I think of myself as an incurable maximalist. I like to fill my closet with one-off pieces that I’ve hand picked. I don’t limit myself to specific colours, patterns, or even shapes. When it comes to fashion, I’ll try anything once (or twice). But since most of my favourites pieces, especially since embracing ethical fashion, come from second hand shops, I didn’t think my maximalism was at odds with my ethics.
So when Fashion Takes Action asked me to participate in the 10X10 wardrobe challenge to mark Fashion Revolution Week, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Capsule wardrobes are an online phenomenon, and they are closely linked to the minimalist movement. And because of that, I’ve so far steered clear. I’m more about treasuring what I own rather the apparent minimalist ethos of purging yourself of possessions. In my mind, the minimalist capsule wardrobe is one that is a wasteful privilege accessible to only those who have over-stuffed closets to begin with.
But since undertaking the 10X10 challenge, I’ve found that the result of a capsule wardrobe doesn’t have to be a total closet purge, but a mindful exploration of what you already own. You can take those 10 days to think about each piece: who made it, how you can best wear it, and just how much beauty and utility it really has.
Using Lee Vosburgh’s handy worksheet, I chose my ten pieces with care. I went with a palette of black, white, and grey so that I’d be able to have flexibility with pairings, but I did add in some shades of pink as a nod to my maximalist tendencies. And although nowhere in the rules, I decided to use the worksheet to pre-plan my 10 outfits. I found that this enhanced the convenience of the capsule wardrobe, as I never had to think much about what to wear each day of the challenge. This way, I could even plan out my makeup looks! With the next 10 days planned out, I felt a lot better about the impending challenge!
Here are the looks that I planned and put together (disclaimer: I took all these photos on the same day except for the last one. I did wear these outfits each day of the 10X10 challenge, but between Easter, showing my house, selling it, buying a house, and my fiancee leaving the province for a 3-month course, I unfortunately didn’t have time to take daily outfit photos):
- This capsule wardrobe really helps you explore different options that were hanging in your closet all along. For instance, my blush butterfly top has been relegated to be on repeat: top with jeans, top with jeans, every time I worn it. Until the 10X10 challenge, I never even thought about wearing it with a skirt! And it is, I’ll admit, tons easier to get dressed when you don’t have to scramble around for the proper underthings to go with a just-conjured outfit! The time spend staring at the closet not knowing what to wear was eliminated from my days, and the best part of this challenge, for me, is discovering new outfits.
- Sticking to just 10 looks using 10 pieces really made me take a good, hard look at my accessories. Since they don’t count towards the 10 core pieces, I played a lot with scarves, jewellery, sunnies, and even a hot pink purse that was already part of my wardrobe. They worked hard during these 10 days, as did the 10 pieces I chose.
- I’ll be frank: there were a few drawbacks of the 10X10 challenge. Most of them had to do with living in Canada. The first day of the challenge for me fell on the day I was headed up to Ottawa for the Easter long weekend. And because of that, I had to be a bit flexible with the rules. A third pair of footwork was added (rain boots), as well as a second coat to compensate for the unpredictable April weather — the forecast for which changed by the day. I also added a pair of black leggings to keep the chill from my bones when donning my thrifted white lace dress or black cord skirt.
- However, traveling during part of the challenge was an amazing opportunity. I experienced first hand how easy packing can be with a capsule wardrobe. Usually I’m terrible at packing for trips: I throw random clothes into my luggage and hope for the best (and it never turns out well). From now on, I’ll use the capsule wardrobe method for all of my travels!
- The other drawback that I found with the challenge was the lack of flexibility. Although I was able to explore sartorial combinations I’d never thought of before, some of those fell flat. And while I can now cross certain ensembles off my now growing list of which pieces work well together, I would have liked the chance to swap out a top or skirt for something more flattering than to have to suffer through a bad outfit day. Saying that, though, I found that spending an entire day in a bad outfit really helps you to understand what exactly is wrong with it, and what could be done better. It’s a more informative experience than just throwing something on, glancing in a mirror, and dismissing it then and there.
- Despite any drawbacks I found with the challenge, I really loved it. I thought I’d never like a capsule wardrobe, let alone love one. I thought I’d drag myself through the 10 days, kicking and screaming each morning about having to wear the same old pieces. But because the challenge is such a short one, it was actually thrilling to try something new. And because it’s such a small number of pieces, it helped me to ‘get to know’ those garments, some of which I’ve owned for years, in a way that I never have before. I thought about the particular brands and their ethics, who made these particular pieces, and why I bought them in the first place.
- I can actually see myself repeating this challenge over and over again. I can see how I could try it with different palettes – picking brown, beige, navy or maybe even leopard print as my neutral and exploring options from there. I can also see how this challenge could help me experiment with what I own and add to my list of go-to outfits, making dressing each morning easier and giving me courage about my fashion choices.
Rather than avoiding capsule wardrobe challenges in the future, I am now a convert. Sure, when framed as part of a minimalist project, they can encourage unnecessary waste. But when a portion of one’s closet is examined in this mindful, careful way, they can also help us to buy less by using what we have, and to therefore waste less!