Challenging Myself to Minimalism: 3 Month Capsule Wardrobe

The concept of capsule wardrobe is not new to me, for I have heard and read and watched videos about it since I was in high school. It has been in my mind for a while to try to implement it, and on my semester abroad in France I *kind of* have tried to implement it, but it was only now when I move, that I was trying to really implement and document this challenge and really hold myself to NOT buy any new clothes for work for 3 months!

This is also aligned with my goal to strive toward minimalism this year – not in a sense that I am going to live with as less personal possession as possible, because that was not my goal here, but more in a sense of applying the philosophy of minimalist living, which is to reduce unneeded items in everyday life and to focus more on what matters. By doing a capsule wardrobe challenge, I had two objectives:

  1. To prove to myself that what I have is enough and I don’t ~need~ new things, which for me is a part of the minimalism philosophy, and
  2. To challenge my creativity in creating as many outfit combination as possible with the clothing items I bring on my move

From early July until the end of September, with several days that I did not document because it was a holiday/other work event day where I was not at the office, I have succeeded in creating 50 outfit combination (no repetition!) with only the amount of clothes that I bring to Philippines! It was an enjoyable 3 month, which really challenges my creativity and open my eyes to possibilities and realization that what I have is enough.

So, how did I do it exactly, and what is my takeout from challenging myself in this mini project?

 

Guideline & Disclaimer Note & Exception

As I started doing the challenge, there are several guidelines that I apply to myself and  things to note, which are:

  1. I will only use what I brought from Indonesia and restrict myself to that choice of clothing items
  2. This is only applicable to my working outfits – hence, for my weekend, workout, and loungewear, I have other clothes as well. I can use my working outfit items with them outside of work, but I can’t use my weekend, workout, and loungewear clothing article to work
  3. Basic necessities – underwear and socks – are not counted as part of the capsule wardrobe
  4. This challenge does not include accessories – I have several scarfs, earrings, and necklaces that I can use with the outfit, but they are not counted in the challenge.
  5. I can buy clothing article if I really need them for some kind of requirement. For example, for my company event there’s a dress code of using an orange t-shirt, which I did not bring/have. However, since I needed it I am allowed to buy it.
  6. My office’s dress code is smart-casual, so I can use jeans and more relaxed blouses/shirts to work. So, the type of attire I use may not be applicable to someone who works in an office/company with stricter dress code.
  7. There are more than 50 pictures of outfit combination in this post – simply because I didn’t realize I’ve edited all of them and then I can’t tell which one I’ve edited together or not lol sorry but I promise it’s not more than 50 in actual!

 

How did it start?

Firstly, I must admit that before I decided to do this challenge, I was not even thinking about it when I was packing my clothes for my move. I only chose several clothing items that I usually use, pack it all up in my suitcase in one night (with the help of my friends – I know I will have to sleep super late if I didn’t get their help to pack that night lol), and brought it all to Manila. However, when I arrived, I realized that I can actually try implementing the challenge to myself with what I bring. So, there I was on my 2nd day at the new office, starting my capsule wardrobe challenge!

 

 And how does the challenge works?

Basically, after I decided on the clothing items I’m including to the challenge, I just use them interchangeably for 3 months without adding new things. Every day, I took a quick picture of my outfit for the day as a documentation and to make sure that at least for the 3 month challenge I won’t repeat any combination – to keep challenging myself to become creative in creating outfit mixes!

However, in the middle of the 3 month I encountered several issues as well. First of all, in the first month I started living here, I actually lost a bit of weight, which resulted in some of my pants to not fit me correctly anymore. It kinds of make the outfit for the day a bit uncomfortable sometimes, however I can still live with it. Another thing, which is worse, is that my white blouse and white pants were washed with other clothing items and got colorfast (cue horror music here)! Hence, I was not able to use and mix and match them again for the rest of the challenge (well, I have to throw them out too because the damage was pretty bad, I cannot use them anymore). I also realized a bit late that my basic white and light grey shirt looks really similar in pictures, so it may look like I’m using the same shirt over and over even though in reality they actually have different colors! Thankfully, despite the similar color and the tragic ending of my white blouse and pants, I can still manage with what I have left. I listed all of them below…

 

List of Clothing Article

  • 2 Plain-Colored Tops (One light pink/nude, one white)
  • 4 Patterned Shirt (Black-yellow-blue stripe, white-blue-red stripe, pink-white stripe, blue-white stripe)
  • 4 Plain Shirt (White, Gray, Maroon short-sleeved shirt, Black short-sleeved shirt)
  • 7 Trousers (colorful stripe, black-and-white stripe, pink, gray, black, white, black culotte)
  • 1 Jeans (skinny mid-rise Levi’s)
  • 2 Dress
  • 1 Black Bomber Jacket
  • Shoes: 1 pair of white sneaker, 1 nude-colored slip-on, 1 dark blue-black oxfords
  • Bags: 1 black shoulder bag, 1 maroon-colored Kanken backpack

P.S. Yes, my patterned tops and pants are all in stripes LOL

Note: This list still has the white blouse and pants, because I did use them several times before it got colorfast

 

End of Challenge Reflection (What I learned)

I managed to do this challenge with 21 clothing articles, 3 shoes, and 2 bags (not counting around 4-5 pairs of earrings, 2 necklaces, 2 scarves) for +/-3 months and it was a pleasant surprise to find out that at the end of the challenge, I actually still have several combination that I can use out of these items! However, it is not always that smooth as sometimes there are several days where I did not feel like using a new combination and want to revert to an old combination instead – which is actually doable, but defeats the purpose of trying to find new combination from my wardrobe. What I also found out, is that I actually already have a combination of signature styles which is applicable to the items that I have! Here are several key takeaways I got from doing this challenge, and also my Pro Tip for anyone who wants to try to challenge themselves:

  • Prepare the outfit I want to wear from the day before, taking out the decision making that I will have to do in the morning
  • Make sure that the outfit fits my body nicely – as in the measurement and sizes are comfortable for me. That way, I can use them for longer period of time. That is why also, in the minimalist lifestyle it is better to invest in good quality timeless items that I know I am comfortable in and can be used for years.
  • Have some sort of color palette so my clothes can be mixed and matched in a lot of combination! For this challenge, I have two color palette, which are monochromes and nudes. It is mainly filled with black, white, and gray, but also speckled with some bold colors from 2/3 clothing article to keep things fun
  • Stick to a ‘uniform’ – basically a foolproof clothing combination that is applicable to what I have and looks good on my body. Mine may not be as extreme as Steve Job’s black turtleneck-jeans combination, but I know I can always use a combination of any shirt with jeans or black pants when I feel lost on what to wear for the day
  • Keep the pictures neatly in one album in my phone so you can use it to find inspiration for my outfit planning.

 

What I also like the most after I did this challenge, is that I can actually look back to my pictures and use an already existing combination to work after the challenge period ends. So far, aside from replacing my colorfast-blouse and pants, I only bought one new shirt and one new pants for work, and I still use the same old combinations from the last 3 months.

This challenge also really helps me realize that I do not need that many clothes – it is something that I already know in principle, but after I deliberately practiced it in this challenge I do feel like I am more mindful when picking new items. Yes, after challenging myself I actually bought some new items – but I thought about how I can mix and match them with my already existing wardrobe so I can get more use out of it and to avoid myself buying a ‘one-time-only’ outfit. I am now only buying new clothing items that I know I need, and I can use multiple times in many combination and even different occasion if possible!

 

This challenge has certainly fulfilled its objectives for me, and I will definitely remember it every time my consumptive tendencies took over my mind. I can now confidently say that I am getting better incorporating the minimalistic lifestyle to myself and have developed a better sense of my personal style! It has certainly improved my lifestyle – in terms of the time spent getting ready in the morning, in managing my spending (because I don’t buy as many clothes in regular anymore), and in feeling enough with what I already have. Moreover, I feel like I am also contributing my part in practicing sustainable fashion, as fashion industry, not to mention fast fashion, is actually one of the highest waste contributor in the world.

 

Will I do it again?

Yes! I will probably do this challenge again next year, but I know that even then when I redo the challenge, there would still be several clothing items that I use from this challenge getting used in the new one. These items have actually become a classic, foolproof combination in my wardrobe that I can use over and over.

Hope this post inspires you to try capsule wardrobe for yourself! You don’t even have to restrict yourself to only 26 items like I (accidentally) did to myself. Do it with 30-40 clothing articles if you think it is more doable for you. There is certainly something  positive to be gained in it – whether it is to be more mindful on clothing spending, or even to find out more about your personal ‘uniform’ and feel better in your own style!

 

à bientôt,

Sarah

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