Mar 172015

This is a fun season. I don’t mean spring, although this year (my first with an empty nest) is not bad so far; I mean this season in my professional/sartorial life. After years of reading, studying, talking, blogging, and generally obsessing about what to wear and, more significantly, how to know; I have a whole new world of technical information available to ponder. And one of my favorite things to do is to ponder a number of ideas concurrently. You never know what insights might emerge.

So, one day last week, these two excellent posts landed in my inbox on the same day:

And these two posts really got me thinking: about why I haven’t warmed up to the capsule wardrobe concept, about why it doesn’t really feel like it would work for me, about for which body types the styles pictured would work. Along with all the other resident concepts knocking around in my brain recently, these two confirmed my thinking that a capsule wardrobe is doable. But I don’t think it is as easy as we have been led to believe.

The three complications:

  1. silhouette: ideally, if I am to wear a fitted skirt, it will be with a top with a little volume, and vice versa. The best capsule wardrobes would be assembled of pieces which, when combined, create a unified silhouette.
  2. proportion: how many times have I tried to make an outfit with a really great top and bottom that don’t actually meet in the middle? It will be easier to create a cohesive capsule from pieces with length proportions which play well together.
  3. color harmony: even if I get the color values right and there is no apparent clash, there are just some colors I don’t feel as comfortable wearing together. Color combining preferences seem to be rooted in personality. What color is your coat? The simplest capsule wardrobe would include pants only in colors you like with it (your coat probably covers your skirts, otherwise same concept).

This is not a comprehensive list, just a peak into what that burning smell is coming from my ears. After chewing on this for a few days, an example of a smart casual capsule wardrobe that I think really works with these concepts arrived in my inbox via Youlookfab.


  9 Responses to “Capsule Wardrobe: 3 Factors to Consider”

  1. Yeah – I’ve never gotten in to capsule wardrobes either, and I realized at some point that it’s because I don’t have my silhouettes or proportions worked out. I’m getting closer – almost all my tops are now a good “pants” length (since I wear pants almost exclusively), but it came at the expense of my being a bit bored with everything being the same length. So I still haven’t figured out whether this idea would work for me.

    • Do you usually wear a third piece? I have been thinking that is also where some people’s calculations for capsules vary from what mine should be. For example, I think many people who use a formula with very few layers to tops life somewhere hot, like southern California, where the jacket is optional. Typically, I need a third piece except in July and August, and even then I usually tuck a little cardi in my purse.
      Anyway, still working on it and thinking about it. 🙂

      • You know – that’s a good thought. I prefer the simplicity of a look without a third piece, though, like you, I often require one for warmth (except in July and August). I usually wear an undershirt, and keep a jacket on hand – but I have a hard time making blazer-type jackets work (perhaps because of my choice to shop almost exclusively at thrift stores….)

        • There is also the matter of fabric. I have been enjoying wearing the emerald green double-breasted (pictured in the haircut picture) because it is fleece. Like sweatshirt fleece, not the polyester kind. I got it at goodwill for $4, but it was Forever 21 so cheap to begin with. Some Blazers are too rigid.

          The last two cotton Blazers I got before that were both from H&M, originally. I need to remember that these inexpensive, teenager stores have a fit that works for me when it comes to these pieces.

  2. The problem with the 3d piece seems twofold to me, in my own wardrobe. If you want a definite silhouette – say looser over slimmer – then that 3d piece addition either has to echo that – looser 3d piece in our example – or completely contradict it. And 3d pieces seem so heavily loaded with message. A fitted, structured jacket – as is so common to rein in fullness or smooth over curviness or perceived problem areas – can say what Jess Cartner-Morley terms “on my way to a hearing of the disciplinary board.” So you get a brisker more official look to you. OTOH, if you add a piece with waft and/or drape – kimono or waterfall lapels – you can seem to be reaching for the exotic in the first case or determinedly trying to negate excess authority you may be conveying. On and on, enough examples to fill a book. Plain cardigan: have you given up on keeping up?

    I recently read a great piece by Lisa at :

    It’s about structure vs flow. Prompted me to take a look at where I was using each. I don’t really use “flow” but I quickly drew representative drape (meaning here how a fabric behaves) in typical top and bottom pieces. I saw that I prefer highly structured – or what I am calling shaped – pieces in straight skirts, tube skirt, longer A line skirt and 2 pair of jeans. I have 1 tube skirt and 2 A-lines in corduroy and suede.
    I also like looser and/or crisper short sleeve woven shirts – usually patterned like Hawaiian – to stand away from my body in intense humidity.

    Otherwise, all of my dress pants are body skimming and have subtle lower fullness so as to gracefully kick out a bit when I walk – not bells or flares, though. I have some skirts that have restrained or controlled fullness – a chiffon irregular geometric patterned box-pleated skirt. Quite ethereal in its way but by no means flowing. OTOH, I am thinking of purging 2 cotton skirts with stitched down pleats or gores because they have too much stiffness and heartiness.

    I wear a lot of knitwear or knit tops and generally like them slightly loose. I like the quality in a button shirt that would be what Imogen Lamport, I think it was, called pooling. If you drop it on the floor it pools. I don’t own any crisp button front shirts (other than the Hawaiian business but they’re not the same psychologically). I have 2 button front shirts – one off white and one with a dense swirling pattern of black, brown, cream – in stretch fabric.

    I laughed at your question about what color was my coat. I have a great variety. I like my two sweater coats as much as my structured coats. But I wear the sweater coats open with a thick textured scarf or a patterned large silkier or challis one when warmer. I’ll say here that when I do wear structured coats people take me for decades younger than I am. I was going up the front steps in a red wool zip front hooded (but hood down) 3/4 length coat. This was just a few years back. Fellow visiting next door asked how long I’d lived here. I answered over 25 years. “Oh,” he said, “it’s your mother’s house.” My mother, had she lived, would have been over a hundred. Something about structured modern or classic coats seems to cause people to think you are in their “group” or if much younger, then of their mindset. Modern, active, etc.

    I haven’t gone through the find-the-level-of-structure/flow exercise with blazers yet, though. As many as I own – and it’s been greatly reduced – I don’t seem to want to wear them. I’m wondering if I’m aiming for a longer 3d piece like a duster, light open suede “coat”, etc. For shorter jackets, I am noticing that I really like a linen-look medium brown vintage lightweight jacket that is very lightweight and has some built in pleating in front that results in wider ties that can be left loose or drawn together and tied at waist. Does this mean that all my other jackets, which are tailored, should be leaving?

    Imprecise but nice grid for structure vs fluidity

    Loved your idea, btw, of utilizing a bracelet to keep the eye moving.

    • I’m getting rid of those two cotton summer skirts. Realized that I don’t like the “disturbed” silhouette change, particularly in balky medium weight woven cotton.

    • You have now convinced me to prioritize what I already knew I needed: a wool coat big enough to go over my layered outfits. I think that is at least some of why I haven’t been wearing my blazers and so on that I really like. We move really quickly here from needing as many clothes as you can wear to as few, and my wool coat fits really nicely – like over a dress or a sweater. Otherwise, the only time a blazer would be enough for outerwear would be June or September. Maybe. 🙂

      • I also need to keep some outerwear items – that get worn the most! – that give me the psychological comfort that I know they can go over anything and not feel so restrictive that I feel like those South Park kids. Among the many silhouettes that works is the out-of-date 😀 style of wedge shape. I often belt mine, sometimes a little lower. When you think about it, most of your winter bulk is going to come in the upper shoulder/arm/chest area. This style lets you suggest that you are more lithe underneath.

        Another that works well for me is a vintage quilted camel hair coat that is trapeze. It’s somewhere between a true camel hair coat and a camel hair sweater in thickness. Mine has no inner extra warm layering or padding or interlining. The camel hair is incredibly warm and featherweight. Obviously goes over anything. Mine is black. Has some black leather at wear spots like opening of pockets. If you liked something like this in alpaca, say, it would be equally light and toasty. Mine was five bucks in a church thrift store.

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