Monday, December 15, 2014

My Capsule Wardrobe, and Starting From Scratch

My wardrobe is in kind of a mid-season funk right now. My arms are getting a little bit girthy from my workouts (hurrah!!!), and a few things that used to be capsule wardrobe stalwarts are going to have to move on to someone else's wardrobe. I'm losing sight of what my "big picture" wardrobe plan is... and that makes getting dressed time-consuming and tiring. Plus, since I don't have to go into an office any more, my wardrobe is long on "business-ish" garments that could be donated or sold. So it's time for me to Start From Scratch!
  • Step 1: Pants - easey peasy - my black pants from J. Jill. Perfect fit, and a 12-month fabric.
  • Step 2: Shoes - Stuart Weitzman "creampuff" style. They're long discontinued, but my next pair will come from here.
  • Step 4: My jeans are waxed denim from Eileen Fisher (discontinued, but great black jeans from her are here), and my shirt is a black and white linen print from J.Jill - which is again long time gone. Something similar is here.
  • Step 5: Majorica pearl earrings and bracelet, Hermes Croisiere watch (discontinued), an Agnes B. handbag, and my Hermes 70 cm "bandanna" (this scarf is similar).  So far, this has been really simple and straightforward - I can just walk to my closet and find all these things easily. 

Step by Step Wardrobe my wardrobe first 5 steps

  • Step 6: Two Accent Tops and a scarf! My starry sweatshirt from Maison Scotch, my Mystery Door scarf from Julie Egli, and my black and white striped jersey from Muji
  • Step 7: An ensemble in my 2nd neutral - light black - aka grey. A big snuggly sweater from Eileen Fisher, grey flannel trousers from Saint James, and my grey sweatshirt from ASAP.
  • Step 8: Accent Color tops, plus a necklace. Majorica pearl and chain necklace (discontinued), red L.L.Bean tee shirt, and red L.L.Bean sweater.
  • Step 9: A skirt, with an appropriate top and footwear. My velvet skirt from Eileen Fisher, long gone from production, a black cashmere turtleneck sweater, and black kitten-heel boots.

  • Step 10: Jacket, casual top and casual shoes. My Barbour jacket (still perfect after  years),  my grey Eileen Fisher sweater (discontinued), and Munro shoes all fit the bill.
  • Step 11: A ensemble to express your personal taste. For me, black Eileen Fisher slouch pants, a black linen shirt, and a black and white marled sweater (a nicer one here) are essential, and very "mentally comfortable", so they must be added here.
  • Step 12: Winter essentials. Oh bother... I do not HAVE a long winter coat. Onto the (eventual) shopping list. But I do have my wonderful feather print scarf from Paris, and the best boots on the planet - a pair of Clark's that I've had for at least 10 years.
  • Step 13: More Accessories! I have a great Tumi clutch, a brooch I bought on ebay, my Alexis Bittar stud earrings (discontinued), ANOTHER set of Majorica pearl bracelet and earrings, and my most excellent silver chain from Novica. What I lack in clothes, I make up for in accessories... 

  • Step 14: Leisurely wear. Another pair of Eileen Fisher slouch pants (discontinued) and a pair of skirted leggings are in heavy rotation with a simple white L.L.Bean tee shirt and a J.Jill denim shirt. Around my building, this is what I'm OFTEN seen wearing.
  • Step 15: A dress and cardigan. Finally, I squeeze in my favorite starry cardigan from Rika Amsterdam. And a dead simple black knit dress (similar here) is what I'm wearing almost every week this holiday season.
  • Step 16: Balancing Neutrals: which for me means I'd better scare up some more grey! So my Eileen Fisher grey silk blouse, and my extremely excellent COS tweedy dress get pulled into our assembly.
  • Step 17: Here's where I should balance out my 2nd accent color... I don't HAVE a 2nd accent color. There's no law that says I have to have one, but I might want to take a tour through my scarves and see if there's a color that has potential...
  • Step 18: Double-checking with The Common Wardrobe, and the idea of Whatever's Clean. I fall short here too. Although grey is one of my neutrals, I don't have a grey tee shirt (!?!). And I've noted before that I don't have blue jeans. Possibly a 2nd pair of black jeans, that aren't waxed cotton, would be right here... And with all of this black, a pair of light pants - probably in the neutral usually called stone - would be an idea. Stone is sort of a greyish tan, and is definitely a more cool tone than a yellowish straight khaki. But I DO have white shirts. Since I worked briefly in the baker, I have FIVE white shirts...

Step by Step Wardrobe my wardrobe last five steps

This was interesting for me to work through, because I learned that I'm VERY dependent on black, and I truly shy away from accent colors. My explanation for this is that I spend so VERY much time looking at clothes in order to build a beautiful blog that, by the time I am choosing clothes for myself, I want plain, simple, neutral and low-key.

But I would still like a grey tee shirt...

My Step by Step Wardrobe




  1. Very interesting Janice--especially since your wardrobe is so close to mine--done to the EF slouchy pants which I wore all weekend at our farm. That being said, you are a lot more put together than I am. I think I have the parts in my closet, but haven't taken the time to really organize so that I will know what I have. Like you, I seem to be color averse. I do have a pinky coral cashmere sweater which I should wear more often--if it ever gets cool enough in Dallas. I'll be studying this post.

  2. I love this post - your wardrobe could easily become mine!

    Re the grey Tee shirt - probably they no longer have it but it may give you an idea - GAP this summer had a short-sleeved Tee that has grey cotton jersey front and sleeves, black (fabric) viscose back and black fabric edges to the grey bits. Casual but smarter than a regular grey tee.

  3. Great exercise. My wardrobe changed from very casual to working at a small law firm, which is still much more casual than what you would find in Chicago, but I still like to look well put together. I have built my wardrobe mostly around Eileen Fisher, and though I swallow hard at the price some times, I never regretted a purchase. She had a great silk and cashmere tee in her line-up last year. It is gorgeous on the skin.

    1. You probably already know this, but EF (the EF site) is having a really good sale now. Still expensive, but not as. Free shipping too.

  4. I think that your denim shirt shows your possible second accent color. A chunky turtleneck sweater or a cardigan in that soft denim blue shade would coordinate well with your other pieces and go great with all your pants and skirts!

  5. I find the slouch pants very handy for relaxing or for dressing up a bit. As I build with grey/navy, I find that I have a lot of grey and not very much navy. But, I will be looking for a 3/4 sleeve grey T during the sales. It could be part of my cardigan set with my grey waterfall cardi. I still need to cull so that every day dressing is easy.

  6. As I've said before, I always like seeing the choices of "the master." One day, I'm going to try on those slouch pants and see what everyone likes so much.

  7. I'm retiring at the end of this weekend have been culling my closet using your ideas. It was so much easier to toss the items that didn't fit into this method - all the one shot wonders in colors that only go with one thing are gone!

    The 4x4s are brilliant and I'm very close to figuring out how to adapt my work wardrobe into a classy play wardrobe. I also have the EF skirted leggings and think they are brilliant but would love to see a plan for us 60 somethings who don't wear sneakers and jeans!

  8. About the EF slouchy pants. I love them, but only wear them casually. By that I mean around the house, on errands to the grocery story,, to our farm, etc. I don't know if they are flattering or the least bit stylish on me, but they are comfortable and go with all of my tops/sweaters.

  9. A perfect gray short-sleeved tee shirt has been on my shopping list for over a year; it's become my Holy Grail! I tried one from EF - but it was cap-sleeved (not flattering to my fluffy arms!) and in their muddy gray Pewter color; fail. Then Talbots, tried long and short-sleeved tees, but the fabric just isn't holding up, even if the grays are pretty. I really wish Lands End would offer more muted color tees, like a pretty light gray pima cotton. Please let us know when - if? - you find the perfect gray tee shirt!

  10. I have appreciated Eileen Fraser for a long time and have fond memories of sweaters long gone. I also appreciate your attention to detail and your reminder to me that I have too many clothes! Being a sewist does add clothes because it is so easy and "cheap" to add items. This year I focused on the core 10 and now I have even more options.

    Deb from Vancouver

  11. I'm more comfortable dressing in neutrals too but was feeling drab until I started buying accessories in accent colors instead of buying them in my neutral colors. Pulling accent colors from a scarf for jewelry, shoes or handbag adds just enough color for my comfort zone. I'll be looking forward to see how you use your scarves for accents.

  12. I love your choices Janice.
    EF makes such great clothing and they last forever.
    I just heard about how fabulous JJill garments are through a friend who went on a shopping spree when she was on holiday in the USA and I must agree that for basics they have them covered and then some and the price point is good too.

  13. Love this. My wardrobe is based on black and grey with lots of EF pieces. I realized, recently, I still have a hard time getting dressed because my tops and bottoms are out of proportion. The tunicy tops need slim bottoms but many of my pants have fuller legs. The combo always looks "off" to me. I need to do an analysis pairing up and documenting pieces for outfits. I will certainly be referring back to your many wardrobe building posts.

    Have you done a post on proportions? Also, I'd love to hear your take on choosing an everyday handbag. Thanks, You Rock!!

  14. Love it! And this couldn't have come at a better time - I am working hard on my own start from scratch wardrobe. Seeing it all come together in one post was very helpful.

  15. Interesting stuff. You've got really classy touches in your comfortable and practical wardrobe. Still, I'd shrivel up and die without a bit more colour. I'd second the person who suggested light demin blue as another accent colour. It's only just off grey so you could wear it with pretty much anything and it's not too challenging to your monochromatic tendencies.

  16. I had to smile that even the mistress of the curated wardrobe needs to ... well ... curate, from time to time. This is an excellent step-by-step example of the process, so thank you Janice! It took a while for me to wake up to the fact that the Project 333 idea doesn't have to serve for months at a time, and that with a change of seasons, or even just every few weeks (Tasmania seems to have about 9 seasons a year), it's a good idea to review and rotate the holdings.

    PS A few posts ago you mentioned that you don't see many Hermes or Missoni scarves around town. Here at the bottom of the world we don't see very many designer anythings other than on our foreign minister, who is said to favour Armani. But Missoni recently did a collaboration with our Target (different ownership from yours but I think similar market). I bought a couple of their scarves which are in a nice cotton-linen blend and as the'yre in multi-coloured stripes, wonderfully versatile for adding accents or picking up accent colours in shoes, earrings, etc. I'd never have thought of this without you!

  17. great timing! jjill is having a 40% off all regular priced clothes today, so I just ordered those black pants to give them a try.

  18. It was so very helpful to see the step by step process of going through a 'real' wardrobe and applying it to the principles of the Starting From Scratch philosophy. Most of us already have clothes, so we are working around what already hangs in the closet, rather than starting with nothing. Thanks for sharing.

  19. Hi, Really great effort. Everyone must read this article. Thanks for sharing.

  20. You hit the nail on the head. I don't need. My fancy work clothes anymore either but putting these outfits together to fit my new life isn't working. This post is my blueprint. Thanks!

  21. I've noticed that designers past and present (Calvin Klein, Perry Ellis, Marc Jacobs before he went bizarro, Isabel Marant, Chanel, Rodriguez, Herrera and on and on) say they wear all neutrals and many chose a 'uniform', because of the factor you cite: looking at or dealing with clothes nonstop. IMO no need to seek a second accent colour, and as I recall you have many gorgeous scarves that beautiful and unusual colour mixes.

  22. janice--it is so encouraging to us 'ordinary' women to see you working with what you have. most of us do not go out and buy a whole new wardrobe very often. thanks so much for posting and for sharing your real choices.--anne

  23. I loved seeing a real-life Building From Scratch wardrobe. As an idea for future posts, perhaps you could showcase other real-life wardrobes from those of your readers who have completed one?

  24. I was immediately inspired to do a winter starting from scratch, an was pleased to see the color balance. My accent neutral is cream and U really only have one piece of that, but I have two other items with a large dose of cream in te print so I counted those. I also had three "wild card" items-- blue jeans, a teal sweater, and a predominantly teal scarf that still manages to work with my color scheme (grey, brown, wine and purple).

  25. It's great to see what you picked in real life!
    I find it interesting that you don't want too much color, because I am planning to follow your "Starting From Scratch" guide in the coming year, and I am worried I will be bored at the small number of colors. I am thinking of adding two more steps, each "Add a Color," and adding 3-5 items in a new (but complementary) accent color in both steps to mix things up a bit. I might also do an "Add a Neutral" step later on. What do you think of this idea??

  26. Maybe you've addressed closet organization in previous posts, but I'd like to know your suggestions for storing scarves - in the closet, hanging, folded in a drawer? What's the best way to organze them - by color, by season? I need help! Thanks!