Experiment: Building a Capsule Wardrobe

The other day, I had a dentist appointment and most of my favorite clothing was in the laundry or at the dry cleaners. I had a moment of panic, not sure what to wear. I can’t really remember what I ended up wearing that day, but I do remember thinking it was ridiculous that I had plenty of clothing and yet I was still freaking out about having nothing to wear.

That experience and the general desire to pare down and have fewer things, plus the fact that I recently wrote about it for O.info, Overstock’s information wiki (I’ll put the link up when it goes live), made me want to try putting together a capsule wardrobe.

On the face of it, a capsule wardrobe sounds kinda of intimidating, especially if you like fashion/shopping/clothes. “You want me to wear just X pieces of clothing? What?”

The truth of the matter is, there are different types of capsule wardrobes and different “levels,” if you will, of it. For example, if you were to follow the rules of Project 333, you could only  have 33 items, including shoes and accessories, for an entire 3-month season.

But, if you follow the advice over at Un-Fancy, you can have 37 (give or take) pieces, and an unlimited number of accessories. Your workout clothes and work around the house clothing don’t count towards your 37 item limit. PJs, undies and hosiery also don’t count.

I’m doing a version of the Un-Fancy capsule wardrobe, except here’s the thing: I’m not really counting shoes towards my limit. My thinking here is that I don’t really wear  shoes like normal people do (I work from home and spend most of the day barefoot or in stocking feet, even though I’m in business casual clothing). So, coats, blazers, skirts, tops and sweaters all count, but not shoes. Maybe when I get better at it, I’ll include them. But not for now.

Lots of Tears Later…

capsule_wardrobe1

I decided to try a capsule for Fall, or for the months of September, October and November. The process of picking what clothes to include in the capsule and which to either donate or keep for the next season was tough. The first time I tried it, I actually gave up and figured a capsule wardrobe wasn’t for me.

Today, I picked up  a bunch of clothing from the dry cleaners and decided it was probably easier to put together a capsule now that everything I owned was at home. Plus, I decided not to count shoes and also to leave out my band T-shirts, since I don’t wear those that much and they are more sentimental items than wardrobe items (I’m a beginner,  I’m taking this one step a time, people). Also, reminding myself that just because I wasn’t going to wear something in fall doesn’t mean that I won’t wear in it winter, spring or summer, really  helped. I had to keep reminding myself that I naturally don’t wear lightweight sleeveless tops when it’s cold out or wool skirts in the middle of summer.

I settled on this:

  • 5 skirts
  • 1 pair of jeans
  • 5 blazers/coats
  • 4 dresses
  • 15 shirts/blouses
  • 11 sweaters/knits/T’s

capsule_wardrobe_fall2015

As you can see, I stick with a “business casual” look all the time. I rarely wear jeans, so figured one pair would be fine for fall when it’s not that cold yet. I think 41 pieces (+shoes) will be enough to see me through November, but we’ll see. It looks really sparse. But, with the exception of the telephone print pencil skirt, all of the tops work with all of the skirts (or jeans), so there’s plenty of opportunity for mixing and matching.

My main questions are the following:

  • Am I going to get bored?
  • Will I run out of combinations quickly or will I get lazy and have to do laundry/ironing more often?

Let’s also look at the positives. Sticking to a capsule for a season will make me more excited about the things I do own. For example, I was upset about taking my silk clock print and silk zebra print blouses out of the fall capsule, until I pointed out (to myself) that the two blouses are great for wearing in the winter and that I’ll probably be pretty  happy about wearing them when it’s January and 30 degrees and sad outside.

Going with a capsule will also help me spend less on clothing. Let’s face it, I spend way too much on clothes. I tallied up the amount so far this year and it was not a good amount. Even though I ostensibly have a “budget,” I’m terrible at sticking to it. But, if I’m limited to 41 items plus shoes for the season, I’m not going to be like, ooh, look at that pretty thing, let’s buy it.

I’m excited to kick off the capsule, on September 1. I’ll check in regularly and post outfits to show how I’m making it work.

Shopping: Everlane

Everlane, a retailer known for being particularly transparent about where its clothing is made and how its materials are sourced, has been on my radar for a while, but I hadn’t purchased anything from it. Now that I’m trying to really pay attention to where my clothes come from and to buy less, but better, I finally gave the company a shot.

I started with  two styles that I know I’ll get a lot of wear out of: a basic, scoop neck tank in black and a white button-up silk sleeveless shirt.

everlane_silk_tucked everlane_tank_tucked

 

 

 

 

 

Let’s start with the black tank top, because I’m actually wearing it as I write this. The top is cut to be a bit big and to hang away from your body, which you can kind of see in the photo above, particularly under my right arm. It’s a soft, lightweight cotton knit that’s made in LA.

Size wise, I went with a S, using the measurements listed on Everlane’s site as a guide. Instead of giving you body measurements, the site lists the actual measurements of the shirt, which I think is more helpful than giving body  meausrements. Before ordering, I measured a few shirts that fit me well and picked the size that was closest to them.

everlane_tank_untucked

My one gripe is that the shirt is a touch long. Maybe it’s just because I’m wearing it with a pencil skirt in this photo, but I think it looks pretty awful untucked. Maybe it would look better with jeans.everlane_silk_untucked

On to the silk sleeveless. I went with a Small with this one, too, using the measurements on the site as a guide. I think the shirt is meant to be cut a bit more loosely, but that look never works on me, so I’m glad I stuck with a slimmer size.

As you can see if you look at the untucked photo closely, the white silk is a touch sheer (you can see the pattern of the skirt through it), but it’s not so sheer as to be an issue. The silk has a nice hand and it’s well constructed, with French seams instead of serged edges.

I really love that the company is so forthcoming about its factories, providing photos and a description of the histories of the companies it sources from. It also provides a price breakdown for each item, so that you see what the item cost to make compared to what the company charges for it. For example, the tank was $18 and cost $8 to make.

I’m really happy with these two shirts from Everlane and plan on making it my go-to when I need basics.

Movie Review: The True Cost

As much as I love clothing and fashion, there is a lot about the industry that bothers me. I recently watched the documentary “The True Cost,” which takes a close look at the environmental costs and the human cost of the way fast-fashion is produced. Although the images in the film were unsettling and designed to shock, I didn’t walk away from it learning something that I hadn’t learned before. Instead, I walked away from it feeling pretty hopeless in the face of an industry that demonstrates the worst excesses of capitalism.

Aside from major systemic change, there’s a feeling that you can’t do much to correct the situation. There’s always the belief that you can “vote with your dollars,” and avoiding shopping at places such as Old Navy, H&M, and other fast fashion retailers. But, how much good does it do not to shop there? Does it do any more good than give you a bit of self-righteous happiness or the feeling that you can excuse yourself from the problem? You might not shop at those stores, but most likely plenty of people will, because of budget constraints or any number of other reasons.

I already avoid the standard “fast fashion” places, because their clothing is just too poorly made.  I get really upset when I buy something, even something really cheap, and it falls apart after a wear or two. But, I have to recognize that some of my favorite places to shop aren’t exactly guilt-free when it comes to the issue of over-production. Stores and brands that weren’t “fast fashion” before are adopting the methods of those retailers, feeling an increased need to produce more and more lines each year. Capitalism is about growth and for things to keep growing, more and more needs to be produced each year, even though the planet and the people living on it don’t benefit from the increased production.

As to the movie itself, it’s shot in that kind of familiar, liberal viewpoint documentary style. There is footage of the Rana Plaza tragedy and interviews with people who work in factories or who grow cotton on farms. There are shots and stories of people who have been mutilated, made ill, or otherwise permanently injured due to their work in the industry.

We hear from people whose point of view we’re clearly supposed to be appalled by (a man from a free trade organization who argues that working in a sweatshop for pennies a day really is the best option for some people), as well as from people who are doing something against the grain (the designer Stella McCartney and the founder and CEO of a sustainable fashion company called People Tree). The Marxist economist Richard Wolff appears to argue against capitalism and the focus on continuous growth.

“The True Cost” recognizes that the issue of cheap and fast fashion is a complicated one and one that will take some doing to extricate ourselves from. Although it’s common for a lot of documentaries to offer “solutions” or a call to action at the end, usually in the form of quick bullet points, this one doesn’t do that. The director, Andrew Morgan, noted in an interview that there aren’t really any easy or simple solutions to the issue.

I think what it boils down to is this: Until there’s a major shift or systemic change in the way people approach the production of clothing, the purchase price of clothing and how much clothing they ultimately need, there won’t be a major change in the fashion or clothing industry.

That doesn’t mean that I or you can’t do what we can to encourage change. It’s not so pat as “don’t shop at H&M (or where ever),” but it can be something along the lines of “buy less stuff.” You can’t have continuous, unrelenting growth if people are like, “no thanks, I’m good with what I have.”

It’s figuring out how to be good with what you have that’s the tricky part.

Shopping: Boden T-Bar Flats

Ah, Boden. You have done it again. It’s no secret that I really love Boden’s shoes. They come in interesting styles, and they usually have a good selection of flats. So, I ordered another pair: the Strappy T-Bar Flats, in navy. I am going to a wedding at the end of the month, and my dress is mint green (from Rent the Runway, meaning I haven’t actually seen it in person), so I figured navy shoes would work with it.

boden_strappyTbar

I have to be honest, I don’t really even know what size shoe I wear any more. Usually a 10 fits, but when things are pointy and dressy, I’ve found I need to go up a half size. Then again, sometimes a 9.5 fits, there’s a lot of guesswork involved. I got the size 10.5 or size 42, since that the size that worked for me for the Alice Flats, and they fit pretty well.  I do wish that there was one more hole on the strap at the ankle, but I can work with the somewhat loose ankle area.

Quality wise, the shoes are decent. They are suede and lined in leather, with a plastic sole. There’s a bit of cushioning in the sole, which I appreciate.

All in all, another interesting looking, well made shoe from Boden!

Shopping: Anthropologie

As I’ve mentioned in the past, I’ve long admired Anthropologie from afar, but never really purchased anything there, save for a telephone print pencil skirt, which I wear quite a lot. I ended up dropping by the store across from Rittenhouse Square this weekend, since I wanted to get some new knobs/drawer pulls for an Ikea dresser I recently moved from a closet to the living room.

anthro_drawerpulls_dresser

Cute, right? My favorite part is that the drawer pulls combined cost as much as the dresser itself (It’s the Rast from IKEA). Oh well.

Since I was there anyway, I figured I might as well try some stuff on. I really liked the way the Brynn Shirtdress looked on the model online. This was a drses that I was ready to buy, full price, sight unseen.

Um, I’m really glad I didn’t do that. On me, the dress was a different story altogether. It was super unflattering. I look a little round in the hip area, don’t you think? The skirt portion of the dress is lined, which I think contributes to its poufiness.

anthropologie_brynn_shirtdress

I easily look 10 pounds heavier in the dress. I wondered if it was a sizing issue – I’m in a small – but I doubt going up or down a size would have made the situation any better.

The puffy skirt wasn’t the only issue. The dress is made of a woven rayon and there were a lot of loose threads on it. The invisible zipper was a bit sticky and, strangest of all, there was a weird bulge in the fabric on one side, near the bottom of the my rib cage. You can kind of see in the picture below.

 

anthropologie_brynn_shirtdress_closeup

You can also see it if you look at the close-up view of the model on the site. I had gone in planning on buying the dress, but it was just such a hot mess on me that I ended up leaving it behind.

anthropologie_pencil_skirt

I also ended up trying on the Parfait Pencil skirt, which was also a bit of an “eh.” It just felt kind of flimsy and cheap. It’s made of a somewhat textured woven polyester, with a sheer panel between the two green stripes. The fit is slightly wider and looser than your average pencil, but that could also be because I picked up a size Medium, and it was a little too large on me. I somewhat liked it, but not enough to see if the next size down would work better.

anthropologie_cedez_top_untucked

Since I was wearing a dress, I grabbed a random shirt that looked like it would match the pencil skirt to try on. Funnily enough, the shirt, the Cedez Tank, was probably the thing that I liked the most. I really loved the color  (deep emerald green) and the multiple layers. You can leave it hanging out for an interesting look with jeans or tuck the longer, lower portion into a pencil skirt so that it looks as though you’re wearing a cropped shirt, as in the blurry photo below. anthropologie_cedez_top

The only drawback of the shirt is that it’s a somewhat heavy polyester crepe. So, not the best fabric ever, but also not the worst.