The accidental capsule closet



If there's ever a time to have a crippling midlife style crisis, it's during a global pandemic.


When the UK was first ordered to stay at home, I unexpectedly ended up in lockdown with my usually long-distance boyfriend. The downside? I am not a psychic and had arrived at his house a few days prior with a very small suitcase of clothes. Suddenly, it dawned on me that I had just 11 items of clothing for the foreseeable future - five jumpers, two blouses, a pair of jeans, a dodgy pleather skirt, a trench coat and a wrap dress to be exact.


I have always been somewhat sceptical of the capsule closet life. Far from being a minimalist, I found the challenge to be just that: a restrictive, unrealistic challenge. To commit to a handful of clothes felt like choosing a favourite child. I like to think that my wardrobe is a cherry picked utopia where every garment is equally loved and worn.


Well I was wrong. I learnt a lot of lessons from my involuntary #10x10challenge, including the guilty revelation that I didn't really miss (or sometimes remember) many of the clothes I had left behind. I quickly realised what I liked, what I hated and what drastically needed repairing. I became some sort of experimental connoisseur, even mastering layering and the ol' tucking-this-dress-into-anything trick.


I probably could have fooled you into thinking my capsule curation was the result of intentional deliberation. It certainly seemed that way when I observed the clothes all hung up together. It turns out that I'm a huge fan of print, an autumnal colour pallet and ruffles, lots of ruffles. All of my favourite pieces are also second-hand.


What I hadn't factored in was the blistering sunshine for which my jumpers seemed painfully inadequate. T-shirt dresses fashioned out of my boyfriend's old tees seemed the new normal. As if on cue, my trusty clothes started to fall apart. The zipper on my jeans broke, mysterious holes appeared in my jumpers and my skirt rudely ripped. I also forgot to pack a bra but that's another story.


While I certainly hit my #30wears target, I started to realise that many of my clothes just didn't make me happy. They weren't very flattering, they didn't fill me with confidence or they were simply part of a bygone era where Mel pranced around in leopard print. Behind closed doors, my pearl-embellished, balloon sleeve jumper was passable but I instantly regretted wearing it on a government-mandated walk. It's that kind of ugly chic, though exceptionally ugly (Nathan, if you're reading this, you were right).


Some of my dissatisfaction inevitably stemmed from the fact that my seasonal winter staples were no longer fit for the spring. But a much larger part of me was beginning to regret my somewhat impulsive Depop purchases which no longer captured my personality. I had outgrown my clothes, both physically and stylistically.


I entered the year at a crossroads with my personal style. I didn't know if I was the quirky vintage type, the girl-next-door, the effortlessy grungey or the walking Reformation billboard. Of course you can be all of them simultaneously, but I personally felt terribly uncoordinated. Lockdown has only made matters worse as I mope around in my pyjamas all day. My fashion woes feel admittedly trivial, and they definitely are, but we are living in (don't say it) unprecedented times so it's natural to feel pretty rubbish about yourself.


I think part of the problem is that I have always felt this profound, self-imposed pressure to look a certain way. As a teen, I was obsessed with dressing 'alternatively' as if my music taste defined me and granted me exclusive membership to the emo club. I've since swapped baggy band tees for fitting silhouettes, thick eyeliner for neutral eyeshadow and black on black for prints and colours. Fast forward to the present and I now write about fashion, though I'm the furthest thing from a style icon. I'm currently writing this wearing holely socks and dog-ridden pj pants. What right do I have to talk about fashion when I haven't the slightest clue about colour theory?!


Maybe it's the imposter syndrome speaking or just the fact that my taste has matured and evolved, but I just don't feel like my present wardrobe reflects my best self. There's a perfectly curated, sustainable wardrobe out there somewhere with my name on it, complete with flowy dresses, ditsy floral print and milkmaid tops. It's all just beyond my means.


Instagram seems to be the root cause of all my problems, second to capitalism obviously. I've identified the gaps in my wardrobe and I endeavour to fill them slowly, but Instagram is always convincing me that I need new stuff, that I'll somehow be happier and cooler if I just gave in to the trends. Level with me for a second. Do I really need a Shrimps-esque pearl bag? Is it remotely practical or will it just earn me a few more likes on the feed? Would I have even considered buying one if I hadn't seen it worn by every influencer and their dog?!


Then there's the working from home #OOTDs. If they're not baking sourdough loafs or writing a new book, everybody seems to be posing in loungewear. Or they look effortlessly put together in their messy bun. Or they have the cutest mesh socks with embroidered daisies on them. We're dealing with a pandemic and yet here I am with serious sock envy. There's your daily first world problem.


I know I always bang on about conscious consumerism, but I am coming from a place where I was once addicted to fast fashion and fed into the social media campaigns. And, truth be told, I still suffer from fashion FOMO. I know it's irrational but I can't help feeling insecure when everyone looks so stylish and productive at home. I can't help comparing myself, even though I know it's just a showreel and influencers sometimes go about their day in yesterday's clothes too.


I can't tell you how many times I've been tempted to buy the entire contents of my Depop wishlist. But that would go against everything I preach about buying slowly and intentionally. I know it would definitely help me to consolidate my style and I would 100% wear everything again and again, but right now I just don't need them. I already have a huge pile of clothes waiting to be upcycled, swapped with a friend or resold. And what's to say that my style won't drastically change again? Chances are, I'll find somebody else to compare myself to.


So, what was the point of this somewhat self-indulgent post? Honestly, I'm not quite sure either. I think I always present myself as somebody who is unfazed by trends, but I too can get sucked in and think I need things I really just want, like Veja trainers when I have perfectly good Converse.


I guess what I'm trying to say is that it's okay to slip up and that your insecurities are valid. Or that your worth and likeability isn't solely determined by what you wear. From such a young age, societal emphasis is placed on our appearance, so clothes become a means of controlling the image we project to the outside world. With this comes a lot of trial and error and questionable phases (phases which today's teens seem to have unfairly skipped). So, finding your style can be a long-ass journey but slow and steady always wins the race.


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©2020 by Melissa Watt.