Thursday, May 10, 2012

A dilemma, and a wardrobe math solution

So I've not done the best of jobs in cleaning out my wardrobe, and I think I finally understand what's holding me back.  Somewhere in my heart I hold onto the hope (delusion?) that I'm going to get an office job again some day, and that I therefore won't be wearing an apron non-stop.  Therefore, I think I have to hold onto ALL of my office-worthy business clothes...

In order to get past this, I've tried to approach the problem the way Vivienne would.  Basically, what are the available options I have RIGHT NOW, just with the clothes that I've decided to keep in my wardrobe up to this point?

If you remember, I'm at the 32 garment point in my plan:

And from these garments I've decided that the following, at least, are appropriate for an office or business environment.  I might be able to wear more - even the jeans - depending on what my next job is like.

Okay, this looks pretty meager, and dreadfully monochromatic.  But I have the following combinations available from just these 16 garments...

and if I include a white blouse (of which I currently own FIVE for the work in the bakery), and a white tee shirt, I have 20 more outfits...

I am the first person to admit that this isn't the most fascinating, varied and dramatic wardrobe any woman ever owned.  But (a) people don't really remember what you wore last week - if they do, they've got a problem, (b) my accessories are such that these very basic ensembles will look quite a bit more varied when I add shoes, scarves and jewelry to them, AND (c) these are not, in fact, the only clothes that I will have available to wear to a potential new job.

So I think I've convinced myself that I can indeed continue to minimize my wardrobe, without leaving myself naked in the face of a new, improved, position.

Minimizing isn't easy.  Having some real numbers in front of me (40 combinations from 18 garments) makes it somewhat less stressful.  I think.


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  1. I like the wardrobe maths. Seems to work. I'm rebuilding my work wardrobe and I worked it out on a spreadsheet (with pics) that from the 22 garments I can make 300 outfits..... lol. So that means 60 weeks of outfits without wearing the exact combo twice. isn't wardrobe maths fun :-)

  2. From your "future work" clothes: all the tops & the two pairs of pants can be worn casually on weekends. I wouldn't weed them. That leaves one dress ... which is appropriate for going out to dinner, wearing to a funeral, going to church. That's not something to part with! That leaves only the three skirts, which doesn't seem like too much to hold onto for the possibility of future job.

  3. I can't imagine ANYONE not hiring you for most any job you apply for. What talent you have, which, no doubt is applicable in many areas. Can we ALL be references for you? Just ask us.

    I like these wardrobe options (and, as you discussed, these are from among items you have decided to keep). I can only imagine all the variable scarves, jewelry, shoes, etc. Well done!

  4. Yes, well done! When you itemise the outfits like this, you realise just how much variety is possible. Add in jewellery and scarves, and different shoes and boots, and you have a really large wardrobe.
    I've done a little plan, just in word lists, for the inside of my wardrobe door so that when I'm stuck I can pick, say, 'black trousers' or 'blue dress', and then see all the possibilities that go with them. It helps get me out of the bored and boring rut. I'm learning so much from you and la belle Vivienne!

  5. I don't know: are you minimizing for its own sake? To get a sense of control? Because I would hesitate to get rid of classic clothes that look nice, if I had the room for them. You might end up replacing them with twins, which takes time and money.

  6. Wow, I thought 40 combos from 18 garments was awesome, but 300 from 22!! I am in awe of all of you. I also agree with Susan, we will be the best references.

  7. In the short time that I have been reading your blog (about a month), my wardrobe and thinking about clothes has been revolutionized. I have been working the combinations and I have so much more than I realized.
    I love the black, white, gray base that you use.
    I have decided to follow your example and swear off of shopping for clothes for a year...starting today.

  8. Your next job should be your own business as a personnal stylist/personal wardrobe organizer/personal shopper.

  9. There is such a feeling of freedom, control, accessibility, and creativity from having less. Just enough, but not too much. It's something I'm trying to figure out in my own wardrobe, inspired by you. I have a section where I keep the latest iteration of capsule wardrobing. Of course it varies by season, but it's also varying as I add to and subtract from this core section as I get smarter and more self-aware about this wardrobe game.

    Though I've already pared down and purged a great deal from my wardrobe, inspired by this blog, there is a sizable section that I consider working capital (or spillover!), from which I pull pieces when I feel the capsule section is lacking in some way, and to which I consign pieces when the capsule section seems to have more than I need in some category, or has slipped over some magical and mysterious number of pieces and is suddenly unwieldy.

    At a certain size, this core capsule section feels awesome. Just enough. When I stand and stare it's not because I can't figure out how to make a good outfit, it's because I'm enjoying the delight of choosing between these few but perfect pieces that I just love. At a somewhat--but not much--larger size, this capsule starts feeling the same old problem wardrobe from the past. I can't figure out what to wear, nothing appeals or inspires, or there seems to be some problem with every pairing I consider, or it just feels like to much trouble to make the effort.

    I still don't know what that tipping point is, but my sandbox approach feels right for now. I have the capsule which I keep tweaking and learning from as I go through season changes, different occasions and travels which challenge my wardrobe, and my own continual experimentation and contemplation about what feels just right for me and what does not. The other section--working capital, or spillover, or whatever--helps me feel secure that I'm not letting go of too much yet during this learning period, and lets me be creative and experimental as I try to figure out whether to remove a block of a neutral or color from my capsule section, how many dressy or professional tops I really need, whether my cardigan collection is a treasure or a burden, how many dresses I should keep when I adore them but rarely can wear them, and so forth.

    I do continue to pare as I go through this learning process. Just today I removed a shirt that I put on and realized would feel better with an alteration in the fit. Then I asked myself if with this alteration I would be in love with this shirt, or just more satisfied with it. The truth was the latter. It went into the OUT pile. Smaller is still the goal, but I'm fine with this taking time. I'm learning, and that doesn't feel like an excuse for holding on but a fine reason for playing until it all clicks.

    Janice, as to your office wardrobe, what were the pieces that were your workhorses, and which gave you the most delight, when you last worked in an office? Are any of them missing from the core wardrobe you've built here so far? If you can think of the better moments from your last year or two of office work and imagine them re-created in the present in the pieces from your current garment plan (or if you can imagine packing for a month-long office assignment in Europe this year with your current garment plan), I imagine that would give you more confidence that you're on the right track.

  10. I have another request. I have a hankering for this scarf:

    Would you design a wardrobe around it? I would be so happy to see it.

  11. aesthetic intelligenceMay 10, 2012 at 9:37 PM

    Love the mathematical approach, it lessens the initial anxiety of a closet cull.
    Definitely keep your 'best and brightest' professional career items.

  12. I know you're very busy, but for that new office job, don't forget to keep updating your skills. Office technology changes and if you keep up there's a better chance you'll get the kind of job you want. The suggestion that you become a personal stylist is a good one. I think you'd be awesome; what's holding you back?

  13. I can't imagine to dispose of any of these beautiful clothes. Enjoy them and wear them out!

  14. All combinations above would be acceptable in our office.

  15. Mmm. Now you've got me thinking again about minimising for better enjoyment of what I've been making.

  16. I enjoy reading your blog and have been following it for a while. You give me a lot of ideas about putting a wardrobe together. I´ve decided to avoid buying new clothes for the rest of the year to save money and consider the environment. I´m also getting rid of unnecessary garments to save space.

    This post really inspires me and I would like to do a plan like yours with pictures, possible combinations etc. It´s very illustrative. It seems like a good way to get the most out of what you´ve got.

    Could you please tell us how you do it in the computer? Do you take pictures or download images? What software do you use? Etc etc Hope you understand my questions? I would really appreciate it if you have some advice but I respect it if you don´t want to explain. I will continue to follow your blog anyway.
    Please excuse my english, I´m swedish.

    1. I take photographs of my clothes, on a wire hanger, against a plain wall. I use Microsoft Paint to scrub off the background and the hanger, and then I paste the images into PowerPoint. I build all of the wardrobes in PowerPoint, and then save each individual page as a JPG, which I can then import into the blog.
      PowerPoint has a pretty good tool for removing backgounds, which works well on simple garments. You can also crop images in PP, which makes re-sizing them for moving around on the page easier.
      Mostly, it just takes time!
      big hug,

    2. Wow, I had the same question as well but did not realize how much effort you put in to "clean up" the photos! I normally just save pictures from the internet when I was making the purchases (or find similar looking items) and group them on polyvore. But your end result looks amazing. I really enjoy your blog!

    3. I had the same question but I thought it silly to ask as i thought you picked the photos somewhere from the internet that you might not want to reveal. thanks and I might do the same with my clothes so as to have an idea of all possible combos.Ther eis definitely money in that,think about it.

    4. Thanks a lot for explaining! Now I have a perfect project for the rainy days.:-)

  17. I love looking at fashion magazines that show options like this. I haven't seen it done for quite awhile and I think you could fill that niche and market your talents to the fashion media.
    If it's any consolation I wear an apron as soon as I get into my kitchen before removing my Hermes or silk scarves...
    let's just say I am a messy cook.
    Have a lovely weekend Janice.

  18. Janice, there HAS to be a way for you to make money off of this--truly, no one is capable of these kinds of easy yet well-studied mixes as yourself. A computer program? A virtual consultant service? Just wondering...

    And yes, thank you again for all that you do. You really have changed the way that I think about what I want to see when I open up my closet and that is HUGE!

    Bon weekend!

  19. I love how practical you are and how you make a study out of which clothes to keep.Lost in Province is right ,you can make money out of this talent of yours.

  20. My wardrobe is beginning to look like the wardrobe you posted here! You are genius.

  21. How wonderful and inspriring! Thanks!!

  22. So safe, so pedestrian - do you really want to
    blend in so much you are overlooked? A small capsule
    of basics is invaluable, 32 items of bland lacks style.

  23. Jewelry, (Hermes) scarves and shoes make all the difference :)


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