Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Another Template for The 4 by 4 Capsule Wardrobe

It's apparent, when you look back through years of The Vivienne Files, that my thinking about some concepts... evolves... the more I work with them. Foremost among the ideas that have gone through some changes is the Four by Four Capsule Wardrobe. But I'm pretty settled on how I think this best comes together, (finally...) so I built a template from which we can all work, in the future.

You should be able to "right click" on this baby and print it, but if you can't, just send me a note at, and I'll send it to you.

It felt really odd to work on a document in "portrait orientation"... but it fits much better this way!

And yes, I'm going right back to the navy and beige "Whatever's Clean 13", with some changes of accessories.

Ultimately, I think what you can learn from The Vivienne Files is that there are a few different ways to approach wardrobe planning and building. What matter is NOT which method you use, but just the fact that you HAVE a plan, and a method, and that you're not just frittering away hard-earned money on clothes that do you no favors.

  • You may choose to Start From Scratch if you really need EVERYTHING and have to beginning at step one.
  • If you need a bit of focus for a few months, and to learn about how very little you need to be well-dressed, Project 333 is a great way to do that.
  • The 4 by 4 Wardrobe is for those of us who want to pull together a core within our existing wardrobe that gives us stability and security (that Monday Morning Wardrobe problem is solved!). It helps illustrate what pieces we need to add, in order to eliminate that insecure feeling when we open our closet door.
  • And of course, Whatever's Clean 13 is great for travel, but can also serve as a guideline for season shopping.

Ultimately, you can just read The Vivienne Files for an aesthetic indulgence in pretty pictures of lovely clothes, lovingly chosen to create new and alluring combinations. Or you can cherry-pick the concepts that help you, and just leave the rest for other. I'm just happy that you're here with me each day!


PS - For more tools to help you plan your wardrobe, including the latest Pantone Color Planner, check out the Planning Documents section of the website.


  1. Janice you are so generous to share this wonderful knowledge. I am finding that dresses work best for me, but that means that I lose a lot of the mix and match functionality. I wonder if you might do a post in the future on a dress-centric wardrobe?

  2. Janice, your blog has revolutionized my wardrobe! Instead of continually shopping for new things I find I'm very happy with adding a few things each season and enjoying them. It is winter for me and this season I've added some red to my navy and black and white.
    On the post above, if dresses suit you it would be possible to pack very light. I'm off to Singapore in July - very hot and quite formal. I could take three black dresses: a casual Aline linen for downtime things, a crepe Aline for dressier day thigs and a crinkly, pretty Aline with roses on the hemline for evenings. Black slip on Ecco ballet shoes, black leather low heel pumps and metallic wedges respectively for shoes.
    NB I won't see anyone I know more than once so nobody will know I'm the LBD lady....

  3. Ahhhhh, this is my template, as I've mentioned in other posts, thank you, thank you ! It is my travel packing plan for trips over one week, and suits me perfectly ! The project 333 is super for a well curated season's wardrobe, and Whatever''s Clean is perfect for seeing where there are holes in my wardrobe, as well as a short term packing plan. You are my fashion guru, Janice, merci beaucoup !

  4. This template is just...perfect. But I love them all! I've been with you from the very beginning, Janice, and enjoy seeing how you "evolve".



  5. For me, which plan I use depends on the season. In fall and winter, this 4x4 works very well (cardigans, jackets, etc). In the hot, sticky summer the whatever's clean 13 is my go-to plan.

    1. I, too. Very customizable and helpful!

      I tend to think in the Start From Scratch model when it's time to do a closet purge, in the 4x4 model for planning the winter, Whatever'sClean in the summer, 333 type capsules in the bridge seasons, and for short trips I often think of it as a single Core of 4 + an Expansion 4 of mix&match wildcards, or two Cores of 2 + an Expansion 2, or even a Core of 2 + Expansion 2 -- it just depends on the length of the trip.

      But TheVivienneFiles' core methods of pre-planning before purchasing or packing ALWAYS work for me when modified to the specific application. They give a clarifying language and workable flow chart to my muddled natural tendencies.

      Hooray for Janice, her clear thinking and simple elucidation of complex concepts, and her generosity in sharing it with us!
      Sue G

  6. Wonderful! My wardrobe planning is a mishmash of a whole lot of ideas from here and there... I am a plus size, stay-at-home and don't want to throw any clothes out unless they are worn out or don't fit. I have a modified Project 333 where I change my suite of clothes every 3 months. Currently I have 3 or 4 skirts (part of my personal uniform) and about 10 tops. This gives me time to launder them. I'm doing a whatever is clean and rotating the clothes. I am also building accessory families. I would never have thought this all through if it were not for The Viv Files. I hope that eventually I will have a smaller co-ordinated wardrobe of clothes. What a cool adventure. Thanks Carol S

  7. I found The Vivienne Files a few months after its start and well remember backtracking to read from the beginning so I wouldn't miss a single tip/hint. I am a daily reader that rarely comments. Thank you, M. Janice, for your gracious and generous help. My wardrobe, my pocketbook, and my purchasing conscience is forever grateful. Deb in Kentucky

  8. Thank you so much for these two templates. They have allowed me to view my closet and wardrobe through new eyes. I have been pleasantly surprised to find that I own a number of 4x4's or at least 3/4's of them and have helped me to identify the gaps that I need to fill. I have also discovered that my expansion 4's can sometimes work with more than 2 of the 4x4's, which makes them all the more versatile. I look for your postings each day and learn something new from every one!

  9. Why do I read the Vivienne Files every day? For all the reasons you describe. Plus. I just think you are a very special person. It is very refreshing to have a blogger who seems like a very intelligent, open and creative friend who only wants to share. (There are some others too, like that too). But you really think through things and present them in ways that are understandable and practical.

    Deb from Vancouver

  10. I have only just discovered your blog and spent quite some time on my long weekend (here in Australia) reading back over your past posts. I just love your approach on how to pull together a beautiful wardrobe - and your focus on not needing a bulging wardrobe to dress well every day. I love how it can be adapted no matter your lifestyle or wardrobe requirements. Thank you so much and I definitely will be following you going forward.

  11. Thank you - this and Starting from Scratch are my favourite templates. I'm using both to reevaluate my wardrobe.

  12. Thank you, Janice! As an avid Project 333-er, your 4x4 wardrobes have helped me so much... I am looking pretty awesome these days, and I have you to thank for that. :)

  13. Janice, You left out the part about reading your blog to mentally take all the fantasy trips that your packing posts inspire :-)

  14. Thanks for this great template! Usin' it to enjoy Chicago in the summertime :-)

  15. What a great flow chart - you have made it all so easy for us hopeless wardrobe planners. Thank you

  16. Thank you, Janice for all your incredible help. I recently lost over 50 pounds and now must get a whole new wardrobe - a minimalist one with quality items that I can wear for many years and that is perfect for any occasion. I will choose navy, golden tan/brown with Aqua, turquoise, green and possibly coral Accents. I want a wardrobe like yours! I've been perusing your archives and now will definitely use this template for my planning. Thanks again soooo much for such care and beauty you put into this blog. Janice Collins, Washington, DC.

  17. I love the template idea. And I realize this is what I have tried to do with your Six-Pack posts: tried to identify garment categories and numbers in order to analyze how I can create a Six-Pack that will work like yours, using my own garments. I find all of your creative groupings (Whatever's Clean, Six-Pack, Four-Pack, Common Wardrobe, etc.) both interesting and useful; but the Six-Pack is still my absolute favorite. Thanks.

  18. Thank you for this gift.

  19. Adding another hooray! I like working with 4x4, as a 16 can generate enough outfits for a couple of weeks (and pruned down makes a good business trip) and two together make a project 333 season…. However the whatever's clean is a good way of visualising how it will work. In fact trying any one of the systems throw up different ideas, and reveals gaps. Thank you for bringing some kind of order to what was chaos!

  20. I first found your blog in Fall 2014. I used "Starting from Scratch" to put together my first capsule: black, gray and fuschia. I needed another color and found in in a scarf while shopping. The scarf had my colors plus purple. I happened to have a purple sweater set that worked perfectly. I was able to add to / take away seasonal clothes to get me through the following winter, spring, summer, fall, winter, and spring with some additions.
    This spring I fell in love with a floral tee shirt with navy, white, marine blue (azure), and Aqua. Using your 4 by 4 guidelines, I was able to pull this new capsule together with just a few shopping trips. The old black, gray, fuschia, and purple capsule is being retired to my camping capsule wardrobe. Again, using the 4 by 4 template I'm able to easily get dressed from my teeny tiny cupboard in our trailer. My clothes consist of: camisole, tanks, tees, long sleeve tees, cardigans/hoodies, capris, long jeans, and sweatshirts. I'm cover d for any sort of weather. I also have 2 tops and a pair of white capris for church or other looking-nice occasions.
    Thank you so much for sharing your fashion wisdom with us. I feel more confident when I look put together!