As you may remember, I decided to do a capsule wardrobe challenge during the last two months of 2018. My reason for doing this was to shift my focus away from what’s in the stores and toward what I have in my closet. I wanted to better understand what was and wasn’t working for me and why, and I have found that limiting my choices for a period of time aids me in this effort. In today’s post, I will recap my fall challenge, share a bit about the state of my wardrobe as 2018 came to a close, and highlight my clothing and shopping goals for 2019.
About My Fall Challenge
Before I delve into numbers and insights from my fall challenge, I want to first summarize the rules I followed when getting dressed during November and December. My challenge was kind of a hybrid of Project 333 and the “30 for 30 Remix,” plus I added some of my own personal twists to get the most possible learning out of the exercise. Here’s a basic overview of what I did:
- I dressed myself using two separate 30-item capsules for my “out and about” and at-home wardrobes. These capsules were built organically as I went along throughout the challenge.
- While I didn’t include shoes and accessories in my 30 items, I kept track of which ones I wore and how many times they were featured in my outfits.
- I kept an outfit journal for my “out and about” ensembles in which I rated each look and made notes about what did and didn’t work. I also kept track of any pieces I wanted to reach for but didn’t have on hand (either in the capsules or at all).
- After I reached the 30-item limit in my capsules, I allowed myself the option to swap items out for either weather or style-related reasons. The “weather clause” was necessary because November is often quite warm where I live and cool weather doesn’t generally begin until later that month or early December.
- Items that I swapped out for style-related reasons were placed “on probation” and at the end of the challenge, I needed to re-evaluate whether or not they should remain in my wardrobe.
The timing of the challenge worked out perfectly, as I wore my thirtieth “out and about” outfit on December 31st. Below I share my capsules, what I swapped out and why, some wear statistics, and what I learned from taking on the challenge (I already shared some mid-challenge insights back in December).
Out and About Capsule
Here’s a look at my “out and about” capsule at the end of the challenge:
Particularly astute readers might notice that there are 31 items in the capsule instead of 30. This is because I struggled to decide between my two burgundy cardigans and ended up including both of them in the capsule. When all was said and done, the breakdown of my out and about capsule looked like this:
- Sleeveless/Short-Sleeved Tops: 7
- Long-Sleeved Tops: 7
- Toppers: 13
- Jeans/Pants: 4
It’s interesting to compare these numbers with the ones I shared in my Spring Challenge recap. That capsule included 16 tops (4 sleeveless or short-sleeved and 12 long-sleeved), 8 toppers, and 5 pairs of pants. At that time, I also included shoes in my capsule, of which there were three pairs (I will address shoes later in this post).
I also took note of the colors of my capsule items in both the fall and the spring:
- Solid Black: 9 (11 in spring, including the 3 pairs of shoes)
- Black Prints: 8 (6 in spring)
- Burgundy: 3 (also 3 in spring)
- Purple: 2 (1 in spring)
- Blue: 4 (also 4 in spring)
- Denim: 3 (2 in spring)
- Gray: 1 (3 in spring)
- Green: 1 (2 in spring)
It doesn’t surprise me that my colors were so consistent in both seasons. While some people mix up their colors based upon the time of the year, I don’t tend to do that. I’m happy with wearing mostly black and jewel tones all year round and I don’t see that changing much. I may want to lighten up my footwear and handbags somewhat during the warmer months, but I’m sure I will continue to wear a lot of black all year round. What can I say? It’s my favorite color!
I noticed that some of the same items made their way into both my spring and fall “out and about” capsules. When I looked at the final capsules for both seasons, I saw that the following 14 items were included in both:
These items were mostly worn on cooler days during December, which makes sense since I faced similar temperatures during my spring challenge. However, some of the toppers were worn on the warmer November days as well, as were the black short-sleeved tee and long black vest. It would make sense to do another challenge during the heat of summer later this year to see how many items can truly work for me year round. I suspect there won’t be many at this point, but this is something I would like to change so that I can eventually maintain a smaller and more cohesive wardrobe.
Shoes and Accessories
I didn’t limit the number of shoes and accessories I wore during the challenge, but I did keep track of them all. By the end of the challenge, here’s how those numbers worked out:
- Shoes: 7 (5 sandals, 2 booties)
- Purses: 2
- Watches: 4
- Bracelets: 7
- Necklaces: 6
- Earrings: 17
- Scarves: 3
- Hats: 3
These numbers were pretty consistent (within one or two items) with what I tracked during my spring challenge, except that I wore more earrings (17 vs. 12) and shoes (7 vs. 3) this time around. I think the fact that I included shoes in my spring “out and about” capsule forced me to minimize in that area, whereas I gave myself the freedom to wear as many shoes as I wanted in my fall challenge and thus ended up more than doubling the number. The fact that my fall challenge included both warm and cool weather came into play, too, which is part of why I opted not to count shoes in my capsule and to include the “swap clause” in my challenge rules.
The images below show the shoes and accessories that I wore during my fall challenge. Please note that I don’t have photos of all of my accessories, which is why the numbers don’t match up perfectly.
Interestingly, the two bags I used during the fall challenge were the same ones I carried back in the spring. I’ve had the pewter bag since 2013 and the black one was acquired at a consignment store shortly before my spring challenge. My two pairs of black booties were also included in my spring challenge. The shoes I wore most often in November and December were the black closed-toe booties (11 times), black peep-toe booties (6 times), black Taos sandals (4 times), and pewter sandals (4 times).
Many of my jewelry pieces were also repeats. I don’t tend to purchase many accessories anymore, whereas this used to be a wardrobe area in which I bought a lot. I’m now more selective in what I buy and while I still like variety in terms of my jewelry, I continue to love and happily re-wear the pieces I’ve owned for years. These days, I only buy a few pieces of jewelry each year and most of it comes from one favorite store in Tahoe that I frequent whenever I visit my family there. Five of the accessories in my fall capsule (three pairs of earrings, one hat, and one scarf) are new since the time of my spring challenge.
I ended up removing nine items from my “out and about” capsule because the temperatures became too cool for me to wear them. The swaps were mostly summer pants (7 pairs), but I also swapped out two summer tops (one tank and one cold-shoulder top) when the weather shifted in early December. Here’s a look at those items:
I believe that I will wear all of these items again once the weather warms up come June or July. I think I may need to get one pair of cropped pants taken in (the polka dot pair), but the other items should be ready to go once summer temperatures hit.
I don’t think it’s too big of a problem that I have different pants for cool and warm weather. I’m actually happy that I finally have a warm weather pants capsule that works well for me. Unfortunately, I can’t say that same thing for my cool weather pants, so there is some work to do there. I wrote about this quite a bit in my insights post, so I won’t repeat myself now. I will say, though, that I’m finding it somewhat boring to wear the same few pairs of less than ideal pants over and over again and I would like a bit more variety there. I think that adding two or three new pairs of pants for the cooler months would make a big difference in terms of my wardrobe satisfaction.
Style/Fit Related Swaps
I also swapped out five items for fit or style reasons:
At the end of the challenge, I re-evaluated these items. Here’s a synopsis of my reasons for swapping these items out and what I have decided to do about each piece:
- Black knit coat – I’ve had this coat for about ten years and it has been worn well over a hundred times (including five times during this most recent challenge). I still like the style and comfort of this piece, as well as how it looks from the front. However, I got a glimpse of the back view in a fitting room in December and was not pleased. Apparently, it no longer works well in light of my menopausal weight shifts and larger hips. The coat is now in my “holding zone” and I will evaluate it again later in the year after I hopefully manage to drop some of the pounds I’ve gained (I have lost a bit of weight, but it’s not as easy with the hormonal changes!).
- Black long crepe cardigan – I realized that this recent consignment buy was too large, so I had it taken in earlier this month. It looks much better now and is back in my regular closet rotation.
- Black mid-length cardigan – This cardigan hits me in a tricky spot, right at the lower hip area. It doesn’t work so well with jeans or long pants for proportion reasons, but I think it might work better with cropped pants. I will re-evaluate it in the spring, but for now it’s in the “holding zone.”
- Black/white diagonal striped top – When I wore this top, I noticed that it’s too big in the torso area, which is a common challenge for me. Since I like the style of the top and find it comfortable and flattering, I plan to have the sides taken in soon.
- Off-white and black paisley tee – I still really like this tee (bought during the 2017 Nordstrom Anniversary Sale), but the fabric isn’t holding up so well even though it has been worn fewer than 15 times! It’s a cotton/modal blend and I haven’t had good luck with that combination unless some spandex is also thrown into the mix. I’m no longer buying cotton/modal blends, but I still have a handful of such pieces in my closet. This tee has been downgraded to at-home wear only and will likely be purged later in the year.
Having the swap clause allowed me to replace the questionable capsule items above with pieces that worked well for me during the challenge. Rather than either pushing myself to wear items that had issues or making do with fewer capsule pieces, I was able to select other clothes to wear during the latter weeks of the challenge. I will be able to salvage two of the swapped out items through alterations, I have re-purposed another, and the fate of the remaining two hangs in the balance. I’m glad that I was forced to make a decision about each questionable piece, which was one advantage of the challenge. Without pushing myself to acknowledge and address problematic pieces, they would probably still be hanging in my closet “as is” and either not being worn or being worn with discontent.
I won’t go into as much detail with this capsule, but I do want to recap it as well. After all, I spend more time in these items than I do wearing my “out and about” pieces. These items aren’t as interesting or exciting, but they play a very important role in my life, which is why I included them in my challenge. It’s equally – if not more – important that this clothing works for my body, life, and style!
I don’t have pictures of several of my at-home items, but here’s a look at 26 of them:
Not shown are a pair of shorts and two t-shirts that I wear when using my elliptical trainer at home, as well as one pair of black lounge pants. I mostly wear t-shirts and black pants when I’m at home and when I go on walks or to the gym. If it’s cold, I sometimes wear long-sleeved tops and/or several black toppers. Some of the tops that I wear at home are also worn for casual out and about occasions, particularly the long-sleeved waffle-style tops.
All of the above items were worn multiple times, which was not the case for at least a few of my “out and about” garments. The most frequently worn at-home pieces were my black lounge/workout pants, black jackets, and walking shoes. The items I wear for my in-home cardio exercise were also worn multiple times each week.
I ended up swapping out seven at-home items during the course of the challenge:
There were fit issues with three of the tops, with two being too big in the torso and one being too tight in the upper hip area, which are both common issues for me. I have altered one of the tops (the black and white striped one), but the other one (gray graphic) is in my holding zone because I’m not sure if it’s worth tailoring. The pink striped tee is in my holding zone because I hope I’ll lose some weight and will be able to wear it again. The other two tops and the two anoraks are more appropriate for warm weather, so I will revisit these items in June or July.
What I Learned
I already shared some of the lessons I learned during the challenge in my mid-challenge insights post, but I’d like to encapsulate all of them here today. Since this post is already quite lengthy, I won’t delve too deeply into any of these topics, but I suspect I will address some of them in future posts throughout the year.
The Importance of Bottom Pieces
Many of the times when I was unhappy with an outfit during the challenge, it had to do with the pants I was wearing. Sometimes it was because the pants weren’t quite long enough. Other times, it was because they didn’t fit quite right. A common issue for me with pants has to do with comfort, but sometimes my more comfortable pants aren’t very flattering. Regardless of the variation of my complaints, it’s clear that pants continue to be my nemesis!
As I mentioned earlier, I’m happier with my collection of lightweight and cropped pants, but I’m less than thrilled with my jeans and long pants. Most of these items fit me, but I don’t like the way they look on me at my current weight and size. I definitely need to prioritize finding better pants, even if that means doing a lot of online ordering and returning in order to get it right. It doesn’t matter how many great tops, toppers, shoes, and jewelry pieces I have. If my pants aren’t good for whatever reason, the resulting outfit is always going to be subpar.
Too Many Similar Items
I have a lot of items that serve the same purpose, which leads me to “split my wears,” a concept introduced by style expert Bridgette Raes in this article. I think it’s okay to have more than one of a particular clothing item type, especially if it’s something you consider a wardrobe essential. But if you have too many similar pieces, it can lead to a boring wardrobe and a stagnant style. Even though your outfits may include different items, the visual effect may be virtually the same, which may not be what you ultimately want. This is the case for me with my black cardigans and striped tops.
I don’t think my duplication of such items is a huge problem in and of itself, but coupled with my lack of pant and closed-toe shoe options, I find that many of my outfits are just too much of the same. My life is very casual, so it makes sense for me to have a lot of jeans, tees, and knits, but I probably shouldn’t buy too many more of the aforementioned items anytime soon (except for better jean options, which I definitely need!).
I Miss My Colorful Coats
I used to have a nice assortment of colorful coats in my wardrobe, but now all I have left is one that’s in my holding zone because it’s currently too tight to button up comfortably. The others have all been passed on because they became worn out, dated, or snug. I haven’t been able to replace them as of yet and I’m feeling their lack in my wardrobe. I used to love popping on a bright coat over a simple outfit and getting a quick and easy style boost. I had turquoise, cobalt, purple, and gray coats. Now all I have are black coats/jackets and since I wear a lot of black otherwise, that can make for a very dark and unexciting outfit. While I do have lots of colorful cardigans, they don’t provide enough warmth during December through March. I hope to be able to add a couple of bright coats back into my wardrobe in 2019.
Some of My Favorites are Getting “Tired”
As is true for most of us, I have items that I wear over and over again. Pictured below are three examples of this – they don’t have too much life left in them.
It’s rare for me to still love items that are wearing out, but I would be very sad not to be able to wear these pieces anymore. I wish I would have thought to duplicate the shoes when I still could, but I can still duplicate the cardigan and plan to do so soon, as I’ve worn my existing one many, many times over the past two years. The exact sandals are not available, but a similar pair is still being sold on Amazon. Because I still love the style and can see myself wearing it for years to come, I may take the plunge and order them. As for the booties, since the style is simple, I’m sure I can find a suitable replacement without too much effort. I will either do so during the spring sales or when fall shoes are released later this year.
2019 Wardrobe Goals and Plans
I bought too many items during both 2017 and 2018. My total expenditures those years weren’t too out of line, but I brought a lot of new pieces into my closet. Since I also purged many items, there was a lot of “closet churn,” as I wrote about in this September post. My biggest wardrobe goal for 2019 is to decrease the churn! I want to make fewer and more strategic purchases. I want my purchases to have a strong impact upon my wardrobe satisfaction. I don’t want to buy things simply because they’re easy to fit (i.e. tops and cardigans), are on sale, or strike my fancy in the moment. While such items may give me a jolt of short-lived pleasure, they don’t tend to increase the overall happiness quotient of my wardrobe.
It’s not fun to have to leave stores empty-handed or order and return multiple items in search of the right one, but I know this is what I need to do. I have to prioritize buying the pieces that are going to add the most mileage to my outfits, as well as maximize my physical and emotional comfort. That said, my shopping priorities for this year include the following items. These are mostly cool weather pieces. I don’t think I will need to buy many warm weather items, but I will revisit that issue as it gets closer to June/July.
- Black straight-leg pants (forgiving fit)
- Dark wash straight-leg jeans
- Mid wash boot-cut jeans (long enough!)
- Black boot-cut jeans (long enough!)
- Black print full-length pants (Spring-Fall weight)
- Blouses or special tops (2-3)
- Gray or pewter booties
- Black booties (replacement)
- Black Taos wedge sandals with silver hardware (replacement)
- Black Athleta Pranayama Wrap (replacement)
- Black cropped lounge pants
- Black full-length lounge pants
- Colorful 3/4 length mid-weight coats (2)
- Black cross-body purse (I have a few options in mind)
- Cobalt cardigan (replacement for one from two years ago)
- Cobalt moto jacket (very hard to find item for years now!)
- Cobalt fitted short-sleeved tee
- Burgundy fitted short-sleeved tee
Yes, there’s a lot of black in there, but that’s what I often wear and I know it works for me. I would be very happy if I could find all of the items on this list during 2019. I don’t need more than what’s on this list, but I’m okay with buying a few fun pieces here and there, as long as I don’t go overboard!
I’m going to keep this list with me for when I shop and I’m also going to keep it handy on my computer for when I’m browsing online. My 2019 word is “freedom” and I believe that I will experience a lot more freedom with my wardrobe and how I dress if I focus on my priority items and don’t allow myself to go astray. Most of the items on the list are essentials that will serve as foundation pieces for my outfits. These are the things I need, not a bunch of additional striped tops and similar style cardigans!
Next Steps and Your Thoughts
I mentioned in my capsule challenge insights post that I’m going to formulate seasonal capsules and do more outfit creation sessions. I have also been identifying “uniforms” that I’d like to focus on to help streamline what I wear, make it easier to get dressed, and reduce the need to maintain a large wardrobe. I will be writing about these subjects in future posts, so stay tuned.
I’d love to get your thoughts on the topics of this post. I used to worry that articles like this would bore people, but they were always popular on Recovering Shopaholic and hopefully they are of interest here as well. I always learn from what others share about their wardrobes, so I can understand why people like reading my musings on the subject, too.
Feel free to comment on what I have shared, as well as what you learned about your wardrobe in 2018 and what your shopping and clothing goals are for this year. If you have a shopping priorities list for 2019 and are open to posting it, I’d love to read it. If you need some tips and suggestions on putting such a list together, you might be interested in this 2014 article. Wishing you wardrobe happiness in 2019!