Wednesday, June 18, 2014

How to Build a Capsule Wardrobe from Scratch Step One: A Nice Pair of Pants

Many people would tell you that you should start building your capsule wardrobe with a black suit. And there's an undoubted crowd who would vote in favor of a little black dress. (for me, personally, that's where I would start...)

But after wrestling with this question for weeks, I've finally decided that most of us might find the most utility, and the most immediate transformation of our wardrobe, could come from investing in a really NICE pair of pants. Trousers. Even (very unpopular word) slacks...

If you've changed sizes, a new pair of trousers that fit you perfectly will immediately elevate all of your old blouses and shirts.  If you want to improve the overall quality of your wardrobe, nothing will make you feel more polished than trousers that are well made, and of exceptional fabric.

Don't skimp on this one - try on lots of pairs, and when you find your favorites, have them altered.  I know, women don't get things altered, but it's about time that changed...

When you're looking for pants that will be wearable more than once a week, definitely consider the simplest style you can find - no decorative stitching,  weird pockets, or complicated pleating and cuffing.  Unless you're committed to wearing a belt every time you wear these, eschew the belt loops... And keep in mind that you'd like to find a fabric that you could wear 9 months out of the year; truly 12-month garments are rare, so don't get carried away looking for something you might not be able to find.

These are the kind of thing that I have in mind:

How to start a capsule wardrobe from scratch - step 1 - a pair of pants
Navy trousers – Viyella, black linen trousers – Viyella, silver grey trousers – Viyella
How to start a capsule wardrobe from scratch - step 1 - a pair of pants
Copper twill trousers – Lands’ End, brown twill trousers – Lands’ End, tan trousers – Hallhuber

These mock wardrobes look pretty sparse right now, but as I move through this brave adventure, each wardrobe will begin to take shape and show it's own distinctive qualities.

And I realize that I've almost certainly already gone "off the rails" from what some of you would consider as a first wardrobe step.  That's okay - so long as we've all thought out our own priorities and essentials, differences are great!

How to start a capsule wardrobe from scratch - step 1 - a pair of pants
black linen trousers – Viyella
How to start a capsule wardrobe from scratch - step 1 - a pair of pants
brown twill trousers – Lands’ End
How to start a capsule wardrobe from scratch - step 1 - a pair of pants
Copper twill trousers – Lands’ End
How to start a capsule wardrobe from scratch - step 1 - a pair of pants
silver grey trousers – Viyella
How to start a capsule wardrobe from scratch - step 1 - a pair of pants
Navy trousers – Viyella
How to start a capsule wardrobe from scratch - step 1 - a pair of pants
tan trousers – Hallhuber
NOVICA

How to start a capsule wardrobe from scratch - step 1 - a pair of pants
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26 comments:

  1. It is interesting to see how you are tackling this series. I agree that trousers are one of the most versatile items in a wardrobe and this is probably where I would start. And yes, try on lots of pairs and have tailoring done! Absolutely! Actually, the inability to find trousers that fit well is what motivated me to start sewing again. I do have to disagree on the belt loops, though, as I like the option of being able to tuck in blouses or not and do not care for the crinkled waistband look that comes from not wearing a belt.

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  2. Yes, I consider my long-sought, finally found and flattering, favorite grey dressy slacks the mainstay of my wardrobe. Tops and cardigans are the easy part.

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  3. I have a pair of very good quality trousers in each of these colors and I never regretted the purchase. I lost some weight last year, and I had them altered to fit perfectly again. Considering how often I have worn them, the price tag seems to be negligible by now.
    I like the way you approach this new series, Janice.

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  4. Perfectly fitting trousers are something that I do not own. I need a petite and a size 14-16 right now. Does such a thing exist? Right now, I am thinking that I am the chocolate brown, blue, soft gold palette so I would need brown or tan. I will make a list for AFTER the culling is finished.

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    1. Talbots has Petites and Women's Petites. Perhaps you would find a fit there.
      Sharon

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    2. That's my size/length! Ann Taylor, Loft, Banana Republic, and NY & Co. have been really fruitful pants sources for me this Spring.

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    3. Jones New York also carries Women's Petites.

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  5. Love that last shade of tan in the pants...not too light or dark...looks like a wonderful color!

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  6. After years of following this blog, my wardrobe is fairly stable, and I have a good plan for culling/replacing. But I've always struggled with the more casual side of dressing. Sure, I can just throw on a pair of jeans and a flannel shirt for that hike, but it feels like I've fallen off the wagon somehow. So, I'm going to play along with this new series by building a fantasy wardrobe for an outdoorsy/active/casual lifestyle. This is going to be fun!

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  7. I think you are right to start with pants--so hard to find something that has to fit in so many dimensions! I probably spend more on a few pairs of "invisible" black pants than on all my other pieces put together.

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  8. You are right to start with pants. I probably spend more on a few pairs of black pants on all my other pieces put together. Thanks for sharing

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  9. I'm retired and in the process of revamping my wardrobe. I sew all of my clothes so the process is slow. I like the Gray & Navy plus pink. purple & white color palette (I may tweak it some).
    Yes, pants is where I would start. They are the hardest to fit and once I got a pattern to fit I am able to make different pant to meet my needs (wool, cotton, lined or not, etc).
    I am working on my summer wardrobe now and will be starting on my fall/winter wardrobe soon. It will be the biggest because of the weather consideration--wet cold and dark; I live in Alaska.

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  10. I am really looking forward to this series in anticipation of refining my fall wardrobe. As a pale skinned winter living in Florida I have navy and white as my summer neutrals and plan to use black and grey for fall/winter. It's hard not to have a base of black with my coloring but it can be so heavy and drab for our hot summers. So I may not be following the two neutral rule but not sure how else to make it work. I also have aqua as an accent for summer and will probably switch most of that to brighter blues, lilacs and purples for winter.
    Janice, I've been gradually reading your blog for the past several months, have thoroughly enjoyed it and learned so much about being a smarter shopper and more stylish dresser. When I dress in the morning now I try to take my time putting my outfit together, then view myself in a full length mirror wondering "What would Janice think?". I think we all need to be reminded in our casual culture that we should be assembling an "outfit" rather than just throwing on an assortment of clothes that may match (or may not).

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  11. This is so important. I've also found that poorly fitted trousers can add 10 pounds to your look. It can also add an aging "granny" effect.
    Was it here that I heard about the "Mom Jeans" skit?

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  12. Brooks Brothers lined gabardine pants.They will alter them for you at no charge. Also come in petite. They are the pants I wear everywhere for any occasion.

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  13. Love the idea of starting with the trousers!

    I have a dumb question about altering the length - how do you determine the length of the pant leg. Do you take all your shoes into consideration or buy a few pants in the same color and have them hemmed to go with different heel heights?

    Sorry if it sounds dumb but I am looking to put a wardrobe together and the shoes just leave me perplexed!!!

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    1. I would try to keep your heel height about the same for all of your pants--i.e. 1-1 1/2 inches. I'm over wearing high heels with pants although I will wear them (no higher than 3 inches) with cocktail dresses. If you look back at some of Janice's wardrobes you see that she pairs low heels with pants, skirts and dresses and does not show any heels with pants. Problem solved and more comfortable!

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    2. Thank you - that helps!

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  14. I love the grey slacks!! Looking forward to this series as I am pretty much building a wardrobe from scratch as we speak!

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  15. All so true...a good pair of pants is priceless. I have been purchasing mainly side zip pants because I hate the extra volume a zipper and button add to my middle. And I tend to wear knit tops, so side zip pants give me a smooth line. Finally, I find that a tapered or slim leg pant works best for me in warmer months; skinny jeans or pants that can tuck in a boot are my go-tos in colder months. Thank you, Janice, for this series. Can't wait to see what is next.

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  16. Those of us who don't like or wear pants:
    apply the same principle with a skirt.
    It works just as well!

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  17. Hi Janice
    many times I admire your sense of style and the combinations. You have a very practical approach to dressing, and I can easily associate with it.
    In this post however I am a bit non-plussed. You write in your introduction that "When you're looking for pants that will be wearable more than once a week," and your second proposal is a pair of linen trousers - I find I can wear them exactly once before they look so creased that I have to give them for cleaning again. Would you please say something about the fabric these trousers should be, so that they can be worn 9 months in a year?

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    1. I would agree that linen clothing is what I consider to be "high maintenance" due to the wrinkle factor. If I buy linen I do so realizing I'll be spending lots of time at the ironing board in between trips to the cleaners.

      I love the look of linen and try to find man-made linen-look-a-like blends that will reduce/eliminate the wrinkle factor. These are not as readily available as they were 20 years ago. There is so much emphasis on natural fibres these days, good quality blends can be difficult to locate.

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  18. Hello--I am reviewing this post on July 20th. It is an exact duplication of the the post for Step One.

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  19. Eileen Fisher makes midweight trousers that work for three seasons. They have lycra/Spandex in them and are made of rayon. I have two pairs, and they're worth every penny!

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  20. If you have a quality pair of trousers in your wardrobe, then they will be perfect for anything that your diary throws at you. They will eventually pay for themselves as you can wear them for business or pleasure. Black goes with anything and as I don't have particularly great legs, I don't 'do' dresses or skirts. I love my tight black slacks combined with boots or high heels.

    Angella Frasier @ 4 Wardrobe

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