August 18, 2020
One last look at this seemingly massive wardrobe. It’s funny how gigantic this seems when I’m trying to squeeze everything onto a page! In reality, most of the world would be thrilled to have this much clothing, but I suspect many of us have a lot more than this!
Bring out the magnifying glasses, everyone!
As I sorted through this mass of goodies, my thinking was “what would I take with me if I got to go to ____ for a year?”
My blank is probably going to be filled in by Ireland, or Paris, as I’m sure you’re shocked to hear. But I think that many of us might be able to test-drive this kind of possibility. Maybe it’s just a chance to live someplace where COVID-19 restrictions aren’t quite as erratic and pointless as they are in the US. Maybe you’ve got a year-long fellowship at a university in some attractive place. Maybe it’s 12 months for a house-swap. There are possibilities…
As much as I think that this wardrobe is a good starting point, I (of course) believe that each of us would need to make some adjustments to this, in order to satisfy our personal preferences, as well as the demands of the particular destination we’re visiting.
First off, I lumped ALL of the 2nd layer type garments into 1 big category. When you remember that you can wear a button-front shirt over another top, you suddenly have a LOT of 2nd layers…
I don’t think I can make any changes to this, because it’s sort of difficult to really put into a context of day-to-day dressing… Let’s press on; it might get easier!
Oh my! THAT’S a LOT of tops…. But of course, some of them are specifically for warm weather or cold weather. But even here, I can see that I might want to make a change or two. Still, I would want a lot of tee shirts… And a lot of cotton turtlenecks, if I’m going someplace cold! Oh dear….
Okay, FINALLY! I would swap out 1 of the white long-sleeved button-front shirts for something else… And possibly 1 of the plaid shirts. That would depend on how many accent colors I wanted with me, and how I was planning to integrate those accents into the core neutral wardrobe. But you can clearly see that I like a plaid shirt…
And HOLY HANDBAGS, this poor heroine doesn’t have a denim shirt with her! That’s just wrong.
I’m very okay with these tee shirts and tank tops – partly because they need to be laundered often, and partly because they pack really light and small. The biggest thing I would want to bear in mind through my year away is that I can layer tank tops and short-sleeved tops under other things in colder weather. I forget that, at home…
Now HERE is where I fall apart – SIX SWEATERS! HAVE YOU EVER BEEN TO CHICAGO IN THE WINTER?
This feels… inadequate. At a minimum, I need a dark neutral cashmere turtleneck (well, okay, maybe merino wool) to wear with jeans and a scarf. It’s a uniform for me.
Here’s another category that feels too skimpy for me – no velvet jeans! No corduroy! But as I said, we have to each make accommodations for our preferences and needs….
Shorts! I don’t need FOUR pairs of shorts. I have friends who need 6 pairs, so this is a very personal category…
Of course, this doesn’t count gym clothes, thank heavens!
I would get rid of 3 pairs of shorts and plug in 3 dresses. Something sleeveless, that could be used all year, with layers underneath or over in cooler weather. And probably a legitimately warm, wintery sweater dress…
Here’s where I found a mistake that I made – I included my sheer pleated skirt TWICE… That’s how much I love my pleated skirt, eh?
Okay, given that your 80 garments are going to be some adjusted version of the wardrobe shown here, what about ACCESSORIES? This is, for me, what makes or breaks a limited, mostly neutral wardrobe…
A dozen pairs of shoes should do almost anybody, right? I don’t know that I would have 3 pairs of canvas shoes, or just 1 pair of loafers. But overall, this would work pretty well for me:
NINE SCARVES? For TWELVE MONTHS? No chance in the land of happy Janice… But I know lots of women who would only want a few winter scarves, and nothing in silk, cotton or modal.
And yes, it’s perfectly acceptable to have lots of scarves from the same company. If you share an aesthetic sensibility with the designer(s) there, take advantage of that! It saves searching all over the retail world….
Unlike quite a few of my friends, I could manage VERY well with 9 pairs of earrings. I tend to wear the same earrings for days at a time (yes, I take them out at night, but then put the same ones on the next day!). And I have 4 holes in my ears (3 left, 1 right) so I technically wear 2 pairs of earrings at a time…
These are pretty together, aren’t they?
Here’s another category that I might expand a bit – I love a good bracelet, and I would want more than 1 brooch!
Before I went nuts with necklaces, though, I would want to start looking at outfits, and see where I already have a scarf that I want to wear. It’s possible to wear both a necklace and a scarf, but it’s not something I much do…
And finally, four handbags. I would probably be right on target with this – 2 leather bags (one crossbody, 1 shoulder bag) 1 evening bag, and my laptop briefcase. Other women will want 12 bags, and at least 1 of my friends will only want 2 – her Tumi handbag, and a camera bag!
If I learn anything from all of this, it’s where my preferences and passions can be found!
Could you live for a year with this? I know that those of you who love lots and lots of color would NOT be happy… but depending on why I was doing this, I think I could love it!
p.s. Four years ago, I managed to conjure 14 different ways to wear a YELLOW dress! I’m still fascinated by the idea of wearing a dress in a ton of different ways….
Love your in-depth analysis. One thing that immediately stuck me is that All the dresses and all but one skirt are navy and dark. I love navy (it’s my dark neutral), but I think some brighter/lighter/cheerier options are in order, especially for spring and summer. Plus it would be a way to bring in some of the accent colors, like the mint green or electric blue. Of course, finding them would be the challenge.
Sheila Harden says
This is really beautiful and I could be quite happy with this. At first I was thinking the camel and the burgundy were outliers and didn’t fit in well, but going back to the original post I see they do. Which means maybe I can be more forgiving of my own closet when I have pieces that look like “loners” as long as they work with the whole. Thanks for all the effort you put in. When I talk about your blog my husband looks at me blankly… sigh… he just gives me gift certificates and we’re both happy. :)
It’s interesting to see how our preferences differ ! You’re right, for me, more accent colors , no dresses, more Capris instead of shorts ( even I don’t want to see these old and surgically scarred knees) , 1/4 zips instead of crew neck sweaters . I am in total agreement with second layers —shirts in the late Spring, Summer, and early Autumn, as I am always cold , with cardigans , jackets and 1/4 zips or v neck sweaters over shirts in the colder months . Pants — more of those in my browns family , with lighter tones in the warm months , tans and stone , along with a sliding scale of denim values . Olive greens are added for Autumn .
Short sleeve knit tops with construction detail or embellishment in the hot months, a few tanks for layering under shirts or linen toppers in Summer, long sleeve knit tops for cool weather in both neutrals and accents so that I can wear my abundance of scarves with them, topped with a jacket or cardigan in the cooler temps . Finally, cotton turtlenecks in accents and colors all Winter long and into early cold Spring .
This stay-at-home period of my life is revealing to me that the total number of garments within a given accent color family can be reduced, depending upon the season. For instance, I have found that I am wearing more of the aqua items and fewer of the coral ones in the heat of Summer, though I still want a few pieces of the coral represented . But then, as the weather cools the coral becomes more predominant for about a month ( and is worn in the Spring as well) , along with the introduction of the standard olives, teals , mustards and the rusts of early Autumn, and the aquas stay on the hangers or get packed away . I really am a color-by-the-season wearer !
As I start to unpack my stored Autumn clothes, I can see that there are too many pieces in the orange/rust families. That color is Autumnal to me, and I find that I don’t want to wear those pieces except in Autumn , so they are a part of a restricted time period, whether it’s spent at home or not . I am still trying to figure out how many times a week or month that I want to wear an item in that color, and so that determines how many pieces in that color are retained .
I echo the sentiment of appreciation for all of the work that you do for us , it provides both joy and instruction into each day, as well as providing insight into my own set of preferences ! Big cyber hugs !
My heavens! It does seem like an awful lot when you put it all together in one image! But, when you start breaking it down into garment types, it does help you see whether your own “essentials” are included. Yes to including corduroys and a cashmere turtleneck! Like April, I might prefer to have a bit less navy and more color. And I would probably like a few more necklaces. I love scarves and wore them a lot when I worked in a dressier work environment. But now, a casual office environment and going in and out of a hot shop makes scarves less appealing. Of course, it could just be the August heat in Texas that is coloring my view right now! lol I really have appreciated the hard work you put into this series, Janice. As always, you’ve given me lots of inspiration and motivation. And, if nothing else, I have become much more discerning. As I went school shopping with my high school daughter this year, I was observing just how cheap so much of the clothing in the stores is. I have in my mind wanting a cognac cardigan and I found one, but when I looked at the fabric content, I decided not to get it. I knew that ultimately it wouldn’t stand the test of time and I wouldn’t be happy with it. That shift in mindset is a lasting gift you have given me.
I love this post so much! It makes it easier for me to work out what I need from my wardrobe, I think I’ll come back to this at least once every season.
Zaidie Brown says
Wowzers! My permanent wardrobe is 57 items, with an additional 3 for decorating/DIY. And 4 lots of nightwear, 6 coats. I was thinking it was more than full, although a third suit for work wouldn’t be sniffed at if I find the right length and colour.
Right now I’m only replacing what gets broken, as I filled my summer dress hole this year. Many of those dresses will be fine with long sleeves over or under, so will last all year.
However, I do love a good selection of accessories, so that would be my downfall.
This has been a great series, from the beginning. Last year?! I have gotten a very good idea of what my personal style is. And what colors suit me. I would have thought that at my age I would already know this. But, no. So I am much happier with my little wardrobe.
Thanks for the hard work!
Sally in St Paul says
It was instructive to consider what would be the minimum amount to change to make this a wardrobe I would be satisfied with, were it to appear in my new 12-month closet starting say September 1. Camel and beige items must be different colors…let’s say charcoal and grey. I won’t wear shorts, sandals, or pumps so make those skimmers, ballet flats, and wedges. I hate turtlenecks so substitute a crew, scoop, or V neck. Those metal bracelets would never work…substitute necklaces for them. I don’t change handbags much so the larger navy one would do…throw in a couple headbands and a couple additional scarves instead. I would also prefer for at least half my earrings to be stud style rather than drops because drops require a hair style that doesn’t get them tangled up so they aren’t as useful for me. That seems like a lot, but it’s really just tweaks.
Now of course if I could make the wardrobe align more with my preferences, I would have other changes. I don’t need 6 dresses! And the dresses seem redundant to me…2 summery dresses with a navy/white print, 2 navy shirtdresses, and 2 solid navy sheath dresses. At a minimum, I would remove the navy X front print dress, one of the shirtdresses, and the sweater dress for a pair of skinny jeans, a colortful skirt, and colorful pants. I would probably get rid of the navy sheath also and get a navy blouse to wear with the straight navy skirt (building my own 2 piece dress).
After living with this wardrobe a while, I would definitely start to want more color (and more different accent colors). Clearly I would, over the course of the year, buy more scarves and necklaces to punch up this neutral-heavy wardrobe…I wear a scarf and/or necklace almost every day and I crave variety in this area. I really like the idea of adding scarves to the wardrobe to bring in flattering colors that are not otherwise represented and to give a print boost to all these solids.
I do not like to think that in this fantasy I would be living somewhere that is too hot to wear scarves for any length of time! But realistically, I would probably change out a couple of those solid tops for prints for warm weather. For example, I don’t need 2 short-sleeved mint Ts, or both a green tank and short-sleeved T. For warm weather, with the exception of white and perhaps navy (that would be worn more often and that it can be nice to have at least one very casual knit top/T and one that can be dressed up or down easily), I don’t really *need* more than 1 top in a given color. I could swap out a couple of the redundant solid tops and add printed (preferably flora and/or fauna printed for summer, but maybe striped or dotted) tops in their place. This is particularly appealing to me in a wardrobe that has no patterned bottoms.
The colors in the 4 oblong scarves absolutely SCREAM to me that a pink accent group would be a perfect addition…a t-shirt and cardigan “twin set,” a button up shirt, and a skirt, I think…in shades that work together and with the burgundy pieces. I could definitely see myself adding a pink French 5 next spring to get me through to the end of the summer and the 12 months.
Linda P says
Dear Everyone: (and esp shrebee) Oh I can make orange/rust work all year! Depending on the hue, these can be good short sleeved accent pieces for spring with taupe or camel neutrals (rust end of spectrum) or beige or light-ish gray (on the coral/melon and of the spectrum) for summer if you really like light neutrals. I tend toward the rust end of the spectrum for winter with berry or wine neutrals or even a black & winter white/cream combo. I usually bring out the flaming orange in the 377th week of winter, or for school spirit purposes at the college where I teach ?
This idea was a revelation to me and the start conincided with me re-evaluating what to wear now i’ve retired. My wardrobe has a few more pieces including a couple of formal dresses, no shorts, more capris etc but where i’ve replaced a garment or added something i’ve kept within my colour range only adding a few extra pastels colours for summer. I’ve found fewer clothes has given me more variety and it was certainly easier to pack for a 3 month trip to France this year than it was last year. Many thanks for helping me clarify colours, clothes etc and giving me back the enjoyment of clothes rather than it being a chord.
Beth T says
What a lot of clothes. On the whole that is a good quantity to have and I have more than that. This year I have hardly worn any ‘going out’ clothes but I know if I cull, then next year would need them. However a bit of weeding needs to be done. I’m also going back to slimming group this week as I’ve put on over a stone on lock down and I need to get back on track as my clothes are getting too tight again but I refuse to go up a size again. Apart from anything else, I dont have room.
I agree that there is a tad too much navy in the skirts and dresses, so I would introduce patterns to harmonise neutrals and accents.
It would be floral dresses and skirt in the summer with an accent colour pair of trousers too. Dresses are stand-a-lone items and can afford to stand out.
Shorts would be more linen trousers and I would definitely have corss and velvet trousers for winter – I lived in nothing else.
My tee shirts would have more accents and patterns. I would have liked to have seen the long sleeve polo tops and cardigans as well as the jumpers. There are too many camel jumpers – but then I dont wear that colour!
The bright blue is jarring so I would soften it. Take it out and the colours are quite autumnal for a whole year. I would swap the dark red for pink in the warmer months. Too many dark blue shirts – mine would be lighter and floral. I have two checked shirts – one is navy and pink on white, the other is teal, grey and black.
I agree with Shrebee that I have noticed that I’ve worn particular colours during the seasons. Since the heatwave broke last week, it has still been warm during the day, though damp, but the air is chilly in the mornings and evenings. Definitely autumnal. Over the next couple of weeks, I’m going to start swapping my wardrobe items and will put very summery things away. Although there is the off-chance that we will have another spell of hot sunny weather in September. That will be nice for my holiday.
Beth T says
That was the clothes – now the accessories. I have noticed that I wear scarves from autumn to spring. So i could clear out most of my scarf drawer in summer and make more room for summer tops. I would keep a couple of neutral scarves and larger pashmina types. The only time I wore a scarf this summer was the night we went out to view Comet Neowise. We did see it vaguely through binoculars! It was always at it’s best before dawn according to my nocturnal son. I’ve also noticed that my scarves in winter are serving a more functional purpose to keep me warm, so sometimes I wear a scarf to go with my coat and take another one in my bag to wear indoors with my outfit.
Jewellery would be increased a lot. Particularly more bracelets and necklaces. I wear rings often and earrings rarely.
I have a lot of shoes and boots. I’ve worn a pair of sandals once this summer when it was really hot. I dont like my feet to get cold.
Bags are about right. I have one grey every day bag which I need to replace this year as mine is looking decidedly tatty after several years constant use. I have a few coloured and floral bags for special occasions.
Wow! It’s a bit overwhelming to see all this together, but also strangely satisfying. I’d switch out the tans for greys too. I have been inspired to up my accessories game as a result of your posts. I do wear scarves a lot, but some great necklaces or bracelets can really make an outfit and for some reason, I just don’t think of this. I think one issue is that I have to wear an ID lanyard at work so a necklace is too much.
Lots to think about here as I evaluate my own wardrobe. thanks for all the wonderful work you do!
Dear Janice, I love what you do for all of us. You have opened my mind to quality over quantity, the NEED for neutrals and the freedom (and joy) found in a cohesive wardrobe. I have always loved color (it brings me joy) and was heavily swayed by “sale” shopping. Living in rural Alberta, shopping was not always plentiful or varied. I am a just retired grade 1 teacher, mother of 5 and grandmother of 12. Unlike you, I dress in layers so that I can look seasonal but remove the excess easily. My grand kids have christened me the “hot” gramma. ;)
This has been a valuable year long project for me. The weekly additions were a wonderful way to get a handle on planning for all of the neutral basics with well chosen accents. Then the fun of adding an accent color for each season was an eye opener. Just a few pieces added personality to each season. As the weeks went by, I could see that pattern for me meant dots, stripes or windowpane check with a floral only if it had major whappage. This summing up of the entire wardrobe was brilliant. I would not have had any idea where to start. The importance of owning your personal activities and style also came through clearly.
I have a large extended family, have taught most of the kids in my community and been active in coaching and running community activities since I graduated from this same school. Thus, a classic, casual wardrobe suits me best. I am known for loving shorts, skirts and dresses.
I would take at least 9 of the button up tops and replace them with cardigans, sweater jackets, dusters and vests. As far as sweaters go, I only wear crew neck 2nd layers and lighter turtle necks. The burgundy, navy and green turtlenecks would be happy in my wardrobe and the navy patterned one would probably be grey (which would replace the camel) or any shade of blue.
I purchased my first cashmere twinset in navy ( a cardigan and shortsleeved sweater) during the lockdown and would love to have that navy pleated skirt. Unfortunately, Uniqlo Canada does not carry it. I have also purchased a silk scarf for the first time and have started to wear it. I found them too warm when I taught(grade 1 or kindergarten) but more wearable now that I am less active.
My dresses are heavily weighted towards summer, a majority of sundresses and sleeveless or short sleeve sheath style. Even in winter I need to be able to cool off, so short fitted cardigans or complimentary jacket styles allow these dresses to work well for me. I would replace some of the dresses with shorts and/or pants and am seriously considering revisiting cullotes! (which I said I would never do again ;)
Shoes would include more ankle boots and sandals as opposed to oxfords, ballet flats and wedges.
To know this and be able to plan accordingly is amazing. I find myself looking at sale garments and realizing they don’t fit my plan: color, quality, shape, need.
I usually just reply mentally but couldn’t resist writing this out. I went to my first retired teacher meeting, am now vice president of the association and after the meeting one of the other retireees said to me “you look so put together!” A lovely compliment for me thanks to you.
Hi Janice, I am reading your blog for the first time, today. This is a real delight to find a capsule wardrobe enthusiast from the Midwest. I can relate to the need for all occasion clothes. I live outside Detroit, Michigan, and could easily adopt your wardrobe, with a few tweaks here and there to suit my style. I am a nature enthusiast and am outdoors a lot, even in the winter. I go birding in snowstorms! I even own a pair of camouflage patterned thickly insulated pants for those days trudging in the show. I call them my sleeping bag pants.
As you wrap up this project, it gives me a fresh opportunity to see how you analyze this past year’s wardrobe, and where you might make adjustments. This is really important to me because I am starting over in the clothing department having lost 65 lbs, since last Christmas. So reading your thoughts will help guide me in the future on rebuilding my wardrobe in a smart and thoughtful manner. I have done a massive closet purge of clothes that no longer fit. I am able to still wear a few of my tops and sweaters, but I am currently wearing a minimalist capsule pants wardrobe. My old pants no longer fit me. It’s a great thing to celebrate. This is an exciting time for me to reinvent my style. I might even adopt a casual dress for everyday summer wear. A final thought, I’ve been to Ireland, and traveled with a capsule wardrobe all in a carry on piece of luggage. I did great with my carefully planned Irish vacation wardrobe. The thing I learned about Irish weather, is that it is extremely changeable, from cool and rainy to hot and sunny all in one day. Be prepared to dress in layers, to peel off or add on as needed, have a scarf handy for the sudden wind, and have a good pair of walking shoes. Leave the heels at home. The Irish people are informal, friendly, and very casual people. Thanks for brightening my day.