Saturday, June 18, 2016

12 Must-Have Items for your Capsule Wardrobe in 2016? Let's Consider...

I'm sure you see these lists too: "12 Things You NEED in Your Capsule Wardrobe in 2016." They always amuse me, and irritate me, in equal measure.

Let me be perfectly clear: there is NOTHING that is required for every woman. Nothing. Every woman does not needs shoes. Every woman does not need to wear a bra. Really, so long as we're all covered enough to be decent in public, I think it should be much more of a free-for-all than it currently is. Conformity kills creativity...

So let's look at this particular list, and see what we can learn that might be of use!

1. Ankle Boots

If there were even an item that I would encourage you to consider, it would be this. If you live in a climate that is cool or cold part of the year, and if you wear pants or jeans, these are pretty handy, fun, and flattering. They can either be worn to lengthen the line from your leg to your toes (and hide your purple socks!), or they can be worn as a great accent. Either way, carefully chosen, these can be comfortable as heck, and you can get your money's worth from them before they're considered passé.

But please think at LEAST twice before you buy open-toe/heel boots. To me, it seems like turning on the heat and then opening the windows!  "My heels are gorgeous" said no woman, ever... 

It might feel painfully early (in the Northern Hemisphere) to think of buying boots, but if you're at all picky, or if you wear a difficult size, bear in mind that the best boots will sell out (as all the best things do) QUICKLY. And you'll be able to spread out those expensive fall and winter purchases over more of the year if you start early. 

booties in 4 different colors
BlackMunro; brown – Munro;
 off-white – Hush Puppies; green – Blondo

2. White Buttoned Shirt

3. White Tee Shirt

NO. Just no. So many women don't like buttons up the front, and many women don't wear white as their light neutral, AND there are women who prefer to wear darker colors near their face. In other words, there are a ton of good reasons NOT to ever own one of these.  

However, if you do like to wear a light neutral top from time to time, I strongly encourage you to think WAY beyond the man's shirt stereotype. (I say this as a woman who wears white menswear shirts A LOT...) There are so many options that are relaxed, feminine, whimsical, dramatic, expressive, and just plain interesting. If you have a signature motif, or a preferred styling detail, it's probably available in a white, ivory, cream, or bone top, somewhere in the world.

(who am I kidding? this stars tee shirt just screams to me...)

4 white tops - alternatives to the "crisp white button-front shirt"
Frill-sleeve tee – Oasis; stars tee – Oasis;
tunicRoman Originals; sleeveless tunic – Mint Velvet

4. Jeans

 I know, you'd never think of buying jeans unless someone told you that they were a "must have item." Seriously, if you need jeans, you've already got them, and if you don't want to wear them, don't let anybody make you, or try to persuade you to change your mind.

There is a need in many wardrobe for a neutral pair of casual pants, but these could be all sorts of different things. I'm personally finding ankle pants to be useful right now, and I could easily envision having some fun with some culottes... Wearing things like this in place of jeans is often cooler, and always makes you look MUCH more dressed up than you feel. 

(experimenting with a new style from a store like Uniqlo means that you can try something different without missing a mortgage payment. If you end up really loving a silhouette or style, you can always upgrade in a year or two...)

Wide leg – Uniqlo; navy ankle pants – Uniqlo
gauchos – Uniqlo; cotton/linen drawstring - Uniqlo

5. Striped Tee

This is another one of those garments that, if you don't already own it, you don't need it! Those of us who loves striped tee shirts have been wearing them for years, and those of you who don't wear them know ALL about them, and have made the deliberate choice to NOT wear them. No list should change that...

There are SO many tee shirts in the world (far too many, in my opinion. Might I interest you in a gross or 2 of 5K tee shirts?) that you can indulge in 2 or 3 in the spring and change the look of many of your outfits. I particularly like to look at Uniqlo for tees, because they partner with all kinds of really cool designers. You can find beautiful, unusual, funny, classic, and just plain "new favorite" tee shirts... 

Navy – Uniqlo; grey – Uniqlo
yellow – Uniqlo; pink and blue - Uniqlo

6. Black Blazer

Great grief, nobody NEEDS a black blazer. Nobody needs to wear black, and nobody needs a blazer...

What you might need, though, is a dark neutral something to wear over your tee shirt, blouse or soccer jersey when the weather turns cold. I personally love cardigans, but a sweatshirt, or other style of jacket, is also an option.

Grey cardigan – Lands’ End;  brown hoodie L.L.Bean;
beige cashmere – L.L.Bean; navy rain jacket – Lands’ End

7. Tailored Trousers

If you don't wear pants, these make no sense at all. All women do NOT wear pants, no matter what the fashion world wants to tell us. And if you wear jeans, and then dresses to get "gussied up," then tailored trousers don't have a place in your wardrobe either! AND, for those of us melting in record heat, the concept of trousers is just plain icky!

It's not innovative nor creative to be told "you can wear your tailored trousers with your white button-front for work, and then change your shirt for your striped tee shirt for leisure!" You can figure these things out on your own. Following this kind of advice puts you at risk of looking like half of the women in any room you enter...

 Sigh... I wish we weren't constantly pressured to all look the same...

If you have these kinds of options in your wardrobe, you could go a LONG time without wearing trousers of any ilk, tailored or not:

2016 Women's Fashion Trends to consider for the capsule wardrobe
Shorts – Uniqlo; skirt – Uniqlo;
Striped dress – Uniqlo; solid dress - Uniqlo

8. Black Pumps

These might be the single most conformist things you could buy - EVERYBODY tells you that you need these...

But if your wardrobe's not based on black, these are going to be useless. If you never get dressed up, ditto. If you don't wear pumps, same problem. There's no "one size fits all" shoe solution for women, any more than there are garments that really fit everyone.

Shoes are a great place to express your personal motif, be it a bow, a scalloped edge, or a lush tassel. If you want a black shoe to wear to get somewhat dressed up, there are plenty of more interesting options than the predictable pump:

2016 Women's Fashion Trends to consider for the capsule wardrobe
Tassel – Louise et Cie; bow-trimmed – Ted Baker London;
Cross-strap – Caslon; scalloped – Sam Edelman

9. Black Leather Jacket

What is it with thinking that every woman has to wear black? And some of us don't like to wear leather - I look like a child trying to be tough if I wear a leather jacket! Of course many of us need some sort of a jacket, but we don't ALL want to be wearing black leather, do we?

10. Denim Jacket

Same general idea - they can be nice, and a lovely casual touch when worn with a dress or skirt, but they don't suit everyone. I either have to buy one that's ENORMOUS everywhere else on my body, or look like I'm trying to flatten my breasts into oblivion...

11. Olive Field Jacket

Olive? For EVERYONE? Yee gads...

There are so many other jacket options in the world - don't ever take it on faith that you need to own these, when there are more expressive and interesting options available:

2016 Women's Fashion Trends to consider for the capsule wardrobe
Black satin – Wallis; floral – Ganni Sanders;
Plaid – L.L.Bean; blue – Dorothy Perkins

12. Maxi Dress

I have to admit that the whole idea of maxi dresses has been completely spoiled for me by seeing LOTS of women here in Chicago walking about with the hems of their dresses dragging on the pavement. The idea of bringing that garment back into my home at the end of the day, with all of the... icky stuff, shall we say?... that's on sidewalks gives me the shivers. We don't even wear shoes past the front door...

But moreover, these dresses that I see just don't fit, plain and simple. If you want to wear a maxi dress and have it altered to be the proper length, do it, and enjoy! And if the idea doesn't appeal, walk away!

grey floral - Uniqlo; navy floral - Oasis;
black and white - Lands' End; blue - L.L.Bean

Remember, these lists are written in order to make you feel inadequate, and to drive you to go shopping. The writers want you to buy things that you never thought that you needed; I want you to buy what's perfect for you, when you need it, and when you have the money.

Try to resist this kind of manipulation of your emotions and your ego; millions of women throughout history have lived productive and fulfilling lives without owning ANYTHING that ever appeared on a "must-have" list. You can too!

2016 Women's Fashion Trends to consider for the capsule wardrobe


  1. What I need has changed with my life, from a work wardrobe to mostly-retired, from a car owner to carless. (No more delicate shoes!) My must-have is a selection of scarves, both for warmth here in the Canadian Northeast, and to change up basics. There are two decision points: what I need, and how much of it- I once owned 14 pairs of black trousers!

  2. Thanks Janice for brightening my morning. I live in Alaska where most of the clothes on the list would not work. Black anything is not for me; a leather jacket not even considered.
    My clothes criteria is warmth, rain proof if going outside, and more warmth. I like layers and color in the winter.

  3. I LOVE maxi-dresses - but I'm also quite short, so finding suitable length is ridiculously difficult when everything is made for people at least 6-7 inches taller than me. Same problem with trousers...

    1. which I don't mean I just let my hems drag behind me.

    2. Yes! I'm 5'4 - finding something that just hits my ankle bone is tough!
      - Kaci

    3. Right there with you. I'm 5'2.

  4. The clothing on this list actually suits me and the way I dress (except for the maxi dress) but I agree that "must have" lists are pretty much a marketing ploy. - nancyo

  5. Wonderful wisdom! Lovely alternatives. I have a two pairs of ankle boots. One pair I might wear once each winter to an event and the other pair is so cute (similar to your black) that admire and have never worn! I have numerous black pumps for summer. I am plus size and it is easier to buy black stuff for my bottom half. I don't really have any of the other items on the list. Blazers remind me of school... Carol S

  6. I love that black flat with the tassle! And this year I am looking for my perfect ankle boot...thanks for the help Janice!

  7. Janice,
    I almost missed this post, but I'm so glad that I have not done so ! I love your sarcastic sense of humor and courage to be the voice of independence in a world of "wear this, not that ". Hurrah for your thoughts on wearing what is best for the individual and her unique lifestyle and coloring, instead of what is constantly being marketed and promoted as a sort of uniform for all !

    1. I do NOT know how to make the various notification systems work - Bloglovin' is supposed to notify people when I post, but it's an endless mystery to me how to make it work! But the nice thing about anything that I write is that it is going to be timeless, so if you dont' see it for a week, it hasn't become out of date!

  8. You are so right, Janice. I just culled a never-worn pair of dress trousers. I no longer work and they don't fit me or my lifestyle.
    Jean jacket(never worn) needs to be culled because the flattened-breast look is not flattering. Whenever I think of black pumps, I quickly reconsider because I have enough shoes and my neutrals are grey/navy. I agree with La Duchesse about what I need and how many. It is so easy to be seduced by lists. Like Shrebee, I almost missed this blog. It has happened a couple of times lately.
    Merci for being the voice or style and reality.

  9. Very well said!

  10. Yes, yes, yes. This is such an important message that needs to repeated to ourselves almost as a mantra. My husband is completely independent in his clothing choices and never wavers from his preferred look, clean, tidy and comfortable. So simple so easy so economical. I, on the other hand, have always loved clothes and shoes since I was about 12. Sometimes I become aware that I am leaning towards something because it is "in" and most of the time I am able to think for myself but not always. Sometimes, it is because admired friends who dress well are a subtle influence because I would like to look like them. But then I have to shake up my brain and remind myself that I have my own unique preferences.
    Deb from Vancouver

  11. Love this, Janice! My favorite go-to-jacket is a men's subtle plaid wool jacket long enough to cover my bottom w/leggins :-)

  12. Beautifully said. I smiled and realized that while I whole-heartedly believe the message I need it oft repeated for the seducing voices of Madison Ave. can wear you down. Thank you for reason, humor and a lovely dose of common sense (from one who owns no navy, black, grey or white).

  13. When I look at the wardrobe created by these "must-have" items, I see Inez de la Fressage and her ilk - urban working women of the haute bourgeoisie who wear these clothes for their jobs and their leisure activities. Certainly, their jeans aren't going to see a factory floor. Most women have different lives, different bodies, and different incomes, and these "must-haves" don't always work. Like other commenters, I've noticed that my wardrobe is changing to accommodate retirement. I used to wear my black blazer regularly. Now, not so much...

    1. I had to laugh, Sewing! One of my friends went to a sample sale that had a pre-sale day for women in media. (She got the invite because the designer is her neighbour.)She said they all looked alike, everyone in black blazers, leggings and the same blown-out long hair. She, in a vintage fitted sheath bought at a consignment store, with long, curly hair, was a standout.

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

    3. LOL Good for her. I like to let my naturally wavy hair air dry, especially in the summer.It is interesting to me to listen to young moms at my son's preschool talk about blow outs and straightening. There is nothing wrong with wearing your hair that way, but it comes across as safe style as opposed to,"I like to wear my hair this particular way."

    4. I'm this woman but for the upper class moms at my kid's preschool (I work for the organization where the school is housed and we get a tuition discount otherwise we'd never be able to afford it). The blow dry/skinny pants/luxe handbag/heels thing is very much the look vs. me not owning a hair dryer, thrifting all my clothes, and owning no skinny anything. I do however have a coherent sense of style and so generally feel good doing my own thing. (Plus then I get to talk style with the teachers who dress with much more individuality than the moms.) It's amazing how much conformity there is, and no one seems to notice or care.
      Leah from

  14. Great piece!! I have used your "common wardrobe" idea quite a bit and one of the things I like about it is htat, while I actually LIKE the original things on it and have pretty much adopted them, it's really a template for figuring out your own personal common wardrobe. You have a white button-down and a light blue one. I really like those but I don't have a light blue button-down shirt I like yet, so for spring/summer my common wardrobe has a lavender button-down and for fall/winter it's light gray with white stripes. The lav. shirt is old and I'll replace it eventually, but the point is a light color, not light blue. And it could be any color -- if one had a warm palatte instead of a cool one -- or could be a dark color if you wanted to mix the items a different way. The fun thing about your blog is that you show how to use your ideas as "bones" for different lifestyles and color schemes.

  15. Thank you for all the common sense. We don't have to feel guilty for failing to wear any of these items on the list. If we want to, we happily can.

  16. This made me laugh - thank you for your continued rational voice. I confess to owning many of these pieces,but because they suit my style and my life, not because they are on 'the list'. However you can keep your denim jacket, bomber jacket etc as I don't care to squash my breasts into oblivion. And on long waisted me, most of the maxis end up as quasi empire line. No thanks! But ankle boots, striped tees and jeans in various cuts and colours (well, black, navy, grey) are on constant rotation. While I love scarves to add pattern and colour, they are too hot most of the year - but that star tee may find a home with me soon!

  17. Why would you want to hide purple sock? ;)

    1. Yes, I was going to comment on this if no one else did - if I'm wearing colorful socks, they're there to be seen, even if it's just a hint at my ankles!
      - Kaci

    2. Seconded,I only ever wear colorful socks and they are on full display as well: I pair them with ballet flats in cold weather to add a splash of color to a mostly neutral outfit

  18. Another great post! Thanks for being our voice of reason in the wilderness of the fashion world! I like a maxi dress on occasion but never dragging the ground!

  19. Brilliant post! Thanks for expressing what I feel when I see lists of "must haves".

  20. This is fantastic, practical advice for putting those omnipresent "must have" lists to real use. Generalized to their basic form as you have shown us, they can be helpful (black learher jacket" seen as "dark neutral casual third layer piece"). Used as templates, they are clone-generating, impractical propaganda. Wonderful ideas.

  21. Hello Janice, this is a fantastic post! I love how you have suggested alternative 'must haves', but even then posted that we have the choice to make these items a personal 'no'. Enjoy your posts so much and find them a real inspiration for my clothing/outfit choices.
    Gwen from Scotland.

  22. My mother just tried to buy me a black leather jacket. I steered her away.

  23. Wonderful, Janice. I would just add that maxi dresses often seem to be made of the softest, limpest, cheapest, least structured material available, so watch out for cling! I have seen shockingly intimate details of women's anatomy and undergarments through seemingly covered up maxis. I would never wear one outside the home.


  24. Great post, Janice! Thank you for your voice of reason in the midst of all the shouting "you NEED this." As to maxi dresses - I just purchased my first maxi skirt and hemmed it up immediately. Skirts that drag on the floor are icky as well as a tripping hazard.

  25. So funny AND good shopping suggestions!

    1. Every woman needs . .
    Someone who loves them - a pet, a child, a BFF, a spouse.

    2. Every woman needs a way to keep clean - a spa, a shower, a rain barrel, some baby wipes.

    3. Every woman needs a way to get around - a bus, a bike, a camel, a Bugatti.

    You get my drift.

  26. This post is just one of the zillion reasons we love you, Janice! Just fabulous.

  27. Love the advice! I take these articles to be a small capsule wardrobe, one I'd use on a long holiday, rather than a must have. Boots, shoes, blouse, plain T, pattern T, casual bottoms, smart bottoms, dress... and 4 jackets. They almost had me til that. But that, with an extra T and an extra shirt in place of two of the top layers, was how I packed a 2 week holiday wardrobe. Thanks for the inspiration and all your help with making the colour scheme work.

  28. This is the truest thing I've read in quite awhile. Thank you for a good laugh along with common sense.