This is my second monthly round-up of (work) outfits, and I have thoughts, you guys. Before we get to the good stuff, y’all are going to have to read me wax poetical first.
So, capsules. Capsules are hot right now. It seems like every blogger is hopping aboard the minimalism train, even if in some cases it’s doubtful that they even understand what it means. That sounds bitchy, but listen: I’m not a minimalist, but I respect its general objectives. I think over-consumption is a troubling trend, as is our collective disregard of its consequences on society and the environment. To the extent that minimalism fosters greater awareness of these issues, and encourages positive action to address them, I think it is a commendable philosophy. However, minimalism divorced from these philosophical underpinnings becomes a purely aesthetic matter, or meaningless posturing.
As regard to the former, I take no issue with it; style is a personal choice. But I think that calling yourself a minimalist requires a qualification in that case, to explain the scope of that description. If your style aesthetic runs a narrow, pared down spectrum (all black, all the time), then you can call yourself a minimalist in form, irrespective of your shopping habits. Lifestyle minimalism (for lack of a better term) goes beyond aesthetic preferences, however; in fact, it is unrelated to them. It is concerned with people’s actions – their motivations and consequences – rather than appearance. You can wear the rainbow and still be a minimalist. (I’m not suggesting that one type of minimalism is “better” than the other; merely that there are two different things at play here, which should not be confused when talking about minimalism.)
I do take issue with people using the minimalist label without understanding what it means or, worse, using it for purposes that are counter to its philosophical roots. I think it’s disingenuous. I find this particularly true of fashion blogs that have co-opted the minimalist label in order to sell mass-produced “fast fashion”. (One could take it a step further, and argue that using “minimalism” to sell any consumer goods runs counter to the minimalism philosophy, the focus of which is on questioning our assumptions about “needs” and our understanding of “wants” rather than providing a justification for purchasing any specific item. But that’s a debate for another day.) Capsules play a big role in this exercise, which is why I have mixed feelings about them.
Here are some of my issues with capsules, as presented on most popular blogs:
- They are typically arbitrary. Is there a real-life significance to having only “x” number of items in your capsule wardrobe? Who knows; nobody ever talks about it if there is. Or the fact that no everyone’s wardrobe needs are the same.
- They encourage shopping. They do it by promoting both the idea that the capsule is a “ground zero” (ignoring what may already be hanging in your closet, and presumably fulfilling your wardrobe needs adequately to date), and the idea that there are “perfect” clothing items out there (items that, once acquired, will fulfill your wardrobe needs perfectly in perpetuity).
- They don’t really address the reason why some people are drawn to them in the first place. I don’t believe that everyone who is intrigued by the idea of capsule dressing is drawn to it because it speaks to their (lifestyle) minimalist ideals. I think a lot of people are attracted by the idea that capsule dressing will somehow, magically, fix their style dilemmas. That, with a capsule in place, they will suddenly know how to dress in a way that perfectly captures their personal style, and that they will never again have a Bad Outfit Day. A capsule can’t do that. If you don’t already have a good grasp of what your personal style is – of how you want to look, and how to achieve that look – a capsule won’t help you. It will just reflect your confusion … or the style of whichever blogger created the template you decided to use.
Clearly, I have a lot of feelings about the whole capsule dressing thing.
So, why am I still writing about them?
Because I think that they can be a fun way to exercise some creativity, and inject a bit of novelty into an existing wardrobe – if you’re already content and comfortable with your style. (And novelty is an important consideration for someone like me, who gets bored with clothes easily, and tends to alleviate that boredom by buying new things.) My process for creating a monthly capsule goes something like this: I “shop” in my closet for a few “statement” pieces that I’m excited to wear right away; I brainstorm some outfit ideas, and then look for other pieces from my closet that are needed to complete said outfits; I write everything down. Done. By the time a month has passed, I’m excited to re-discover “new” pieces, and start the process all over again. It’s like have a rotating wardrobe of new pieces every month, except that they’re not really new.
Monthly tally: 23 items for 19 outfits. I actually had a bunch more outfits planned, but I ended up missing work for a few days (damned Toddler Plague of ’14), and that was that. I like how things turned out overall, although I feel like there were fewer “wow” pieces (and more “basics”) than in last month’s line-up.
Hands-down favourite piece? The Joe Fresh dress (#5 and #11). It photographs ho-hum, but I love how it looks in person, and how it feels/wears. I’m putting it on permanent rotation. Favourite outfit? The orange blazer + paisley skirt combo (#10).
What about you?