My Wardrobe, Myself

The intersection of clothing, emotions, and life

About a month ago, I posted about my first time creating a “four-by-four capsule wardrobe,” which is a concept from The Vivienne Files blog.  At the time, I thought I’d be dealing with at least another month of cool weather, so I put the capsule together with that in mind. However, I was pleasantly surprised that “June Gloom” didn’t really come to pass this year, and we’ve been blessed with warm and sunny weather most days. Of course, the downside of that was that I wasn’t able to give my four-by-four capsule a good tryout, but I’m sure it will still come in handy when fall and winter roll around. At least I got a better sense of my closet favorites and how to mix and match them for maximum versatility, which is a “win” in my book.

putting together a capsule wardrobe

Have you ever put together a capsule wardrobe? Most of us have for travel! 

Since I enjoyed the challenge of putting a small capsule together and because capsule posts seem to be popular here, I’m going to give the four-by-four another try, this time for summer. I will likely take some sort of trip in the coming months, which is where this wardrobe concept can really come in handy. Additionally, the four-by-four is a great way to see how versatile one’s wardrobe really is, and it can serve as a nice foundation for a larger capsule. In fact, I will likely do a follow-on post soon expanding this capsule to a Project 333 for summer (focusing only on clothing piece rather than 33 total items).

The First Core of Four

As a reminder, the four-by-four wardrobe starts out with a first “core of four” of two tops and two bottoms in a core neutral color. My core neutral is always black, no matter what season we’re in, so I chose two pairs of black pants, a black short-sleeved top, and a black cardigan for this first grouping. While the pants may look quite similar, they’re actually more distinct than they appear in terms of fabrication, style, and silhouette.

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Over the years, I’ve written many times about the problems that can occur when we accumulate too many clothes. An overly full closet can become overwhelming, and having more garments to choose from doesn’t always mean that we’re well-dressed. In fact, it can sometimes have the opposite effect when decision fatigue sets in. Last month, I posted about having too many plain black tee shirts, the reasons why that happened, and how I plan to address the issue. Today, I’m going to highlight a different type of over-duplication in my closet and how it has impacted my wardrobe at large.

same shirt in many different colors

Do you have a tendency to buy “multiples” of certain wardrobe items? 

First, A Quick Aside…

A quick aside before I get started… I know that a lot of the topics I write about here can be considered first-world problems, especially in light of the many horrible things that are going on in the world today. I realize that I’m fortunate to even be pondering things like having too many of a certain type of garment, but I also know that such issues can be frustrating for me and many others, even if they’re not of earthshattering importance.

I’ll leave the meatier world problems to those who are more qualified than I am to write about them, and I’ll stay in my lane. Please know, though, that I care deeply about so much more than clothing, style, and shopping – and I hope and pray for a better tomorrow.

It Seemed Like a Good Deal – and a Good Idea…

Sometimes when we find a particular style that we like, we think it’s a good idea to buy that piece in multiple colors and/or patterns. This propensity is even more likely when the item in question is either sold for a low price or on sale. Sometimes buying multiples ends up working well for us, but it can be a risky proposition, especially with the quality issues that are rampant with clothing today. While it’s a definite bummer to have one item fall apart after only a handful of wears, the disappointment and frustration can be intensified when we have purchased two or more such pieces, as has been the case for me with a particular type of t-shirt.

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Over the years, I’ve written a lot about how to decide whether to keep wardrobe items or let them go. This isn’t always an easy decision to make. Ideally, we’d all just purchase pieces that are exactly right for us, wear them until they’re worn out, and then pass them on to charity or for textile recycling. But unfortunately, that’s not always how it works out…

There are many reasons why we might purge items from our closets when we haven’t worn them all that much, including purchasing mistakes, poor garment quality, and style aesthetic shifts. Another important explanation for passing things on relates to changes in our body size, which is the focus of today’s post. I’ll reveal some of my personal experiences with size changes and how I’ve managed my wardrobe through such transitions. I’m actually dealing with this type of situation right now and am still processing how best to navigate it, so I’ll share about that, too.

clothing fit issues

How do you deal with your wardrobe when you gain or lose weight? 

My Menopausal Weight Shifts

I have long maintained what’s been termed a “hidden holding zone,” which for me consists of a large plastic bin that’s stored in my garage. This bin usually houses clothing that’s too small for my current size, especially since menopausal weight gain became an issue for me about six years ago. After “the change,” I went up about two sizes, depending upon the type of garment in question, without changing my eating and exercise habits in any way.

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Over the years, several commenters have mentioned the “Four-by-Four Capsule Wardrobe” concept from The Vivienne Files as something that’s helped them to better manage their closets and get dressed more easily. I’ve read a few posts on this methodology over the years and found it intriguing, but that was about it. However, after the last time the four-by-four was mentioned here (thank you to whoever brought it up), I decided to delve a bit more deeply and dedicate a post to it.

What is the Four-by-Four Wardrobe?

The Four-by-Four Wardrobe is a sixteen-piece group of clothing chosen four items at a time. The first two groups are referred to as “cores of four,” while the third group is called “the mileage four” because it helps with combining the initial pieces (usually neutrals) and giving them more versatility. The fourth group is called “the expansion four,” as it expands the combination options further. It’s recommended to also integrate a number of accessories into the mix (jewelry, shoes, handbags, scarves, etc.) to up your style quotient and keep things more interesting. I’ll go into more detail about how to select each group below.

capsule wardrobe challenge

Have you ever tried a capsule wardrobe challenge like the four-by-four wardrobe?

This type of wardrobe capsule can be helpful in a variety of ways. One could create separate four-by-four capsules for each season to either serve as a full wardrobe (for true minimalists) or as the foundation for a larger, more cohesive collection. Another great way to use the four-by-four wardrobe is for travel, as most of us could dress quite well with sixteen garments for even a lengthy excursion. Even if you don’t have a trip planned in the near future, taking the time to compile a couple of four-by-four capsules (i.e., for potential summer and winter vacations) could make it easier to pack for your next getaway.

There are lots of examples of the “four-by-four wardrobe” on The Vivienne Files website, and the concept has seen several evolutions over the years. The blogger has even used this capsule creation method to pull together multiple Project 333 wardrobes (selecting 33 items instead of just 16), which I may also opt to try and post about in the future (you can check out my previous adventures with the Project 333 minimalist fashion challenge HERE).

Now that I’ve told you a little bit about what the four-by-four wardrobe is, let’s move on to my first capsule compilation of this nature. Since the weather is still pretty cool where I am and likely will be for another month or so (hello, “May Gray” and “June Gloom”), I’m going to start off with a “not summer” capsule. However, I plan to revisit this concept in a month or so for my summer wardrobe (and it’s likely that I’ll take some sort of trip during that season so I can better test out the capsule that I pull together).

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As I wrote about in my last post, I recently completed a closet reorganization. I separated out my summer tops into three distinct sections: “standalone” tops, tops that I only feel comfortable wearing with an accompanying topper, and tops that are designated as workout or lounge wear only. My goal is to eventually eliminate the second category by means of attrition, as well as no longer purchasing tops that I don’t want to wear on their own. Additionally, I’d like the majority of the tops I buy from this point forward to be “crossover” pieces that can be worn for a variety of occasions.

Rearranging my closet alerted me to another wardrobe issue beyond my owning too many tops that I’m only comfortable wearing with a sweater or jacket over them. In today’s post, I’ll share what that issue is, why I think it happened, and what I plan to do about it. I never thought I’d learn so much from a simple closet reorganization, but I hope my lessons will also be helpful to some of you.

My Love Affair with Black Clothing

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you probably know that I love to wear black clothing. Not only is black versatile and slimming, it also suits my cool complexion and my personal style aesthetic. Black pieces are often in line with my style guideposts of “dramatic, polished, and elegant,” and they also add a bit of “edge” to my outfits.


I love to wear black, but there CAN be too much of a good thing… 

Those are all good points in favor of my owning a lot of black items. But no matter how much I love black, there can be too much of a good thing. Rearranging my tops really highlighted the fact that there are just too many black ones in the mix. While this can also be said about my black pants and black toppers, I’m only going to focus on my warm weather tops today to keep things simple – and also because this topic follows on nicely from my last post. I’ll likely dedicate future essays to those other sections of my wardrobe.

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