I'm a Maximalist, But I Stuck to a Very Simple Capsule Wardrobe This January

I was wearing a feathered tank, velvet flares and seven different variations of chunky rings when Who What Wear’s Hannah approached me with a challenge to sartorially strip things back for a week and document my journey.

“A maximalist, moi?” I exclaimed. My partner guffawed, his eyes scanning my many shelves of bags, shoes and general frippery. “Okay, so maybe I am partial to an accessory (or five),” I conceded. “But how hard can this be?” I simply needed to edit my wardrobe down to a few well-chosen pieces. And let’s face it: I was hardly devoid of choice.

As I prepared a rail of monochrome separates, the reality of a week without colour, print or sequins dawned upon me. I eyed up my newly edited capsule wardrobe, including an oversized white shirt, cropped leather flares and a couple of pairs of simple gold hoops. I already owned—and loved—each of these pieces. The only difference was they were usually accompanied by pink mohair, leopard print and/or a garishly logo-laden accessory. “Less is more,” I chanted through gritted teeth.

Day One

Zara dress; Dr. Martens boots; Theodora Warre earrings

Armed with an old-favourite Zara maxi, I was off to a flying start—and not a ruffle or sequin in sight. This knitted dress is the perfect throw-on piece, toughened up by a pair of platform boots. I usually wear this with a big fuzzy coat and a statement backpack, but in the name of minimalism, I accessorised only with a pair of simple gold hoops.

Day Two

The white-tee-and-leather-jacket combo may seem like a no-brainer to some, but this outfit felt most out of my comfort zone, perhaps because my usual instinct is to add a hair clip or accessory. (I have a huge vintage Japanese tulip brooch that would have looked super cool.) Instead, my pop of colour came in the form of MAC’s Lady Danger lipstick. I am the master of restraint, clearly.

Day Three

 H&M knit; Zara trousers; Dr. Martens boots; Arket earrings; Prada bag

I love an all-black look, so this outfit came easily to me. I own two pairs of these Zara faux-leather trousers because I’m terrified of ever being without them, which isn’t a very minimalist thing to say. Head-to-toe black requires a bit of textural interest. Cue a fuzzy knit. I cheated a bit with this Prada bag (a Bicester Village find from years ago) and a very OTT Saks Potts coat. Once a maximalist, always a maximalist?

Day Four

Arket shirt; & Other Stories polo-neck; Zara trousers; Gucci loafers; Topshop trench coat; vintage Louis Vuitton bag; Arket earrings

By day four, I was dreaming of statement coats and prairie dresses. “Stay strong,” I muttered as I donned this monochrome look. I felt very grown-up—a decided departure from my usual style. For running errands, I threw on an oversized trench coat and my teeny vintage LV (which I recently hunted down at a bargain price). Though this outfit made me realise the wonder of layering a polo-neck beneath a shirt, I’m not sure I’m serious enough to wear this combination again.

Day Five

Vintage jacket; Topshop bodysuit; Reserved trousers; vintage belt; vintage hair bow; Miu Miu boots; vintage bag; Arket earrings

I broke the rules of the challenge most spectacularly for a trip to the ballet, accessorising with not one but two bows. Oops. Otherwise, I tried to stick to a simple silhouette in all-black, and I even removed the trousers’ detachable marabou hem. Does this mean I’m a changed woman? I also rediscovered these old Miu Miu boots. I love the peep of patent toe against the velvet trews.

Day Six

H&M knit; Zara trousers; Chanel bag; Marks and Spencer boots; Arket earrings

By day six, I was tired of my monochrome uniform and furiously looking up “minimalist style” on Pinterest for inspiration. After scrolling through lots of photos of neutral-hued knits and classic blue denim, I decided to style my own version, swapping out jeans for some slouchy cargo pants for a little pizzazz. I hovered over a pair of silver boots before sadly resigning myself to a plain black pair. My partner, who often finds my maximalist style perplexing, loved this look. Me, not so much. I’d definitely prefer it with a metallic accessory or patterned gilet.

Day Seven

Perhaps seven days of pared-back style changed my brain chemistry, but I’m kind of obsessed with this look, if I do say so myself. It involves my beloved Prada loafers (a wonderfully cartoonish take on a perennial classic), a little grey vest I knitted and my new favourite jeans, the Topshop Kort. There’s something about the exaggerated proportions of the shoes and jeans and the shrunken fit of the vest that makes my fashion-loving heart sing.

What I Learned From My Capsule

Having completed seven days of minimalist(ish) outfits, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t excited to shimmy back into my clashing prints and pie-crust collars or that I reduced my entire wardrobe to 15 items and swore off sequins forever. While I appreciate minimalist style on others—as well as the value of a capsule wardrobe—I’m too sartorially neurotic to rely on a rotation of simple separates.

I was, however, inspired to do an epic wardrobe clear-out, donating nine huge bags of clothes to my local charity shop. And on my last visit to my favourite vintage market, I found myself seeking out those classic, keep-forever garments rather than the sparkly dresses, cottagecore blouses and over-the-top jackets I usually gravitate towards.

I ought to disclaim that as I write this conclusion, I am wearing a very loved Marc by Marc Jacobs tee I snaffled at the opening of the first-ever London store, a Mondrian-inspired cardigan, some Adidas tracksuit bottoms that my partner refers to as my Squid Game trousers and my beloved silver boots. What can I say? The heart wants what the heart wants, and this one wants colours and sequins and ruffles.

Next up, the key trends for spring/summer 2022.

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