What Is A Concept Wardrobe?

How is it different from a capsule wardrobe,
and why do I need one?

It’s one of the most cliché situations: You stand in front of your overflowing wardrobe, yet you don’t seem to have anything to wear…

Only too familiar with this situation on an almost daily basis, and utterly frustrated with my lack of fashion style, I kept reaching for the same pair of jeans and t-shirt combination over and over again.

At the same time I had at least ten other pairs of jeans - all still with the price tag on - hiding somewhere at the back of my wardrobe. I had so many clothes, yet no possible combination of top and bottoms seemed to look good. Sounds familiar?

In an age where fast fashion is so easily accessible and affordable, it is very easy to become guilty of mass-buying and hoarding unworn and unnecessary clothing.

Organisation for your wardrobe

Out of the frustration of having nothing to wear (not in the literal sense) and spending lots of money on clothes that I was never going to wear, I finally realised what needed to change: My wardrobe was a mess and buying clothes was an overwhelming leisure activity for me.

I realised that it was my messy wardrobe and the overwhelming amount of clothing choices available in the shops that were holding me back from achieving my fashion goals.

Because when it comes to style, more is not more. Having ten pairs of jeans is not going to help when four of them don’t fit you properly and three of them don’t go with any of the tops in your wardrobe.

So what then is the magic balance?

The original capsule & its current form

A helpful concept is the capsule wardrobe in its original form. The term was coined in the 1970s by Susie Faux, a London boutique owner and popularised in the 1980s by designer Donna Karan. The original capsule wardrobe is a wardrobe that contains a collection of a few essential items of clothing that are timeless, i.e. never go out of fashion, which can then be changed up with seasonal pieces. In other words, all items of clothing in the wardrobe serve a specific purpose and go well together to achieve a maximum number of different, yet personal style-consistent outfits. The result: You always look put-together and outfits will reflect your personal signature style.

So what happened to the capsule wardrobe since its formation?

A few years ago, the capsule wardrobe has experienced a revival, which is great! However, there are two issues I have with its current form:

  1. Capsule wardrobe makes it sound like it is something different from a normal wardrobe; when in fact every wardrobe is (or should ideally be) a capsule wardrobe.
  2. The term “capsule wardrobe” has been dragged in all sorts of directions over the last few years. You will find people telling you which items you must have in your wardrobe in order for it to be a capsule wardrobe (cue: white shirt and pair of jeans). And then there are those who argue that a wardrobe must not contain more than a certain number of pieces in order for it to be capsule wardrobe.

I think all of this is nonsense.

The concept wardrobe

An ideal wardrobe is a very personal thing. We all lead different lives, and our clothes should fit those lives. The ideal wardrobe shouldn’t be a collection of items that you don’t like or that don’t suit you just because they work for someone else. And worrying about limiting yourself to some prescribed magic number of items that can be in your wardrobe is not helpful. Instead, your wardrobe should contain sufficient pieces for you to go about your lifestyle, but not more than necessary.

What do I mean by that? Well, every item in your wardrobe should (a) have a purpose and (b) suit your lifestyle. If you find that you have more than the necessary items fulfilling the exact same purpose you are wasting precious space in your wardrobe. For example, if I have five different evening gowns yet I only attend evening events twice a year, I could get rid of at least three of my gowns and replace them with comfy pyjamas for my nights in.

How many purpose-serving items you need depends solely on your lifestyle. And that varies from person to person. In order to make it work for you, your wardrobe must be built around your lifestyle. And that is where the concept wardrobe comes in.

The key to owning a great wardrobe is having a concept for it and sticking to this concept when shopping for new pieces. The concept for your wardrobe is defined by your lifestyle, where you live, what type of clothing you like, and what your personal style is. There are endless combinations, the magic happens when you find the concept that works for you.

Why do I need a concept wardrobe?

If I haven’t convinced you by now to start a concept wardrobe, here are the main reasons to do so:

  • Always have something appropriate to wear
  • Always look put together
  • Save time getting dressed
  • Develop your personal signature style
  • Save money by buying fewer but better items of clothing
  • Free up money to invest in higher quality pieces
  • More sustainable and better for the environment

Your wardrobe as an investment

It’s simple, instead of treating clothes shopping as a pastime, treat it as an investment. An investment in your wardrobe is an investment in yourself! What's the point of buying cheap, trendy clothes that fall apart after wearing them a few times, when you could be investing in high-quality items that will last you for years and make you look good every time you wear them? (And I am not talking about luxury clothing, just high-quality garments).

Make your wardrobe a conscious investment object. It will show when you wear your clothes. Each piece should be selected with a purpose in mind, how well it fits you, and how well it goes with other items in your wardrobe. If a garment does not tick these boxes it's not worth your time.

Okay, let's do it!

Like with all things in life, two things are key when it comes to creating your perfect wardrobe - patience and proper planning. It took me a while to curate my ideal wardrobe. And it's never finished, it's ever-evolving - a constant work in progress with new items added along the way. So don't expect any overnight miracles for your fashion woes.

But, the planning of my wardrobe made me really think about my personal style and what types of clothing I actually need; which colours suit me, which cuts flatter my body shape and what kinds of fabrics I like - something I had never considered before.

Doing this made shopping for new items to add to my wardrobe (or to replace no longer wearable ones) much easier because the choice of potential new clothes for my wardrobe is now much smaller and far less overwhelming. And the plan for your wardrobe is something that you can lay down overnight (or whenever you want).

So if you are ready to go on a journey to create your ideal wardrobe, I hope that you will find inspiration and guidance on the concept wardrobe and stop mindless shopping sprees. Instead, invest in your wardrobe, your personal style and yourself. Let's get started!

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