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I am a mother, a new grandmother, and a teacher. But whatever happens in my life, I keep sewing. I have worked as a political communicator and now as a teacher in my formal life. I have also written extensively on sewing. I have been a frequent contributor and contributing editor of Threads magazine and the Australian magazine Dressmaking with Stitches. My first book Sew.. the garment-making book of knowledge will be published in May 2018 and is available for pre-order from Amazon


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Tuesday, October 25, 2016

What do you think of the minimalist/capsule wardrobe?

On my way out the door and so am going to be thinking about this but would love to hear your thoughts on this approach, seems to be a movement these days.

More from me later of course.


sewingkm said...

A minimalist wardrobe is not for me. I love clothes, fashion and variety. Thank goodness I sew and can make as many clothes as I desire. Karen

KS_Sews said...

I call it "minimalism is next to Godliness" and it drives me insane.

This idea that there is a magic number of garments one should own is a little eyeroll inducing. Some people in general like less stuff and some like more. Some of us live in the Midwest and have huge closets and basements and a general obsession with storage (hahaha) so space isn't an issue.

I wish people would stop equating minimalism with "better" or that having more things automatically means you're caving to fast fashion.

Clio said...

Having worn a school uniform for 12 of my formative years, I have no wish to go back to wearing the same thing every day. However, when I was pregnant, I sewed almost all of my maternity wardrobe. I think I chose pretty wisely with what I sewed, and I felt really chic every day wearing only things I loved. So, there is something to be said for a small, hard working wardrobe, if that is what you like.

theresa said...

Kinda agree with KS but for me there is a limit of how many is too much. Stuffed closets and clutter affect me but having clothes that fit every requirement, even if they are not worn often, makes me happy. For me, you need enough, but not too much. And too much varies with each individual and circumstance.
Theresa in Tucson

bbarna said...

I have been living this way for years. It is much less stressful, and I always have something to wear. Yes, I love sewing, but I do more for others now. In my 40's I had a closet stuffed to the brim, at least 3 size ranges, just in case. I had an "ah ha" moment and got rid of everything that didn't fit and that I didn't love. Almost twenty years later, I still operate on that principle.
When I was working in finance, I had 5 pairs of dress pants, 5 knit tops and 3 blazers that I wore every week. Now that I am retired, I cleaned out most of those items and live in casual pants and t shirts. I am still working on this wardrobe. Jalie patterns are my favorite. Maybe it isn't for everyone, but I love it.

Ana Marçal said...

First - I've listened to your previous podcast and this can also be sort of a comment on your thoughts on that topic!
Second - it's a long comment :p
Capsule wardrobe is not the same as minimalist wardrobe or lifestyle.
Thw capsule wardrobe, like all methodologies, have some advantages and some limitations.
I agree with some points mentioned in the article, namely: easier to get dressed in the morning and feeling more put together (because that should be one of your selection criteria in the first place). Without conscience, my husband practices this capsule method for work and praises the advantages of "uniform outfit"- he feels suitable dressed and doesn't worry about that in the morning.
Other advantage is the opportunity to create a thoughtful and small (and cheap if you can source the pieces with time) wardrobe for a very specific period of time or lifestyle - in my case, pregnancy's 3rd trimester.
This however does not mean less time or less clothing. Time spent on laundry is the same because it depends on how many times your wear something and not on how many pieces you have (and the capacity of you washing machine).
The main disadvantage of the capsule method I see, is the need to have a sense of personal style very defined. It works more easily for style defined work environments, seasons special clothing, etc, but nevertheless it only works if you can look at an item of clothing and access the shape/color/fabric/style through the eyes of your inner taste and lifestyle suitably rather than the public sense of fashion. How many people can do that?
It's not about having less because it really depends on the way you perceive your needs. for example, in reality I only need 2 panties - the ones I'm wearing and another clean pair for tomorrow. but I have 20. Some people might say "why have 20 similar panties? That's not minimalist". Of course it's not. And it's not supposed to be. Unless I want to hand wash my panties every day. There's the difference - what you need in the most basic level and what you think you need.
The capsule wardrobe method may lead you to assess your needs in a more realistic way, which will lead to less consumption and more conscious lifestyle. But I think it is easier to start living with less in areas that do not require a deep knowledge of your personal style (like bathroom organization and hygiene routines, there's plenty o space for optimization and time savings there!)

Deborah Glosek said...

I don't really subscribe to the trendy minimalist approach when it comes to my wardrobe. Variety is the spice of life they say, but within that mindset I'm trying to create a wardrobe that's a little more cohesive. I'm thinking maybe several capsules within my wardrobe with a few outliers thrown in for extra spice.

Marie-Noëlle Lafosse said...

It is definitely not for me. I love colors, prints, plaids, stripes, flowers, sometimes altogether. I am not a minimalist and will never be.

paloverdeblooms said...

Hate, hate, hate the idea of minimalism. It's the fastest ticket to utter boredom. I have over 100 skirts in my closet and it's so much fun picking out a different one to wear every day.

VeraS said...

I think it's something to consider. The pendulum, IMHO, has swung to one side where now clothing is disposable (almost), it's going to landfills so quickly without thought about how clothing is made, where it originates and who's affected by this mindset to wear something new every week. I think it's more about being conscious about how much we're consuming instead of acquiring more and more. It's going back to the aesthetic that existed years ago where one would own a few, high-quality pieces that would last years rather than weeks and wearing them out with pride (in both senses of the word).

As a sewist I'm definitely more aware of the items I'm creating and ensuring they give me lots of pleasure and use. I'm more *deliberate* about them. I think it goes hand-in-hand with the popularity and longevity of the book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: the idea that having less is more liberating, freeing. I don't think it's about owning a certain number of things or only have X-number of items, it's being deliberate and joyful about the things we do own.

Judith Newman said...

I kind of wear a "minimalist" wardrobe - I have a stack of Woolovers crewneck cashmere/merino sweaters in a wide range of colours (a drawer full of hand knit socks that match), a drawer full of white cotton LL Bean pima turtlenecks, and many pairs of remade to fit me jeans (@ $5) from Frenchie's (a string of local used clothing outlets). I wear them all in rotation (I really don't have to think much about what I'm putting on - choose a pair of hand knit socks, pick a matching sweater add the jeans and I'm set to go. It may look like I'm changing outfits but it's the same outfit - just different colours. I might add one of my designer jackets (like my Koos van den Akker knockoff which I made from red raw silk ( or one of the textile art shirts. So while my closet is full - it's really minimalist!

Robyn Jorde said...

I have to speak up because It looks like I'm in the minority here. About a year ago I ended up with a relatively small wardrobe because of a change in weight. It turned out that it worked really well for me, and I enjoy having one less decision to make in the morning. I would like to have a few more things than I currently have so that I can go longer without needing to do laundry, but they all must work with the existing pieces.

Karen said...

I am in the semi-minimalist camp. Yeah, I know that sounds like I'm cheating. I have one closet for clothes and I like having a limit. When my closet starts to get stuffed, I lose my sewjo. I trade out my winter boxes for summer (and vice versa) and that's when I do a major purge. It feels sooooo good to see a closet with breathing room which spurs my sewjo. There's no "capsule" about it since the pieces are random and even outfit orphans but in the Kon Mari spirit, I can now touch every piece and feel the joy being sparked.

Sox said...

I would need four minimalist wardrobes to cover the four (tho' sometimes I think it's more like six) seasons we have here. That is far too much trouble. I prefer my 'warm weather' and 'cold weather' clothes. Far less rotating/shuffling.

Anonymous said...

I can relate to Drew Barrymore's clothing crossroad but at 70 rather than 40. My life style has changed dramatically and so has the body. In many ways life has become much simpler and also more complex. If that makes any sense.

My closet ifs full of things that I no longer need. I need/want comfortable easy clothes for gardening, casual easy clothes for running errands, comfortable pretty outfits for special occasions. Not too many of each.

Looking my best still matters. It makes me feel good, even when I'm grubbing in the garden. Except for the coveralls I want all/ most of the clothes in my closet to be interchangeable. I want 'what to wear' to be easy'. Fewer clothes, fewer choices. More time and energy for what matters this point in my life. For me less is more.

Thanks for this post Barbara.
Donna E in Halifax

Anonymous said...

I can relate to Drew Barrymore's clothing crossroad but at 70 rather than 40. My life style has changed dramatically and so has the body. In many ways life has become much simpler and also more complex. If that makes any sense.

My closet ifs full of things that I no longer need. I need/want comfortable easy clothes for gardening, casual easy clothes for running errands, comfortable pretty outfits for special occasions. Not too many of each.

Looking my best still matters. It makes me feel good, even when I'm grubbing in the garden. Except for the coveralls I want all/ most of the clothes in my closet to be interchangeable. I want 'what to wear' to be easy'. Fewer clothes, fewer choices. More time and energy for what matters this point in my life. For me less is more.

Thanks for this post Barbara.
Donna E in Halifax

Anonymous said...

How can one have a minimalist wardrobe and also have fun sewing, unless you're a quilter, or sew for others, or unless you get rid of things awfully quickly? Seems like taking something fun and creative and making it all grim and serious......? Plus what about changing seasons? Here its steamy humidity all summer and really cold for several months in the winter. Even with layering and so on I don't think it would be possible to be comfortable with a truly minimal wardrobe in a place with contrasting seasons.


Monica said...

The way I interpret it (blathering of course):
- there is capsule (number of outfits that work together and stashing of the surplus and changing your capsule every season),
- the work uniform (same thing to work),
- slow fashion (buy better buy less and stop over-shopping for throwaway fashion),
- minimalist living - live with nicely edited things that are of better quality and not having a house or closet resembling a stuffed sausage.
- minimalist fashion style(fashion with clean lines sans adornment).
the capsule wardrobe movement is a number of years old. When I read up on it, it was largely people with expansive wardrobes that resulted in difficulties with assembling outfits on a daily basis & tons of stuff.
It was supplemented by the women who wrote an article about buying multiples of the same shirt (silk) & pants and wearing the same thing each day - uniform - because she felt it was distracting and something her male co-workers didn't worry about at all: this is true. The mayor of vancouver wore the same suit everyday for 3 months without a notice and this women with identical work (but varied social outfits) outfits was asked a lot of questions.
Capsule kind of takes all the advice from stylists about buying things that go together and that fit and that are flattering & chucking the rest. That is good advice and reducing shopping for the sake of shopping is also good advice. But I have so few outfits (buy experiences not things) that I didn't need to do capsule, but I do live by: if it is too tight, too big, unflattering - let it go!
Sewing I do for a hobby and for fit and for learning -- not to assemble a ton of clothes (sewing for daughters does take away from sewing for me) but it still has a hoarding component. I also sew for environmental reasons. I read an article on the environmental and human tragedy of the high demand for leather due to our "buy a purse & leather jacket a week" lifestyle - compared to a previous time period where you bought one purse and you had it forever and it defined you.

Catherine Daze said...

My feeling is that this doesn't work if you live in a country with varied weather, or your life doesn't follow a routine: I need different clothes for days when I cycle than for days when I get the bus. And pregnancy followed by breastfeeding has turned my wardrobe upside down. So great if you can make it work but maybe not for everyone :-)

What cured me of having problems deciding what to wear was sewing my own clothes. I find when I have put lots of time and thought into an item rather than just picking it up in a shop I am likely to wear it more. Doesn't always work but it definitely helps.

Bunny said...

This so conflicts with every creative and sewing nerve in my body. Fashion can be fun or it can be boring and repetitive. When I go to work in the morning in something from the back of the closet that now seems fresh and new because I haven't worn it in a while, well, that puts a little spring in my step and a bit of confidence in my pocket.

I do agree that this goes along with Kondo-izing. I Kondo'd my closet and it DID NOT work for me. After six months I threw that concept out of the window and went back to the methodology that makes me feel good when I open those closet doors.

I sort of admire those minimalist fashionistas for their environmental consciousness and neatnik tendencies but for me that lifestyle is abhorrent. I enjoy, yes, enjoy making a statement with my prints, tailored details, varied styles and looks. No one will take that away. Items I'm tired of get donated and I know from my friends at the thrift that they go right out the door.

I have seen some who definitely need to chuck the fifty logo tee shirts hiding in the drawers, the opposite of minimalism. I feel I have found a happy medium in the middle that allows for my creative expression, promotes a non boring fashion look, and works for me. To each his own.

LinB said...

Has worked well for monks, nuns, priests of many religions, for centuries.

For myself, I can see the benefits and yet I continue to delight in constant change. The world is too full of a number of things for me to limit myself in something as relatively unimportant as how I choose to cover my body -- as long as spending time and money making/buying clothing does not stop me from taking care of my familial and social responsibilities. That is, I cannot justify to myself buying clothing that uses the money I have promised to donate to charity. Nor would I have spent money on patterns and fabrics that I should have spent on food for my child.

Brenda said...

I think the minimalist idea is an interesting and realistic way to start a new wardrobe or build a transitional wardrobe. On the Vivienne Files, Janice uses a version of the capsule wardrobe to build from scratch, and I can see so many instances when this would be useful. However, it also looks limiting in many ways. So, I'm a hybrid girl. I need a core of garments that could be considered a capsule, but then I add whatever I want. I don't like a bulging closet, and I don't like clothes that don't integrate into the rest. Additionally, I don't like uni-purpose clothes, though I'm sure some people need those.

Marianne said...

Well, I'm always a bit irritated by articles that end with a self-righteous directive: "Maybe it's time you gave it a try" because really, I have spent most of my six decades on this earth trying to live as thoughtfully as possible and I really don't need to be told what to do....

Irritation aside, I do see value in thinking about the role of "stuff" in our lives. For me, a minimalist wardrobe comes naturally because I don't care about clothes or fashion. (I know, but I sew other stuff.). On the other hand, I would not purge my fabric stash just for the sake of minimalizing....I love fabrics of different colours and textures and the more the merrier.

So yes, it is good to think about what kinds of stuff enrich our lives and what becomes a burden and a distraction. The answer to this will vary with the person. As always, to each her own! Let's celebrate our differences instead of prescribing one correct way to live.

Elizabeth K said...

If someone wants a capsule wardrobe, it has to fit their climate and lifestyle and preferences, as so many have pointed out. It could mean having one capsule per season, several capsules per season, or one capsule for all seasons. If there is one capsule for all seasons, it can have a small number of types of individual items, but multiples of each, as others have mentioned. Having multiples of the same item, or having more capsules, is going to extend time between washing and is also going to seemingly extend the life of the clothes, because they are not worn as often.
I like my wardrobe to be somewhat limited in colors and numbers of items, cohesive and able to be mixed and matched. I'm more comfortable in different cuts/styles depending on how I'm feeling, so one "uniform" is not enough for me.

a little sewing said...

I just love reading all the comments :)
Most of us know our own minds and know what we want! I love that.
For me, all of this is centered on what is in my fabric closet. My stash coordinates now, so much better than before. It has take lots of trial and error to learn how to shop mindfully. When I look on those shelves I see the gorgeous deep & rich colors I love, as well as a fair amount of black and white pieces. That's my color palette.
My pet peeve is sewing orphans. I used to to do that all the time, but now I don't even start something unless I know what it will be worn with.
So, the end result then lives in my clothes closet. (And yes I have long marveled at the small closets of earlier generations when I lived in older houses - it says something, doesn't it?, that my current home was built in 2013 and I've got so many and such large closets)
My clothes closet keeps getting better and better as I evolve. I think my wardrobe is pretty much a capsule wardrobe. I strive for everything to work together so that I can get dressed easily in separates. I have tried to love dresses, but ... eh, I always go back to separates, so I guess I love them better.
Also, LOVE the podcast for you - you are such a natural for that format.

SewRuthie said...

I enjoy clothes, both sewing and wearing them. I like colour and print. I have spent a long time trying to work out what suits my body best, changed jobs, moved, had my weight go up and down. So the wardrobe gradually morphs and get refreshed in parts. I probably do have a bit much, and I do regularly clear things out. I donate to a local charity shop in a not well off area, who resell the items to people on low incomes and use the proceeds to run various things supporting local kids. DBF and I have our own places, and I manage to fill the two wardrobes at my place on my own. Plus an out of season rail in the loft, and a to be sorted out rail in the study.
PS love the blog very much. Ruthie

Candis said...

Over the last several years I have been working on my own closet and have come up with a compromise between minimalist and creative cloths/dressing that I am thoroughly enjoying. I went to see a professional image consultant and had her create a color palette based on my personal coloring. For my personality it has been a life changer! In the past, I would be paralyzed trying to make clothing decisions because I didn't want to waste money on things I wouldn't actually wear. My closet was full of mismatched items and dressing each day was a chore. I always felt like I didn't "have anything to wear". Choosing to work from a color palette is restrictive and sometimes I am frustrated I can't find the fabric I want in a color that matches. But the benefits outweigh the frustration for me. Two years later my closet is very cohesive. I can always find something to wear and I feel great wearing it. It frees me up to make more expensive purchases because I know I will wear it. And I still get to have fun with color, prints, plaids etc. And if I am dying to make something pink (a color not in my palette) I make something for one of my granddaughters. As far as a uniform goes, I think that many of us wear one even if we are not aware of it. In the season of life I am in right now my uniform tends to be t-shirt, skirt, leggings, flats and a cardigan. mixed and matched in a myriad of ways. Great discussion! I have loved following it!

Anonymous said...

"Finding the quality people takes more work."

" In the meantime I think I will go with living brightly."

Thank you!!! Loved this post.

Margaret Delong said...

Love the comments! I may have posted this awhile ago- I was part of the Fort McMurray evacuation earlier this year, which meant for a month just living with a suitcase of clothes, and a few pieces of clothing bought to fill the wardrobe holes (like only packing one pair of underwear... what were we thinking?)
When everyone came home again, it wasn't long before everyone i know who didn't lose their homes cut their wardrobes down by at least 30%, because we all found having less clothes to be less stressful!