The hundreds of clothes jammed into her small closet, were, as she puts it, “overwhelming.” Dozens of graphic T-shirts and trendy blouses that seemed like a good idea at the time now collected dust and wrinkles.
“Thinking about what I was going to wear was exhausting,” said Suzette Schermer, of Edina.
Tired of staring into a defunct mess of clothes and coming up with nothing to wear, the 44-year-old PR consultant and hospice caregiver did something drastic.
She traded in her shopping habit and joined the capsule wardrobe movement.
The anti-shop-till-you-drop trend is exploding on Instagram, Pinterest and YouTube as more women choose a minimal, environmentally sensitive lifestyle. Some are reducing their clothes by up to 90 percent, keeping just a handful of simple, versatile items they love. Bloggers who once flaunted endless wardrobes of fast fashion are now touting the latest style trend du jour. Clothing designers promise that their latest simplified collections will remove the unnecessary stress of dressing for your day.
“Women are saying, ‘I have all of these things, but it takes a great effort to manage all of it,’ ” said Marilyn DeLong, professor of apparel studies at the University of Minnesota’s College of Design. “Putting an outfit together with so many options requires some creative thought and if that doesn’t appeal to you, you’re stuck with nothing to wear.”
A capsule wardrobe uses a mix of tops, bottoms, dresses and shoes to create outfits for all occasions. The number of items in a capsule wardrobe varies, yet many women subscribe to the “333” rule, a fashion challenge made popular by social media. The idea is to pare down a wardrobe to 33 items to be worn over the course of three months. Workout clothes, accessories, handbags, swimsuits and undergarments are typically not included in the 33-piece limit.
But what stays and what goes?
To help her decide, Schermer hired Lauren Alsup, a Twin Cities professional organizer with the Neat Method.
“We help rip the Band-Aid off,” Alsup said. “Once we get started and they see what happens, you can see the physical relief.”
The fall of fast fashion
After college, Kitty Cotten got into fashion blogging. Soon after, she could barely get into her closet.
“I was buying a lot of stuff,” said the 31-year-old expectant Minneapolis mother. “I wanted something cute, new, now. But the quality and aesthetic of fast fashion goes out of style so quickly.”
Despite the rise of fast fashion, research shows that women typically wear the same few combinations of clothes on rotation anyway. The capsule wardrobe concept encourages women to spend more money on a few items they love.
“Having a smaller capsule wardrobe means I can afford to buy higher-quality pieces that will last longer, feel better, and look better,” said Sheila Price, a blogger from Elk River. “It saves me time and money in the long run, because I’m not constantly buying clothes.”
After reading the book “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” by Japanese organizing consultant Marie Kondo, Cotten was inspired to declutter and minimize her possessions. Another book, and a fellow lifestyle blogger, sent Cotten down the path of purging her once-packed closet.
The process of paring down was difficult initially. Cotten said getting rid of clothes made her feel guilty about wasting money. After a while, her minimalist wardrobe trickled down to other areas of her life, including her beauty routine and how she decorated her home.
Cotten now offers a $45 course on her website called the “Capsule Wardrobe Method” but admits that constant exposure to the latest fashions on social media makes it difficult to stick to a capsule wardrobe.
“I find myself getting that consumption itch of wanting to buy things,” she said. “We are programmed to want to consume the newest best thing, and saying no to that is like a muscle — you have to keep strengthening it.”
Style stifler or stress reducer
Can getting rid of clothes you don’t wear often really trim a lot of unnecessary stress from your day? While it sounds too good to be true, style experts and mental health professionals say the hype is real.
“We have decision fatigue,” said Michelle Raven, style program manager at Arc’s Value Village. At the thrift store, more than half of its clients who take advantage of the free personal shopping service have expressed interest in creating a capsule wardrobe.
“Our busy, fast-paced lives drive the growing interest in minimalist wardrobes,” Raven added.
Decision fatigue is a real modern-day issue afflicting overworked, stressed-out Americans, psychologists say. That’s why some of the world’s most successful people choose to wear the same thing every day. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s daily gray T-shirts and zip-up hoodies keep him from having to make one more decision each day.
For some fashion lovers, uniform dressing can be stifling. A capsule wardrobe, however, allows room for creative expression. Most women create two capsules — spring/summer and fall/winter — while others create a collection for each season.
For her doctoral thesis, 28-year-old University of Minnesota student Grace Bang decided to research the capsule wardrobe trend. The average number of clothing items her research participants had in their wardrobe was 150. Bang asked them to create capsule wardrobes of 33 items.
Bang wondered if such a limited wardrobe would stifle the women’s creativity, but the opposite happened.
“Making outfits from the limited items of the capsule wardrobe actually enhanced their creativity,” she said. “They mixed and matched the items in unusual ways.”
For Laura Larson, fewer clothes equals less stress, but the 32-year-old Coon Rapids resident doesn’t feel like she’s had to sacrifice her personal style.
“I try to think creatively and outside of the box when mixing and matching,” she said. “It can become sort of a game to see how many ways I can wear a specific item — all without the stress of the overabundance of options.”