Wardrobe Exercise: What Are My Capsules?

My wife's been out of town, so I may have gone a little stir crazy today. (Though you'll notice I still haven't posted my purchase review for June, for shame reasons.) I pulled out all my clothes and sorted them into capsule wardrobes.  

Summer Work Capsule
Consists of: 5 dresses, 3 cardigans, 3 skirts, 1 button-down shirt, 2 short-sleeved shirts, 4 infinity scarves.

Not shown: 2 blazers, 3 shoes (pumps, flats, sandals), 2 handbags.

Notes: I haven't worn the button-down shirt once this summer, but it looks great on me. Actually, I should probably count it in the winter or perhaps "transitional season" capsule since it can be worn in any season. It looks good with pants or a skirt.

Winter Work Capsule
Consists of: 8 v-neck sweaters, 5 scoop neck T-shirts, 3 pairs of slacks, 1 wool skirt/leggings combo

Not shown: 2 blazers and 2 handbags (same as in summer capsule), ankle boots

Notes: The skirt gets worn rarely, largely for temperature reasons. When is it ever the right temperature for a warm, knee-length skirt? I used to include a bunch of camisoles in this wardrobe, but I switched over to the scoop neck T-shirts because they protect my sweaters better. I don't like scoop neck T-shirts on their own, but they layer better with V-neck sweaters than V-neck t-shirts do.

Summer Casual Capsule
Consists of: 1 hoodie, 1 sweater, 1 cap, 1 belt, 3 button-down shirts (1 short-sleeve plaid, 1 rollable long-sleeve pinstripe, 1 rollable long-sleeve plaid), 3 solid color T-shirts, 6 graphic T-shirts, 3 pairs of shorts, 3 pairs of jeans, 5 tank tops

Not shown: backpack, sneakers

Notes: I liked the look of a button-down over a tee or tank, with jeans. This is the first year I've gotten into shorts in a big way. This year I'm into bold yet masculine florals: floral swim trunks style shorts, a Hawaiian print T-shirt from the H&M men's section. I even have a floral carabiner.

Winter Casual Capsule
Consists of: Same as summer capsule, but with shorts, tanks, lightweight button-downs, and floral T-shirt removed; 4 flannel shirts and a beanie added.

Not shown: Two thermal henleys which I couldn't find.

Notes: This is the capsule with the most overlap. I guess I really just have one, all-season casual capsule - it's not like with the work wardrobe where the change of seasons leads to totally different clothes.

Performance Capsule
Consists of: down jacket, windbreaker, 2 bandanas, wool half-zip, sweater (same as in casual capsule), lightweight insect repellent hoodie, earbuds, running belt, 2 running shorts, sport bra, bikini, hiking pants, yoga capris, yoga pants, 2 lightweight wool T-shirts

Not shown: running shoes, hiking boots, various other bits of winter layering gear (hat, gloves, base layers, etc.)

Notes: This isn't really a cohesive capsule in that it's not things I'd necessarily mix-and-match together; it's really more like 3 mini-capsules of hiking, running, and winter outdoor gear.

Leftovers: Things That Didn't Make Any Capsule
I didn't do this scientifically (I probably missed some things), but here were some items that jumped out at me at the end for not having "made it" into any capsule.
Consists of: 1 suiting dress, 1 party dress, 1 coat, 5 slouchy linen T-shirts, 1 short-sleeve button down, 1 casual t-shirt, 1 performance/running t-shirt, 1 long-sleeve plaid button-down

Not shown: a big basket of strappy tanks which I think are my wife's??????

There are a variety of reasons I didn't include these things in other capsules.

The suiting dress isn't really part of a current capsule - I find it too formal to wear to work - but I wear it to job interviews and other more professionally formal occasions (with a blazer.) The party dress is part of a sort of fancy mini-capsule for weddings and things, along with a pair of tights and heels. Both of these dresses anchor what are essentially one-outfit mini-capsules.

I stockpiled linen tees in post-summer sales the last couple of years, after really liking them one year. They are quite cool in the summer, and I still like them in theory, but I don't wear them as much now because I find them too casual to wear to my current workplace, and I find that on weekends I tend to reach for more traditional T-shirts that pair better with jeans. If I just had one or two of these, I'd probably fold them in with my other T-shirts, but it's weird that I have five.

All the things on the right side of the picture probably do belong naturally in one of the capsules that I already presented. The coat and performance shirt go in the performance capsule; the t-shirt and 2 button-downs go in the casual capsule. But I didn't include them for some reason. The fact that they escaped my notice when I was putting together my previous photo collages: random coincidence, or Deeply Meaningful?

What this exercise really brought home for me was this: first, I have done a fabulous job of transitioning to my True Summer color palette. Just look at all those pinks, blues, turquoises and seafoams.

Second, my wardrobe is surprisingly modular. It was easy to divide things into capsules. And I really don't mix-and-match across capsules; there's only one item that could be reasonably counted in all of them (my navy crew neck sweater). Almost nothing resides comfortably in both my casual and work wardrobes, except underwear (not shown).

I know that some people like versatile pieces which can be dressed up or down, taken day to night, etc., but for me, that just doesn't work at all. I like to wear completely different things in the different areas of my life.

There are a few reasons for this. First, when I dress casual, I like to dress casual. I don't like "dressy casual," and I prefer to just wear jeans and a T-shirt when I can. I can't wear these things to the office (anymore - I no longer work at an Anything Goes tech firm), so already, my wardrobe is divided by formality.

It's also divided, oddly, by gender expression. My casual look is tomboy/androgynous/soft butch/masculine, and my work look is quite feminine (in the summer anyway). I can't explain it, but I feel more comfortable in androgynous clothes when I'm relaxing, and more confident in feminine clothes when I'm trying to be professional. I just have no interest at all in very feminine casual clothes -- the closest I get is unisex clothes that are pink (e.g. a hot pink Carhartt beanie). I'm also completely uninterested in dressy masculine clothes (suits and ties, wingtips, etc.) I think it's cute when other women wear three-piece suits, but I don't want to rock that look myself.

You can see that some of the "leftovers" are things that fell into that awkward area. The linen tees, for example, are causal but maybe too femmey to go with my more androgynous casual look. Same for the plaid button-down, which has so far escaped donation by being on-paper similar to plaid button-downs I have in my casual look, but I never choose it because it's more drapey and feminine. It looks like something that goes over a strappy tank, not a brewery T-shirt.

The green short-sleeve button-down doesn't have that problem so much, but I think it's just plain not my color. Too yellow - maybe better for a Spring.

This exercise has helped me to clarify some things about my wardrobe, and to explain why I don't like some things I've always thought I "should" like (and therefore occasionally buy-then-donate). Maybe a similar exercise would help you, too!


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