Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Thoughts on month one of dressing like a birch forest

Linking up today to the January Outfit Showcase at In Residence and Just Jacq.

January Outfits

While capsule wardrobes promise to simplify the process of getting dressed, I struggled at first to put together outfits that I liked.

I think this is because I am sort of an obligate layer-er: in order to be comfortably warm during the cooler seasons of the year I almost always need to be wearing a long-sleeved top with a long-sleeved sweater over it. Sometimes the necklines or hemlines of these layers don't combine well, plus there is the comfort factor of one set of sleeves underneath another to contend with. So it has taken some trial and error to figure out which combinations of the tops and sweaters in my capsule are feasible. I've come to the conclusion that while it's easy to create mix-and-match collages of clothes on a computer screen, "everything goes with everything else" isn't a realistic goal in real life. 

That said, a well-chosen set of items does have tons of mix-and-match potential, so here's a week's worth of outfits that I've really enjoyed wearing.

tan clogs | medium-wash skinny jeans | fuchsia scoopneck sweater | ivory Aran cardi
agate ring | abalone ring | garnet earrings | teacup-print scarf (worn in hair)
I love the way this abalone ring looks against my burgundy and fuchsia items.

black casual tall boots | black skirted leggings | fuchsia scoopneck sweater | burgundy long cardi
wedding rings necklace | pink pearl earrings | abalone ring
I wear these skirted leggings a lot on the weekends -- they're super comfortable but a step up from yoga pants.

black dressy tall boots | black ponte knit pants | white tuxedo shirt | light blue long cardi
gray/pastel paisley scarf | agate ring | gray pearl earrings
I wore this on a day when I had a professional event in the evening -
I had forgotten it was happening that night and was very happy to feel like I didn't have to worry
about what I was going to wear because I was already wearing something appropriate.

black dressy tall boots | black opaque tights | black jersey dress | fair isle cardi
black enamel and silver bangle | agate ring | blue stone earrings
This cardi is admittedly difficult to mix and match, but I do love it so.

black dressy tall boots | black ponte knit pants | charcoal tunic sweater | blue handknit cape
black enamel and silver bangle | agate ring | blue stone earrings
Rather dramatic in an equestrienne sort of way --
yes, it felt a bit over the top at first, but ultimately this outfit was great fun to wear.

black dressy tall boots | black A-line jersey skirt | gray scoopneck | medium-blue cardi
black crochet tights | recycled metal necklace | braided metal bracelet | dark blue glass bead earrings
I love the vintage feel of a slightly A-line skirt and a longer, narrow-fitting cardi.
black dressy tall boots | merino jersey straight skirt | dragon-print shirt | sky-blue cardi
black crochet tights | agate ring | black enamel and silver bangle | onyx and pearl drop earrings
In the past I've always paired this shirt with a black cardi --
I like the way this challenge is pushing me to try new combinations. 

Items Not Yet Worn

I don't have much to say about this, I just thought it might be useful to record which items in my capsule are the last ones I reach for, and start to think about why.

gray/black/pink rose-print dress | black maxi skirt | black cashmere tee | black Aran cardi
ballet-pink cardi | gray shawl-collar pullover | blue and rose floral shawl

January Subtractions

Here's what I removed from my capsule this month and why.

Black and white plaid pinafore: This top has elastic along the neckline and shoulders which has lost its stretch, rendering it pretty dumpy looking at this point. And it was never very versatile to begin with.

Black faux-wrap pullover: In theory, effortless and apres-ballet-chic. In practice, just plain fussy with all the tops I tried underneath it, and gapes unflatteringly.

Ivory short-sleeve sweater: At some point I had convinced myself that this was oversized in a funky way, but it is really just bulky. Also it has slightly puffed sleeves, which aren't flattering to my broad shoulders.

Gray fine-gauge turtleneck sweater: I just feel frumpy in this, and will never choose it over one of my long-sleeve tees when I need a top with a higher neckline to wear under an itchy sweater.

Blue-gray lace pullover: I love the color and the lacy knit, but the cut makes my torso look like a short, squat rectangle.

Silver and faux-pearl bracelet: This was my grandmother's, but it's not really my style. It is retro in a  Mad Men kind of way, whereas I am more Call the Midwife.

Brooch with thistle and bee; brooch with watercolor landscape: I still like these items so I'm not removing them from my jewelry box -- just from my capsule, because I realize now that they don't really "fit" the overall look.

January Additions

Here's what I added to my capsule this month and why.

Gray scoopneck layering sweater: Cashmere Cache, via Ebay.
You could say that this replaces the gray turtleneck that I got rid of this month, swapping out the frump for a top in a similar color with a neckline that I much prefer.

Sky blue cardi: Nieman Marcus, via Ebay.
I realize that these mosaic pictures make this look like a duplicate of the medium-blue cardi already in my capsule, but the color is quite different as is the cut (this one is fitted and a bit cropped; the other is longer and straight). I know. I sound like I'm rationalizing, even to myself.

Onyx and pearl earrings: via Ebay.
These are not so much an addition as a replacement for a long- and much-loved pair of onyx and pearl earrings, one of which I lost on New Year's Eve. Sob.

Russian silver earrings: vintage, via Etsy.
I wanted a pair of silver earrings that would have more presence than my thin silver hoops. One of the real benefits of this approach that I can already see is the aesthetic clarity it brings to purchasing decisions. Yes, my jewelry box was lacking a pair of plain silver earrings, but there are hundreds of such earrings out there; how to figure out which ones I should add to my wardrobe? Riffing on the idea of the landscape I'm channeling with this capsule, I started thinking about the lands of winter birch forests -- Russia, Scandinavia. I could see assembling just a handful of old but not too precious jewelry pieces from these areas -- together with a few distinctive items like my fair isle cardi and photo-print scarf these could define the look and feel of my winter wardrobe, which would also contain many basic pieces (gray scoopneck layering sweater, medium-wash skinny jeans) that carry over from season to season.

Norwegian silver pendant: vintage, via Ebay.
I have a couple of tiny gold pendants that I wear a lot, but I think silver fits better with the palette of this capsule. This was a mateless screwback earring that I got for a song, and converted to a pendant. Also, see earrings discussion above!

Braided metal bracelet: husband's grandmother.
This is not new to my jewelry box but I didn't initially include it in my capsule because it is gold. I added it because my black enamel and silver bracelet didn't look right with my recycled-metal necklace. This bracelet is a pretty soft or muted tone of gold, so it still blends well with the silver items in this capsule.

For the record, yes, I do feel rather sheepish that so far I've added nearly as many items to my capsule as I've taken away. I would say that in general I have really enjoyed wearing this capsule, but I sometimes feel frustrated by fussing with it. Of course, this is exactly why people do the work of defining their capsule up front and then just get on with the wearing of it. I keep reminding myself that hopefully, this is my up front -- just a longer, more experimental version of it.

For more about my approach to capsule wardrobes in general, go here.

For details on the items in this capsule, go here.


  1. I love how you shared what you got rid of all ready and are really taking stock of whats working and whats not. For me, layering actually saves my capsule. It's how I stretch it out and make it more interesting. I also really only layer collared button downs under sweaters so those naturally go together. Thanks for linking up!

    1. Thanks, Jacquelyn. It sounds like you have a good formula for layering -- I think I'll just need to develop two or three, since I rely on this strategy every day rather than using it to "change things up." I'm hitting my stride now, though!

  2. I am totally with you on the whole layering thing being very fussy. But, I know that I have always thought that, and by this point in the winter all the layers are beginning to "weigh" on me!

    1. Ha, yes, definitely feel you on the "weight' of layers at this time of year. I'm going someplace warm for a few days next month and it will be a respite for sure!

  3. Your color palettes are lovely! And I feel you on the winter layering - sometimes it's hard to pull off an outfit in the way I want when there are certain requirements to staying warm enough... Really interesting to see the ins/outs of the wardrobe too.

    1. Thanks so much, Anne! And hey, if winter layering is frustrating and bulky at times...at least we are all in it together.

  4. I liked seeing the things that you didn't wear much and the things you removed completely. I also love your collection of pretty, unique jewelry.

    1. Thanks for your kind words, Shea. I feel really lucky to have a lot of jewelry that has sentimental significance and happy about how the challenge is spurring me to wear some of it more often.

  5. Replies
    1. Ah, sorry -- I guess I talked about that in a previous post but wasn't very explicit about it here. I just meant that the color palette of my capsule reminded me of a birch forest in winter, and I used that image as inspiration to further develop the capsule.

  6. This: "I've come to the conclusion that while it's easy to create mix-and-match collages of clothes on a computer screen, "everything goes with everything else" isn't a realistic goal in real life." Yes yes yes. This is why, even though I HATE clothes shopping in brick-and-mortar stores, I've almost come to the conclusion that that's what I must do. My body's been changing the past few years (hello, Late 40s) and I no longer know what will look/feel good on it the way I once did. I have to actually put the things on with the other things I want to wear. Really enjoying watching your experiments; you're getting me to think in new ways about my own wardrobe.

    1. Thanks, Rita, I'm glad these experiments have been thought-provoking for you. Letting go of the idea that everything must go with everything is actually kind of liberating, I find -- it's enough for most things to go with lots of things, and I still have plenty of choices when it comes to putting together outfits. My body has changed a bit recently too, and I agree it's frustrating to find that go-to formulas are no longer flattering. From shopping on Ebay I've developed a pretty good sense of the measurements that I want different garments to have, but I wish more retailers would provide actual measurements of their items rather than just some meaningless "perfect fit/classic fit/relaxed fit" descriptor. Seems like it would save everyone a lot of hassles related to returns!

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