In my last post, I shared a hypothetical collection of my top summer items. In celebration of my recent fifty-fifth birthday, I selected that number of pieces for the warm weather season, which typically runs from July through November where I live. I included clothing, shoes, and purses within my collection, and showed photos of each of my items by category.
In today’s post, I delve a bit deeper in regards to the closet exercise that I did last week. I look at the breakdown of my hypothetical collection by color, and then I highlight some of the lessons I learned through examining my wardrobe in such great detail. Forcing myself to select my favorites allowed me to better understand what is and isn’t working in my closet in terms of my summer pieces. While I’m happy with the items that I chose, some of what didn’t make the cut is problematic in ways that I’ll outline below. I also got in touch with a few closet gaps that I’d like to address before next summer rolls around.
Collection Breakdown by Color
Let’s start by looking at how the fifty-five items in my collection can be broken down by color.
- 19 Black Items
If you’ve been following me for a while, I’m sure it comes as little surprise that black is so highly represented in my collection. While my wardrobe at large is not quite as dominated by black pieces, this exercise was about choosing my favorites. Black items just feel like me, plus they’re very much in line with the “dramatic” part of my style statement. I also think that black often reads “polished” and “elegant,” which are my other two style guideposts (I explain that concept and my choices in this post). I also love that black tends to be slimming and can be easily mixed and matched with most other colors. As I mentioned in my last post, I often like to have the base of my outfits be black and then add one bright or printed piece for visual interest.
- 11 Black and White Items
When I wear prints, they’re most often black and white. I selected a variety of black and white pieces for my summer collection: six tops, two toppers, one dress, and two pairs of pants. I often pair these items with black pieces, but I also sometimes coordinate them with bright colors as well. The star graphic tee only has a small amount of white, but it also includes some sparkle, which adds to its dramatic flair. Most of the items shown have been in my wardrobe for several years, but a few of them were purchased last year.
- 9 Blue / Blue Print items
Other than black, blue is my favorite color, especially royal and cobalt shades, which represent most of my choices in this group. The navy printed top is out of my usual “wheelhouse,” but I like that it includes several other colors (red, teal, cream), as it coordinates with more pieces that way. I only have a smattering of teal in my wardrobe, but I’d like to incorporate a bit more of it over time. It’s a nice bold color that I think works well with my complexion and hair.
- 4 Purple Items
I also don’t have a whole lot of purple in my closet, but it’s a color that I like to pair with black. The cardigan on the left was a relatively recent acquisition that looks nice with my lower contrast coloring. I used to only wear bright, bold colors and thought pastels looked horrible on me, but since I’ve transitioned to my natural hair color, I enjoy wearing some mid-tone pastels. The cardigan and top on the right are only worn with my black maxi-skirt at present. I hope to find a mid-length black skirt so I can wear my shorter tops and cardigans more often.
- 3 Red/ Burgundy Items
I’ve been a fan of burgundy for a long time, but I’ve recently become more enamored with red. When I had dyed auburn hair, I felt like red clashed with my hair color, but I love the way it looks with my natural grayish hair (I still have a lot of light brown in there). Even the cardigan on the right is a hybrid of red and burgundy, rather than the deep burgundy shades that I used to wear regularly. I hope to incorporate even more red into my wardrobe over time. I actually think it might replace cobalt as my signature bright!
- 6 Gray / Metallic Items
With the exception of the sandals in the top row, which I bought this year, all of these items have been in my closet for at least several years. I haven’t been as into wearing gray clothing since my hair transition, as I have to be careful of it washing me out, but I love shoes and accessories in the gray/metallic family.
When I wear my remaining gray garments, I usually pair them with a bright color (e.g., a bright cardigan with the tank or a bright tank with the cardigan) to better enhance my pale complexion. I purchased the tie-dye tee in 2019, but I haven’t worn it much. I bought it to pair with skirts since it’s cropped, but I haven’t worn skirts all that often given the pandemic and the fact that I only have one that I really like at present.
- 3 Other Colors (White, Pink, Cognac)
And then there’s the rest… the wildcards, as it were. I bought the cognac pants on sale at Athleta. I tried them on out of curiosity and was surprised that I liked them. They’re the only cognac piece that I own, but they look good with black or black and white pieces. The dress is the only thing I own in that light pink color, but it’s balanced out nicely by the navy print. Otherwise, I think that shade of pink might not be a flattering color for me.
I just purchased the white tee at the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale and I haven’t worn it yet. I can’t really wear a plain white top, as that only highlights my very fair complexion, but the print helps to make the white more wearable for me. The print includes black and rust, so I have a lot of items that I can pair with it.
The Items That I Didn’t Choose…
It was somewhat difficult for me to narrow down my summer capsule selections to fifty-five items. Although there were very few unchosen pieces in some wardrobe categories (pants, sleeveless tops, skirts, tops for skirts, and short cardigans), there were more items that I didn’t select in other areas. Where I struggled the most was with my short-sleeved tops and long cardigans, as I have a lot of them. Some of my cardigans are better suited to cooler weather, but there were still too many summer options to potentially include in my capsule while still keeping things balanced in terms of item types.
When working to put together a cohesive collection, I had to leave out many of my short-sleeved tops, which alerted me to an important issue with them. This area of my wardrobe is where I often like to incorporate more color and pattern, but some of those colors and patterns don’t pair well with the pants I chose for my capsule. Most of my capsule pants are either black or black prints, and some of my tops wouldn’t look good with those bottoms. As a reminder, here are the pants in my capsule collection:
The following tops would pair well with white pants, but I don’t own any. Although white pants are often considered a summer staple, I’m so self-conscious about my lower half that I haven’t pursued purchasing this item. I typically wear the tops below with jeans, but I don’t usually wear jeans in the summer, as I prefer lighter-weight bottoms in the warmer weather.
I wasn’t aware of the problem with the above tops until I was putting together my hypothetical summer capsule wardrobe. It’s clear to me now that I could wear all of these tops more often in the summer months if I owned a pair of either white or lightweight denim pants. Of course, I can still wear all of the pictured tops with jeans once the temperatures get cooler (usually also with some sort of topper), but it would be nice to also wear them during the summer.
On Versatility and “Emotional Fit”
I considered adding the third tee in the top row to my capsule since it coordinates well with my cognac cropped pants. However, I wanted the pieces in my collection to be versatile, and this one wouldn’t be since I’d probably only wear it with that one pair of pants. If I had a white or denim pair of pants in the capsule, all of the tops above would be valid options. I do own a pair of red pants that would look nice with the last two tops (and many of my capsule tops as well), but I’m not usually as excited to wear those as the pants that I did choose. Perhaps that’s because they’re quite a bright shade of red, and I don’t usually like to stand out as much as I do in some of my brighter clothing pieces.
This brings up an important but not often thought of consideration in terms of our clothing choices. In addition to making sure that our clothing fits our bodies and suits our lifestyles, we also need to ensure that it’s in line with our personalities and feels right to us emotionally. While my lighter clothing items and bright pants may objectively look good on me, I won’t want to wear them if I feel self-conscious when I put them on. Because I’m tall, I tend to stand out anyway, but if I’m wearing tomato red pants, I’ll stand out that much more.
Although “dramatic” is one of my style guideposts and I like to wear pieces that exemplify that word, I prefer that my most noticeable style statements be on the top half of my body. The red pants were an experiment, but I think I’ll stick with red tops and toppers moving forward. I’ll still wear the pants with black or black and white accompaniments to tone them down, but I’ll aim to find some lightweight denim pants to pair with my lighter and brighter tops during the summer months.
Closet Gaps Discovered Through This Exercise
Besides my lack of lightweight denim pants, I also discovered a few other closet gaps as a result of selecting my summer wardrobe capsule.
Gap #1: Woven and Textured Pieces
I have too many knits and could benefit from incorporating more woven pieces into my closet. I love the comfort of knit items because they’re stretchy and pliable, but there are some benefits of woven items that would help to diversify my wardrobe.
Because I like to wear a lot of black, it would be nice to have more variety in the textures of my black pieces. Textured pieces are usually woven, but sometimes texture can be added to knits, as with the sequins on the middle and right tops below. The top on the left is woven and sheer in places. All three tops work well with each pair of pants in my capsule, including the plain black pairs, as the texture keeps things interesting without the need to add a third piece. Having a few more tops with these types of texture variations would help to make my warm weather wardrobe more versatile than it is now.
Gap #2: “Special” Tops
This gap is an expanded version of what I wrote about above. In addition to needing more woven and textured pieces, I could also benefit from having more “special” tops to help me look put-together without the need for a third piece or a lot of accessories. This is especially important on hot days, when it would be uncomfortable to wear a cardigan or jacket.
Most of the tops I chose for my capsule are special in some way, whether it be with print, texture, an interesting neckline, or a combination of those features. Here’s a look at some of the tops in my capsule to help illustrate what I’m talking about:
While the tops above are all just one solid color, they also include some type of visual interest: a crossed strap or ruffles at the neckline, sequin details, or a gathered and knotted center. However, in my wardrobe at large, there are many other tops that do not include such features and thus need some “bells and whistles” in the rest of the outfit to keep things from looking boring. I did include two plain V-neck tees in my capsule (black and red), but I’m happy that the other solid tops in the group look great on their own. I always wear a necklace with the two plain tees to keep things interesting.
Gap #3: “Breathable” Pants
I’ve written many times about my challenges in finding pants that fit me well. Not only am I tall with long legs, there’s also a pretty big difference between my waist and hip measurements. That difference used to be twelve inches, but now it’s more like ten inches because my waist isn’t as small as it used to be following menopause.
I’m always happy when I find a pair of pants that fits me well and is comfortable, but there’s another “wrinkle” I need to add to the equation. Most of my pants are either synthetic or synthetic blends, so they’re often not breathable enough for hot days. Fortunately, the temperatures don’t get that high where I live, but I’ve noticed some of my pants feeling a bit “sticky” on the warmer days. This is especially noticeable after I’ve been sitting down at a restaurant for a while and then get up. In such instances, my pants sometimes stick to my skin, which is an uncomfortable feeling.
I need a few pairs of natural fiber pants to wear on the hottest days in order to avoid that type of sticky situation. A large proportion of my tops and toppers are made from natural fibers, but it’s been more challenging for me to find those types of pants. I’m going to make a more concerted effort to find them, though, and I’m open to suggestions on where to look. I’ve never been one to wear much linen because of the wrinkle factor, but I know that it’s a cooler fabric, so perhaps I need to give it a second look.
Warm Weather Shopping Priorities
I’ll round out this post by sharing the list I’ve compiled of items that I’d like to purchase to round out my summer wardrobe. None of these items are urgent, and I don’t expect to buy them most of them this year. However, having a list in place will help me stay on target when I shop. I want to make sure to look for pieces that will make a big difference in my closet, rather than just pretty things that may be similar to what I already own.
I’ve mentioned some of these summer shopping priorities throughout this post and my last one, but I’ll consolidate my list below and also put it on my phone to have it close at hand when I shop. Here’s what I’m going to concentrate on to create a more versatile and workable warm weather wardrobe:
- Smaller cross-body purse (black or metallic) for days when I’m doing a lot of walking
- Black mid-length skirt to pair with the same tops and toppers as my black maxi-skirt
- Replacement black tie cardigan (shorter length, for skirts and dresses – my current one is a bit too short and also getting worn out)
- Lightweight denim cropped pants to wear with my white printed tops and others
- A few woven and/or textured lightweight tops
- Non-cardigan toppers (to add more variety to my summer ensembles)
- Natural fiber pants for the hotter days
- Low-profile / low-vamp sandals (metallic or nude – to wear with some of my dresses and cropped pants)
I learned a lot just from my birthday exercise of selecting my fifty-five favorite warm weather items. Although I’m not forcing myself to dress using only those pieces, I definitely wear my selections more often than the rest of what I own. I could easily get by with just my capsule items for the long summer season, especially if I also add what’s on my shopping priorities list, which I hope to do before next summer.
I don’t necessarily plan to get rid of everything else, but I suspect that some of it will make its way out of my closet soon, or potentially be downgraded to at-home wear only. I now have a much better sense of what not to buy for this time of the year. I think when we shop “in a vacuum,” we can run into trouble. We need to consider our wardrobe at large when we buy things, otherwise we could potentially end up with either orphans or gaps in our closets, such as the ones that I outlined in this post.
Although I’m sure that your wardrobes are very different from mine, I hope that you were also able to learn from what I shared today. Most of us have both wardrobe “all-stars” and “benchwarmers,” and we’ll probably never be able to completely eradicate the latter. What we can do, however, is learn lessons from them so that hopefully we can minimize that area of our closets. When we know better, hopefully we’ll do better. Feel free to share your thoughts on this post, as well as about your own closet gaps, all-stars, and benchwarmers.
26 thoughts on “My Top 55 Summer Items: Observations and Lessons”
Interesting post as usual, Debbie! It’s helpful to see your color evolution because I seem to be going through something similar. Since I live in a more variable but often colder climate, there are fewer than 55 warm weather items and many of the ones in my closet get combined with warmer tops and toppers for year-round wear. But this has been a hotter than usual summer that has exposed some holes in my summer clothing collection!
Consequently, I have already purchased 9 new summer items- 4 tops, one topper, and 4 bottoms. Like you, I prefer neutral bottoms: mostly navy, black, and denim. But the new tops and toppers have some color, and I’m rediscovering shades of pink, which look good with my pale skin and new silver streaks in my hair. And I feel you on the red pants- I have a pair that I feel a little self-conscious about but I’m not getting rid of them because they currently fit perfectly AND my daughter thinks they look cute on me 🙂
There are some gaps still but no rush – they might not get filled until spring. This will be an interesting exercise with the “not summer” clothes, where there are more than 55 items but probably still a few gaps!
I’m glad you found this post interesting and helpful, Murphy! It sounds like you’ve done a great job at getting your summer wardrobe in order. It seems like you and I like a lot of the same colors. Like you, I’ve started to like certain colors more with my hair color change. I wore my red pants the other day after I wrote about them, but I paired them with a black and white top and a black cardigan (it was cool enough for a topper that day). I felt comfortable in that outfit, but I don’t see myself ever wearing those pants with light or bright colors. That’s just not me…
I plan to do this exercise with the “not summer” clothes down the line and will share about it on the blog. I can imagine that it’s a lot more challenging to have to dress for four seasons. Even with my two seasons, though, I still have some overlap. We have sort of “cusp” times when it’s either a bit cooler or a bit warmer, but we don’t get the big swings that you get where you are. Best wishes to you in filling your closet gaps! It’s good that you’re not in a rush and can wait to find the best options for you.
Hi Debbie, just a quick note to let you know I’m following your posts. I’m way behind in any and all things wardrobe related due to my recent move to a new city. I’m beginning to figure out my new lifestyle, culture, and the climate, which is way different from where I lived before. Happy Summer birthday! May beauty surround you.
It’s always great to see a comment from you, Terra. You were one of my first readers and I’m grateful for you. I can imagine it was jarring to move to a new city with a different climate and other variations. I hope you’ll adjust well to all of the shifts and be very happy there.
Great analysis, thank you for going through your thought process in detail. I wish I had an answer for the lightweight pants situation. My best-fitting pants are of the poly-rayon-lycra blends that are everywhere, and yes indeed they cause a lot of sweat when sitting for a while. Awful. I tried linen pants but I just couldn’t get used to the terrible wrinkling around the crotch. Some people can wear linen and look summery – I just end up looking like a damp pile of wrinkles. That leaves cotton, which has its own wrinkling problems, but some cotton fibers are less wrinkle-prone than others. So like everything else, it’s trial and error until you find the right cotton pant. But I recently wore something I swore I never would – and that is culottes! I thought they were terrible in the 70s and I still think they are weird looking, but at ankle or floor length (essentially palazzo pants) they can look nice. Or so I’ve convinced myself. The important thing is that they are incredibly comfortable! The ones I have are rayon crepe, so they are lightweight and airy but not as floppy and prone to pilling as rayon challis or other light fabrics. That’s my experiment for this summer, we’ll see if I still like them next year.
It turned out I did have a gap in my wardrobe: swimsuits! I have been wearing the same suit for almost 20 years, which is unbelievable because it’s been subjected to so much chlorine and sun it should have just dissolved by now. But this year I have been swimming at least twice and sometimes three times a day and putting on a wet suit every time was not fun. So I actually bought two new swim suits. OMG sticker shock. I remember being shocked at the price of my old one, 20 years ago, and I think it was around $80. (I’ll have to calculate the price per wear – must be only a few pennies!) Now $80 barely buys half a suit! So that was a huge investment, but it’s made swimming a lot easier and more fun. It would be great if the new ones lasted 20 years, but knowing modern manufacturing, I’ll just be happy if I can get 5 years out of them.
Thanks for weighing in on the pants situation, Katrina. I love many of my pants, but they’re not the best for hot and sticky weather. I’m not sure I could get used to linen, either, but I’m open to trying it, as well as cotton. I really don’t like wrinkly clothes, though, and I also have ironing (which is part of why I’ve chosen the pants that I have). Something’s gotta give, right? Your culottes/palazzo pants sound nice, and it’s great that you’ve chosen to experiment. I bought a pair of pants like that last year, and they’re in my collection (black and white print). I couldn’t get used to the wider legs, though, so I had them narrowed. They’re still a wider silhouette than my other pants, though, and it took a bit of work to learn how to best style them. I really like them now, though, and I hope you’ll feel the same way about your pants, too.
It definitely sounds like your new swimsuits were a good investment, especially if you’re swimming two to three times per day! I hope they will last at least 5 years, if not longer. My mom does water aerobics a lot and swears by Land’s End swimsuits, which are reasonably priced. I wish clothes were made as well as they were years ago. I have some items in my closet that are quite old and still look great, whereas some of my items from the past few years aren’t holding up nearly as well.
Enjoying your blog! I think light gray denim would be ideal for you. It’s a subdued color compared to white and usually comes in light weights.
I think gray denim could be a good summer option for me, Nina. thanks for the suggestion. I will keep an eye out when I’m in the shops and online.
Some day, you need to visit the Netherlands. I don’t think you would have trouble finding pants that fit around here. I am 5 foot 6 but well below average in height compared to Dutch ladies. Last week, I bought some bootcut jeans at a Dutch branch of the department store C & A, and the length that fitted me in my boots with heels was labelled ‘short’.
I would love to visit the Netherlands, Sue. My husband is almost 100% Dutch and I’m a quarter Dutch myself. I’d love to see the country, plus do some shopping there, too! The average height for a woman in the U.S. is 5’3″, so I’m well above average here at 5’10” (plus my long legs makes pants all the more challenging). When I do visit your wonderful country, I’ll make sure to budget both money and time for shopping!
I really enjoyed your analysis! I think you’ve hit on some important points here, particularly around emotional fit. I don’t often enough see people talking about that emotional fit at the outfit level but it’s such a significant factor. An item might seem like a versatile addition to the wardrobe until you consider how/if you would really wear it. For example, my mom doesn’t like wearing a cardigan that is a significantly lighter color than her top, and that insight was a game-changer for her shopping. It sounds like you’ve had a similar epiphany re: bright colors in tops vs. pants.
One thing that stood out to me is that you seem to have your black/white/bright grouping but have started to add some lighter-colored pieces, which does make sense with your change in hair color. Do you feel like your color palette is moving in that direction or are you still dipping your toes in the medium pastel waters?
I like the idea of lightweight denim/chambray pants that have a high cotton/linen content to pair with those light-colored tops (and which would also work with your black/white/bright pieces). But your 55 piece capsule is so great, I wonder how you would feel thinking about dressing from that for a while. I’m not saying “do that!” It’s just a question I’ve posed to myself and have found my response to it instructive. The 55 piece capsule is probably enough to keep you going for a while so that you can shop from your list and be super selective about only adding pieces that you really love.
I have also forgotten–do you still have your clothes divided into going out, staying home, and crossover groups? Is the 55 piece capsule made from all three or just the going out/crossover? I know you’ve talked a lot about your rationale for that, but it’s so different from my own mindset that I still haven’t wrapped my mind around it!
I am a big fan of your blog, Debbie. I don’t always comment, but I do always take something away from your essays. Thanks for sharing with us!
I’m so glad you enjoyed this post, Sally! Emotional fit is SUCH an important factor for our wardrobes and outfits, but it took me a while to fully understand that. I think a lot of people just buy what’s “in” or what they like on other people, but we have to consider other factors, too, if we want to be happy in what we’re wearing.
In answer to your question, I don’t see myself adding a lot of lighter colors to my wardrobe, but I have experimented with other options now that my hair is lighter. I still think my color palette will stay much the same, except I might tone down the brightness in some of my pieces. I’m still figuring it out as I go along…
I think I could dress quite happily using JUST my 55-item capsule, at least for my out-and-about activities. The capsule includes both going out and crossover pieces. I’m aiming to have more crossover pieces, as that gives me more “mileage” with what I’m wearing, but I’m still experimenting on the whole concept. I’m sure I’ll write more about it soon… I appreciate your kind words about my blog and your sharing your thoughts.
My dream fabric – and I live in a swampy climate and hate to feel wet – is a simple cotton poly blend. Looks like cotton – whether woven or stretch as in a top – but behaves better. Much less wrinkling, doesn’t acquire that weightiness that damp cotton gets and holds (sorry, I think cotton is a miserable fabric with every disadvantage 😀 ) , seems to stand away from the body a bit by hanging just that much freer.
Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts on fabric, Vildy. Since you live in a “swampy climate,” I’m sure you know all too well what works best for hot and humid weather. I will keep an eye out for fabrics that are cotton poly blends. I like to have some stretch in my garments for the sake of comfort, but I didn’t realize that cotton poly was the magic combination. Now I know 🙂
I 100% agree, Vildy. I live in a swamp as well!
I appreciate your seconding Vildy’s recommendation, Gail!
I learned a great deal from what you said. I’m shocked at how much turnover you have in your closet. I buy classics and I plan outfits with items that I buy. If it doesn’t work then I immediately mail it back! I’m only able to shop by mail for the most part because I’m disabled but it works so well for me! I go to the store when I buy shoes and handbags because that’s necessary! Thank you for sharing your thinking process when getting rid of items!!
That’s great that you have such success with online shopping, Natalie. I find that I have to do a lot of buying and returning to get things right, but over time I’ve zeroed in on some brands that work well for me. I still prefer to see and touch things, but that’s not always possible. Fortunately, it’s gotten easier to buy online with more specifications and reviews, but I still find it challenging because I’m hard to fit.
I love white cropped jeans for summer. I live in Texas, so I get a lot of use from them. I would recommend trying Talbots for the natural fiber pants you would like to add to your wardrobe. I buy all of my cropped jeans there. I like the straight crops, but this year I bought a pair of flare crops which I have enjoyed wearing. If you feel self-conscious in white pants, try wearing a longer tunic top with them and see how you feel.
I love the look of white pants and jeans on others, Jo. I will try some on, as I shouldn’t dismiss something as an option for me without even trying. I haven’t been to Talbots in a while because the stores in my two local malls closed, but there is a shop about 30 minutes from where I live that I could check out. Good suggestion to try white pants with a longer top. That’s often what I do with the lighter or brighter bottoms that I do own (like the red ones that I mentioned in this post).
Thought of you when I saw this featured blogger on You Look Fab. Describes self as trendy and casual yet I think you could use some of her ideas as she does dressier looks as well, like the grey and black knit dress with sleeveless long sweater coat over or perhaps the glen plaid blazer over leatherish leggings. And she’s over six feet tall.
“By sharing her journey as a 6’1″ tall woman to find size-inclusive brands, she hopes to empower women to embrace their unique selves.”
If this link doesn’t work or gets rejected, it’s on the front page of the blog.
Thanks so much for sharing this, Vildy! I love this blogger’s style – great outfits all around! I think I’ll start following her now. I can definitely use the pointers for brands that work well on tall women. She has three inches on me, so what works for her should probably work for me, too.
I should have mentioned that I am a longtime reader (years!), but a first-time poster. I am 57 and pear-shaped. I’m 5’7″ and have been WFH since mid-March 2020. Like you, I also struggle with the size of my wardrobe. I do a major purge about once a year. I’m due for another.
Overall I am buying fewer clothes and shoes because I’m not going to the office. But I still like having new pieces to wear!
I’m glad you finally decided to comment, Jo, and I thank you for your readership over the years. We have some similar challenges, it seems… I haven’t even gone into an office for years, but I still buy too much because I like having new pieces to wear. It can be a tough balancing act, and I’m still trying to navigate it. I usually do wardrobe purges at the season changes (twice a year), but I also get rid of things here and there when I determine that they’re not working for me. Good luck with your yearly purge!
Happy Birthday Debbie!
Thank you, Maggie!
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