Screw Capsule Wardrobes: The Case for Keeping It All

Now that fashion month is over and a series of manufacturing and retail decisions has been set in motion, we know what comes next: that feeling months from now when we’ll crave something new — colors, silhouettes, chic ways to style a balaclava for impending apocalypse. Eventually, we’ll clear space in our closets to accommodate new pieces and we’ll feel good about it. Even before everyone became a Marie Kondo acolyte, the psychological virtues of decluttering were well known. It is considered worthy, freeing, and nimble to pare down — like you’re a sartorial monk, or the lean interior of a Muji store. And while I too enjoy the psychological benefits of tackling something like an unremitting pile of mail, when it comes to a closet, I am proponent of its cardinal sin: keeping everything.

This is not a fashionable idea. It has a claustrophobic ring to it and suggests you might become a walking tribute to jewel-tone tanks and bandage dresses. But in my transition to college, several apartments and a cross-country move, I’ve hung on to everything that hasn’t yet disintegrated and I am here to tell you: virtually every piece has swung back around.

Given what we know about fashion cycles, do you think there’s any chance they won’t?

This habit began out of financial necessity. If you care about fashion but don’t have the budget of a Real Housewife, you hang onto things and spend a lot of time thinking about how to make them go the distance. Over time, my approach became best practice. The fair isle American Eagle knit I bought in Herald Square in 2007 made an appearance this fall when that Loewe sweater made the rounds on Instagram. Whenever 90’s Kate Moss grunge comes back, I reach for the strapless, gauzy, mid-calf Banana Republic dress I wore to my high school graduation in 2003. When wide leg trousers returned this fall in earnest, I pulled out a pair from 2001 J.Crew and let out the hems so they grazed the floor. There is a herringbone Theory blazer that sits in my closet — too small in proportion for how we wear blazers now, but ready for when they return more fitted. Given what we know about fashion cycles, do you think there’s any chance they won’t?

Drop-crotch. Ankle. Logo. High-waist. Low-slung. Pleated. Victorian. Gathered. Cropped. Floral. Military. Equestrian. You hear these words over and over as seasons tick onwards. And the genius of their repetition lies in the fact that a designer is showing them to you again — but in a way you never imagined. If you, like most people who enjoy fashion, land somewhere in the median of trends — easing into contemporary silhouettes and purchasing a few statement pieces each cycle, the DNA of the runways may already be in your closet. I would never detract from the ingenuity and craftsmanship of a heart-stirring striped, layered, quilted look from Sacai, but I am saying that if you hang onto enough, you may already have its ingredients.

Of course, this approach to building a wardrobe requires patience, a consistent clothing size, a tailor, and an auxiliary space for storage outside of the small quarters in which you might live (for example: the home of parents who statistically contribute to this being an unpopular idea). There’s research suggesting it’s difficult to let go of some pieces because we tie them to our self-worth. Perhaps that’s part of why I do it. But it’s also literal worth. Collections have gone from two to ten a year. Fast fashion circulates new silhouettes instantly. Trends are more widespread and fragmented than ever. Don’t you think there’s a good chance that a piece you’ve long forgotten will show up on someone in a way that makes you want to wear it again?

What about those pieces — the Isabel Marant Bekkit wedge sneaker, say — that became ubiquitous time capsules of a moment? To this, I say: don’t discount the power of nostalgia. There’s so much of it characterizing fashion now that you could set a clock by when something comes back with a wink. Last year, Vetements gave you an updated version of the logo-bottomed Juicy Couture velour pants. The world’s most talked-about women walk around in puffy white sneakers formerly exclusive to suburban dads. So keep it all! You don’t know what’s going to happen, and there’s never been a better time to go all in on all your bets.

Photos by Edith Young; Styled by Harling Ross; Modeled by Eva Klimkova of Society NYC. 

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