Updated: Nov 16
There was a time when I stopped wearing the color black. I transferred all my basic black items into charcoal grey and navy. No black. And the reason was simple. At a dark time of my life, I defaulted to black. When I started coming out of it, I saw black as a depressed color.
Also–and to be perfectly honest–as a plus-sized person, black was often the only color offered. Black is known as a slimming color and companies like Lane Bryant market mostly black items to women of a certain size. I was irritated that yet another way plus-sized women were being ostracized was through the denial of color. Thank goodness for Torrid, who believes that women of all sizes should be allowed to wear print, color, and the logos of their fandoms.
So I resisted. I bought red, blue, roses, stripes, tiny unicorns. This was my look from when we first moved to Atlanta all the way through grad school.
And then one day, I spotted a reflection of myself walking into a store. I was wearing an emerald green dress, boots, and a brown cross-body bag overloaded with stuff. Pair all that with my bright red hair and all I could think of was – I look like a clown. I brushed it off as me being hard on myself – a habit I have. Then I saw a photo of myself in a merlot with white polka dots and a blush, drapey hooded sweater. I was horrified. Again, I brushed it off. I had a dissertation to write.
As my defense drew nearer, I stopped coordinating outfits. It was winter, and I was sick of dressing every day. I went to Target and purchased three different charcoal grey hoodies. Every morning, I dressed in a hoodie and yoga pants. That was my uniform.
Once I defended my dissertation, I realized how much I despised everything in my closet. All of it reminded me of how hard grad school was: the defense, the criticism, the crippling anxiety. I couldn’t take it anymore. I was coming down from grad school real hard.
I love asking people how their grad school come-down manifested. I have heard many stories – obsessions with buying new houses, obsessions with watching Property Brothers, obsessions with planning a wedding.
I graduated with my Ph.D. in 2020. As soon as I realized how sick I was of all my clothing, we went into quarantine. The hatred of my closet was exasperated by the fact that I had no place to go and nothing to do other than homeschool my kids. I started fixating on this idea of afternoon pants – a variation of Rachel Greene’s apartment pants, but only for afternoons. I did a Marie Kondo of my closet and was left with absolutely nothing. I was also watching Schitt’s Creek and was inspired by Moira Rose’s monochrome scheme. Her character only wore black and white but made it interesting with multiple textures. Her wigs were often the necessary splash of color. I loved that idea. I wanted a wardrobe of clean lines in only black.
So I went where I always go when I have an idea – Pinterest. I developed a fixation with capsule wardrobes.
I decided what I wanted was to embrace minimalism. I wanted a uniform in a minimalist style and a monochrome palate. I ordered black leggings, white tank tops, a denim shirt, and a black romper.
When I simplified my clothing, I felt renewed and refreshed.
Changing an entire look takes time. I’ve made many adjustments to my capsule because some of my early attempts were too casual for teaching. Also, I was still learning how to buy basics that would flatter my shape. I made a few disastrous purchases with cropped jeans (when will I learn that I can’t be accentuating my calves), boat-neck shirts, and a chunky cropped turtleneck.
I still wear from my dark capsule wardrobe. When I teach, I wear black leggings and a black tank top. In the winter I throw on a cardigan and a scarf, in the spring and summer a necklace. Right now, while I type this, I am wearing a black long-sleeved T-shirt and leggings. I could throw on a silk scarf and boots and be ready to teach or my birks and a denim jacket for running errands.
This has simplified my life in so many ways. Before the capsule, I went on a trip one November and I accidentally left a neutral sweater at home and instead had to pair a burgundy top with a burnt orange sweater coat. Individually these are great colors but they didn’t work together. With the capsule, I don’t have to worry about that anymore. All of my clothing coordinates. I don’t have concern that a color or cut isn’t working for me. And considering that the only thing Hubs wants to do now is travel, my uniform works in New York, New Orleans, and Chicago, as much as it does in Atlanta. It’s nondescript and with my red hair as the showstopper I no longer feel like a clown, but a sophisticated mature woman.
It’s clean. It’s classic. It suits me.
Shopping is also simplified. I don’t enjoy spending the whole day in a mall or shopping center trying on clothing. Instead, I go online and only purchase things in black. If I don’t love it, I send it right back. Before the capsule, I’d ordered clothing that claimed to be or looked like one color and turned out to be another color. Ordered something in blush only to get it in the mail and see it’s actually baby-nursery pink. Ordered something in merlot and receive it to realize it was purple. I hate that! Black is always black and there is comfort in the consistency.
Pinterest has tons of pins about developing a capsule collection. And while some are made specifically to one of the many seasons, I like an all-season collection. Despite all the capsule pins, all anyone really needs is a color palate and to stick to it.
Read Books. Wear Boots.