Saturday, November 03, 2012

A Common Office Capsule Wardrobe, with grey

There are still LOTS of women who work in conservative office environments, and who must dress accordingly.  However, these classic colors and cuts are anything but boring or limiting... they are, in fact, a brilliant springboard for all variety of accessories.

Monday, these twelve garments are going to magically become a Capsule Wardrobe Project 333 in navy and grey - stay tuned!

Turtleneck – L.L.Bean, blue striped shirt – Golden Goose, blue shirt – D&G, white shirt – Theory, navy blazer – A.P.C., grey sleeveless sweater – J. Crew, grey cardigan – J. Crew, navy v-neck – J. Crew, navy shirt – J. Crew, navy pants – A.P.C., grey skirt – Comme des Garcons, grey pants – Theory

Paris scarf – Christian Lacroix, silver jewelry – Elsa Peretti for Tiffany, tote – Jimmy Choo, ankle boots – See by Chloe, ballet flats – DKNY, grey ruffled scarf – Yuh Okano, tie dye scarf – Mulberry 


  1. I do like soft neutrals and especially like the ruffled scarf and oh, those ballet flats. Can't wait for the majic to appear. Have a nice weekend.

  2. Oh my goodness, I just cannot wait !!!

  3. You wrote this post for me! Recently, I revamped my work wardrobe tossing out all the old, dated, not-worn-for-years stuff and made a shopping list around your basics. There weren't too many holes to fill as I wore a lot of black and grey with scarves already. But I wasn't very good at putting things together. I can copy but I can't create. Your blog has been invaluable. The best part is now, when I leave for work in the morning, my husband looks at me, his eyes light up, and he says "My, you look nice today." Thanks!!

  4. I try to read as many days, each morning, as I can. I straddle that fine line between loving warm AND cool colors. I adore this common wardrobe with the gray and navy...I seem to interchange those with brown and tan when I feel like it. So, I appreciate this very much. I don't actually wear much black at all, but I use gray as my 'dark' neutral. So...I especially like this particular spread. Now...if I can find a way to combine this wardrobe with the warm one...I may just have my ideal.

    As soon as my Mom's visit to us has ended, I'm going to seriously cull my closet. I have some lovely things. That I look at every day and never, ever wear. I'm going to remove them to make space to actually be able to see the pieces I reach for again and think about more judicious use of them.

    I'm watching my mom as she prepares to leave her large home out west to move here to the east coast...and transitioning to a smaller (but beautifully finished) house. I see how she's struggling with letting go of 'stuff' (not beautiful antiques or good coats, but boxes of books no one has looked at in 20 years). I don't want that to be me. I want to live beautifully...but without the angst that comes with being overwhelmed by possessions that weigh you down.

    Thank you again...I love my morning coffee along with the 'food for thought' you give.

    1. That last sentence gets me right at the heart, to live "...without the angst that comes with being overwhelmed by possessions that weigh you down." I am currently buried alive with possessions and trying to work through it every day, making myself think of past decisions or life's experiences, so that I can better comprehend how it got this way, learn from the mistakes, change the behavior, and not let it ever happen again. It needs to be a full-time job but we all get distracted by jobs/work, family responsibility, daily chores...but you have to DO and not just fuss, instead chip away at it, not give up in despair about it all being too much. Try to unload something every day, I don't care if it's a paperclip; seriously.

      When you speak of moving an elderly parent, I have suffered thru this with several relatives who lovingly deposited a lot of (or all of) their treasured possessions onto me before/after death. I'm talking collectibles and antiques (furniture, home decor, etc.), dolls, jewelry, quilts, toys, china, furs (yes, furs...all the rage in the 1920s and 1930s), crystal, photographs, scrapbooks, diairies, books, art; other family heirlooms...I have six wood boxes of silver or silverplate flatware alone (and I use none of it; I'm a casual host at best).

      It's not that I don't love some of the stuff too, but what has prevented me from getting rid of a lot of it is that I feel as if I am dishonoring these beloved people and their memories when, in fact, they entrusted their beloved items to me. However, after going thru this four times with a grandmother and three aunts...and sadly soon no doubt my own mother (and I'm an only child with no kids of my own)...I am suffocating...because I've got my own too-much stuff as well from a lifetime of accumulation/gathering. I know that 2013 holds some tough decisions for me about letting go, but one thing I've learned and what I've said before is that no matter who gets your "stuff" once you do free yourself, it's all going to people who really want it because they love the things or because they need the things and, at the end of the day, it's recycling, and recycling is a responsible thing to do. I wish I had a big McMansion, but I don't...there's simply no room in my teeny little cottage/bungalow for another knickknack, memento or article of clothing...and I should never have moved all these possessions from house to house over the years in the first place. In the meantime, my husband and I have been living with that angst you so aptly describe. Clutter is extremely stressful.

      When my mother dies, I have her large suburban home of sixty years which has to be completely emptied...and, frankly, I don't even know how I'm going to do it with just the physical task of it...except to know if I bring even one family thing into my house, something of my own has to go. I'm glad this "rule" sunk into me beforehand! The irritable part of myself resents that I have to take on such a task, although I understand it (the dear elderly people lose the energy and desire to de-clutter, as they struggle just to get through their waning days, with fixing meals or getting dressed, etc.); but I want to make very sure, in my own case, that I never do that to anybody with my home or possessions. I want to leave this life with less burdens for myself AND others. And, for the time still ahead, YES, as you said, endeavor to "live beautifully" (streamlined, clean, liberated, mobile!).

      My McMansioned sister-in-law has to even rent offsite storage, 12 months of the year, just for her Christmas interior/exterior decorations alone. Now THAT'S ridiculous. I refuse to "go there." Sorry for the long comment for which Janice and readers are indulgent (thank you!) but it's so helpful to come into Vivienne and see a growing groundswell of women doing their best to live sensibly yet fabulously. I learn so much here.

    2. It's not easy, but it's doable. Being aware of how suffocated it makes you feel is essential.

      How about hiring an estate sale person to do it for you? Especially with your mother's house....

    3. Good idea; thank you for the thought...because my thinking wasn't going very far! I have a great-aunt whose Trustee did hire an estate sale person to dispose of this one aunt's possessions; I didn't like the woman because she took over quite aggressively, even shutting the family out of things they wanted and were willing to buy at first dibs (I think the Trustee could have intervened but chose not to, because she wanted mega money!) but I think you do maybe need a bit of the barracuda to get such a monumental task accomplished. She sold my great-aunt's entire library...thousands of one person who bought it as a lot, i.e. a single purchase, with no thought to the book titles, inscriptions, condition, age, etc. My aunt had a tendency to tuck things away in her books; who knows what was found in them. One person bought all of the black and white photos of my aunt's dog, which I thought was completely bizarre. My aunt wanted her organ to go to the local Boys & Girls Club but that was ignored and it was sold. I'd never heard of stripping down a house to the degree that this estate sale person did...I was afraid she was even going to take out the permanent stained-glass windows (I inherited the house after it was emptied, so I had cause for concern)...and she did strip off the ornate cover of the door chimes; tried to rip up the sundial in the yard, managing to break it in two; removed two bolted-in roof ornamentations and yanked apart an iron-grille stair rail for the decoration soldered into it plus made off with four antique porch lanterns, not to mention blueprints to the house...but, well, you know she did get the job done(!)...and what took them at least six months (if not longer) would probably take me two years minimum (time I'm unwilling to take, when I've already lost five years to date with the caregiving responsibilities alone). The thing is, in my aunt's case, her Trustee was the wrong choice, non-family and not emotionally involved; I'm the worn-out daughter, still emotionally tied to my loved ones and childhood home...but maybe, between a professional and myself, we can manage the emotions and get things moved on to the right places and people. I'm not the only adult child who ever had to do this for their parent(s) my case, I've got my dad's business office to do the same thing with, but that's a whole 'nuther set of circumstances and complications. It has sat idly since he died, Mother refused to do anything with it, so guess who gets to deal with another 40-year accumulation of clutter, not to mention confidential client records (good thing they have industrial shredder trucks which come around to banks occasionally, where bank customers can avail themselves of the service...I'll probably be first in line when the day comes!).

      Anyway, enough of the woe-is-me; it's just that Janice's 33 for clothes as we've all said (and fairly with a nod as usual to Courtney at the actual Project 333 site), is a workable way to get at more than just the clothes and, as you said, creating necessary awareness...the awareness being the break-through really...

    4. You sound like you're going crazy. The books of Judith Kolberg might help: she has techniques for getting through masses of stuff. Maybe you could hire her to be your personal organizer/de-clutter helper.

    5. I'm embarrassed; I did go on and on, didn't I. Thanks for the tip; I'll look her up. Yeah, I'm a little crazy. Crazy for wanting a life! Or at least one without clutter...

    6. Well, my mom isn't elderly. She's in her 70's, but honestly, could run circles around me. She's making this move to be closer to 'home'. Even with all her amazing abilities and success, I see her really dealing with letting go of 'stuff' as a process. I'm happy to report that she's literally selling/donating most of it! We had a series of long conversations about it, while she was finalizing the sale of her new home not far from me. She's on board.

      Now...if I could just work this magic on my husband....

  5. Grey is so elegant... beautiful garments and combinations, thanks again! These lovely accessories... ♥
    -Birgit (spontaneously fallen in love with one of them :)

  6. I like this very much. I am trying to organise my wardrobe so I have more outfits with fewer items. The answer seems to lie with a few good pieces in neutrals then add accessories then think about accent colours to finish it off. I'm not too keen on boots - maybe more delicate style would suit me for winter.

    Thank you Janice for your inspiration.

  7. This is great. Definitely something I can do. My working wardrobe is grey and navy, but without any accessories at all.
    Really looking forward to more on this theme. Meanwhile, I will go out and buy a scarf.

  8. I love your various capsule wardrobes and want to try Project 333. One problem that I do have is that I don't 'put away' any of my seasonal wardrobes. I leave summer in the closet all year around, for example. I know I should not do this as it creates extra clutter and confusion...I just can't seem to force myself to do it. I guess I have hang up about sometimes just needing to see those things I have but am not using seasonally.

  9. Just about to finish my summer/early fall to late fall/winter closet swap (in Washington DC we really do have 4 seasons-very hot summers, mild springs, brisk falls and then COLD winters)....after reading VF for many months-I am on probably my 4th or 5th! pass at clearing out orphans, items of sentimental but no practical value, and a host of mistakes. Very slowly getting closer to a wardrobe of classics that I genuinely enjoy wearing and that create a variety of combinations easily enhanced with scarves, fun shoes, a couple of bracelets, etc.

    I still have more than 33 pieces but many of those are sort of shopworn but still perfectly useful ...and they offer up a range of choices for after work/weekend wear. I am not yet able to let go of these but admit that there is way too much in that category. Really, there are only 2 days in a weekend!

    It will take me at least a year of more sorting out, making thoughtful purchases AND passing up “bargains” …for me to build solid collections like VF/Janice illustrates so masterfully. This is not an overnight process and I have much to learn. Am so very grateful for Janice’s wise and creative counsel. A thousand thanks! Best, Dorothy

  10. I adore softer colors such as navy and grey instead of black and white. This is a great grouping!

  11. Lovely. and it was done with just two pairs of footwear. Impressive.

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