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.

tumblr_ma7bjwxkJC1qz53j7So, 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.

work wardrobe capsule
one, two, three
work wardrobe capsule
four, five, six
work wardrobe capsule
seven, eight, nine
work wardrobe capsule
ten, eleven, twelve
work wardrobe capsule; work capsule; office capsule; office wear; office wardrobe
thirteen, fourteen, fifteen
work capsule; office capsule
sixteen, seventeen, eighteen, nineteen

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?

15 Comments on What I Wore: October Work Capsule

  1. I think the concept of capsules and minimalism is fascinating. Mostly capsules versus minimalism though because I know myself, and I know I can’t do “minimalism”. The whole thing has really inspired me in the last few weeks though. I’m slowly combing through my closet and trying to be really honest about the clothes I’m not wearing. There are shirts I LOVED 3 years ago, but haven’t worn in over a year even though it’s a perfectly fine shirt. Do I hold on to it because it used to be great? It’s just an H&M shirt but….

    I don’t know. It makes me think about how all of life is a capsule wardrobe and how sometimes its like…not that crazy to only wear a certain amount of clothes. What I’ve been trying is grabbing one item a week and hanging it on a hook in front of my closet. I make a point of trying to wear it…and if I don’t, I honestly have to consider getting rid of it, even if it was my favorite shirt ever my senior year of college.

    I clearly also have feelings about this, I just don’t know how to express them properly or coherently haha

    • Hahaha! Well, I’m not sure I was any more coherent either. Clearly, we need to talk about our feelings more 😉
      It’s too bad you’re so far away … no coffee dates in our future 🙁

  2. Here here! Love this post, I just mini- raged about capsules today. Couldn’t agree more with what you’re saying here. A capsule isn’t about going out and shopping, and one should always start from what they’ve got and learn to work with it towards style goals. On to the wardrobe – great outfits! Thanks for the workwear inspiration. I like how much colour you incorporate into your daily choices!

    • Thank you 🙂

      I agree – capsuling (not a word, but eh) within your own closet is the way to go, especially if you have a ton of clothes to begin you.

  3. thank you for writing this. i agree that people don’t know what they’re talking about when they say they’re being minimalist, and the word has pretty much lost its meaning. i have some of my own thoughts on capsules/the trend of “minimalism,” so i’m just going to usurp your comments section to share 😉

    1. with bloggers in particular, i think we’re seeing this trend because the last several years of blogging have been focused on buying all of these different patterns and colors and textures and fabrics and now both bloggers and readers are like wtf do i do with this? i bought it because it was pretty to wear on the blog/a blogger wore it, but now i have no need for it. bloggers still want to make money by selling clothes, so they’re selling the idea of spending money on “versatile” pieces, by totally starting over. as a smaller blogger/real person, i’m also feeling the previous blogger burn out and i’m attracted to the more simple take on style, but i don’t have the income/interest in rebuying my entire wardrobe every season.
    2. i think you and i approach capsule wardrobes really similarly because we shop really similarly. i use shopping as a vice, so i buy something new to make me happy. i love adding something new and wearing the heck out of it. but then i get bored and it just sits. capsule challenges force us to find uses for those pieces incorporated with our new fun pieces.
    3. i also think the idea of capsuling is really helpful for a lot of people in positions of transition, whether it’s going from college to the workforce, non-pregnant to pregnant, and even sex/gender transition. i do some personal shopping for friends and have found it really helpful for people who are literally building a wardrobe from scratch to learn how to buy pieces they’ll wear again and again, and more importantly, know how to wear (more on this in my next point!). i also think it’s helpful for people to not be totally overwhelmed in their closet and can feel like they can rely on the pieces you have. you said that you don’t think a capsule can get rid of bad outfit days, and while it may not 100% do that, i think it does a lot to get as close as possible by not having pieces you don’t know how to use.
    4. i think bloggers who do capsule wardrobes are successful because they *show* readers how to wear things. it’s about the inspiration, which is why most style bloggers blog.

    the one thing you brought up that i didn’t really think about before is the idea that readers follow bloggers whose personal style they don’t identify with. it may happen, and that sucks, but i don’t think that’s the blogger’s fault.

    okay! onto your outfits. my favorites are 3, 7, and 15. you’re a print queen, and i love seeing all the different ways you’re able to style them.

    sorry for the longest comment ever.


    • Love ya, girl!

      Re #4, it’s not so much about following a style you don’t like, more about a style you’re not entirely sure how to work on your own. Know what I mean? If someone tells you, buy A and B and make an outfit out of them, OK. That’s easy. But what happens when you’re at the mall by yourself? Are you confident enough in your own judgment and taste to pick something you will love and wear? I love shopping, so this is somewhat alien to me, but I know lots of people don’t, and get overwhelmed by the choices, etc. Someone telling you that you need to pick only “x” number of things is just going to add pressure, not make things easier. That’s all I meant.

      But I don’t hate capsules, honestly! I mean, clearly 😉

  4. #5, #8 and #15 are killer for me.

    As for “capsules”, I have plenty in my wardrobe. I don’t need any more clothes to make anything work, although I will say that I still need at least a basic black tank top. I have no idea how I don’t own one.. 🙂

    Regardless, I am a lifestyle minimalist but not a wardrobe one.

  5. Love the rant – using the pursuit of minimalism as a justification to consume is just oxymoronic to me.

    My favourite piece of your month was the paisley skirt. Loved both outfits with it equally!

  6. This was an interesting post to read – and another reminder of why I like your blog. It’s not just all pictures, there’s some actual content that makes you think too!

    I don’t know how I feel about minimalism – other than the fact I’ll probably never be a minimalist. I’ve been toying with capsules myself lately – I’ve been creating 10×10 (10 items, 10 ways) and I’ve been playing around with the idea of creating a 30×30 capsule wardrobe for a while too. What this has been doing is helping me think of some creative ways to wear my clothes: I’ve found some really excellent combos and managed to rework some of my classics. I think you articulated some good points about the negative side of capsule wardrobes. One of my problems with the Project 333 (33 items for 3 months) stuff (for example) is that you’re expected to clear out your closet and only retain the 33 items until the 3 months is up and you swap it out. Where am I supposed to store all the clothes that aren’t in my closet? That doesn’t feel very minimalist to me! I probably do a modified Project 333 anyway: I have distinct differences in what I wear season to season (we’re moving into sweater season this weekend!) but I leave all the clothes in my closet. (I also probably have too many sweaters.)

  7. Great post, I agree with everything you’ve written here. The whole idea of capsule wardrobes and minimalism has intrigued me for a while now. In the past year I’ve done a shopping fast and “shopped” my closet, and the lesson that I took away from the experience was to simply be more mindful and thoughtful about my needs vs. wants and the underlying reasons for the purchasing decisions I make. One shouldn’t have to start a capsule from the ground up; the foundations are usually already in your closet. You are completely right, the current trend of minimalism + capsules among many fashion bloggers doesn’t align with the original philosophy.

  8. I just found this post through a GOMI forum and I am right with you here! I’ve been having a hard time understanding how this new conception of capsule wardrobes/minimalism resolves mostly around shopping for new things. Ugh.

    Anywho, I really like your concept here of focusing on a limited number of pieces that you’re excited about, coming up with some fun combinations, and then resetting at the beginning of the month. Maybe because this is pretty closely aligned with how I end up wearing my clothes! I’ll get really excited about a piece (old or new) wear it every week for a few weeks and then give it a break.

    • I love your blog, and I’m always amazed by how creative you are with a far more minimalist colour palette than I could ever pull off.

      Anywaaaay … I love the thrill of novelty, and in the interests of not buying (quite) All The Things, I have to “fake” the feeling every now and then. Re-discovering clothes in my closet is the easiest way to do it. So, I’m right there with you.