My Wardrobe, Myself

The intersection of clothing, emotions, and life

At the beginning of April, I took on a wardrobe challenge to help me better understand what an “essential wardrobe” is for me and how I can reach that desired goal. My April 6th post outlines the specifics of the challenge, which I completed this week, but here’s a brief synopsis:

  • My challenge was a modified version of the “30 for 30 Remix,” originally created by Kendi Skeen of the blog Kendi Everyday.
  • I set out to create two 30-piece capsules, one for my “out and about” wardrobe and one for my at-home wardrobe. However, instead of selecting my capsule pieces before starting the challenge, I built the capsules organically as I went along.
  • As I wore closet pieces, I added them to the appropriate lists and continued on until I reached roughly 30 items in each capsule. I also cordoned off two distinct sections in my closet to contain my two “30 for 30” capsules.
  • The challenge continued until I wore 30 “out and about” outfits. I originally thought I would just do 20 outfits because I only wear such ensembles three or four days a week, but I ultimately decided to honor the spirit of the challenge and continue on until I reached thirty.
  • During the course of the challenge, I tracked how often I wore the items in both of my capsules, as well as captured notes about my outfits and how I felt wearing them (sort of like the “outfit journal” I kept for three years).

On Wednesday, I wore my 30th “out and about” outfit, so it took me roughly a month and a half to finish the challenge. While that may seem like a long time, I know it would have been at least a week or two longer had I not taken a ten-day trip to Lake Tahoe, during which I wore “out and about” outfits every day but one. In today’s post, I’ll share information about my wardrobe capsules, some wear statistics, and what I learned from taking on the challenge.

The Capsules

Here’s a snapshot of my two wardrobe capsules hanging up in my closet. The “out and about” capsule is on the left and the at-home capsule starts with the light green t-shirt to the right of the pants. Coats, jackets, and sleepwear items are not shown in this picture, but many of those pieces are included in the other images below.

30 for 30 capsules

As you can see, there are a lot of neutral pieces in my capsules, particularly in my “out and about” collection. Although I do like to wear color, neutrals form the “backbone” of my wardrobe, especially black and black prints.

Now let’s look at some of the specifics about my capsules…

“Out and About” Capsule

Both of my capsules ended up being slightly larger than 30 pieces, which is okay because the challenge is more about increasing awareness than adhering to hard and fast rules. Towards the end of April, I took a ten-day trip to Lake Tahoe, which is typically cooler than San Diego (where I live) this time of year, so I added several warmer weight tops to my capsule for the trip.

Here’s a breakdown of the item types I included in my “out and about” capsule:

  • Sleeveless/Short-Sleeved Tops: 4
  • Long-Sleeved Tops: 12
  • Toppers (mostly cardigans): 8
  • Jeans: 2
  • Pants: 3
  • Shoes: 3

Below is a picture of all of the items in my “out and about” capsule.

out and about 30 for 30 capsule

I included these 32 items in my “out and about” 30 for 30 capsule

I wore most of the items in this capsule at least twice, but many of them were worn far more often than that. Only three items were worn just once (a long-sleeved top and two cardigans), although I wished I had packed one of these pieces (a burgundy cardigan) for my Tahoe trip, as I found myself missing it.

The “All-Stars”

There were five “all-stars” in the capsule that were worn at least nine times:

out and about all-stars

I wore these five items at least 9 times during the challenge. 

  • Black Athleta wrap: 10 times
  • Black peep-toe booties: 9 times
  • Black Ecco booties: 18 times
  • Dark-wash straight-leg jeans: 11 times
  • Mid-wash straight-leg jeans: 13 times

I didn’t mind repeating these items so many times, although I did wish I had more closed-toe shoes during my Tahoe trip, as I pretty much only wore the black Ecco booties while I was there. In San Diego, we can wear open and peep-toe shoes most of the year, but it would be helpful for me to add more closed-toe options to my shoe wardrobe for the coming fall/winter season.

At-Home Capsule

My at-home capsule consisted of 34 items, including sleepwear, workout clothes, and loungewear. Here’s a breakdown by category, followed by a photo of many of the items in the capsule (I don’t have photos of all of them):

  • Short-Sleeved Tops: 17
  • Long-Sleeved Tops:  1
  • Toppers (robes, jackets): 7
  • Pants: 6
  • Shoes: 3
at-home 30 for 30 capsule

These were some of the pieces in my at-home 30 for 30 capsule.

The “All-Stars”

As I would have expected, I had a much higher number of “all-stars” in my at-home capsule than in my “out and about” capsule. However, what I did not expect was how many times these items would be worn in a roughly 1.5 month timeframe. That number was far higher than I would have anticipated! Shown below are some of my at-home capsule “all-stars” (I don’t have pictures of all of them), each of which was worn at least five times, followed by the actual wear numbers.

at-home all-stars

These were some of the at-home pieces that I wore most often.

  • Black bootie slippers: 46 times (daily)
  • Purple ombre Barefoot Dreams cardigan (usually worn as a robe): 41 times
  • Black cropped lounge pants (not shown): 31 times
  • Black GapFit athletic pants: 28 times
  • Black J.Jill lounge pants: 28 times
  • Black Ghost 10 sneakers: 24 times
  • Magenta space-dye GapFit top: 22 times
  • Black Ghost 9 sneakers (old – worn for at-home workouts): 21 times
  • Blue “Girls Just Wanna Drink Coffee” nightshirt (not shown): 21 times
  • Cream print pajama pants: 21 times
  • Burgundy Lake Tahoe t-shirt (not shown – worn as sleepwear): 20 times
  • Pink print pajama pants: 20 times
  • Black Athleta responsible down jacket: 16 times
  • Black Barefoot Dreams cardigan (usually worn as a robe): 15 times
  • Burgundy Eddie Bauer workout tee (not shown): 13 times
  • Black pleated-back athletic jacket: 12 times
  • Green Eddie Bauer workout tee (not shown): 11 times
  • Black Old Navy athletic pants (not shown): 10 times
  • Gray “Live Happy” t-shirt: 7 times
  • Black Eddie Bauer parka: 7 times (all on Tahoe trip)
  • Gray Columbia graphic tee: 5 times

Just 13 of my 34 at-home capsule items were worn fewer than five times. Eight tops were worn two to four times and five other pieces (two jackets and three tops) were only worn once.

Accessory Capsule

Although I did not challenge myself to limit the number of accessories I wore during my “30 for 30,” I did keep track of which pieces I wore.  Interestingly, when I tallied up the numbers, I found that I wore 32 different accessories during the challenge, which is almost the exact same number of items included in my two wardrobe capsules. Below is a picture of many of the accessories I wore (as with my at-home pieces, I don’t have photos of all of them), as well as a by-item breakdown.

  • Watches: 3
  • Bracelets: 6
  • Necklaces: 8
  • Earrings: 12
  • Scarves: 3
30 for 30 accessories

These were many of the accessories I wore during my 30 for 30 challenge. 

It doesn’t really surprise me that I seem to need the most variety with the earrings that I wear. The variety in necklaces is a bit surprising, but I have been embracing necklaces a lot more lately. I seem to go through phases in which I like wearing necklaces over scarves and vice versa. I guess necklaces are winning out as of late. It’s interesting to note that all of my necklaces are silver and many of them also include black.

The “All-Stars”

I wore 13 accessories (3 watches, 3 bracelets, 2 necklaces, and 5 pairs of earrings) at least three times during the challenge. As you can see, all of these items are neutral-toned.

all-star accessories

I wore these accessories at least three times during the challenge.

Six of the above items were worn at least five times. Here’s a close-up view and breakdown of those pieces:

ultra all-star accessories

These were the accessories I wore more often, at least five times each. 

  • Two-toned Movado watch: 19 times
  • Black Brighton bracelet with silver hearts: 11 times
  • Pewter Skagen watch: 6 times
  • Silver “donut” necklace on black cord: 6 times
  • Silver earrings with inlaid onyx: 7 times
  • Silver “snake” bracelet: 5 times

Although I didn’t track the number of times I used my handbags, I don’t tend to switch them out very often. During the course of my challenge, I carried only the two handbags below:

30 for 30 handbags

These were the two handbags I carried during the challenge. 

What I Learned

While all of the photos and statistics above may be interesting (I hope they were, anyway…), the real “meat and potatoes” of a challenge such as this one lies in the lessons learned. Challenges like the “30 for 30 Remix,” Project 333, and the like are geared toward increasing our awareness about our wardrobes and helping us to hone our style and shop smarter. Taking on a wardrobe challenge for a month or more can improve our understanding of what we wear, what we like, and what we need. After my challenge ended a few days ago, I reviewed all of my notes and jotted down the themes that kept coming up over and over again. Since I also traveled during my “30 for 30,” I made notes of how I could improve upon my packing the next time around.

I’m going to break down this portion of the post into the following areas:

  • What I missed from my closet (items that weren’t in the capsules)
  • What I wished I had but didn’t own (shopping list items)
  • How I would improve upon my packing for future trips
  • Other miscellaneous notes that don’t fit into the three above sections

What I Missed From My Closet

I’m glad that I decided to build my capsules as I went along, as I feel that made the challenge more relevant to my life and the types of clothes I truly wear and need. As I got dressed each day, I tried to wear things that I could see myself repeating over the next month or more – and preferably multiple times. It was sometimes difficult to select items, especially those that are overly represented in my closet. When I have a lot of similar pieces, as is the case for things like jeans, cardigans, t-shirts, and striped tops, I don’t always know which ones are my favorites. In some instances, I don’t really have favorites and instead have quite a few items that I feel just “okay” about and aren’t really excited to wear.

Although I was basically happy with what I wore during the challenge, I listed 14 items in my closet that I missed and wished I could have worn. These were all “out and about” items and four of them (two tunics, a sweater, and a pair of shoes) were purchased during April, which tends to be a bigger shopping month for me.  Pretty much all of the items I missed were tops, but I also noted one cardigan, two pairs of jeans, and one pair of shoes (the new ones). I definitely like to have more variety with my tops than bottoms and don’t mind wearing a small number of pants over and over again.  I only included five pairs of pants in my capsule, but would add another pair (a slimmer pair of jeans) to the mix if I were selecting my pieces again. I also would have liked to have had maybe two dressier tops in my capsule, but since I knew I would need casual and warmer tops for my trip, I saved some spaces for those items instead.

Here’s a look at the pieces I would have liked to have included in my “out and about” capsule:

wished-for closet items

I wished I had these closet items in my 30 for 30 capsule. 

Looking at the image above, I realize that I craved more color in my capsule. I was conservative in selecting a lot of neutrals and I do like to wear neutrals much of the time, but I also enjoy wearing colors with my black, black and white prints, and denim. Fortunately, my overall wardrobe (outside the capsule) includes plenty of color, so I don’t need to buy anything new based on this observation.

What I Missed But Didn’t Own

Many of the items I wished I owned were replacements for current wardrobe pieces that are either worn out or don’t fit as well as I’d like. With menopause, I have experienced some weight gain and bodily shifts that have resulted in some of my clothes not fitting as well as they once did.  Also, I haven’t been able to find some of the items I have wanted because they weren’t readily available. As one example, the trend for many years has been for very fitted pants, while I prefer pants that have more ease to them, as I experience a lot of water retention and pain as a result of my health issues. Because I couldn’t find the types of pants I wanted, especially in regards to workout and lounge wear, I have continued to wear my existing pants into the ground. The challenge really highlighted how often I actually wear these items and drove home the fact that I need to try harder to find those “diamonds in the rough” that will round out my wardrobe. Hopefully now that looser pant silhouettes seem to be coming back in style, I will have better luck.

As I mentioned above, I also need more closed-toe shoes and I need to replace my workhorse black boots soon. I also need to replace my black parka that has been worn probably 500 times at this point (!) and my cobalt coat that is too tight when buttoned. I still hope to drop some more weight with diet and lifestyle changes, but it’s unlikely that I will ever be as thin as I was back in 2015 before menopause kicked in, as I don’t want to starve myself or be on a perpetual diet.

Here’s what I listed as the items I don’t own but would have liked to include in my wardrobe capsules:

  • Looser-fitting jeans and pants (I currently have a lot of very fitted pants)
  • Printed and colored pants (I would like to add one of each)
  • A better cobalt cardigan (the one I have is too thin and not of high quality – not included in capsule)
  • Bright-colored coat (replacement for current cobalt coat that is too tight)
  • Replacement black parka (current one is worn out and a bit tight)
  • Metallic or gray booties
  • More closed-toe shoes, including replacement black boots
  • Better workout pants (the ones I have are very worn out)

The items above are top priorities on my shopping list, but some of them will likely have to wait until late summer when cool weather items are more readily available again.

How I Would Improve Upon My Packing

I have debriefed my trips to Lake Tahoe several times previously on Recovering Shopaholic (HERE, HERE, and HERE). Since this post is already quite lengthy, I won’t go into too much detail now, but I will share a few notes to help round out my “30 for 30” debrief and in case they may be beneficial to some readers. Below are some of the notes I made regarding what I packed and what I wished I would have packed for my recent Tahoe trip:

  • I wish I would have included a bright topper instead of all black toppers. I wore my black Athleta Pranayama wrap quite a few times on the trip, so it would have been great to have included my burgundy version as well (which was already part of my capsule). Having a bright topper would have increased my outfit variety and satisfaction.
  • I need to pack looser pants when I travel to Tahoe, as I experience more water retention due to the high elevation and my need to take a lot of ibuprofen to combat altitude migraines. I should consider buying a size up of maybe two of my current favorite pants to use for this purpose (and at home when I have more water retention as well). Comfortable pants when traveling are an absolute must! I also need a looser pair of non-athletic black pants for travel and at home. I mostly wore two pairs of jeans on my trip, as the black pants I brought felt too tight much of the time.
  • If I pack scarves (I brought three on my recent trip), I need to make sure I have better tops to wear with them. I packed three printed scarves and most of the tops I packed were also printed, so that didn’t work out so well (I sometimes do pattern mixing, but it didn’t work in this case). I could use another solid scarf or two, perhaps in cobalt, burgundy, purple, or turquoise.
  • Since I mostly wore my black parka as a topper and didn’t layer with cardigans like I often do at home (I couldn’t really layer because the parka is not roomy enough), it would have been good to pack more “standalone” tops that don’t need to be layered to look interesting.
  • Pack two pairs of closed-toe shoes in addition to my walking shoes. I got bored wearing my black Ecco boots every single day, but most of my shoes are open-toed or peep-toe. If I buy a pair of gray or metallic boots like I would like to do, I will include them on my next cool weather Tahoe trip.

Other Miscellaneous Notes

I made some additional notes in my challenge journal that didn’t fit into the categories above but are worth mentioning:

  • My current preference is for more fitted tops and looser bottoms. I have lots of fitted tops and relaxed tops, but most of my bottoms are fitted. Adding a few looser bottoms will give me a lot of additional outfit possibilities.
  • I prefer to wear heels over flats and my current “sweet spot” for heels is 1.5 to 2 inches.
  • Doing the challenge made me realize that I need more variety in terms of my cool weather shoes. Although I included three pairs of shoes in my “out and about” capsule, they were all black and I mostly wore the same two pairs over and over again. I would like to add two additional pairs of closed-toe, non-black shoes to my wardrobe before next fall if possible.
  • With my hair color change (gray hair transition), I’m starting to like and more easily be able to wear more muted colors. I never used to be able to wear pastels when I had high contrast coloring, but now I actually like the way I look in some lighter colors, particularly those in the blue, purple, and gray families. While I still love my black, cobalt, and burgundy, I will probably add some lighter-colored pieces to my wardrobe moving forward.
  • I prefer to include a “third piece” in my outfits, usually a topper of some sort, but a scarf can work as well. In fact, one note I made is that I would like to wear printed scarves with solid tops more often and that I need more solid tops that are fitted but not tight.
  • I need to come up with some alternate ways of wearing my hair when it’s humid and it “puffs” up, which it often does. My hair is currently layered and shorter than I’d like and that makes it “misbehave” more frequently. When my seemingly never-ending gray hair transition is done, I plan to go back to longer and mostly one-length hair, but in the meantime, I need some up-dos that I like and can fall back upon when necessary.


This post was longer and more detailed than I thought it would be, but I hope you found it interesting. I definitely benefitted greatly from doing my modified “30 for 30 Remix” challenge. It highlighted my need for better at-home wardrobe pieces and the fact that I should make replacing closet “workhorses” a top priority. I had no idea just how often such items get worn, but now I know… I need to specifically shop for these types of items and not leave them as an afterthought like I have often done in the past. I also need to focus more on looser and more comfortable bottoms, as that will significantly increase my wardrobe satisfaction and personal comfort and happiness.

I plan to do this type of challenge again in a few months with my warm weather wardrobe. In the interim, I may do another wardrobe challenge, possibly focusing on wearing all of my not yet worn new items. I also have some other challenges/experiments in mind that are not related to clothing and will likely be shorter in duration. Stay tuned…

As always, I welcome your comments on my posts. You can share your thoughts or questions on what I wrote above or relate your own experiences with “30 for 30,” Project 333 (see my past experiences with that challenge HERE), capsule wardrobes, or other types of clothing challenges.

16 thoughts on “Spring “Essential Wardrobe” Challenge Recap

  1. Wendy says:

    I’ve been trying to build a wardrobe with items that I can wear both going out and at home, with just a few exceptions. This means 90% of my wardrobe has to be very comfortable, durable and also stylish, with only 10% that I save for specific occasions. Instead of having 30 items for going out like I use to, I would like to only have 5 items (excluding coats and jackets). Ideally, the rest of my wardrobe would be interchangable between going out and staying in.

    I’ve had a strict divide between my going out clothes and at home clothes for years and the former always outweighs the latter by a land slide, which makes no sense for my lifestyle. I just couldn’t bring myself to wear my going out clothes on a daily basis and never seem to have enough at home clothes. The past year I’ve been particularly lazy about changing to go out and vice versa but was unhappy with what I had. I didn’t feel comfortable wearing my going out clothes at home because I felt the need to keep them in good shape so I just never wore them. I wasn’t happy going out in my stay at home clothes but I did it anyways because I didn’t want to change when I got home.

    So I knew what I had was simply not serving my needs and I really needed to have items that prioritzed my reality over my fantasy without sacrificing style. I’m about half way with my wardrobe re-vamp as I have to be really picky that each new item that comes in checks all the boxes 100% before I decide to keep it. So I have some wardrobe holes, like too few tops for transitional weather and not enough layering tops.

    My summer wardrobe is definitely in my ideal state more than my winter one, as it’s easier to find fabrics that are 100% cotton or linen. Winter tops are harder for me, 100% wool or cashmere are more high maintence than I would like and I really don’t like mixed synthetic fabrics. I’m trying to find thicker 100% fleece cotton knits or a natural mixed fibers that can be thrown in the washer and dryer. The search continues….

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts and process, Wendy. I really like your goal and what you’re doing with cultivating a wardrobe of interchangeable at home and going out clothes. I know it’s not easy and takes some work to find the right pieces that will do double duty. I resonated a lot with what you wrote in your second paragraph. Even though I have improved my crossover rate, there is still a lot of improvement to be made. I know it’s hard to find the right types of fabrics and styles, but it’s well worth doing. Best of luck with your continued search! I look forward to future updates from you.

  2. jenn says:

    I only recently discovered your books (LOVED), your former blog, and now this one. As someone continuously trying to get a handle on a closet full of clothing items that don’t always make sense, I found this latest post very interesting. I’ve been keeping track of the items I’m getting rid of and allowing myself to buy two new pieces for every three that I purge. But I like this idea…

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      Welcome, Jenn! I’m glad you have been enjoying my books and blog posts. I highly recommend taking on a wardrobe challenge of some sort, as that has been one of my most helpful processes in terms of paring down my wardrobe and honing my style. Keeping an outfit journal helped me tremendously as well. I think your idea to of two in, three out will help you get to where you want to be gradually without doing too much at once. Best wishes and I hope you will comment again.

  3. Claire says:

    Aw, thanks for sharing some of the new players and old favorites that are hanging out in your closet these days! It was fun to see the graphic tees – that happens to be the cornerstone of my wardrobe, if I took those out I’d have nothing to wear. I also have the perpetual pants challenge, as I’m sure I’ve mentioned before. About the close-toed shoes… are the burgundy booties still around? I remember admiring those and that you’d found them surprisingly versatile. Anyway, interesting stuff as always, hope you have some luck finding your needed pieces.

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      I love graphic tees, too, Claire. They’re great for adding some personality to a casual wardrobe. Yes, I still have the burgundy booties, but they work best with boot-cut or wider-legged pants and I don’t have many of those anymore. I need to determine which pants work with them, as it would be nice to start wearing them more again for some nice variety. I’m excited that wider pants are coming back around and I hope to add a couple of pairs to my wardrobe soon. Pants are SO challenging, but it’s well worth it when we find ones that work well for us.

  4. Terra says:

    I enjoyed reading your update. Wonderful progress and insights you are discovering. At the moment my at home wardrobe is tiny because I can’t seem to find what I need in order to replace older worn out items. I agree, good quality comfortable t-shirts are hard to find. Lately it’s nearly impossible to find my size in flattering colors.

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      I’m sure it’s hard for you to find tees, Terra, with all the vanity sizing that’s going on as of late. When I often wear a small, I wonder if there will be clothes that fit for the truly tiny people out there like you. I hope you will have better luck soon. I know that some European brands cut their clothes smaller, but I realize that you need petites, too. I know it’s challenging, especially when we have particular colors in mind. Patience pays off, but it’s not always easy!

  5. Irene says:

    Debbie, I bet I got my pj pants at the same place as you. Mine are all mammals and are a lot of fun. Irene

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      That may well be, Irene… I love my fun pajama bottoms and always get another pair or two each year 🙂

  6. Barb says:

    I love seeing an analysis post from you. I always learn something. My first thought in seeing your items was, “where’s the color?” I’m so glad that was the conclusion you saw too. One of the challenges of a curated wardrobe that works all together is that it can be repetitive. Outlier pieces that don’t work with everything else don’t have a place. But those pieces are needed to break up the routine. Congratulations on getting through this challenge and not shopping for missing pieces while in Tahoe!

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      I’m glad you liked this post, Barb. You’re very right about the need for those “outlier” pieces in a capsule wardrobe (and a wardrobe in general). Some people are fine with wearing all neutrals and basics all the time, but I definitely get bored! I did visit one thrift store in Tahoe trying to find a winter jacket/coat, but I didn’t have any luck. There aren’t a whole lot of places to shop there, but of course there’s always online… I’m glad I didn’t go there, though!

  7. kfegelman says:

    Hi Debbie – I always find your wardrobe analyses so interesting! I’ve been tracking my wears for the past three months and just posted my observations here: . I think there’s a lot to be said for observing what you naturally gravitate to versus artificially forcing yourself to wear more or less than you want to. There’s a lot to be learned that way!

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      How wonderful to “meet” another wardrobe statistics nerd! I’m impressed that you built your own web-based platform to do your tracking. I’m still pretty old school with my tracking, but I am open to doing it an easier way. I love the way the tracker lays everything out. I could totally see using something like that and I would be interested in trying it out myself. I don’t know if you read my previous blog, but I’m guessing you did from your comment. I used to track how many items I wore each month, too, but I did it in a more manual and labor-intensive way. Even so, I always learned a lot from my analyses, as I see you did as well. I share your thoughts about Project 333, which is why I have opted to do shorter challenges when I have taken them on more recently. I love your focus on sustainable fashion and I look forward to reading more of your posts. There was a guest post on “Recovering Shopaholic” back in 2016 that highlighted a “rolling capsule.” I thought you might be interested in reading it, if you haven’t already:

  8. kfegelman says:

    Thanks Debbie! Do let me know if you’d like to use my tracker. It wouldn’t be hard to set up another account for you to be able to log into. Yes, I definitely read your recovering shopaholic blog. Thanks for linking me back to the rolling capsule post. I’m sure I read it at the time, but it’s a good time to re-read it 🙂

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      I would love to try out your tracker! I’m definitely a numbers nerd just like you 🙂 I like to re-read some of my old posts, too, especially the great guest posts like the one on rolling capsules.

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