Why, hello there.
It’s almost spring, it’s (mostly) acting like spring. So, I thought I’d chat a bit about my most recent (winter) capsule, and my plans for my next capsule.
For my winter capsule (here), I focused on colors I don’t gravitate toward much in the fall, but which include items I like for cold weather: navy, burgundy, black, and gray. The result was a capsule full of individual items I liked well, but I was desperately tired of dark colors and the available pairings by February. I made a few swaps, and bought a couple of (new) turtlenecks and a really heavy sweater (secondhand) that arrived JUST in time for the polar vortex. I think I ended up with a total of three items in cream/ivory (a turtleneck, a cotton-blend sweater, and the heavy sweater) and while that was a significant improvement, I really just don’t like wearing dark clothing without a fair amount of light clothing to break it up, or it feels too severe with my coloring. I also get tired of being cold and wearing jeans and sweaters every day, and I know that contributed to wardrobe fatigue – I also get tired of my summer offerings by the time we hit September, when it feels like everything cute is unbearable when you’ve been constantly sweaty, which makes sense.
Here were three of my favorite outfits (the pearls were a special addition for inauguration in January – I don’t often pair pearls with flannel, haha. Sadly, the last Chucks I had didn’t fit after the twins and were decluttered).
It’s a touch cooler again now (highs will be in the 50s for…pretty much forever, according to my weather app) but we just had a nice stretch with a lot of 60- and 70-degree days and I just needed OUT from my winter capsule. Instead of setting up a spring wardrobe, however, I did something different.
I have had this nagging (we’re talking years) desire? curiosity? to get to 100 items in my wardrobe. I think it really took hold when I started reading about and exploring minimalism and tiny houses. I found a blog called Rowdy Kittens years ago and loved it, and at the time, Tammy and her husband were steadfastly downsizing to get ready to move into a tiny house. At one point, she had one hundred things. Like, in total. They each did Dave Bruno’s 100-Thing Challenge and got rid of everything else that wasn’t for their cats or shared use. I cannot find the link for the life of me (Tammy has radically overhauled her website in the last many years, but people wrote about their experience and interviewed her, here and it was a huge topic among blogging minimalists, see also here and here and here if interested, I myself am going to go back and reread these years-old posts when I finish here).
“OK, not EVERYTHING, I said to myself, but what about just my clothes?” I have made lists. SO MANY LISTS. And every time I was struck by just how few things 100 items really would be and shoes. SHOES. I got under 100 shoes for the first time in my adult life about a decade ago, and then under 70, and finally under 50, and now I hover between 30-40 (and that feels abundant – I would wear most of them most of the time, pandemic notwithstanding). As part of recent decluttering efforts, I even got down to 25 pairs (my hiking boots not pictured), and BOY am I second-guessing myself (I know I don’t often wear my red cowboy boots or my Ugg boots these days, but I’ve had them since 2008. DOESN’T THAT COUNT FOR ANYTHING). Do I need two pairs of tan clogs? I like the looks of my Lottas, but the Danskos feel better and work with socks. And I don’t, full stop, like elastic-collared shoes. I have three pairs of “Day” shoes from Everlane (black and oxblood Day Heels and black Day Flats) and I like the looks but no matter the size, the elastic digs in SO uncomfortably after several hours. But I don’t want to spend money to replace them (especially the heels, which I haven’t worn in a year, thanks to said pandemic). But even then – 25 shoes and 100 items? That dedicates a FULL FOURTH to my feet.
Still, I sat down and started another list. Insanity? Perhaps. But because I’ve been decluttering and capsule wardrobing for 8+ years now, I wanted to push myself. I decided to handle my 100-Item Wardrobe exactly like a seasonal capsule – pack up the rest, and only declutter “duh” (obvious) things — there are always items after a capsule I’ve quickly realized don’t serve me and if I pull them out for a reason other than “they don’t fit with my palette or shapes, they aren’t warm/cool enough, but I still like and would wear them in another capsule”, I really try to donate them.
And, I didn’t include all 25 shoes. But most of them — VERY NEARLY all of them, made it in. For now. In the context of 100 items, it feels excessive. And looking at my summer (hot hot hot weather stuff), I’m questioning my dearth of shorts and sleeveless options. But I’m committed to working with 100 items through the remainder of 2021 and here’s how I did it.
- The capsule must remain 100 items (if I want to bring in something new, whether I own it already or buy new/secondhand, something else must be pulled from the capsule into an appropriate category, below).
- I did not include:
- Underthings. Bras, underwear, shape-wear, slips, camis, etc.
- Hosiery. Socks, tights (thin enough not to be stand-alone clothing).
- Jewelry and other Accessories. I’m counting food, not spice.
- Scarves, hats, gloves. I didn’t want to limit my variety here.
- Message/Souvenir T-Shirts. Wait, what? So, these are work horses and I wear them pretty frequently as base layers or on their own. They are standalone pieces. 1-3 has made it into most of my capsules. So why aren’t they counted? Because, friends. They are my rules and I what I say goes. I kid, sort of. But that’s it, in a nutshell. I just didn’t want to include them, and I wanted access to all of them. Full stop.
- Swimwear and associated cover-ups. I simply don’t wear these unless I’m going to the beach or pool.
- Bags. Inclusive of handbags/purses, backpacks, and travel bags.
- The Items I Didn’t Include Must Be Contained and Follow One In/Out Rules, Too. I have culled my non-wardrobe items to fit in appropriate spaces: my jewelry has its containers, my summer scarves fit in in a cute box in my dresser and my winter hats/gloves/scarves store tidily in their drawer near our side door. I only have half a dozen hats of any non-winter sort. My message tees fit, folded nicely, in little square cube storage. These things work as they are and they exist to make the “hard decision” items (the parts of my outfit I really want to think about) more robust and varied. So this is what I’ve got and the collection can shrink, but it can’t grow (in particular, I could definitely whittle jewelry, but it’s small, not bothering me, and many pieces are sentimental, so I’m leaving it well enough alone).
- That Means The Following Categories Were Included:
- My Core Ten. My ten very favorite year-round items. This is a stand-alone capsule that forms my most essential style. It’s a little bit French, a little bit Americana, and a whole lotta neutral.
- Forty Items That Evoke Seasonal “Feel” For Me. The items each for spring, summer, fall, and winter. They can, obviously cross seasons, but their job is to make my Core Ten into a more robust 30-item “warm-” or “cool-” weather-friendly wardrobe. There is nothing preventing me from wearing a summer thing in the winter or a fall thing in the spring or what-have-you. I mostly just wanted to ensure some balance, so my only rule was that it had to be appropriate/desirable for the seasonal capsule it is in. They are close to stand-alone, but there’s introduction of color and print here that makes for some trickier combinations. But they are great when paired with even just the Core Ten to make a 20-item capsule.
- Eighteen “Comfort” Items. I counted Pajamas, Loungewear, and Athletic. I never wear Pajamas as clothing, so that’s a little interesting to me, but while I rarely wear Lounge/Athletic as clothing, I don’t want to make bright line rules about what’s Lounge vs. Athletic or whether I need to count my leggings or sweatshirt if I wear them to the supermarket. So I just included the capsules. I really don’t need much in these – I have five sets of pajamas (summer, spring/fall, spring/fall, winter, winter), a summer nightgown, and my robe.
- Twenty “Special Use” Items. I have five odds-and-ends, seven formal/dressy options, and a tiny nine-item professional-wear capsule. The professional-wear capsule could stand alone.
- Seven Coats and Jackets. This leaves three items out – a lovely wool coat that is too dressy/small for regular use, a rain jacket that has been fabulous since 2001, but which really has seen better days, and a coatigan I may be tired of wearing, but am not sure.
- Five Wildcard Items. Shoes. More shoes.
- Other Than Completing My Lenten No-Want-Buy, and One-In/One-Out Rules, There Are No Consumption Rules. Some of these things are wearing out or will wear out. If there’s something that I’m excited about, I will buy it. I do intend to shop my non-capsule items and secondhand first, whenever possible, for the sake of the planet and my wallet.
- I Can Swap in and out as Much as I Want. In the week I’ve been doing this, I have already swapped a pair of pants. I also realized my numbering was off and was able to add one more thing. Despite feeling like my shoes are an out-size representation of my offerings, I picked…another pair of shoes.
100 Items. Here’s the list, very generically (ordered by type, not category).
- Cream Jogger Sweatpant
- Gray Suiting Pants
- Black Lightweight Wide Leg Crop Pant
- Tan Lightweight Wide Leg Crop Pant
- Light-wash Boyfriend Jean
- Red Straight Leg Crop Pant
- Brown Straight Leg Crop Pant
- White Mom Jean
- Blue Mom Jean to make into cut-off shorts
- Black workout shorts
- Mid-wash distressed cropped straight jean
- Black grosgrain-trim dressy skirt
- Black jogger trouser
- Mid-wash button fly stretch straight jean
- Black high rise straight legging
- Paisley maxi skirt
- Short block-print wrap skirt
- Striped gray romper
- Gray suiting dress
- Red velvet dress
- Painting overalls
- Stretch black midi dress
- Black pleat-trim cocktail dress with 3/4 sleeve
- Red eyelet cotton lace dress
- Green hooded zip sweatshirt
- Mid-wash jean jacket
- Black down vest
- Camel wool funnel-neck coat
- Olive down parka
- Navy down jacket
- Yellow rain coat
- Burgundy Suede Motorcycle Jacket
- Blue floral shorts pajama set
- White Waffle Robe
- Gray dot flannel pajama set
- Blue stripe nightgown
- Light green print pajama Pant
- White floral cotton pajama set
- Navy dot short-sleeve/capri pajama set
- Red plaid flannel pajama set
- Gray wool sneaker
- Tan Suede sandal
- Brown loafer mule
- Tan clog
- Tan rough-leather bootie
- Black ballet flat
- Brown/tan strappy leather sandal
- Brown ballet flat
- Brown Winter Boots
- Brown huarache sandal
- White Casual Sneaker
- Light Gray Slipper
- Gray Hiking sandal
- Burgundy Leather Block Heel Pump
- Brown Tall Leather Riding Boot
- Navy Tall Rubber Rain Boot
- Leopard-print Block Heel Pump
- Black Leather Block Heel Boot
- Green Running Sneakers
- Gray Casual Sneaker
- Leopard-print Smoking Loafer
- Black Suede Block-Heel Pump
- Gray Suiting Jacket
- Camel Heavy Cotton Sweater
- Stripe Heavy Cotton Sweater
- Stripe Poplin Button-Up Shirt
- Black Silk Shell
- Stripe Heavyweight Tee
- Navy Linen/Cotton Crew Sweater
- Pink Terry Sweatshirt
- Tan Long Linen Cardigan
- Gray “Be Kind” Sweatshirt
- Navy Merino Wool Turtleneck Sweater
- Mid-wash Chambray Shirt
- Gray Merino Wool Grandpa Cardigan
- Gray Tissue Turtleneck
- Ivory Tissue Turtleneck
- White Peasant Blouse
- Stripe Scoopneck Tee
- Black Beaded Cardigan
- Heavy Norwegian wool sweater
- Stripe bespoke raw-edge top
- Black long-sleeve tee
- Orange-red long-sleeve tee
- Black sleeveless lace top
- Gray pocket/cowl sweatshirt
- Burgundy Cashmere Sweater with zip detail
- Navy rose-print faux-wrap blouse
- Burgundy tulip-sleeve blouse
- Navy-dot silk button-up blouse
- CATS souvenir tee
- St. Louis University sweatshirt
- University of Kansas tshirt
- Tie-Dye Sweatshirt
- Red button-up peasant blouse
- Purple Yoga Tank
- Blue Yoga Tank
- Wool Stripe Grandpa Cardigan
- Community Band polo
- Tan linen-blend pullover sweater
So, in essence, I found my ten favorites as as starting point, and that was the key to my success. I could pack this group of Core Ten and go on vacation everywhere except, maybe, Fiji, or Banff in winter. This forms my core palette, my essential style, my very favorite things that I reach for over and over and over. The things I repair instead of replace if possible. The things I sometimes wish I had duplicates of (but know myself and am better served by loving them and wearing them out). Knowing this was perfect sorted and exactly right for me took all of the pressure off the rest of the wardrobe. I even did a 10×10 outfit challenge (10 outfits from 10 items) to ensure I could put together things for warm or cool weather, church, work, parenting or hanging out at home, going out with my husband or friends… and it works.
I don’t know if 100 items will be right-sized for me long-term or not. I am SURE that my current inventory with all the other stuff feels like more than I want to manage. And I know that while I adore capsule wardrobes, I always fight a nagging sensation that perfectly good things I love are getting side aside and possibly going permanently unworn (if I change size, they go out of style, my needs change) for no other reason than adherence to a number or they are slightly outside the style parameters I’ve set for my capsule.
Everything (minus a few things, below) in my 100-item capsule is in my primary closet or my primary drawers (half of a lateral IKEA Hemnes dresser), except for my leather jacket, work capsule, and formalwear, which I keep in my secondary closet since they are not daily-use items.
So what about the rest?
I have three remaining categories:
Near-Misses. These are things I’m surprised I didn’t include. I love them! I just, for whatever reason, didn’t think of them when I was building my wardrobe. And maybe that’s significant! But maybe it isn’t. I have three little boxes in my secondary closet that nest inside a hanging storage organizer. The top several sections house items which I don’t want to look at it in a given season (my two heaviest sweaters are there right now and I’ll continue to move fall/winter items in as warmer days become more regular), and the bottom three house the near-miss boxes. Boxing the items up limits what I can store and keeps it just out of sight/hard enough to access that it feels very much outside my capsule. The only near-miss not boxed is a leather blazer I’ve had since college that I have hanging.
Purgatory. This is a perennial category for me, no matter the size of my working wardrobe. I get very strongly attached to my clothing, and storing it away when I think I might be ready to part with it gets it out of my head enough to focus on what I have, and helps to sever the tie to the thing so I can donate or sell it later. I have a dedicated drawer in the bottom of a 3-drawer Hemnes I use as a bedside table for this purpose. The middle drawer is odds and ends (my weekend bag, a shoe stretcher, etc), and the top drawer is mostly small accessories and my scarves.
Example: I had, in my near-miss, a pair of lightweight, black, wide-leg crop pants that I love. I had included in my 100 items, in the interest of summer, a pair of raw-hem cotton drawstring pants I bought after my twins were born. They are really comfortable and I often convince myself they are cute, but when I had to wash my tan pants after they became heavily soiled during outside play with my kids, I put them on and spent the rest of the day wanting to take them off. I don’t know if they aren’t versatile enough to be worn year-round, or if they are just too big and too unflattering now, or what. They were placed in the purgatory drawer and the near-miss pants won a trip to the 100-Item show.
Analytics. Here are some breakdowns for those who enjoy that sort of thing (I’m the kind of person who very much enjoys that sort of thing).
- 38 tops
- 22 shoes
- 17 bottoms
- 8 jackets or coats
- 8 pajamas and 7 dress/one-piece items.
This is the starting point. I want to check back in seasonally to see how things are going. I set up a wear tracker, but I don’t know yet how much I’ll use it. When a capsule is small (33 items) I can remember well enough what I’m wearing and what I’m not. But I think 100 items might be big enough to allow me to push through things which are duplicative, even if I like the items on their own. Here are my questions for late spring:
- Do I need three pairs of casual sneakers (white Veja, grey Reebok, gray Allbirds)? I fell in love with another pair of shoes no longer made. These are my dueling “which is second best” contenders. I anticipate parting with one or the other at some point. The Allbirds are desperately comfortable, but I’m not asnexcited about their aesthetics.
- Why do I have so many sweatshirts? And why didn’t I include the J Crew one? I prefer the J Crew one, which is very small and cream with gray flecks, but it’s not as soft and stretchy as the Everlane one. But it is more structured and flattering. This may be a swap at some point.
- I realized when I was moving things around that I have the two yoga tops and also two quick-dry tees. Do I need two yoga shirts? I would like to get back into a routine and figure out if the answer is yes. I moved the quick-dry to purgatory for now, but if I work out 5-6 times a week, would I need them or grab message tees instead? (When I’m following a program I do this, and I follow a program with some consistency during non-pandemic times when I can guarantee a slot of time where I’m not parenting and Joe’s not working out an it’s not after 8PM.) I can easily fit the two extra tees in my small workout box for tops, so I’m inclined to add them back in, but I’d like to get through what is — hopefully — the end of the pandemic before I lock myself in.
- Things I’m not sure I love, or which are showing signs of wear:
- Button Fly Power Jean. It’s starting to look wavy on the inside as the elastic starts to give. I have to yank them up all the time. But the wash is perfect and they are really flattering. So I am trying to use them up.
- Paisley Maxi Skirt. I love the idea of this skirt! It’s vintage, probably 90s, and full length on me. I may take it to get altered when things feel a bit safer. I have a pair of casual overalls I bought because I was frustrated my painting overalls were…paint covered. I would like to alter those, too. They are in purgatory right now because they are too big. To remind myself, I’ll also going to note here that my dress coat has broken buttons that need to be replaced.
- Stripe Romper. Cute idea, but feels really cheap, which is accentuated by the weight of the bulky, heavy, zipper. If I can find something I love more (Hackwith, Elizabeth Suzann, Vetta, etc), I will replace it. I am looking for something I can wear alone or as overalls with a top underneath, so it can neither be too bare nor have close armholes or any sleeves. The top needs to cover my bra without fussing, so no deep cuts or skinny straps.
- Down Jacket. I asked for and received this for Christmas a few years ago. I feel like it’s a bit superlative, but I also think it’s perfect for travel and camping, so I might just keep that in mind. Likewise, it may duplicate my Green Hooded Sweatshirt, which is beautifully made, but so thick that it’s not nice to grab. And I looooooove green, but am pretty consistently decluttering it shortly after I buy it. Maybe I need to love green on my walls instead of my body (most of the paint in my house is green).
- Dotty Flannel PJ Set. It’s a size too big in the pants but I worry I shouldn’t size down in the top. If I find a cute flannel set at Target (Stars Above fits me better than Gap), I might replace. Similarly, the dotty short sleeve/capri is really cute, but sometimes the short sleeves hurt when they pull against my arm. I’d like to find a replacement for those and would like to avoid Pajamagram in the future for the discomfort reason.
- Everlane Day Flat. I am planning to wear these out and replace with the Day Glove, maybe. I like the shinier leather of the Day Flat, but not the elastic collar at the heel. Dr. It Girl cut the elastic on the back of hers. Maybe I should do the same…
- Community Band Shirt. This is the concert apparel for the community band I was in before the kids were born. I was thinking about returning to it last year but decided to wait another year and it’s canceled now. It was $10. Why it is taking up a spot in my wardrobe? And yet, I think I hope I’ll return to the community band, so I hold onto it because I’d need it.
- Burgundy Tulip-Sleeve Blouse. This might have a small pull or stain. It may need to be retired soon.
- As I sit here, what can I think of in my Near-Miss boxes that I haven’t included?
- My Eileen Fisher pink cashmere sweater
- My Hoy Saltwater Sandals
- My Reef Flip-flops
- My hiking boots (that’s the rest of the 25 shoes)
- The plaid button up shirt that inspired my winter capsule
- My Levis 501 jeans in black and blue (for their lower rise)
- My linen shorts (gray, blue)
- My lightweight straight-leg crops in tan and black
- What about my Purgatory drawer?
- I have a heavy boiled-wool sweater coat that is just a touch too bright a blue to wear with jeans. I would like to try it out. Perhaps I could swap it for the green hoodie? But the green hoodie works better with jeans…
- My white wide-leg crops. Now that I have the lightweight ones, I may be ready to let these go. The others are more flattering and comfortable. I do love the white, but the ochre color I have in my tan option is more forgiving…especially with little kids.
And this is now a very, very long post. But I wanted all of this in one spot for myself, and for those of you readers who wanted to do the deep dive with me. We’ll end with more pictures. Here’s everything, laid out by mini-capsules. Viewing it this way sure feels abundant.