I am now about halfway through a year-long effort at wardrobe building. So how’s it going so far?

The short version of the story is that in the past couple of months especially I have developed a MUCH more coherent and detailed sense of how to get where I’m trying to go with my wardrobe — even if it still takes a while to find the items that will get me there.

For the long version of the story, here are a few of the wardrobe areas I’ve been working on and the progress I’ve made on each:

I was so annoyed a couple of months ago when a bunch of my PJ/lounge/exercise gear items wore out at once! Now, I’ve realized this represented a great opportunity. In the past I’ve basically just had a random assortment of thrifted things for these capsules, no real rhyme or reason, just whatever I happened to find and sometimes stuff that was “demoted” from my out & about wardrobe due to wear or just general unsuitability. NOT FAB! Now, I’m thinking about how to rebuild these capsules with deliberately chosen items and a defined color palette. For the pj/lounge capsule, I’m embracing heather gray, light-medium blue, and pink . I’m especially excited to incorporate pale blush/ballet pink here — I find it such a restful and pretty color. Just how I want to feel when I’m lounging! For the exercise gear (basically, just a handful of items to wear to and from the pool), I’m looking at heather gray, navy, and black.

I do not tend to overbuy for these capsules (in fact, I under-buy) so what I do have gets worn a lot. But I have learned how satisfying it is to have a coherent capsule of these often-worn items, and also that it is worth investing in them precisely because they are worn so much. The items I have purchased over the past 2-3 months are already approaching pennies per wear. For the sleep/lounge capsule I have purchased a pink tunic sweater, a gray open cardigan/robe, and 4 sleep tanks (2 gray, 2 blue). I would like to add an additional tunic (ideally gray) and open cardi (ideally light pink), and a pair of true slippers. I would also like to sew 1-2 pairs of pj pants and 1-2 pairs of shorts. For the exercise gear capsule i have purchased a sweatshirt-style sweater (gray, almost identical to the one that wore out, but actually a better shade of gray for my coloring, yay!) and a layering tank (black). I would like to add one more topper (ideally a navy zip-up hoodie) and layering tank (gray). I will be on the lookout for sweatpants as my existing 2 pairs are starting to show wear, but not yet urgent. I desperately need to replace my 6-year-old trainers!

At the beginning of the year I had ZERO cold-season skirts/dresses as items had worn out. Although my lifestyle is casual I do like to wear skirts occasionally so decided to build a small cold-weather skirts capsule. I determined to focus on knit skirts as these will be warm and also comfortable for working from home. Most of my cold-weather pants are neutral/solid and I wear color/pattern on my top half. For skirts I decided to flip the script with pattern largely on the bottom half. I think this will enhance the sense of variety that I get from this capsule. I have purchased a black knee-length merino skirt and a slightly longer asymmetrical tube skirt with a green/gray zigzag pattern. To go with them (I need dedicated tops because my pants tops are longer and I don’t tuck) I have bought a gray v-neck with purple/white fair isle trim, two portrait-collar plaid tops (I did not need two but they were sold as a pair), and a heather gray boxy pullover. All items secondhand. In the future I could add boxy pullovers in black and ivory, and a couple more print skirts. I have an idea to look for seasonally-specific patterns, like fair isle that I would wear in winter and a dark floral for spring, if that makes sense.

However, I realized that I was “working on” the skirt capsule in part because it was small and “manageable.” I’ll probably only wear skirts once a week at most during cold seasons (I wear skirts a lot more in summer). The truth is that my efforts, attention, and budget would be much better spent on pants and the tops/toppers to go with them. But I find that much harder/more confusing precisely because that is a larger fraction of my wardrobe! Hmm…

I have also been working on a warm-season work capsule after identifying that as a weakness when I attended a work conference in San Diego last fall. I envision this as consisting of 3 bottoms, 5 tops, and 2 pairs of shoes. I have a pair of black crepe pull-on pants and a few months ago purchased a black knit straight skirt that will work here, and am looking for a similar skirt in navy. I am looking for 3 reasonably professional print tops that will work with skirts and 2 for pants. So far I have found 1 of the skirt tops. Tops are hard. For footwear I *can* wear ballet flats and have several pairs but would prefer something a bit more authoritative/grown-up, like maybe cutout oxfords or the like.

Thanks to help from you all I am also a lot clearer on how to make my summer everyday wardrobe more functional. I won’t rehash the specifics of that previous thread here except to say that I have been looking hard for solid tops to go with my printed skirts; I’ve been especially attracted to the tie-front tops that are trending this year and have tried versions from Gap, Loft, and Madewell but struck out so far. Again, tops are hard! One thing I’ve realized is that while I do agree with the conventional wisdom that shorter tops look better with skirts, when I put on a skirt outfit with a top that hits where it is “supposed” to I really hate the way I look! I feel that these proportions make my torso look squat and square. So I’ve concluded that my figure flattery priority is lengthening my torso and that may mean that I wear tops that are slightly longer than they are “supposed” to be with skirts and everybody is just going to have to deal. (I am short with a very short torso so we’re talking about the difference between 20” and 21” here — it’s the little things!)

Thinking about these various smaller capsules of my wardrobe I can see how just a handful of pieces, carefully chosen, can yield plenty of variety. It was so satisfying to realize, for example, that just 10 items could potentially meet my warm-season work wardrobe needs! So I started thinking about how to apply this to my everyday cold-season wardrobe — as mentioned above, because this is the largest fraction of my wardrobe it has been more difficult to wrap my head around. I experimented with breaking things down into smaller pieces, oriented around different silhouettes (e.g., long over lean) and variations on those silhouettes (short over long over lean). I even developed a wOrkSHeeT to help me think this through, a development that will surprise precisely none of you.

That brings me to the biggest wardrobe-related epiphany of the last few months. Late last year I was pondering the question of “when and how does a wardrobe ‘click?’” My wardrobe is not quite (at all) there yet so I can’t answer the “when.” But I think I now have some insight into the “how.” For me, at least, the key seems to be breaking my wardrobe down into VERY fine-grained capsules (defined by activity or season or sometimes both) and then sketching out a small collection of items that might go into each. I believe this will help me ensure that the items I add will do real work in my wardrobe, and I’m excited to see how this plays out over the second half of the year.

Many thanks to anyone who read all the way through this! I am grateful for your attention and for any thoughts/observations you care to share.