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How to curate a 'capsule' wardrobe

Capsule wardrobe is an old concept that's getting new interest.

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An array of clothing items from Knight's Chamber that demonstrate a "capsule wardrobe," which can be described as minimalist and functional where items can be mixed and matched. The items were photographed Thursday, Dec. 9, 2021, in Rochester. Joe Ahlquist / Post Bulletin
Joe Ahlquist
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People who are curating their own personal style and people who don’t want to spend a lot of time deciding what to wear are employing a timeless trend.

"Capsule wardrobes" are catching on — again.

“I feel like it’s the way people used to dress,” said Brooke Burch, owner of Brooke Burch Custom Sewing and Alterations.

People used to have one or two nice items and build their professional and special occasion outfits around those pieces, Burch said.

A capsule wardrobe can mean different things.

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“For some people, it’s a uniform,” said Svaar Vinje, owner of Knight’s Chamber. An example of that concept would be Steve Jobs. He owned multiples of the same type of jeans, black turtlenecks and blazer. Those items created his one signature outfit.

On the other end of the spectrum, capsule wardrobes can feature multiple types of items in multiple colors that all match each other and can be worn either in dress or casual settings.

“To me, the definition of a capsule wardrobe is putting together items that collaborate and go together with the entirety of the wardrobe,” Vinje said.

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Svaar Vinje, owner of Knight's Chamber, Thursday, Dec. 9, 2021, in Rochester. Joe Ahlquist / Post Bulletin
Joe Ahlquist

Vinje helps people curate wardrobes. Many of his clients end up with a sort of capsule wardrobe in that each piece goes with every other, depending on mood or situation.

He said changes in men’s fashion over the last decade make it possible — and harder — to curate a versatile wardrobe with variety.

“The spectrum of what people consider in fashion has changed a lot in the last 10 years,” he said. “That complicates the capsule wardrobe.”

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Colorful shirts, patterned pants and whimsical, colorful socks are all acceptable fashion for men. More than a decade ago, men didn’t have that kind of leeway and a capsule wardrobe would resemble something closer to Steve Jobs’ wardrobe.

Vinje said he wouldn’t recommend that type of wardrobe to a client.

“You do a disservice not encouraging (clients) to have variety,” he said.

Burch agreed.

“You need clothes that can be worn in multiple settings and occasions,” she said.

She said her male customers tend to want to mix and match. Women are trending toward more gender-neutral wardrobes.

Burch added she likes the concept of curating a wardrobe in which everything can be matched, but doesn’t think people should limit themselves.

“The word ‘capsule’ bothers me,” she said. “I don’t think your wardrobe is ever done.”

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She says she prefers the word “planned,” meaning a so-called capsule wardrobe can help people curate a signature look.

Phallyni Korng has been curating a look by adding turtlenecks to her wardrobe.

“I do like wearing them,” Korng said. “They’re so comfortable — especially this time of year.”

The turtlenecks are versatile, she added.

“I think a turtleneck has that style to fit in every occasion,” she said.

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Phallyni Korng Thursday, Dec. 9, 2021, in Rochester. Traci Westcott / Post Bulletin
Traci Westcott

However, creating a look doesn’t have to be boring, Korng added. She said she’s trying to add more colorful turtlenecks to her wardrobe. Most of her turtlenecks are neutral colors.

“Not only am I trying to experiment with new colors now, I try to match for the day as well,” she said.

A bright, sunny day calls for a colorful shirt, Korng added.

“But those are the kind I have trouble trying to find,” she said.

By varying colors and styles a bit, she avoids turning her look into a uniform.

Vinje said building a capsule wardrobe starts with eliminating items.

“You start by eliminating what doesn’t work for them,” he said. “And then you create diversity in a small spectrum.”

A well-fitting shirt in a flattering color would likely look good with a tie and blazer as well as untucked with jeans, he said. Add some shirts that match the tie that matches the shirt, you are on your way to a curated wardrobe.

Burch offers similar advice.

“Find what works and build around it,” Burch said.

However, that advice is generally easier for men, she said.

A man could wear the same style of powder blue dress shirt to work five days in a row without much notice. A woman wearing the same dress consecutive days would likely get noticed, she said.

Varying colors, like Korng with turtlenecks, cuts and necklines, can help create a bit of variety within a woman’s wardrobe, Burch said.

What matters most is if it fits and looks right.

“If you feel confident in what you’re wearing, that’s going to show,” she said.

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Phallyni Korng Thursday, Dec. 9, 2021, in Rochester. Traci Westcott / Post Bulletin
Traci Westcott

John Molseed joined the Post Bulletin in 2018. He covers arts, culture, entertainment, nature and other fun stories he's surprised he gets paid to cover. When he's not writing articles about Southeast Minnesota artists and musicians, he's either picking banjo, brewing beer, biking or looking for other hobbies that begin with the letter "b." Readers can reach John at 507-285-7713 or jmolseed@postbulletin.com.
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