Scarcity Mentality vs. Capsule Wardrobe

How do you differentiate between having a scarcity mentality and having a capsule wardrobe?

The advice in most traditional books about style (including my own) is to start with a few good, classic pieces and then build.  You can create quite a lot of looks with a solid set of quality basics and a handful of well-chosen accessories.

You’re not meant to stop there.   In a perfect world, you would continue to build your wardrobe by finding more quality pieces that work with your colors and life, which, if chosen well, will expand your outfit choices exponentially rather than piece by piece.   That perfect scarf goes with three blouses and can be worn four ways… the nude heels upgrade all your dresses… the skirt that turns basic into fun… you know the drill.

This is what’s known as a capsule wardrobe – something so well curated that you don’t need much to have a lot.  Everything you own is loved, everything you own is coordinated and loves the rest of your wardrobe.

In contrast, a scarcity mentality focuses on the number of items or the money spent, not on the pleasure or utility you get from the items.  A scarcity mentality encourages you to wear your good things out, because how dare you duplicate something you’re wearing twice a week.  A scarcity mentality limits you, and makes the size of your wardrobe something you feel guilty about, not something you maintain with intelligence and love.

So, how does one find balance?

I often drift into scarcity, so one of the things that I do is to very intentionally *buy more clothing* – and not try to make every purchase a perfect one.  I don’t do this at the most expensive stores, I do it at “the good Marshalls” (the one in the pricey part of town, with the designer cast-offs).

The fun stuff fills in my serious pieces and gives me a bit of a lift, gives me a bit of a break.  And the fun stuff also gives me permission to look at new styles and color combinations.  When it’s $15 on the line, okay – maybe that blouse was a tad bright, but gosh darn it, it sure makes me smile.

Which then informs my capsule wardrobe purchases… how do I incorporate the things that brought me joy into my quality (read, expensive in time or money) garments?

Because clothing wears out and your body changes, a wardrobe is a perpetually evolving beast.  You can never achieve finished perfection, and that’s okay.  A scarcity mentality can’t deal with that truth – that even the nicest item, worn often, will wear out.  That no matter how perfect the fit today, the suitability, in ten years time it just might not work for you.

Allow your wardrobe to change, evolve, and bring you joy – without wallowing in excess.


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