According to my byline on Man Repeller, I have been dancing around the idea that I want to own less clothing for at least a year. Last October I wrote about wardrobe nirvana (or the allure of a capsule wardrobe) under the guise of a piece about closet cleaning. In December, I confronted the grisly consumerist within for a piece called “Why Does Shopping Make Me Feel So Good?” (It’s a crutch like any other substance to which you can become addicted.)

And then in February, I reported learnings from a month of not shopping.

In April, I was interviewed for a closet tour video powered by British Vogue wherein I explained that my ideal wardrobe would contain no more than 15 pieces. This is ironic given that the setting for the video was an office-turned-closet in my apartment, which got me thinking about why the hell I keep talking about how badly I want to own less stuff and furthermore, why I don’t just, you know, own less stuff?

Seeing as this is an extremely high-level problem that is not actually a problem at all, I’ve hesitated to write about it. But the longer I let it simmer, the more I realize that this problem is a tangible extension of a transition defined by a question of which I’m very much in the weeds: who the fuck am I? Through this lens, I think my obsession with achieving a capsule closet is worth exploring.

Some days I wake up and literally have no clue what I am doing here. This is probably because in the former part of my twenties, I did a great job believing that I knew exactly who I was, like I had cracked the code on existence. There I was, a woman who refused to be bogged down by the tangible boundaries of identity, using fashion to slip in and out of different personalities at leisure. I called clothes “temporary tattoos” because they let me say whatever I wanted without words, then take those comments back. “No decision is irrevocable,” I would preach. I marveled in the opportunity to be anyone I wanted to be whenever I wanted to be her. And this, I thought, was my purpose. The crux of my identity. But here’s the thing about such a broad stroke defining what you are: where does it leave you? When you are so frequently playing different roles, you never really get to settle into any single one. Then the end of your twenties sneak up on you, ask you to pick a lane and as you’re zigzagging along on the expressway, you stop and ask: Now what? Who am I?

If it sounds dramatic, that’s because it is. But I can’t help myself! My thoughts are never so one-note that they don’t send me down a rabbit hole of existential confusion. And if I feel like an insecure shell of myself, but am presented with so much choice in the form of racks of clothes that say a million things, how do I choose what to say long term?

I know I ended up with a lot of stuff because I chose to own all of it; when I first started making my own money, I shopped to prove a point that I could have what I want. (To whom? Good question! My mom? Myself? Who knows!) Recently, I am learning that just because I could have it does not mean I should have it, norย do I need to have it, but I still swim among the relics of a younger mentality. So how should I do this? Write out a list? The no-brainer garments I always come back to are:

+Double breasted blazers, straight leg jeans, men’s button down shirts (light blue striped, navy, white), black and white graphic t-shirts, boho-style mini skirts and shorts (see: Isabel Marant), masculine loafers, very feminine sandals and lately, ankle-length dresses.

These items seem to say nothing. If I’m really searching for meaning, perhaps they say that I can be polished and uptight, or free-spirited and malleable all the same. But maybe the fluidity and flexibility is why I’m so attracted to them — if I don’t let my clothes dictate exactly who I am, if I don’t use them as a crutch to do the kind of introspective work that can feel like climbing through peanut butter, I have no choice but to rely on myself to figure it out.

Sometimes that gets too mentally onerous though, which is precisely when the contents of my crowded closet — the bombastic clothes and superfluous shoes and rollicking jewelry — sweep in to save me.

Tbd on what to do next.

Photos by Edith Young.

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  • BuffyAnneSummers97

    I try to use clothing as just a sheath for my earthly vessel so I can go and do shit that I want in the world. I have basic uniforms for my day job, and hobbies, etc. But. If the shit you want to do in this world is write about clothes, and how women use and relate to them, then it only makes perfect sense you should have so many… right? You’re wearing the material of your work.

  • Well … I think I have worked it out:

    First, you need your own definition of “basic items” that can be worn most days and at most occasions (and in certain seasons). Pants, shirts, dresses, skirts, jackets – just like your list above. When your basic needs are taken care of, than you go fancy: a few (!) scarves, bits and pieces of jewellery, a pair or ten of “special” shoes and bags and a few other items of clothing that are special and cannot be worn too often.

    And then you go and combine … You know my game: 15 shirts x 10 x pants x 5 jackets x 3 scarves x 20 pairs of shoes makes for whooping 45000 combinations and even if we agree half of them are improbable, you still need to do 22500 of them (that’s ca. 60 years, btw).

    Of course I conveniently forgot all about the fashion trends but I am sure one can create an approximation for most of them if having shopped wisely in the past. Like: puffy-sleeved T-shirts were all the rage at H&M a few years ago and I don’t have to buy this year’s stuff because I still like the old ones. That and cojones not to care that everyone knows you haven’t shopped the new trend but have rather chosen to imitate it a bit – or ignore it. Transform it. Comment it ironically. Etc. (Obviously, I don’t know what such cleverly curated frugality would mean for your career.)

    The most important aspect of it all is not the numbers and the trends, though. It is memories.

    When I put on a tee I wore on a particularly happy day, the happiness still lingers on the next time I put it on and makes me who I am: the person who is happy to remember the happy moments in the past when she was simply she. (sorry for that)

    That hike with my husband, through rainy but wonderful Swedish forests and then, wow, a wooden cabin with a stove? Been keeping that outdoor jacket out of harm’s way ever since, for the strong memories it contains and evokes …

    • JB


    • alexia

      This system is brillant but It wouldn’t work for me. I just get bored after a while, even with things I loved so much at first. The attractiveness just fades with wearing an item too much. I just like new stuff! That sounds very, very shallow ๐Ÿ™‚ Does anybody know the feeling and found a way around it ? I mean, what can replace the rush of finding a perfect piece of clothing and then wearing it for the first time and feeling so confident, so cozy or so pretty ? Again feeling very shallow!

      • Well, guess what :-), I still buy new clothes and get this kind of excitement, too ๐Ÿ™‚
        (It’s just that I buy less and less; for example totally new concepts to try out (like pink – a color I have started to wear occasionally after turning 40) or replacements for worn-out stuff).

        Apart from sentimentally important rags, I get the most excitement from more expensive clothes that are visibly well-made. Things get even better if they are also made of organic materials. Don’t know why, but I always think I can feel the difference between organic materials and non-organic ones. Maybe I am a natural-born fiber snob ๐Ÿ™‚
        Be that as it may, I consider myself lucky there are shops in Germany selling such clothes and that I can occasionally afford them. And then wear and wear and wear them ๐Ÿ™‚

        If you tend to like items of clothing only once or twice, the best solution would be to sell them afterwards, no?

        • alexia

          Okay thanks for the advice! I’ll admit I get much more enjoyment from a beautiful, well-made piece. I have a few of those and I cherish them. I suppose I need to put more thinking into this and really make the effort to buy more intelligently, and yes sell when needed. Still I’ll never be able to live with only 5 jackets, I’ve been raised to religiously love them, that can’t be good!
          Anyway you’re lucky to have options in terms of organic materials in Germany because it’s not the case in France in my opinion. I try to buy organic and vegan when I can but It’s still rare due to the fact that many of those brands sell the same style : ethnic, boho style that is nice but not my usual go to.

          • I agree it is a great idea to think about your own, special situation and decide what to do – much better than just copy other people’s approaches! I bet you can buy even better clothes to wear often in France ๐Ÿ™‚

            I also need to offer a clarification: the numbers in my comment above were just an example. I do own 5 jackets: but these are just my winter jackets ๐Ÿ™‚ (of different colors and materials, and because they take up quite some space and cannot be worn kaputt so soon, I need not buy new ones.)

          • alexia

            Oh ok that reassures me (for the jackets!), this is a more realistic approach ๐Ÿ˜€

          • Let me make you even happier :-): I probably also own 30 pairs of jeans (= my daily uniform). I never discard them just because they might be out of fashion and they don’t get much opportunity to become unwearable … I might have a pair or five older than 10 years (because sentimentality struck a few times but also because I don’t mind keeping stuff I like regardless of the trends)

          • alexia

            Ahah excellent thank you for the honesty, I can keep my 20 jackets then ๐Ÿ˜€ (same thing, I’ve had some for more than 10 years and don’t wear them much, but I refuse to let them go! It must be a childhood trauma : my mother told me many times about a very pretty pale pink Burberry trench that she threw away and I never quite got over it!)

  • ReadER451

    Maybe you are someone who just has more than 15 items in her closet. There’s nothing bad about that.
    Also, this is annoying, who makes that dress you are wearing in the first photo?

    • Elizabeth Tamkin

      emilia wickstead!

  • Raven

    Sometimes I wish I could find an amazing outfit, good for any and all occasions, and buy multiples of it and just wear the same thing every day. Changing up the shoes/accessories each day would fulfill at least ~part~ of my need for the extravagant.

  • sds616

    Who says you have to stop playing dress up?

    As a woman who is also caught in the throes of the pressure to solidify the definition of self at what seems like a critical moment in her life (Read: I just turned 30!), I feel caught between a) the expectation that I should know exactly who I am, that my identifying features should be unwavering at this point in my life and b) still trying to figure it out. And the next logical thought as someone who cares about fashion, and finds solace in the way an outfit can announce aspects of my being is that sometimes I want to wear my uniform of silk button downs, dress pants and interesting shoes… but other times I want to dress for the weather, for the occasion, for my (erratic) mood(s).

    Maybe that’s an argument for having two closets – one for those [blessed] days you feel grounded in yourself, and one for those days where you just want to try something on for size. I, for one, veer towards keeping my options open. Sometimes you need a pick-me-up in the form of an outrageous pair of heels.

  • Abby

    When I went through a weird phase I got rid of most of my clothes. One, most didn’t even fit right anyways, and two, I just wasn’t feeling that style but didn’t know what to get.
    Minimalists praise themselves a lot, but often it’s kinda impractical. I don’t have anywhere near only fifteen items, but I don’t have a lot. Maybe thirty items not counting workout clothes and cheesy work tshirts (high school teacher!)? But I can wear the same stuff I wear to work on the weekends and to church and stuff. But I’m not very fancy! I know some friends who always dress adorably and know how to pull fun fabrics together and who cares if they need two closets to store it? Sure it stresses me out but I’m not the one living there!

  • I love the idea in theory, and it might make life easier, but not necessarily happier. I like having different clothes for different occasions. As long as it’s not an obsessive amount and you aren’t throwing away your life savings at it, you’re good!

  • Akosua Adasi

    I’m in my last year of tendon and I’m struggling (??) with this same idea. I want a grown up woman wardrobe–everyday day heels, a blazer, a perfect little bag–but I also just want to feel comfortable and just buy almost mindlessly, and figure it out when I get there. The big “who am I” is like a daily crisis , especially when I have to get dressed for new people or people I haven’t seen in a while. Many a journal page and excel spreadsheet have been made in recent weeks just to figure it out and I’m still not there. So is it impossible? Or does it really matter?
    Thanks for the great piece Leandra!

  • Babs

    Love the lead photo! And, hm. I totally see the point of clearing out clutter (physical and mental) to help find your way, but it sounds like you already know the work you have to do is mental. Getting rid of your clothes almost seems like another way to avoid “the work”? Maybe it’s about setting clothes outside of your core self, so that you can still go through style phases (and hoard), without your identity being carried along in that stream.

  • MadMg

    If you want to try it out take everything off your rack and put back 15 items starting with what you wear most. Store the other items out of sight and see how you do.

    You’ve found something though. Could be that the part inside you that knows your happiness isn’t dependant on worldly things and it wants to prove itself. Pursuing this might just be the start of something bigger.

    I must say that when I downsized my clothes other items that weren’t entirely necessary went away. Now my dresser and desk are gone leaving me sitting on two folded up yoga mats.

  • Josefina Cornejo Stewart

    I’ve lived with a capsule wardrobe por around 10 months while I was living abroad and it was a great experience. It took me less time to get dress and I realized I can live with much less.

  • Lilli

    I went through this exact predicament 14 months ago. I was moving from Australia to the US and with little very little savings I knew I had to leave with whatever could fit in one suitcase. I had 3-4 racks jam packed with clothes that I loved. I went into the process of selling/donating clothes thinking I could do it in a day and be done with it. To my surprise it ended up being a very long, emotional thing. I felt like I was going through my past and letting go of memories or feelings I had associated with garments. I was strangely attached. Once I had narrowed my choices down to maybe 10 items I felt LIBERATED! Felt like I had figured out who I truly was, outside of what clothes I wore, almost like I was starting my life fresh ๐Ÿ˜€

  • Leandra babes, if you really wanted it (a capsule wardrobe), you would have done it already and it wouldn’t have been so hard. Don’t fight yourself, don’t fight the shopaholic in you. If you like owning a bunch of clothes what’s the problem in that? It don’t [this is ma girl power Beyoncรฉ gangsta talking] make you irresponsible, nor does it make you a terrible person for possibly not making the best sustainable decision for the environment, I mean the choice is yours and if you do it then own it and make sure it makes sense to you, and if it does awesome! Accept it, screw what other people think. To say who you are through your clothes is to display all of the roles you play, all of the sides of you. Do you really just want to have one type of look? Is that who you want to be? If it is great, do it, if it ain’t don’t force it gurl.

    This went a bit deeper than expected lol. Lots of luv.

    • KNetz

      YES! I wrote a note to myself recently: “it’s okay to wear what I want to wear even if it’s not fancy and 100% ‘sustainable’! I don’t know why it took me so long to figure it out.” I was trying to figure out how I could pare down my wardrobe and make it so hip yet timeless, and it was stressing me out! If I like aaalllll my clothes, it’s okay to keep them, and it’s okay to like them!

      • Yas! There’s no need to go against yourself. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Carolina

    Stop the maddness!! This is just a phase that leads you to what you truly need to cleanse of. But clothes are your expressive/ creative outlet that allow you to be FREE.. For you not others. That others delight in your gift is a huge perk but, for you, fashion is not a banal venture, so own it.

  • Slushee

    You’re thinking about it so you’re coming round to a strategy/ approach. You want to be there!
    When I realised I was wearing the same elements over and again, I knew I had hit my style groove. Silk shirts, leather skirts/ black trousers = work. I’m not afraid of dramatic design elements. Casual – same with jeans/clogs/birks/t-shirt/crew necks. So many jackets and coats, to the body. Nary a floaty top or pattern to be seen. Monochrome always gets me. Sleeveless or long sleeve – no in between.

    Making my peace with what I feel good in allows me to do it really well. And over time it has helped to frame my identity and be comfortable showing a sharp sensuous side I might have (misguidedly!) shrouded in Bohemianism!
    Figure out the elements of the things you love wearing and you’re there.

  • Elizabeth

    I don’t think you need to go so extreme as to go down to 15 items only, but cleansing your closet can be very therapeutic for the soul. I recently got rid of a bag or two of items I barely ever wear but always held onto because I thought I might, one day..and it felt SO good. Don’t put so much pressure on yourself to figure it out. I totally get your existential anxiety and ambivalence, I feel like I’m in the throes of it myself, but I know that I always feel best when I’m doing things (even tiny things) that make me feel productive and useful, even if it’s as small as donating clothes that are simply taking up space.

  • To you, it seems, clothes and fashion are art, so I suppose owning clothes is your way of collecting, admiring and appreciating that which you love so much. But like, when you’re done with the clothes PLEASE SEND THEM TO ME? One thing?! Xx

  • Deborah

    This photo is so good

  • Don’t mean to oversimplify this but maybe you’re just suffering from cluttered closet syndrome. It’s ok I have it too. I want to go to the extreme, like you (but my number is 33, 15 is really extreme) though I never do. Your closet looks enviable and your outfits are inspired, why would you want to give that up? Just prune some of the dead wood and you’ll feel better.

  • I think a more gradual approach is better for most people. For me it’s been all about getting rid of things I don’t love, that don’t fit right and never well, or that are worn out beyond repair. And then also reducing the amount I buy. With this approach your wardrobe should gradually get smaller.

    • Ai-Ch’ng GB

      Agree with you, Melissa: I’ve been doing this same thing – culling what doesn’t fit/bring joy, and buying far, far less.

      So, what was once an extremely over-full wardrobe of amazing things, but not worn enough to justify their presence in my wardrobe, is now (still slightly too ) full of everything I actually enjoy wearing .

      Tonight, in order to further streamline my wardrobe, I’ve announced to my husband (so I can be held accountable), that, for one year from tonight, I’m not buying any more, “fashion things”: only things like underwear if they die on me (but I don’t think they will, since I’ve just bought ten lots of underwear to replace the ones that no longer fit (and that last lot lasted me a good eight years – go, Bonds Underwear).

      I now feel like I’ve found my groove with what I love to wear… but that’s also what I thought at twenty five, thirty two, and then at forty. Now, at forty-eight, I’ve gone through another huge wardrobe cull, as I now dress differently to the previous few years (not a single heel, or skinny pants and cropped jackets/peplum/waisted tops/spaghetti strap dress).

      And I’m not a regular culler (buy one, sell/give away one), instead going by wardrobe space (if it’s getting tricky, or tiresome to find things, then it’s time for me to get rid of things).

      I adore clothes, shoes, bags, fervently wishing I could be with those three things the same way that I am with the furniture in my home: not many pieces – but all chosen carefully, bought once, and used and adored until they fall apart (which has been seven years, and all are still going very strong and not yet replaced). I do tend to agree that with someone who posted that Leandra uses her clothes as her artistic expression, and loves variety and spontaneity as much as she loves the classics. So, if Leandra was a painter, in terms of an artist’s palette, that would involve having quite a large selection of paint tubes and a wide variety of brushes.

      In the same vein, lots of people say they’re minimalist in colour, or style, but they still maintain a massive wardrobe – particularly if they believe that not blacks are black, because they see that there are blue-blacks, brown-blacks, faded blacks and midnight blacks and a gazillion different greys (men with the very simple aesthetic of, “shirt-tie-trousers-jacket-overcoat” with huge walk-in wardrobes of twenty five suits in various shades of navy, and eighteen variously hued shirts of cream/white/cloud(?), come to mind).

      Rotating a handful of items each time is helpful for me (because some things don’t require a wash every single time you wear them, like fully-lined skirts and pants, light weight jumpers/sweaters, jeans and some easy silk shirts/tops), over ten days, or so. These few items are clustered in a separate part of my closet, and I’ll automatically create a capsule wardrobe out of those few items for those few days, puling out things as I need them, until I wash them. Then, the cycle repeats itself with when the next lot of clothes comes out and starts to “capsulise” itself, if that makes sense.

      True minimalism has been hard to achieve. The only time that fifteen items in my wardrobe happens, is when I go on a two week holiday. A recent humid fortnight in Singapore had two long dark coloured silk slip dresses, two pairs of shorts, and two t-shirts and a pair of jeans, one pair of sneakers and Birkenstocks, and a pair of loafers see me though without any problem. Those two dresses were alternated the whole trip (silk washes and dries so fast), and the jeans and T-shirts were used for travelling there and back. Shorts and T-s were for schlepping about the house and yoga. And, I didn’t buy a single new thing, because I was so busy doing things and seeing people and eating. Maybe i just need to do LOT more in my day, so I don’t have time to think about any clothes whatsoever.

  • Micah Lpez

    I always want to downsize the things in my closet when I see I can’t fit any of the new things I buy. I get in a mood and get rid of things I haven’t worn and have no sentimental value (why do clothes have sentimental value?!?) and see a new and improved coset. But then this new situation makes me buy even more clothes to make up for the empty space. It’s a paradoxical question that I guess were all asking ourselves. Is there really any problem with having variety with out clothing ???

  • Kaja

    Dear Leandra,

    First of all, let me mention that I am European and therefore may seem much less polite and more direct than what you’re used to in America (or at least that’s what they say ๐Ÿ˜Š)
    Second, you should know that I’ve been reading Man Repeller for a long time, having discovered it back in the time when it was still your personal style blog, and I’ve always enjoyed very much looking at your out of the box outfit ideas, not to mention the whole “man repelling” idea behind them.

    Now to the point: I do not agree with the assumption that this is “an extremely high-level problem that is not actually a problem at all”. Quite the opposite, I think probably 95% of us citizens of developed countries own too many clothes and things alltogether and we are convinced we need to keep buying them to make ourselves happy, which poses a gigantic problem for the environment. I am quite horrified to see after having scrolled through the comments that only one person mentioned sustainability and it was in the context of “it’s OK to not be sustainable”. That’s why I’m also very happy to see an article pop up from time to time on MR about creatively using vintage finds. I’m not saying everyone should become a minimalist and neither do I think that a closet consisting of 15 pieces is realistic if you live in a place which has four seasons ๐Ÿ˜€ – I’m all about finding a happy medium that fits your lifestyle and makes you happy with the way you look and treating new buys in a very, very serious way, realizing the impact of every single new piece of clothing on the environment. (…and not to mention the working conditions of the people who make our clothes!!) I think most of us would agree that personal style has nothing to do with the amount of shopping you do on a monthly basis!

    • C. Killion

      Well said! Thank you.

    • cryptdang

      OK you said everything I was trying to say much more elegantly!

    • ToUniverseWithLove

      Thank you so so much for saying this and saying it well.

    • Lea


    • Danielle Cardona Graff


    • cs2aq

      Totally agree! Thank you for posting! While issues of emotions and identity are valid to explore, we need to keep in perspective that the biggest impact of our apparel consumption is on the environment and the communities that make these clothes.

    • Eva Modaencalle Streetstyle


    • Wiktoria

      It’s worth pointing out that the problem of sustainability relates mainly to fast fashion and not to Europe/USA made designer garments which constitute most if not the entirety of the wardrobe of someone like Leandra.

      • Ebony-Maria Wimmler Levy

        The problem of labour standards violations remains, and supply chain issues are prevalent even in luxury markets, including the very high-end. Environmental sustainability is one thing, sure, but it’s not the only marker. Once I found out about working conditions in designer supply chains (Chinese-owned factories operating in Italy under the “made in Italy” signifier are particularly bad), I can no longer support companies who do not engage their workers ethically.

    • granny franny

      i agree we have too many items in our closets but when “I” try to gather things together that have seemingly phased out I later find that they haven’t phased out and then wondering what was I thinking why did I put that in the donate bin? argggh to self.
      I think if I only owned 15 items people would wonder what I do with my money some have grown to expect me to have something new. I don’t even shop a lot I just have a closet full of stuff were I can interchange items to make it seem like i have more or spend more.

    • Mira

      Well said Kaja

  • cryptdang

    Leandra, don’t be too hard on yourself for thinking about this for a year and not making any big changes. The biggest changes I’ve made in my lifestyle have been slow. Like, at least a year. It is one thing to intellectually “know” you want to do something, but another to fully feel it and be able to commit. I am confident that if you really want to pare back your clothing and shopping habits, you will! It just takes a while for a big mindset-shift to fully evolve.

    But, also, I think hard-core minimalism is overrated. I try not to consume a lot of clothing, but creating a capsule wardrobe of 10 (or however many) *perfect* pieces is for the smug and OCD, and does not seem to last long-term for 9/10 bloggers I’ve followed. I think the trick is balance and to accept that your closet is constantly a work in progress. You don’t need to pick one style, you can have a few different styles (as most people do!), in a reasonably-sized wardrobe.

  • lovekatiedid

    I did the Konmari method and then cried for 2 weeks straight, not because I felt liberated like they said I would, but because I felt like I gave away my first born (if I had a first born).

    • C. Killion

      I, too, tried to keep only what “sparked joy”. Problem was, it ALL did!

  • Mia Baz

    I actually expected more of a “how I got there” than a “how do I get there?” but I’m glad I clicked anyway. Check out, even if casually or not every week or just for the topics than seem most interesting and screw the rest, The Minimalists. They have a podcast and a website (where you can find podcasts).

    What I’m noticing is a stream of consciousness not unlike what my own: you’ve got a lot of stuff that express something, some thought or feeling or idea you need to express, and you’re not separating all of these things from who you ARE…which is harder to figure out when (a) you’re defined by your stuff and (b) you have a lot of stuff.

    Their podcast on Values I think would be a good start, but try a few of them. And keep in mind that while he may be a minimalist, Josh has a hair dryer (and gets shit for it sometimes!). It’s not about living like a monk or owning less for the purpose of depriving yourself — it’s about intentional living and making room for things that actually matter. And the good news is that you’re already interested in getting to what really matters, or you wouldn’t have been subtly investigating it for a year!

    Good luck and best wishes for living your best life!

  • Sally-Ann Rudd

    This post appeared on my FB feed next to an advertisment for Zulily that took up about 1/3 of my screen. Just saying.

  • kevynryan

    I self identify at age 30.25 now as a shape shifter. I can dress one way and get every eye in the room, another way and completely disappear (in a good way). I think it’s actually a skill to be able to do that. Don’t knock your skill you’ve honed for your whole life!

  • Hansika Vijayaraghavan

    Fashion is an art form and clothing is your medium. Some artists sketch on paper with charcoal and nothing else, and some layer paper mache with oil paints and pastels. Most change their forms, sometimes sketching, sometimes painting, and I think fashion is all about how you use your wardrobe to express yourself or send a message

  • Bee

    I saw the British Vogue thing on YouTube and I completely believed you when you said you would share your clothes. You know that Chanel jacket you wore? You can share that with me!

  • Ellese Launer

    I really enjoyed reading your thoughts in this piece. I have no clue who I am or the story my clothes are telling either. I have a plethora of blue and white striped blouses, seriously a surplus… Does that mean I am destine to live on a Greek Island? Who knows, but I would hope so! Thanks for sharing. Xo, Ellese


  • Nรฉo Bourgeois โ€” Christum

    Do your cheeks get cold in those crazy NYC winters?

  • Why the number 15?
    What manual did you read?!

    I’d recommend hypnosis to get to the bottom of this!

  • Sleepyhead

    Box up everything except your absolute favorite, can’t live without pieces. Keep the boxes accessible for an entire year (mostly so you get through each season). Everything still in boxes at the end of the year, goes. I always look to this woman for inspiration when I’m trying to simplify. I really think she has her finger on the pulse of stress free living.

  • Dymond Moore

    As a young person, I hate the idea of hitting that exsistential crisis but I know it’ll come one day or another. I clean my closet every season, and I’ve got it down to one clothing rack and 3 drawers. I don’t like the idea of a capsule wardrobe because all of the neutrals bore me to death but I like the idea of a pared down wardrobe where it’s easy and fun to get dressed because you love it all.

  • Trixie

    Maybe you need to fill your life with other things that make you feel less empty (you sound like you feel kind of lost).
    About your clothes, if you have them and like them enjoy them!!! If not, get rid of them… drama there!

  • Pandora Sykes

    I’m also having an existential crisis, Leandruh! Let’s have one together.

    • Leandra Medine

      Great! You do tend to make me feel less alone.

  • Diane Nickerson

    for you to say you only want 15 garments is akin to an artist saying they only are going to paint 15 pictures, or use only 5 colors. an interesting experiment, yes, but in the end, an artist needs to continue creating as they and their work evolve.

  • Alba

    Maybe you’re a maximalist? And that’s okay! I pondered with the idea of a capsule wardrobe as well, and it became increasingly difficult to part with pieces I loved, but didn’t really wear. A simple rack changed the game for me! I keep a structure on there and switch it up every few weeks. I only allow a number of items on the rack and if one thing goes in, then another must come out. It’s helped me keep a capsule wardrobe without the daunting idea of flat out ridding of what I own.

    I created this basic mantra for myself: “Simplify your wardrobe, amplify your style.” because its exactly what I wanted to do more than actually “owning less.” I’ve gotten extremely creative since I only have a few options. My palette is typically quite neutral. Some would argue it’s too plain or boring, but it keeps me pleased and so comfortable. Honestly, there’s not a piece from that rack that wouldn’t just “go” if I were to pull it out to wear without thought or hesitation.

    Simplify Your Wardrobe, Amplify Your Style tips and thoughts:


  • Cynthia Schoonover

    I could not imagine having only 15 garments. While my wardrobe is not huge, I have a variety of garments depending on the season and the weather. I have clothes I wear around the house so I don’t ruin my nice clothes, particularly when I am cleaning or doing messy work. Leandra, as you write about fashion, a large wardrobe is a necessity. I do periodically clean out my closet, getting rid of clothes that no longer fit properly. My downfalls are shoes and purses. Your wicker watermelon purse is adorable!

  • Catalina

    Your predicament seems is a nod to your father’s “stuff ruins trips” logic. But you’re also work in the fashion industry so it is inherently part of job to have an excess of clothes (I’d assume). You should do a living out of suitcase-diet while you aren’t on vacay! I’d love to see what your capsule looks like. Especially with the challenge of the 4 seasons that NY serves up.

    • Efua Odafen

      I love this idea for Leandra. I would absolutely love to see what her capsule looks like.

  • SpiritAndCourage

    Being an adult sucks. You have access to pretty much anything you could want, but you’re wise enough to know you don’t really need any of it

  • Eva Modaencalle Streetstyle

    I made the decision to keep a balance of clothes in my closet and it worked, for instance if I buy a new one I have to get rid of another one because I have too many garments that I do not wear anymore. I like the post!

  • Rachel

    I’m seriously going through this right now except mine is more related to Haley’s post about shopping on a budget. Being in school I just no longer have the money to spend on clothing. I also moved across the country and could only bring 1.5 (1 real suitcase and a smaller duffel-ish bag) bags for clothing which sent me into a spiral for WEEKS before my move. I was throwing out furniture left and right, but clothing- no fucking way. Until I did. Until one day I went into my closet and looked at pieces and took out all the things that made me feel like I was only allowed to express one side of myself in them. That sounds sort of cryptic, but I realized through this process that I had categorized my clothing in my head based on who I wanted to be, i.e. I would always wear a sliver and black striped top to go out, but I never felt like I could wear it in the daytime because it didn’t feel as… me. I disposed of the idea of having “going out clothes” or “office clothes” or “to wear in front of boyfriends parents clothes” and instead took things that allowed me to put my own identity/personality INTO the clothes. My wardrobe now has about 7 or 8 band shirts (I will never part with those), 2 pairs of mens thrifted 501s, 1 pair of skinny jeans, 4 dresses in varying lengths, 3 skirts- two short, one long, 5 mens button downs in varying degrees of flowy-ness, a beige distressed leather jacket my best friends mom gave me that she bought at a flee market in LA in the 80s (it’s honestly more gorgeous than any human I’ve seen), and a jumpsuit. Now when I buy something, I get rid of something, always keeping my wardrobe suitcase-sized. But seriously, the process of dissolving the categories of clothes is REALLY F*CKING HARD because suddenly you have to find your essence (which is a corny ass thing to say but i think its true). I have sympathy. And I still own a few odd ball pieces and weird things- minimizing doesn’t mean boring- but i still try to imagine myself wearing whatever is it for 24hrs straight& if I’d love being in it in all those situations that my day takes me through then it’s a worth-while buy… but idk, i digress… you have my sympathies Leandra!!!

  • Katherina Baricot-Cabrera

    My apologies in advanced, I’m still learning English so please pardon me for not being so elocuent. Back home I used to have a room in my apartment full of clothing, never as fancy or relevant like Leandra’s, but still there was a ton of stuff, then I moved from my home country with only one piece of luggage and a carry on… and as time passed by and realize that was more than ok with whatever fit in there, I had an epiphany! ” I never needed all that stuff! I’ll never buy so much clothes again. I’ll develop a nice uniform and will never need more than that” but you know what? More than satisfaction from shopping, clothes are fun, and more than disguising myself every day, I truly enjoy dressing up… I’m definitely much more responsable with what I buy for the sake of the planet and my finances, but sticking to only a few pieces forever is like deciding to eat only with 15 ingredients, or listening to only15 bands… I’m not saying it’s imposible, but It could be a lot more fun to sell or exchange those items you don’t really need but enjoyed for a while…

  • Engels_Beard

    There’s a point where you realize, as fun as clothes can be, they don’t actually confer a personality upon the wearer. They ARE “temporary tattoos” in a sense–they are superficial. That doesn’t mean they are without value and it certainly doesn’t mean they are meaningless but the older I get the more I realize that I want to be more than what I buy off a rack. No outfit can make you into who/what you want to be because at the end of the day we are what we do not what we wear.

  • shubs

    Hi Leandra
    I took some time to think about this, and I think I somewhat understand. I too care a lot about what I wear as I see my clothes as the biggest display of my identity, outside conversing with people and such. I also enjoy being a different version of myself with each outfit, given how I want to look that day.
    Perhaps what’s bugging you is the fact that many of the clothes you own aren’t strictly for yourself; you don’t own them solely to display your identity. I know the MR mandate is to express yourself through fashion, but maybe what’s causing this discomfort is that too much of your closet is used to express yourself to the fashion community – to others.
    Got to admit that I haven’t been on the site for a while, but I recently read another one of your articles and it said something along the lines of ‘pursuing clothes not being as satisfying as it used to… because social media has made it so that soon enough, all your friends will have those clothes too’. That, combined with certain phrases in this article tip me off, “These items seem to *say* nothing. If Iโ€™m really searching for meaning, perhaps they *say* that I can be polished and uptight, or free-spirited and malleable all the same.”
    Don’t want to assume anything, this is what I felt by the nuances in your tone. That your frustration and lack of satisfaction don’t stem from an absolute amount of clothes you own or your consumption, but that too much of it is for the benefit of fashion rather than for yourself. No doubt most things you own are for the sake of both yourself and fashion trends, but maybe now you feel too much your closet is mainly for “saying something”?
    At least this is what I slowly realized about myself — though my circumstances were different bc 1) my career isn’t in fashion so sometimes fashion has to take a backseat in my car of priorities, and 2) as a student I just don’t have the funds to buy anything I want, so I’ve got to be more selective. Perhaps what might help you then is to curtail your budget, rather than the space in your closet, forcing you to really choose the items that’ll make you happier in the long run. My four cents here, if that helps!

  • Jaclyn Schmidt

    The biggest thing I’ve taken from the whole ~capsule wardrobe~ obsession is a reflection on whether I really actually want said thing I’m buying/owning or if I’m just buying it for the sake of having a thrill of purchasing it. Half the crap I owned ended up trailing along with me as I moved apartments and never even getting worn for one reason or another. So I’ve started to be more cognizant of quality and practicality and how much I like it. I don’t think everyone needs a capsule wardrobe and I don’t think everyone should even aspire to have one. To me it’s about liking and wearing everything you have and own and only buying those things you really really like and that you’ll get use out of. It’s also a lot more sustainable in terms of the environment (and your wallet!)

  • Ai-Ch’ng GB

    On a side note, your heartfelt article had me head straight to my closet, and carefully pack away three large bags of lightly used, beautiful items that I still adore, still fit me, and which I do wear on-and-off, to sell/give away to friends. And, when I read one of your poster’s comments that no one actually notices and cares as much we personally do, what we ourselves wear, and how often we wear it, I just had to agree. As a clothes freak, I actually love seeing people wear the same thing over and over when they feel good in it. And I don’t want my child to eventually have to sieve through a whole lot of my stuff when I die/can no longer get up to wear my things. I had to do it for my grandmother’s stunningly beautiful – and stunningly enormous – wardrobe, and it was heartbreaking.

  • Hadeer El Mutairi

    can we have more on monocycle? please

  • Hadeer El Mutairi

    also i love this piece!

  • EmilyWilson

    I think you’ve identified the real allure of minimalism, which is confidence. Tossing/selling/donating all but 15 items sounds super sexy because it takes so much confidence to pull off. Paring down means reducing your options, and people who don’t want options are people who know who they are and what they want. But minimalism doesn’t really work from the outside in; I don’t think giving away a bunch of stuff reveals identity. And one downside of minimalism might be that it suppresses a wardrobe’s playfulness. I want clothes that give me a flexible vocabulary for my life as it is right now and include some history, memory, and possibilities for the future. I’ll never be the Confident Minimalist Woman with a 15 Item Wardrobe.

  • natashazeligs

    fashion goddess must not concern herself with quantity. let go of that which no longer inspires and move on to acquisition of the next

  • Ria

    Dear Leandra,
    you have so many wonderful shoes only stapled-why? Hope one day you wake up and would be grateful for all you have !
    With two kids my husband and I are living with capsule wardrobes for years because our two need new wardrobes every six month ( they are growing) from a scratch, not us!
    It’s a question of priorities and you’re lifestyle at the moment. In our twenties we both bought clothes like nuts and the things that are still here are our shoes and bags of high quality!
    So please, do yourself a favor and enjoy what you have!
    If you need good karma donate the rest!

  • Admittedly the title draw me in. Because of my own experience with capusle wardrobes. You see, I’ve tried to do a capsule wardrobe about one and a half years ago. Even blogged about it. I loved the idea, the concept. Yet it wasn’t for me. Ultimately it made me lose interest in getting dressed because I like the creative & expressive aspect of it. And the surprie factor. What do I feel like wearing today? I even have a hard time pre-planning every outfit for a vacation. I do pack stuff that goes together, but I don’t have every single outfit ready when packing the suitcase.

    But owning tons of clothes isn’t for me either. I am happy with a fairly limited selection because a lot of days I’m quite nonchalantly wearing the same things I wore the day ago (provided they aren’t stinky). So I’ll have days where I want to go all out and days where I cannot be bothered to think too much about it. Which means I have to find a good balance between having enough to play with it but not too much that it overwhelms me.

    Recently (well in the last year or two) I also made a huge shift stylewise. Its the extension of an interior transformation. I want my clothes to show who I am, I don’t want to use them to show what I think I should be, as a pretend mask.

    Plus I’m working on slowly transitioning to have mostly ethically & sustainably made garments. So yeah, my closet is currently a conundrum. If you really fancy a capsule, give it a try for a couple of weeks, just packing away the other stuff. And see how it goes.

    Alex – Funky Jungle

  • Kelly T.

    I understand the point everyone is trying to make about sustainability. There is something horrifying about buying clothes with the intention of discarding or donating them next season. The problem is that American culture loves to tell people that shopping is a dumb selfish hobby while simultaneously bombarding us with advertisements. The rich tell the poor that they are confusing wants and needs, and the reason we stay poor is that we spend too much on cheap clothes, fancy coffee, avocado toast etc. In actuality the reason the poor stay poor is that our incomes have remained stagnant and the top 3% hoard opportunities for themselves. This creates a mindset among the poor. When we buy something, first it makes us happy. Then the guilt starts wafting in. Why can’t I just live with 15 pieces of clothing? Why did I buy a soda instead of drinking tap water? Why do I need to eat food, can’t I just be happy looking at trees and walking down the street? Thinking there is something wrong with us, we turn to Big Pharm to fix our broken brains. The happy pills don’t make us happy because there was never a chemical imbalance, only an imbalance in power. I’m not saying everyone should shop til they drop and screw the environment. Instead we should think carefully about our purchases, never buy something without trying it on and asking if this is something you really love and will still love a month from now.

  • G

    Leandra, as i read your article, i felt you. I knew exactly what you meant and understood your struggle. At the end of the day, i think the point is to just “be”. To follow your path in fashion or otherwise. We are always putting labels on ourselves and the truth of the matter is all these labels are not real. What is real is hard to grasp but you need to just follow the energy in you and do what you need to do. Ultimately who is to say what is good or bad?…Just “be”….

  • ladle

    I don’t have a capsule wardrobe, but what I do is try and make every piece of clothing something I know will wear all the time. I have clothes from my mom, clothes made from old clothes, clothes I bought because all my shirts became crop tops after I grew from 5’6 to 5’8 in a summer. If I have it, I will either wear it until it falls apart, or I will give it away. I think it’s the fact I rarely have the funds to shop that has made me this way. I also think it makes me less likely to by something wear it once and then have it sit in my closet, though I have clothes (like the two fancier dresses I own) that have gotten less wear.
    It has also made me not really care about trends, and have a simple style, but also the fact I have clothes that are so old and clothes that are newish has made me not be afraid of combining stuff like patterns and colours.

  • EmUhLee

    Leandra, I happened to read this back-to-back with your interview with Amelia ( and I think that your desire to pare down your wardrobe is symptomatic of the quarter-life/identity crisis that you seem to be experiencing. If different outfits represent different identities, and your early twenties were all about experimenting with different identities, now you have grown up a bit and you want to settle on one identity and present yourself to the world in a certain way. As you likely already know, I don’t think that eliminating the other 95% of your wardrobe will fix this problem for you.

    Your love of blazers made me think of something else: I have also been going through a period of uncertainty and re-evaluation in life and find myself attracted to clothes that make me feel more like an adult. In high school and college I had a very bohemian, and then grungy/experimental way of dressing. Now I love to wear linen, seersucker, loafers, and all kinds of preppy stuff that would have made me gag from ages 12-22. These days those things sit in my closet next to my Docs and leather jacket, waiting for my next rebellious phase.

    I understand the impulse to eliminate everything from your life and start over. That being said, I don’t think you have to get rid of all your stuff, unless you really want to. I haven’t thrown out my beloved Docs (besides, they’re good for concerts to avoid crushed toes). The clothes are just clothes. But I think they can tell us something about how we’re feeling, and then we can take that and do the work on ourselves that only we can do.

  • alice

    I have completely eradicated this guilt from my person by only buying second hand clothes. I always find it really sad how women tend to be portrayed as greedy when it comes to having lots of clothes. This needn’t be the case if you buy second hand. Among the benefits are:

    – Helping the environment by not financially contributing to companies’ endless production of new clothes
    – Often buying from charity shops: instead of burning ยฃ60 in Zara and inwardly hating myself, I can pretend to see my charity shop purchases as “donations”; I found John Galliano flares in Oxfam for ยฃ25 and it was celestial.
    – I’ve found it really helped me develop my personal taste. Instead of being ruled by capitalist dictators like Sir Philip Green, I am able to choose and create my own aesthetics because the clothes that I buy second hand tend not to be packaged together in a certain “look”. This forces me to use my imagination when I’m searching for clothes, as opposed to relying on brand creative directors to decide for me.
    – I never ever turn up anywhere to find I’m wearing the same outfit or even same item as anyone else. Vintage clothes are often one of a kind and so I feel like i’m rebelling against mass production and identity erasure through my clothes.

    woohoo for me

    I buy new underwear otherwise I might would be taking it too far

  • such a helpful post! thank u for sharing this with us

  • Muhammad AL Fatih
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  • Ashley

    “My thoughts are never so one-note that they donโ€™t send me down a rabbit hole of existential confusion.” …you just managed to nail my entire existence in one sentence. Bravo, Leandra! I, too, now in my early 30s am still struggling with this problem. If I find the solution, I’ll be sure to follow up.

  • Lucy

    Dear Leandra (and anyone else who would be interested in this): I HIGHLY, highly recommeng the blog (and its YouTube channel!). The young lady who runs them both is, well, just wonderful. Go, take a look, have fun, show her some love!!

  • Bangkit Ade Saputra

    I love the idea in theory, and it might make life easier, but not necessarily happier.

  • Hmm, impressive, men also have the same trouble. It’s because we try to look young and follow the latest trend, and like women. Suddenly we become a hoarder and pile a lot of stuff in our closet even in our cars if we’re mobile. And nowadays apparently I’ve been told I have way too many sneakers. Anyways, nice reading. thanks.