June 17, 2019
After some mulling about, making lists, thinking and thinking some MORE, I think I’m ready to give this a go!
Starting the first Monday in July, I will, every Monday for a year, propose a garment which for most of us would qualify as a core wardrobe item. A staple. A classic…
Not all of these are going to apply to you; I suspect that many of us aren’t going to want or need more than… 40? of these. But you might like all 52 – it will be an interesting process!
My system was to divide the year into 4 quarters of 13 weeks. Each quarter will include 13 garments that echo a 13-week “system” of pieces that looks like this…
These aren’t going to be snazzy, eye-catching statement garments – this project is designed to get everybody into a versatile and neutral core wardrobe which site the stage for all of the signature things that you love…
The most important 2 tasks that anybody following along has?
- establish what your 2 wardrobe neutrals are going to be, and
- decide if you’re absolutely, positively not interested in certain types of clothing – i.e. if you’re committed to never wearing a dress or skirt again, you’re going to get to do some substituting, or skipping over some categories!
My colors? I know you’re shocked…
- dark neutral = black
- light neutral = white
- first accent = black and white print (yes, I’m treating prints as an accent…)
- second accent = red
I will show examples in a range of colors – don’t worry!
In this example, I started (in my time-travel imagination) in July and added a piece each week, so that by the end of September, this was the wardrobe I assembled:
You can see right away that this would be a great travel wardrobe, and could certainly see many of us through almost every day. With some scarves and jewelry, this is a pretty good autumn wardrobe….
Wait!!!! WHAT????? AUTUMN?????
Yes, I’m starting autumn in July.
This is planning ahead. This is being prepared the minute the weather turns cool. (which could be ANY DAY of June, so far…) This is going through your stored, out of season garments, one at a time, and deciding if they are good for another year, or if they need to be replaced.
And if they need to be replaced, we are going to be looking for things WHEN THEY’RE IN THE STORES…
Autumn stuff is already starting to arrive. We want the pick of the litter, right? So we’re starting early.
You may, if course, just wait a few weeks if you can’t bear the thought of a long-sleeved tee shirt right now! You could start watching for when things go on sale…
The schedule is yours to interpret as you prefer!
It might seem boring to focus on so much neutral, but your really fun stuff needs a base upon which to work. Even without accent garments, 13 pieces of clothing can go a long way:
I’m getting excited about this; would this make a great book?
p.s. You might have noticed that I’m replacing the acronym WTW (what to wear?) with WTW – the Weekly Timeless Wardrobe!
p.p.s. Could you wear the same very noticeable necklace every day? One of my neighbors does…
This might be the greatest idea ever! I definitely think that this would be a best seller book! Can’t wait for this!
Chris in Indy says
Love it!! You’ve taught me the value of a neutral heavy wardrobe and in keeping it simple. This sounds like a lovely extension of those ideas.
And it makes so much sense to look ahead a season, even though the humidity here has been stifling! Following along with interest!
This is brilliant!!
Great idea, and yes. I do wear the same couple of necklaces over and over now. I use to have a ton which I gave to my daughters because I wanted to downsize after a divorce. I’m 62 so I hope to get back on my feet and retire soon. These articles will come in handy!
This is an excellent project; very helpful and focused!
Holly in Rhode Island says
Oh my goodness, this is so timely for me. I lost 40+ pounds and just donated all of the clothes in my closet except for a few recently purchased items to get me through the summer. I am going to follow this plan and journal how the process is going. Purchasing autumn clothes in my new size according to the WTW will be an adventure! Now to decide on my two neutrals. Thank you for this!
This is a great idea and yes, it would make a great book, too. As would just about everything on your blog. I only wish you could start with (or include) summer clothes as we will soon be moving to a tropical island for three years and I could use some guidance.
Book Goddess says
Hot weather is a style challenge! I was born and have spent most of my life in the subtropics. I did live in Maryland for several years so I do have some cold-weather experience. Although I look with some longing at cuddly pullovers, I really love not having to worry about getting dressed up like the Michelin man to go outside. I can put on a T-shirt and capris most days of the year. I feel more stylish with a colorful necklace, a fun color pedicure, and pretty sandals. Always earrings. You’ll be happier with an easy-care hairstyle. Enjoy your island life!
This would make a great book! I love your site and style ideas. As I get older 44, I realize I don’t have to be “on trend” I just need to like what I wear and feel confident.
I loved the idea and read this post three times. I just didnt understand if the two neutrals are for the 52 garments or just for 13? For me I think can only do it for 13. I have five neutrals in my current wardrobe (black, navy, brown, beige and olive…)
You can have as many – or as few – accent colors as you like! I’m only going to have red, and “black and white print,” which is a color in my world… The biggest thing you want to do is have a good clue ahead of time about what your “goal wardrobe” looks like in terms of color. If you don’t focus, your wardrobe ends up all over the place, color-wise…
I’m confused by the sentence in your post, “first accent = black and white print (yes, I’m treating prints as a neutral…)” Don’t you mean “I’m treating prints as an accent”?
OH heck yes! I must have been 3 sheets to the wind when I wrote that! Thanks for catching…
Yes! Fantastic idea and YES! I’ve been saying you should write a book for years now. :) Your core wardobe is basically mine except I use blue instead of read and add navy and grey as neutrals with my blacks. I’m already excited about this and you know who to call when you need a book editor! xx
Fantastic ! Your analytical one piece at a time construct is the best teaching tool ! One question though — on your list you have #10 as a textured neutral, but show a red sweater, so isn’t that a textured accent instead ? I have used medium accent colors to coordinate with both light and dark neutrals, but I may change my pattern of thought after you keep showing your examples. Also, do you mean that you are treating prints as a neutral or as an accent , even though the print is in neutral colors , as shown in #3? It is the thought process that I attempt to glean in each of your posts, loving it, loving it ! Wooo hooo ! Book — oh yeah !
It is! Good catch!!! I couldn’t find a nice photograph of a cabled black sweater (that didn’t cost over $1,000) so I cheated and used my usual red sweater….
Margie from Toronto says
I love this one – great idea. I have just finished switching over to my summer wardrobe – although I’ve kept a few transitional pieces as it is still rather cool and wet here – I suspect it’s very much like your weather in Chicago. I had to wear a sweater over a long sleeved shirt for church yesterday and people were comfortable in jackets! Unbelievable for this time of year.
I have very much slipped into the black side of the wardrobe on the left and the navy pieces on the right, with the whites in the centre. The few pieces that I bought for the summer (since I’m working in an office again) all fall into this colour scheme.
My summer accent pieces are light blue and pink – once we move into Fall I’ll add more red and that is what I’ll be looking for once the Fall clothes hit the stores (which could be any day now)! Looking forward to these posts.
I wear the same necklace nearly every day, but it is very dainty and so therefore not as noticeable…
Will your accent colors be the same year round? I stick to the same neutrals year round but my accent changes a bit with the seasons.
Yes! First two tasks completed. Third, setting up a spreadsheet for tracking (you probably already did this, right?), will be finished today. Thank you for this, it’s going to be fun.
BOOK – YES!!!!!!!
Kathy Donaldson says
Your book will be a top seller!
I love this idea! Someone who sewed fast (not me, I’m slow) could be making a garment every week to play along. BTW, I wear the same bracelet every day as it has special meaning to me. But I change my earrings and right-hand ring every day for variety.
“Someone who sewed fast  could be making a garment every week to play along.”
Oh. Heck. That’s a fantastic plan/challenge. I’m going to need some latitude with time – a simple top takes me two or three hours, but a lined jacket or coat takes multiple weekends of work. But with the mix of shorter and longer projects, I think I can make it come out even at the end of the year.
The one-item a week plan is fantastic, JANICE. I have the attention-span of a goldfish, but one garment a week is doable. I’m going home to tune up my sewing machine and get my sewing supplies squared away.
You hit MY nail right on the head!!!!!
This is a great idea!!
Love the idea of a book! Might as well talk autumn now, since I think we’ve skipped the truly warm weather this year ;-) And of course, I’m all for wearing ALL the necklaces and bracelets all the time ;-)
Most of my wardrobe is based on navy blue, and I also have plenty of black/gray/white/cream based combinations available. Still, the occasional surprise happens! I recently found myself away from home with too little in my suitcase. When I shopped for red, white and navy….. sage green and turquoise somehow joined the mix.
Deb from Vancouver says
J’adore!!! THANK YOU
Janice Collins Coyle says
A BOOK! Yessssss!!! I guess I have three neutrals navy, grey, and if I include off-white, then a third neutral? Or is the white an accent? My accents are shades of aqua, teal and blue. Anyway, LOVE this idea as I’m planning my autumn wardrobe already especially as it’s my favorite time of year and now focusing on a whatever’s clean total wardrobe! (My goal) Janice Collins Coyle, Washington, DC
Yes et oui! Great idea, Janice! I am anxiously looking forward to it – my problem is always, always trying to choose between so many attractive colours so your posts really help bring discipline.
Thank you again for all the work and thought you put into this blog!
This is great idea….maybe this will help me. I have three closets full of clothes, and they don’t all fit in the closets. I am thinking of two color ways and start weeding out the extras. I have lots of prints and not a lot of solids so that may be an issue. Thank you for the great idea.
I love this, thank you.
Brenda Marks says
This is another terrific way to conceptualize a wardrobe. Thank you for the continued inspiration.
I sew, and until last week I was a college faculty member. (I’m retired! Yay!) I had a plan to sew and keep 6-7 dresses in rotation for fall, winter and spring. That way I had enough variety in case some item was damaged or needed extra cleaning. Also, maintaining seven pieces was reasonable for a sewing goal. The downside was that by the end of the season, any dress made from a knit or other more fragile fabric was pretty well worn.
Now I will need a new way to think about what to wear, and I like starting with this plan you’ve presented. Thank you!
Congratulations on your retirement, Brenda!
A few years back I planned out an all dresses work capsule of fifteen dresses for year round mild weather. Five neutrals/favorite prints for year round, then rotating in five seasonal picks for spring/summer and five others for fall/winter. Before I ever acquired all fifteen pieces I had some wear on my favorites and was replacing to keep the same number in rotation. Post moving, I changed strategies to an all blouse & pants work capsule to better fit my current work culture. Just today I was dreaming about wearing all dresses again so I may be mixing up my formula as I plan next season.
I hand wash several items and hang or dry flat most of my clothes for longer wear.
becky johns says
I think this would make a timeless and practical book. It is practical to shop for autumn now, and also practical to see if you have the necessary item already before you shop.
Having a plan of limited colors makes grouping your closet easy to do, as you could have basics in which to create a base outfit, and your statement jackets in another area of the closet to choose something from on special occasions.
Always fun to look at your closet from a new point of view… and I think this would be very helpful for those choosing a new wardrobe for some reason, as well as those trying to simplify their wardrobe into fewer but useful and favorite items.
Well thought out Janice! I think a book or book available on kindle, would be well received. I don’t buy many books anymore, too hard to store the number I read! But I would buy it on kindle in a second.
Yes, this is wonderful. And I’m already looking forward to reading your (as yet still imaginary) book. It would be fun to see all of the “regular” clothes plus a few coats, lots of accessories, and maybe a swim suit or two.
Vancouver Barbara says
I have a friend who’s wardrobe is pretty much this. She has some items in cobalt blue too. She always looks stunning. She’s very much into the Lagenlook and is brilliant at layering. She does wear pants occasionally but has more skirts and dresses than pants. Lots and lots of black. Accents mostly of red, some blue, and less white. She uses stripes, dots, paisleys and animal patterns as her prints but never florals. She’s very disciplined. She’s also very creative in that if she finds something in a colour that’s not in her palette she will dye it. She will also use fabric paint to further embellish things. I think she finds much freedom in dressing this way. She’s a total inspiration as are you. Thanks again. My discipline is somewhat different. I do love black and grey and have lots of items in those colours. I choose plum/violet as my accent colours along with acid green/yellow and brilliant orange.
I can hardly wait for the next quarter to see what you come up with.
Yes I think this is a terrific idea. I have been following you for quite a while now & get something interesting as well as instructive out of all of them. Like some of the others I really think you should write a book. Looking forward to July.
Wonderful idea, thank you Janice! And I join the chorus wanting to see this in book form too. Alongside the other books, that is … Heroine scenarios, Start with art, Start with a scarf … But OK, first start here with WTW.
I’m not sure how my heroines would feel about a book…
Rereading this post – again! – and have to say that a book based on your heroine scenarios and their wardrobes sounds divine! Imagine a book filled with intriguing short stories interspersed with gorgeous photos of capsule wardrobes.
I can even see this turning into a series of books – Heroines Who Love ….
– Heroines Who Love to Travel (various destinations: cities / countries / climates)
– Heroines Who Love Their Work (various professions: ornithologist / construction manager / museum curator / software engineer / etc)
– Heroines Who Love Their New Lives (retiring / starting a new job after being a stay at home mom / dating again after divorce or death of spouse / being promoted or changing career / deciding to going blonde or letting her hair go gray / etc)
– Heroines Who Love Art (each story based on a different artist)
– Heroines Who Love Scarves (each story based on a different scarf)
– Heroines Who Love Birds (each story based on a different bird)
– Heroines Who Love (fill in the blank)
You really should give it a go! Any book you choose to author would be very well received by your followers and fans :)
I just need to find an illustrator; I can’t just grab garment images from the internet and use in a book! But I’m working on that…
Deborah Singh-Boos says
This series is absolutely brilliant. I have neutrals in black/white/brown/grey/ plum/ burgundy/navy. I think I will start with two neutrals as you have suggested and hold the other colours and see how to work them in as we continue along. Someone suggested creating a spreadsheet to track our wardrobes. What programme should I use for this? I am new here so unsure how to create such a spreadsheet. Thanks much.
Great idea for sewers. One garment a week is doable and I love the way I would end up with a complete matching wardrobe. Can’t wait to get started!
I can’t wait! A brilliant idea and would be a brilliant book. First time commenting but I have followed you for the last few years and now have a beautiful capsule wardrobe,navy and grey neutrals with pink,burgundy and sea green accent colours.
I always get lovely compliments then I have to decide whether to reveal my secret! Of course I do and you now have many followers from the other side of the pond….
Now I wish I had time to sew a garment a week to follow your idea. However I can see myself follow along and write down what is next on my sewing list. I always struggle with the accents. I am navy all year round nowadays and grey in autumn/winter and white/beige in spring/summer. I have recently moved further north in Europe so not sure if my white bottoms will get much wear anymore. Excited about your new adventure and very grateful for all your brilliant ideas and posts.
Thank You for sharing – you are very kind!
I don’t think that the sewers among us are going to need to sew all 52 garments – I’m sure that almost everybody will already own at least a few of the garments in the 52! And there might be some things that one just chooses not to include in their wardrobe, or that they feel might be better purchased rather than made at home. I used to sew – about 40 years ago, literally! – and making 1 piece per week sounds fun, but daunting…
Last year, after a major weight loss, I took a similar approach to rebuilding my wardrobe. It was work and practically a part-time job! I didn’t particularly enjoy the acquisition process. It was worth it, though. Now, getting dressed is easy and I have many options, thanks to the wisdom I found in your archives.
It is smart to start planning for the next season when retailers are starting to stock those items. I found shopping for the cool/cold weather items challenging because near the end of the process I was competing with Christmas shoppers. UGH!!!
This year shopping for the cooler seasons will be much easier and more enjoyable. I’ll be looking for treasures in thrift shops, mostly, but will do some online shopping online as well.
I enjoy all of your series, but I’m really looking forward to this one. Thank you for all you do for your followers, you are one of two that I still follow. I look forward to reading your posts and set aside time to savor them whenever I see a new one in my in box. Thinking about the possibilities you present is a source of joy for me and always lifts my mood.
As for the statement necklaces, I collect them and rarely wear the same necklace and top combinations twice, but to each her own. I wear a lot of neutrals and use the jewelry to add a bit of pizzaz.
More greatness from Janice ensues!
I’m with you re choosing for fall in July to get best selection. (And also replacing worn summer staples with the huge July sales, such as a new pair of lightweight jeans or summer trousers.)
One request – please include “colored neutrals” in your plan. Some of us just cannot wear black and white, or gray. Say olive, or cognac, some of the colors on the warmer end of the spectrum. Thanks!
Yes, I second this request! I’ve been considering warm neutrals such as ivory, olive, camel, cognac, teal, and rust. It’s really hard to pick just two.
I wear deep purples and teals as colored neutrals and navy/denim as my main neutral. I never wear black, white or grey.
Linda M says
So agree, white is my absolute worst colour. My haggard old neck, and less than brilliant white teeth, above a pristine white top – aaargh! When I looked at this idea, I wasn’t sure I could make it work for me, but have decided to ignore “light” anything, and have chosen navy/marine navy, and olive/khaki, as my neutrals, with red and possibly teal as my accents. If it’s any help to anyone, I find Pinterest great for keeping track of my clothes. Ever since I discovered TVF, I have saved every item I have bought to Pinterest, and for older items have usually searched online and found a similar stand in. When I am going to travel, I set up a new page, and duplicate the items I plan to take to that page. Then, after checking several times that I have everything I need, I use the Pinterest page as a packing list. I will also use a Pinterest page for this project. It’s my plan not to buy anything new for Autumn/Winter this year, as I have plenty of clothes, and am generally at home anyway, or bundled up in a coat when I’m out. The WTW project will prove to me that I don’t need anything. Linda M
Okay, I’ve read through this a couple of times and I think it’s an excellent concept! It would definitely make a great book. Here’s a couple of questions. How do you handle blue jeans? Will they fall in as a third neutral or would you have to choose indigo/chambray as one of your neutrals or accents? Also, I like the idea of using prints as accents, but how would it work if you want to choose various printed garments containing some or all of your neutrals and other accent color, i.e. not just various combos of neutral 1 and 2 (I realize that black and white work especially well in this situation and are easily found)? Or do you hold off on this and consider those pieces as the statement pieces you talk about? And, further to that, how many “statement” pieces should they look to have to mix in with this basic wardrobe of up to 52 garments? I would love to get my wardrobe into a more cohesive, manageable state, but I have a serious love of color and print and find it really hard to limit myself in this area.
Love this. As always you give me a “new” way of thinking about my wardrobe. Hailing from TX I can say Barbara Bush always wore the same statement necklace(pearls) even to the baseball games!
Love all that you do for us! Especially those of us with limited imagination. Having said that any chance of an abbreviated version for Summer 2019? Must we wait a year to look Great in Summer? Include a Vivienne Files Logo T shirt or link to purchase and we shall give you all the well deserved glory.
In the Spirit of Sisterhood,
Cheryl :) says
This sounds awesome. Can’t wait to se the progress. I would love to see you write a book or two or three lol. I second a Vivienne Files tee shirt with a vneck lol. I have a lot of lime green because its my favorite. Could it be considered a neutral? Jeans are my bottom of choice and like others I wonder how to handle that. Yours is my favorite site so thanks for everything you do. :)
Another sewer that thinks this is a good idea. Especially if you consider shopping the existing wardrobe for some of the pieces.
Great idea! I’m avoiding buying anything new, but it would be really helpful to slowly build up a core of 13 for autumn selected from my current clothes… and checking each one for fit, any cleaning/mending needed, etc… that way I’ll be organised by the start of term in October, instead of the usual mad scramble..
Patsy Ann says
Yes to the book, can’t wait
BArbara Lindstrom says
I am so into this capsul wardrobe. We travel a lot and I have been working on packing light and taking only carry on. Love your blog. I just retired and need to change my wardrobe from work to more casual clothing. I want to follow along with your 52 weeks, this will help me structure a cohesive wardrobe.
My first challenge it to pick the 2 neutrals, I have had lots of black while working but want to switch to navy, as my first dark neutral. Then what should the light neutral be? Beige is too light for my winter colouring and washes me out. Maybe a darker khaki with grey tones? Even grey seems to wash me out . I can imagine wearing a grey top and bottom together. Maybe if it was darker. Any other ideas? I have been told I am a winter with cool colouring.
Picking accent colours…. I love love pinks, reds, and sometimes oranges/corals (I know…. these are warm colours but I think they look fine with my brown hair) Not much into turquoise or muted colours of greens.
Thank for for some suggestions
Have you checked out this website, http://www.kettlewellcolours.co.uk? You’ll find colours and palette combinations (as well as clothes and accessories) to match your cool, winter colouring and will help you decide on your lighter neutrals. Good luck!
I just saw your post! Must have missed it when it came out… I LOVE this idea, as I have loved all of your suggestions for building a wardrobe! You have such beautiful and practical and “easy to follow” material for wardrobe building, I would really appreciate any books containing your expertise that you might create!! Looking forward to this 52 Week planning concept! Can’t wait, Janice!!
I’m in! I’m wanting to use my black Longchamps bag with it’s dark brown leather handles and gold trim as my foundation for fall. I’d already been daydreaming that way.
Now you really got me going! ?
I’ve got a lovely animal print scarf in black, brown & cream and a top in similar print & tones that I love to drag out every fall along with my amber earrings and pendant on a gold chain.
Brown is an accent only. In very small doses. Only in fall. I have some scarves that only see daylight in the fall but I’d miss that moment if I got rid of them altogether.
Then there’s my suede jacket in cranberry. Another I love every fall in a golden beige. Those 2 are my 2 second layer pieces.
A lot of black. Black jeans, pants x 2, V neck merino sweater. Some cream tops. Not sure about the dress. I’ve got a gorgeous chiffon & sequin top in hot pink, orange and brown that I’d wear with dressy black pants and black heels for dress up.
For day to day I like a solid black column underneath a coloured jacket or a black bottom, light top, coloured cardigan or jacket layer.
Great article Janice. Ditto the book idea!
What an excellent idea. I can’t wait!
Book Goddess says
I think this is a fabulous idea, and I definitely want to play along. But I find myself having performance anxiety about light neutrals. I adore black and white and wear it often but never wear pure white as a top. Actually I rarely wear anything lighter than a medium color on top. It’s partly because of what I think is most flattering in terms of color and partly because I’m top-heavy.
I’m sure I’ll be able to work something out. I only bring this up because I think it’s so interesting how invested we are in what we wear (and how devoted I am to your blog!). Thank you so much for your generous spirit!
Woo Hoo! Can you see me jumping up and down! I am so excited about the idea of a core wardrobe built over 52 weeks. Autumn is the perfect place to begin so that we may all be thoughtful on our purchases. You are such a blessing Janice! Thank you for your fabulous posts. I so enjoy reading the stories of each character. I think a book would be delightful!! Hugs!!
sania from zagreb says
I am loving, loving this!!!
I am little behind my usual planning and I am yet to start planning my autumn capsule so the timing for me is just perfect. There is something that happened to me several times – I would plan way in advance my capsule, I am rotating my colors all the time. I love more colors than I can fit into a single capsule. But. Each time when the season finally arrived, my choosen accent colors were in stores although I planned them months in advance, not knowing Pantone announcements, and they were allways different. How on Earth they managed to subconsciously influence my mind?
I’m really looking forward to following this, my clothes are all black, white, red a grey so I have a good start.
Linda L says
Fantastic idea! I also vote YES! for the book. My wardrobe seems to always be a work in progress. Thanks for all you do!
All wardrobes are a work in progress. There’s no way to have a static wardrobe for more than a few months….
This is a great endeavour; really helping me “get it together” and use my closet/ clothes…are you going to give hints for accessories … Like simple ones … You are so wonderful
I think I will tackle accessories next year, after I’ve finished the 52 garments. I’ve got NO plan for them, yet, but I’m always optimistic and confident. (and slightly delusional, but that’s okay, right?)