Thursday, February 26, 2015

On the psychological paradoxes of capsule wardrobes

Well as you have probably guessed from my silence since last month's capsule wardrobe post, I've been a bit swamped over here. But it's (past) time for another outfit linkup with In Residence and Just Jacq and I've just met a massive writing deadline, so I thought I'd try to get a post up.

I find myself fascinated with some of the paradoxes people talk about related to capsule wardrobe experiments. For example: the more I got rid of, the easier it was to let go of things. As you'll gather below from my lopsided subtractions and additions lists, that's been the case for me too. But it's not out of some general sense of finding out that it's so easy to live with less. Instead, it's that the fewer choices I have the less inclined I am to tolerate not-so-great ones.

I think in the past I've let a lot of items hang out in my wardrobe that I might wear once in a blue moon even though they are fussy or "off" in some way. But when I put such items in the context of a capsule wardrobe and contemplate wearing them every two weeks for three months -- it's easy to see that they should go.

I also hear people say things like: the fewer clothes I have, the more I feel like I have to wear. I do think that when you strip away the wardrobe dross, you have a higher percentage of workable choices, and that leads to the perception of more choice. It's the difference between "nope, nope, yes, nope, yes, no freaking way, no, nope, nope, yes" and "yep, yes, hell yeah."

On the other hand, at this point I think I've pared back my winter capsule so thoroughly that I do bump up against a lack of options. I generally plan what I'm going to wear weekly (this might sound weird or obsessive, but the fact is that I have five minutes to get dressed in the morning while also haranguing my child to get dressed, checking to make sure that she has everything in her backpack, etc., etc., so it's much better to have an outfit on deck ahead of time).

So given my acceptance of the idea that "everything goes with everything" isn't a workable goal for me, and the fact that I generally prefer not to wear a given item twice in one week (again possibly weird or even misguided, but there you go), and also the need to dress for the weather (waterproof shoes or no waterproof shoes?), sometimes outfit planning feels a bit like sartorial Sudoku these days.

Of course this is a bit silly, since I have a whole bunch of other perfectly serviceable clothes sitting on my shelf that I'm choosing not to wear simply because they're "not in my winter capsule." So I simultaneously have these clothes and don't have them; they're sort of like Schrödinger's pants.      

Well this is all an experiment anyway, so I'm just putting it all out there -- the good, the bad, the possibly silly, and the (self)-contradictory. So with all that said, let's get on to what I've been wearing.

February outfits

tan clogs | burgundy cords | purple long-sleeve tee | fair-isle pullover
Dutch locket | dark blue bead earrings | agate ring
Just my cup of casual-folkloric tea.
black dressy tall boots | black opaque tights | black jersey dress | sky-blue cardi
silver and black enamel bangle | agate ring | blue stone earrings | lavender/aqua paisley scarf
This outfit is so simple -- just a neutral background, a cardi with some interesting details,
and a few beloved accessories -- but was such a pleasure to wear.
gray tall boots | gray skinny jeans | lavender cashmere tee | ivory Aran cardi
Russian silver earrings | abalone ring | photo-print scarf
I tend to wear this scarf mostly as outerwear -- this outfit is from one of those crazy-warm
and sunny days that we get every now and then in Seattle in January and February. 
gray tall boots | medium-wash skinny jeans | white tuxedo shirt | gray shawl-collar cardi
Russian silver earrings | abalone ring | agate ring | lavender/aqua paisley scarf
I put this together on the fly after the outfit I'd planned for that day turned out to be a total fail.
So despite the impression I gave above, my current collection of items does
enable that "get dressed without thinking" feat every now and then.

February subtractions

Here's what left my capsule this month and why.

Black/gray/white fair isle crewneck: I like this sweater a lot, but I don't like wearing it at all. The neckline is too high, the hem tends to roll, and it's puzzlingly itchy (it's made of merino wool, which I normally have no problem wearing next to my skin).

Black cashmere tee: Neckline is too high. I will never choose this over my black scoopneck layering sweater -- which isn't perfect either, as it is a fiber blend and tends to pill. What I really want is a black all-cashmere scoopneck, but until then, instead of keeping two imperfect items in my closet I'll just hold on to the imperfect item I'm actually wearing.

Ivory cashmere tee: Again with the too-high crewneck. This tee and the black one used to be absolute wardrobe staples. How could I have failed to see how unflattering this neckline is on me?

Black maxi skirt: I want to like maxi skirts, but they don't play very well with my vintage-y tops and sweaters. I could only come up with a few possible outfits from my capsule using this skirt, and they all felt costumey to me (with a solid black maxi skirt it's all too easy to veer into "witchy woman" territory). I may keep this around to see if it works better in my summer capsule, but more than likely I'll let it go altogether.

Ivory argyle sweater vest: Droopy up top, boxy down below, no thank you overall.

Gray shawl-collar pullover: Any outfit that I can make with this pullover I'd be equally if not more happy wearing with my gray cardi instead. I'd rather just wear the cardi a few "extra" times, and free up mental and physical space for something that lends more true variety to my wardrobe.

Black Aran cardi: My ivory version remains a beloved staple, but this is bulkier and itchier. I've known that, I think, and yet I've kept this item in my wardrobe because I really want a long, cozy black cardigan. It's been a placeholder item, if you will. But if I'm not actually going to wear it and enjoy it...what's the point of marking the place?

Gray argyle v-neck: The pattern on this sweater isn't really gray, white, and burgundy, it's gray, white, and brown, and I don't wear brown. Doesn't that sound impossibly self-indulgent? Oh, I'm getting rid of this because it doesn't perfectly fit my color palette. Check your privilege, girl. Well, frankly, the sweater doesn't fit all that great either -- it's a little short and tends to ride up. (It must also be admitted that I'm carrying a bit more weight these days than I was when I purchased this item.) So this is a case where the imperfect color makes it easier to acknowledge the less-than-stellar fit.

February additions

Here's what I added to my capsule this month and why.

Medium-wash bootcut jeans: LOFT (not currently available). Pretty much the same color as my medium-wash skinny jeans, I know, but the difference in cut is important here. All of the other pants in my capsule are on the skinny-ish side; I prefer to wear longer/larger tops with skinny pants but a larger fraction of my tops/cardis are shorter and more fitted. So these should help balance out my wardrobe a bit. They need to be hemmed, though -- bah!

Ivory scoopneck layering sweater: Woolovers. Similar to last month's gray scoopneck sweater purchase, I've swapped out an unflattering cut for one I much prefer.

Norwegian silver earrings: vintage via Ebay. Oh, heck. I really can't justify these from a "minimalist wardrobe" point of view, can I -- after all, I just bought another pair of silver earrings last month. I will say though that I don't really use the two pair interchangeably -- I tend to wear these as pretty much my only accessory, whereas the others are less "statement-y," if you will. The dangles at the bottom are called "spoons" and they are meant to protect the wearer from evil spirits, which pretty much qualifies these as "wardrobe essentials" in my book.

Gray and pastel scarf: Liberty of London via Ebay. I have to admit that the color palette here is a bit darker than I was expecting based on the online photos, but I do think it fits in my winter capsule and I'll wear it in spring too.