Monday, April 08, 2013

Capsule Wardrobe Project 333 for warm weather - my search for a uniform

wardrobe uniform

I won't even try to kid you - I've been under a lot of stress recently, and there's no apparent reason for it.  I have one of the easiest lives that any human being could want, but I still have been feeling pressured, inadequate, hurried to get things done, and as if much of what I do has been "weighed in the balance and found wanting."

So as the weather finally warms up, my goal is to simplify, and to try to give myself more time to accomplish things that will give me a sense of gratification and competence.  Thus, I'm stripping this summer's wardrobe back to the absolute basics - a uniform of sorts.

The late Olivia Goldsmith co-authored the above, very insightful, book (available here, finally at a reasonable price!).  It's all about finding a uniform and sticking with it. That's sort of what I'm going to do this summer... starting with four black dresses:

And then adding in two black tee shirts, two black tank tops, two black skirts, and two pair of black pants:

Although I know for a fact that I can go a very long time wearing black, and nobody will notice, I am going to include a number of tee shirts -as much to give myself some laundry "wiggle room" as anything else!

 Now things to finish off these long columns of black - four cardigans, two linen jackets, and two silk jackets.

And four really cool sweaters - mostly to layer over things, as they are all rather sheer.  They bring a lot of texture and interest to my outfits, while still being easy to pull on and run, and easy to peel off if the weather requires.

So my days would unwind something like this:  Start with a solid column with a skirt or pants, pull a sweater over it to finish things off.

Another option is to grab a dress, and put a jacket or cardigan on, for warmth and "completeness."

Or slip into some variation of a black suit - either a cardigan or jacket, with either a skirt or pants.  Toss in a tee shirt, maybe a scarf, and move on the more interesting things.

I know that my tolerance for wearing a lot of black is very high, and that I have the accessories to keep this from looking too sober.  I wonder how it will play out in practice...


  1. What an inspiring wardrobe! I love that it includes dresses, as capsule wardrobes rarely do, and I wear them a lot in the Summer. I also wear black tanks a lot, with either a cardigan for warmth or a loose shirt for sun protection over top. I couldn't do with just one though. I have black tanks in different lengths, more or less body conscious, different strap widths, etc... a shorter tank might go better with a full skirt while a longer, looser tank will work better with slim pants, for instance.

  2. This is what I am trying to do, except that I cannot bring myself to wear black in the summer. I have been looking for a gray or taupe "base" but with little luck.


  3. I see how you can got lots of wear out of these outfits. While I do not wear dresses (don't really know why), I have separates that double as such, and paired these with my lovely collection of linen knit EF cardigans and sweaters, I am good to go from mid April to mid September. The added texture, movement, and color does wonder. You will do very well, me thinks.

    Thank you for your wonderful inspirations and I hope the blog is not wearing you out too much. It must be difficult to come up with something new every day of the week, and my hat's off to you. Have a good week.

  4. I am so proud of you! This is the most amazingly workable summer wardrobe I've ever seen. You have dressy and work-ready (tough to pull off in the heat), you have layers (necessary for changing temps, as well as overly air conditioned buildings during hot days) and you have casual clothes. Kudos! And huge applause! I love it all!

    By the way, your project 333 has saved me during our 'taking longer than hell to freeze over' home renovation. I have no idea what I'd do without t! That said, I have a wonderful new job...but one that requires a bit of a "uniform" (with some leeway). A few people have offered their condolences. The job itself is one my friends are thrilled for me about. However, the need to wear a khaki bottom half (a skirt that's knee length or below, or pants) and a white button down (and there is leeway, so long as it is, in some form, a button down). I am over the moon about this. Why? Because it is making getting dressed in the morning a SNAP! One bottom. One top. One pair of black shoes. And I'm off.

    It did necessitate a trip to L.L. Bean from my home in midcoast Maine, but that wasn't an arm twist experience.

    For those who are unsure about ordering from L. L. Bean's, I just want to add one note: they have dozens of styles for every body type. I am fortunate to live only an hour away, so I could take advantage of the fitting rooms there. That said, they have the most liberal and wonderful of return policies. You can most definitely order in several sizes (and styles) and find 'your shape'. You can also ask for recommendations, if you phone, giving them your shape and measurements. I was able to find three pair of pants, one skirt, three shirts and a belt just telling the fitting room 'expert' (this is what I need...and this is how I'm built under this long coat). She hit the nail on the head completely.

    Thank you again, Janice. You are the best!

  5. Dear Janice,
    You are a star!
    This helpful post is one more instance of your skill. It's clever and stylish.
    Your blog has changed our lives for the better in lots of ways. I hope that life settles down soon so you can accept that you really are talented and very good at what you do.
    The new uniform must help - easy to put on, classy, simplifying life.
    And - did I say? - you are a star.

  6. Is the asymetrical sweater on the left Eileen Fisher? I have seen an EF sweater like this and am trying to decide if the expense would be worth it. I am adding two day dresses to my wardrobe this summer. The practical side, inspired by your blog, says to get the neutral grey or tan. My devilish angel says, "Get the coral, get the citron."
    I really am torn and tempted. What do you think?

  7. Oh, and BTW, being a little "at sixes and sevens" is a natural consequence of our busy lives. Sometimes our jobs, our homes and even our friends seem to be giving us negative vibes. It may be that we are spread too thin. It may be that something is missing or perhaps someone in your life is giving you this vibe. It sorts out. Just listen to your feelings and do just what you are doing--simplify.

  8. That taupe jacket is gorgeous. Shame about Goldsmith's death - due to a heart attack at age 54 during cosmetic surgery.

  9. These are lovely segments of a perfect wardrobe for some areas. Janice, I invite you to come to the south and stay for a week or two in July or August and then plan something for us! Just looking at the lovely jackets and thinking about our heat and humidity makes me want to move...but I won't.

    BTW...sorry you are feeling stressed, please know there are many of us who look forward to your blog each day, but if you need to take some time off, do so, you deserve it!

  10. Yes, I echo the request for a minimalist summer wardrobe for those of us in insanely hot and humid climes... black is miserable when the sun's beating down and it's 90% humidity. :)

  11. Another HUGE thank you from a grateful fan of your blog. I have found tons of inspiration from your work, which I have combed over many times. I'm still hoping for a book deal!

    I can't wait to see your weekly updates.

  12. Janice,

    I have started developing a work uniform also. But, surprisingly, all winter long, my work area was much warmer than I expected. So, while I might wear a sweater to work, once I'm there, the sweater definitely comes off.

    I wonder if my office will be cooler-than-expected as summer hits.

    In that case, I'll have to consider wooly sweaters!

  13. I live in Texas where it is HOT HOT HOT in the summertime. Often it is 104 degrees! I do wear black though and have quite a wardrobe now of sleeveless black dresses (from very casual to capable of being dressed up). I've added a few sleevless EF dresses in colors (persian blue, dark tulip and navy). These are going to be my uniforms this summer. It is difficult to find just the right cardigans and little jackets that won't make me swelter. I have bought a very loosely woven EF cardigan in dark navy. I think it is going to be very useful when going into air conditioning. Now, I need to find something that looks great over the black dresses. I do have a little short sleeved jacket, but I need a few more choices.

  14. Dear Janice,
    I don't often comment here, but I love your blog. Your summer wardrobe is great. I'm looking for a personal uniform myself so your take on it was really helpful. I'm toying with the idea to go with jeans and a white button-up and then adding accessories. I'm a stay at home mom so I can pull off a very casual look. Please keep us posted on how you work your uniform and how you like it.

    I hope your uniform will help you find more time for the important things in your life. Take care of yourself and take the time you need to recharge. I hope you'll be feeling better soon. Hugs.

  15. My work wardrobe this past fall/winter was essentially a uniform similar to your summer plan and I LOVED IT! I had 3 pair of black pants (different fabrics and leg widths), one pair of gray pants, a couple of dressy black tees, 6 tailored jackets in neutral tones that suit me - like dark chocolate, taupe, charcoal, and a few tees in colors matching the jackets. I chose my daily outfit by rotating the jackets, and then picking pants and top based on what was clean and how cold it was. So low stress, and I actually looked good according to my husband:)

    Now I need to do this for summer, and copy your plan to extend it into casual wear.
    I love your blog!

  16. I love it love it love it love it love it. I struggle to dress in the summer. I don't wear shorts. I have many dresses, but, that really complicates things as I try to be careful not to repeat looks...which is actually a wasted of stressful energy. I love the idea of simplifying and rotating through a cadre of basics. I'm in!

  17. Hi! Thank you for the inspiration. Can you share some of your favorite designers? I especially am curious about the black summer dress you styled with the red hat. Thank you!

  18. Love, love, love your blog! Hope things get better quick for you.

  19. I wear tons of black but find, though, that black *in the day* when it's in the high 80sF and humid looks too hot and heavy. (Evening is fine.) Bright, hot sunlight in black makes me look like I'm either a member of a very conservative religious sect or a retail salesperson.

    Love these clothes, they show how to lighten it.

  20. I echo all the southerners comments. Mind you I live in sub tropical Australia and find lots of people still wear black but with skin bared and say silvery/light/natural sandals. The skin bared bit gets harder as one moves along but I find some good doses of white and cream can allow you to have the black bases. Thanks again Janice!!!

  21. I love the flattering simplicity of your "neutral column plus" approach, Janice. It seems to me that if one or all of these dresses were light gray or a not-too-inky navy or taupe or blush (I love that blush sweater!), you'd have every possible occasion (a wedding, garden party, mother's day brunch etc.)covered. I have a difficult time wearing black to festive daytime occasions--especially in spring and summer.

  22. Just brilliant! As usual :)

    I too live in a hot clime where black in the daytime is just too hot. I lean towards cream thru khaki, even to a dark taupe as my neutral range of choice in the summer.

    I also sew, which makes life a lot easier - if a bit more work (tho considering how hard i am to fit in RTW, and how hard i am on clothing, it actually comes out near a wash). I just found some stretch cotton jersey in a nice darker taupe that i'm eyeing as a nice material for tees, camis, a dress and skirt:

    But then all my family and friends know my undying love of beige. The lighter tones of Olive Drab can make a nice summer neutral and make a terrific look with corals, tomato reds, turquoises and violets. Happy Day! steph

  23. Ive had this book for years and you have totally pulled it off perfectly! Spot on

  24. This is one of my favorites, probably since I like to wear a lot of black, but am often criticized for it (un-southern look). I could probably approximate the mix if I would go through my closet and eliminate--project must wait till school is over.

    As always, thanks.

  25. Love this post -- I live in sleeveless EF dresses with cardigans throughout the summer. Black is my basic but navy's really expanded my repertoire -- Paired with Jockey Skimmies Slipshorts, I'm in heaven.

  26. Don't you just love that book? I had the good sense to photocopy it when I borrowed it a few years back from the DC library because it has since disappeared from the shelves there -- so sad.

    Love your column of color approach, which is what I did for half of my spring 333. The other half is dresses: two solid color, one print, that I will switch up with different colored cardigans. I just really wanted to try to work in some color for spring. The rest of my wardrobe is black and white basics. So easy!

  27. The main reason I became a dedicated reader was your Core Four Wardrobe. I have a simple lifestyle in a warm climate. I briefly toyed with the Project 333 idea and found I had way too many choices. Many items never saw the light of day. I have been wondering how you compare and/or contrast Project 333 vs. Core Four Wardrobe. Would your feelings about Project 333 be different if you included your accessories in the count?

  28. I thought you said you wear dresses? These are not the choices of a dress-wearer, that's for sure! (Love the blog -- just wish there were more dresses in your selections, as I rarely wear separates.)


    1. The dress-wearing is a more recent phenomenon, since I started working from home. And since I've started running, which means that a lot of trousers that I wore 2 years ago are not too large. One thing that you can count on in almost anybody's wardrobe is that things will change, gradually shifting as bodies and life circumstances change.

      Thanks for noticing - I appreciate your attention to details!
      warmest regards,