I have wanted a capsule wardrobe for what feels like forever. I first saw the idea in a magazine years ago and was enchanted. The concept of achieving effortless style, endless outfit combinations, and eliminating a number of items in my already cluttered closet sounded amazing, but every time it felt like the right time to get started, I became frustrated.
The problem was every magazine article, online tutorial, and social media influencer I encountered on my quest for the perfect step-by-step guide was trying to sell me something. Instead of walking me through a process of curating a custom capsule wardrobe, they made endless suggestions about the perfect white tee, the best butt-hugging jeans, and the ideal platform slip-on shoes complete with links for easy shopping.
Don’t get me wrong, I love shopping for clothes and I don’t even mind being target-marketed, but I was unimpressed by the lack of effort offered by each entity. Though each option provided a slightly different formula, it was exactly that—a formula. It was as though each person needed exactly the same items in their closets and that would equate to a perfectly curated and simplified personal style. We don’t all need the exact same things—we are not the same.
These capsule-gurus, though well-intended, failed in my view. They did not take the whole person into consideration and chose to educate the masses en masse. Had I followed their advice, instead of creating a capsule wardrobe, I might have instead cultivated discontentment, dissatisfaction, and debt. In order to have their idea of a capsule wardrobe, I would have had to forfeit those unique aspects of myself—my style, my budget, and my shape—and sacrificed them on the altar of the capsule gods. Tempting, but no.
With a heavy sigh, I shoved the hope of ever successfully curating a capsule wardrobe under my bed along with the Amazon vacuum storage bags holding my seasonal articles of clothing. There they sat, my dreams and my bags, collecting dust for six months while they awaited their turn in the glory of my terribly-lit bedroom. At least I had been able to separate my expanding wardrobe into four seasons. Except in Central California we really only have four different versions of the same season: pre-summer, obviously-summer, second-summer, and summer-break. I resigned myself to a confused closet forever and bid farewell to my hope of unique and simplified style.
Enter Ashlee Gadd.
I met Ashlee at a MOPS meeting (Mothers of Pre-Schoolers). She was cool—way cooler than I felt at that time. Not only is she a an authentic and thoughtful author, podcaster, and content creator, but she is also the quintessential champion of anyone who shows up thoughtfully in their own personal arena. She truly is for you—which brings me back to capsule wardrobes.
As many other content creators did during the early days of the pandemic, Ashlee and her team brainstormed ways to thoughtfully engage and serve their community. I’m not on her team, but knowing Ashlee a little gives me confidence that she earnestly desired to offer her audience a fun and engaging way to do something practical that might otherwise feel overwhelming or challenging—or both. She and her friend Callie created a capsule wardrobe class.
I wasn’t prepared to sign up for the first round, but when the course came up again several months later after a wildly successful initial round, I jumped at the opportunity. The course was four-weeks long and utilized email, printed worksheets, a Slack group, and one Zoom meeting. It. Was. Genius.
Aside from being aesthetically gorgeous, each handout contained some background information, some homework, an invitation to connect, and a journal/diary section to process your thoughts and emotions as you complete each step. The Slack group allowed for each participant to engage at the level they felt most comfortable, which only enhanced the shared experience. I loved how we each contributed to the communal process while individually working through our own closets.
As if by some sort of fufu-shishi magic, Ashlee offered a thoughtful, personal, and holistic approach to what can sometimes feel like a superficial and self-indulgent aspect of life. What I realized through this process is that how we express ourselves externally is closely linked with how we are doing internally. It was nearly impossible for me not to notice the spiritual connection between these closet exercises and my life with Jesus.
The first week, our homework was to take an inventory. We were invited to consider our current closet in all of its cluttered, unclear, disorganized glory. We examined all the things: beautiful, comfortable, ugly, frustrating, and curious. We also considered several possible explanations for how or why we achieved this specific closet. Participating in this process made me realize the value of taking an inventory.
Similar to our week one homework, we can take an inventory of our lives. Taking inventory is a wise and healthy way to get a clear picture of our current reality. Entering into this process can provide us valuable insight and shed light on invitations from the Holy Spirit to be open to transformation. In response to this new connection, I decided to ask myself some questions (they’re not about clothes):
- What are some ways I intentionally connect with God right now?
- What are places in my life I avoid God?
- How long has it been since I last read the Bible, pray, meditate, etc?
- How does my body feel lately?
- Is my body trying to tell me something I have been unwilling to hear?
- What habits do I continue to practice that may no longer serve me?
- What practices (healthy or not) do I frequently go to?
- Where do I feel stuck? Who or what are associated with that feeling?
- What relationships are life giving right now?
- Are there any unhealthy relationships in my life right now?
- Where am I resisting God?
- When I think about God, what stories am I telling myself? Are they true?
- Who have I given permission to speak-into and influence my life?
If you haven’t taken a personal inventory lately, I encourage you to select one, two, or a few of these questions and pray about them. Journal your responses and ask the Holy Spirit to help you navigate through them. If you feel ill-equipped to do this alone, ask someone you know to do it with you. Knowing where I am often helps me hear the voice of God over the noise of my life.
In week two of our class, we spent time discovering our personal style. This part of the process invited us to paint a picture of our how we wanted to show up in the world (fashionably speaking) unhindered by the current state of our closet. It didn’t matter if all we currently had was five pairs of yoga pants, one pair of jeans from high school, a faded oversized sweatshirt, and that one shirt we feel great in—we got to decide what our style was going to be from this moment forward.
We pinned all the pins, shared all the boards, and offered each other advice along the way. Why is this process exactly what it feels like to walk side-by-side with Jesus? I was sitting in my bedroom pinning all the simple, minimalist, boho fashion ideas while simultaneously taking spiritual formation notes on the pile of napkins I had on my nightstand. We individually, but simultaneously in community, pursued what we were after. We were all after a capsule wardrobe that represented who we were uniquely, which meant we all ended up with wildly different results—but also the same result.
In the gospel accounts, we read story after story demonstrating that Jesus didn’t care about your background, what you’d done, or what your current circumstances were. No matter who you were, his invitation was the same: follow me. Jesus came down to earth to show us the path of human flourishing. Those who followed Jesus before his death and resurrection believed the gospel. Those who followed him after his death and resurrection lived the gospel. As we endeavor to live the truth of the gospel in our individual lives, they will look the same but different from others doing the same thing.
Similar to the process of curating a capsule wardrobe, Jesus didn’t take a one-size fits all approach to making disciples. He called individual people out of their very specific messes and offered them an abundant alternative where they can belong, be loved, and believe the good news even as they were being made new. He showed us what was possible and taught us out to apply his way of being to any and every walk of life. The many ways we show up in the world are unique expressions of the truth of the gospel taking our individual hearts captive.
The third week was the most challenging. We were invited to face the full reality of our closets in broad daylight. We emptied out every nook of every drawer and every cranny of our cramped closets and placed everything in a pile. Then came the tedious task of sorting through each item to determine whether it fit you, suits your desired style, feels right, and is worthy of a place in your finite space. The basic question we asked was whether or not something belonged in your new closet. Does it stay or does it go?
As we walk with Jesus, things will begin to come to light. Some of them might be helpful and good. Others might be distracting and unhealthy. With the Holy Spirit’s guidance, we may need to say goodbye to those things either immediately or over time. Sometimes something will stay on probation—a sort of trial run. There are a few dresses hanging in my closet right now that I will reassess in six months. If I’ve worn them and loved them, they can stay. If I haven’t, they will go. We can do the same thing in our lives.
The good news is that unlike week three of my capsule wardrobe class, Jesus does not often show us everything all at once. That would be too much for us to bear at once. While there is an instant change that takes place in our hearts when we decide to follow Jesus, there is also a gradual change that occurs over the course of our lives. Pastor and scholar Eugene Peterson calls this a long obedience in the same direction.
At any given time, as we follow after Jesus, we may remove something from our lives that once served us, but no longer does. We might also add something in we previously had no use for because it now produces something good in us. This was the focus of week four. After we did the hard work of letting go of things that do not fall in our style category (either in form or function) and thus decluttering our closets, we asked ourselves what was missing. Slowly and not all at once, after identifying those missing pieces—those pieces which would provide a more robust and unique expression of our style, we can add new things in.
Spiritually speaking, this might be akin to the incorporation of a new spiritual discipline or redefining healthy spiritual rhythms as you flow through various seasons of life. You might decide to take a theology class or join a prayer group. You might decide, as I have, that you want to incorporate more silence in your life and so you adjust your schedule so you can practice it. The Holy Spirit might even say enough.
I hope I’ve given you enough info to wet your palette, but not satiate your curiosity. If a capsule wardrobe is something you’ve always wanted to embrace, I highly encourage you to sign up for her next installment of Simple Style. It is not a cookie cutter experience, they don’t try to sell you anything (although they’ll provide links and suggestions if you ask), and you don’t all come out with the same look or number of items.
You’re probably wondering how on earth this is considered a capsule if there isn’t a specific number of items we limit ourselves to. Fair question. This takes me back to the beauty and brilliance of the way Ashlee designed this course. It is very personal. The goal was the same for each of us: to love our clothes and be able to get dressed in five minutes without feeling frustrated so that we can use the time we would have otherwise spent agonizing over what to wear doing things we love.
It’s the same in our faith. The goal is the same for each of us: to know, love, and worship God by modeling our lives after Christ by the power and presence of the Holy Spirit so that we can freely and uniquely invite others to do the same over the course of our entire lives. What feels simple or effortless to me might feel complex and cluttered to you. We are in this Christian walk both individually and together. That’s the beauty of following Jesus in community.
It might be a stretch to imagine that entering into the process of curating a capsule wardrobe might also reveal some spiritual truths, but that’s a pair of yoga pants I’m willing to wear. If we aren’t open to see God’s goodness and truth reflected in even the most trivial or frivolous parts of our lives, then we are missing out. The good news of the gospel has the power to penetrate and transform anything and anyone—even our closets.
Tell me about a time when has God revealed a profound truth in a surprising circumstance! I’d love to hear about it.