In my last post, I shared a hypothetical wardrobe capsule consisting of my top fifty-five cool weather items. I did a similar exercise back in August for my summer wardrobe. I chose the number fifty-five in recognition of the milestone birthday that I had reached earlier that month. I find that playing in my closet and doing sartorial “navel-gazing” can uplift my mood, plus I always like to come to new realizations and share them with my readers.
I followed up my August post with a “part two” in which I delved deeper about the collection and highlighted some of my lessons learned from pulling it together. I’m doing a similar thing today with my “not summer” capsule. In this post, I break down my cool weather capsule selections by color and offer some insights related to those designations. I also point out how my capsule choices have shifted since I originally made them last August – and why (I chose both summer and “not summer” collections back then but only blogged about the summer one). In a future post, I’ll outline the gaps that I’ve noticed in my closet and what my targeted shopping priorities are for the remainder of the year (for both the cool and warm seasons).
Why Do Hypothetical Capsules?
Before I move on, I want to answer a question that some of you may be thinking: “Why create hypothetical wardrobe capsules if you’re not going to actually restrict yourself to them?” That’s a very good question! While it’s true that we might learn more about ourselves and our wardrobes if we actually take the plunge and dress from a smaller capsule, it’s amazing how much we can learn from just preparing to dress with less. In doing so, we need to take a good, hard look at what’s in our closets, how we spend our time, and what we like to wear. This process often alerts us to what is and isn’t working for us, as well as what we might want to do differently moving forward. It can also be a fun way to identify closet gaps and areas of duplication.
If you’ve been following me for a while, you know that I’ve actually done several rounds of fashion challenge Project 333 (I blogged about my experience on Recovering Shopaholic), as well as quite a few other wardrobe experiments (you can check them out HERE and HERE). When I first decided to do Project 333 in the spring of 2013, I had a very large wardrobe and I agonized over which items to choose for my capsule. It took me several days to narrow down my selections, and I also swapped out quite a few pieces over the three months of the challenge. I “cheated” a bit by doing the swaps and not including shoes and accessories among my thirty-three items, but the creator of the challenge has always made it clear that it’s not a project in suffering.
I may opt to do Project 333 or another small(er) wardrobe challenge again in the future, but for now I’m content to just do closet analysis like what I’ve done with my “top-55” collections. I still learn lessons that help me to dress better, pare down my wardrobe, and shop smarter without having to find a place to store all of my non-capsule items. So, if you’ve heard about Project 333 or something similar but thought, “I could never do that!,” why not just pretend that you’re going to do it and see how that goes for you? You may ultimately decide to take the plunge – or you may not, but either way you’ll emerge with more awareness, which is always a positive thing. And with that, I’ll share some of what I learned from putting together my hypothetical cool weather capsule of fifty-five items.
Collection Breakdown by Color
Let’s start by looking at how my cool weather capsule can be broken down by color.
- 15 Black Items
Black is my key neutral no matter what time of the year it is. I have a similar number of black pieces in my cool weather capsule as in my hypothetical summer collection (15 vs. 19), and four of them are repeat selections. I don’t usually dress in head-to-toe black, but more often than not, I include at least one black garment or accessory in my ensembles.
- 13 Black-and-White Items
When I have a print that includes black, there’s often white in the mix, too. I find black-and-white pieces extremely versatile, as they pair well with black and most of the other colors in my wardrobe. Only one black-and-white item from my summer fifty-five (a top) is repeated in this collection, and all of the items within this category are either tops (8) or toppers (5). Even though a few pieces are mostly black, the inclusion of white dots or flecks adds visual interest and versatility.
- 13 Blue / Blue-Print Items
I included my jeans (4 pairs) within this grouping, as they are all blue. I’m still on the lookout for a good pair of black jeans, but I have yet to find a suitable option. Teal items are also represented among the blue grouping, as they’re sort of a hybrid between blue and green. I love many shades of blue, especially those that are more saturated in hue. The blue-printed pieces all either include black or white, which ups their mix-and-match potential within the capsule. Two of the items shown above were also part of my summer “top-55” collection.
- 3 Purple Items
Purple is one of my favorite jewel tones, but I’ve also come to embrace lighter shades of this hue in recent years. The light purple cardigan was also part of my summer collection, as it’s relatively lightweight but is warm when layered over a long-sleeved top. I’d like to add more purple to my wardrobe, but I’m happy that the three pieces I selected for this capsule vary in color intensity.
- 7 Red / Burgundy Items
I’ve long been a fan of burgundy, but I’ve also come to love red following my gray hair transition. Back when I had dyed auburn hair, I wasn’t fond of how I looked in red, but I now feel that it’s one of my best colors. I especially love the way red pairs with black-and-white pieces. In my summer capsule, I only included three red or burgundy items, so I’m showing that hue more love in my cool weather collection.
- 3 Gray / Metallic Items
As you can see, there aren’t any garments in this grouping. That’s because I don’t really like to wear gray clothing now that my hair is gray (as I feel that it washes me out), unless it’s part of a print or color-block, as in the burgundy and gray top shown in the previous section. Even with accessories, I prefer gray-toned metallics, such as silver or pewter, over flat grays. I do own a pair of gray booties, but I don’t find myself wearing them as much as my metallic footwear.
- 1 Other Color
This top only works on me because the black portion is next to my face instead of the olive one. Olive is usually too warm-toned for my complexion, but I liked the style of this top and was pleased to find that it looks good on me. The top would be more versatile if the bottom portion was in a shade of blue or red/burgundy, but it works well paired with jeans or black pants and a black topper.
The Items I Swapped Out
Now that you’ve seen what’s in my hypothetical cool weather collection, you might wonder what didn’t make the cut. Interestingly, many of those pieces were part of the capsule when I first put it together back in August (at the time when I created my summer “top-55”). I didn’t blog about that capsule at the time, as I got sidetracked with other topics, but when I revisited my selections recently, I decided to swap out almost half of them! I thought it would be interesting to show you the original pieces that didn’t make the cut this time around and highlight my reasons for making the various substitutions.
Here’s a look at the twenty-four items (twenty-one garments and three pairs of shoes) that I originally selected for my cool weather capsule in August but opted not to include now:
These items can be broken down into sections based upon my reasons for leaving them out of my winter top-55 collection. I’ll show each of these grouping below and briefly outline why I excluded them from the hypothetical capsule. Most of the “rejects” are still in my closet, but some of them might not be for long. Others are perfectly fine, but they weren’t the best choices for a cool weather capsule regardless of the fact that I live in a temperate climate.
I’m always amazed at how someone like Courtney Carver (the creator of Project 333) can dress with such a small capsule when she lives in such a variable climate, while I still want a lot of variety when the temperatures don’t differ so widely where I am. I actually don’t even want that small a wardrobe, but I would like to get by with less than I have. As I mentioned in a reply to one of the comments on my last post, I would be quite pleased if my year-round “out-and-about” wardrobe were actually comprised of roughly the same number of pieces as my two hypothetical capsules (which would be 110 items if there was no overlap). Of course, I would also have my at-home wardrobe (and there are crossover pieces, too), so I wouldn’t be all that minimalist, but different strokes for different folks.
As I’ve always said, there is no one right or wrong number of clothing items we should own, but I’ve come up with a formula that might help you decide what’s best for you. Interestingly, when I look back at the calculations I made in that post (from August 2019), my “ideal-sized” wardrobe is about 118 items, which is very close to the sum of my two “top-55” capsules! I wasn’t trying to do that at all, but it’s funny how it worked out… I’m not sure about the category breakdown, but perhaps that’s something I can look at in the future (so as not to make this post too terribly long!).
Returned Items (3)
I returned the cardigan (on the left) because the top part was fussy and would have probably needed to be adjusted often while wearing it. I noticed this when I tried it on one day to potentially wear it. As nice as the print and material were, I knew I wouldn’t wear this topper all that often if I couldn’t just put it on and basically forget about it. Liking one or two facets of an item just isn’t enough for us to buy and/or keep it. I’ve learned this the hard way far too many times, especially when it comes to color, print, or fabrication.
The issue with the jacket pictured in the middle was that it was too similar to other toppers that I already owned (which would result in “splitting my wears”), plus it needed some alterations and I’m trying to minimize the tailoring that I have done to my clothes. I returned the cobalt sweater in favor of a cobalt-and-black printed version that I included in my revised winter capsule.
Cropped Pants (2)
I had originally included two pairs of cropped pants in my “not summer” capsule, but I later decided to only designate full-length pants and jeans for that time of the year. Yes, it doesn’t get that cold where I live and there are a lot of unseasonably warm days, but if I’m creating a capsule specifically for the cooler months, it makes more sense for all of the pants to be full-length.
In addition to the warmth aspect, I also wear alternate footwear with my cropped pants most of the time. There’s a bit of overlap in that I pair my peep-toe booties with both cropped and full-length pants, but I only wear closed-toe boots with my full-length bottoms. I still like both of the pants pictured above and I’ll like wear them regularly in the summer months. Although they look quite similar in the stock images, they actually vary in both their fabrication and the way they fit.
I actually haven’t been wearing my coats at all this winter, so I didn’t include them in my “top-55” capsule. I think the main reason for this lack of wear is that I tend to view coats as more “dressy,” and my life hasn’t been dressy at all the past two years (which is probably true for many of you, too). Instead of wearing my coats, I’ve been layering long-sleeved tops with cardigans, which is usually sufficient for warmth. I’m not usually outdoors for very
long anyway, unless I’m going for a walk. In those instances, I wear athleisure pieces and pair them with fleece or puffer-style jackets (which are all part of my “at-home” wardrobe).
I’m going to hold on to my coats because I’ll likely want to wear them again when there are more occasions for going out for more formal meals or events. In addition to the three coats shown above, I also own two other bright options. I may end up purging my coats that are too snug to fully button up (I think there are two of these). I usually wear my coats unbuttoned, but I want to be able to fully button them should the temperature decrease or on a windy day.
I still own the three pairs of shoes pictured above, but I opted not to include them in my capsule. I had originally included eight pairs of shoes in my “not summer” collection, but I elected to reduce the number to six in order to incorporate more clothing options instead. I feel that the six pairs of shoes that I ultimately selected (shown in my last post) provide plenty of versatility for me, so I removed three of my original footwear choices (the ones pictured above) and added in a new pair of boots. In the next paragraph, I explain why I made those substitutions.
The black boots are becoming quite worn out (I’ve had them since 2015 and have probably worn them hundreds of times), whereas the pair that I included (purchased in early 2020) is in much more pristine condition. I selected my new silver snakeskin booties instead of the plain gray suede pair, but I’m not completely positive that I made the right choice. The plain gray booties are probably more versatile, but they don’t make me smile like the silver ones do. As for the metallic sandals, they skew a bit dressier than the metallic sling-back pair that I selected instead. Both shoes have their utility in my wardrobe, but the more casual Rockport sandals can be worn more often in my casual day-to-day lifestyle.
Short-Sleeved Tops (3)
I chose the same number of short-sleeved tops for my cool weather capsule back in August as I did recently (five), but I made different choices for three of them. I opted not to go with the three tops above for varying reasons. The black “burnout” tee is very lightweight, so it works better in the warmer months. The black tee with white trim is less versatile than the black crisscross tee that I ultimately selected. I can wear the plain black tee with all of the toppers in my collection, whereas the one with white trim clashes with a few of them. That top still would have worked well in the capsule, but the plain black tee is a better overall choice. I made a similar substitution for the red-and-white printed tee, in that I chose a plain red tee instead. The black-and-white toppers in the capsule look nice with the red top but wouldn’t work with the printed tee.
I’ve noticed that many women who have smaller capsule wardrobes tend to primarily choose solid pieces rather than prints. That’s probably because solids are considered to be more versatile than prints. My sister-in-law, who I wrote about in my “A Tale of Two Suitcases” post, only wears solid garments, but she livens them up with printed scarves for dressier occasions. Others use jewelry for visual interest or perhaps a combination of jewelry and scarves. Still others don’t place much importance on having “exciting” outfits and prefer to just have easy pieces that they don’t have to think about too much.
There’s really no ideal approach in this regard. What matters most is that our wardrobes suit our individual needs and preferences. I enjoy wearing prints, but that means I have to consider how they’ll pair with each other and with my solid pieces. This requires a bit more thought, as I discovered when putting my two hypothetical “top-55” collections together, but I’m happy with the finished products. That said, if I want to ultimately have a smaller wardrobe, I’ll probably want to own a larger proportion of solid versus printed items.
“Lesser Options” (10)
This is the largest grouping of items that I omitted from my original cool weather capsule selections. I swapped all of these pieces out because I own better similar items that suit the same basic need (see below). I won’t write too much about these ten individual items, but I’ll share a bit about why I made my decisions to exclude them.
- Pants: The dark-wash jeans and black pants are both quite old. They still fit me well overall, but they have a lower rise than what I prefer these days. I like my pants to come up to my waistline or a bit below it, whereas these pants end probably two inches below that.
- Blazer: This blazer is more formal in nature than the newer version that I included in my capsule. I still plan to keep both blazers, but I thought it only made sense to have one in my collection because of the “splitting wears” issue. I’ll hold on to the one above for more formal occasions.
- Cardigans: I purged the gray and black striped cardigan because it was a bit too small and I also have another striped cardigan that I like much better. The same is true for the black cardigan, which I plan to list for sale on eBay. I still own and like the burgundy and black printed cardigan, but I left it out of my capsule in favor of a solid burgundy one that’s more versatile.
- Tops: The red tee was too fussy and lost its shape after several washings, so I purged it from my closet. The basic black tee is still a good layering piece, but I prefer my black crewneck tee, as the higher neckline adds more warmth. The black and blue striped tee still works well for me, but it didn’t make the cut because I thought another black and blue top was more interesting and didn’t need much accessorizing. The black layered tee was better in theory than in practice, so I’m going to list it for sale. I think it would work better on a shorter woman, as the top layer hits me too much above my waistline, which I think is unflattering.
So, of the ten items that I swapped out because I had better similar pieces, there are four garments that were either purged or will be purged soon (two tops and two cardigans). I’m reluctant to get rid of pants because it’s so difficult for me to find good ones, but I could see the pants being passed on soon, too. I plan to hang on to the blazer, one cardigan (printed one), and two tops, but if I find that I don’t wear them much, I would be okay with passing them on as well.
Since you may be curious (I would be), here’s a look at the ten items that I ended up including in my cool weather “top-55” instead of the pieces shown above:
Do you agree with me that these are better options? The printed sweater may not be more versatile than the original solid one, but I like it better. Also, while the long-sleeved burgundy top is great, I’d like to find a similar one in red, too, as I can see the utility of having both options in my capsule (they’re two of my signature colors). All in all, I feel that I would be happier with these ten garments than with the original ten, so that’s why I made the substitutions that I did.
Well, this post ended up taking a lot longer to write than I thought it would, and it’s also longer than I anticipated (this isn’t the first time!). If you’re still with me at the end, thank you for reading and I hope you got something value out of what I’ve shared here. I was going to write about closet gaps and shopping priorities in this post, too, but I’ll save that for another time.
I welcome your comments about the topics in this post, especially if you want to tell me and your fellow readers about your own wardrobe and what you’ve learned over the years. Here are a few questions that you can answer if you wish:
- What colors are most represented in your closet? Does that vary among the various seasons?
- What items (clothes, shoes, and accessories) have you passed on recently and why?
- Do you prefer solid pieces versus printed ones?
- What previous “wardrobe workhorses” are no longer being worn and why?
- Has the pandemic changed your style and wardrobe priorities?
I look forward to reading your thoughts. I also welcome your questions and topic suggestions for future posts.