Capsule Wardrobe Confessions

I kept something I shouldn't have, you guys--oh the horror!

When clearing out my closet last week, and preaching to you the benefits of a smaller wardrobe, I ran into a few items I struggled to let go of--so I kept them, even though I don't wear them. Ah, I'm ashamed to admit it and I feel like a hypocrite. On the bright side, this process of writing about my capsule wardrobe is keeping me accountable and requiring my commitment. I refuse to lie to you and present an unattainable picture of a capsule wardrobe that says the process is easy and painless. I also don't want to adopt a capsule wardrobe simply because the concept is "trendy"; I want to maintain these values beyond this trend and series. So, here are my confessions.

I've kept three pairs of shoes--Navy gladiator sandals from 5+ years ago (though still in good condition), a pair of UGG sweater boots (to which I credit any of my popularity in middle school), and black Nike's I purchased at the beginning of my college career--and a tee shirt.

When I first pulled these items out of my closet my instinct was to let them go; I rarely (or never) wear them and feel guilty for not doing so. I don't choose the sandals because they're out of style, I trip when wearing them, and I don't like how they look on my feet. The UGG boots also make me trip when I walk (this seems to be a recurring problem), and the Nike's are difficult for me to pair with my abundance of dresses and girly skirts. The tee shirt was actually something my sister saw in my bag of clothes to be donated and said, "don't get rid of that, it's a good shirt and it's from Anthropologie!" I felt guilty and returned it to my closet, all the while knowing that I wouldn't choose to wear it because of numerous mended holes in the sleeve and the fact that it is extremely thin.

There are other items I've held on to, but don't wear on a regular basis: prom dresses and beautiful cashmere sweaters of my great-grandmother's. And I find that, when I struggle to let something go, it can usually be filed into one of two categories: clothes with sentimental value and clothes I feel guilty letting go, though they add little value to my wardrobe. With the things I don't wear any longer, I've also noticed that they were the result of a very trendy purchase--note the UGG boots and gladiator sandals--that didn't fit my true style.

One of the benefits of cultivating your wardrobe, at least that I've experienced, is that trends (and really others' view of you) have less hold over you because you are able to identify your own style and become less inclined to impulsive "everyone is wearing this" buys. Even for someone who exalts individuality and self-expression, I've found myself less swayed by trends and more in tune with my style than when I lived with an abundant wardrobe. Funny how that works, huh?

So, back to my "unlovable" shoes and tee shirt--what to do?

I think there are two responses when struggling with feelings of wastefulness in this process. You can let the items go, and you'll likely forget about them in a week or two, or you can teach yourself to wear them. I have decided to send my sandals and tee shirt to donation, but I am keeping my tennis shoes and boots. The first two items have sat in my closet, unworn, for many years and I know that I will not choose to wear them. However, the tennis shoes are new, practical, in good condition; I'm going to teach myself to wear them, and maybe I will end up loving them in a few weeks. The boots are great as slippers in the colder months.

There's no perfect number of items in your closet, or number of times a week you must wear them, in a capsule wardrobe. This is supposed a thoughtful wardrobe, not an obsessive one. Don't become further influenced by your possessions by swinging to the other end of the spectrum and becoming preoccupied with how few things you have. However, I believe in life without excess and am still learning what it looks like. Implementing this lifestyle has caused me to face my insecurities head-on because I have fewer things to hide beneath. It is more difficult to hide my fear of man when I've only kept the pieces of clothing that I enjoy and use, instead of a covering my insecurities with the trendiest or most expensive outfits that might make people more willing to know me. Gaining the courage to wear the things I love is one small step in a lifelong process of being set free from insecurity and learning to accept myself as I am. Expressing oneself through clothing is not petty or meaningless; it's a great way to cultivate a healthy self-image. My capsule wardrobe doesn't solve all of my problems, but for me living with less means making more room in my heart and mind for the things that truly matter.

Thanks for letting me be honest.

All the best,

Mary Grace

P.S. Next edition, I'll show you the things I've kept in my wardrobe and talk a bit about developing a capsule and the different elements within it. Yay for the fun part of this process!

FeaturesMary Grace Metheny