6.03.2015

ON CAPSULES, UNIFORMS, AND THE 20%


THIS ONE IS A CLUNKER

So, I am the type of girl who likes to think about clothes. I like to notice what others are wearing when I'm out and about, I like to pay attention to what is trendy and what is out. I like to research; I like to compare different items within the same trend bubble and decide which I think is best, like, sneakers--do we prefer Adidas? or Puma? Or mom jeans--American Apparel? 501s? Madewell's Summer Jean? I like to look up prices and compare fabric composition. I probably have four online shopping carts going on at all times and I tinker around with them, taking things out, putting things in, trying things on, sending things back. I love thinking about what our clothing choices say about who we are, I love the personal expression of it all, and I'm fascinated by the anthropological, societal aspect of it. You know, the act of grouping one's self with others via clothing choice. Self-identification. Mostly I just really love thinking way too hard about stuff that isn't all that important. It's fun, what can I say.  

I think I can blame this on my mom--when I was a kid we used to buy two brands of the same thing at once, like, peanut butter: Jiff or Skippy? And then hold very scientific taste tests at the kitchen counter to determine which was best. I don't think I can say this strongly enough: that there is a really good time.

I don't know if this makes me shallow (um, shallow could be my middle name), but if I'm out and about and wearing something that doesn't feel like "me," it somehow manages to distract me all day long. So I've always been really into this idea of identifying who "me" is . . . in clothing form. At first this consisted of finding the things that felt like me, and then buying them. Aaaand then returning them, because something wasn't right. But it hasn't been until recently, when I started to get rid of the things that didn't feel like me, instead, that I really made some progress. Because of course it isn't about imagining what you would wear, if you owned it; it's about identifying what you do wear, and loving it. And then making a concerted effort to have that be IT. 

In my experience, the smaller the closet, the bigger the satisfaction. So that's why I got rid of, like, 80% of my clothing over the last year and a half. It's felt really good.

I've been asked a few times to share my culling process, or some editing tips? Or info on what all I've decided to keep? . . . I think? I'm not actually sure! I only know that any time I mention this on Instagram someone will say, "blog post please!" and then I think, well yeah, that's the kind of post I'd wanna read, too. So here it is! 

I think? 

MY THOUGHTS ON THINGS OF A VARIOUS NATURE RELATED TO CLOTHING, SOMEWHAT


On Capsules vs Uniforms /
Last Autumn I decided to try out the "capsule wardrobe." TrĂ©s trendy at the time (and now, too!). I only tend to wear whatever I can see at first glance when I go to get dressed in the morning--an extensive wardrobe tends to be my worst nightmare--so this seemed like a breeze; the perfect non-commital way to test out the minimalist angle and not think too much about my clothes every day. Of course, this involved a lot of thinking really hard about my daily outfits at the outset. :) Soooo . . . It was fun but I didn't feel compelled to do it again. And I think that boils down to this: 

If you're going to ask me, I'd say the difference between a uniform and a capsule has to do with the difference between multiples and uniques. In a capsule, you want as much variety as you can possibly cram into a wardrobe with your small number of allowable pieces, so you tend to aim for the unique multi-taskers. You need a skirt so you have a skirt. You need a sweater in case you need a sweater. You need a dress, should you need a dress. You need a shirt too that will work for all of it, and you need the most versatile pair of jeans you got, maybe two if you nix a sweater. It's a matter of negotiation and compromise, and you run out of room for shoes pretty quickly, which, if you ask me, is a complete and total travesty. Don't limit my shoes! Please! Give me liberty or give me death!

In a uniform, you can have as many white v-neck tee shirts as you could possibly want, you just don't have a ton of other types of tops options to play with. In my uniform, I can have as many shoes as I need. A million shoes! And however many shapes of jeans my heart desires. Because all of these multiple ingredients for me are going to add up to pretty much the same exact outfit, more or less. Like if you had five brands of chocolate chips in your cupboard to choose from and each different brand REALLY made a flavor difference in your cookie. :) A pair of high-waisted light-wash mom jeans plus a striped top feels so incredibly different to me than a skinny jean / striped top combo, even if it's actually . . . not. A black A-line skirt plus gray sweatshirt is really no different from a pair of black high-waisted skinnies plus gray sweatshirt, EXCEPT THAT IT TOTALLY IS. Today I really want to wear my navy Bensimons, tomorrow I will want my tan Bensimons, and the rest of the outfit could be exactly the same but I'll still feel weirdly satisfied by the variety I experience. Your mileage may vary, maybe for you it's A-line skirts or tent dresses or hourglass pencil skirts, but that's the general idea of it. Maybe. I don't really know, but can you believe how long I've gone on talking about this already and the degree of thought to which I've dedicated to it? Pretty amazing I KNOW!


On Defining Your Style/ 
So I wrote a book about this sort of, but probably finding + defining your own personal style is the hardest and most important element to this whole ordeal. Possibly it's something you already know about yourself, what you like and what you don't like, it's just you don't really know you know it. I always advise friends to start with a Pinterest board, pinning like crazy without thinking about it too much, and then going back and analyzing things half to death. 

You guys. I have this theory. I call it "The Pinterest Disconnect." I know, pay attention. So I'm always attracted to all these images of very sparse, plain, androgynous styles on Pinterest; no colors, very chic, all straight lines. BORING. But for a long time when I'd be in stores, I'd go straight for the colors! patterns! fringe! all sorts of things! And then I'd take it home, not want to wear it, or wear it a few times but never feel like myself in it, and then inevitably I'd feel dissatisfied with things, like I needed new clothes, because this obviously wasn't cutting it and I didn't have anything to wear. 

So one day I started to wonder, Why? Why does this happen? Why did I go for one thing in the abstract, but another thing all together in the stores? Why did what I felt looked exactly perfect, like just-what-I-wanted-to-be-wearing, seem like it would be too boring in real life? Like, if it was so basic, if I wasn't trying and if my outfit wasn't creative, or didn't involve intricate pattern mixing and different heel heights or whatever, it wasn't . . . something. I don't know, it was weird. (And dumb.) 

(Come on let's take this as seriously as humanly possible.)  

So I started to experiment with going completely against habit and dressing like my Pinterest pins. And then, what would you know?! It clicked. I felt intensely comfortable. And the more plainly I dressed, the more fun and creative I felt with it. Complete backwards logic, pretty cool.

So that was when my Pinterest Disconnect started to become a Pinterest Yes-Connect! Taduhhhh! 

Things started making sense is what I'm saying here, and when things make sense in your closet, things make sense in your life. I don't know what it is, it's just what I've noticed about things. 

What I gleaned from all this was that I have my own personal set of style rules. I've had them all along! I just didn't know it! Mine go like this:

ONE / 
I can't feel at all fidgety or uncomfortable in it
TWO / 
It has to look like it went on effortlessly (even if it didn't ;)
THREE / 
The colors can't be loud, and must fall within one of the Six Godly Hues: 
Black, White, Brown, Stripes, Denim, Blush
FOUR / 
Nope, can't be girly
FIVE /
Can't be ostentatious, either (no screaming logos)
SIX /
Jumpsuits are A-OK! :)

Generally speaking, I'm succeeding at life over here.


On Culling /
I finally read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up and look you guys, life-changing it was. But don't read it unless you have a hunk of time available right away to dedicate to tossing out crap immediately. Otherwise you'll feel itchy for daaaaays until you can get around to it. 

Culling a wardrobe is probably right up there with popping bubble wrap on the oddly-satisfying scale. It's intimidating, too, and can often provide the opportunity for a surprising amount of self-reflection. Embrace this! Or not. Whatever. In the KonMari method, you are told you will cull until you reach this zen-like state where you no longer want for anything and you treasure every last item in your home and you're, like, awesome. And you thank things after you use them. You don't just get here in one afternoon, though. At least not if you're me. In one form or another I've been culling my home for over a year, and I just now feel close to the end goal. I mean, I AM ALMOST PERFECT, is what I am saying. 

But anyway I think this is the kind of thing you should freely and confidently approach in stages, if you need.

Stage One: You discard and donate the things you have that you know you don't love. This stage is surprisingly the hardest, in my experience. You're timid. You're scared of regretting something. And you waffle. 

Stage Two: Pretty soon after the completion of the first round of culling I realized I wanted to get rid of MORE. So you do. 

Stage Three: This is the refining stage. Just a few things here and there that you realize you didn't really love, it's slowing to a trickle, but there's still a consistent flow of things moving out, and you're probably still super tempted by the distressed shorts, doesn't everybody need a pair of distressed shorts?  

Stage Four: The 20%. I recently read The Joy of Less, and it talks about "The 20%" Most of us use just 20% of our belongings, 80% of the time. Immediately I thought about my gray sweatshirts. I have four--different colors, shapes, you get it--but I have just one that I always get excited over when it comes out of the dryer. I started to think about the rest of the 20% that I wear 80% of the time, and I started to realize that I could very happily go on with my life owning just those pieces, and nothing else. It would be refreshing! The trick to whittling down to this level is in making a tiny pile of your 20%, rather than making a large discard pile out of your 80%. Somehow that slight strategy adjustment makes all the difference.

i'm making amish hats happen. come with me, join the fold. 

On the Trouble with the Twenty Percent /
Well, the trouble with the 20% is that once you realize you love your striped shirt most, you start to realize what's missing about it. You'd love it more if it were nicer, if the fabric were thicker, if the cut were more generous, something like that, and then you begin the search for THEEEEE striped shirt, of all the times, and this can become rather Quixotic rather quickly. 

(St. James Meridien II. In case you're similarly obsessed.) 

So here is my 20%

32 comments :

  1. Wow, that is some good food for thought! As someone who's capsuled for nearly the last year, I almost like the idea of a uniform better. It seems to lend itself a little better to mainlining my personal sense of style, aka me. Hmm, good stuff!

    (sidenote: it appears some of the shoe link might be off :)

    ~Andrea
    Seasons & Salt

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  2. I can't believe I only recently found your blog. You're very quickly becoming my favorite! Just had to get that out there first. I have been debating doing a capsule for a while, but what you described is exactly what stopped me. I only want to ever wear soft v-neck t shirts so it would have mainly consisted of those. I need to just go for it and start one of those books and get serious. But not tonight..currently over packing for a vacation lol ;)

    x. Morgan

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  3. A local Perth, Australia blogger (she also works for Australian Vogue) made this post last night too http://aminuteawayfromsnowing.com/my-little-list-of-style-loves/ if there is anything you're missing too, Nat :)

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  4. Yes yes yes. It's like you wrote this lost about me! <3

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  5. I need to get this book. I've gained all my info about it from blogs - just a couple of chapters missing, I think. :)
    Love how you got to where you've essentially found your look (for now). You hit the nail on the head when you said you've kept what excites you each time you put it on. I think that's my goal. (Maybe I don't need the book…)

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  6. Excellent post! Thank you for sharing!!

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  7. imdb.com need to make this happen in my life, with my wardrobe. I hate almost everything I have to wear. Things don't fit well, things are a boring assortment of things that were "work worthy," just a mess. I hate it all. THROW AWAY ALL THE THINGS! I plan of getting rid of most of the things I have when we move this August and starting fresh in more ways than one once we're out of here.

    The Amish hats are all the rage down here in the Southwest, by the way. Lead the way in the Northeast!

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  8. We were on the same wavelength today. I posted something very very similar!

    The uniform is something I'm slowly getting to, I think I'm close though. Thank you for introducing me to the 20%, I've found the next step in my process!!

    Also: total wardrobe envy. I need to go on a spending hiatus, but after reading this I want to cull even more and fill a bunch of online shopping carts and actually go through with the purchases!

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    1. I was going to write a post about culling my wardrobe too, but ended up writing about my son's clothes, and how I donated most of his stuff! Just read your post, and loved it!

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  9. I love this post, Natalie! Thank you for sharing! I'd love it if you'd share your process of minimizing your home as well...... I feel like you wrote that you got super pro at it with all your moves. Do you keep stuff in storage (like, a storage unit)? Or are all of your belongings in your home? I love your minimalist wisdom! :) And I hope it's okay I'm asking this -- I don't mean to be pushy at all!

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  10. Listen. You have finally solved this Pinterest conundrum. I do exactly the same and while pinning endless pictures of well-cut sweatshirts I continue to bring home ugly babydoll dresses that are royal blue with ruffles and polka dots, or strange, beaded shirts in shades of peach, which I then throw away two weeks later. So what you're saying is, just go against the fold and buy what's on your Pinterest board. DONE and DONE! Can't wait to try it!

    Although I have developed monster-sized birth control boobs in the last year (went from a small b to a sizeable d) and the flat-front shirts I've always pinned might not work with those, I might as well give it a shot. LOVED this post.

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  11. Love all these pictures of you! -Hanna Lei

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  12. Bless you! Someone else finally said what I've been thinking all this time. Clothing overanalyzers for the win. Isn't it more fun to jokingly take yourself completely seriously when considering fabrics of black and white striped tees?

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  13. I'm so glad I read that book when my husband was on a work trip and I had a bit of free time. Three days later I had to hire a guy to remove all the stuff I'd collected to throw out. When my husband came home he didn't even notice until he opened his underwear drawer and cried, 'what have you done to my socks!?'

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  14. I'm right behind you on this post, and you continue to amaze me with your clothing capsules. I think that's why I have a lot of stripes, and solid white t-shirts. It feels good to downsize, and organize.

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  15. I really agree with the pinterest connect! I have a booklet I put together where I print out all of my pinterest outfit pins and flip through them when I don't know what to wear (I keep it near the closet too). It has saved my butt so many times!

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  16. This is the kind of post that makes me know we are soul sisters Natalie! I love how you recognize and add depth to something seemingly insignificant and I love that it is clothing and appearance!!
    xoxo,
    Lizzy

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  17. This is great! I talked with my husband recently about wanting to cultivate my uniform and stick to colors and shapes I know look good on me. I explained that narrowing my options would help me to feel like I had so many more options! He was completely baffled and didn't see the logic at all. Not even a little bit. haha! Anyway, I love that you embraced your 20%, I'm inspired!

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  18. 1. I love this post
    2. I figured out who you've been reminding me of forever: Rooney Mara!

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  19. You don't have to shop J Crew to get St. James, go straight to the source: http://www.saintjamesboutique.com/ourhistory/

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  20. I read The Magic of Tidying up and it went exactly like this for me - itchy to cull immediately, and much easier to do it by pulling out my 20% and trying it on and knowing ok this is what joy feels
    Like so I could recognize the lack of joy with the rest of the 80%. My 20% includes a lot of linen Ts from the gap and Boden dresses. Which you would hate because they are colorful. But I came away with so many outfit ideas in my closet that I can't wait to get dressed every morning.

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  21. Loved this. Particularly the sass.

    That Magic of Tidying Up itch struggle is real. I was like:

    DAMNITNOWIHAVETOQUITMYJOBSOICANSORTTHROUGHTHISRATCHETCOLLECTIONOFTHINGSICALLAHOUSEANDFIGUREMYLIFEOUT!

    Then I did some deep cleaning and purged the bathroom and felt ok for a bit.

    But man oh man... I'm nervous about picking that sucker back up.

    Anyway, good post sista.

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  22. p.s. I'm in so much denial about my uniform. I'm a colorful loud print gal 99% of the time... but lately I can't stop repinning your neutral but classic and amazing outfit pins. Identity crisis much?

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  23. Ps. Just re-read this. I am totally having a distressed shorts dilemma!!

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  24. Loved this post. Thank you for all the information and book links. I have bought so many things and didn't really like them but have a few things I wear all the time. Also, the Pinterest thing i had that to until I realised what I was doing a few months ago around my birthday and decided to actually buy the things I would pin. Its worked out really well so far.

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  25. Don't you think that maybe ones self reflection on their wardrobe directly correlates with where they are in their life psychologically? Like you said in previous posts that you have come to a point in your life that you are contempt with yourself and your life and naturally your wardrobe reflects that. I also had that problem in the past of purchasing articles of clothing that would end up collecting dust because in my mind it always seemed like the perfect...dress, skirt, shirt etc and then my closet would be busting and then somehow didn't have anything to wear. It used to be because the focus on my life was shifted towards certain priorities versus getting dressed and feeling good. It was always a priority to look "different", "creative" "stylish" and ahead of the trends, but it didn't always feel like "me". Now there's a calmness to the choices of what I wear most likely out of necessity because my priority has shifted to being a mom but still needing that feeling of being "stylish". I still have yet to make the EDIT on my closet but I see it forming without even realizing. The Uniform has started to take shape.

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  26. This is so helpful and inspiring!!!! I've been in a rut for a good long while and started a capsule like 2mos ago. It's still not "complete" (I think I have 4 tops and 3 bottoms? Haha) but I'm surprised by how satisfied I am with less clothing. I do t have to think so hard to look nice! And with little ones around in already doing tons of laundry anyway, so it hasn't been an issue to just wash stuff more :P I think I held on to such a huge amount of clothes for so long primarily because folding laundry is THE WORST. Haha. I love your uniform concept and think I'm going to try it. My only thing is, I loooove color! So I'd probably do the same t-shirt in every single color possible and then 2-3 of the exact same pants. Hahaha. Anyway. It's fun to think way too much about this stuff. It's actually helped me feel like "me" again postpartum, my body is this weird shape I don't recognize and my hair is all falling out but hey! I found good clothes to dress in and I feel happy in them! So life is good.

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  27. envy. reality for me is ~ my size changes . . alot! or at least to some degree, so ' i'm always hanging on to a 10 or 12 pound sway. yah, yah, i know already --keep the smaller size and that way you will stay there. nope. anyhoo . . . still like the idea or 'slimming down' the closet items, and will do a 'mini'NatalieJean! thank, girl.

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  28. I love this idea, and I am trying to be a less is more person. I just want you to write about how to do this when one has to dress in a professional manner for work. I can't wear my jeans and shorts everyday during the school year....but I think I have a teacher uniform too. I just want your thoughts on it I guess...this comment makes no sense. Sorry.

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  29. Reading this at the perfect time! I've got the culling thing down (it's sad how much I love to get rid of clothes) but I'm also about to start my summer capsule and I'm feeling... not so confident. Gonna remind myself of what I love - on Pinterest! - and go from there :)
    www.thismomsgonnasnap.com

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  30. This idea is so good and i like this very well. I want to buy the school uniform not these type of clothes. Also i am joining one of the sport club that's why i want buy also sports uniforms help me.

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