Back in my undergraduate years, my galaxy-printed tee and pink chevron-patterned tee are the kinds of clothing I’d pick to go to my university classes. Along with my peach-coloured Jansport backpack, a chevron-patterned wooden necklace from a local brand, and a pair of textured plastic flat shoes with ornamental ribbon which I didn’t hesitate to wear to my geology classes. I loved splurging my money on fashion items, and loved wearing them even more. My particular preference was probably anything that did not typically scream “basic.”
As I grew older and finally discovered more meaningful means to allocate my money to, I decided that one of the best ways to effectively put more budget to those things is by reducing my spending on clothing. I’d still be into fashion, but from that moment on, I would try to support my passion in different, hopefully more responsible ways.
Despite being still way too far from living minimally (and hopefully, more ethically, consciously, and sustainably someday), I decided that at least, getting rid of my clothes from those fashion-holic eras was a must-do, in order to convert my wardrobe into a capsule one. I also started collecting mood boards on Pinterest, such as here and here, to help myself choose some modest basic styles that would still bring pleasure when I wear them.
But what is a capsule wardrobe?
This article defines capsule wardrobe as “a limited collection of clothes that coordinate well and can be worn in a number of different ways to cater for multiple occasions.” Essentially, the idea is to keep only the most essential pieces of clothing that would go along with each other regardless of the occasion, therefore keeping the number of your clothes to a minimum. It also typically includes only items with earthy colours, since these tones are the ones that can be easily combined with each other.
Hence, when I first came back to Indonesia in early 2019, one of the very first things I did was to pack all my clothes from roughly the previous seven years that I was ready to part with, since they were no longer relevant to my purpose. Five large-sized suitcases were eventually filled with those fabrics, and now they are all already handed to the next persons who need them more than I do. I did, however, keep some of them that are either still aligned to my current trajectory in this journey, or the ones that I could still casually wear at home.
Nevertheless, that does not necessarily mean I had stopped buying new clothes ever since. I still regularly bought new pieces these days, and still had a limited monthly budget for them, although I curated those items a lot more carefully before deciding to put them in my cart. While the capsule clothing journey hasn’t been so perfectly successful since half of my office tops are a one-piece item that unfortunately cannot be combined with each other, at least compared to my younger self a couple of years back, I can feel that I’m still doing a considerable improvement. And isn’t the process equally important?
With that said, I’d like to share a few tips that have helped me to suppress my desire in buying clothes that are not essentials and only keep those that serve the purpose of retaining a capsule wardrobe. I’m no fashion expert and am merely an enthusiast of dressing up nicely, so the following post won’t be without any flaws – you’ve been warned. But if you’re currently on the same journey or planning on taking on one, I hope these tips would at least still be able to help you in some ways!
1. Keep your tops monochromatic. To add more colours, invest in coloured outerwears instead – but remember to stay on the earthy-tone lane!
Monochromatic tops, such as black, white, and grey, will ensure that they blend well with whichever bottom wear you pair them with. When you feel like incorporating more colour into your look, you can simply put on your olive-coloured cardigan, for example, or any outerwear in earthy colours such as taupe, coral, blush, chambray, and so forth.
2. Invest in cardigans and sleeveless tops
Wearing different cardigans will help to disguise the fact that you’ve been layering them with the same tops and bottoms all over again. Choose sleeveless tops to avoid too much heat, and they should generally be cheaper than their sleeved counterparts as well.
3. A pair of good jeans is all you need. More cotton or linen pants will go a long way.
For the past one and a half year, I owned only a pair of jeans that I used for both weekend hangouts or for the office. Most of the time, I wear cropped pants, culotte, or palazzo of different fabrics that would suit both worlds more effectively. Besides, they tend to be a lot more budget-friendly than a pair of really good jeans.
4. Elevate your basic style by choosing clothes with different not-so-overwhelming details
Simple clothing does not mean that they cannot have certain details that make them stand out, while still giving off the minimal vibes. Ruffled necks, turtlenecks, flowy oversized cuts, or batwing outerwears are a few examples of details that would add a nice touch on your clothing while still preserving their simplistic style.
5. Keep an eye on styles and materials that go well for both office and hangout situations
A few examples are knitted turtleneck, cotton blouse, linen dress, and basic cardigans. It’s difficult to go wrong with any of them for any occasion, therefore it’s important to equip your wardrobe with these essentials.
6. Remember this list of pretty things that are not so friendly for your wardrobe:
- Textured or extravagant feminine fabrics
- Yes, I know how adorable those laces, organza, tulle, brocade, and other feminine fabrics the world has ever seen. But notice that their very characteristics do not even speak “minimal” and they also tend to be very challenging to mix with other fabrics. I do still own a few dresses in these materials that I bought a couple of years back before I tried to convert into capsule clothing and I don’t plan to throw them away because they weren’t particularly cheap either; but for daily uses, I would suggest avoiding these materials altogether.
- Patterns, except for black and white stripes or houndstooth
- Keeping your wardrobe collections on the plain side will ensure they retain the fluidity aspect to be able to blend nicely with each other. Patterned fabrics, for example, are challenging to mix well, with the exception of black and white stripes that are, on the contrary, more like the icon for minimal wear. Houndstooth pattern is another safe yet timelessly chic choice.
- Bright colours, except on maybe a couple of statement shoes or bags
- I do still keep a few of bright-coloured items, since some of them look fabulous when combined. Pale blue and baby yellow, lilac and lime, or pale pink and mint are some of the colour combinations that you may want to try every once in a while to refresh your palette. Just make sure that their already stand-out colours aren’t enhanced with the overwhelming design as well.
- Multi-coloured accessories
- My younger self had that period in her life where all she wanted to collect was statement necklaces from local artisans. While it’s great to support local brands, remember that some of their styles may be the exact opposite of a good match for your minimal wardrobe.
- Shoes and bags with ornaments
- Generally, you’d want to stick your footwear and bags to the basic kinds as well. Everlane for footwear as well as Matt and Nat for bags are some of the brands I’d recommend if you have the budget, although in general, almost any brand would typically have those simple-looking items if you pay enough attention.
7. When you can afford it, try to buy more long-lasting materials; or at least, avoid overwashing your clothes
Since you will be wearing these pieces of clothing nearly every day (although with this current WFH situation you may not need them as frequently), you should consider investing your money in purchasing clothes with more durable materials, albeit usually a lot more expensive. If you can’t, you should at least take care of them well by making sure that you tailor each care according to their fabrics. This may sound like an extra homework to do, but since you (ideally) wouldn’t even have that many clothes to begin with, this shouldn’t even take as much effort as you imagine it would.
8. Befriend organic cotton, linen, and lyocell fabrics
These are some of the most versatile fabrics that not only tend to coordinate very well with any paired fabric, but also serve the minimal look best. Their down-to-earth and humbling textures are a perfect element to complete your capsule wardrobe. As a bonus, they are also among the most durable clothing fabrics ever made.
Bonus tip: a few brands to find some inspirations from
While not all the following brands offer durable, ethical, and sustainable clothes, when it comes to style, I found that they generally offer a good starting point to find the minimal style that may speak to your taste. For more varieties, hop on to Pinterest and type “minimal fashion” on the search bar to build your own inspo boards like I did here and here.
And that’s pretty much what I could share for now. I still have so much to learn and digest on this journey, so my biggest hope is to be committed along the way and benefit from the process, both mentally as I try to be more mindful, and also perhaps more importantly for now, financially, lol.
If you’re currently embarking on the same train, feel free to let me know your tips or tricks that may help a fellow learner along!