30 articles of clothing in 31 days

February 24, 2020

This is probably the most privileged, First World, middle class-suburban-17-year-old-girl thing that I’ve ever said. 

But I — a girl with a self-proclaimed love for fashion — felt threatened by even the idea of a capsule wardrobe. 

That term (“capsule wardrobe”) was forgein to me too up until two months ago. It is a pocket of your wardrobe or closet he’s collection that you live from for a month, or as long as you want.  

You pick 30 of so items of clothing from your closet — that includes tops, bottoms, dresses, shoes, sweatshirts, etc. This means no fishing for extra T-shirts. Not wearing any new clothes that you’ve purchased over the month. It’s like living out of a suitcase for a month.

The whole point of this seemingly pointless challenge is to practice sustainable living. Cutting down on the size of your wardrobe is one way to reduce your ecological footprint and to realize what you actually need — fashion wise. 

Okay — 30 items of clothing may seem like a lot. And it is. This is where my privilege comes in.

My ability and financial means from working for the past three years and saving has allowed me to thrift clothing, buy vintage and drop some money on sustainable brand clothing. This is a privilege for which I am extremely thankful because it has allowed me to develop an interest into sustainable fashion, textures and silhouettes. 

Nevertheless, 30 garments to be mixed and matched over the course of one month seemed daunting. 

If we want to categorize my style, I would say I go for a more retro style, playing with a variety of good quality vintage textures and different waistlines. I always try to enhance an outfit with a statement piece that would surprise the people that I see on that particular day. 

But how many statement pieces can you realistically fit in a restricted wardrobe where the majority of your time is going to be spent in public school?

Yeah, not many. 

My capsule wardrobe consists of my two favorite thrifted t-shirts, four vintage sweaters, one second-hand dress, four pairs of wildly different styles and washes of sustainably made jeans, my hand-me-down leather pants and a couple of other basics that I wear the most often. I chose to follow one similar color scheme so the clothing would be easily mixed and matched and messed around with. A black and white, with accents of blue and light green was the color scheme that I found the most clothing that I could apply to. 

For shoes, I included my black Converse, my (forgive-me-for-being-basic) slip-on checkered vans and my black Reformation x By Far black surface lace-up boots (my pride and joy, also the most expensive item of clothing I own). 

I separated the wardrobe from the rest of my closet in order to not be tempted to snatch an extra garment and not think twice about it. On Jan.1, I took a deep breath and remembered that even the smallest effort at sustainability, even just the mindset, helps. 

And there I was Jan. 2, wearing a completely new outfit that I had never even imagined putting together. This wasn’t going to be so hard. The first two weeks were nice. I was even feeling more inspired about my styling skills than before. I had developed a way to look at a garment in a whole new light. 

By the third week, I was doing a lot of layering — cardigans over turtlenecks, button-ups over t-shirts, etc. This is when you know I am grasping for straws. I wasn’t technically feeling bored, but I was definitely losing creativity and steam. 

I could feel myself wanting to grab that lavender zip-up sweater in the back of my closet or pairing my acid-wash high-rise jeans with my new (I bought it in mid-January) graphic tee, but that was against the rules. No cheating, no new clothing. 

But it was a lot more manageable than I expected. 

It even became fun towards the end. Down to the wire of this particular selection of clothes, during the fourth week, I acted like I would never see these clothes ever again after the month ended, and I became way more creative and newly inspired again to challenge myself. 

By this point, you’re thinking “why should anyone put this much thought into what they wear?” And I think that at points too, but it can become a game when you want it too — a way to show exactly how you are feeling that day without ever having to say a word. A daily mood board, but you only have 30 images to work with. 

By Jan. 29, I was ripping open my closet and throwing almost half of my garments into a giant black trash bag to give to friends, then donate the rest to ECCO and Goodwill in Mount Pleasant, where I have been donating my used clothes for years in order to reduce textile waste and to resupply second-hand markets.

This experience has shown me how little clothing I actually wear, considering I didn’t even touch two to three items in the wardrobe at all the entire month. I need to regularly donate clothes — once a month — because I need so much less than I have, which is going to contribute to climate change and perpetuate child labor in the long-run. 

I am taking a break from the capsule wardrobe for February, but I think I’m going to return to it in March, and I am prepared to slowly dwindle down my overall wardrobe to where the quantity of items that I own is similar to the capsule wardrobe all the time. 

At this point in time, I feel a greater draw to sustainable fashion, and cutting down on the amount of clothing you own and buy is the easiest way to live sustainably, as I have learned from this experience. And if living sustainably isn’t your thing, it’s a fun personal challenge to try anyways. 

Stretch your creativity. Become less attached to fleeting trends. Gain a greater understanding of what flatters your body and style. Live a little more sustainable than you did yesterday. 

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