Is it possible to build a complete capsule wardrobe, with a minimalist, utilitarian aesthetic for £1000?
While reflecting on how much less I spend on clothing nowadays, I couldn’t help but wonder: how much does an average person spend on clothes per year, at least in the UK? So I head to Google to try and find out. The results do not seem reliable. There is, seemingly, an elision between household and individual spends on clothing. The figure I settled on, however, from our Office for National Statistics (ONS) says that households in the UK tend to spend £23.50 a week on clothes, which in a year equals £1220. This figure, after-all, must build a ‘complete’ wardrobe, following the ideas of a minimalist approach. To many this would be a princely sum, to others it may represent a jacket or two pairs of boots.
Watch the YouTube version below! Check out the rest of the article for in-depth information!
So that seriousness aside, what would this – for sake of argument – £1220 buy you? I imagined a scenario, not unlike the beginning of an Elder Scrolls or other RPG game, where you have an initial outfit and must acquire everything else you need. If all I had was an internet connection, and a more-or-less fixed budget so that I could go outside without being (worst-case dungeon master) naked or in pyjamas (a bit easier), what would I look for. So rather than this being about “what would I buy with £1220 in a year”, it was “what kind of capsule wardrobe could I buy with an ‘average’ year’s expenditure”.
I think this is interesting because a capsule wardrobe usually appeals to both
a) individuals who feel they have are overwhelmed and have too many items of clothing, and
b) those who are seeking advice on buying a versatile collection of garments that will prevent unneeded expenditure.
In many ways this was both an easy and hard task. Because, truly, the only men’s capsule wardrobe I can really follow on from is my own. For some this example would not work. So without further ado:
Criteria for this challenge
- Must fulfil a specific, identifiable function or look in casual or smart-casual scenarios.
- Must assume that someone is starting from scratch as much as possible.
- Criteria is that an item must always be of trusted quality/longevity for its type.
- No hygiene related items like pyjamas, socks or underwear.
- Do not include items for work/school uniform or smart occasions (this varies job-to-job/country-to-country).
- Limit duplication (as much as possible).
- Expect to wash at least once per week and to wear items multiple times when possible. (i.e. – does anyone wear a different pair of jeans every day?) Excessive washing can shorten the life of some items.
- No discount codes as these are temporary/context specific. Likewise do not factor in delivery.
- No accessories except for hats and a backpack.
- Predominant outfit to be jeans and a t-shirt, changed in various ways with layers and shoes.
- Keep a ‘minimal’ colour palette – Black, grey, white, blue only. This maximises versatility and mixing/matching. Colour blocking, for me, is much more based on whims and does not suit everyone.
Aesthetically I would obviously aim for a minimalist or clean look, using iconic and versatile items (see @martinocampari for a luxe/”statement” version of this aesthetic above). Consistently focusing on styling really is very important in a capsule wardrobe, because you can’t necessarily lean on constant variety. For example in terms of shoes, boots and classic sneakers like Vans are the foundation.
My first step was to consider some scenarios. What first came to mind, being British, was wind and rain. We do face it 199 days of the year, after-all. We basically permanently live in a state of Autumn/Fall.
Thinking of weather of course, there are very warm days (few and far between that they are, and arguably the hardest conditions to accommodate here). Smart-casual situations like dinners and lunches with my wife/girlfriend, and generally doing day-to-day activities generate other ideas.
I then proceeded to add items that would fit to my Pinterest. [CLICK TO BROWSE]
I tried to think of very good quality brands that would not blow the budget. Some items, such as basic t-shirts and sweatshirts would have to be on the “budget” or cheaper-end. The bulk of the budget would go towards a versatile coat and footwear to fit any smart-casual or casual scenario.
Surprisingly, I added up the total for my initial ‘shop’ and found it came to around £1150, meaning I was right on target. I then proceeded to edit and curate the list.
The brands were:
- Adidas – specifically their Terrex line of walking/trail shoes.
- All Saints – looked for denim jackets/flannel shirts
- Champion – Reverse Weave hoodies.
- COS – for more relaxed alternatives to skinny jeans. A sub-brand of H&M.
- Dickies – basic, workman t-shirts.
- Dr Martens – all black boots.
- H&M – stretch skinny jeans at a very low price point. Includes Weekday at ASOS, a sub-brand of H&M.
- Levi’s – vintage denim jackets on ASOS marketplace
- Marks & Spencers – their suede Chelsea Boots come highly recommended in a range of shades
- Patagonia – pride themselves on ethical practices (for goose-down) and high quality. It is always worthwhile looking for reviews of performance-based clothing like the above.
- Reiss – their outlet is always great for a smart/smart-casual bargain.
(Warning: Video contains extreme enthusiasm)
Backpacks, for me, are the most practical and utilitarian of all bag designs. You can carry much more, in a much more comfortable fashion, and they are far better for your posture than something like a shoulder/messenger/satchel bag. Win-win!
- The North Face – for backpacks and other gear like shorts.
- Vans – their canvas sneakers are incredible value and are very comfortable.
- Zara – I detest the fast fashion meatgrinder but I can seriously recommend their basic baseball caps from my experience.
Brands I excluded/edited out were:
- ASOS –
- Rains – I chose Patagonia for their standpoint on repairability and transparent, ethical materials.
So how did I do?
(Sorted by Description/role A-Z)
Total £ 1244.39
Average item price: £62.22
Total items = 31
Shoes: 4 pairs
Thoughts and reflections – would this be an effective capsule wardrobe?
What was most interesting, for me, was that this budget could – more or less – buy 31 items, a very close number to Courtney Carver’s benchmark number of 33 items of clothing for Project 333.
While a few of these items were discounted, I did not factor in offers typically given by retailers like discount codes or money-off on first purchases. With these in mind the total of £1244.39 would probably be much lower in reality. So me going £24.39 over the initial amount does not bother me.
And now for the unboxing… Just joking. Most of that’s marketing.