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November 30th, 2016 by


I know, I know. Shopping. You love it. Everybody loves it. South African consumers, especially, love buying clothes. Possibly, more than food. And, we love to buy it on credit, more so than anywhere else in the world. In the two decades from 1994 to 2013, the entire clothing retail industry experienced growth of 8.8%. This, even though none of the other retail segments grew (not even grocers).

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So, why would a capsule wardrobe, which essentially involves buying less clothes, be appealing to a nation of consumers devoted to the latest trends at affordable prices? You know, fast fashion? Well, the fact that fast fashion is also referred to in the design community as ‘throwaway fashion’ could give you a clue.

What’s Wrong With Fast Fashion?

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There’s Too Much Of It

Fast fashion makes its money through fast turnover. According to Wise Bread, a blog that advocates a big life on a small budget, once a look premieres on the runway, a fast fashion manufacturer, like H&M or Zara, can have a knockoff produced and on display in stores worldwide within weeks.

The problem this creates, for the environment in particular, is that there are too many clothes being produced for even a charity to handle the ‘throwaways’. The Salvation Army distribution centre in New York processes five tons of garments every day and only 11,200 items get sent out to stores.

The rest? Landfill.

It Puts Pressure On High-End Designers

To compromise their quality that is. High-end designers are the one place you find well-constructed garments that are made to last. If high-end clothing manufacturers need to speed up their process (six months from runway to ready-to-buy) just to keep up with fast fashion giants, they will inevitably have to lower their standards to do so.

It’s a Waste Of Your Money

Unless you are a fashion blogger, you are likely wearing 20% of your wardrobe 80% of the time. Okay, so you bought this great t-shirt from Mr Price, how many times can you wear it before the print cracks or the ‘bobbles’ appear? Hey, we love Mr P, but there are hidden costs in bargain buys.

Lifestyle journalist, Camilla Cheung, added up everything she’d spent on clothes in a three month period. Naturally a frugal shopper, she spent about $230 (R3,086.19). Of that $230 of clothing, $60 (R805.09) was a waste. Either items she hated after a week, or they were such low quality, she was only able to wear them a few times before they looked worn out.

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What Is a Capsule Wardrobe?

The term, ‘capsule wardrobe’, was coined way back in the 70s by Susie Faux – a London boutique owner. But, New York-based designer, Donna Karen, is credited for the movement catching on in the US in the 80s thanks to her ‘Seven Easy Pieces’ collection.

Essentially, a capsule wardrobe is a compact wardrobe of staple (high quality) items in coordinating colours. Faux originally stipulated only 12 items for the ideal capsule wardrobe. But, the generally accepted number at the moment is around 33 items of clothing (including shoes), that can be worn “often and interchangeably”.

You’re probably asking yourself what person, in their right mind, would limit themselves to only 33 items of clothing. Good question.

The Benefits Of a Capsule Wardrobe

More Time

Having a capsule wardrobe will allow more time to run a country or start a world-changing company. President Barack Obama has said he only has navy and grey suits because he has too many important decisions to make. What to wear shouldn’t be one of them.

Another proponent of this minimalist closet is the man who created Apple, Steve Jobs. He started wearing the same thing every day: black turtleneck, a pair of Levis, and (apparently) some New Balance trainers. (Although, we did spy Ashton Kutcher in some Birkenstock sliders in the movie, Jobs.)

By simplifying your wardrobe, and only investing in items that match your existing palette, you can dress yourself without thinking. Saving 10 minutes a day, saves you 60 hours a year for the things that matter. Like, really enjoying your morning coffee, or having a healthy breakfast with your kids.

More Money

Since purging her closet of pieces that didn’t fit, were out-of-date, or worn-out, and opting for a capsule wardrobe, Cheung has cut her seasonal budget from $230 to $125. $95 to buy things she needs, as well as a $30 buffer should she need to replace anything. By building on her existing good quality items and choosing only carefully considered pieces, rather than cheap impulse buys, Cheung achieves a better quality wardrobe at half of her previous spend on clothes.

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A Better Look

The capsule wardrobe motto is “buy less, buy better”. It’s not about having less clothes. Rather, its about having more of the clothes that look great on you and that you can mix and match. Buy pieces that give you maximum wear for your lifestyle. Converting to a streamlined wardrobe means money spent wisely and mindfully.

Examples of Capsule Wardrobes

Below are examples of items you could have in your capsule wardrobe, for both men and women.

 Sample Woman’s Wardrobe  Sample Man’s Wardrobe
 A belted trench coat A suit 
Skinny Jeans  A pair of jeans 
A white shirt  A pea coat 
A black blazer  T-shirts 
A little black dress (LBD)  Cotton shirts 
A pair of tailored trousers  A blazer 
A pencil skirt  A pair of slacks 
T-shirts and camisole tops  A pair of smart shoes 
 A cashmere sweater A pair of casual shoes 
A sundress A pair of trainers
A pair of flats A watch
A pair of long boots A jacket
A tote bag Sunglasses
A clutch bag
A silk scarf
Sunglasses
A pair of high heels
A pair of casual shoes