fashion freedom

Skirt from H&M, top from Old Navy, waistline from my past.

Skirt from H&M, top from Old Navy, waistline from my past.

I used to watch “What Not to Wear” and tell all my friends to please nominate me so that I could get a whole new wardrobe. I guess my friends were either too nice to nominate me (this would mean I was a fashion train wreck) or too selfish to let me have the thrill of embarrassing myself on national TV while trying to justify my overalls from college. What I didn’t realize was that I subconsciously associated having a great wardrobe with having a large one. That was years before I came across my new found freedom of the Capsule.

I only recently discovered this phenomenon but my pregnancy wardrobe should have tipped me off. When I was pregnant and showing, my wardrobe literally shrank in a couple of ways. First, obviously many pieces became too tight or just impossible to wear. Secondly, the number of pieces I had to choose from was seriously diminished because no one replaces their entire wardrobe with maternity clothes they’ll only need for a matter of months throughout their lifetime. So I chose my pieces carefully and ended up inadvertently choosing a color palette and sticking to it, so that just about any item could be worn with anything else. That combined with the fact that I was expected to have a huge midriff, made me feel super put together every day (and as such was probably the most liberating fashion experience of my life--no need to worry about 'food baby' when you can blame it on the baby that’s in there too).

Cut to my postpartum self and I’m looking at my closet of ‘maybes’ and ‘likely never agains’ and partial outfits and things I kept merely because I spent money on them in the last year and I just couldn’t face it. There’s too much decision fatigue as it is when you’ve got two little kids and you live in Brooklyn. ‘Should I just buy this $10 bottle of sunflower oil to make the debit card minimum because I don’t want to walk 3 extra blocks to get canola while my kids scream in unison?’ ‘Do I risk taking the subway and finding a broken elevator and having to camp underground until a kind stranger can lift my double stroller up the stairs?’ ‘Does the baby smell bad enough to warrant a bath?’ ‘Should I work out today?’ (Okay the answer to that last one is easy, it’s yes but I’m not going to). I had been culling for months since reading KonMari's cult classic “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up”. Yes, I thought, get rid of all of it and let’s paint the floors white too! But then I remembered we live with a baby and a toddler, so I focused on my wardrobe instead.

So ironically, I needed a few more pieces, in order to create a more versatile wardrobe that also fit. I went to a clothing swap with my girlfriends where I basically couldn’t fit into anything but 3 shirts, all of which happened to be white. Yes! Minimalist fashion win! Then I remember the babies again and purchase a stain stick.

I started sending my unwantables to ThredUp. They mail you a bag with the postage already attached and then you fill it and leave it for USPS or drop it off at FedEx. It’s an online thrift store and you can earn money, in my case to finance some new clothes. I was doing pretty well but looking at my closet, I was still feeling bogged down by those 'maybes.' But as my wise friend Hilary said “Maybe really means no. If you ask someone to marry you and they say ‘maybe’, they mean ‘no’.” That’s when I came across the Capsule concept.

You have 37 pieces total (this doesn’t include coats, PJ’s, underwear or workout gear but it does include shoes, blazers, sweaters, dresses, tops and bottoms). 37. Terrifying or liberating? A little of both. Liberating because my choices are limited and my mind clearer as a result, terrifying because I will have to do laundry even more frequently than I already do. But I’m ready to spend less time obsessing about this. Less time on what to wear, more time on life. Less is more my friends.

If you’re unsure how to pick out your ‘go to’ 37 pieces, I have a trick for you. Pretend you’re going on vacation, somewhere that matches the season you’re in. Tell yourself you’re staying for about two weeks and there’s a washing machine there. Now pack a week’s worth of clothes that you wouldn’t mind wearing on repeat. Chances are, everything that’s in your suitcase, is everything you wear, 95% of the time, less special occasions of course and maybe a couple bulky sweaters. If you’re thinking 37 pieces is not nearly enough to escape having a Charlie Brown closet, check out this post that does the combination math.

This goes against the grain because we automatically equate less choice with less freedom, to the point of railing against structure. Yet, sometimes you just have to narrow things down and then start living your life. Says Madeleine L’Engle:

“It is our bones, our structure, which frees us to dance, to make love. Without our structure, we would be an imprisoned, amorphous blob of flesh, incapable of response. The amoeba has a minimum of structure, but I doubt if it has much fun.”

Another thing I would not have believed a year ago; minimalism is fun. It’s a formula for living that spreads beyond your clothes and belongings and what a thrill to watch it all go away. Have you tried this or considered trying it? Do you want to? Do you have wine? If you answered yes to the last two, I’m coming over!



Jaime Randall