I have mentioned several times (probably ad nauseam at this point) that tops are a weak link in my wardrobe. This is true across seasons. I think part of the problem is that I don’t really know what I’m looking for, particularly in the case of non-statement tops. I conducted a thorough review and edit of my tops capsule — primarily looking at cool season tops — with the aim of understanding exactly what details and qualities make tops work in my wardrobe. You will see below that my cull includes some items that were bought just this year — painful! Going forward, I hope this analysis will help me make fewer mistakes, and also more purchases (I tend to talk myself out of buying tops because I’m not confident that they’re right, and then, surprise! I don’t have enough tops).

I have included a few photos but I don’t have pictures of all the tops I have recently culled because I had already passed them along before Angie issued her challenge.

This is long, so I’ll abstract the lessons here:

  • No more “layering sweaters” and no welted hems
  • Scoop necks or other openness at neckline - MUST
  • Stay away from boho split-necks for cool seasons
  • Vintage-y, but not too girly or sweet
  • Especially for solids, look for details like pin tucks and texture
  • Natural fibers
  • Quality/construction is paramount

1. Black layering sweater - Banana Republic / Thrifted / 2012?

2. Fuchsia layering sweater - Banana Republic / Thrifted / 2013?

(Both sweaters are the same style but were thrifted at different times.) I have hemmed and hawed about “layering sweaters” (by which I mean, sweater-knit pullover tops that I wear under a cardigan) many times. Due to weight gain, these don’t fit as well as they used to, plus I’ve felt that I’m moving away from them style-wise. But I kept wondering whether I was *really* over the style, or just telling myself that because I didn’t want to admit that they no longer fit! These used to be an absolute staple in my wardrobe. But I think I’m less satisfied now by the color block-y effect that these tops often create in outfits. I want something both more subtle and more maximal (sounds like a contradiction but makes sense in my head). Also, I now prefer textural contrast between my top and topper, so woven tops (or if knit, a lighter-weight fabrication) work better.

One thing I’m learning is that often when it’s hard for me to let go of something, it’s often because that item taught me something important about my style. Because that style insight is still true, it “seems” like the item should still work! But that’s not always the case. For these sweaters, the insights were:

- A scoopneck is an ideal neckline for me.

- When I wear knit pullovers, I prefer a non-welted hem (I find welted hems fussy).

I still have 3 layering sweaters in my wardrobe, in colors (black, magenta-y purple, icy aqua) that fit my palette during the coldest time of the year, which is when I’m most likely to wear them. I do not need to accumulate any more.

3. Chambray popover tunic - Old Navy / Ebay / 2016? - photo 1

4. Black popover tunic - Old Navy / Retail / early 2018 - photo 2

I like boho-ish split-neck tops in summer, but I do not want to wear this style of top in cool seasons. They just don’t mesh well with the rest of my style. I need tops that skew more vintage-y rather than boho.

Related: One of my outfit formulas for hot summer days is shorts or a skirt with a lightweight 3/4 sleeve woven top. Occasionally I will wear a long-sleeve top with sleeves rolled up in this formula, but mostly I prefer ones that are designed as 3/4 sleeves — it’s just simpler/cleaner/less fussy. Do not rationalize top purchases with the idea that they will be worn across seasons in this way.

5. Green silk/cotton popover - Loft / Ebay / Late 2017 - photo 3

Was trying to add more of this emerald green color to my wardrobe, but did not get the details right. The neckline is too high/tight — I need tops with some openness at the neckline. Also, rounded collar is too “sweet.” And I’m realizing it’s too “plain.” Especially for solid colored tops, I want them to have some kind of detail — pin tucks, textured fabric, etc.

6. Dragon shirt - Thrifted / 2010??? - photo 4

Works best as an outer layer, especially at my current weight, and I just am not likely to wear it that way. Plus, the color scheme is a bit off (too warm) for me. Love this piece in theory, but time to let it go!

7. Teal layering sweater - Banana Republic / Retail / 2010?

I have a high tolerance for wear on my clothes but this was legit worn out — thin and stretched out. Very sad because it was absolutely the perfect shade of teal!

8. Blue/black knit top - August Silk / Ebay / early 2018 - photo 5

I like the blue/black mix and the Victorian-ish detail at the neckline, but the nylon mesh sleeves are simultaneously not warm enough and make me sweat. Gone!

9. Navy long sleeve tee - J. Crew / Retail / 2013?

Too small, getting faded at the edges.

10. Medium-blue Breton tee with eyelet trim - Anthropologie / Retail / 2014?

Weird cut (boxy torso, too-tight arms), and the side seams were sort of twisted around to the front so you could see that the stripes weren’t matched at the seams. Drove me crazy!

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