My Wardrobe, Myself

The intersection of clothing, emotions, and life

I hope my American readers enjoyed a happy Thanksgiving Day holiday yesterday. As I write this, it’s Black Friday and instead of battling the crowds in search of “amazing deals,” I’m at home writing a blog post. This is a much better use of my time and energy, especially in light of some of my recent posts about “closet churn,” wardrobe analysis, and clothing pare-downs.

Focusing More on What I Have

If it does not challenge you, it doesn't change you.

I decided that I needed to turn my focus away from what’s “out there” in all of the stores and online and toward what I have in my closet, so I’m doing another wardrobe challenge! If you’ve been reading for a while, you may remember that I did an “essential wardrobe” challenge back in April and May of this year.  My fall challenge is very similar to what I did earlier in the year, which is basically a hybrid of Project 333 and the “30 for 30 Remix,” with my own personal twist on things. Here’s a basic overview:

  • I will be dressing with 30-item capsules for both my “out and about” and at-home wardrobes for the months of November and December.
  • Instead of selecting my capsule items at the beginning of the challenge, I’m building them organically as I go, adding new pieces until I reach 30 items in each capsule.
  • Only clothing items are included in my capsules, but I’m also keeping track of my accessory pieces (shoes, jewelry, etc.) and how often I wear them.
  • I’m making a note of how often things are worn as well as keeping an outfit journal for my “out and about” ensembles, rating each outfit and jotting down what did and didn’t work and why.

New Challenge Rule

I’ve added a new rule to the challenge this time around regarding swapping items out of my capsules. Here’s how it works:

  • Probationary Items: If I have only worn something once during the challenge, I can opt to swap it out for another item, but then the original item goes “on probation.” At the end of the challenge, I will re-evaluate any probationary items to determine whether or not they should stay in my closet. This re-evaluation will include trying on new combinations using the item to see if I can make it work for me. Anything that is uncomfortable, fussy, or unflattering will be passed on for donation or consignment.
  • The Weather Clause: This swap rule doesn’t apply to items swapped out for weather-related reasons. I’m adding the weather caveat because November often starts out quite warm and becomes chillier as the days progress. If I still really love a particular item but it’s too cool to wear it, it doesn’t need to go on probation. Of course, if I can appropriately layer the item and keep it in the capsule, I will do that, but that won’t work for certain pieces like cropped pants that can only be worn with sandals, for example.

So far, I haven’t swapped anything out of my capsules, but I can see this happening during the second month of the challenge, especially due to the weather clause. I doubt I will have many probationary items, but I think there will be at least a few before the challenge is over. When I debrief the challenge in early 2019, I will tell you about any and all of these items, as well as my decisions about their ultimate fate.

My Out and About Capsule So Far

I started the challenge on November 1st. Usually a “30 for 30 Remix” involves remixing the same 30 items into 30 different outfits, but I’m going to stop the challenge at the end of the year even if I haven’t worn that many out and about outfits yet (I’m going to do something different in January, which I will be sure to write about as well). I only wear “regular clothes” three or four times per week on average and since I’ve only logged 11 such ensembles thus far, I may not reach the 30 outfit target by December 31st.  That doesn’t really matter, though, as I’m already learning some important things from this exploration. But before I get to those lessons, I want to give you a glimpse of my capsule items, starting with my out and about capsule.

As I’ve mentioned before, my life is very casual, so there are a lot of knit pieces in this capsule. I don’t wear a lot of woven items and I don’t have much need for dressier clothing. If you do a similar challenge, your capsules may look very different from mine, but the important thing is that we’re wearing clothing that is appropriate for our lifestyles and that we enjoy wearing.

Here are the 24 “out and about” items I’ve worn so far:

out and about capsule

This is my “out and about” wardrobe capsule as of November 23rd. 

In terms of accessories (which I’m not counting among the 30 items, but still tracking), I’ve worn seven pairs of shoes and 17 jewelry pieces, and I have carried just one purse. I don’t tend to swap out my purses very often, but I think it’s high time that I do so now, as I’ve been using the same bag for months. Here’s a look at the accessories I’ve worn thus far during the challenge:

shoe and bag capsule

I’ve worn 7 pairs of shoes and carried one purse so far in the challenge. 

jewelry capsule

These are the 17 jewelry pieces I’ve worn so far in my fall wardrobe challenge. 

My At-Home / Workout Capsule So Far

This capsule is slightly larger than the previous one – I have worn 26 at-home/workout items so far. Many of these items have been worn a number of times as well, as I wear these types of pieces every single day. Ten of these capsule items have only been worn once, however, so they could still potentially be swapped out for another item for either weather-related or other reasons.

Here’s a look at how this capsule is shaping up at this point (I don’t have photos of five of the items – one jacket, a pair of workout shorts, and three t-shirts):

at home wardrobe capsule

These are most of the items I’ve worn at home or to exercise this month. 

Lessons Learned

I always learn so much from the wardrobe challenges I take on, so I’m always glad I’ve done them. I’m sure that before this challenge is over, I will have more “nuggets” to share, but here’s what I’ve learned to date.

Color Preferences

I wear a lot of black, but the truth is that I’m completely fine with that. I feel good in black and I like the streamlined and minimalist nature of it. I also really enjoy black and white prints. Stripes are my signature print and I continue to love them, but I also like wearing other types of black and white prints, including polka dots and muted florals. Here’s a close-up of the non-stripe black and white pieces (well, one is more like an “alternate stripe”…) in my out and about capsule:

black and white non-striped items

I really enjoy wearing non-striped black and white items, as well as stripes. 

I do like to pair my solid black and black/white printed pieces with a bit of color occasionally, but I typically will stick to shades of blue or burgundy in those instances (I also like purple, but there isn’t any in my capsule yet).

out and about colored items

Although I wear a lot of black, I have also included some color in my out and about capsule. 

Interestingly, I have more color in my lounge/workout capsule, but I still mainly stick to the jewel tones, such as cobalt, red, purple, and teal.

color in my home and workout capsule

But there is a lot more color in my home and workout capsule.

In terms of shoes and bags, I stick with black and metallic tones, as you can see above. Although I do have a blue handbag and a few pairs of colored shoes in my closet, I haven’t been wearing them much lately. I may decide to infuse more color into that area of my wardrobe in the future, but for now I’m happy with my blacks and metallics.

Preferring Pants over Skirts and Dresses

Although I wore dresses quite a bit during the summer months, I have shied away from them this fall. I think part of this is because I prefer to wear dresses without toppers as much as possible because I like the look better that way. Additionally, the toppers I have to wear with dresses aren’t very warm. They’re fine for a cool summer evening, but don’t do a whole lot to keep me warm. I’m not much into wearing skirts at all anymore and I now greatly prefer dresses.

I keep saying that I want to wear dresses more in the cooler months and I would still like to do so, but I’ve had trouble finding long-sleeved and warmer-weight versions. I’m going to continue to keep my eyes open in that regard and I like the idea of pairing tall boots with a long-sleeved dress. However, until I find such pieces, I will continue to reserve my dresses for the summer and mostly wear pants the rest of the year.

Looser and Stretchy Pants for the Win!

I’m very happy that I made the effort to find some looser and forgiving pants styles this year, as I have enjoyed wearing them during the summer and into the fall. I love that I don’t have to maintain my weight within a three pound range in order to feel comfortable in these pants. I often struggle with water retention in my hips and thighs, so the ultra-fitted pants that have been the style for what seems like forever have been challenging for me to wear. I’m very happy wearing the pants below, especially the two printed pairs, which have added a lot of versatility to my wardrobe and pair nicely with my black and jewel-toned tops.

looser-fitting pants

I have been very grateful for the new looser-fitting pants I bought this year. 

The other pants in my capsule may not be loose, but they include a lot of stretch, so they are still comfortable and forgiving. I like wearing the more fitted – but stretchy – pants with some of my longer and looser tops and toppers. I like that I have some good variety in terms of silhouettes and fits in my “out and about” capsule, as that gives me more versatility with a relatively small number of items.

Planning for 2019

As I move into the cooler weather and planning for my purchases in 2019, I would like to buy another pair or two of printed pants, preferably full-length. I would also like to add a few additional pairs of looser-fitting pants to my closet. This will be easier now that such styles have come back into fashion, although I’m not a fan of the high-waists that are trendy at the moment (it’s always something!). Since I always need full-length pants and jeans in tall sizes, I’m sure I will still have a challenge on my hands, but I’ve realized that taking the time to find what I truly want and need is well worth the effort.

I’m sure I will start wearing long-sleeved tops and full-length pants more often soon as the weather cools off. I have plenty of long-sleeved tops that I love, as well as a lot of great toppers, but the bottoms portion of my wardrobe is still my biggest weakness. I’ve learned, though, that adding even one pair of great pants to my closet, such as the black printed cropped pants above, can increase my wardrobe happiness level dramatically. So my greatest priority for early 2019 shopping will be to enhance my pants collection. I have already scoped out some potential options, but I’m going to continue to make notes about what I find lacking in my closet.

Sometimes when I’m getting dressed, I think about what I wished I had that I could put on. Taking the time to jot these things down has helped me to see patterns, which enables me to better plan my future shopping. I have already used up all of my 2018 shopping budget, so I will take the remainder of the year to focus on remixing what I have and identifying a small number of items to help round out my wardrobe in 2019. I already have a relatively large wardrobe, so I want to be very targeted – and limited – in what I buy. Because I plan to buy less, I need to make my purchases really count. I will also be doing more wardrobe challenges to keep my focus on what I have more than on all of the temptations of what is in the stores. This won’t be easy, but it will be worthwhile.

Your Comments?

I will be back at the end of my fall wardrobe challenge to give a recap and more thoughts on what I’ve discovered, but now I’d love to get your feedback. Please feel free to chime in with any questions or insights from this post, as well as your own experiences with capsule challenges or any other type of wardrobe exploration. We all lead very different lives, but the bottom line is that our clothes need to work for us and support us in what we’re up to. Doing periodic wardrobe challenges can help us to better understand what we need and what we like, but we all have our individual ways of gleaning this information. I always enjoy reading about what does and doesn’t work for you, as well as what you’re learning as you endeavor to create your best version of a workable wardrobe.

Black Friday / Cyber Monday Sales

I look forward to reading your thoughts and I wish you a wonderful weekend. If you’re heading out to the Black Friday sales – or shopping online for Cyber Monday – and need some tips to help you along the way, below are some posts from me and others about smart shopping. These tips may also come in handy throughout December and into the after-Christmas sales season.

Black Friday sales

Sales Shopping Tips:

Online Shopping Guidelines:

12 thoughts on “Essential Wardrobe Fall Challenge

  1. Claire says:

    Oh I just love how your wardrobes are shaping up! This is such a fun challenge to read about (and try out), and also it just seems so “you”. 🙂

    I also love black and buy a good bit of it, which is convenient since it’s so available. My favorite neutral is grey, and I have nearly as much of that. I also favor black with white details or prints, like what you have, and also in graphic tees which are my signature. So I am feeling this collection you’ve got going on! My typical color pops are sort of the cool tone (even neon-y) yellows, blues/magentas, pinks/oranges, and also I use yellow-greens like olive (which match my eye color) as a neutral or as color, depending on what else I am wearing.

    As far as shopping, we are on a similar pant journey, as you know. Hope we both have some luck in the coming months. I am also focusing on comfy cotton items, as I seem to reach for those over and over no matter the season. My system is so sensitive I tend to get mini-hot flashes as my estrogen goes up and down in the normal course of my cycle, so basically all month long, and cotton is just always reliable for dealing with that. Certain blends can be ok (blends seem the most widely available in stores), but my best performers are usually, like, 100% cotton. And I sleep almost exclusively in cotton tees/tanks.

    You made a great point about how your color palette goes well with your new hair! Would love to see that if you feel like sharing pics eventually with your outfits/new hair. Hope you keep having fun with your closet til the end of the year. xo

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      I like graphic tees, too, Claire. I haven’t found as many that I like recently, but I’m always on the lookout for good ones, especially if they’re black and white. It sounds like our wardrobes have some things in common, but yellows and olive don’t look so good next to my face, especially with my hair change. Fingers crossed we will both have pants luck soon! I’m hoping that because looser fits are back in style, it will be easier, but I’m not really a fan of the higher waists that are currently fashionable. As for the hot flashes, I know all about those, but fortunately mine have lessened in intensity. I guess they can be considered “mini hot flashes” most of the time now… I like 100% cotton tees, too, and I also like when a bit of spandex is thrown in. Cotton to sleep in is great! I’m not sure if I will do outfit pictures on this blog, but I haven’t completely ruled it out. I will definitely share hair pictures once all of the color is finally gone, though. That will be a time for celebration!

  2. Di Collins says:

    Love reading about how your wardrobes challenges help you. You know your colours and preferences which sometimes is half the battle. It seems like our roles are reversed at the moment. You are capsuling and I am allowing myself free reign to find my unloved items. Currently I’m finding a few, read lots lol, of items that suit my preferred style in the stores but I’m aware that will change as the current trend swings to something else. The challenge will be staying strong and confident in my style when that happens. And I still need to stop finding so many darn sale items.

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      You’re so right, Di, that knowing our colors and preferences are half the battle. Interesting that you’re off of capsules now that I’m doing them! You did capsules for a long time and sometimes we need to switch things up from time to time. It’s good to identify our unloved items, as they can end up being “dead weight” in our closets. I remember times when I seemed to love pretty much everything in the stores and that is its own type of challenge. A bit challenge for me is not to settle for the current styles if they are not in line with my personal preferences. That can be difficult for a shopaholic, even a recovering one! I hear you about sale items! Sales used to just be a few times per year, but now they are most of the time. I wish you the best of luck with staying strong in the face of so much temptation.I get it!

  3. Tara C says:

    It was interesting to look at your capsule and notice how different our tastes are. Especially the shoes – I have so many wildly different colored shoes of totally different styles. I like a lot of color, even though I do like grey as my neutral. I like black too, but owning a little white dog precludes black clothing. I try to rotate my shoes and handbags regularly to use them all, but I’m sticking with a small set of jewelry because that’s what feels comfortable right now.

    It’s been a very tough year for spending due to many stresses, but I am doing a lot of soul-searching and strategizing to get myself back under control for 2019.

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      That’s cool that you have a lot of cool colored shoes and lots of color in your wardrobe, Tara. I have been there, too, and will probably embrace more color again in the future. I’m just going with what seems to work for me right now and challenges like this one make that clearer to me so that I (hopefully) make fewer shopping mistakes. I would like to rotate my handbags more, too, and I finally switched mine out the other day after writing this post. I don’t love a lot of my bags anymore, though, so I probably just need to pass some on. I know this has been a very difficult year for you and I hope 2019 will be a lot calmer. It’s good that you are doing soul-searching and strategizing, as that will help you get back on track. Best wishes to you and enjoy your little puppy!

  4. Katrina B says:

    Lovely capsule! I always enjoyed the versatility and reliability of black. I switched to navy and charcoal as my dark neutrals a few years ago, and promptly learned how difficult it is to find matching pieces. I remember I used to occasionally have trouble with different types of black, but this navy situation is ridiculous.

    I have never actively participated in a wardrobe challenge, but I think I have passively developed a capsule wardrobe by attrition. It’s a bit smaller in the winter months–about 30 items, not including jackets/coats. In the summer I generally cycle through a lot more clothes due to the temperature extremes, so I’d guess I have 40-50 summer items.

    This year’s Black Friday/Cyber Monday falls in the middle of my ongoing efforts to downsize my sewing room. As I spend days and weeks posting my beautiful fabrics on eBay and donating boxes and bags of supplies, I feel absolutely no temptation to buy anything at any price. I suppose being buried in excess (and debt) is one way of getting a clear view of the pointlessness of it all.

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      Yes, it’s a lot easier to have black as one’s primary neutral, Katrina. It seems that even if the blacks don’t match up perfectly, that’s more okay than it is with navies or grays. I guess the easiest way is to purchase items together or stick with a particular brand, but that’s not always ideal or even possible. It sounds like you have great working capsules for your seasons. It makes sense to have more items during summer when we need to change clothes more often and up our laundry frequency, too. You probably don’t have the type of wardrobe churn that I do, which is a very good thing! How wonderful that you aren’t feeling tempted to buy even with all of the sales going on. You’re right that the over-consumption is pointless! I often get very frustrated at myself for still having too much. Good for you for downsizing your sewing room. I’m sure it will feel quite gratifying to only have what you love and need in there. Someday I would like to learn to sew. It would make things a lot easier for me, especially when I’m not in love with the styles in the stores (and it would be great to make my own pants!).

  5. Jenn says:

    Thank you, Debbie. I needed… something. I’ve succumbed to temptation with too many of these Black Friday sales. The shipments are arriving, and it’s decision time–again. Such a time suck and not nearly the fun one would think it would be. Anyway, I started your wardrobe challenge two days ago and intend to share the rules with my mother and sister this weekend.

    I can’t wear black–at least by my face. I wish I could. My coloring is better suited for light to medium colors, more soft than bright, more cool than warm–something I usually (not always) remember when shopping. However, we do have the same tennis shoes. I’m wearing my “Ghost” tennies as I type. Love them.

    I’m always happy to see one of your posts show up in my inbox. Every single topic you write about is of interest to me. Thanks again.


    1. Debbie Roes says:

      I’m so glad that you enjoy my posts, Jenn, and I appreciate you’re letting me know. You’re not alone in succumbing to those Black Friday sales. They can be hard to resist. Although I didn’t go there this year, I still vividly remember the wasted time and energy on the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale when I ended up returning the lion’s share of what I bought. Ugh is what I say to that!

      I’m excited that you started this challenge and I hope you will share your experience when I do my recap post in either late December or early January (after I reach 30 out and about outfits or at year end). As for black, I was worried that maybe it wouldn’t suit me with my hair change, but it still works for me. I’m not loving as much saturated color as I used to, though, and I’m starting to like medium-toned colors a lot more than I used to. I’m pushing myself to try on colors that didn’t used to work on me because you never know… But I think I will always love my black! Very cool that we have the same Ghost tennies! I loved mine so much that when the last pair wore out, I bought the latest model. It’s wonderful to have happy feet 🙂

  6. Ginger says:

    I want you to take a moment and count your blessings that it’s November and you still have sandals in your active wardrobe. We’ve had 7 inches of rain this month and it’s been cool, so not only do I have on heavy shoes but I’m going through my drawers trying to find socks that match.

    I think your rolling challenge is a good idea and a novel way to make an in/out decision about items that are on the bubble for you.

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      Oh, I’m definitely grateful for the mild weather here, Ginger! One of my friends just moved here from upstate New York and she’s loving it, too. We could use some of that rain you’ve been having, though… I got the rolling challenge idea from Di Collins, who commented above (see her guest post on Recovering Shopaholic:, but my 30 for 30 just kind of evolved into that because starting it in November wasn’t really the best time. I meant to do it in September or October, but I didn’t get around to it. I actually like the way I’m doing it now because I think I may actually learn more this way. I’m already learning quite a bit and we’ll see how much I have to end up swapping out. I’m going to try to keep it to a minimum.

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