This past Sunday was my birthday, on which I turned fifty-five. The time sure does go by fast! I guess I need to incorporate more novelty into my life, as I wrote about in this 2019 post. The pandemic has resulted in a lot of “sameness” in many of our lives, that’s for sure… I’ll soon publish an essay outlining my feelings about my milestone birthday (the “speed limit” birthday, as my dad called it), but I thought I’d do a fun and lighthearted wardrobe-related post this week.
I decided to select my fifty-five favorite warm weather closet items and share photos and some thoughts about those pieces. This “collection” is mostly hypothetical in nature, as I still plan to wear other items this summer as well. However, I’ve often found that even just the process of making selections can teach us a lot about our wardrobes and how they are or aren’t working for us. This exercise was no different, and I learned quite a bit through the exercise of choosing my items.
As I often like to do, I conducted a bit of analysis about my selections, including colors and item types. While I share some of my analysis in today’s post, I reserve the rest of it for a “part two” that I’ll publish next week. In that follow-on post, I’ll expand upon my reasons for choosing the pieces in my “fifty-five collection” and also summarize what I learned from doing this exercise.
Included in my warm weather “capsule” are clothes, shoes, and purses. I decided to leave jewelry out this time around because even though I’ve pared that area of my wardrobe down considerably in recent years, I’d probably still need fifteen or more slots for those items alone. I may do a later post about my favorite jewelry pieces, though, as I really value the style boost those items add to my outfits.
In a few months, I’ll also share my fifty-five favorite cool weather closet items. I’m sure there will be some overlap between the two groups, as I’m fortunate to live in a temperate climate and don’t need completely different wardrobes for various times of the year. As I’ve mentioned previously, we really only have two seasons where I live: summer and “not summer” (which is more like spring or fall weather in most other locales). There are also quite a few unseasonably cool or hot days here throughout the year, so I like to keep my entire wardrobe hanging up in my closet at all times, although I do reorganize things to keep the current season’s items front and center as much as possible.
A Word about Numbers and Wardrobe Size…
I realize that some of you may have fewer than fifty-five total items in your warm weather wardrobe – or perhaps even in your entire wardrobe at large. If that’s the case, there wouldn’t be much value in your doing this exact exercise yourself. Of course, you could always select a smaller number to work with if you’d like to do this on your own. There’s nothing magic about any particular number, whether it be twenty-five, thirty-three (as in Project 333), fifty-five, or whatever.
In my case, I was just trying to defuse the power that the number fifty-five had in my mind by applying it to a fun exercise. There’s nothing like a little wardrobe “navel-gazing” to divert my attention away from the feeling that I’m getting old! Plus, I knew that I would learn something from selecting my favorite items, and that hopefully my reflections would be interesting to readers, too.
Although I’ve been striving to curate a smaller and more workable wardrobe over the years (and am doing better with this), I’ve never really strived to become a true minimalist when it comes to my clothes. I’ve definitely become a lot more minimalist in other areas of my life, but I continue to enjoy variety in what I wear. I don’t necessarily need as much variety as I still have, though!
I believe that doing exercises like the one I’m sharing today can help us make better choices in what we buy and what we decide to keep around. The more we know, the better we do, so hopefully this exercise will have value for the clothing minimalists, “maximalists,” and all those in between out there.
My Fifty-Five Items
It wasn’t as easy and straightforward for me to make my selections as I thought it would be. I’ll get into why I believe that was the case in my next post, but for now, let’s get to my “summer fifty-five.” Here’s a bird’s eye view of the items I have chosen:
The above collection is comprised of the following pieces, broken down by wardrobe categories:
- 5 Dresses
- 1 Skirt
- 6 Pairs of Pants (4 cropped, 2 full-length)
- 16 Tops for Pants (7 sleeveless, 16 short-sleeved)
- 5 Tops for Skirts (shorter lengths)
- 10 Toppers for Pants (longer lengths)
- 4 Toppers for Skirts and Dresses (shorter lengths)
- 6 Pairs of Shoes
- 2 Purses
In the sections below, I show pictures of the items in each category and share thoughts on why I made those particular selections for my hypothetical warm weather collection.
Five Dresses and One Skirt
I mentioned not long ago that I’ve been moving away from wearing skirts in recent years. In fact, the above black maxi-skirt is my last remaining skirt that I still like to wear. I also own three other skirts, but I will likely be passing them on soon (one is already designated to be listed for sale on Poshmark and eBay). If I could find a black mid-length skirt to add to my collection, I’d happily wear it with the same tops I pair with my black maxi-skirt, but I’m not sure I want to invest in any other skirts beyond that at this time.
The five dresses were all purchased in either 2019 or this year, and they’re all true to my current sense of style (as I outlined in this post). The pink print dress was a bit of a “wild card” purchase a couple of months ago, but I tried it on out of curiosity and found that I loved it. You know how when you put something on and pose a certain way in the mirror? A friend pointed that out to me once when we were shopping together. She said that she could tell whether or not I liked a particular garment by the way I smiled and kind of “twirled” a bit when admiring the item in the mirror.
Now I look for that “tell” myself when shopping alone (or when I try things on at home and decide whether to keep, return, or purge). All of the dresses shown above elicit that type of pose in me, so that’s why they’re included among my top items. It was actually kind of difficult to narrow down my dress selections and I probably could have added another two or three to the mix (I own twelve dresses total). The following are what I consider to be my “runner-up” dresses that I still like a lot but not as much as the ones I chose for my “fifty-five collection”:
Six Pairs of Pants
Yes, I own a lot of black pants, probably too many, but those have been the easiest types of pants for me to find given my fit challenges. I’m happy to have added the above two pairs of printed pants to my wardrobe, as well as the cognac pants that pair nicely with my black tops and toppers. I own a few other pairs of non-black lightweight pants (red, red/white print, and navy), but I don’t love those pants as much as the ones shown above, so I chose the pants that I’m most comfortable in and wear most often.
Pants are my most difficult items to fit, both because of my tall height and long legs, and as a result of my shape. Since I have fuller hips and thighs, even pants that are supposed to be “relaxed” tend to fit me snugly in those areas. I can’t really size up for a more relaxed fit because pants are often at least a bit baggy on me in the back (plus, I often have to have the waist taken in even on true to size pants and jeans).
I guess manufacturers expect most women who wear my size (usually size 8) to have a fuller rear end than I do… Gravity has taken its toll for me in that area, so it’s become more challenging for me to get a good fit with an attractive rear view. I can’t tell you how often I’ve loved the way a pair of pants looked in the front, only to feel quite disappointed when I saw them from behind. Tailoring can sometimes help, but it’s not always an easy fix when the problem is extra fabric right below one’s bottom.
The pants shown above are among the best-fitting that I own, and they represent a nice mix of casual and dressy options. I didn’t add any jeans, as I don’t typically wear jeans much during the summer months because I find them to be hot and constraining. Interestingly, I don’t currently own any pairs of black jeans, so that’s on my shopping priority list for the cooler months.
Sixteen Tops for Pants
There’s a lot of black in this grouping, too, but I feel there are enough prints and colors to keep things interesting. My favorite prints are black and white, but some other colors (such as blue and purple) are also included. I tend to wear short-sleeved tops more often than sleeveless tops, but I feel that I have a good mix of both types in my “fifty-five collection.”
In my collection of tops at large, I have more color than what is shown above, but my favorite tops tend to be black or include black within a print, as those usually read “dramatic, polished, and elegant,” which are my style guideposts (see this post for more on that topic). The two black tees may look almost the same in the thumbnails, but the second tee in the top row is more fitted and also includes a crisscross detail at the neckline that makes it less basic.
Five Tops for Skirts
I typically wear different tops with my pants and skirts, as I’m very short-waisted and don’t like the way I look with my tops tucked in. I feel like I look longer, leaner, and more well-proportioned with untucked tops, but I need to wear shorter tops with skirts in order to achieve the most flattering silhouette. I’ve gotten rid of many of the tops that I used to wear with skirts because I now prefer more of a “skimming” fit, rather than the snugger fit that I liked in my pre-menopausal days. I’ve also passed on almost all of my skirts for reasons related to fit and figure flattery, as well as a shift in my style preferences. Since I now own very few skirts and only one that I truly enjoy wearing, I’m keeping my collection of tops to pair with skirts very lean. The five tops above represent the best of the mix and offer a nice variety in terms of color and pattern.
Ten Toppers for Pants
Toppers are often where I incorporate more color into my outfits, which can sometimes be a problem when the weather is too hot for a “third piece.” I tend to run cold, though, so I wear cardigans frequently even during the summer, especially in the evenings. The black duster cardigan is lightweight and long enough to also be worn with dresses, so it can do “double-duty.” It’s a recent acquisition that will allow me to have a different look with dresses and skirts than the shorter tie-cardigans (pictured below) that I usually pair with them, while also working well with pants.
If you’ve been following me for a while, you know I love a good cardigan, often too much. My preferred silhouette is long and lean, and my cardigans often look more streamlined on me than in some of the stock photos above. I usually carry a cardigan with me even on warm summer days because I never know when I might need one, particularly if I’m going to be spending time indoors with air-conditioning. Some of my favorite colors are represented in the options I chose – red, cobalt, and teal. The light purple cardigan is new this year, and it’s a color that now works well with my natural hair color.
Four Toppers for Skirts and Dresses
I’ve owned all four of these tie-cardigans for over five years now. They’re usually what I wear with skirts and dresses when I either need a third layer or want to add more visual interest to my outfits (I also use jewelry for that purpose). I wear the blue and purple cardigans most often because so many of my pieces underneath (dresses, skirts, tops) tend to be black or other neutrals. One outfit formula that I really like is to wear all neutrals with one standout bright piece, and more often than not, my standout piece is the topper.
I still like the tie-cardigan silhouette, as it highlights my relatively slim waist and torso. However, I think I would now prefer for the cardigans to be a couple of inches longer, so I’ll be on the lookout for a few new options. I’m not as slim and toned as I used to be, so I think a longer length (but not too long) would be more flattering on me in terms of the rear view.
Six Pairs of Shoes
As I’ve mentioned in my recent shoe-related posts (like this one), I almost exclusively wear black and metallic footwear. That keeps things simpler for me, plus I like the look of black and cool-toned metallic shoes. Most of my footwear options have a small heel, as that works best for my high arches, and I feel that I look more elegant when I wear heels.
I can walk without problems in one-and-a-half to two-inch heels (my preferred height) as long as the shoes themselves are comfortable. However, I like to wear flatter shoes with maxi-length skirts and dresses. I didn’t include a maxi-dress in this fifty-five-item collection (I currently own only two, and they’ve both been in my closet for a long time), but I always wear the black studded sandals with the black crinkle maxi-skirt.
I have a few other pairs of relatively flat sandals that I pair with my maxi-dresses. Those shoes don’t see a lot of wear now, though, because my maxi-dress collection has been dramatically reduced (I used to own at least ten), and I don’t really like the look of my mid-length dresses with flatter shoes. I can wear the flat sandals with some of the joggers that I own, but I didn’t include those pants in this hypothetical collection, as I’m still working on styling them in a way that feels right for me.
I’m sure you notice that I have both black and metallic versions of two shoe styles. In both instances, I owned the black pairs first and only added the metallic pairs once I was sure that the original versions worked well for me. My shoes may not be on the cutting edge of fashion (most of my wardrobe isn’t, and that’s okay with me), but I love all of them and they’re very much in line with my style.
Style expert and podcaster Jennifer Mackey-Mary says that our shoes make our outfits (check out her Shoes 101 podcast here), and I wholeheartedly agree. Often when I’m unhappy with what I’m wearing, I switch out the shoes and it makes all the difference. The shoes I’ve selected work well with the dresses and bottoms in my warm weather collection. I probably wouldn’t wear all of the shoes with every single dress or bottom piece, but there are a lot of mix-and-match possibilities available to me.
I only included two purses in my collection, a black bag and a metallic bag with black trim. I’ve owned these purses for a number of years (at least six or seven), and they’re both from Brighton. Both purses are relatively large, as I usually like to carry a sizeable bag to be able to carry a lot of essentials with me.
My recent trip to Tahoe, however, alerted me to the need for a smaller option for days when I’m walking around a lot and find a heavier bag cumbersome and uncomfortable. I never used to feel this way, but perhaps it’s an effect of aging or not carrying a handbag very often during the pandemic. In the coming months, I’d like to purchase a smaller bag, preferably with a crossbody option. My preference would be for either black or a black/metallic hybrid similar to the bag shown at right above. Most days, black works great for me since I wear so much of it, but there are days (rare, but they exist and are happening more often) when I don’t wear black, at which time a metallic bag comes in handy.
There you have it… my hypothetical fifty-five item summer collection. In my next post, I’ll share more of the analysis I did regarding this collection, including the color distribution. I’ll also highlight the lessons I learned about my wardrobe, personal preferences, and potential closet gaps from selecting my top warm weather items.
If you choose to do this exercise or something similar (perhaps fewer items if your warm weather season is shorter, or if you prefer a smaller wardrobe), I’d love to read about your items and your insights. You’re also welcome to comment on my selections or about what you wear during the summer months and what you view as your personal favorite items and your wardrobe gaps.
I look forward to reading your thoughts on what I shared here today. I hope your summer (or winter, if you’re reading this down in the southern hemisphere – I never want to leave you out!) is going well, and I wish you a wonderful weekend.