I recently posted my packing spread for a research year abroad. This resulted in some great comments and questions from all of you, which prompted me to examine my packing methodology some more. And as some of you noted, the post did not only explore how to pack for an extended stay abroad, but also investigates the makings of a capsule wardrobe.
One thoughtful reader left the following comment:
I wonder if you could talk some more about the process by which you chose your year-abroad wardrobe. I think it might illuminate a lot about the process of building a wardrobe in general. [...] I’d love to hear more about how you figured out what your basics are, how many of each type of garment you would need, how you arrived at a balance between neutrals and colors.
The following is a more in-depth consideration of how and why I chose the items I did for my year long wardrobe capsule…
You can read about my packing strategy here, which I outlined for myself as to keep on track while pulling things out of the closet. Just like I can be an impulse shopper, I tend to impulse pack and a clearly outlined methodology was needed for me to stay focused.
With that methodology in mind, here are the things I chose for each category:
Each coat or jacket is meant for a different temperature (from long wool coat to short sleeved light weight blazer). I avoided repetition of the same coat/jacket style in differing colors, and rather chose items that would each serve a different purpose in neutral colors to match any outfit. I also opted for a chocolate brown corduroy jacket for spring and fall, rather than a jean jacket, opting for something that would work for a casual day look but could also be more formal when paired with dress pants or a skirt.
The dress pants
are a great greyish-blue pattern that is a little more unique than a simple black or brown trouser. I find the color very easy to mix with cool colors
, warm colors
, and even other patterns
. However, these pants are not very long, so in comes the navy corduroy trouser. These cords can also serve as a dressier pant because of their dark hue and non-jean material and since they are longer, they will work great with my heeled shoes
Lastly, I chose one pair of capris and one trouser short.
I chose black trouser shorts because they are casual by nature but being black and silky, they can also be dressed up
. The capris
also serve two functions: I have discovered that they are long enough to tuck into my black boots, so I can wear them with knee-high socks and boots in the winter, in addition to their summer and spring function.
I wear skirts often, so I chose several and in all solid colors but one. These solid skirts can go with any top or cardigan in my capsule wardrobe and can also be layered under my shirtdress. They differ also in shape and material, ranging from linen
, to a stiff rayon
, to jersey
, to corduroy
. I chose one floral skirt (which I would also wear in the winter
months) since I love pattern, but knew that if I picked several of my floral skirts to take along, I’d have more limited mix and match options.
Similarly to skirts, dresses make a frequent appearance in my wardrobe. I love dresses and wear them year-round. Especially jersey dresses
have become a favorite of mine because of their soft and comfortable drape yet still chic appearance. I am packing two black jersey dresses because they go with everything
everything. I wear them to teach in
, for day-time special events
, for evenings out
, and layered
garments. The same really can be said about all my jersey dresses in grey, teal
, and even the patterned one
sees a lot of layering action
The polka-dot dress
is just a favorite of mine and although patterned, it’s in neutral colors, and is also easy to mix and match with other colors. Based on A.’s and E.’s feedback on my packing post, I am swapping the khaki shirt dress
with my orange corduroy one
, because the orange one will also layer
over any of the skirts and most of the dresses I’m packing and will make for much more stunning color combos.
I kept the patterned dresses down to two, since patterned items are much more memorable (when you’re repeating the same items over and over, this matters) and a little tougher to mix and match.
Overall, I get a lot of mileage out of dresses and love being creative with how to wear them, so I knew I would need to include several in different colors in my capsule wardrobe.
I chose a good amount of tees but in all solid colors
. These are basics that function as the glue in any outfit year-round. Additionally, I am a big believer in the white button down
and knew that my capsule wardrobe had to include one. I also love the green version
, which gets almost
as much mileage
as my white one
. A cowl neck
top is great for layering underneath
other items to jazz up the neckline
. Alternately, a wide-neck
,v-neck, or surplice top is great for layering underneath
when you don’t
want the neckline to show (but just want to add sleeves
I’m packing a cardi in almost every color,
but if you follow our blog, you know we wear cardigans a lot
. Since I’m keeping things simple by taking mostly solid colored items, I hope to create interesting looks
those solid colors in fun way.
I added my sweater cape
because it’s a unique winter wardrobe item, goes with both jeans
, and will provide me with a break from the daily cardigan look every once in a while.
At last, the shoes…and yes, there are a lot of them. But I love shoes and have already outlined in the initial packing post
how I plan on using these as a way to change up the same outfit.
I chose two pairs of boots
because I will live in these during the colder months (one black flat
, one brown heeled)
, and a careful mix of close-toed
footwear. I chose mostly flats or low-heeled shoes for the large amount of walking I will do, but added my red wedges for evenings out
(with jeans or dresses/skirts) and my grey closed-toe wedges
for the same purpose during colder weather. Both these wedges are also comfortable enough that I could wear them during the day
and still walk a good amount
And, of course, my running shoes! If all goes as planned, I will hopefully run my next marathon in Europe next year!
Last come the accessories. These are light-weight, easy to fit in those little nooks and crannies left in your suitcase at the end, and will go a long way in sprucing up, transforming, and altering the register of any given outfit.
Like our obsession with cardis, our love for belts
runs deep – just see our respective Flickr sets. I believe that I can make do with less clothing variation and few patterned items if I take along a good selection of patterned scarves
, colorful pashminas
, and various belts
. These small yet significant items will help me make the most out of my limited capsule wardrobe and hopefully lend it the appearance of a much larger collection that it really will be. S.