Capsule Wardrobe, part 4

Things I’ve learned recently:
– getting rid of things so I can have a capsule wardrobe was not the hard part
– the hard part is standing in a dressing room…
– trying to figure out why you don’t love the adorable olive green cozy sweater
– that honestly fits you perfectly
– and you know you would love on anyone else
– and realizing what you don’t love about it is the body inside it
– and that maybe your body image issues are what’s holding you back from having the style you want.

I went shopping with Daniella, my beautiful friend who is helping me build a capsule (she is well qualified – see for yourself on her blog, Fox and Bloom). Poor, poor Daniella, who walked with me through five stores, picked out things for me to try on (after studying my Pinterest boards and the worksheet I did through her website), and gave excellent advice. Who grabbed different sizes and colors for me while I was in the dressing room, who was honest with me, and who told me I was pretty. Poor Daniella, who watched me unravel over a buy-one-get-one-50% off sale on sweaters. After two hours, I couldn’t make a decision on anything, and we thankfully called it quits. Mall: 1, Hanna: 0.

As I stood in front of the mirror wearing an item of clothing that I a) had on my shopping list, b) fit perfectly and was even flattering,  and c) met all my color, comfort, and other requirements, I knew that what I really didn’t like about what I was seeing wasn’t the sweater – it was the curves underneath.

That’s all it took for me to want to give up on my capsule altogether. I was feeling doubts about whether what I want to wear is what will look good on my body. (Or at least what I apparently think looks good on my body. Daniella liked it, and she’s usually right. Do I really have such a poor perspective on how I look?) When I was creating my Pinterest board, was I pinning because I wanted to wear what that girl was wearing, or because I wanted to look like the girl wearing it? And if I can’t look like that, who cares what I wear? Why even try? Why even put myself through this shopping experience? What could be more reasonable, ethical, and cost-saving than deciding to just wear what I already own until it falls apart?

Feeling low, I hugged Daniella goodbye and started walking to my car… or so I led her to believe. I actually entered into some sort of dazed dream sequence, blacked out, and came to in the check out line at Forever 21. Funny how that works. For about a year I’ve been struggling to climb up to the high ground where I can stand and truthfully say that I never, never, shop at Forever 21. In fact, one of the reasons a capsule wardrobe appealed to me in the first place was because fewer clothes = fewer purchases = I can shop ethically. Jen Hatmaker talks a lot about that in her 7 Experiment Bible study. Sure, I love the two shirts I bought (one of which I wore three days in a row last weekend – shhhh), and I found the scarf of my dreams, but I left with the guilt of knowing that my clothes were probably made by people who are paid next to nothing.

So that’s where I was after my first capsule shopping trip: guilty of putting my dollars where my heart doesn’t belong, and body-shaming myself. Not ideal.

It’s times like that when I’ve had to remind myself why I’m doing this in the first place. I was shopping so I would have things that I love to wear, so I don’t have to put on clothes that make me feel bad about myself, and so I don’t have stress while getting dressed in the morning. It might sound silly, but that’s the reality of my relationship with clothes. They dictate how I feel, take up my thoughts, suck away my money, and feed my insecurity. I don’t know what your relationship with clothing is like, but we all have one. Women have to deal with judgement from others regarding our clothing, feeling like nothing is made for our bodies, worrying about modesty or being sexualized, carrying emotional baggage from when we were “uncool” in our younger years, wondering what we are saying through what we wear… and I have never said this with more honesty: the struggle is real.

Deciding to never shop again and just wear the clothes I have until they fall apart was kind of a serious consideration, but one that would never work. It would only give me a false sense of not caring how I look. Never updating my wardrobe, while ethical and cost-saving, would just end with me internalizing and bottling up my hate-how-I-look feelings, and when a few of those feelings leaked out, I would impulse-buy something, just like I’ve been doing for years. But, with my capsule, I am aiming for the same kind of peace of mind I would have if I could happily wear the same sweats every day. Once it’s done, I won’t have so many worries about how I look, I won’t do needless shopping, and I won’t own so much.

I reminded myself of these things as I drove home, hoping that I wouldn’t regret my purchases the next day. It was a good thing, I told myself, that I was building a capsule. Less stress, fewer possessions, less money spent in the long run… all good. It was even a good thing that I was facing these feelings and fighting them, but since when have good things been all easy? I have had a lot of fun building my capsule so far, but it wouldn’t be honest of me to glaze over the difficult part. You can start this capsule wardrobe process with all the gusto in the world, but eventually you will hit an emotional wall and have to face yourself and fight the bad thoughts. But it’s okay! We’re here for you! Cheering you on! You can do it, you beautiful thing, you!

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