Friday, December 15, 2017

Evaluating a Wardrobe - How do the "12 Months, 12 Outfits" Wardrobes Do?

What makes a wardrobe work? And how can you tell if a wardrobe is going to be functional and versatile? Not the headiest questions in life, but still important, if you like to get dressed and enjoy the process (as well as the results!).

Ultimately, your wardrobe works if you can get dressed every day with ease and pleasure. It doesn't matter what's in there, how tidy or messy it is, or how many different colors and/or styles of things you own. It's the most subjective thing in the world...

That said, if you're struggling, I have a few ideas that you might want to consider!

First up, let's start with the black, white, grey and rust wardrobe that I finished up on December 1st:

a capsule wardrobe based on an Hermes scarf, in black, grey, white and rust

Since I built more or less identical outfits each month for each of the 6 wardrobes, they all have 4 "2nd layers", 11 tops and 9 bottoms. It's probably not an ideal ratio - I would probably want a couple more 2nd layers, and certain more tops. One of the things about building a wardrobe "outfit by outfit" is that you end up with a really close number of tops and bottoms. While this makes a lot of sense, if you really want to be able to wear EVERYTHING on a regular basis, having more tops is logical. Bottoms are usually more basic, and less memorable, so they can be repeated easily and thus can be outnumbered considerably by the tops! (tops are also more fun to buy...)

Of course, each of these wardrobes also has 2 dresses - since dresses can stand alone, I don't include them in this part of the analysis.

Evaluating a wardrobe based on the number of 2nd layers, tops and bottoms.

Next up, does your wardrobe have "enough" printed garments? Some people might not want ANY AT ALL UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES, while other women might really enjoy having a half-dozen (at least!) floral, plaid, striped, starred, and paisley things. This is entirely up to the wearer of the wardrobe, but as a generalization, I think at least 3 to 6 garments in a wardrobe this size add a bit of visual interest and variety.

Evaluating a wardrobe based on the number of solid vs printed garments

Now I start looking at how pieces function together. First up, can you pull together a really plain, simple, solid-colored outfit when you absolutely CAN'T think about clothing? I think that at least a couple of possibilities in 2 different colors are helpful (although I personally can only do this with black - but OH I can do a LOT of black outfits...).

You can really tell that I did this wardrobe - my heroine has plenty of black, but not enough grey...

Evaluating a wardrobe based on the ability to construct a solid neutral outfit

Another thing that I suggest, if you struggle getting it together some days, is to have something kind of like a twinset (if not a legitimate set!) to rely on. This wardrobe does just fine on this criteria...

Evaluating a wardrobe based on the ability to construct a twinset-like combination

Yet another way that I look at things is to try to find a neutral core upon which you can toss ANY 2nd layer, or just jewelry or a scarf. Of course any wardrobe that I build that's based on black is going to excel in this area!

Evaluating a wardrobe based on the ability to construct a neutral inner core

And lastly, sometimes you need a suit. Or something sort of kind of a little bit like a suit! Okay, a 2nd layer and a bottom in the same color? Again, if it's black, I'll have this one covered...

Evaluating a wardrobe based on the ability to construct a suit

So if I were to add a few garments to this wardrobe, what would I suggest? Probably, to do a better job of representing the second neutral - grey - in this wardrobe. These 3 pieces give us a complete grey outfit, a suit, a twinset, and a solid column of color - a lot of work from just a few pieces!

3 garments to add to a capsule wardrobe in black, grey, white and rust
cardigan – Eileen Fisher; sweater – Eileen Fisher; pants – Eileen Fisher

Make sense? Let's look at this beautiful wardrobe...

a capsule wardrobe in beige, grey, pink and blue

Just as it should be, there are 4 2nd layers, 11 tops and 9 bottoms, as well as 2 dresses:

evaluating a capsule wardrobe based on the number of 2nd layers, tops and bottoms

WOW. All solid garments....

Of course, this might be exactly what this particular heroine prefers - there aren't rules here!

evaluating a capsule wardrobe based on the number of solid vs printed garments

I really couldn't put together a beige 3-piece outfit, nor a grey 3-piece outfit! Again, this isn't a deal-breaker if the heroine loves her wardrobe and this isn't a problem for her. But if you find yourself struggling to pull it all together sometimes, this might be something to consider.

evaluating a capsule wardrobe based on the number of solid outfits possible

Again, even though this heroine owns 4 cardigans, only 1 of them has a matching tee shirt, shirt, or blouse. If you don't like monochromatic ensembles near your face, this isn't a problem, but if you'd find this possibility handy, this is something to notice.

evaluating a capsule wardrobe based on the ability to find a twinset like pair of garments

All those beige pants and shorts, and NO beige shirts? This could be deliberate - maybe she doesn't like beige near her face. But if it's just an oversight (buying a beige shirt or tee shirt isn't the most thrilling shopping you can do!) it's an easy omission to correct.

evaluating a capsule wardrobe based on the ability to find a solid inner core

She does have a couple of suits - and the beige is especially handy because almost any top could be put under the beige cardigan and she could be out the door looking just fine....

evaluating a capsule wardrobe based on the ability to find a suit

After thinking about it for a while, I of course had to give this heroine a beige-ish top - she simply has too many other tan/khaki/beige garments to not own at least a tee shirt in that color! (this one's a gentler, more ivory color...)

Maybe she's happy without any prints or patterns, but a tee shirt like this can bridge between almost any 2 other pieces in her wardrobe, and give her lots of possibilities.

And a grey twinset helps her get more wear from her grey pants, as well as giving her a cardigan that will look great with the pink and blue pieces she has.

4 pieces to add to a capsule wardrobe in beige, grey, pink and blue
tee shirt – J.Crew; print tee - Gran Sasso; grey cardigan – Lands’ End; gray sweater – Lands’ End

Let's wrap up today's analysis with this wonderful navy and red wardrobe...

capsule wardrobe in navy, grey, and shades of red

Of course the garment balance is sort of "long on bottoms, short on tops," as are all of these wardrobes...

evaluating a wardrobe on the number of 2nd layers, tops and bottoms

I'm pretty happy with the number of printed pieces here...

evaluating a wardrobe on the number of solid vs printed garments

I also think our heroine has a pretty good balance of her 2 neutrals, although the absence of navy and grey shirts is sort of obvious....

evaluating a wardrobe on the presence of solid base outfits

DEAR OH DEAR... Not 1 twinset that I can spot... The reds don't match, there's no navy top, and there's no grey...

Maybe she likes it this way!

evaluating a wardrobe on the presence of a twinset or equivalent

Well, this doesn't get any better - no solid column of color EITHER! Of course, this could be because this particular heroine likes to have a contrasting top under her 2nd layer - the absence of these kinds of "constructs" could be a deliberate choice...

evaluating a wardrobe on the presence of a solid inner column of 1 color

Of course she has suits...

evaluating a wardrobe on the presence of a suit or suit equivalent

Assuming that this heroine felt the need to add some pieces because she was struggling to really wear her clothes in a variety of ways, these are what I would suggest for her to purchase - a navy top will give her both a navy "twinset" and a navy "solid column" over which to wear 2nd layers. The grey tee shirt does the same thing. And I chose the plaid shirt just to give her another option to pull her red cardigan more into circulation. (a grey cardigan wouldn't hurt here...)

3 pieces to add to a capsule wardrobe in navy, grey and shades of red
navy tee – Lands’ End; grey tee– Lands’ End); plaid shirt – Lands’ End

I don't think I can emphasize enough how much these suggestions are ONLY for those seeking some different points of view on their wardrobe. The only legitimate measure of a wardrobe's "success" (inanimate objects can't really be successful, can they?) is the happiness of the owner. Don't let anybody tell you otherwise!

I hope like heck that you liked this analysis, because I'm going to tackle the other 3 wardrobes on Monday...


For more in the 2017 "Build a Capsule Wardrobe - 12 months, 12 outfits" series, check out the following articles:

Looking for more ideas? Follow along as we build a new capsule wardrobe in 2018.

Evaluating a Wardrobe - How do the "12 Months, 12 Outfits" Wardrobes Do?
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  1. Love the analysis Janice, one day I will be able to do this, but I'm still building a 'starting from scratch' scenario with my magpie wardrobe. Is there any chance you could revisit the organising series with more examples of choosing or buying an 'anchor' piece to build the rest of the wardrobe around? Examples of a 'cool' and 'warm' palette (or a mix of both) and seasonal would also be really helpful. Many thanks, Sharon, U.K.

    1. Dear Sharon,
      I'm completely embarrassed to admit that I don't remember which posts you're talking about! Give me another hint, and I'll happily go back to those ideas...
      slightly fuzzy in the head hugs,

  2. Brilliant analysis. It amazes me how you can objectively step outside of your own work and dissect it with such a keen eye. You are truly my favorite mathemagician and sartorial scientist. Definitely looking forward to Monday's post!

  3. Janice !
    Are you kidding ? This is EXACTLY why I enjoy your posts so much — the analytical scheme of it all ! And yes, this is how I aim when I purchase for my own wardrobe — columns of color, both inside and out , twin sets with varied texture between the pieces, and some pieces with textural interest or construction detail and some bridging patterns . I usually try to purchase all three pieces of a neutral at once, bottom, top,and matching topper, then build from there with prints and accent colors. Thank you for this analysis, it is precisely how I love you sharing your brain with us ! One more thing I am focusing on is how the collars of the tops and toppers work together, or not .

    Is how my collars, or lack thereof, work together or not on my tops and toppers

  4. Yes! I'm going to apply this to my wardrobe right after the holidays.

  5. Janice, I HAD to comment here. I own that specific blush pink Calvin purse, and many other similar things to that soft pink and beige wardrobe. All year long I've been fascinated by it. Today's analysis made me laugh out loud as once again, you nailed it. I HATE too many prints but the original scarf and today's Tshirt are what I'd choose. I like small polka dots, some stripes and other non committal patterns but normally I can't stand plaids, or busy stuff. Florals in a peaceful arrangement (I love the pink and black Kath Kath stuff you've been playing with) are great. I NEVER wear beige near my face, but I use a LOT of winter white and ivory or cream tops. (I tried responding--had computer issues-- to one of your earlier posts on this wardrobe when you speculated she might be a blonde, I'm a redhead actually and I just love these and as I said, I have a LOT of stuff that is a near duplicate of this particular collection). Oddly enough although I also have a lot of black and navy in my wardrobe I'm pulled to grey, and again, today's post nailed it. (all your fault for a lovely "stress dressing" in grey, and a winter white and grey mini capsule you posted previously over the years). I'm 61, retired RN and a grandmother of 4, mother of 2 and been married for 39 years to a very nice quiet man that I love. Peace and quiet are what I love, and strive for in my life as well as my clothes. Thanks for years of pleasure, and I really hope you'll feel better soon!

  6. So you don't have to look for them, The grey capsules that really grabbed me were from 2015 in January called "A grey capsule wardrobe with silver and white accessories. You also did a lovely iteration on that with celadon green which I absolutely loved, and then the grey stress dressing from May 13, 2014. The recent post on Grey for Dressy Events Nov 27, 2017 is really gorgeous, and those posts have me thinking I would prefer to go forward with grey as my base neutral instead of black or navy and of course going forward with my pearl white, winter white stuff. The blush pinks, celadon greens and aqua work so well. Even the splashes of clear red in the winter that I enjoy. Your posts on why you choose what you do, and how you check the balance inside a wardrobe are incredibly helpful. So are the pared down "tote bag travel" series.

  7. This was fun to read and think about. Oddly, I have way too many bottom pieces in my wardrobe - I find that some of the ones I bought for outfits that look good in my head (or in real life) are just not necessary. I am happy wearing a small set of them. The key, I think, is that you can't tell about some things until you actually wear them. Now that I have a good wardrobe base I am finding what I like to wear best and what I think looks best on me. And some things I just never reach for even though they look good and work well. And I just don't wear anywhere near as many skirts as I own. And as far as prints go, I find that having just a few pieces I really like work really well to punch up my plain wardrobe -- as opposed to all the pieces I used to own, but almost never wore. Now the ones I have look great with all the rest of my clothes and I really love using them in different ways.
    One last thing about bottom pieces -- someone at my job told me that she has just two pairs of pants. As much as I think about my clothes, I never noticed this over more than a year of seeing her every day. She never looks like she's wearing the same thing all the time -- I guess I really do only notice the tops. It just goes to show you -- don't worry what other people think about your clothes; they probably aren't thinking about your clothes at all.

    1. I didn't explain what I thought was odd -- I used to think that your wardrobes had too few pants. And though I didn't build a wardrobe like this, I still ended up with too many,

  8. Janice,
    Upon reviewing this post again, it has struck me that your columns of color are not necessarily two items of the same value, though of the same color family — this is very freeing ! I used to be under the rigid concept that both items had to be both of the same identical color and value ! This sure will make my shopping much easier, as well as outfit selection ! Feel better , it’s a lousy time to be sick !

  9. These heavy analysis posts are my favorite! Reading these posts over the past 2 years has eventually changed how I think and plan my wardrobe.

  10. I love these analyses! I hope you'll do this project again in 2018!

  11. Would love to see a version with only long skirts. Black, grey, white and teal/turquoise are my colors. Love how you put capsules together. Just wish I could find more skirts or dresses.

  12. Yes! Every single color I wear has its own monochrome "suit" + print top for those NO days. I'm still working on photo documentation. One day I'll be able to share my closet.