Sunday, September 27, 2015

My wardrobe this season: Fall 2015

My approach to seasonal capsule wardrobes has evolved a bit since my first experiments in this area last winter. I'm still very inspired by the idea of switching up my wardrobe each season, and organizing each capsule around a characteristic seasonal palette or "color story." I'm less interested in having hard-and-fast rules about how many or which items I'm "allowed" to wear at any given time.

So here is what I did to organize my wardrobe for fall. I pulled together a stack of items that seem quintessentially "fall" to me. Here's a better view of what's in that first photo above:

My idea is basically to wear the heck out of these items between now and Thanksgiving, mixing them both with each other and with a variety of closet basics that I tend to wear across several seasons. (This post should give you an idea of what I mean by "closet basics," although it's not really an exhaustive view.)

I spent a bit of time recently playing around with various combinations of these items. I was inspired in part by this post on Bridgette Raes' blog showing the mix-and-match potential of items owned by one of her clients. Bridgette is a professional wardrobe stylist and clearly knows her stuff, and her posts have a warm and upbeat tone -- all of which makes hers is one of my favorite style blogs on the Internet (and is probably why I keep referring to her as Bridgette, as if we were on a first-name basis!). I like that instead of pushing particular trends or items to buy, her posts tend to be much more analytical. I find that even when the outfits she shows are not my style or appropriate for my casual, work-from-home lifestyle, I can often glean the underlying principles that she's illustrating and then apply them to items in my own closet.

So, I sort of took apart Bridgette's post and then tried to apply what she was doing to my own collection of items. I haven't replicated her template exactly, but I think I've captured the spirit of her post. Settle in, this is a long one, with lots of photos!

1. First, Bridgette tackles an item that seems like it should be a staple but has been deceptively hard for her client to style. She's working with a pair of subtly patterned navy pants, and I'm using my bottle-green cardigan.

Here I've paired the cardigan with my black skirt leggings and a teal layering sweater. I can wear this outfit with black ballet flats early in the season, or black ankle boots later on when it's colder.

In her post, Bridgette also uses a particular scarf repeatedly and shows how it pulls together a lot of different outfits. My goes-with-everything scarf is a large square scarf with a print of ducks on a pale-pink background. Here's a better view:

I love this scarf and wear it often in fall. It was an impulse purchase at Goodwill about three years ago, believe it or not. It is not my usual fare -- I thought it was a little way too preppy for me -- and I balked a bit at paying seven whole dollars for it. But I am so glad I did. It's a good example of the usefulness of rotating my wardrobe seasonally: I only wear the scarf in fall, so it feels fresh each year and I'm excited to pull it out and wear it again.

It's also interesting to consider with regard to color. A common piece of advice is to build a seasonal color palette around the colors in a printed scarf, but in fact I don't wear the colors in this scarf much at all. I do love this pale pink, but have very little of it in my wardrobe. And the particular blues and greens in the scarf aren't exactly the ones in the rest of my clothing. Nevertheless, I think it works because the pink makes a nice contrast to colors like teal or bottle-green, and the blues and greens end up being "close enough." (In the outfit photo above, for example, you can see that the teal layering sweater really pulls out the medium blue bits of the scarf. But they are really not the same shade.)

Second outfit: same cardigan, with mid-wash skinny jeans, a gray layering sweater, smaller floral scarf with green border, and green flats.

Same jeans and cardigan, this time with a gray-and-white striped popover blouse, gray boots, and the duck-print scarf.

Same jeans, cardigan, and boots, this time with a black watch plaid shirt and and a floral scarf with an orange background. (On a really rainy day I would wear this with Wellies and perhaps swap out the jeans for dark-wash skinnies.)

Finally, the same combination of cardigan and black watch plaid shirt, this time with my black merino knit pencil skirt and black ankle boots.

2. Next in Bridgette's post is a cobalt-blue pencil skirt. My version of a brightly colored bottom that turns out to be surprisingly versatile is a pair of mustard cords.

First, I've paired them with the gray-and-white striped shirt and gray boots that you've seen above, and my ivory Aran cardi. You didn't think I'd leave out my Aran sweater, did you? Perish the thought!

Same cords, with the black watch plaid shirt from above, long navy argyle cardi, and Wellies. I realize that is a lot of color, but I think it would be rather cheerful on a dreary gray day.

Now the cords are paired with a black-and-navy plaid tunic, long charcoal gray cardi, gray boots, and the duck scarf makes an appearance once more.

Same mustard cords and gray boots, this time with the gray layering sweater you've seen before, and a fair isle cardigan (mostly blue, but it has a bit of yellow in it). Cozy!

3. Finally, Bridgette styles a pair of gray pants to make the point that basics can be worn in non-basic ways. I'm going to depart from her formula here and show a mix of items because I wanted to feature at least one outfit including each of the items in my "capsule."

First, a couple of outfits featuring my plaid portrait-collar blouse. Admittedly this blouse has a rather short season -- it has elbow-length sleeves, so it's just not warm enough, even with a sweater over it, once the weather really cools down -- but I do love wearing it in the mean time. Here I've paired it with my black merino knit skirt and navy argyle cardi, both pieces that I've used in outfits above, and a pair of braided clog sandals. The sandals are a good example of an item wouldn't be practical to include strict capsule wardrobe for fall, but on one or two unseasonably warm days, it's fun to pull them out and create some unexpected combinations.

Here's a similar formula that will more often be weather appropriate: the same top with dark-wash skinny jeans, my long charcoal-gray cardi, and tan clogs.

Here's that black merino knit skirt again, with a Liberty-print popover blouse, emerald green cardi, and green flats. Of course I could just as easily swap out the skirt for my dark-wash skinny jeans if I need to keep my legs a bit warmer.

Medium-wash skinny jeans, teal layering sweater, long charcoal-gray cardi, black ballet flats: all basics that I've used in various combinations in earlier outfits in this series -- here completed with a teal paisley scarf.

And finally, the emerald-green cardi and black ankle boots, with my beloved animal-print shift dress.

So that's 14 outfits from 30 items, pretty similar to Bridgette's 15 outfits from 31 items. Also, about half of the items that I've used here were obtained secondhand -- just to continue beating my "a secondhand wardrobe doesn't have to be a hot mess" drum.

Of course, these outfits don't exhaust all the mix-and match possibilities of these items. And I have a few other things not pictured here that I'll likely make good use of (a camel cable-knit cardi, for example, and a few burgundy things that help outfits feel fall-ish.) But it gives a flavor of my wardrobe this season.

I think this sort of exercise is a great alternative means to accomplish some of the same goals as a capsule wardrobe more narrowly defined. I'm surprised how many combinations I've discovered that I wouldn't have thought of before sitting down and rather methodically pairing up different items in my closet. And I'm excited to wear these outfits this fall and make use of what I already have -- rather than going shopping.

I'm sharing this post on Anne's "pin to present" linkup on In Residence. You can find the post that was the original inspiration for this one, and several other posts from Bridgette's blog, on my How to Wear It pinboard.


  1. Ah, I wish I had your wardrobe, Sarah! Or, more to the point, I think my daughter would wish I had your wardrobe ... not a single Aeropostale t-shirt in sight, she would point out ... ;)

    I am really, really, really bad at clothes. Shopping for clothes is pretty much the bane of my existence, in part because I don't like how things look on me, and in part because even if I were to find something "nice", I almost always feel "why bother, I'm just at home anyway..." All that being said, I do think it would be nice --- at age 48, ahem --- to feel like my clothing was just a bit more "grown up". (I'm sure my daughter would be grateful to never ever have to say to me again, "I thought we agreed that you weren't going to wear that shirt OUT?") So I think I'm going to make it my mission to be inspired by this post; I'm going to make myself go shopping ...

    1. Yeah, I sometimes feel vaguely ridiculous getting gussied up just to sit at home on my couch and type away on my laptop. But I have found that getting dressed in real clothes makes me more productive at work. And there's definitely some pleasure, from me, in wearing things that I really like.

      I think you would be a great candidate for a capsule wardrobe as traditionally defined, or a "uniform." From your previous posts/comments on this topic it seems like you are just really not that into clothes, which I think is a totally legitimate position to take, even for a girl. :-)

      Here is another post on the same blog that I referenced above that you might find helpful:
      Basically the idea is that you start with an outfit that you like from your own closet, and then take one piece from that outfit and make another outfit around it. And so on, iteratively, until you have a mix-and-match capsule of clothes. I wonder if a process like that would help you build a nice, tight selection of grownup-feeling clothes -- discovering things already in your closet that will work, and also developing a very targeted shopping list of things to look for. I don't know, for me, starting by going to the mall tends to leave me confused and frustrated by all the messages telling me who I am supposed to be and what I am supposed to want to look like. So that's why I like the idea of starting in my closet instead.

    2. I just had to pop back and say I hope I haven't mis-stepped with the whole "why bother when I'm just at home" thing. For what it's worth, I completely understand, and don't think it's the least bit ridiculous, that you would feel more productive when working at home if you're dressed in "real clothes", because I actually feel the same way: although I don't dress in clothing that I could wear to an office, I also MUST get dressed (in my usual, jeans and a t-shirt and maybe a sweater) because I feel absolutely terrible if I wear sweatpants (or heaven forbid...pyjamas and a housecoat!!) for too long into the morning. That would just make me feel sloppy and unproductive and lazy!

      Thank you thank you thank you for advising me not to go to the mall yet ;) (I really do hate it there, and from the sounds of it, you're not too keen on it either!). I'm going to take a look at the capsule link you provided and start there. I LOVE the idea of a uniform, and really, I'm almost there now. I have two pairs of jeans, and I found a long-sleeved t-shirt I absolutely loved last year, so I bought ... wait for it ... six of them, in four different colours (but unfortunately, they're probably not the best quality and probably aren't going to last very well, which means I'll have to start again...). Hmmm...although I'm not really that into clothes, I have to admit it actually does bother me (above and beyond anything my daughter might say) ... the feeling that I'm perhaps dressing shabbily ... so if it bothers me, I really should do something about fixing it.

    3. No worries, I wasn't offended at all, just commiserating on the "why bother when I'm just at home" thing. I totally understand where you're coming from!

      It sounds like you have a good start at a uniform capsule. That sounds great, and I hope the rest of it comes together quickly and relatively painlessly! For what it's worth, I can completely understand not being really into clothes on the one hand, and wanting to feel put together and dressed nicely/like a grownup on the other. Sure, that maybe seems like a contradiction on the surface, but it really is not underneath.

  2. I love these posts. I'm working on the capsule thing. And the having more style thing. And figuring out how to dress my middle-aged body (which has changed in the past few years) thing. So, I love these posts, because I love seeing how other people tackle clothing. I've got a post of my own brewing, but it's on my to-write list. What I love about yours is how colorful it is. I was looking in my closet this weekend and thinking how blah it looks--lots of cream, brown, black, grey. I do have some colorful scarves, and it seems I'm incapable of buying a coat in a neutral color, but I'd like to work in more color the way you have. Those cords are showing me a way in...

    1. I'm so glad these posts are helpful/interesting to you, Rita! I'm really curious to read your own thoughts on clothes so I'll be eager to see that post finish brewing.

      Yeah, I am not afraid of color for sure. :-) I think you're right that a colorful pair of pants (or skirt) can be a good way to incorporate more color. Since most people have more color in their tops/sweaters, figuring out how to wear a colorful pair of bottoms might push you to consider combinations you wouldn't have before. Anyway, I look forward to seeing how all this turns out for you!

  3. I love how well thought out this is! Picking your favorite items for the season and planning to wear the heck out of them is a great approach to your wardrobe - I've been aiming for a similar revised perspective on a capsule this fall and it's been fun. Especially love your outfits with the yellow pants!

    1. Thanks Anne! Yes, I noticed that your approach this was similar to the ideas that had been brewing in my brain...I don't think I ever actually typed that into the comment box on your blog though, d'oh! I've really enjoyed seeing the way you use your mini-capsule and look forward to seeing how you switch it up in October!

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