The capsule wardrobe movement continues to gain momentum.
Fast fashion deserves criticism. And our culture’s obsession with ever-changing fashion trends is an artificial pursuit manufactured by those who benefit from it.
The capsule wardrobe movement is far from mainstream. But, elevated in the social consciousness by some high-profile personalities, more and more people are applying minimalist principles to their fashion.
Many people outside the movement remain skeptical. They wonder why anybody would intentionally choose to wear the same outfit every day—especially when financial resources are not in question.
Evaluating my personal experience with a minimal wardrobe and studying recent profiles in various publications, I have created this list of reasons.
If you have ever wondered why some successful people choose to wear the same outfit everyday, or better yet, if you are considering adopting a more streamlined wardrobe yourself, here are 8 convincing reasons:
1. Fewer decisions. Decision fatigue refers to the deteriorating quality of decisions made by an individual after a long session of decision making. For people who make significant decisions every day, the removal of even one—choosing clothes in the morning—leaves them with more mental space and better productivity throughout the day.
This forms the basis for President Barack Obama’s limited fashion options, “You’ll see I wear only gray or blue suits. I’m trying to pare down decisions. I don’t want to make decisions about what I’m eating or wearing. Because I have too many other decisions to make.” Mark Zuckerberg cites similar rationale. One less frivolous decision in the morning leads to better decisions on things that really matter.
2. Less time wasted. We have no idea how much of a burden our possessions have become until we begin to remove them. But when we do, we immediately discover a new life of freedom and opportunity. It was almost five years ago that I first experimented with Project 333—a personal challenge of wearing only 33 articles of clothing for a period of 3 months. The project is simple, life-changing, and wildly beneficial. I quickly discovered one of the greatest benefits of limiting my wardrobe: the gift of time. Getting ready in the morning became easier, quicker, and more efficient.
3. Less stress. Matilda Kahl, an art director in New York cites both decision fatigue and less time getting ready as her reason for wearing the same outfit everyday. But she adds another: less stress—specifically, less stress during the day over the decision she originally made in the morning. “Is this too formal? Is that too out there? Is this dress too short? Almost always, I’d choose something to wear I regretted as soon as I hit the subway platform.” But now, in her trademark silk white shirt and black trousers, she has one less source of anxiety during the day.
4. Less wasted energy. Christopher Nolan has created several of the most critically and commercially successful films of the early 21st century. But, according to New York Times Magazine, he decided long ago it was “a waste of energy to choose anew what to wear each day.” Now, he settles instead for a dark, narrow-lapeled jacket over a blue dress shirt with black trousers over sensible shoes to wear each day.
Christopher offers an important distinction when he refers to “wasted energy.” Not only do large wardrobes require more decision-making, they also require more maintenance, more organization, and more shuffling around. Additionally, while a capsule wardrobe may not result in less laundry, it does result in both easier laundry and storage.
5. Feeling put together. Denaye Barahona is a young mother in Dallas, TX. This spring, she exchanged her full, disorganized closet for a minimal wardrobe of versatile pieces she loves to wear. She summarizes the difference like this, “Pre-capsule, my wardrobe was like the Cheesecake Factory menu. It went on for days and was overwhelming. Most of my options didn’t fit right, didn’t look right, or I just plain didn’t like. On the other hand, my capsule wardrobe is like a fine-dining restaurant. I have fewer choices but I can be sure all of the choices will be amazing. Not only do I look better, I feel better.”
Easy, versatile, and always put together. This is the promise and opportunity of a capsule wardrobe—and just one more reason the movement continues to grow.
6. Iconic. Alice Gregory is a writer living in New York City. Last year, her piece for J. Crew magazine brought a new word into my reasoning for wearing a uniform. She called it “Iconic. A cheap and easy way to feel famous.” She continues, “A uniform can be a way of performing maturity or, less charitably, impersonating it. A uniform insinuates the sort of sober priorities that ossify with age, as well as a deliberate past of editing and improving.”
Alice points out that wearing the same outfit everyday is a way of asserting your status as a protagonist. “This is the reason why characters in picture books never change their clothes: Children—like adults, if they’d only admit it—crave continuity. Adopting the habit of wearing a uniform is not unstylish—this is a classification that no longer applies.”
7. Less expense. Our closets are full of clothes and shoes purchased, but rarely worn. The average American family spends $1,700 on clothes annually. Which may not seem like a lot—until you consider that most clothing purchases are not based on need at all. In 1930, the average American woman owned nine outfits. Today, that figure is 30—one for every day of the month.
Living with a capsule wardrobe or adopting an iconic uniform removes most of the waste and expense from trial-and-error clothing purchases—not to mention all the time wasted shopping for items only to return later.
8. More peace. Last month, Drew Barrymore wrote an article for Refinery 29 highlighting her new stage of life and relationship with clothes. “For starters, I’m almost 40, and the 20s clothes don’t make sense anymore. And, after two babies, the 30s clothes don’t fit anymore. I am at a clothing crossroads, and it’s a painful one at times.” To counter these feelings, Drew put herself on a closet diet limiting her wardrobe and only buying items thoughtfully. Months later, her closet is “sane and happy.” Getting dressed is no longer a battle. And her fashion sense is “now calmer and more peaceful.”
We are a society drowning in our possessions. People are looking for freedom and rescue. They are searching for new solutions. No wonder the capsule wardrobe movement continues to grow.
Those who adopt minimalist principles in their wardrobe choices are discovering more productivity, less stress, less distraction, less expense, and more peace.
Why Zuck and other successful men wear the same thing every day
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg took a bit of gentle ribbing during a Q&A session.
One person asked a question that evidently has been on the minds of quite a few people: Why does he seem to wear the same gray T-shirt every day?
Zuckerberg took the question in stride, even tossing the attention to COO Sheryl Sandberg, who acknowledged that her boss does indeed have more than one of his signature shirts. But deciding on clothing every day, Zuckerberg said, is just not something he wants to waste energy on.
“I really want to clear my life to make it so that I have to make as few decisions as possible about anything except how to best serve this community,” he said.
Zuckerberg is not alone in this idea. Some of the most successful people, past and present, have viewed fashion as a frivolity. Others, like Australian TV host Karl Stefanovic, have used it to make a point about men facing less judgment about their wardrobe choices. Here’s a few of the most famous examples.
Signature outfit: black mock turtleneck, blue jeans, New Balance sneakers
The signature look of the tech pioneer almost extended to Apple’s staff. Jobs said he once attempted to design something of a uniform for employees, but it was roundly rejected.
Signature outfit: blue or grey suit
The president made waves earlier this year when he hosted a press conference while wearing a tan suit. Obama is almost always seen in grey or blue suits, something he says helps pare down decisions. “I don’t want to make decisions about what I’m eating or wearing. Because I have too many other decisions to make.”
Signature outfit: copies of the same suit
OK, so scholars who studied Einstein say this is mostly false. His second wife, Elsa, reportedly kept the genius in sharp suits. However, as he aged, he did show a predilection toward cotton sweatshirts and sandals.
Signature outfit: denim shirts, denim jeans, work boots
The inventor of the Segway is known to be a bit eccentric. Kamen is still working on futuristic projects, most notably trying to perfect the Stirling engine.
Signature outfit: black suit, white shirt, sunglasses, gloves
Just because you’re the creative director of Chanel, doesn’t mean you have to keep up with the latest fashions. Lagerfeld might change it up a bit more than the other on this list, but his basics always seem to be in place.
Signature outfit: “a dark, narrow-lapeled jacket over a blue dress shirt with a lightly fraying collar, plus durable black trousers over scuffed, sensible shoes”
That’s how the New York Times Magazine described Nolan’s typical attire. Nolan “long ago decided it was a waste of energy to choose anew what to wear each day,” according to the recent profile of the Interstellar director.