Why is the fashion industry so enamoured with the capsule wardrobe trend?


  • Style
  • Wednesday, 25 Mar 2020

Can you survive with your wardrobe stripped down to the bare essentials? More and more people, especially in the fashion industry, are adopting the capsule wardrobe trend.

Throw open your cupboard of clothes and accessories and take a look inside. What do you see? Probably mounds and mounds of different fashion items that you have accumulated over the years. But do you really need them?

Not exactly, according to a trend that is sweeping the industry. Dubbed the “capsule wardrobe”, it calls for people who are fashion conscious to cut back and survive only on the essentials.

As we are staying home during this movement control order it’s a good time to see what you don’t need in your wardrobe and come up with your own capsule wardrobe.Some of the methods (or rather, rules) allow for 50 different pieces, while others are more strict – limiting it to only 33.

Yes, that’s a total of 33 clothes and accessories to get you through each month, all year.

Seems easy? Bear in mind that an average person uses at least five items a day. A top and bottom, plus a pair of shoes, a bag and a jacket. That’s not considering the fact that you need to think up outfits for both work and casual outings.

Undergarments and jewellery are not counted though, which does give you a little breathing room.

The challenge is of course, pulling it off without looking like you are wearing the same clothes every day or week.

Although, there are people who just don’t limit themselves by a number. To these individuals, it is more about being mindful about how you should not be too excessive when it comes to fashion.

It also has to be said that the capsule wardrobe is not something new. It is making a comeback in view of the “green” movement. The fashion industry, after all, is deemed to have an incredibly large carbon footprint.

“We’ve all been in a situation where we look at our wardrobe crammed with hundreds of items and we think that there’s nothing to wear, when all you need is to declutter the cupboards, ” relates Sarah Saw, a fashion stylist in Malaysia.

Saw, who has 16 years of experience working with magazines such as Marie Claire, Esquire, Elle, Tatler and Prestige, says the secret is knowing how to mix and match, as well as choosing the ones that can work for different occasions.

“The easiest colour theme would be black, white, blue and beige, and with a handful of brighter colours or prints. Think about pieces you can take from work to a night out.”

Her other advice is to change up the looks by pairing it with different accessories. Adding a belt, jacket or scarf to a daytime look for example, can transform it for nighttime wear.

Saw says that a person can actually have fun by experimenting with their existing fashion pieces, while still making the cut to keep the numbers down to a bare minimum.

According to her, there are other benefits to adopting a capsule wardrobe. Saving money is one thing, but she says you will also end up discovering new joy in wearing your favourite – or not so favourite – piece of clothing.

“Getting ready will be much simpler and less stressful and you’ll eventually learn to truly understand the saying ‘you wear the clothes, don’t let the clothes wear you’, ” Saw adds.

Small size, big fashion

The question remains, is it still possible for a person to look fashionable with a capsule wardrobe? Aizat Aidid, the fashion director overseeing magazines the likes of Glam, Glam Lelaki, Cosmopolitan and Jelita, believes so.

The 33-year-old says that he recently became a follower of the trend. This is part of his resolution for the year – to live a more simple life, but not sacrificing (too much) on fashion.

“My decision to clean up my wardrobe is because I shop a lot, but did not use most of the clothes that I own. So for 2020, after reading and writing an article on fashion sustainability, I decided to build my own day-to-day ‘uniform’.”

Aizat believes that a smaller wardrobe has allowed him to make better decisions on what to wear. Getting ready in the mornings is a much simpler affair, now that he does not need to select from a giant amount of clothes.

He adds that the process of cutting back was not too difficult. He spent about half a day to edit his looks, keeping only clothing in dark shades – black or darker blue, plus some basic white tops.

Aizat says that all the excess clothing was then donated to his family’s domestic helper, who in turn, gave them to her family and friends. Some others, like the outerwear, were taken in by his mother.

“I don’t shop a lot like I used to as well. When I do, it’s so easy! I will go straight for clothes in black or other darker shades. Not only that, I will only buy clothes that is interesting with a clean design.”

Aizat thinks that fashion should be easy and practical. To him, a person should not need to dress up to announce to the world that he works in fashion. He says he is inspired by his fashion hero Grace Coddington.

A former model, Coddington is the creative director at large of American Vogue magazine. The woman is known for the creation of large, complex and dramatic photoshoots.

“She looks powerful with just a black outfit, her so called ‘uniform’. No fuss and drama like other fashion editors. That is my main goal! Creating my own clean and minimal look.”

Put some thought into it

To Melissa Tan, the fashion industry’s fast pace has made people feel fatigued. The 38-year-old model believes this has led to the current focus on embracing a capsule wardrobe.

Practicing it for years, she says that she fell into trend “accidentally”. Although, she has kept to it ever since – simply because of the logical benefits it offers, even to a person who loves fashion.

“It’s an intriguing concept in an era of ‘more, more, more’. Being able to dress better than I ever had before with a wardrobe that’s only, say 20% the size of my prior wardrobe? Sign me up!”

Tan, who represented Malaysia in Asia’s Next Top Model Cycle 3, first started with her travel wardrobe. Cutting down on the clothes and accessories packed for a trip, she then realised that she could actually survive fashion-wise with just the bare essentials.

“I lived abroad for several months each time I did a placement for modelling, and it taught me how to live with only ‘everything that’s in my suitcase’, ” she reveals, about the experience.

“At the same time, as a model going for castings and shoots, you had to look well put together. So through this unique situation, I learnt to hone in on the looks that would serve me best in the smallest number of pieces.”

Tan’s capsule wardrobe comprises versatile pieces that she can mix and match. This way, she can create different looks easily. It also includes colours that goes well with her personal style.

“It’s mostly a couple of high-waisted skirts, one pair of high-waisted jeans, a few monochromatic tops in styles that compliment me, three jackets, a pair of white sneakers, and one beige pair of sharp toed heels.”

She explains that it took her a couple of years after first knowing of the capsule wardrobe trend to really adapt to it. Her advice is to understand why you are doing it – as it makes the process a lot easier.

“Notice the patterns in the stuff you buy. Most people (including myself) are buying repeated items of the same style. Question why you buy certain items, and how many of them truly bring value to your life, ” Tan notes.

“The key thing is identifying your signature look and outfits that compliment your body and style. More often than not, those pieces would already be in your wardrobe, just hidden under mountains of ‘stuff’.”

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