January 27, 2021
I’ve been meaning to come back to this list, and just in the last week I’ve received the same questions a few times:
What should I keep packed for emergencies? and
How do I split my wardrobe between 2 homes?
These are related questions, from women who are now having to maintain a business in 1 area, and do a lot of export marketing in a 2nd area, and are thus going to maintain 2 households.
First off – this is NOT glamorous. This isn’t going to be like “oh, let me jet off to my home at St. Bart’s for the weekend…” 2nd home.
This is more like “I can no longer just ship things from here to there, so I’ve got to fly (or take the train) and carry merchandise…”
This is a question that applies to us all, if we live in a climate that changes through the year – moving to Mexico for part of the year from Chicago isn’t that much different from just LIVING in Chicago for the entire year – sometimes it’s hot, sometimes it’s cold.
So let’s see if this is something that can be made straightforward and easy to envision!
My first project was to try to figure out what I would pack (and wear) if I wanted to keep a suitcase ready 24/7 through the year. (this would of course be tweaked a bit through the year…)
I think the coolest thing about choosing these 10 garments for “perma-travel” is that it leaves us with 42 garments, or 2 x 21-piece Garde-Robe du Mois!
(sometimes, numbers are my friend…)
So how might the first part of this look?
I’d wear something super-neutral to travel, and plan to use a scarf or jewelry to dress it up; your preferences will almost certainly be different!
And then in the bag – let’s look again at that list:
A business-person traveling should consider that the next week could hold dressy events; in your dreams, the editor of a major magazine wants to meet you…
So you pack a wide-ranging travel capsule wardrobe:
This way, even if you get to home #2 and find nothing to wear (it could happen?), you’re in pretty good shape for at least a week:
Business, business casual or just plain old casual – she can do it!
I want to show another version of this, just so that it makes some sense…
First – traveling in dead solid neutrals! This seems stark, but imagine it with a bright plaid ruana…
The cardigan is far from neutral, but goes with everything else this heroine has packed:
A clever heroine could find herself in a great many places with this as her wardrobe, and manage just fine:
Everything from rather casual to adequately dressy for a pretty posh restaurant:
I think that – starting in February – I’ll look at The Weekly Timeless Wardrobe once a month and add onto these wardrobes. The idea of having to keep track of 2 wardrobes in 2 different countries is an interesting challenge, and I’m frankly gobsmacked that more than a couple of you are facing this!
p.s. It’s only been six months, but I thought it makes sense to look at using the Weekly Timeless Wardrobe in clusters, since that’s my plan for future posts!
Thank you! I look forward to the follow-up posts on this series, as I now find myself in exactly such situation. I travel between two homes (my parents place in Poland and my current home in Germany). As I stay in #2 home for some extended times (e.g. 4 weeks) I need to have enough clothes there. (though washing machine is easily available).
I find that my biggest challenge is to decide what to keep there, so that I don’t have to travel with a full suitcase every time, (also travelling with a baby each time, so it’s no really just fancy but a true necessity to travel as light as possible…)
So what core items do I keep there, so that they are usefull pretty much all year round (#4seasonsclimate). Does it mean I should simply buy double all the core neutrals? And just keep things interesting with accent pieces?
I tried to follow this when you originally did it, substituting things already in my closet, but my brain just seemed unable to make the leap. I can’t even imagine doing it x 2. You’re amazing.
Linda P says
Hi Janice! Thank you for this topic. What I have done is set aside warm and cool weather possibilities in one color (e.g. Olive green) in a part of my closet … So when it’s safe(r) to travel to SF to see our daughter again, I can just add an accent or two and comfy shoes and I’ll be ready!
Great topic! I look forward to following this as you built on it. Combining the cluster idea and the weekly timeless wardrobe is fantastic.
Still waiting on one kiddo’s admission news, but it looks like I’ll have two freshmen in college on opposite sides of the the US this fall, in addition to having older parents living in the Midwest. I’ve been thinking a lot about needing a suitcase already packed and ready to go in case I’m needed for any of those beloved family members. In a crisis, thinking through what to pack can be overwhelming, so it’s better to do it ahead of time, when you’re clear headed.
I know for me that all of the above situations would require something dressy, something rugged, and something nice but comfy.
Zaidie Brown says
I have two emergency packs, but fewer than 52 items in my wardrobe – but more if you include the following.
In the boot (trunk – I’m British) of my car, I have 2 sets of underwear, a short sleeved T, rugby top, long sleeved white shirt, jeans, skirt, navy wool sheath dress and matching open back jumper. I also have work shoes – in case I drive to work in my trainers. I also have a couple of scarves and a jacket, blanket, towel… I’m ready for breaking down in the middle of nowhere or spilling my lunch at work!
At my dad’s home, I have jeans, 2 short sleeved T shirts, a long sleeved tshirt, a blouse, a jumper dress, a summer dress, jeans, a fleece, a jacket, a scarf and some night wear and underwear. If I drive to my dad’s I’m fixed for a few months! If I go on the train then I choose a skirt based travel outfit. It has been useful in emergencies to not have to pack when I go to visit. If I were going to commute regularly, I’d probably have similar depending on how long I would be staying – overnight once a week (the boot pack) vs one week per month (the dad pack). I also keep costume jewellery to match the colours, a mask and a small handbag for each pack.
Sally in St Paul says
You can tell you’re really onto something (Weekly Timeless Wardrobe) when it aligns so well with other ideas (21 piece Garde-Robe du Mois) and works across various situations…though I do get what you mean that living between two places is more like living in one place year-round than perhaps we imagine.
I would happily wear either of these capsules (these are happy colors for me)! Classic/basic with a couple fun touches, mix-and-matchable, jeans represented (always a must for me), ready to be personalized and livened up with accessories.
But it does seem that the grey one feels more versatile than the navy one. A couple coordinating shades of grey (the same “hue” or grey but lighter and darker versions) is just so much more interesting than the big block of navy. (It’s hard to tell whether the grey items shown would coordinate well in person but they looked good on screen.) In person, I’m sure the varied textures in the navy one mitigate against the snooze factor, but I really prefer seeing more variety than the navy one (8/10 the same color).
Unless you love wearing a dress as a stand-alone item, the sleeveless grey dress seems much more versatile also. I would (in theory) wear all of the tops with it…the sweater layered over and the other 3 layered under. Not everyone likes this combo (too “schoolgirl jumper” for their style, perhaps), but I like it…when the pieces fit together well. But if a heroine has the idea of wanting that, she will need to pick pieces that work that way…in which case dress choice is key.
However, getting the well-coordinated light and dark greys is not easy, nor is finding that dress that fits well alone and with something underneath and with something on the top. (I struggle to find a dress that fits well, period.) So the navy version is probably more attainable.
Because navy is a core neutral of mine, and grey is a secondary neutral, I tried building versions of these two capsules. I went with navy/red and grey/pink-coral (with denim) as my palettes. And man, the navy one was so much easier…because I have a fuller “set” of navy items and because all the navy garments work together. And I have a fuller “set” of navy items than of grey items because greys can be so hard to match!
In both my grey and navy capsules, I had to substitute a skirt + matching top for #4 the dress, and my #9 pants/skirt in 2nd neutral or different style was a second pair of jeans (skinny jeans for #9 and straight leg jeans for #1)…but I think those substitutions would work very well for me, so I call the WTW a success here.
I can’t remember…is there a Weekly Timeless Accessories component to the WTW? Because my 10 piece capsules provide a lot of mix-and-match variability but are boring (grey) and dead boring (navy). They could definitely use some punching up! (I do recognize that the cool and warm weather 21 piece cores would be waiting on the other end for the two-house heroines, but I’m ALWAYS interested in accessories.)
Living in two places can be difficult or it can be wonderful. I had my suitcase out and ready to go for the last 7 1/2 years of my working life. One time, my husband forgot to put his black overnight bag in the trunk. It’s black and hid in the shadow in the entry. He had to make do with the things he had in the closet at the other house. It all worked, a washing machine helps a lot!
Book Goddess says
This is so well thought out! I did a version of this for a good many years as I needed to visit my mother fairly frequently. I wasn’t quite as organized as these heroines, but I started keeping enough clothes at her house where I could pretty much throw a tote in the car and go. I did learn from getting stranded a couple of times for longer stays where I had to go out and buy clothes.
At the risk of destroying your numerical symmetry, I would be happier with two or three more t-shirts at my destination or in the emergency bag. In addition to clothes, I found it helpful to have basic toiletries, underwear, and a sleep tee available at my mothers house as well. One less thing to think about.
Amanda Hudson says
I am blessed to actually have 2 homes. Both in TX and one on a lake. Since we have had this scenario for several years I have finally got it all worked out. Of course I can do laundry but it’s nice to not have to wash too frequently(When all grandkids and parents are there we run the machine often!!) When we first built the lake house I just took clothes that I didn’t wear because it was just the lake. I gradually realized I didn’t wear them because I didn’t like them! So now only have things I want to wear at that house too. I also learned that while I might go to the lake many times and only wear bathing suits, shorts and tees, sometimes I needed to dress up slightly more. The lake home also has a larger temperature range so my heavier sweaters live there. A pair of black flats and a pair of brown flats can dress up an outfit. Everything is wash and wear plus no iron. A couple of scarves and some costume jewelry, if we go to the winery for dinner, and I’m set. The most important thing I’ve learned is to wear home what I went in. It took hubby a few times of “where is my blue plaid shirt or such?” But now he carefully hangs his travel clothes ready to wear back to Sugar Land.
I have to keep 3 separate wardrobes (not complaining!). I find that it is easiest to stick with 2 neutrals at each house and then I have two accents colors for each place. I did the same thing as Amanda and brought all the clothes I never wore to our mountain cabin. I ended up never wearing them because I didn’t actually like them! Now I just have blue jeans and black jeans, one dress, one skirt , one pair of “decent” pants and three each of tees, nicer tops, cardigans and two jackets for each season, one rain jacket and one heavy coat.Everything is black or blue and the accents are olive and coral. For the beach house I chose sand and white for my neutrals and aqua and navy for my accents.I have two jackets and two coats for each of the two seasons there. It’s pretty much the same temp. year ’round. I use scarves and accessories to change things up a bit. I am constantly forgetting a piece of my “at home” wardrobe at each place, but it’s ok as my wardrobe is at least twice the size at our full time home. Home neutrals are grey, black and white with fuchsia and purple accents. I love so many colors that I find it difficult to limit myself. With a different color palette at each place, I can satisfy my need for variety and everything feels fresh and new. Your work has really helped me to be creative with fewer items and to think hard about what I actually need and find versatile.
Sally in St Paul says
This is fascinating, Lori. Do you keep 3 different sets of accessories at the 3 places, or do you bring them from your full time home to the others when you visit?
I have a small set of accessories at each place. I try to keep the clothing at a real minimum since the closets are pretty small.
Beth T says
Janice – you have excelled yourself today! You are a genie and a fairy rolled into one.
Thank you for revisiting the Weekly Timeless Wardrobe in such an imaginative way. It certainly worked when I sorted my wardrobe out as I created WTW’s for each of my colour groups – navy/blues, red/plum/pink, purple/lilac, teal/jade/aqua. Some WTF’s were complete, others less so and became accents to wear with navy, purple or grey. It was easy to create clusters for travel. This reminder will help me to evaluate my three monthly wardrobes.
The one thing I have learnt over this year, is that I wear twice as many tops and second layers than bottoms plus dresses. I like to have a top and bottom and second layer for each accent. Another top has to be patterned as well as the dress.
So for the first cluster, I would add an aqua top. I would add a patterned top in the second cluster and patterned dresses in both. The pink cardigan is stunning!
I find life complicated enough with my wardrobe in just one house, let alone two or three. In my dreams, I have a cottage in the hills and dales of northern England. I would have a full wardrobe that I could layer up throughout the year in a selection of colours.
My emergency kit on the car is full of stuff to ensure the car is OK so water for the battery, jump leads, a torch, oil, windscreen washer etc. There are umbrellas and perhaps a pac-a-mac and a blanket on the rear seat. Water, sanitizer, suncream, tissues and sunglasses remain in the car. I’ve never thought to keep additional clothes (because they would get damp) as I always travel for the weather and every eventuality. If there was a real emergency, then I would hope to be rescued by the emergency services or road side assistance organisations. If I was travelling any distance in winter, I might take a small bag of extra clothes and essentials just in case.
Wherever we are, whatever we are doing, looking good in clothes you like will see us through.
Sally in St Paul says
Beth T, this comment really resonated with me and has helped clarify some things I hadn’t thought through or internalized. I have thought about core neutrals and I’ve thought about “sets” (like a top, topper, bottom in matching colors…but I would like to be more open to thinking about “match sets” and “tonal sets”). But I have never taken the step to think about what colors (neutral or rainbow colors) I want to have full “sets” of (however defined) as core colors and what colors (neutral or rainbow colors) I am OK with/prefer using as an accent color. I think it’s so common to think “sets of neutrals are the core, rainbow colors are accents” that I needed your example to realize that just because that’s the norm, it doesn’t have to work that way at all. You can build core sets from any color and you can use any color as an accent. For those of us with a high affinity for color as a matter of preference and/or personal having a lot of “color” in our eyes/hair/skin (raises hand to both), rainbow color cores might be really terrific. I’ve known for a while that purple is a core color for you, but it just hadn’t fully clicked until today.
So this weekend I will spend some time on this. I need to decide what would be a “set” for me and whether these would be seasonal…I think yes to seasonal in my climate. My immediate thought is that a set would be a seasonally-appropriate top, bottom, and topper at minimum. I think I would also like to have a solid (or ombre or similar) scarf in the set also. I’m not sure about shoes. (I can’t help thinking about accessories when I think about clothing!) I like the idea of making sure I have a print top (or pants or skirt or topper or scarf or…) to coordinate with the set because I am print happy, but I might consider that as a coordinating piece rather than a member of the set. But for travel situations especially, knowing which print pieces go with a set, and being sure I have enough of the right kinds, is helpful.
I am imagining (at least) 7 categories for my wardrobe now:
1 – Core colors which I have in full “sets” for a given season. For example: I have a full winter set of navy that includes long-sleeved T, long-sleeved tunic, long-sleeved pullover sweater; boyfriend cardigan and quilted vest; full-length traditional pants, skinny pants, and pencil skirt; solid scarf. I also have a good number of print garments and scarves to put with them. Another example: I have a full summer set of light yellow that includes knit tank; 3/4 sleeve cardigan; ankle pants; and an ombre scarf…plus a few print items. BECAUSE CORE COLORS CAN BE RAINBOW COLORS.
2 – Core colors that are missing something to make a full “set” AND that I would like to have a full “set” in. For example: my grey set is missing a pair of solid grey pants, and I would like to have a pair of pants to complete it because I would like to make grey more central to my wardrobe (replacing black over time). This may be more or less urgent depending on the color. Adding a pair of grey pants is of low to moderate urgency (perhaps a 2 in a scale of 1: lowest urgency to 5: highest urgency).
3 – Core colors that are missing something to make a full “set” BUT that I am good with having a smaller set (a “subset”?) in. For example: I love white on my top half but am never happy with white pants, so I probably have a summer “set” using my white skirt but have a winter “subset” by choice.
4 – Core colors that are missing something to make a full “set” BUT that I am happy to use just as an accent. For example: right now I am not interested in building out a full “set” of beige garments, so I will use the beige garments I have (and that all coordinate!) as an accent. Because ACCENT COLORS CAN BE NEUTRALS.
5 – Core colors that I don’t have because they are so hard to find and coordinate. For me, this would be a dark greenish teal and some sort of taupe. For all that we hear about these colors being “universal colors” and whatnot, why are they so hard to find…taupe especially! It’s not even that I’m being picky about the version of taupe so I only see unsuitable taupe; I mostly don’t see any taupe at all. (I am promising to myself right now that I will, however, be picky about the version of taupe! This is also not urgent, so I can wait for the right taupe garments to enter my life. And I’m “starting from scratch” with taupe so I’m not trying to coordinate to an existing item!)
6 – Accents…OK, this is where it gets tough for me. Do I want one-off accent items? Like that pink cardigan that isn’t a good match or tonal blend with my other pink items (but that does work with prints I have)? Or do I want a given accent to be present in at least 2 of top, topper, bottom, scarf? Does it depend on the color? (I think it almost surely depends on the color.) If I want 2+, would a print piece count? Lots to consider, and decisions will almost assuredly will depend on what’s already in my closet and what is/becomes available.
7 – Prints…another category that needs refining. Prints that coordinate with core colors are very desirable. What about prints that mostly/only coordinate with accent colors? Prints are my weak spot. My gut tells me that any analysis of my wardrobe would result in a decision like: stop buying prints (garments and scarves) that don’t coordinate with at least 2 (preferably more) core colors. And: stop buying prints that DO coordinate with at least 2 core colors IF YOU ALREADY ARE WELL SET UP IN THAT AREA and aren’t going to remove an existing item in that area from the wardrobe.
So yes, I am still working on stop buying when I’m already well set up in an area. Haha. But since I haven’t actually worked out what being well set up in an area looks like, I shouldn’t be surprised!
Sally and others with rainbow cores…. Thank you! I have recently purged a lot out my wardrobe and am trying to rebuild coherently. But I struggle to think in neutrals and so have mini sets in rainbow colors. I have a weakness for prints, too. But it is easier for me to get dressed now that I have been following this for a while and making more strategic purchases in actual neutrals, since it actually links my colors together and helps me look more “pulled together.”
One struggle I have is finding good quality, durable clothes. I bought a few pair of pants that look awful after sitting down once in them. And then my size is on the cusp of regular / plus so finding the right fit is a challenge. I appreciate Janice’s direction toward LL Bean and other workhorse brands that are great backbones for a strong wardrobe.
Beth T says
Picking up from Sally’s comment about accessories. Please would you consider doing Timeless Wardrobe for Accessories, maybe monthly? I don’t change my accessories as much as I change my clothes. Some things, I wear all year round and others like scarves or hats are seasonal. Thanks for all your imagination.
Love this post! Thanks so much for putting it together, Janice. And I second the request for accessories!
Sally, I love everything you said in your post! Somehow you have managed to capture my own thoughts and struggles to a T! For those of us that like more color and prints or don’t like mostly monochromatic outfits or have wide variations in the clothing silhouettes we like, etc., building a wardrobe that makes sense and works well can be very difficult!
Sally in St Paul says
Lyneisa, thanks for your comment, it’s good to know I’m not alone!
ooo…tough. I did this for five years, traveling between home and parents. In the end I decided to have two small sets of outer clothes, neutral + accents, and traveled in a set that worked with either end. Back and forth I carried knickers and toiletries and in winter, a jacket that worked with all.
Beth T says
Sally, I love your well thought out comments. Just a few more thoughts on your deliberations referencing your comments:
1. The realisation that any colour group – if we wear it a lot can be a core colour and likewise standard neutrals can be accents if they are worn very little but are useful to have as extension pieces. This idea was a revelation to me when I sorted my wardrobe – why not? So purple, lilac and berry colours have become a core colour group throughout the year as I have a lot of them. Navy and grey are core colours as everything goes with them.
However, my single pairs of brown and sand trousers, will only ever be an accent or extension pieces for me, although they are core colours for other people. Brown cords are useful for my country walks capsule and the sand chinos give me an alternative to navy or grey in the summer.
2. Good luck with your grey trouser hunt. I am fuming because several companies I buy trousers from have decided that their short or petite length is now 29″ instead of 27″ as it always was. Their long length is now 33″! ? Since when have petite women had an inside leg of 29 inches? So I will have to factor in the cost of shortening them but goodness knows when tailoring businesses will reopen in the UK.
3. I only wear white and ivory as tops or blouses. I have two ivory polo necks, a long sleeve ivory silky blouse and four white/ivory short sleeve tee shirts. Ivory looks nice with grey.
Black is another colour I feel I ought to have but only on my bottom half.
4. Pink is definately an accent for me in the Spring and Summer. I have built up a good collection of pink items which don’t necessarily match but can be worn with other items, particularly grey. Pinks range in tone from light to dark and tonal variations from shell pink to magenta.
5. I’ve given up on taupe but I just keep a look-out for teal. I wear it with grey, navy, purple, some pinks and extend it with lighter shades on the blue-green spectrum such as duck egg green, aqua, and light teal.
6. Accents in my mind are any coloured item that helps to create a three piece outfit. I have a soft green cardigan which now goes with two blouses and I only wear it in Spring. Some colours like. Coral or salmon pink, I only wear in summer. Magenta and fuschia, I wear from late summer and into winter. Very light colours I will wear from.now to the end of summer.
7. With prints I look at the predominant, secondary and even tertiary colours. These can suggest unusual colour combinations such as a teal blouse with white and purple flowers, I can wear with teal and/or purple Prints can lift neutrals or create variations and interest for accents. I also include textured fabrics such as cable knits here.
One of your colour groups you often mention are blue-greens. I would include teal (blue to green), aqua and turqouise. Perhaps you could hang up or lay out everything that you consider to fit into that group including prints and scarves. You might find that you have enough to create a core tonal group that can be worn as blended outfits or with navy, grey or beige. The scarves might also suggest other colour combinations. It’s how I discovered that I had far more purple items than I realised and that adding in grey created a blended wardrobe.
The other thing I am doing is creating a Weekly Timeless Wardrobe spreadsheet which has the items in a list and columns for each colour group. I’ll then note which colours I have for each item.
I’m doing a wardrobe changeover at the weekend and evaluating what clothes I wore from October through January. Some items might be moved to another season or let go.
Sally in St Paul says
Beth T, thank you so much for these further comments. Two things I have really learned from your posts are 1) the distinction between neutral vs rainbow color and core vs accent color, and 2) the value in thinking more broadly about blends to build a “set.” Your advice re: the blue-green color group is excellent. At this point, I have a pretty good idea (and documentation) about colors that *match* but less about colors that *blend*. I did realize that a tank and a summer open weave cardigan I bought at a similar time from 2 different online retailers work wonderfully together as the cardigan is a darker value of the same teal hue as the tank, so that is a value blend. But there is a whole area of tonal blends I have not examined very much at all. I particularly think that looking at scarves and prints will help in that effort because I can easily imagine two garments looking “a bit off” on their own but blending when a print or scarf is added. I am sure I have more “sets” than I realize if I include value blends, tonal blends, and (making up this terminology as I go) supported blends along with matches! I will be interested to see whether the supported blend category can be further divided into print blends, textured blends (2 items that wouldn’t work alone if both were the same fabric but because they differ in texture, they do coordinate), and possibly even 3 piece blends (3 items that work together as a trio but any 2 of them alone don’t quite work).
Sally in St Paul says
I feel compelled to clarify that surely a textured blend, if it exists, would be a type of tonal blend, not a supported blend ;)
I’m going to morph this idea for my RV wardrobe. Tiny little closets and drawers mean small, concise wardrobes. It’s so much easier to keep the RV loaded during the summer months. The needs are decent clothes for restaurants and sightseeing all the way to sturdy hiking wear or things you don’t mind wearing around a campfire.
This is a wonderful post and a great comment thread. Thank you, Janice and all.
I live this situation and have wrestled with how to have what I need/know what I have at each residence, so I am printing your templates and will be sorting my garments accordingly.
Thank you …
I am totally lost! Even though I can’t figure out what this system means, I’ll happily look at the wardrobes you are building. – nancyo
Amanda Hudson says
Sally, I hope you see this. Taupe is my favorite neutral. With my grey/silver/natural haircolor it just works and oddly enough has always been good with my skin tone. J.Jill features it frequently and I probably have each piece they have had. Sometimes they call it mocha other times taupe and of course other crazy names. The only thing they have never had in these shades are shorts and a linen shirt. As I live in TX I am always hopeful. I have one sweater from Banana Republic (thanks Janice) and a maxi knit dress from years back. I have cords and jeans from Eddie Bauer. I just purchased a taupe tee at Target.The GREAT thing about this color is how well it goes together no matter what brand. I also love grays but as has been discussed here they can run cool or warm and the two do not coordinate! Hope you find this helpful and let me know if you find a pair of shorts!