From Building a Capsule Collection to Making Your Wardrobe Pieces Last Longer than a Season

A new season, a new wardrobe, right? With this truism in mind, consider the amount of clothes and other fashion items one would accrue over the cold snap that is winter. What about last season’s pieces? Will they see the light of day, or will they be stowed away without ever getting a second chance? If any of these questions crop up when preparing for a fresh autumn, then it might be time to start rethinking our fashion purchases and choices. There is, however, another darker underlying reason for such a refashioning of our wardrobes, and it has nothing to do with the sun setting earlier and plunging us in sombre wintery nights. I am referring to the cost of fashion, on a human level as well as on an environmental one.

In the Netflix documentary The True Cost, one pressing issue is, given that ‘this enormous rapacious industry is generating so much profit’, then what is not working, or rather, ‘why is it that it is unable to support millions of its workers properly?’ On the one hand, it is true that we communicate who we are through clothing; it is fundamentally a part of what we wish to communicate about ourselves’, but why does this have to come at such an enormous cost? In this illuminating documentary, the current fashion model is ‘unsustainable’, favouring consumerism, globalisation, and materialism at an alarming rate. Click on numerous YouTube videos just by typing in ‘Autumn Haul’, and you will be swamped by a legion of young twenty-year olds presenting the latest shopping sprees they have been on, amassing around 10 new pieces at the very least. Now consider that seemingly meaningless number but multiply it by all those people out there who are shopping right now.

Vida October 2017It is universally acknowledged that nobody can resist a bargain at fast fashion brands and chains, and nobody should be taken to task for preferring to shop from such places. After all, many people cannot afford to invest in designer pieces, and most people prefer having 20 pieces to wear rather than just one. Yet, there is some balance to be had in between extremes. Some brands are steering towards sustainable fashion, trying to endorse ethical policies and fair practices. So how does this idea of sustainable fashion fit in with our wardrobes, and is it really possible? Is sustainable, ethical clothing just a buzzword, or a decoy to offset one’s presumed but silent guilt in the true cost?

Building a Capsule Collection

A couple of years ago, I came across the term ‘capsule wardrobe’, but the origins go further back in time. A quick Google search revealed that the term was coined by one Susie Faux, who owned a store in London called ‘Wardrobe’ in the 1970s. She suggested that such a capsule wardrobe would incorporate a select number of clothing pieces, such as pants, coats, skirts, and dresses. Later on, in 1985, fashion designer Donna Karan unveiled the first capsule collection made of just seven pieces that could have been worn interchangeably. The premise for a capsule collection was that such limited pieces, as opposed to the endless racks of clothing one would find in high street stores, would be timeless, eternally classic, of durable quality, and adaptable to many different occasions and seasons. Resisting the ravages of time, such a collection would prevent one from shopping too regularly and save one from living in a cluttered, overflowing space. Marie Kondo, of the now-famous book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up (2014) and the Konmari method, says: ‘When you put your house in order, you put your affairs and your past in order, too’.

One could argue that this is easier said than done. Nowadays, cheaper materials are used so one is almost forced to buy new items every season because durability seems to be a thing of the past. Another issue is that we get bored of wearing the same clothes, and why would we want to be seen in repetitive outfits anyway? In order to answer such questions, it could help to look up how other people are endorsing the capsule wardrobe as a lifestyle change.

Vida October 2017A content creator and blogger called Caroline from Texas created a downloadable document called Unfancy to help one take stock of one’s wardrobe and, from there, start building a capsule made of essential basics and items of clothing that one can carry into different seasons. If you are starting to create your capsule wardrobe, ask yourself these questions: 1. Does it fit my style aesthetic, and does it add value to my wardrobe? 2. Can I imagine at least three outfit ideas featuring the same piece? 3. Are the materials good enough to withstand washing and time? 4. If the piece is rather expensive but of very good material, is the cost justified by pay-per-wear?

Caroline suggests keeping the collection to 37 pieces, but these can vary from person to person and from season to season. British blogger and vlogger Anna (The Anna Edit), followed Caroline’s footsteps and over a number of seasons has re-purposed her closet by creating capsule collections, one for each season, with some items featuring in more than one season.Vida October 2017

Growing One’s Collection Based on Classic Trends

To answer the above questions, especially the pay-per-wear aspect of an item that is purchased and that could fit in within the collection, you might consider shopping classic trends. From runways to magazines, from blogs to Instagram posts, the idea of a classic trend is ablaze. Take the trench coat, your trusty leather jacket, checked prints, a black roll neck, the durable blazer, and a straight-legged pair of jeans. You have classic trends. The key is to pair them with pieces that make them look more current than an edition of 1990s Vogue. Such classics can be revamped through seasonal pieces. For the latter, good quality materials is also preferable, because in a few years’ time, what could be seasonal might come back in fashion. Given that we suffer from nostalgia, there is this habit of resuscitating certain items, so holding on to well-made clothes can come in handy, especially when modernising them when the fashion wheel turns again. A case in point is the checked blazer; it might seem terribly old-fashioned, but think social media mogul Pernille Teisbaek (first photo below) rather than Miranda in Sex and the City.Vida October 2017

Upping Your Outerwear Game

Vida October 2017 Corrections Updated_Page_23_Image_0002A capsule collection cannot be complete without outerwear. This is the area that you can most probably invest in, because you would be building an armoury to last you much longer than your average tee. Apart from the pieces mentioned in the previous section, there are also interesting choices where coats and jackets are concerned. For instance, consider colours other than black or navy blue. Imagine a red or a bright wool coat with a crisp shirt or understated roll neck à la Steve Jobs and a pair of black denim jeans. Add a couple of accessories, and slip on a pointed-toe pair of boots. Then, take the same coat and slide it on your typical LBD with over-the-knee boots.

Making your Capsule Pieces Last Longer than a Season

In conclusion, creating a capsule wardrobe is not a new concept but, in practice, many of us give in to impulse shopping and are influenced by many trends that come and go. Instead, building a more sensible and wearable closet collection could result in many iterations and diverse outfit-creating, without the risk of being bored. Having less clothing means having more space, which is one way of taking care of your pieces. Additionally, getting yourself coat covers and decent hangers can also ensure the quality maintenance of your pieces. The trick is to keep them in good condition over the summer season, so avoiding exposure humidity or lack of air is important. Together with your clothes, hang or store anything that keeps the moths at bay and simultaneously store scented soaps in your wardrobe for freshness. When clearing out and making way for the new season, retain those pieces that you know you will wear and enjoy wearing. Making space for solid pieces that will last you more than a year brings serenity and meaningfulness in creating a capsule. As for the rest, do not merely throw away (thus adding to overflowing landfills) but recycle or donate. As Fumio Sasaki ponders in Goodbye, Things, ‘though it may seem like reducing possessions means you’re losing out on something, I think it’s best to reset our minds on that point… rather than thinking about the loss of everything you discard, direct your attention to the things you’ll be gaining’.


© 2017 – VIDA Magazine – Stephanie Xerri Agius