November 23, 2022
This is her favorite outfit, right now. She wants to build a small wardrobe for the upcoming couple of months using this as her starting point:
Normally I would suggest her first garment should be a clean shirt, but that’s not going to look much different – her green sweater covers most of her torso so the shirt isn’t super visible…
But swapping out sweaters? This will make a big difference in how her outfit looks:
NOW, we find her another top to wear under either sweater. I’ve chosen a turtleneck because (1) it’s wintertime in the Northern Hemisphere and (2) it will show under her green sweater!
Next obvious thing to find is another “bottom.” Our heroine assures me that she doesn’t want anything bright, or patterned, and that she will be just fine with lots of navy!
So how about cords? They are my favorites, and they just scream “casual winter” to me…
Our heroine’s socks in her favorite outfit have a pronounced yellow stripe in them, which she really likes. A yellow sweater seems like a logical addition to her wardrobe, doesn’t it?
We didn’t discuss “level of dressiness” in our emails, but I’m going to assume that she will have some occasion to wear a skirt in the next few months. If this isn’t the case, maybe a simple pair of cotton twill pants would be her preference.
Time for a tee shirt! Our heroine likes graphic patterns likes stripes and checks, so a navy striped tee shirt is a pretty obvious classic for her:
Something that we should all bear in mind when adding accent colors to our wardrobes – if garments won’t be worn together (like a cashmere crewneck and a wool cardigan!), they don’t have to be the same shade of your accent.
I couldn’t pass up this cardigan for her, even though it clashes with her crewneck. They will never be worn together, so nobody is the wiser…
Hmmm, it’s winter, it’s cold, and she likes graphic prints. What’s more classic than a flannel shirt?
Jeans. Must have jeans! These dark ones look good with navy:
Our heroine now has a dozen garments – but for no good reason, 13-piece wardrobes are a thing I like to do…
And she’s ready for a treat – something classic, festive, and warm. Also one of my favorite patterns!
Here’s what we have assembled for her so far:
This would be a wonderful outfit for travel, or to just have set aside in your closet for the next few months. Having these things sorted out ahead of time can take a bit of stress out of the winter holidays…
And yes, I think I MUST assemble some accessory suggestions for her, mustn’t I?
p.s. 3 years ago, our very romantic long weekend was inspired by a Sean Scully painting…
If our heroine lives anywhere near me, she will need boots, a puffy coat (or wool!) gloves, a warm hat, flannel pajamas and UGG slippers. I’d add at least one fine merino or cashmere sweater (crew neck? Turtleneck?) which can be warm and just a little dressy with the skirt. My theme is warmth, because we may be in for it this winter and, by gosh, I’m quite whiny in the cold weather.
I would add navy and white cotton turtlenecks to wear under the sweaters or the flannel shirt.
That’s what I was going to say, as well as navy ankle boots, and a navy bag of some sort.
Dee 2 says
Yes the pattern sweater makes me itchy just looking at it. 100% would wear but only with a solid color under it. To be fair I’m sure she has a light long-sleeve tee already in her wardrobe that she could probably wear under it, but maybe she wants to show off her layers
Love the bright colors and the style of the green cardigan… I didn’t know that brand before, thanks!
Beth T says
This is a great post for creating a small capsule from your wardrobe rather than buying new. I would wear a large cardigan over a jumper if it is chilly.
The little bow earrings are very pretty and could be worn at Christmas as a more chic and subtle nod to the festivities. I might have chosen a green and navy check shirt. Fair Isle jumpers are so versatile. With the addition of green and red turtlenecks, you could make the Fair Isle jumper quite festive particularly if you blanche at the idea of wearing a ‘Christmas jumper’ to the office party (do such things happen any more post-Covid?).
Thank you for another lovely post. I would be very happy with these items in my wardrobe, or suitcase for a trip. Looking forward to seeing the accessories.
FYI: the link to the pants in the first image goes through to the shirt.
My My My, I love this. Even better, it could have been taken from my closet – with the exception of the striped tshirts. With my purging of the closet I’ve been considering whether or not to keep my yellow items, but with this post, I’m thinking they are going to avoid the ax. Today is my Friday, and I think I shall wear green. I’ll be working in the display cases after the students leave to take down Fall and put up a Winter theme, so perhaps some black joggers. Beth T – I wear silly Christmas sweaters and mini-top hats the entire week prior to our Christmas break. Have a great day everyone!
BTW, Fierce Lynx at one point had a blue and green stone bracelet which is just perfect when wearing the navy and green together.
Amanda Hudson says
I love this for a simple winter/holiday capsule. I had a lovely green cashmere cardigan similar in color to the heroine’s. I like green but it had too much of a yellow undertone for my skin so my lucky daughter now wears it! I have recently purchased a navy, green and gray color blocked chunky cardigan. As I live in TX, I can use it as an outer jacket. I think I’ll put together something similar to this to have at the ready. Happy Thanksgiving to all who are celebrating.
Kathryn v says
Dear fellow Vivienne-philes,
I don’t know if this is the place to ask this question, but here goes . . .
I would appreciate any ideas and suggestions you have for a wardrobe curating project. My almost 94 year-old mother would like to downsize her wardrobe. She is not a hoarder by any means, but being a child of the Depression, it is difficult for her to purge “good” clothes. In addition, since she is petite and really a wisp of a thing, it is hard for her to find clothing now that fits so she is reluctant to part with necessary parts of her wardrobe. My goal here is to make it easier for her to identify those critical components and let go of some of the “just in case” items.
I thought about using the Weekly Timeless Wardrobe and printing out half sheets of the graphic for each week, laminating them, and adding a loop for hangars so she can hang garments by section. So here are my questions:
1.How would you order the process? My thought is to start with the neutrals and bottoms first, then the accents, then 2nd layers, then middle layers. Does this make sense? After every category such as bottoms, maybe check for basic accessories like shoes and belts for bottoms?
2.How to you handle dressy vs casual? Do you go through the process twice – once for dressy and one for casual? She does not have a lot of dressy needs – church and the occasional family occasion.
3.What if you don’t really have a light neutral? We both rarely wear light colors on the bottom so I would say our neutrals are probably black and navy. Maybe a dark (black), navy (medium), and light (cream or white)?
4.Do most of you have different accents by season? Like I might do lavender for the warm months and burgundy for colder months; turquoise and teal for the other one?
5.Then I thought I would add a separate category for clusters – basically the orphans that don’t fit into the WTW, but add some fun and punch to the process.
Again, I would be grateful for any help. We are fortunate that my mother is still in good health, but a project like this can be overwhelming even if you aren’t 94! Janice’s blog has been so helpful to me so I would like to pass along some of that goodness to my mom.
I started with the weekly timeless wardrobe and that was a game changer for me. Mostly because I didn’t have enough basics! But it’s a great starting point. I don’t really have a light neutral either except maybe one white shirt and a light grey one. I just do lots of navy. That’s ok, I think. If she is hesitant to get rid of things you might put together a wardrobe for her and move the rest to a different location. A closet in a different room (especially out of season stuff she will want when the season rolls back around) or in a bin/box in the garage and just see if she misses it. It might be easier to part with it in a few months when she sees she doesn’t need it.
Sally in St Paul says
I would take a step back before immediately starting to select, purge, and organize to do some needs assessment first:
1. Lifestyle analysis. What are the different activities that she spends her time doing? How often does she do them? For example, perhaps church is 1x per week. Family occasion 2x per month. Figure out for a given month, for example, how many outfits does she need for various activities. It’s easy to overweigh the need for outfits for rare occasions and ignore the fact you spend most of your time hanging out casually at home, for example.
2. Group activities based on how she dresses for them. Maybe church and certain holidays are her “dressy” activities. Family occasions may be grouped with dinners out as mid-dressy. Hanging out at home may be casual. Etc. Since she’s of a generation where dressiness was more commonly considered, I’d make extra sure that is part of this. It may be that every activity feels different or that some can be grouped.
3a. Then for each of these activities or groups, if applicable, how does she like to dress for them? Are there a few outfit formulas that are go-to combos for her for these activities. Is church a pair of nice pants with a semi-dressy blouse? Is it a dress? A skirt suit? Think it through head to foot in terms of clothing and accessories. These don’t have to be super rigid outfit formulas, but I think the more specific she can be about her preferences, the easier it will be to curate her closet. And it’s totally OK if she has multiple formulas per activity or if the formulas differ across seasons. Unless you live somewhere with little weather variation, seasonality will definitely come into play. The old Into Mind blog called these outfit formulas “silhouettes.” This really helps you get specific about what you need to create your preferred outfits.
3b. Check out Imogen Lamport’s posts on Inside Out Style blog about “levels of refinement” and how to mix them. Often pieces of mid refinement can be used to anchor both dressier and more casual outfits. That way you don’t need entirely separate capsules for dressy vs. not. However, if your mom would find it easier to have separate capsules, that is OK also!
4. When putting those outfits together, what does she prefer with color formulas? Does she like to wear a light neutral blouse with dark neutral pants and a neutral or colorful cardigan? Does she like to wear a dark column of color? A “suit” or modern twin set? Does she like prints? Where does she like to wear her prints? It sounds like she prefers dark neutral bottoms, so that’s a good data point. Janice had a series of posts a long time ago that shows different combinations of tan top, black pants, white cardigan; black top, black pants, tan cardigan; etc. That might help identify what kind of combinations she likes. But definitely think about light neutrals, dark neutrals, accent colors, and prints and how those are combined into outfits.
5. Related to 4, does she have certain loved/statement items that she loves to wear? For what occasions? This will help identify the basics needed to support her favorite pieces.
6. What is her laundry cycle like? This will be important in determining how many of each item she needs. If she has a longer and more erratic laundry cycle (as I do since I hang dry everything and can’t do all the washing in one day), she will need more in a category like tops than if she does all her laundry every week.
6. All of that was laying the groundwork for figuring out her wardrobe needs. Now you’re ready to start lining up the Weekly Timeless Wardrobe or whatever your method of choice might be against her wardrobe needs. I would actually lay in any statement pieces first, since you will want to make sure the basics are in place to support them. Then I would agree with starting with bottom pieces, since we typically don’t need as many of them but we really need them to be the right ones. And they often dictate shoes choices, as you say.
7. I will also add that if she likes both black and navy neutrals (as do I), it’s important to know whether she is comfortable wearing them together or not. Generally, I would consider a selection of neutrals for a capsule to mix-and-match to some extent, like with the light neutral = white, mid neutral = chambray/denim, dark neutral = navy. If she is old-school (or even semi-old-school like me), she may not want to mix navy and black clothing (though navy with black leather may be fine). In that case, I would probably build a navy cluster and a black cluster separately rather than considering them as part of the same cluster. Then you may have pieces that work with one but not the other (e.g., black plaid shirt with black cluster and navy striped blouse with navy cluster). But a lot of the items will probably work with both – a lot of prints, accent colors, and light neutrals.
8. As you build the wardrobe, put together outfits and try them on! Make sure the pieces are coming together into outfits like you want them to. Wardrobes exist to create outfits, not check off boxes on a list. She may have a “dark neutral long-sleeved top” but if it doesn’t actually work well with the bottom pieces she has in creating the outfits she wants, it doesn’t check the box in reality even if it does in theory.
9. I would also take Janice’s excellent advice to not immediately start purging things! It’s not necessary, and for your mom, it might make this all way more stressful than it needs to be. I’d look at it as creating a capsule(s) or curated wardrobe from the entire current wardrobe with the idea that items not selected now will be set aside (in a separate closet or a storage box) but still available. Because this is not going to be a one-and-done, now you have a perfect curated closet for all time kind of deal. It is going to be a work in progress. I would very seriously consider not getting rid of anything unless it doesn’t fit, is hopelessly dated, is in poor condition, etc. Leave all decisions about that for later. Focus now on building the working wardrobe, not on purging.
10. I think it would also be OK to focus on just the current/upcoming seasons rather than tackling the entire wardrobe at once. In the N. hemisphere, this would be focusing on fall/winter with the warm weather items put aside to deal with later. I personally find it hard to imagine what I’ll want to wear in the summer when it’s currently cold. And it’s just a lot to tackle at once.
I’ve basically written a book here…I just get carried away, I guess! I’m sure others will have excellent thoughts on this too. Good luck!
Janice, as always, thank you for providing this space for us to discuss amongst ourselves!
Kathryn v says
Thank you all for providing such thoughtful responses and taking the time to post them. I think the lifestyle assessment and the “do not throw away” suggestions are great starting points. You gave me a lot to think about and I truly appreciate it. Please those great ideas coming and Happy Thanksgiving to those that are celebrating tomorrow!
The first step should be to try on everything and eliminate items that no longer fit (because she has shrunk so much, etc), that she does not like, that are too damaged for a simple repair, or that she cannot put on because of mobility issues. Items in good shape can be set aside in boxes to satisfy her “waste” concerns; this will make later donation easy.
See what you have left. If she does not wear light bottoms, all dark ones are fine. If you need to add anything, chose items that are easy to put on, like pull on pants. Even if she doesn’t have mobility issues now, she might later, so buy new things that take that into account. If her summer tops are light colored and her winter ones dark, that’s what you will work with. Satisfy her thrifty ways by shopping her wardrobe and working with what she has.
Chose a handful of winter and summer church/occasion clothes for each season and do not count them in the everyday wardrobe.
Sandy b says
Kathryn, first good luck with this project. I think it will benefit your Mother immensely. I only wish to add a link to Janice’s post that may be helpful, although it isn’t about reducing but building. I think the other ladies have excellent points also about reducing the stress of the project. Again, good luck.
Beth T says
Hi Kathyryn, we are going through the same process with my mother-in-law aged 85 and she does have too many clothes. Start with seasonal clothes and get her to try on everything. Fit is key. If it doesn’t fit discard it. Point out that less fortunate people will be able to enjoy her clothes. She may baulk at the suggestion of letting go of decent clothes but persevere if they don’t fit. Elderly people cling on to a version of themselves from when they were young and active. Several people suggested analysing how often she does different activities. Even a visit to church, the doctors or the shops is reason enough to get dressed up. Maybe keep a few of her favourite outfits associated with special memories. Look at accessories and jewellery too. A few years ago, I used Janice’s Decluttering Files which were invaluable for reorganizing my own wardrobe. https://www.theviviennefiles.com/tag/decluttering/. I then followed the Weekly Timeless Wardrobe and the Starting from Scratch was useful too. I also took some of my favourite scarves and built out clusters. I sorted out jewellery, shoes and bags to go with each cluster.
I prefer dark bottoms. Look at her preferred way to wear colour and pattern. Keep to that. As you are going through, you might find clothes that could go together in a new way which still fits her style. Good luck!
Hi Kathryn, I”m 65 and purging my wardrobe. I started with the common core, because I’m still working and it gave me a good base of neutrals. I have the common core in black, gray and navy (I don’t wear light bottoms either). Then I tried to really pay attention to what I wore most, and what just sat in the closet. Right now I’m paring down the accent colors – which colors do I feel best in? And not having multiples of items – I only need one yellow sweater, not three. (for instance) I rarely do anything I need “dressy” for, but kept a long sleeved dark gray dress, and short sleeved black dress, a black long sleeved dress that has gold roses embroidered on it, and a pretty red floral summer dress to cover the bases in that category. I don’t want to make this overly long, but paying attention and discovering which clothes I reached for again and again, and then determining why those were the ones I wore helped me get rid of those I would reach for and then decide no. Hope this is a little bit helpful. I’ve been working on this a year or more, so it’s been a process. Sometimes I put the stuff in bags, and it sits for awhile before I get it to Goodwill. So far I’ve not missed anything I’ve donated. And I have one closet that is mostly empty hangers now, and I feel like my closet is more cohesive. Good Luck!
Sally in St Paul says
I love the printed underlayer tops but have to admit that a couple of solid ones would be quite handy. I like the yellow sweater here in theory but not with the striped/plaid shirts somehow.
Depending on where the heroine lives, this may or may not get her through Christmas. I know that only two layers of shirt + sweater would not do it for me. I would add lightweight thermal layering tops to wear underneath and some kind of outer layer even for indoors. I’m partial to a quilted vest myself but a blazer is another option. Fleece is another option.
This makes me curious about how other readers think about the sweater + sweater combination – like a pullover sweater (jumper) + cardigan on top? Beth T said she would layer a cardigan over a jumper/pullover if she got chilly…in which case, the colors of the sweaters matter more. I’ve never been entirely sure whether sweater + sweater is a combination that works or not, and I haven’t tried it myself. But of course a traditional twin set is a sweater + sweater, so I guess it does work. Are there parameters you’ve noticed for when this is done successfully vs. not?
I might mention that increased bulk in the arm region has always been an issue, even in grade school. The reason why most sweater sets work is that the underlayer is almost always either short-sleeved, or sleeveless. I’ve seen some “long cardigans” which have no fasteners and kimono-like sleeves, To me, they are shapeless, but perfectly suitable for at home wear, in my mind. Your mother might feel differently.
A few suggestions for you and your mom, Kathryn,
1, start with shoes. Ask mom what she has worn in the last year and then try to weed out the ones she can’t wear any longer.
2, Would she be interested in reading a curated list of blog posts from The Vivianne Files? Maybe pick a group and send her one every day, or few days?
3, Find a useful purpose in her clothes that she is eliminating. She may feel more comfortable letting go of serviceable items when she can see that they will have a second life.
4, Some folks like to hold the elimination pile for a period of time before donating. That may help mom let go.
Best of luck and happy Thanksgiving.
Vicki G says
Janice, I agree with your heroine. No such thing as too much navy! I’ve always liked it, but have more of it now that I have got the neutrals basics covered, thanks to you. I really like this wardrobe: the navy, the stripes, the plaid, the fair-isle, the cords. All favourites. I’ll have to let someone else enjoy the yellow sweater, and I hope they do. It’s a beautiful colour, but not for me.
Kathryn, I think we can agree this was a great place to ask your question! What a riches of good advice has emerged.
Ka kite, and happy thanksgiving to y’all in the Americas.
Kathryn, my suggestions fall close to what Kristi suggests, but here is what I would do. 1. Sort everything to by season – hot weather, cold weather or in-between and any outlier holiday and special events. 2. Pick the pile that is for the current season and inspect the garments for items that need repair, are worn out or just no longer appealing. 3. Set aside the items for repair after trying on. 4. Get rid of the worn out, non-fitting and not appealing. 5. Now is when you can have the fun of working out the questions about function, etc for the items remaining. 6. Then ask your mom what type of wardrobe she feels drawn towards. I can guarantee that if I weeded out my own mom’s closet according to what makes sense for me, she would never use the system. 7. On paper, work out the categories. 8. Start building the capsules. 9. Ask your mom if she feels like there is anything essential missing or if she may need an extra of something. 10. Box up the rest and hold them in case she needs a forgotten piece. 11. Sort out the accessories by season. 12. Box and store out of season items. 13. Let your mom decide how many of the in season she wants out for use and store the others. 14. If there are pieces that have special meaning, like a purse that she carried to a meaningful event, see if she wants to gift it to a special younger relative. If no one accepts, donate it to someone that loves vintage items who might find a good home for it. For example, Emileigh Rogers of Flashback Summer is a vintage wearing blogger with connections to other vintage wearers. It can be hard for vintage wearers to find great items in good condition, unless people are willing to part with items no longer needed. That may be a solution that makes your mom feel good about reducing her things. Best of luck to you & happy turkey day to everyone.
Oh, how I miss these series so much! The “One garment at a time” and all the other series you’ve done before, “4×4”, “21 Garde robe”, “Common Wardrobe” and all the other ones were extremely helpful and insightful. Thank you so much Janice!
I have what might seem as an odd question. Does anyone know of ANY retailer that still carries Winter-weight pants? I can’t seem to find any.
Also, how does everyone feel about the elastic waistband trend in pants & skirts? I have a 14″ difference between waist and hip and I really prefer a pant with a zipper and darts, to get rid of the extra bulk around the waist. Call me skeptical, I think they just don’t want to pay for zippers and the cost to put them in.
Amy in Indy says
I miss waistbands, and that’s coming from a woman who has a super thick waist. I’m fine with pull-on summer linen pants and pajamas. But for nice pants, I want a real waistband and darts!
For winter weight, I’d look at nicer department stores, like Nordstrom or Von Maur. And to echo Kari, you can find them at vintage-style stores, like House of Foxy or Emmy Design. My new winter pants from Emmy are a medium weight. I need to have them altered, so I’m thinking of having a lining put in too.
Given the amount of curve you have, you might like Emmy’s “Good Old Grandpa” pants (https://www.emmydesign.se/en/webshop/shop-by-collection/autumn-winter-2022-the-tweed-rider/pants/the-good-old-grandpa-pants-brown-pinstripe.html).
Good luck, and let us know what you find out!
Dee 2 says
Those are gorgeous!!
Rhonda, I looked at the Hepburn pleated pant from House of Foxy. They have a side zip and single button. If they are the same weight as my Swing Trousers, it could be what you think of as winter weight. I would call it a medium or dense medium compared to what a dress slack is today…i.e. Thin. If you are short, plan on alterations. I need to take 3 inches off the Swing trouser and they are a shorter inseam than the Hepburn. For reference, I’m 5’2″. Both are cut to be wide leg like worn in the 40s which is a plus for me because I have more bulk in my legs than what is considered normal by designers today. Really, I can order a wide leg from Talbots and to get it to fit in the leg, instead of a 4, I may need an 8 and the waist is then too big. So, for a 29 in waist and 38 hip, I went with a 12 in the swing trouser and may have been able to go to a 10. Hope that helps as I have not seen anything in the US that would work for your question. Hope someone else can offer more retailers.
I love this capsule- I always pull out Navy and White for spring. A sharp clear green like these looks so good as does yellow. Yes please to accessories – the green bow earrings are perfect.
To Kathryn — so much good advice. The only thing I can add —You may just want to turn the hangers around, and each time something is worn, put the hanger back the right way.
Within a month you’ll see what you need to keep no matter what. 6 months will tell you most of what she’s using right now. Pull that to the “working” side and push the rest over to the “resting“ side. Lay a dust cover on it. Out of sight, out of mind.
Your mum won’t be anxious because she can always “rescue” something if she needs it. Over time she’ll loosen her grip on the “resting” side. That’s when the tough part of letting go & donating gets easier.
I called it my holding tank- I used the guest room closet as my halfway point before donating just to be sure. I went from well over 200 items to 56 in 3 years. I needed to go slow.
If she’s wearing out a particular type of basics you know what to buy and you can gently suggest she “make room” by donating a few of the “resting” pieces. (AND tossing the worn out pieces as well) Stress the fun of having new things.
I think you’ve helped a lot of people out by posting your question here. As for your mom being reluctant to let things go, my sisters and I faced the same challenge a few years ago. By re-framing ‘throwing something away’ into ‘helping someone’ we were able to help my mom let go of things she no longer needed. The trick with her was to make it more vivid by saying ‘what if there’s a woman who wants to go to church/to a job interview but is embarrassed/reluctant because she feels like she can’t dress appropriately? Wouldn’t it be nice if she found your ‘item’ in the thrift shop? Think how thrilled she would be!’ That helped her overcome the guilt she felt in getting rid of perfectly nice things. Good luck on this journey with your mom, I hope you’ll both enjoy taking it together!
Sally in St Paul says
The reframing into “helping someone” mentioned here and by some other commenters is a brilliant idea. Thanks for sharing this.