It's hard to put a finger on the exact moment it became cool and culturally acceptable to want less. There is no doubt that we function within a system that views us as citizen-consumers, but I venture that over the past few years, many of us have begun to see ourselves differently – as careful consumers.
Maybe there was a universal clicking moment, that more stuff doesn't equate to more happiness, or maybe it was the aftermath of the recession, or maybe it's a magic tonic of several social-political-philosophical moments all rolled into one. Whatever the reason, shopping local and buying sustainable and making peace with less seems to be taking a real hold on the industry we (STATE) see the closest: clothing.
The first question I asked myself is, "is this all Marie Kondo's doing?" If you haven't read it, you've probably heard of the famous/ infamous how-to book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. While I was always afraid to commit to tossing out my old Tamagotchis and rocks I'd collected from unknown locations – because they no longer sparked joy – I heard from many acquaintances who went through the process and loved it. From a non-nostalgic hoarder perspective, only letting the things that give you joy stay near you in your home seems logical, and so I googled "Marie Kondo clothing."
An article written by a Vogue editor popped up. She wrote that Marie told her that tidying up (aka getting rid of things) is about "confronting yourself;" I would posit that it's also about confronting past selves, and the self we want to be in the future.
So, who do we want to be? These are the facts that I know: We are people who wake up every morning and put on clothes. We (usually) get to pick these clothes. These clothes have a history and an ethos attached to them. It is time we start considering that history and ethos. The easiest way to monitor the spirit and ethic of your wardrobe is to buy less clothing and to buy clothing that was made by people you know (even if only digitally) and trust.
Enter the Capsule Wardrobe. The Capsule Wardrobe method seems to be about so many things: 1) only owning and wearing things that make you feel good; 2) spending less time sorting out what you're going to wear; 3) buying quality pieces that have lasting power; 4) buying pieces that are diverse and multi-purpose, and 5) being able to spend more money on higher-quality pieces that were made in sustainable and environmentally friendly ways.
The original Capsule Wardrobe system goes like so: pick a small yet functional number of wardrobe staples to wear each season and get rid of the rest. I read one article that says the magic number is 37, which includes 8 tops, 7 pieces of outerwear, 1 dress, and 8 bottoms, along with 10 pairs of shoes. The benefits?
-More mental space to focus on the things that matter.
-Money saved on the purchase of frivolous items not thought through.
-A better understanding of personal style.
-Always having something you love to wear, ready to put on.
Further, this website, Project 333, seems to have thought through all the questions when it comes to capsule wardrobing, and I recommend giving some of the articles a look through. These are people who have thought long and hard about how clothing affects our lives, and generally, have helpful advice.
However, the movement hasn't been without backlash. There was this editorial on Man Repeller that spoke about the struggle of the capsule wardrobe ... mainly that paring down made the author come to terms with the shoddy quality of most of her clothes, and that was depressing. Quality control is tough, but I think easily navigated once you enter the real of clothes made by a well-paid and happy hand.
She also references it as "reliable, easy, and boring," but ultimately lands in a good place: "either I'm bored or I'm drowning in a pile of stuff." Some of us (myself included) don't mind being bored by our clothes and even find the concept of being more interesting than our clothing liberating, exhilarating, etc. But some folks look to their clothing for a pop, a bright spot in the day, a form of control. Is there room in a capsule wardrobe for this?
Next on Sustainability and STATE, we explore a clothing and textile designer's recently Capsuled Wardrobe. Stay tuned!