Can a capsule wardrobe improve my mental health?
A few years back, after I graduated, moved out and started work, something really weird happened. I started wearing all black, all of the time. It was probably a combination of needing to look 'professional' for the many interviews I was attending initially, combined with the widespread adoption of the (now thankfully dead) normcore trend which rendered printed fabrics as rare on London high-streets as wild tigers and affordable coffee.
And once I started I couldn't stop. Each new item I added to my wardrobe sort of needed to be black so that it would 'go' with everything else, because that was all black too. To begin with I thought it made me look 'decisive'. Perhaps it even gave me a kind of personal brand? If it's good enough for Lagerfeld, then why not me? was how my logic went. But as months turned to years of unabated blackness I started to realise that branding and simplicity weren't the only drivers behind my all black everything dependancy.
Though I alternated between telling myself it was because I was 'not really a fashion person' (I AM) or I 'preferred to keep things simple' what I was really doing was hiding. As the black phase drew on this became more and more apparent not only in my choice of uniformly inoffensive monochrome, my in my silhouette, which had gradually slackened over the months until I was spending most of my days swamped in figure-obscuring chunky knitwear and oversized slouchy coats.
If I'm making any of this sound Mary-Kate Olsen chic, please be assured it wasn't. It's tough to write about, but I think a little bit of weight gain, plus the normal tidal wave of self doubt and existential pondering - the early twenties gift with purchase - put me into a frame of mind where I didn't want to make any effort with my clothing choices lest that effort be deemed by others to have failed. I didn't want my clothes to say 'hey world, look at me' in case the world looked back and said 'why did you bother?'.
I put myself in a holding pattern, in other words, endlessly recycling black outfit after boring black outfit, awaiting some long-distant point at which my body or my life would be sufficiently altered to make making an effort with myself feel less risky again. Kind of like a caterpillar in its crysalis, but more depressing.
I didn't want my clothes to say 'hey world, look at me' in case the world looked back and said 'why did you bother?'
Well, aged 27, my body hasn't changed. But I want and need my wardrobe to. It's taken me far too long to realise that dressing down is a self-perpetuating cycle. The more drably I dress, and the less I express myself through my clothes, the more drab and unworthy of expression I feel.
Conversely, on the few occasions I have forced myself to drown my own doubting inner voice - what if I'm way over dressed? What if I look fat in photos? blah blah blah etc - in prints and layering and sequins, I have had a uniquely, memorably fab day.
So for the rest of 2017 I have challenged myself to build a mental health-boosting capsule winter wardrobe. It may sound like a painful piece of Cosmo magazine advertorial, but I think it will probably make me feel really f*cking good. I need to start again from the perspective of expressing myself, not hiding myself. I'm only a few items in, and I'll keep y'all updated, but the rules so far are:
- items whose main function is to cover 'problem' areas. This is just a way to constantly remind yourself to be ashamed of said area all day long. Counter-productive.
- items I already have hundreds of. F*ckin black jumpers. Stahp.
- ill-fitting and/or badly made items. This is a capsule wardrobe. There is no room for crap. Every item must be a joy to wear.
- truly love an item in order for it to be added to the capsule. Only pieces that make me feel great will make it. No filler = no drab days.
- be colourful. NB: navy is a colour.
What do y'all think? Could a fun-and-beautiful-clothes-only capsule wardrobe improve your mental health?