My Wardrobe, Myself

The intersection of clothing, emotions, and life

Over the years, I’ve written a lot about how to decide whether to keep wardrobe items or let them go. This isn’t always an easy decision to make. Ideally, we’d all just purchase pieces that are exactly right for us, wear them until they’re worn out, and then pass them on to charity or for textile recycling. But unfortunately, that’s not always how it works out…

There are many reasons why we might purge items from our closets when we haven’t worn them all that much, including purchasing mistakes, poor garment quality, and style aesthetic shifts. Another important explanation for passing things on relates to changes in our body size, which is the focus of today’s post. I’ll reveal some of my personal experiences with size changes and how I’ve managed my wardrobe through such transitions. I’m actually dealing with this type of situation right now and am still processing how best to navigate it, so I’ll share about that, too.

clothing fit issues

How do you deal with your wardrobe when you gain or lose weight? 

My Menopausal Weight Shifts

I have long maintained what’s been termed a “hidden holding zone,” which for me consists of a large plastic bin that’s stored in my garage. This bin usually houses clothing that’s too small for my current size, especially since menopausal weight gain became an issue for me about six years ago. After “the change,” I went up about two sizes, depending upon the type of garment in question, without changing my eating and exercise habits in any way.

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Over the years, several commenters have mentioned the “Four-by-Four Capsule Wardrobe” concept from The Vivienne Files as something that’s helped them to better manage their closets and get dressed more easily. I’ve read a few posts on this methodology over the years and found it intriguing, but that was about it. However, after the last time the four-by-four was mentioned here (thank you to whoever brought it up), I decided to delve a bit more deeply and dedicate a post to it.

What is the Four-by-Four Wardrobe?

The Four-by-Four Wardrobe is a sixteen-piece group of clothing chosen four items at a time. The first two groups are referred to as “cores of four,” while the third group is called “the mileage four” because it helps with combining the initial pieces (usually neutrals) and giving them more versatility. The fourth group is called “the expansion four,” as it expands the combination options further. It’s recommended to also integrate a number of accessories into the mix (jewelry, shoes, handbags, scarves, etc.) to up your style quotient and keep things more interesting. I’ll go into more detail about how to select each group below.

capsule wardrobe challenge

Have you ever tried a capsule wardrobe challenge like the four-by-four wardrobe?

This type of wardrobe capsule can be helpful in a variety of ways. One could create separate four-by-four capsules for each season to either serve as a full wardrobe (for true minimalists) or as the foundation for a larger, more cohesive collection. Another great way to use the four-by-four wardrobe is for travel, as most of us could dress quite well with sixteen garments for even a lengthy excursion. Even if you don’t have a trip planned in the near future, taking the time to compile a couple of four-by-four capsules (i.e., for potential summer and winter vacations) could make it easier to pack for your next getaway.

There are lots of examples of the “four-by-four wardrobe” on The Vivienne Files website, and the concept has seen several evolutions over the years. The blogger has even used this capsule creation method to pull together multiple Project 333 wardrobes (selecting 33 items instead of just 16), which I may also opt to try and post about in the future (you can check out my previous adventures with the Project 333 minimalist fashion challenge HERE).

Now that I’ve told you a little bit about what the four-by-four wardrobe is, let’s move on to my first capsule compilation of this nature. Since the weather is still pretty cool where I am and likely will be for another month or so (hello, “May Gray” and “June Gloom”), I’m going to start off with a “not summer” capsule. However, I plan to revisit this concept in a month or so for my summer wardrobe (and it’s likely that I’ll take some sort of trip during that season so I can better test out the capsule that I pull together).

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As I wrote about in my last post, I recently completed a closet reorganization. I separated out my summer tops into three distinct sections: “standalone” tops, tops that I only feel comfortable wearing with an accompanying topper, and tops that are designated as workout or lounge wear only. My goal is to eventually eliminate the second category by means of attrition, as well as no longer purchasing tops that I don’t want to wear on their own. Additionally, I’d like the majority of the tops I buy from this point forward to be “crossover” pieces that can be worn for a variety of occasions.

Rearranging my closet alerted me to another wardrobe issue beyond my owning too many tops that I’m only comfortable wearing with a sweater or jacket over them. In today’s post, I’ll share what that issue is, why I think it happened, and what I plan to do about it. I never thought I’d learn so much from a simple closet reorganization, but I hope my lessons will also be helpful to some of you.

My Love Affair with Black Clothing

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you probably know that I love to wear black clothing. Not only is black versatile and slimming, it also suits my cool complexion and my personal style aesthetic. Black pieces are often in line with my style guideposts of “dramatic, polished, and elegant,” and they also add a bit of “edge” to my outfits.


I love to wear black, but there CAN be too much of a good thing… 

Those are all good points in favor of my owning a lot of black items. But no matter how much I love black, there can be too much of a good thing. Rearranging my tops really highlighted the fact that there are just too many black ones in the mix. While this can also be said about my black pants and black toppers, I’m only going to focus on my warm weather tops today to keep things simple – and also because this topic follows on nicely from my last post. I’ll likely dedicate future essays to those other sections of my wardrobe.

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I frequently reorganize my closet in an effort to better understand and utilize the pieces I own. For a long time, I just organized everything in a standard fashion: by garment type and then by color. However, I’ve found that making periodic “tweaks” to this arrangement can make it easier for me to get dressed for my various life occasions.

In today’s post, I share about my most recent closet reorganization, why I did it, what my new sections are, and how they’ll help me get dressed more easily in the coming months. I also outline a wardrobe goal that I’m working towards and how I plan to get there.

well organized closet

Reorganizing My Closet in a New Way

Last fall, I wrote a two-part series on “third piece” challenges (HERE and HERE), in which I explained the difficulties I experience when dressing for warmer weather. Part of my dilemma involves making sure my outfits look interesting and well put-together without using a traditional “third piece” (e.g., a cardigan, jacket, or coat), but an even bigger challenge relates to my emotional comfort when I’m unable to cover up as much when it’s hot outside.

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Thank you so much to everyone who weighed in on the “keep or return” decision that I introduced in my last post! As I knew would be the case, I received a lot of thought-provoking feedback from readers. The comments were mixed, which added to my confusion at first, but the blessing of time and consideration helped me to gain clarity. Finally, after going back and forth a few times between keeping the Athleta Whisper Featherless Vest or returning it to the store, I reached a decision that brought me peace.

reaching clarity on keep or return decision

In today’s post, I’ll share the excellent points presented by commenters about my specific situation, as well as in regards to return deliberations in general. I’ll break down the key feedback into several sections:

  • Questions and considerations for making the keep/return decision
  • Arguments for keeping the vest
  • Arguments for returning the vest

After I go through all of that, I’ll let you know what I decided and why. I’ll close the post with some general suggestions from readers that can help all of us when we’re pondering whether to keep an item or return it. Many of these tips can also assist us when we’re cleaning out our closets and determining what should stay and what should go. I hope you enjoy this post and find it beneficial when working through any wardrobe confusion you may have.

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