Expanding my warm weather clothing capsule in a red hot hurry

Between my new job and lots of stunningly beautiful, unseasonably dry weather, I’ve been having quite the fling with spring. Blue skies plus two months of temperatures rocketing into the 70s and 80s equal Vix and Spring, sitting in a tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G.

Surely nothing could harsh my sunshine-yellow mellow!

Except: I’ve got a regionally appropriate wardrobe, and that region is one where morning radio jocks make (truthful) cracks about summer kicking off July 5th. Plus I’ve moved into a slightly more conservative work environment with a very conservatively dressing boss. And I have a recent past full of items bought to ADD more print and color to my wardrobe of neutral solids.

My closet and I needed seasonal help, and we needed it fast.

In hopes of minimizing purchasing mistakes I forced myself to gather everything I owned that was remotely summery, try the pile on, and assess. Once I’d slogged through the evaluation phase with many a self-congratulatory comment, I knew it was time for some ground rules.

Clothing Capsule Purchasing Goals or, Can’t We All Just Get Along?

  • Simplify integration into my existing work/play capsule by sticking to variations within my color palette
  • Cherry-pick 2013 spring/summer color trends by focusing on cool-toned deep greens and blues, taupes, and medium purples
  • Make transitional weather less of a PITA by growing my collection of prints/patterns that mix dark and light colors
  • Add a lace item; purchase both looser and more fitted shapes; and get more of trends I’ve enjoyed for a few years such as high-low hems and sheer blouses
  • Keep my three style personas happy enough by choosing items that could combine into Contrarian Classicist, Minimalist Magpie, and/or Persnickety Bohemian wholes

Given that I’m a corporate creative, I have some leeway in clothing as expression—but when I start somewhere new, I generally like the focus to be on my work product and ever-so-charming personality, not my more…vivid…clothing items.

Somewhat reluctantly, then, I accepted that I needed to spend money on pieces that COULD work together in an all-quiet ensemble. From there I hit the sales to find things I could wear together or with my existing clothing and accessories.

You Complete Me (for Now): 10 New Pieces I’m Wearing Together + Apart

  • Color-Color
    • emerald/cobalt sleeveless silk print button up shirt
    • blue + purple + taupe floral print shell
    • sheer purple + grey print long-sleeved top
    • white + navy + light blue short-sleeved faux-wrap dress (not shown)
  • Neutrals
    • navy straight leg tropical wool pants
    • ivory + taupe lace pencil skirt
    • lightweight taupe blazer
    • white boho luxe silk blouse
    • black tropical wool sheath dress
    • black + brown + taupe leaf print dress
  • #11
    • cobalt leather work bag big enough to pack all my crap (necessary replacement) 

If I’d given into my baser desires, I would have bought all blues and greens and spent every day humming “La Isla Bonita.”

Using a fairly strict color palette to build my seasonal clothing capsules = a more functional closet + ability to rationalize going overboard with favorite shades (here, Spring/Summer 2013 buys of a cobalt leather work bag, bold emerald-cobalt button-up silk blouse, and navy tropical wool pants)

In the interests of being more well-rounded, however, I decided to look at the hot-to-trot shades for Spring 2013; since time was short, I wanted to choose my color palette variations with an eye to what would be easier to find in stores.

My  2013 Spring/Summer Color Palette, Give or Take: When in buying mode, it’s easier to choose color palette variations from trendy shades — so I looked at the Pantone Spring 2013 forecast and decided to focus my buys on shades close to Emerald, African Violet, and Linen (aka deep green, medium purple, taupe) + navy

Amusingly, buying things I love in colors that flatter sometimes means I’m accidentally on-trendish. Here, new navy pants meet up with a T and high-low hem top from several years ago.

As an (oblivious) early adopter of emerald-colored items, sheer tops, and/or high-low hems, I’m still trying to evaluate how I feel about semi-tucking and slouchy — here, the new navy pants combine with old pals for weekend wear

On a related note, wearing things I love in colors that flatter has resulted in a lot of mullet outfits: they’re sedate from the back but a party in the front.

I dialed up the sedate when I started my new job, but am now easing in some mullet wear (staid from the back, party in the front)…here, navy wool pants plus my Parade of Peacock Feathers Dress worn tunic-style

Another mullet outfit with the new navy pants — this time with my Periwinkle Silk Goes Goddess-y Blouse worn sans sash and tied in a side knot

Of course, sometimes my looks are sedate from the front AND back. I find navy + grey combinations seem to add a banker’s touch to everything…

New items include an ivory/taupe lace pencil skirt + a print shell with blues, purples, and light taupe + a navy cotton blazer — all chosen because they play well with each other and with existing closet items

…especially when a little boho weasels its way into an outfit.

Despite being too-big vs oversized, a $15 price + perfect-to-me colors/print means I bought this floppy-sleeved sheer blouse; I twist, tie, and/or cover to rein in its volume (Top, over a sheath dress for work as a non-flamenco dancer; bottom, for play)

When navy’s not around and grey’s gone missing, though, I rely on blazers and denial to tame drapey boho luxe silks and highly textured tops and bottoms.

Other new items include a highly practical lightweight taupe blazer and a highly impractical but somehow irresistible (hello, Persnickety Bohemian side) white silk shirt

As the final element in my capsule round-up, I offer a rather terrifying-in-retrospect triptych of 99% neutrals. Pay no mind to the mannequin stance and seemingly surgically attached taupe suede boots.

Is this a cheerful study of neutrals, or Vix Paper Dolls #12: A Reflection on the American Office Worker’s Socio-Intellectual Boundaries? Either way, the leaf print dress, taupe blazer, and black sheath dress (worn alone and as a faux-skirt) are now wardrobe staples

Six or so weeks into my fast and furious purchasing, all 10 pieces have passed their road tests with flying colors (and neutrals). Even better, I’m back to a no-fuss closet that gets me from robe to ready in 5 minutes flat. Feel free to share your strategies for capsule dressing below!

Looking for more examples of creating a capsule with a color palette in mind? My pals Fizz (Fall/Winter + Spring/Summer) and Eileen used similar approaches.

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Song in the Key of Busby Blue Dress

While some are born with a crispy, linear personality and some acquire one, others are awed and/or bemused by the very thought of such a thing.

I fall into that third category, and I fall into it hard.

In fact I’m so far from starched that behind closed doors I’m often ensconced in some raggedy hodgepodge of insanely comfortable, minimally seamed, usually be-lycra’d items. And I have to confess that I rather like things that way.

Generally, however, I try to pull it together when I leave the house. After all—and with apologies to Mr Wilde—being the focus of one style-related intervention may be regarded as misfortune; being the focus of two looks like carelessness.

Thus far, my efforts to incorporate qualities of my downtime ensembles into my public wear have led to a co-dependence on structured-but-not stiff items. I may not own any vintage Claire McCardell, daggummit, but no matter the trend du jour I’ll fight the good fight trying to channel her philosophy of dressing. Which is why shaped knits, softly draping lightweight wools, and tailored jackets with a little—or a lot—of stretch all know I’m an easy mark.

What can I say? I like clothes that move with me.

Especially when something about them makes me feel I’m ready to dive into a pool and start performing underwater acrobatics.

Sure, turn it 90 degrees and it's a stretch break...but then I can't pretend I'm a sychronized swimmer

L, a young Freedom Valley PA sync'r sails through the air; R, covering top US synchro athletes and their hopes for Olympic gold

Granted this dress had a head start at grabbing my cash since I’m a sucker for deep blues and have deliberately accumulated many of them…but its combination of a drapey front plus wide, ripply sleeves sealed the proverbial deal for me. So 40s-meets-slinky-70s!

No 70s-era Studio 54 denizen would have been caught dead in my shoes, but I like to think the dress might have passed muster with a dancin' dame or two

The devil in the deep blue details: unlike many similar sleeves I've seen lately, this dress has a panel that ensures undergarments and modesty are covered when one's arm lifts

[Given my short-waisted H/Rectangle frame, I bought with the knowledge that a slightly flared skirt may have been more flattering. But hey, at least I kept the self-belt looped in the back and tied on the side to avoid the belt-under-bosom look!]

Now: As a longtime fan of Esther Williams’ strength, grace, and glamour I’ll happily go on record as saying I consider anything even vaguely reminiscent of synchronized swimming’s beauty and/or 40s-era clothing design to be a very, very good thing.

Of course I also think anything involving ACTUAL synchro is even better, which is why I’m excited to see the sport formerly known as “water ballet” receiving more attention in popular culture.

From Sync or Swim documenting the training of top US synchro athletes to Men Who Swim investigating how one man’s midlife crisis took him on a chlorine-soaked path toward stylized glory to the easily accessible DVDs of Ms Williams and her corps gliding through Busby Berkeley’s intricate choreography, synchro is getting hot hot hot.

L and R, Esther Williams, the woman who swam to screen and business success; C, equal-opportunity synchronized swimming meets mid-life crisis

One can even find the water-drenched Aqualillies troupe offering LA-area workshops to regular folks who hanker to boost their fitness via eggbeaters, torpedoes, and ballet legs.

Need more proof that it’s a swell time to add a touch of mermaid to your closet or workout routine? You’ve got it….

Rebecca Glassman's "Synchronized Peeping Practice," arguably one of the best-ever entries in the Annual Washington Post Peeps Diorama Contest

PSA 1: While my prior video of Esther Williams talking about her professional relationship with choreographer Busby Berkeley (“Certainly the possibility that I might be injured was never a factor when Buzz was dreaming up his routines; he just assumed I could do anything”) is no longer available, this substitute includes iconic scenes and Williams’ commentary on her past and present

PSA 2: See one of Busby Berkeley’s most famous land/pool sequences in this clip from 1944’s Bathing Beauty

PSA 3: Discover more about revolutionary US ready-to-wear designer Claire McCardell in this New York Times article discussing the retrospective exhibit ”Claire McCardell and the American Look”

Closet closet in the wall, will my last 373 days of shopping make me bawl?

Around this time last year—okay, 373 days ago—I gave my system quite a shock when I decided to assess my closet’s ability to dress me in spring, then summer, clothes. I blame my surprise on being a great procrastinator. And an expert rationalizer.

But this year I felt more prepared. After all, I’d already been LESS prepared about wardrobe planning and maintenance…surely I couldn’t go backwards?

Last March I had four areas for improvement in mind, and I was determined to see progressdamnprogress by:

Of course every time I THINK that I’m making progress, I’m not. But an initial from across a crowded room visual inspection seemed promising:

The State of the Wardrobe | Center: the from-afar results of my 373 days of buying (minus a few Ts...and a bad-choice scarf headed for donation); L and R, pairings from the party

However, given a choice between finishing my taxes and recapping my wardrobe choices from last spring to this one, I thought the closet audit would be the proverbial lesser of the evils. Plus this way I can bore readers and not just myself!

[Though if I’d known how self-indulgent the exercise would make me feel, I might have chosen the taxes.]

The State of the [Vix] Wardrobe: A 5-Point Recap

  1. I bought a lot of stuff, and wanted even more.
  2. Without taking away from my greed, a significant number of work basics desperately needed replacing, so the “boring to kinda fun ratio” was what it was.
  3. Like any good born-again, I have now gone from “black, baggy, and covered in cat hair” to the other extreme: custom and/or customized clothing. This year, I asked a local resource to whip up 8 items from flattering-to-me fabric I supplied.
  4. Despite my whining about having to buy more (spendy) shadow’d shades for a summer job interview, I’ve gotten good use out of my Abandon All Hope Venn Diagram choices—especially the blouse/shell.
  5. If my corralling and math are both accurate: My new buys were an almost even split between color-color and neutrals (22 to 20, in color’s favor!).

A Sigh of Relief

I’ve mentioned before that all the planning and plotting can feel a bit bloodness to anyone who likes to be joyously impulsive about shopping. But I’ve found that being more forward-thinking means the impulse buys and “I’m bored with my closet or life” buys tend to fit in pretty seamlessly.

AWESOME

[But not always, and then they go back.]

I’ll also say that 99% of what I’ve bought in the last 373 days has been in “respectable” to “very frequent” rotation. The exception? A big ole scarf my pal Ms Eileen captured so nicely here. Despite wearing it with more flattering shades, I should have known the purples were too bright for me since it didn’t QUITE work with other items in my closet.

It looked amazing against the pumpkin, though!

And a Non-Epiphany

Most days I’m still big on the whole “majority neutrals + modest amounts of REAL color etc etc” thing. However, given the latitude in my professional environment I kept steadily wearing straight up color-color to test my (and probably others’) tolerance…before running back to undiluted shadow’d shades.

TOTAL COLOR-COLOR BUYS = 22

The State of the Wardrobe: Color-Color buys | 373 days

Tops: 6, including the Strawberry Fudge Ripple Top, the Book Lover’s Halter Top, a deep aqua silk jersey that gives me a blue-sky feeling even when the real sky won’t, and (Wool) Jersey Grrrl #1, a deep blue scoopneck

Sweaters: 3 (including a long-sleeved version of ole Strawberry Ripple referenced above)

Skirts: 2 (1 knit—the peeeeeek to-be-featured Ultimate PMS Skirt—and 1 Emerald Green Pencil Skirt)

Dress: 1 (the to-be-featured Purple Reign Wool Sheath)

Cardigans/jackets: 2 (both knit, including the (Wool) Jersey Grrrl #2, a muted red-violet jacket)

Scarves/shawls: 4 purchased (1 cotton, 1 silk); 1 cashmere (for inner/outerwear); 1 (unseen) rayon shawl donated for being too bright of a purple  + 1 lightweight wool shawl gift that looks better in Southern California sun

Miscellaneous Ts I am too lazy to scrounge up: ~ 4

TOTAL SHADOW’D SHADES BUYS = 20

The State of the Wardrobe: VaderWear buys | 373 days

Tops: 5 (2 higher-necked silk-cotton shells; 1 rouched silk mesh shell; 1 silk charmeuse shell; 1 grey+brown striped cotton)

Sweaters: 2 (the Zig Meets Zag Top plus a sheer merino, with rather adorable buttons on wrist)

Dresses: 1 (faux-wrap, faux-animal print…you can tell I shop at Ann Taylor)

Pants: 3 (2 desperately needed LINED dress pants in black and espresso wool; 1 highly wrinkled pair of white denim that gets worn for about 10 days each year)

Skirts: 2 (1 textured white cotton pencil in white, gets out about as much as white denim; 1 black knit pencil)

Jackets/Cardigans: 3 (1 jacket; 1 longer cotton cardigan; 1 elbow-length open/flyaway)

Scarves/Shawls: 1 silk chiffon

Miscellaneous Ts I am too lazy to scrounge up: ~ 3

WHY ETERNAL VIGILANCE IS NEEDED: THE LAST 120 DAYS

While my December ’10 and onward purchases include a fairly balanced mix of color-color vs neutrals and pattern/print vs solid…

The State of the Wardrobe, callout to Dec 10 - April 3 11 buys: For once, trying to think strategically for spring/early summer

the score of this closet segment is 7 to 6, with color-color on the losing end.

PSA: The blogger formerly known as Struggler uses spreadsheets to track her wardrobe. And now, as the English Organizer, she can help you do the same…while making your closet prettier and more effective to boot. Me, I’m a lost cause.

O no not you again: of closets and color capsules

As a recovering blacktextile-a-holic, I’m always looking for ways to pat myself on my now-more-brilliantly-hued back about my expanded color horizons. Too bad my smugness usually tends to be premature at best and delusional at worst!

[Not to mention annoying any way one slices it.]

Thanks to my DNA-derived ability to deny what’s transparent as new crystal, however, I’m generally able to happily co-exist with my fictional wardrobe until just-try-to-rationalize-THIS proof to the contrary arrives. And right around this time last year, “to the contrary” arrived with reinforcements when I blithely divided my brisk-weather clothing into “color” and “white-to-black” and found something startling: a blatant tonality teeter-totter.

Sometimes reality bites AND barks.

So before buying any new clothes for Fall/Winter 2010, I resolved to go into my closet with toothpicked-open eyes and see how I might best and most fearlessly allocate my resources.

I felt just like Napoleon, but taller!

Luckily, August’s emergency business suiting crisis and late-breaking heat wave gave me good reason to procrastinate over actually DOING any of the scut work I had so solemnly swear’d to undertake.

By early September, though, I grudgingly set aside time to fling open drawers, drag items off hangers, and paw through cedar-sheltered wool. Having tripped into—and subsequently enjoyed—a 5-piece, colorful-for-me capsule in 2009, I was keen to replicate my relative success.

But after cataloging the contents I saw before me in a semi-organized jumble, I whoa-nellyed. I knew I had best cast my increasingly beady eye on trend forecasts (goose-stepping moto-leathered knit-laden minimalistic 50s debutantes in vivid or bleached-out shades!) to better understand where the fashion juggernaut had placed its stakes in the seasonal landscape.

The landscape I would be dear god! trying to avoid or embrace in some way/shape, no matter how mutated my results might end up.

Having already decided to pursue winterized versions of the cool-toned blues and greens I now wear quite often in the summer, I took a moment to silently congratulate Pantone Inc for its good taste in selecting “Lagoon” as one of 10 key colors for fall. Especially as I had some blue/green items kicking around from spring that I could carry over.

[None were highly textured cocktail dresses, alas.]

Left: My closet’s fall/winter colors now include tropical blues and greens. Right: Pantone’s Fall 2010 “Lagoon.”

And then I moved forward. Between custom and retail choices, I ended up with 4 new items that sit pretty neatly into my Contrarian Classicist zone…and a 5th outlier that defiles its cool-hued majority with a few “tobacco” and “sunshine” blobs:

Top: Fall/winter purchases in what I’ll pretentiously term Palette 1. Bottom: Blue/green flings from Spring ’10.

Buys that will keep me from feeling blue:

The wool skirt works with all the tops; most of the tops work with each other; and so on and so forth. Throw in my denim pencil skirt, jeans, and spring’s green/blue shawl and I think even the purists would call it a fairly flexible, 8-piece tone-on-tone capsule.

And technically the blue jersey’s detachable cowl/stole can double as a miniskirt, bringing me to 9 items.

I KID

While of course I’m pairing the new duds with the usual grey/black/brown to knock the vibrancy down a notch, I’ve actually happily starting wearing the above together; for some reason, I never mind standing out in head-to-toe color-color if the hue in question is blue and/or green.

BRING ON YOUR SMURF OR JOLLY GREEN GIANT JOKES

With paradise’s main colors covered, it seemed prudent to base Palette 2 on the buys I’d made last winter—items heavy on the rose and purple/plum, items that play well with my bitter chocolate and reddish browns. Despite my investigative reporting showing that a Pantone Fall ALWAYS seems to have bright purple, I’ll pretend the inclusion of the vivid “Purple Orchid” in the company’s forecast helped sway my decision…

Left: This season’s closet will also be taking up where last winter’s buys left off. Right: Pantone’s Fall 2010 “Purple Orchid.”

…even though I think it’s pretty obvious I was more influenced by the costumes of Young Victoria.

Above: The Queen Victoria costumes share a little something with my Palette 2 buys.

Purchases that bode well for a purple half-reign:

Now unless one is a strumpet/free spirit who eschews wearing bottoms, it’s cheating to call the above a self-contained tone-on-tone capsule. But by pulling in two below-the-belt members of my Accidental Capsule—a brownish-plum wool skirt and prune-y cords—I bet it qualifies.

Left: Last winter’s below-the-belt picks—a brownish-plum wool skirt and prune-y cords. Right: Pantone Color Report’s Fall 2010 choices.

As for more sedate capsules? No worries. There’s certainly no shortage of deep brown, grey, or coal-colored items round these parts. It’s just that when the sun’s vanished and dirty puddles lap at my feet and I’ve had it with those around me, it’s nice to know I can sport a shade that puts me more in line with—if not exactly over—the rainbow.

Next: See my green-blue revue in action in Marine Drive

Plan I might and plot I do/So what’s with the closet déjà vu?

Nearly six months ago I dragged out my cooler-weather clothes for inspection, humming a jaunty tune channeled directly from one of Snow White’s happier dwar…er little people. Of course once I discovered I had grossly overestimated the amount of non-black, -brown or -grey in my closet (and the amount of maintenance I needed to do before actually wearing the clothes) the sounds coming out of my mouth could easily have been mistaken for vulgar curses. Because they WERE vulgar curses.

But as Ms Hinton once opined in her coming-of-age classic: that was then, this is now.

A now characterized by freakishly warm and dry spring weather. A present where wool sweaters create an Easy-Bake oven situation by mid-afternoon and favorite color-texture combos look oxymoronic amongst the daffodils. But also a season in which my local meteorologists are dusting off the words “cold,” “cloudy,” and “rainy” at seemingly random moments.

In other words: A now in which my 5 minutes to fabulous!!! system of getting dressed is failing because I keep putting off the tediousness of a closet analysis and the loathesome task of trying every-freakin’-thing on. Which has predictably resulted in my planning to wear something(s) that turned out to be:

  • dirty
  • unflattering
  • in need of alteration or repair
  • just…not what I’d envisioned or
  • nonexistent

I can’t say my slacking was helping me allot my limited wardrobe update dollars, either.

Unlike my disciplined invisipal Heidi, I wasn’t planning on restricting myself to a capsule wardrobe per se. I just didn’t want to buy anything new unless it worked with stuff I already had. [A brilliant wardrobing technique I highly recommend called “employing Common Sense.”] Based on my most current purchases, the chances of another all-new-item’d Accidental Capsule seemed slim, but if I could make it happen then by gum, I wanted to make it happen.

Apparently I wanted to make it happen by osmosis, however.

Cleverly, I rationalized there was LESS need to get organized since I’d spent most of the budget already; what would be, would be. And then to further postpone the chore, I told myself I knew my relatively small closet well enough to start my planning process with a from-memory—ok, and “from-perusing-old-blog-posts”—color evaluation.*

This concept of inertia-based analysis started off well enough.

I knew my coincidentally trendy old favorites would be there for me, especially since recent donning of blue + green and tone-on-tone blue had resulted in some of my few seasonal successes to date.

SP/SU 10 Closet Color Analysis Group 1: Bringing out old favs aka Sea Not-So-Change

And I was confident my lightweight cardiwrap and Ole Stripey (favorite fall buys) would still be excellent foils for my denim and brown staples. Admittedly, between those old pals and my new Sarong Song Dress, raspberry sorbet blouse and—confession time—pencil skirt I had made up in the cardiwrap fabric, I now had a lot of My-Pretty-Pony-territory peeeeeenk.

SP/SU 10 Closet Color Analysis Group 2: New buys are heavy on the better-than-botox peeeenks

At least I didn’t have to worry about the browns. Reliable, dependable, versatile—of course I’d be wearing my seasonless dark brown items. Plus a few yellow-based hues. [Ok, a skirt and a pair of pants, permitted since they would be far FAR away from my face.]

SP/SU 10 Closet Color Analysis Group 3: Bitter (chocolate) above the waist, warm shades below

Ditto for the non-color items any self-respecting recovering blackaholic cherishes. The ones for times when anything other than white, black, or grey becomes too much…be it too bright, too fem, or too chipper.

SP/SU 10 Closet Color Analysis Group 4: Easy enough to dust off my Greydations Galore

And of course a couple of new purchases meant I had shoes to more or less go with everything I thought I’d be wearing. [Primarily because aside from height-with-comfort and non-stumpifying features I don’t care that much about shoes, true.]

Tales from a Non-Shoe Person: For SP/SU 10, dragging out the tried/true, plus adding a couple of new

So surely once I got up off my butt to actually LOOK in the closet and try items on, I’d see I had a super-balanced wardrobe with lots of color, pattern, and texture. Boy, Things Would Sure Be Different from this fall!

Except…GASP

Yes; despite having put most of my clothing budget towards color-color for the last six months, my view was pretty much the same damn one I’d seen in September. In short, the bulk of my closet STILL consisted of the usual suspects (seen here quarantined from their colored companions):

SP/SU 10 Quarantine Reality: With all my closet efforts how can it be/That grey and black are almost all I see?

GRRRRRRRRRRRR

SIGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH

Well, at least I’m making progress. And have lots of clothes to pair with my understated shell ring/bracelet set. But then I guess it’s a given I’m inclined to look for the (wait for it) silver lining.

* Ms Struggler uses spreadsheets to track her wardrobe. Somehow I think my powers of denial would override even that system.