Just about a year ago, I debriefed my fall 2018 capsule wardrobe challenge and shared my wardrobe goals for 2019. Today’s post was originally going to be solely focused on reviewing my 2019 wardrobe, shopping, and style goals in preparation for my 2020 goals in those areas. But after I reviewed my January 31, 2019 post, I thought that it would be helpful – and hopefully interesting to you – to reflect upon the state of my wardrobe a year following my last capsule wardrobe challenge.
Why am I doing this? Well, I’m still trying to reduce the size of my wardrobe by half, so I think it would be beneficial for me to better understand what pieces in my closet have stood the test of time. Anything that is still being worn regularly over a year later is definitely a “keeper.” Also, since my fall 2018 challenge straddled both the warm and cool seasons where I live, most of my favorite wardrobe pieces were likely included in my “out and about” and at-home capsules at some point (I allowed myself the opportunity to swap out items as the weather shifted to cooler temperatures). This fact will enable me to see what colors, styles, and silhouettes should be in the smaller wardrobe that I plan to carry forward in 2020 and beyond.
In today’s post, I’ll let you in on what I still have today, what has been passed on, and how I utilized the key lessons that I learned from that challenge. I’ll finish this review by reflecting on how I did with my 2019 wardrobe goals. In my next post, I’ll move on to my style focus and goals for this year, including what I’d like to buy – and not buy – and what I’d like my wardrobe to look like at year’s end.
About My Fall 2018 Capsule Wardrobe Challenge
When I did my fall 2018 capsule wardrobe challenge, I got dressed using two separate 30-item capsules that I compiled as I went along. When I wore my “out and about” and at-home pieces, I added those garments to the appropriate capsule until I reached thirty items in each. I allowed myself to swap some items out of my capsules during the challenge as needed for either weather or style-related reasons (you can read more about the challenge rules here). I didn’t limit the number of shoes and accessories that I wore during the challenge, but I did keep track of the items in those categories and how often everything was worn.
It turns out that even though I purged a lot of items from my closet during 2019, I still have the majority of the items that I included in my two capsules back in late 2018. Below I review what still remains in my wardrobe today and what has been passed on.
“Out and About” Capsule – What I Still Have
I ended the challenge with 31 items in my “out and about” capsule instead of 30, as I had difficulty deciding which of my two burgundy cardigans to include. I actually still own 29 of my capsule items, as shown below:
Many of the above items have been in my wardrobe for far longer than fall 2018 and even some of the newer pieces are similar to things that I used to have in my closet but passed along because they were worn out. Although my style preferences have shifted in some ways, what I like has remained fairly consistent. It has often been when I’ve tried to deviate too much from the “tried and true” that I have made purchasing mistakes. When I stay true to what I like to wear – which is quite simple and streamlined, I make fewer mistakes and am happier with my outfits and my overall wardrobe. This is actually one of the biggest lessons I learned from reviewing my fall 2018 capsule challenge (more lessons below).
“Out and About Capsule” – Purged and Swapped Items
I purged the following two items from my final “out and about” capsule, both of which I believe were worn just once or twice anyway during the challenge. I let them go because I didn’t feel great in either of them. They were both fussy and didn’t fit and flatter my body as desired. I only want to keep garments that fit me well and that I feel good wearing.
Of the fourteen items that I swapped out for either weather or style-related reasons, only eight remain in my wardrobe:
However, of the eight items shown above, four (three pairs of pants and the coat) are currently in my holding zone and will likely be purged as part of my “half project.” I still really like the four pairs of loose-fitting pants, but the full-length trousers at the bottom left are a bit too short. The printed tee is mostly an at-home item these days, but I still use it as a layering piece on occasion. The two pairs of more fitted Capri pants are somewhat too tight on me and the length is a bit short (see a pattern here?). I also think I may have moved on from that type of style, which I wore a lot a few summers ago. I still like the knit coat, but it doesn’t look good from the back at my current weight (I’ve had it since 2008 and it has been worn well over a hundred times!). Since I have a lot of black toppers that I like, I don’t really need that one anymore.
I already purged the following six items that were swapped out for either weather or style reasons. While the long cardigan and striped top are still in line with my style preferences, the top was fussy and I didn’t like the feel of the cardigan (scratchy fabric). Both were consignment purchases, which have often been fails for me. Since I’m hard to fit and sensitive to fragrances (odors from perfumes, laundry detergent, and fabric softeners often linger even after multiple washings), I’m mostly steering away from secondhand shopping now and focusing on buying less as my way of being more sustainable with my wardrobe.
The cold-shoulder tee was the only such item that I purchased during that trend and it received a decent amount of wear (but didn’t reach the thirty wears benchmark). I’m glad I took a “one and done” approach there and was able to enjoy a trend without a lot of closet waste. Note to self to keep that in mind for future trends that I want to try (and don’t think will last long).
I don’t know why I bought the olive pants, as that’s not usually a color that I wear. Although I could have paired them with black, I also didn’t love the stiff fabric and wide waistband. Fortunately, they weren’t very expensive. I wore the long black tank (another consignment purchase) quite a bit, but wasn’t feeling it anymore. The mid-length cardigan was an ill-advised purchase, as it just didn’t hit me in the best spot and I didn’t feel that it was flattering. Because I’m tall, hemlines on tops and toppers are often too short on me, just as they are for pants and sleeves. I didn’t used to be as attentive to the lengths of my tops and toppers, but that led to mistakes, so now I’m being a lot more mindful of that issue.
“Out and About” Shoes and Accessories
In regards to the shoes and accessories that I wore during my fall 2018 capsule challenge, I still own almost all of them. I continue to wear the seven shoes from the capsule and the pewter handbag remains a favorite. It’s possible, however, that I will pass on the black bag (yet another consignment buy), as it has almost no structure and I prefer a bag with more substance to it (that will stand up on its own). I also have several black handbags that I like better. As an aside, I wanted to mention that I was able to get a lot more wears out of the sandals at the top left by painting the buckles with silver nail polish. I much prefer silver to gold hardware, and the gold was holding me back from wearing the sandals all that often.
Of the thirty-five accessories (hats, scarves, and jewelry) that I wore during my fall 2018 challenge, I still own thirty-four. The only item that was passed on was the necklace in the second row, which was a gift from a family member that wasn’t really my style and was very similar to another necklace I own and prefer. A few of the pieces pictured aren’t being worn much these days and may be passed on, but most of them are still in line with my aesthetic and are worn regularly. I’m not currently wearing watches because I’m using a Fitbit (a 2019 birthday present), but I suspect that won’t always be the case. I still like all of my watches, so I’m going to hold on to them.
At Home Capsule
Since I spend so much of my time at home and going for walks (and sometimes to the gym), I decided to also compile a thirty-item capsule for that purpose. While I didn’t have photos of all thirty items, I pictured twenty-six of them in my capsule challenge recap a year ago. I still have twenty-two of those items, as shown below:
A few of the tops are showing serious signs of wear and the walking shoes have been replaced by an identical pair that I found on eBay (good thing I thought to check there!). The black parka will likely be moved on soon, as it’s a bit snug-fitting and was replaced with a new version during my trip to Tahoe last October. I have a tendency to replace items and still hold on to the older versions, which often doesn’t make good sense and contributes to an oversized wardrobe. Of course, if the old item still has some life left in it and I still like it, I may want to continue to wear it sometimes, even if that is technically “splitting my wears.” But since this jacket is snug when zipped and has been worn probably hundreds of times since I bought it in 2011, I think I’ll pass it on, as I’m covered for my trips to Tahoe and other cold places (and colder days at home, as has been the case recently).
Of the seven at-home items that I swapped out at some point during the challenge, four remain in my closet – the cobalt anorak and the three tops in the bottom row.
I wore two of the tops (bottom middle and right) a number of times last summer for casual out and about wear, as they work well with some of my summer pants. I’m now wearing the pink top again for workouts, as it fits me better after some weight loss. The blue anorak is mostly a spring and fall item since it’s quite thin. Unfortunately, even though I altered the black and white stripe top, I still didn’t love it, so I passed it on (note to self not to throw good money after bad with alterations!). I also purged the two gray items because I think that gray washes me out now with my fair skin and gray hair. I thought that maybe I’d like gray more after my hair color transition, but that’s not the case. However, I do enjoy wearing red and pink a lot more than I used to when I had dyed auburn hair, so it all evens out.
An Update on My Lessons Learned
During and after my fall 2018 capsule wardrobe challenge, I recapped my lessons learned (scroll to the second half of the post) related to my wardrobe and style preferences. Of course, lessons are only really useful if we implement changes as a result of our insights, which I haven’t done in all instances. Included below are the key lessons I learned from doing the challenge, along with what I’ve already done in response to what I learned – or intend to do this year.
One reason why I want to re-read all of my Full Life Reflections posts this year (one of my “20 for 2020” goals) is to make sure I’m applying my insights toward making positive changes in my life. Because I usually just keep moving on with new posts and don’t reflect back often, I find that I continue to be challenged in similar ways in my life – and with my wardrobe. Although I did make some positive shifts with my wardrobe last year, I also continued to make some of the same mistakes that I’ve made for years. It’s my hope that by reviewing old posts and doing summaries and updates like I’m doing today, I’ll be able to take more positive steps forward.
The Importance of Bottom Pieces
As I mentioned in my January 31, 2019 post, the majority of my outfit issues relate to my bottom pieces. I have a lot of problems with pants being too short, as well as too tight in the hips and thighs. I like to wear at least somewhat of a heel because I like the look and the slimming effect, but a lot of my pants are too short to wear with heels. Even long or tall versions of pants are often too short for me! I’m only 5’10”, but I have a short torso and very long limbs. This makes shopping for pants very challenging…
Because of my height, I probably only have 10% of the selection that average height women have for pants. Additionally, I’m not a fan of the super high-rise pants that are on trend at the moment, as I’m short-waisted and suffer from a lot of abdominal pain and bloating. My shape makes it even harder for me to find pants, as pants that are listed as “slouchy” and boyfriend styles are usually still tight in my hips and thighs. I don’t need a lot of pants, but I do need a few that are actually slouchy, comfortable, and long enough for me to wear with my preferred shoes.
I made some good progress with my warm weather bottom pieces last year, as I picked up a few more pairs of cropped pants and a few great sleeveless dresses last summer (dresses are technically a bottom piece). I’m now quite happy with my warm-weather bottom pieces, but my cool weather bottoms still leave to be desired. I didn’t make finding great full-length pants and jeans enough of a priority last year, but this year it’s my primary focus. I’m going to keep looking until I find what I want, even if I have to order (most tall pants are only available online) and return a lot of items.
I shudder to think of the environmental impact of so many orders (fortunately, I’m able to handle most of my returns in store, so things are only being shipped one way), but I don’t have much choice. Online reviews can be helpful, but it’s usually a matter of trial and error and I’m going to be picky and wait to find what I’m really looking for. I do have one pair of jeans now that is a great length for my boots, but the others are marginal (although helped by stretching them when wet to gain up to an extra inch). I purchased a pair of lower-heeled boots last month and I’m also wearing an older pair that I hadn’t worn for a while. The extra pant length I’ve gained from the lower shoes (I don’t really like the look of true flats on me) has been helpful. This will be the year that I get my pants wardrobe to a much better place!
Too Many Similar Items
Sadly, this remains an issue for me, but I’m working on it. I have a lot of black tops and toppers, but I enjoy wearing black much of the time. However, I only want to keep the black garments that I actually love wearing and I definitely don’t want to purchase more such pieces. I rearranged my closet so that all of my solid pieces are hung together and all of my printed items are hung together. This has helped me to see that I have far too many solid black tops! While there’s variety there in terms of sleeve length, necklines, and fabrics, it’s still overkill. My plan is to pare down these categories and not add to them this year.
I also want to buy a few jackets to offset the large number of cardigans in my closet. I love my cardigans, but even though the colors and prints are different, I can still end up looking much the same when I continually repeat my silhouettes. I’d like to mix it up a bit more moving forward, but a little will go a long way. Since I have an out and about item limit of 36 pieces for this year (see my last post on 2020 goals) and I’m focusing more on bottoms than tops and toppers, I plan to select maybe two or three new jackets in alternate silhouettes to add to my wardrobe.
I also want to mention that even though bottoms are a priority for me this year, I don’t plan to buy that many. I do hope to find three to five pairs of pants/jeans that I love, as well as a few pairs of non-black shoes, but I’m going to be shopping my closet more than the stores this year. I will share my shopping priorities list for 2020 in my next post.
A Lack of Colorful Toppers
I made it a point to add some colorful toppers to my wardrobe last year since I missed the ones I had passed on (they were all either worn out or too snug), but I went overboard and made a few costly mistakes. I’m hoping to resell the mistake coats soon, but I now have two bright-colored coats that I love, as well as one that I hope to wear more often now that I had a ruffle detail removed that I didn’t like so much. Here are a couple of pictures of me from last year in my favorite colorful coats:
Looking back, I realize that it would have been best to buy just one colorful coat and integrate it into my wardrobe before buying another. Just because I used to love wearing such coats, it didn’t mean that I would feel that same again last year. Also, I bought all of the coats in “final sale” situations, either on resales sites like eBay or Poshmark or at an end of the season sample sale (Cabi), so there was little margin for error. In the future, I plan to “slow my roll” when I get excited about a particular wardrobe category, as well as buy in lower-risk situations, even though I may have to pay more. By trying to find deals, I ended up wasting more money than I would have if I had bought one thing at a time at retail.
Wardrobe Favorites Wearing Out
In my fall 2018 challenge recap post, I mentioned three frequently worn items (two pairs of shoes and a topper) that were becoming worn out and needed to be replaced. Fortunately, I’ve been able to replace all three, although not with the exact items. While the exact topper was still available, I opted to purchase more of a duster style instead. I was lucky to find very similar sandals on eBay for a very low price, and I finally replaced my black ankle boots last month (those were the lower-heeled shoes that I mentioned above).
I think it can be prudent to replace our wardrobe favorites if they’re worn out and we’re still excited to wear them. Not too surprisingly, all three of my worn out items were black. Since black items are worn more frequently than anything else in my closet, it made sense for me to replace my favorite black cardigan, sandals, and boots (but I don’t plan to add more black items, as I stated above).
Recapping My 2019 Wardrobe Goals
I didn’t set a lot of wardrobe goals for myself last year, which may or may not have been a problem for me. I did set one big intention, however, that I failed miserably with. I also listed some priority items that I wanted to purchase last year. Below I recap how I did with my primary goal and my shopping priorities.
Decreasing the Churn
In my January 31, 2019 post, I stated that I wanted to decrease the “churn” and make fewer and more strategic purchases. Although I improved considerably in that regard later in the year, I still brought too many items into my wardrobe and also purged a number of pieces. Yes, it’s good to purge pieces that we’re not wearing, but this effort must be combined by a similar effort to buy less or else the churn will continue.
I created my wardrobe “half project” because I’m tired of having too many items in my closet, and I’m progressing well with this challenge (I will do an update on it soon – last update here). I also set an “out and about” item purchase limit of 36 pieces (clothing and shoes) for this year. I know that may still sound like a lot to some of you, but it would represent a big improvement for me and I can work from there to potentially buy less in following years.
However, I think that it’s reasonable to replace roughly a quarter to a third of our wardrobe pieces each year, though, as things don’t seem to last as long these days despite how good we may care for them. If I reach and maintain my goal of 118 to 137 items in my “out and about” wardrobe (to see how I came up with these numbers, check out this post and the second half of this one), replacing a third to a fourth of those items on a yearly basis translates to 30-46 items, so my goal of 36 is right on target.
If I’m intentional and selective about what I buy and make few mistakes, I should be able to adhere to my purchase goal, waste less, and maintain a workable and appropriate-sized wardrobe (I also plan to limit my at-home purchases, but since overbuying there hasn’t typically been a problem, I haven’t set an actual item limit). I have every intention of meeting this goal, but being accountable about it here on the blog should help to improve my chances of meeting it. After all, I was able to stick to my clothing budget for the first time ever from 2013-2016 because I was accountable regarding my purchases on Recovering Shopaholic. I didn’t do as well in the ensuing years, which is part of why I have opted to be accountable on the blog again now.
2019 Shopping Priorities List
I listed eighteen items that I hoped to purchase during 2019 (see the bottom of this post). Even though I didn’t reference my list nearly often enough, I still ended up buying twelve of those items over the course of the year. Unfortunately, however, I didn’t buy some of the more important items, including black jeans and dark-wash jeans that are long enough to wear with a 1-2” heel. I also didn’t buy the gray or pewter booties which would have added some nice variety to my cold weather outfits. These items, as well as a number of others, will be on my 2020 shopping priorities list, which I will share in my next post.
I plan to create this year’s shopping priorities list in Google Docs so that I can access it from all of my devices. I will also use either Pinterest or a similar method to keep track of items to potentially buy. I definitely plan to use the “power pause” to slow down my purchasing and make sure that I’m making good choices. Of course, I can return most things I buy if they don’t work out, but I want to ensure that I’m being intentional with my purchases and not just getting excited for “good deals” or being swayed by a feeling of FOMO or scarcity (which is often just manufactured by retailers to try to get us to buy).
Conclusion and Your Thoughts
Well, I didn’t expect this post to get as long as it did, so that’s why I’m going to share my 2020 wardrobe, shopping, and style goals in a follow-on entry. I hope you found this post interesting and not just tedious! I’m glad I went back to review my fall 2018 capsule challenge, as I’m about to take another pass through my wardrobe to see what I’m ready to purge. I still have both a holding zone and a “skinny box” (items that don’t currently fit me), but both of those categories continue to decrease.
I always like to end my posts by inviting readers to comment on their own situation. I know that most of you probably haven’t done capsule wardrobe challenges, but if you take a bit of time to peruse your closet, you likely have some idea of which items have stood the test of time. Most of us have “tried and true” colors, styles, and silhouettes that we continue to wear year after year. That’s definitely true for me, as the review of my capsule wardrobe challenge from over a year ago shows. Here are a few questions to spark your thoughts, but feel free to comment however you’d like on the contents of this post:
- Have you ever participated in a capsule wardrobe challenge like Project 333 or The “30 for 30” Remix Challenge (or taken a long trip during which you were limited to a small cross-section of your wardrobe)?
- If so, what did you learn about your wardrobe and style preferences from dressing with less for a period of time?
- What types of garments, shoes, and accessories have stood the test of time in your closet?
- What types of items have you purchased that ended up becoming wardrobe “benchwarmers” and why?
I look forward to reading your thoughts and insights. Have a wonderful weekend and I will be back next week with my 2020 wardrobe and style goals.