She got really sick of the struggle – it wasn’t like climbing Mount Everest, or building your own home by hand, but it was still a bother…
She has some things that she really likes, but just can’t seem to get dressed for evenings or weekends…
This is approximately what she has right now:
What to do? Is the problem that she doesn’t have enough of a particular “category” of clothes – not enough tee shirts? or sweaters?
Nope – her ratios are pretty good, and there are no glaring omissions. Is it a question of color?
Immediately, when we see that mass of warm green with some “outliers” of cool green that just don’t blend in, we can start to see the issue…
And here’s the gut-check moment – does she really prefer warmer colors? In fact, she’s got reddish hair, and lots of freckles, and she looks marvelous in true olive, or beige, and would really like to use those colors – as well as denim – for her wardrobe.
Her problem has been that she buys things that are green, without really checking carefully that they’re “her” green – pine or evergreen shades don’t work nearly as well as olive, sage or other warmer hues…
So to start, this is the color scheme:
Maybe if she had blue eyes, this would all be very different, but her eyes are warm golden brown… Normally I’m not convinced that a wardrobe works best with all-warm or all-cool colors, but in her case it might make sense…
So away with the bright blues, the cool greens, the stray pure white tee shirt that makes her look sallow and slightly ill, as well as the duplicate beige hoodie that has a strange pinkish cast to it…
So what might be useful to her, in order to leverage the usefulness of the clothes that she currently has?
First thing I notice is that she has a couple of lovely sweaters that match both a pair of her pants and a pair of shorts, but nothing to wear under them… She also has both olive shorts and pants, but no cardigan or jacket to wear with them to imitate to function of a suit. And since she’s donating those 2 bright tee shirts, a couple of new tee shirts in “her” colors might be necessary. To finish up, let’s find her a new outfit for spring…
This might seem like overdoing the planning thing, but you wouldn’t go to the grocery store without at least a hint of a clue of a plan of a direction for what you want, would you? (well, maybe you would… I know I’ve done it!)
She could have chosen warm turquoise as her accent, or cognac brown, or… (what would you suggest?), but we’re working with shades of rust to apricot, for now.
This gives her an updated color palette like this:
With a bit of persistence, she found everything exactly as she wanted! It’s worth noting that if you’re looking for “earthy” colors, outdoor activity companies often do a better job of manufacturing clothes that suit.
This is what her wardrobe looks like now – it just feels more harmonious…
Her new garments give her literally dozens of new ensembles:
Tomorrow I’m going to review her accessories…
Whow, I knew the initial wardrobe was off, but I didn't know why. I am fascinated by the way you turned it around. I will try to do this with my own wardrobe, which is uncoordinated (if you want to be nice). Thank you for the inspiration.
Tina from Berlin
Taste of France says
That salmon works perfectly with the other colors.
What a difference changing out a few pieces can make. I've really enjoyed the analysis process you've gone through in the last few posts and I'm beginning to see an overall direction earlier each time you update another wardrobe.
It's feeling doable to evaluate a capsule wardrobe of 20-30 pieces but still feels overwhelming to tackle a closet filled with a much larger quantity of clothes as well as a bigger variety of colors and patterns. Maybe sorting the clothing into 4 or 5 smaller groups of 20-30 would be helpful, but how to choose which clothes go into which smaller groups? First thought is obviously to separate work clothes from weekend clothes. But what comes next? Color, season, style?
Janice Riggs says
Maybe sort out everything that you think you would wear this spring – imagine days from "hint of spring" warm to truly sunny and pleasant. Just stand in front of your things and choose your first outfit, then your 2nd, etc until you get to about 25 or 30 pieces.
OR, if you want to look at current clothes – just isolate what you have worn for the last 3 or 4 weeks, and cover everything up with a sheet, so you can really focus on what you're addressing. I've found that hiding other pieces of clothing, when I'm trying to triage, can make a lot of difference in how much I can really concentrate on the task at hand!
Beatriz Fortes says
I create smaller capsule wardrobes within my wardrobe (although I don't have that many clothes). I don't have to deal with extreme weather variations, so that makes my life easier. I chose, first, a grey-blue-wine/red colour scheme and sorted my existing clothes into it. My second capsule is kakhi-white-green-wine (yes, wine in both, it is one of my best colours). Both were organized in the 4×4 template, with a few extra pieces.
Both suggestions are great. I live in an area with 4 distinct seasons and need to dress for work but prefer a much more casual jeans and t-shirt lifestyle otherwise – so creating 2 capsules for work (fall/winter and spring/summer) and 4 for casual living (one for each season) is what I am gravitating towards. There is a lot of overlap in my casual wardrobe so I'm hoping to get to 36 items for the year for the 4 capsules. The work capsules I think I can get to about 16 items total. That's a grand total of 52 pieces of clothing (I'm too overwhelmed to include shoes, bags etc in that number). Wish me luck!
I pack clothes based on colors instead of seasons. For each season I pick one dark neutral, one light neutral and 2 accent colors. Everything else is packed away. At first it was hard for me to narrow down my color choices but it is so much easier that way. If I can't, I keep extra box with "the pod" in my closet in case I crave that color, but I don't hang it.
And unpacking the boxes is each time having the whole new wadrobe since colors dance differently, even if I change only one.
I wish you luck, and we are already lucky ones for having our dear, dear Janice!!!
Sania from Zagreb
But there is certain amount of seasonality (navy linen, for example).
So many lessons in this useful post–especially how much shade and tone matter. (I know that an orangey red is one of my best colors and burgundy-red hideous on me but I never thought before about greens, too, having warm and cool possibilities.) And here's the best proof ever that a simple white top can be not only unnecessary but can be throwing a monkey wrench into a wardrobe. Brilliant.
Janice Riggs says
Oh, that white tee shirt thing is insidious! I have a friend who looks like jaundiced DEATH in pure white… we're always told that the "crisp white shirt" and "white boyfriend tee shirt" are wardrobe essentials (bah, humbug…) but that's not true for everyone!
In fact, I'll submit the thesis that there is NO item that every woman should own. Shoes? Some women can't walk, and always have their feet and legs covered by a throw. A bra? Some women don't need one. Jeans? Ha – the woman from the January 31st post wouldn't wear jeans unless they're velvet or silk! No rules…
Oh good. I thought I had to go buy a pair of jeans as I no longer own one.
When I first started acquiring items for my wardrobe and sticking to my general “ warmie” colors , I would randomly grab any versions of those colors , as they so seldom were offered on the market. I ended up with color lots that varied in intensity , tone, and value, making go- togethers as twin sets a real challenge , if not impossible ! Not all of those color quality variations suited my fair complexion either. Some were too bright or too dark. I am still culling out what is not a part of a cohesive color mix !
I totally agree with you that a wardrobe should not be all cool or all warm colors , unless that is what floats one’s boat ! What you have done here is exactly what I am now striving for now — a balanced mix of some warm neutrals and a base color of olive green with the coolness of the denim blue, plus the warm accents of apricot and rust , or soft coral in my case. It all works very well together ! I was surprised when you discarded the bright turquoise top in the initial wardrobe, but I much prefer the toned down quality of the curated capsule that resulted. I could move right into this closet !
You have chosen both apricot and rust for the tees, which is something that I consider when making a purchase — two values of a given color, depending on the contrast level of what shall be worn with them. The same with the darker olive items and what appears to be sage green for the matching skirt and top. What was your thought process for this ? Creating monochromatic outfits with value contrast ? Such as the olive shorts with the lighter sage top ? This is something I also do if I cannot find an exact color match of a hue with two garments.
This post is going right over to Pinterest for safekeeping! Thank you , Janice, for giving me the courage to really evaluate the excesses of my own closet, and donate them to better fit into someone else’s wardrobe ! Your analytical approach is making me do a happy dance !
Janice Riggs says
Partly I chose the 2 tee shirts because they were available! These warm colors are hard to find, and one must seize the day when it's presented… But I was also look at the idea of being able to do a softer (beige, sage, apricot) group of outfits or a darker, more wintery grouping too (olive, rust, denim). And of course these 2 mini-groups can mix together well… Sometimes, what's in the stores has to dictate a bit of what we do, unless we're wizards with a sewing machine…
You girls are ringing my bells with this evaluation! Just the tips I need to help me along with a seasonless wardrobe in my “warmie” color family, precisely. Pictures are not enough for me, which is what I love about this analytical thinking group, you explain the “where’s and whys” also.
Thank you lovely, generous, ladies for all you do and share.
a faithful fan,
Hi Pat !,
Yes, this post by Janice falls right into our discussion the other day of a “ warmie” seasonless capsule using neutrals, base colors, and accents dependent upon the season !
I forgot to also mention the other day, that I do incorporate thrift shopping as well as catalog shopping when I am searching for just the right colored item to complete an ensemble. Instead of buying color orphans, I am always now thinking, as Janice's posts demonstrate, how each piece will tie into what I already own, to make a complete outfit of bottom, top, and topper,
as well as it’s potential to mix and match with other garments that I own to create other outfits. I find this to be great fun , except when I am not so patiently waiting for just the right color to show up in the marketplace ! Sometimes there have been purchases years apart of colored garments that exactly match each other ! A happy event when that happens!
Incredible! I’ve learned so much from you beautiful women!! It helps so much when speaking of the same colors, issues purchasing one piece at a time, long term goals with flexibility. I so like Janice’s suggestion to keep a darker and lighter version of olive in my wardrobe for year round use. Shrebee, you reminded me there is a consignment store not far from where I live. It’s time to schedule a “walk thru” every few weeks (after a wardrobe audit and plan for future purchases)…
For the first time in a long time I am getting excited about my wardrobe, yes, Shrebee it’s fun.
Thank you beautiful women for your help and never ending support. Ha, my husband will thank you too when fewer boxes arrive at our home…
A faithful fan,
This post is so helpful! I'm looking at my spring wardrobe to see if there is anything to add or especially purge. Also I see there is only one print here. I sometimes think I need to begin adding prints and I bought two but never wear them. The only print I wear in winter is a breton stripe top from LLBean. I'm simply more comfortable in solids and l've decided to wear what I like and forget the rest. My preferred "prints" are in multi-stone necklaces and scarves. To feel good in your clothes is so much more important. I also look ghastly in stark white and always buy a cream color instead – even for summer. This is a lovely and simple wardrobe – my kind of casual. Thank you! Janice Collins, Washington, DC
Wow! I just love this analysis. It shows me some places where I have gone astray. And now I am preparing to move and have boxed or discarded most of my clothes leaving me with a happy core wardrobe of mostly black (not my best color, but love it with denim) and denim with accents of teal, muted green and turquoise. There is also a little white/ivory and a stack of layering tanks of many colors. I find that if I keep the proportion of these extraneous colors small, they work with the major pieces and fill my need for brighter colors.
Terrific and inspiring suggestions!! Thanks.
Really enjoying this wardrobe disasters series. It's helping me to see how things come together with a few "tweeks" and changes.
Beatriz Fortes says
It always strikes me how much a nice print, in the right colour, adds to a wardrobe. The addition of the print shirt adds so many possibilities. The downside is that it shows me that I have to persevere in my quest for a print top I like, in my wardrobe colours.
Christine Moon says
I LOVE these wardrobe fixer posts!! Your thoughts and analysis are so interesting, Janice! Love that you’ve given us 2 terrific wardrobes this week and nary a pair of black trousers to be found! I’m finding that my color contrast is softening as I age and black feels so harsh now. My sizes are a bit outside the mainstream so I’ve relied on black – even away from my face – because it is easier to find in my size, but even that doesn’t quite feel like it suits me. These wardrobes give me hope that searching and patience will be worthwhile and I’ll end up with a better more useful and cost effective capsule . .. keep warm! Chris from Indy
Janice Riggs says
I have tried SO HARD to avoid black, because I know that it's more interesting to see a range of colors. I'm glad you noticed! The general concepts will translate to any color palette, so we don't need to look at black all day, every day…
Regarding sizes – if you catch L.L.Bean early in the season, they carry up to size 20, as does Lands' End for some things. They also have Tall, Petite and Women's sizes…
I echo the sentiments of both you and Christine Moon— no black, white , or gray in this post with no constant referral to skinny jeans, either, as I am neither skinny, nor do I wear black! Thank you for your wonderful versatility in considering your readers , instead of the constant suggestion that I see on other sites that the only way to do a capsule wardrobe is defined by a certain limited number of garments, all in achromatic colors ! Blech !
Love this analysis—brain food plus clothes. When I shop without a hope of a plan of a direction I come home with $50 of shrimp and a bag of chips. This may be why my wardrobe is largely achromatic, the only logical retrenchment for the ill-prepared. I don’t suppose you’d do one of these for a pale&mysterious (I wish) blonde&blue?
Beverly Breslen says
OMG! This is the perfect wardrobe for me!
Yes, please DO consider one of these posts for someone with blonde hair and blue eyes who looks good in black and stark white. I thought about just inviting you to my house to help me in the way you did the "person" in this article, but I don't think you live near Tennessee. Thank you for a thoughtful post – these are not my colors, but the information is helpful. Judith
I have a suggestion for you that is actually, of course, what I’m puzzling with myself. Should I post it here or send it to you somewhere? Gail Finke posting anonymously.
Janice Riggs says
Go ahead and post it here – we can get some feedback from our friends!
Gail Finke says
Okay I will post at the bottom.
Hi Janice, I love your characters and stories as much as I learn from your analysis! I wondered if you could explain the necessity for a top and bottom that can function as a suit? Cheers Tania
Janice Riggs says
You don't HAVE to have a suit-like pairing – it's just one of those things to have in your closet that can make life easy when you don't know what to wear – if your jacket or cardigan matches your skirt or pants, then you can literally wear just about any top you own and look find. Plus it replicates that seriousness that a "real" suit gives to your appearance, just in case you want to intimidate someone!
Gail Finke says
Here is my wardrobe dilemma. After having followed this blog for awhile, I have a work wardrobe of very nice things that all go together — major plus!!! BUT recently I felt again as if I had very little to wear. After some scrutiny I realized that all my clothes have the same value! My neutrals are black and gray, and I have several shades of grey so that helps. But I chose two accent colors: dark teal and burgundy. I love these colors and they look good on me. However, almost all my burgundy pieces are the same dark shade, and so are almost all my teals. I was very happy at the time I bought them because the colors are so good and I could find them in stores. I have, for instance, a burgundy long-sleeved tee, a burgundy button-down blouse, and a burgundy sweater. Likewise I have a dark teal long-sleeved tee, a teal button-down blouse that is only a shade lighter, and three teal sweaters of various weights… but almost the same shade. So while my outfits have different pieces, color-wise they are the same. Now I do have a burgundy leopard print cardigan (pattern) and a raspberry-pink marled cardigan, so there's a little variation. But otherwise it's all neutral. I see that I need some more tops that are different shades! The only one I have is a white tee. But as I have so many nice pieces that fit well I don't want to replace them all (or, really, any of them). What one or two pieces would be best to add? Maybe a print blouse (I have one of those but it's dark teal!!! That one I'm gong to put away until it gets warmer) in one of the colors, or in white and gray? Maybe a tee in a lighter color of one of the accent colors? (I have looked online but I haven't found any in my palette – -this year's colors seem to be more yellowy). Or a third accent color? I would like to add just two or maybe three pieces, but I don't know what to buy.
Here's my neutral stuff: three pairs of black pants, a black button-down, a black tee, a black jacket, and black v-neck sweater
one pair of gray pants, a gray skirt, a light gray tee, and a medium gray cardigan
several dresses – gray and black
a gray plaid skirt with black, white and burgundy lines
I also have a pair of burgundy pants and light teal corduroys (only for very cold days)
I have more basics than these but mostly for different weather — these are my main garments. My work wardrobe for warm weather is more varied in shade and colors.
Gail, your colors are my colors except I use navy instead of black. I noticed several years ago that in winter I really enjoy having a couple of icy blue items to add a lighter color to the mix. To me, it fits well in winter — the landscape where I live in PA is often pale blue sky, white clouds, and either white snow or straw-colored harvested croplands. The blue reminds me of fresh, cold air. I only have a few things in this color — this year a layering turtleneck from Lands' End and a scarf in tones of white, icy blue, and denim blue. I also have a floral scarf with a burgundy background that has hints of that pale blue amongst the greens, greys, and dark blues. I notice I tend to reach for this turtle on dark days, and I often wear it with grey bottoms — skirt or jeans — a grey cardigan or sleeveless cardigan, and cognac belt and shoes. Also, I get a lot of use from my pure white button-up shirt and a white turtle. FWIW
Gail Finke says
Thanks, I will have to do something like that. My problem is that I have so many nice things in the same shades and I ,Ike them all. Bigger wardrobe or do I get rid of things as well as butpy new ones? Strangely i love navy and lots of my summer things are navy, but for winter I like black! Your icy blue things sound lovely.