The magic number for a capsule wardrobe is 37 pieces, I don’t know why, but this seems to be the number of items (not including intimates and work out clothes) that everyone lands on. While I may not agree with the style of the average capsule wardrobe, I figured 37 pieces was a good place to start.
First I went through and picked out all the clothes that spoke to me, the stuff I’m really digging right now. I didn’t worry about numbers or styles or anything. Just stuff I loved. When I counted the pieces I’d pulled I was shocked to learn I was actually around 25. Sweet! I had room to play.
Now it was time to add stuff I know I’d need. Sweaters, something to dress up, something to do physical labor in, some sun protection, and layering pieces. We’re moving at a time when PA’s weather can’t make it’s mind up. One day it’s 70 the next it’s 28 with the wind chill, so I know I’m going to need a wide variety of options. This brought me up to about 50. Now it was time to get real and break and trim the fat.
In each category, I made sure I hit two criteria. 1. I needed to be able to style each piece at least two ways and 2 there needed to be at least one statement piece in each category.
I was really stuck on which coat to choose for a statement piece, but landed on this 70’s trench for a couple of reasons. 1. It’s so so so cool 2. I was worried how the leather would do being stuffed in a box for months. In the end, I’m glad I chose it as a standout piece as it’s a great way to instantly up my fashion game.
Picking tops was really hard. Ultimately I choose based on possible moods I could experience. The paisley off the shoulder number for when I feel boho, the plaid shirt for when I feel a little more tomboyish, the sleeveless top for when I feel a bit sexy, and the Mexican blouse for when I’m missing home. I threw in a couple of sweaters just in case Winter decides to hold on a bit longer. Fingers crossed I don’t need more!
TEES AND TANKS
I have so many fun shirts this was another toughie for me. I landed on the ones that have good memories associated with them. They can be my little pick me up when I get homesick. I took my husband to Tom Petty’s last concert for his birthday and picked this shirt up while singing Free Falling under the open sky. The black and white ringer tee is from a young designer Tolly Posh and fills me with hope for the future. The white shirt has the motto Cool Girls Care embroidered on it and always reminds me of the power of empathy.
The tanks I chose for nostalgia. The Alternative Apparel tank has a palm in a block of concrete, a perfect summation of LA. The bug riding off into the sunset gives me all the Cali beach vibes. And the striped tank is from American Apparel LA’s hometown brand.
I’m not a fan of cardigans, I have no idea why. Am I the only one who feels like an old lady when I wear a cardigan? But a girl's gotta have layers so I opted for a vintage black blazer that instantly gives any look some style and a vintage green LA county jail shirt that’s just plain cool. Once the warmer weather hits I have a denim vest that totally changes the silhouette of my loose dresses and a denim shirt that I can either layer or wear on it’s own.
This one was shockingly easy. A pair of ripped boyfriend jeans goes with everything. A fun printed pant from Matter Prints is my statement piece. Vintage high-waisted bell bottoms from Furst Jeans are kind of a statement piece but also go with everything. And a pair of black ripped jeans that I could wear every single day.
Since dresses are an outfit unto themselves I wanted each one to have a unique vibe. I love how each one of these makes me feel completely different. I chose two maxi-dresses because who doesn't love a good maxi? And 2 mini-dresses which I can also layer over jeans for a second look.
SKIRTS AND SHORTS
This one was pretty easy as well. One of each in denim, one black, and one holy-moly-that-for sure-is-a-statement-piece leopard print shorts.
Shoes are my greatest weakness, but I decided to be strong stick with neutrals so I’d have as much flexibility as possible. If you’ll notice I only have one pair of heels in the bunch. This was unintentional, but I think the moral of the story is heels don’t naturally fit in my life and it’s time to let them go.
I kept it simple again with one black and one brown of each. Although the brown bag is a bit of a cheat because the stunning Guatemalan textiles mean I can wear it with almost any color.
In the end I have 41 pieces. This might be slightly over the ideal 37, but each item speaks to me and will serve me well these next few months. While my capsule wardrobe looks drastically different than most out there, it works for me. It brings me joy and keeps me grounded in my sense of self. I know this capsule will give me the strength and energy I need to embrace this new chapter.
Have you ever tried a capsule wardrobe? What are your favorite tips?