The capsule wardrobe may seem like an innovative approach to getting dressed, but its beginnings date back to the 1970s. The recent rebirth of the capsule wardrobe is a testament to its relevance, no matter the decade. Let’s take a look back at its origins and the history behind it.
The term itself, capsule wardrobe, was coined by Susie Faux in the 1970s. From a young age, Faux was surrounded by high-quality fashion. Both her parents and grandparents were women’s tailors. She saw first hand that classic, well-fitting clothing can make you look beautiful and inspire confidence. Her experience working in the advertising industry motivated her to help women dress as well as their male counter parts. In 1973 Faux opened Wardrobe, a boutique in the West End of London. Her primary mission was to help women develop style and confidence. She brought designers like Jil Sander to the UK and built a reputation with a minimalist, foundational aesthetic. In 1980, Faux pioneered the term capsule wardrobe. She started to define the parameters of the concept in her book Wardrobe: Develop Your Style & Confidence. As Faux states, “The basic idea is simple: by building a capsule wardrobe you will buy fewer clothes of a higher quality that you will wear more often. You will look and feel confident and successful because the quality will show and because you know that the overall look works.”
The concept was developed with the career woman specifically in mind. The capsule wardrobe provides women with a road map of how to get dressed with ease while still looking professional and put together. Faux defined the core pieces as a jacket, a skirt, trousers, a blouse, a sweater, tights, shoes, a coat, a dress, a bag, and a belt. However, she also believes “the ideal size of your capsule will depend from person to person. There’s no hard and fast rules, here – the principle is that less is more so really what you’re trying to do is to make the most of your budget to create a working wardrobe with high quality clothes that will be sufficient for your lifestyle.”
In 1985 the capsule wardrobe was made popular in the US by American designer Donna Karan. After working at Anne Klein for more than 10 years, Karan went on to launch her first line, the Seven Easy Pieces. Like Faux, Donna Karan was inspired by the contemporary, career woman. She wanted to show women that it was possible to look polished and professional without wearing a suit. The foundational item of the Seven Easy Pieces was the black bodysuit. Her first fashion show featured models in bodysuits. The women progressively added more pieces to create a full outfit. The first Donna Karan collection featured a wrap skirt, pants, short and long skirts, a tailored jacket, sweaters, scarves, and chunky gold jewelry. The 1985 Milwaukee Journal reported: “It was clear from the overwhelming applause at show’s end that not only Donna Karan but a lot of women want to dress this way.” Her inaugural collection was considered a breakthrough and Donna Karan quickly became a household name.
It’s hard to say why the capsule wardrobe has seen a revival in the last few years. Perhaps the rise of fast fashion and its subsequent impact on women’s closets is pushing consumers to be more contentious. Maybe our closets, filled with cheap, ill-fitting clothes, have driven us to look for more long lasting wardrobe solutions. Whatever the driving force may be, women today are experiencing the same issues they did 30 years ago. As Donna Karan stated in 1985, “So many women find assembling the right clothes bewildering today. They’ve discovered fast ways to put food on the table, but they do not know how to get their wardrobes together easily.” This still rings true in 2016. It is no surprise that women today love the capsule wardrobe concept. It allows us to get dressed with ease and save time and energy for the things that matter most.