Year for the Planet Year 2 Week 8: How to Build a Capsule Wardrobe

Year for the Planet is a campaign to make better choices for the planet. 2017 was when I fixed my eating habits. This year, 2018, is where I deal with my clothing choices.

With most of my decluttering done, I look at the things I have left and decided to commit to a capsule wardrobe—a collection of a few essential items of clothing that do not go out of fashion and can be personalized with seasonal pieces. This term was coined by Susie Faux, owner of a London clothing store in the 1970s, but please. As someone who was Catholic-schooled for 13 years, we called a capsule wardrobe a “uniform”. I wore a blue skirt and necktie with a white top was usually styled with Doc Martens, scarves, pins, headbands or whatever was trending at the moment. You gotta love the 90s.

Similar to what I did last year with looking at meal frameworks, I set out to build my own system where I can go from casual to work to dressy in minutes. What I have in my closet can be divided into:
1. Work clothes (and as an artist there is the luxury of wearing sweats during the day and then working out in them afterwards)
2. Dresses for events and lectures in a classic cut that I don’t mind wearing repeatedly and in a style that matches my personality
3. Outerwear for mild and extreme weather, in sporty and formal occasions
4. Underwear
5. Shoes that fit specific purposes
(For very formal events, I prefer to rent.)

Thinking like this has made shopping a lot easier and made me less attached to buying clothing. Instead of going nuts at a sale, I immediately go to the clothes I know fits my style and my needs. I will likely need more work clothes, for example, but for a dress I really really love that I wear to many events, I may buy two pieces of it—just in case I travel and the airline loses my luggage which has happened before. My rule is that all of my regularly-used clothes should fit just 1 piece of luggage, with some precious sentimental ones in another. I can now fit all my clothes into two large suitcases.

Here are the steps I took to make my clothing choices a lot simpler with less waste going to landfills:
1. Determine your key activities and think about how many pieces you need to own. It could be work for five days a week, 2-3 events, a weekend out of town. I try to prepare for 2 weeks of not doing laundry.

2. Choose a signature color (or color palette). Unless your favorite color is rainbow, which is cool, narrowing your color choices will help choosing a lot easier and ensure that your newer purchases will match your older possessions.

3. Buy classic and flattering pieces that will stay for a long time, such as trousers, minimal tops, Little Black Dresses, The Red Dress, etc. Be wary of trends. We are at the tail end of this horrifying trend for blouses where the shoulders are cut off (ladies, you know what I’m talking about). This will not look cool in a few weeks. Hey it doesn’t look cool right now.

4. Have a list of go-to places to buy clothes, to waste less time when needing to shop. Go for brands that sell clothing with a good fit, lifespan, and sustainability policy (the latter of which will keep varying).

5. When in a house of hoarders, find ways to reuse their hand-me-downs. Thanks to the past few weeks, I never have to buy socks ever again. Or ties, scarves, baseball caps, and towels. I’ve unearthed lots of unused ones, still with the tags and covered in dust. Jackpot.

6. Shop less. No one will think less of you if they see you wear the same thing. Think of it as soaking the piece in multiple memories through the years. It’s what will make the outfit even more valuable.


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