Back in January I streamlined my wardrobe and started living with 32 pieces (including shoes and handbags). Some pieces are exchanged for more weather appropriate ones when we enter into a new season which works out to be every 3 months or so. After 12 months of this experiment I am still enjoying the freedom, simplicity and awareness it has brought to my life. My wardrobe is functional and supports my current day-to-day life. I learned some valuable lessons from my first capsule wardrobe experiment.
Lessons learned from my capsule wardrobe experiment
1. I don’t need to wait for the perfect conditions to start
The capsule wardrobe concept was not new to me. I entered this experiment with full knowledge of the concept and even had the opportunity of a test run. I had already paired down my clothes several times before I started Project 333. The conditions were far from perfect when I started this experiment. I had not purchased clothing for 6 months before I started the experiment. My wardrobe had gaps. It also contained worn out pieces and others that were close to it. I was painfully aware that my clothes are not high quality pieces made to last. They aren’t made responsibly or with earth-friendly fabrics either but I couldn’t just buy a whole new wardrobe (which would’ve defeated the purpose of starting a capsule wardrobe anyway).
I chose to move forward despite the imperfect conditions. A year later I’ve gained time, clarity, simplicity and humility. My wardrobe is still imperfect and still has gaps but now I know that I don’t need to wait for the perfect conditions before I can start moving towards my desired outcome.
2. No one cares
No one really notices you’re repeating pieces of clothing. My clients have not noticed, my friends have not noticed and my acquaintances have not noticed. No one has noticed I dress with a small number of pieces. Even when I repeat a complete outfit no one notices. I did have a part in making sure I didn’t repeat outfits within the same weekly meetings by tracking my outfits. Aside from that creativity played a major role which leads me to the next lesson learned.
With less clothes to wear I was more open to mix and match in ways I had never thought of before. I layered pieces, experimented with accessories and tried new combinations. Some didn’t work. Others did. I discovered a different side of me and it was both eye opening and fun.
Things happen and you can choose to let them steer you away from your goals or you can choose to learn what needs to be learned and press on. Somewhere along the line my cat decided to pee in my handbag. I was really upset about it. I didn’t put my hands in the air and give up my capsule experiment. This hiccup just made me realize how important it is to stay flexible through any experiment and any process in life. I jokingly told my husband we would have to take a trip to Costa Rica to get another one.
What makes this particular handbag special is the story behind it. It’s the idea that there is hope for prisoners. In Costa Rica, the government and the private sector partnered to transform prisoners into micro-entrepreneurs. The prisoners that are part of this project have the opportunity to send income home to their families and also have a way to earn income after their release. The materials used are eco-friendly and sustainable. I purchased one of their handbags.
The fact of the matter is things get stained, ripped, peed on and so on and so forth. Flexibility is key to overcome challenges. Staying flexible helps us grow and opens new perspectives. My contribution to a worthy cause was not lost at all even if my handbag was completely ruined. As soon as I came to that realization I was able to move on.
This one was the most difficult lesson. During this experiment I was confronted by several pieces of clothing that I purchased because they were on sale…not because they fit properly or because they flattered me or because they matched anything else in my wardrobe. I don’t recall my emotional state when I purchased them. Perhaps I was sad, or upset. For whatever reason I chose to take the easy route of instant gratification and make a mediocre purchase instead of taking the time to understand the root cause.
Fast forward and here I was having to accept the loss of sunk costs. I was also faced with the reality that I had been influenced by consumerism into spending to alleviate some deeper level of hurt that needed to be dealt with in a whole different way. It’s easy to get stuck in a guilt trip when confronted with these realities but I moved passed it by forgiving myself for those choices. I now embrace the awareness and try to make better choices.
6. 80/20 Rule
The 80/20 rule is also known as the Pareto Principle. I learned this principle from a manufacturing standpoint. Basically 80% of a company’s income comes from the sale of 20% of its products. I’ve read the 80/20 rule is also applicable to most wardrobes. Most people wear only 20% of their wardrobe while the other 80% just takes up space.
I didn’t count jewelry as part of my 33 items for this experiment. I wanted the liberty to wear whatever I wanted so I could identify my go-to pieces. The broken pieces got tossed and some of the unused pieces got donated. Some expensive unused pieces went to a storage box. I purposely did not purchase any jewelry for the duration of this experiment.
The sad truth (which I did not want to admit to myself) is that I only use about 10% of my jewelry during the colder months and about 20% during the warmer months. At this rate I never have to purchase another piece of jewelry again (unless I need to replace my go-to pieces). Honestly, I am not ready to let go of the other 80%. I am slowly processing which pieces I can let go of next. Family members gave me 2 pieces of jewelry as gifts during the year so it was only fair to let go of some of the unused pieces to make room for the new ones. I dug through the storage box that was supposed to have some of the more expensive jewelry and found some stuff that should’ve been donated. All in all I got rid of 18 more pieces…seems like a good start.
P.S. If you’re new to this blog and would like to know more about capsule wardrobes here are some additional articles I think you’ll find useful: