One Year Capsule Wardrobe: Annotated Edition

May 28th, 2009 § 6 comments

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:

Coats/Jackets:

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.

Pants:
I chose three pairs of jeans that each serve a different function. The dark wash skinnies are great because they can be tucked into boots for colder months and cuffed as capris for warmer days. The ON Flirt jean is longer and will work with all my wedges, heels, or heeled boots. The black jeans are a perfect length for flats and low sandals. And these latter two can also be cuffed and made more warm weather appropriate – thus covering all my footwear needs and varying temperatures. 
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 and wedges. 
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. 
Skirts:
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 and jean. I chose one floral skirt (which I would also wear in the winter and summer 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. 
Dresses: 
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 and to everything. I wear them to teach in, for day-time special events, for evenings out, and layered under other 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.
Tops:
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). 
Cardis/Sweaters:
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 by mixing and matching those solid colors in fun way. 
I added my sweater cape because it’s a unique winter wardrobe item, goes with both jeans and skirts, and will provide me with a break from the daily cardigan look every once in a while. 
Shoes:
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 and open-toed, flat and heeled 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 without bother. 
And, of course, my running shoes! If all goes as planned, I will hopefully run my next marathon in Europe next year!
Scarves/Accessories:
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 and scarves 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.

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§ 6 Responses to One Year Capsule Wardrobe: Annotated Edition"

  1. M.E.J says:

    You’ve really thought this over, and I think the final result will be wise and diverse enough.
    If I’m allowed, I’d suggest including your purple cord skirt. The color is fantastic, and goes well with many other colors. I’ve also noticed you’re a fan of the green-purple combo (which I personally love). You’ve already put together some nice outfits with that skirt, and although it’s hard to reconsider when you’ve already outlined your packing, I think you won’t regret it.
    So good luck, I will be following the process closely, since it’s likely I will spend a month abroad between august and september, if I get the summer school scholarship I’m applying to.

    On the verge of finishing the final draft of my thesis, I send good wishes to all of you out there, dealing with tons of papers, deadlines and research-trip plans!

    M.E.J

  2. S. says:

    Thanks, M.E.J! I think you make a great point withe the purple skirt, I do love it and wear it a lot! I was trying to take either it or the green cord skirt since they serve the same purpose and chose the green because it’s newer and more fun to me now.

    But I may have reevaluate that in Sep.

    Good luck with your thesis as your drawing to a close! And thanks for your comment and feedback, this really helps me in the packing process a lot!

  3. Brooke says:

    I’m currently trying to pack for a two-month research trip to Russia, and I can’t tell you how helpful these two packing posts have been! I’m often too worried about trying to fit in with another culture, and it’s neat to see how you are packing in a way to keep your sense of your own style while still being Europe-appropriate. I only wish I had your sensible collection of versatile day dresses…

  4. Jess says:

    I’ve really enjoyed reading your packing posts :)

    I’m curious- did you test out combinations using all of your items already? Sometimes when I pull out clothes for a (much shorter) trip, I start with pies of versatile pieces I love, but can still up with orphans.

    I’d also love to hear about any items you initially thought you would take but didn’t make the cut and why!

  5. caroline says:

    These posts have been really helpful. I agree that your suggestions are useful for helping me build my wardrobe for everyday wear! I really appreciate it!

    I now have a sense of the things I should work on, such as cardigans and dresses. :)

  6. [...] S. outlined her strategy for packing for an entire year abroad [...]

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