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Capsule Wandrobes

by Haley Fritz

Photography by Ellen Clouse

Fashion icons used to be the ones who saw the latest designer collections and immediately filled their closets with their favorite trends. Now, fashion bloggers like Caroline Rector of Unfancy are changing the definition of style by paring down their wardrobes to just 20 or 30 pieces a season––liberating the “everywoman” from the idea that she must shell out thousands of dollars to achieve fashion stardom.

By its very definition, the capsule wardrobe––a minimalist approach to fashion comprised of a fixed number of shoes, bottoms, tops, dresses and outerwear for every season––is the opposite of high fashion. While designer trends expire every season, capsule wardrobes are built around the assumption that some pieces never go out of style.

However, the capsule wardrobe trend has exploded among the online fashion community. On social media sites like Pinterest, detailed infographics outlining the perfect components of a successful capsule wardrobe have been shared upwards of 50,000 times. Even fashion blogs like The Everygirl and Who What Wear published articles on the trend, ironically juxtaposing their usual messages of “buy more clothes” with headlines screaming that our wardrobes should be limited to just a few select essentials.

The fervor of the average fashion enthusiast comes as little surprise, considering that most fashion trends are significantly more expensive and unattainable than the capsule wardrobe. The capsule wardrobe may be more economical for the average person, as it promotes re-wearing the clothes you already have over shopping for new ones.

In this sense, the capsule wardrobe trend differs starkly from those of the past. Instead of requiring us to revamp our wardrobes with the latest designs, it suggests that we already have everything we need to dress fabulously.

The capsule wardrobe is the exact antithesis of high fashion because it discourages the style-conscious from following the whims of seasonal trends. Those who envied, but couldn’t afford high fashion in the past––such as college students and working millennials––can now feel on-trend by embracing what already hangs in their closets.

Capsule wardrobes may also appeal to these often-busy demographics because they take the guesswork out of getting dressed each morning.

“I think having a set number of pieces that work together is less stressful and more affordable,” said Anna Krzywiec (CAS ’18).

However, a burning question remains for many observers of the fashion industry—why fashion bloggers are sharing this trend with their readers in the first place.

Many bloggers make substantial money off the assumption that their readers will re-visit their sites for the latest style news. For them, more page views translate into more ad revenue. Yet, if they subscribe to the minimalist ideology of the capsule wardrobe, their audience should need no reason to read their blog for the latest trends in the first place.

The answer can be found in shares, likes, tweets and status updates. In today’s internet-driven society, nothing is more precious than popularity––and as the capsule wardrobe has gained traction on social media, many bloggers have become eager to weigh in on the trend in a ploy to attract new readers.

Not all fashion enthusiasts are taking the clickbait, though. Sonali Paul (Questrom ’19) enjoys shopping and tries to keep up with the latest trends. However, she said she was not interested in starting a capsule wardrobe because she needs a greater variety of clothing.

“I like to keep my wardrobe fresh,” said Paul. “I wear what I feel comfortable in each day, and that varies day by day.”

Alternatively, some may find it difficult to let go of sentimental pieces, said Hana Skwish (SAR ’19).

“It sounds like a nice idea, but I know my problem is getting rid of clothes, so it might not be super successful for [some] people,” Skwish pointed out.

In the end, the capsule wardrobe may be no more permanent than the latest trends showcased at Fashion Week. Once a newer, shinier Internet trend supplants the capsule wardrobe, our original 37 pieces may wind up buried behind troves of this season’s latest in leather, velvet and lace. But in the meantime, for those of us who can’t afford to shop until we drop, at least the capsule wardrobe offers an economical, sustainable alternative to runway fashion.

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