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"Because your wardrobe is a pretty complex organism."
July 17, 2014 2:05 PM   Subscribe

How to assess the quality of garments: a beginner's guide (part 1, part 2, cheat sheet).
Why you don't have anything to wear.
How to build the perfect wardrobe: 10 basic principles.
Building a capsule wardrobe 101.
And much, much more at style blog Into Mind.
posted by Metroid Baby (79 comments total) 301 users marked this as a favorite

 
Is it all geared towards women? (Much of the advice can probably be adapted for men, but I'm wondering if any of the posts are specifically for men.)

Anyway it looks like a great resource.
posted by oddman at 2:15 PM on July 17 [1 favorite]


Whole lot of good advice here, wow.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 2:15 PM on July 17


While it appears that example photos are done with women's clothing, the advice is pure gold and applies to fashion across all genders. Worthwhile stuff!
posted by endotoxin at 2:18 PM on July 17 [1 favorite]


Much of the advice can probably be adapted for men

I don't know about that. Men's fashion is sort of a ghetto compared to women's - particularly when it comes to acceptable work wear.

Monday - button shirt and khakis
Tuesday - button shirt and khakis
Wednesday - button shirt and khakis
Thursday - button shirt and khakis
Friday - button shirt* and khakis

*On Fridays that are also Hawaiian shirt day, you could, you know, go ahead and wear a Hawaiian shirt, if you want. And jeans.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 2:21 PM on July 17 [4 favorites]


I cannot lie, my main reason for losing weight is so I can become a Clothes Horse like my extremely dapper grandfather was (he spent his professional career in the heart of Chicago in the 50s).

Oh the houndstooths I could have
posted by Doleful Creature at 2:22 PM on July 17 [7 favorites]


Yep, the blog's written by a woman and focuses on women's clothing, but a lot of the advice works for men as far as I can tell. It's also more practical-minded than a lot of the style blogs I've seen and focuses on building a wardrobe that makes you feel good rather than worrying about what "flatters your figure" or whatever.

Although, to be honest, I don't know a whole lot about men's style - whenever guys ask me for advice I get kind of lost. Men's clothing doesn't seem to have a whole lot of options between the jeans-and-t-shirt end of the spectrum and the business-casual end, which seems like such a shame.
posted by Metroid Baby at 2:29 PM on July 17


The thing I always wonder about these capsule wardrobes: how do you handle office work? Like, I can sort of repeat my less noticeable pants once a week, but unless I want to wear only black pants all the time, I need at least four pairs of office-worthy ones per weather season. And while I can repeat five shirts every week, that gets noticeable too - "Oh, it's Tuesday, time for Frowner to wear the blue stripe again" - and it really seems better to have a few more, again per season.

Most of the capsule wardrobes that I see on the internet are like "three pencil skirts - green, grey and black - three white summer blouses, three winter knits, two sweaters, plus shoes and bags and a couple of jackets and a dress"....and I always wonder whether they look at you funny at work when you come in wearing the green pencil skirt and white broiderie anglaise blouse for the second time that week. I mean, the clothes are really cute, but that just wouldn't fly in any 9-5 job. I suppose everyone is "creative class" and works from home now, though.

Men's clothes hold up better and repetition is less noticeable, it's true - not only will people forget what you wear, but you could conceivably have, like, four blue striped shirts.

I'm actually pretty close to this, in that my wardrobe is basically that of a tiny WASP man in the 1960s, but even I feel like I have to have the variety.
posted by Frowner at 2:30 PM on July 17 [3 favorites]


This is awesome, thanks!
posted by Annika Cicada at 2:31 PM on July 17 [1 favorite]


A really nice post.
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 2:37 PM on July 17


See, these are all cute clothes, but where the hell does one work in any of them? Even when I was young and punk rock, none of those would have been work outfits except maybe the dress. I can't even wear shorts to work, so any shorts that I own for weekend purposes are just one more item in the count.

Which is not to impugn the idea or the blog! I just always get really anxious because I keep thinking "And then I have ten summer shirts and ten winter shirts and five summer work pants and five winter work pants and some miscellaneous pants for weekends and a couple of pairs of shorts and enough cardigans and jackets to wear to work with some variety and a summer interview suit and a winter interview suit and an all-season interview suit and a couple of dress shirts for the suits and a pair of dressy evening pants for work events and some weekend sweaters and enough boots and shoes to rotate them and not wear the same ones every day and some bags and augh I have a million clothings but I can't seem to get rid of any.....!!!!"
posted by Frowner at 2:39 PM on July 17 [7 favorites]


Useful and wonderful. Thank you!
posted by MonkeyToes at 2:41 PM on July 17 [1 favorite]


I don't know about that. Men's fashion is sort of a ghetto compared to women's - particularly when it comes to acceptable work wear.

Monday - button shirt and khakis
Tuesday - button shirt and khakis
Wednesday - button shirt and khakis
Thursday - button shirt and khakis
Friday - button shirt* and khakis


I mean, the "uniform"/"capsule wardrobe" thing is actually about embracing this sort of predictability and repetitiveness as a virtue. The idea being that yeah, women have a gajillion options every day, but a lot of the time you don't want a gajillion options.

The blessing and curse of menswear is that you have access to a limited set of components that all look okay together. The blessing and curse of women's clothing is that you have access to a much larger set of components, but most of the logically possible ways that you could combine them end up looking terrible. I think most men who complain about the tedium of men's fashion don't really recognize the second half of that: putting on women's clothing isn't all "Woohoo total freedom!" just because we're allowed to wear skirts and funky necklines and high heels and you aren't. It's more like looking for a needle in a haystack, trying to find an outfit that really works in a sea of outfits that don't.

So this approach to women's clothing is actually about making it more like menswear, by buying yourself an artificially restricted set of components that you've preplanned in such a way that they'll all look okay together.
posted by nebulawindphone at 2:43 PM on July 17 [20 favorites]


(Alternate analogy: it's like the fashion equivalent of javascript subsets or C--: an artificially impoverished vocabulary that, surprisingly, ends up lifting certain kinds of constraints because it gives you fewer ways to fuck up.)
posted by nebulawindphone at 2:45 PM on July 17 [11 favorites]


In academia, or at least my corner of it, any of those except the shorts could be work wear for a typical office day, frowner. I'd dress up a step further if I had to meet with faculty or do a presentation, but otherwise, those would be fine.

Right now I'm depressed by the quality posts because at my large size, shopping in actual stores instead of online mostly ain't happening for me so I will never be checking seams or whatever. But a girl can dream about thin shopping. And I like the "why you don't have anything to wear" chart!
posted by Stacey at 2:47 PM on July 17 [3 favorites]


Every article like this depresses me in that a) I will never, ever be coordinated enough with foods to wear white pants and b) that the computer program thing in Clueless that magically keeps track of everything isn't real.
posted by jetlagaddict at 2:51 PM on July 17 [7 favorites]


Oh my god, I don't have anything to wear for absolutely every reason on that flow chart I think I have to lie down.
posted by like_a_friend at 2:52 PM on July 17 [15 favorites]


The thing I always wonder about these capsule wardrobes: how do you handle office work?

Eh. If you do wear black pants or skirt pretty much all the time, nobody seems to comment much. It is more memorable if you're repeating colorful items, so I usually just change up the shirts.

Also it helps to cultivate a generally zombie-like demeanor such that nobody's going to comment on how many pieces of flair you're sporting -- it's clear that just showing up and meeting all the bare minimum requirements of professional attire is as much as you can handle. This totally works, as long as you don't have any hope of getting any sort of promotion or raise from your current employer. And if you don't, why bother to dress as though you do?
posted by asperity at 2:53 PM on July 17


but where the hell does one work in any of them?

Heh, my first opinion is always "Oh, you live where they don't have seasons". From December to February I'd freeze to death if those where my only options. 37 summer and 37 winter pieces -- sure, hells yes I can do that. But one wardrobe that works 12 months a year when it's 91 in the summer and 15 in the winter -- no, I don't think so.
posted by anastasiav at 2:56 PM on July 17 [6 favorites]


I'm looking forward to exploring these. The Why you don't have anything to wear flow chart is brilliant! I went through many of the same though processes when I got rid of half my wardrobe last summer. It's surprising how liberating it is to drop a huge bag of stuff you never wear anymore (and have been feeling guilty about not wearing) into a donation bin.

Over the last few years I've been edging towards the "overdressed all the time" end of the spectrum, because I realized that it was silly to be thinking to myself "You know, I really like being dressed up, I wish I had more excuses to do it." I'm a damn grown-up, I don't need an excuse to dress up if I want to. I'm trying to come up with my own "backwoods dandy" style dictionary, because I work from home in a house full of pets and am liable to find myself chasing a loose goat or turkey at a moment's notice. And I can only get away with tweeds for half the year.
posted by usonian at 2:57 PM on July 17 [6 favorites]


Also it helps to cultivate a generally zombie-like demeanor such that nobody's going to comment on how many pieces of flair you're sporting -- it's clear that just showing up and meeting all the bare minimum requirements of professional attire is as much as you can handle.

Nobody says anything about the pasta sauce/ketchup/cherry popsicle/red pen stains on your shirt either.
posted by maryr at 3:02 PM on July 17 [2 favorites]


My favorite piece of advice You should be able to walk, run and dance in every outfit from 10 Basic Principles. See also, pockets.
posted by theora55 at 3:06 PM on July 17 [5 favorites]


Nobody says anything about the pasta sauce/ketchup/cherry popsicle/red pen stains on your shirt either.

You've got red on you.
posted by asperity at 3:08 PM on July 17 [6 favorites]


I've been embracing the minimalist wardrobe thing and people genuinely don't much notice repeated wearing except for massive massive statement pieces. The blue striped shirt doesn't count. The enormous pleated skirt I made out of a botanical print does. Your basics are basic enough that the eye glides over. And if you make the foundation secure enough, the way you wear it makes a difference.

For example I have a mid-dark blue cotton batwing shirt/dress I made that I love and I wear it with: bright blue short shorts and purple sneakers, black knee length skirts of various kinds (pencil and sack), black leggings, black skinny jeans, blue boyfriend jeans, big black pleated skirt, black mini-skirt and with all the short options I also have layering options like leggings or tights underneath.

That said, I wear it once or twice a week - it's not a statement piece but it's fairly noticeabe. The big blue botanical is a once-a-week if that option because it's so striking. My black jeggings are three-to-four times because they're so boring and standard. I don't much like prints so the majority of my wardrobe is solids and they do make capsule dressing easier.
posted by geek anachronism at 3:10 PM on July 17 [4 favorites]


Wow, what a cool site! Thanks for sharing this; I have a lot of reading ahead of me :)
posted by starscream at 3:11 PM on July 17


You should be able to walk, run and dance in every outfit from 10 Basic Principles

This does kind of preclude the absolutely ridiculous and fun pieces, though: like, I can't run in my 1960's British wool cape, but it's awesome. I wish more of these example wardrobes actually did have a bonus 10 pieces with distinctive personality, or examples of how to work in a dinosaur necklace or other accessories. They emphasize personal style but the pastel colors and basic leather sandals are all kind of blending together.
posted by jetlagaddict at 3:11 PM on July 17 [8 favorites]


I totally repeat pants in the same week. I don't think anyone notices what pants you wear, unless they're like turquoise or something like that. I am positive that I can wear the same pair of gray pants twice in a week, and nobody will notice.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 3:13 PM on July 17 [3 favorites]


This always makes me feel like such a slug. I have some shirts. And some other shirts. Also I have some pants. That's it.
posted by Justinian at 3:15 PM on July 17 [2 favorites]


Don't care that my wardrobe does not reflect my lifestyle. I refuse to tailor my wardrobe around my major activity (work). Boring, boring, boring! I will always put my money into non-work pieces that are original and well made.
posted by Gwynarra at 3:26 PM on July 17 [1 favorite]


while I can repeat five shirts every week, that gets noticeable too - "Oh, it's Tuesday, time for Frowner to wear the blue stripe again" - and it really seems better to have a few more, again per season.

You notice it, because you pay most attention to what you wear, but other people really don't. As long as you don't wear the same actual garments all week I guarantee no one can tell you're cycling through 5 or 6 tops.

Also consider that if you have say 5 tops and 3 pairs of pants, as long as some of the tops go with more than one pair of pants, you have many more combinations.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 3:30 PM on July 17 [1 favorite]


I literally used to buy sets of the same shirts and jeans for work clothes, 5-8 pieces of black shirts and 5-8 pieces of black jeans, and nobody said a damn word about it for years, except on the rare occasions I'd wear a color.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 3:33 PM on July 17 [4 favorites]


Dang, I've read that piece on building a capsule wardrobe before and liked it a lot, but that flowchart on why you don't have anything to wear is even better.

It does needs an extra box for "a sizable portion of your tops are T-shirts that are souvenirs or clever novelties or else an indication of your support for a cause or organization in some way that don't really reflect your sense of personal aesthetics but that you don't want to remove from your wardrobe entirely and which simultaneously prevent you from buying things that actually do reflect your style because come on, look at all these T-shirts in your wardrobe, stop being so self-indulgent already".
posted by Phire at 3:35 PM on July 17 [20 favorites]


for "a sizable portion of your tops are T-shirts that are souvenirs or clever novelties or else an indication of your support for a cause or organization in some way that don't really reflect your sense of personal aesthetics but that you don't want to remove from your wardrobe entirely and which simultaneously prevent you from buying things that actually do reflect your style because come on, look at all these T-shirts in your wardrobe, stop being so self-indulgent already".

I solved this exact problem by making t-shirt quilts! (Or, more accurately, getting a friend to make quilts for me). Got 48(!) t-shirts that I was never wearing but ridiculously attached to out of my drawers and made space for things I will actually wear!
posted by TwoStride at 3:39 PM on July 17 [3 favorites]


I have worn the same black wool skirt four times in one week. Granted, that was a bad week from both a customer meetings and fashion perspective but my takeaway is the same as with menswear: if you mix and match the hoisery / shoes / jacket / blouse, no one's going to actually give a good goddamn so long as you show up pressed and presentable. I run my wool skirts through the dryer on air / cool setting with a dryer sheet to remove any wrinkles and funk at the end of the week; cuts down on dry cleaning bills immensely.

work pants though? oh my god fuck women's "careerwear" pants styles with a rusty garden rake. let's just not even go there.
posted by lonefrontranger at 3:40 PM on July 17 [7 favorites]


I don't necessarily agree with a lot of these marks of quality; I don't think the person who wrote it is familiar with garment construction either on a home or industrial level. For example - tailoring means two very specific things: 1) alterations to fit, and 2) a category of construction techniques used in jackets and outerwear. It's not a general way to describe fit/silhouette, and it doesn't mean the seam- and non-seam-equivalent style lines of a garment (darts, yokes, center back contouring, etc). Those are design/function choices and not necessarily indicators of quality (though in general a piece that has those things will be of higher quality for other reasons, see below). A better guide to button quality would be to look and see if there is a thread shank or if the button is sewn by machine. The seams the guide talks about are mostly seam finishes, and truth be told 99% of ready-to-wear is serged. Actual different seams can be a mark of quality, but only when they're used appropriately (flat-felled seams for strength on jeans and shirts, etc.). Lots of other quibbles.

In general, RTW construction is constrained by how expensive a process is in a factory, and how time-consuming it is to do correctly. Higher-touch and longer processes are more expensive. Every pattern notch and drill hole costs money, meaning that the more complex the style lines of the garment, the more expensive it is. Seam finishes that require more than one pass (bound seams, etc.) are more expensive. Handwork is MUCH more expensive. The RTW that most of us buy can be broken into a few broad buckets:

- fast fashion, disposable stuff. Forever 21, etc. AT this price point basically everything is acrylic or polyester, trims are cheap, and you're actually checking for manufacturing flaws rather than looking for marks of quality. Is the piece on-grain (i.e., are the seams twisting around your body or hanging straight at your sides)? Are patterns centered? Loose threads, incorrect cuts, workarounds to save the piece from the outlet pile.

- general mass market RTW. Gap, J. Crew, lines that Macy's carries, etc. Obvious defects don't make it through to the store (usually), but things are still mostly sewn with serged seams. Everything is fused (that is, all interfacings are fusible). Casual clothes are bound rather than faced at the edges. Linings usually come to the edge rather than hanging from a facing (every additional piece costs money). The stuff at the higher end of this range tends to have some conspicuous higher-touch construction built in (say, welt pockets rather than patch) but it will be treated as a design detail so you're sure to notice it.

- better RTW/bridge lines. There will start to be hidden/subtler construction changes in these clothes; better infrastructure, more unique (and therefore expensive to produce) styling and fabrications, occasional handwork. Better trims and materials.

Basically what I'm saying is, within the price points most people buy (so, say, $0-200 per piece, excepting jackets and coats), clothing is mass-produced and mass-marketed, and it's just not that different from piece to piece or even from brand to brand. By all means look for clear manufacturing defects, and it can be useful to look for some details, but in general clothes in that range are going to pretty much be of equal (middling) quality construction-wise. They will last a more or less similar amount of time given equivalent care. In general a piece/brand of clothing with more construction detail will be better, but not because those things are always better - it's because the company is generally more willing to spend money to make it - and in general that will show in the price (the reverse is not always true!)

All that said I am all for buying fewer better things, keeping your clothes for a long time, and that this is a good, thought-provoking blog. Thanks!
posted by peachfuzz at 3:54 PM on July 17 [25 favorites]


Project 333 really helped me with the "nothing to wear" issue. The idea is that you pick out 33 items of clothing, and these are the only items you'll wear for the next 3 months.* Everything else goes into storage (in my case, folded neatly and put into plastic tubs).

This worked GREAT for me and really took care of the "nothing to wear" problem. Everything I chose for my personal 333 project had to be something that fit me, that I felt good in, and that went with most of the other items I picked out.

The reason this worked so well is that I didn't have to agonize over what I was keeping or getting rid of. I just picked out the things I wanted to wear right now (or for the next 3 months), and everything else got put away. I didn't have to deal with the anxiety of deciding what to keep and what to give away.

Having a mostly-empty closet turned out to be miraculous. With only 33 items in rotation, I could SEE what was available on my shelves, and I knew that whatever I pulled out to wear, it would fit, be in good condition, and be in style.

In the past, my clothes have given me anxiety to the point that I have stayed home rather than try to put together something to wear for going out. Reducing the number of choices available to me every day took a lot of the stress out of putting outfits together and made getting dressed every day much easier and more fun.

*The original project is pretty restricting, including shoes and accessories in the "33 items" total, but I took a broader view and restricted myself to 33 pieces of apparel. I also pared down my scarves separately, storing about half of them away in a plastic bag. I didn't bother paring down my shoes and accessories as those aren't a problem for me.
posted by spacewaitress at 4:03 PM on July 17 [5 favorites]


Mr. R, my 7th grade teacher in 1982, had a wardrobe rota:

Monday - Black suit jacket, white shirt, black tie, black trousers, black socks, black shoes, black outerwear coat (He had a heavier one for winter and a light jacket for spring/autumn).

Tuesday - Repeat in navy, but his shirt was light blue.

Wednesday - Repeat in an olive-y green, but the shirt was lighter green.

Thursday - Repeat in brown, but the shirt was beige/tan.

Friday - Repeat in maroon/burgundy, but the shirt was pink (he called it salmon).

One of the boys in the class had the balls to ask him near the end of our year if he lived with his mother and if she bought his clothes. That boy got sent to the assistant principal's office for sassing - but Mr. R never answered the question. While his style was definitely too matchy-matchy as far as I was concerned, I did notice that his clothes were tailored. You could tell what he wore was expensive, of good fabrics and not from Gimbels or Boston Store, so I've wondered where he got such a fine set of outfits on a public schoolteacher's salary.
posted by droplet at 4:05 PM on July 17 [2 favorites]


I read a lot of fashion blogs, and feel like maybe they aren't the best for me to be reading, since the bloggers appear to have endless wardrobes. They often talk good game about capsule wardrobes, but most of the posts I see on them seem more like thought experiences, not actual, practical wardrobes. Does anyone have a recommendation for a blogger who actually does the capsule wardrobe? I would love to see what one looks like in practice.
posted by Ideal Impulse at 4:16 PM on July 17 [1 favorite]


It's also more practical-minded than a lot of the style blogs

Except that the "Building a Capsule Wardrobe" link has you go through a whole huge style/wardrobe design process that I, personally, do not have the time nor patience for.
posted by eviemath at 4:19 PM on July 17


I need this information in book form.
posted by zennie at 4:32 PM on July 17


The idea behind having a capsule wardrobe is that you go nuts with accessories. The white blouse and green skirt alone is one thing - but then add a big wrap and it becomes a second outfit, add a different necklace and it becomes a third.

I've worn the same white blouse and khakis a couple times a week to work, it's just that I wore it with different accessories each day and so no one noticed.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:33 PM on July 17


usonian, when you create that dandy guide, please send me a subscription.
posted by xingcat at 4:34 PM on July 17 [2 favorites]


You notice it, because you pay most attention to what you wear, but other people really don't. As long as you don't wear the same actual garments all week I guarantee no one can tell you're cycling through 5 or 6 tops.

I hate to say something that would potentially make people self-conscious, but this isn't entirely true. I have noticed this in some co-workers; I can probably list 5 outfits one of my current co-worker tends to cycle through. It doesn't affect either my professional or personal opinion of her, but I notice.

I suspect that as a dude who's not particularly fashion sensitive, I'm not exceptional. What I hope is that like me, most people really don't care, particularly when it comes to work-related attire. If someone gets a lot of personal enjoyment out having a variety of clothing choices or cultivating a specific image, I'm glad, but the fact is for a lot of people what they wear to work is just an adequate uniform fulfilling whatever basic expectations are involved in something they have to do to make a living.
posted by weston at 4:35 PM on July 17


Does anyone have a recommendation for a blogger who actually does the capsule wardrobe?

The blogger featured in Frowner's comment apparently works with 37 items per season.
posted by misozaki at 4:51 PM on July 17


Dang. The "why don't I have anything to wear" flowchart seems like an insane amount of work. Can you name & describe all your clothes? Can you come up with ten different outfits on the spot? Damn.

It's definitely for the best that I've worked jobs with uniforms for most of my adult life. I do love getting dressed up sometimes, but having that be something I had to worry about for an entire work week, every week, would kill me.
posted by kavasa at 5:18 PM on July 17


Do not worry about slubs
Words to live by, people.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 5:52 PM on July 17


I don't do a lot of fashion-blog reading, but Into Mind is one of the few I do read. My wardrobe isn't perfect by the flowchart, but it's gotten better over the last couple of years and part of that is reading this blog.
posted by immlass at 5:59 PM on July 17


OK, not to endlessly beat the drum of Project 333 (which I am not in any way involved with, by the way) -- it provides good practice for this sort of thing; that is, creating a capsule wardrobe. If you start with items you already own, and put some of your other things away, it creates a low-stakes way to practice this, and get a feel for how to do it.

It also addresses that seasonal issue for those of us who live in climates where the temperature can vary widely from one season to the next.
posted by spacewaitress at 6:00 PM on July 17


Expensive jackets still have cheap button threads. My approach is to button the jacket on the hanger in the store and then pull on each side until the button pops off. This gives me a good idea of the strength of the button thread, and if it is sufficient for my purposes, I select myself a jacket that hasn't been damaged by vandals.
posted by turbid dahlia at 6:06 PM on July 17 [1 favorite]


I had to / got to create a capsule wardrobe when I was pregnant. Both my kids were born in the fall, so I had to deal with something that got me from "I can't button my jeans" in May to "It's a baby!" in November. If I recall, I ended up with something like:

2 pairs of "convertible" pants that went from ankle-length to capris, one in black and one in khaki
1 pair of shorts
1 skirt
1 long black tank dress
5 T-shirts: light pink, dark pink, light blue, dark blue, and black
1 black tank top
1 long-sleeved light sweater tunic thing that tied under the bust and was both pretty cute and made me look SUPER pregnant
1 black knit drape front cardigan

And that was it. That was all I wore for five months. In many ways, it was extremely freeing, as I always had something to wear. But at the end of five months, those clothes were in tatters, and I was sick to death of all of them. If I did it again, the clothes would have to be MUCH higher quality to make it worth it.
posted by KathrynT at 6:26 PM on July 17 [1 favorite]


Also that only worked because I was pregnant and people cut pregnant women a crapload of slack.
posted by KathrynT at 6:28 PM on July 17


This is really nice - thanks!

I agree that it is so hard to find what I consider "work appropriate" clothes in fashion blogs. Doesn't anyone wear trousers anymore? Super tight skinny pants just don't seem appropriate for my conservative-but-not-formal workplace. I WILL WAIT OUT THIS HEINOUS TREND.
posted by jeoc at 6:30 PM on July 17 [2 favorites]


Colette's Wardrobe Architect series is a pretty cool thing along the same lines. I haven't yet gotten together the attention to read through it all, let alone do it myself, but some people who did it linked their blog posts about the process in the comments and it's neat to click around and look at lots of different ones.
posted by clavicle at 6:59 PM on July 17 [4 favorites]


The closest I've come to this is when I decided I wanted to wear more colorful clothing a few years ago. I'm set for summers at least; I got a pair of shorts and a shirt from Uniqlo (which is admittedly closer to fast fashion than not, but they appear decently made and have worn well), and I liked them so much I went back and got them in multiple colors. That plus a few dresses, a skirt, my jeans and a blazer mean I'm pretty much set.

One day I'm gonna get around to sorting out all the crap. I have so many clothes I just don't wear anymore -- stuff I thought was cute but have only worn once, stuff from family/friends that doesn't suit my tastes, etc.
posted by supermassive at 7:42 PM on July 17


I've always been fascinated by capsule wardrobes and the big minimalist packing blogs, but I always end up hung up on two issues. The first is frequency of laundry; if you only have, say, 5 summer shirts then you have to be committed to regular laundry or stinky shirts (I sweat like a stuck pig in summer, so there's no re-wearing for me). Ditto when traveling; I like to at least pretend any travel I'm doing is a bit glamorous, and hand-washing everything conflicts with that.

The other problem I have is what I call the "plus size paranoia": as a fat person, I can't be guaranteed that I'll be able to walk into just any store and find something to wear. This leads to a tendency to overpack when traveling (what if I tear my pants?!) and to hang onto clothes I'm less stoked about or are less on-trend because goddamn is it difficult to find high-end, business-casual tops that fit me well.
posted by TwoStride at 7:58 PM on July 17 [9 favorites]


I need this in 'please come to my house and make this go with my budget and my body' form.

Lolsob forever.
posted by Space Kitty at 8:02 PM on July 17 [4 favorites]


Does this top go with one of my pairs of black pants or skirts? if yes, buy it
Can this dress be worn with my black, gray, or red shoes? if yes buy it
Is this top black? yes, buy it.

That's my shopping checklist for the most part.
posted by vespabelle at 10:18 PM on July 17


I notice when people do the workplace capsule thing, and I thoroughly approve. If fashion's not your hobby, set your wardrobe to auto-pilot. If it is, there's no guarantee your style will be workplace appropriate or your effort will be appreciated, so why not save your variety and money for your non-work outfits?

I have a worplace capsule that consists of: 1 pair wide-leg trousers, 2 a-line skirts (wool, cotton), 1 pencil skirt, 1 summer-weight shirt-dress, 2 drapey cardigans, 2 pairs of ankle boots, 2 pairs of work-appropriate sandals, and a big wooly jumper (sweater for Americans). All in plain colours that go together. Tops are just whatever cheapies are in fashion and get worn on weekends too, not really part of the capsule. As long as I have clean tops I can just throw on whatever suits the weather that day. It's larger than some capsules I've seen, but we have seasons here.

It was a lot of planning up-front, and this website would have made it a lot easier. But now I don't have to think about it at all, and that is lovely!
posted by harriet vane at 11:02 PM on July 17


Expensive jackets still have cheap button threads. My approach is to button the jacket on the hanger in the store and then pull on each side until the button pops off. This gives me a good idea of the strength of the button thread, and if it is sufficient for my purposes, I select myself a jacket that hasn't been damaged by vandals.

It's not necessarily cheap thread. Well, it probably is, but that's actually not important. It's vastly preferable for button threads to snap under stress than it is for the buttonhole to tear or for too-strong (or over-sewn) button threads to tear the fabric of the jacket front—the latter scenarios are not mendable to pre-tear state. A button can always be sewn back on.

I think you are joking, but just in case you aren't...please don't do this. A jacket that fits you should have no stress on the buttons when standing and doing normal-range-of-motion stuff anyway. Jackets should be unbuttoned when seated.
posted by peachfuzz at 11:26 PM on July 17 [1 favorite]


"I've wondered where he got such a fine set of outfits on a public schoolteacher's salary."

He had just five outfits. High quality, few items. It's a strategy.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 11:43 PM on July 17 [2 favorites]


What I really, really like about capsule wardrobes and similar projects is that they get people to think about what they are wearing. I'm a big fan of being thoughtful about everyday rituals and practices - and dressing yourself is definitely one of those.

I'm not a big fashionista (ha!) and I hate clothes shopping, but once I discovered the notion of a capsule wardrobe I began to think differently about what I wear. I also discovered the joy of wearing navy as a neutral and I like to think I look a bit nicer for it (which in turn makes me feel more comfortable in my own skin).
posted by kariebookish at 3:22 AM on July 18 [2 favorites]


My own at-home wardrobe isn't really "capsule wardrobe" enough - I'm a bit too magpie sometimes.

But I definitely take this approach when packing for a trip somewhere; I like to pack light, and was once able to do a weeks' trip in Italy with only one carry-on bag, and I spent that whole week looking fabulous.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:24 AM on July 18


I despise shopping with the heat of a thousand suns. There are things in my closet that are older than most fashion bloggers. I need to clear almost all of it out, and when/if I ever do, I will probably just go to Nordstrom or somewhere and let a personal shopper do the hard work of finding all the black clothes in my size, while I hide in a dressing room with a bottle of water. Gods, I hate shopping for clothes.
posted by dejah420 at 7:15 AM on July 18 [1 favorite]


"spend more on less" is a great strategy for people living in bizzaro-land where no liquids exists, where no cats exist, where one must never bend at the knees or walk outside.

As much as I'd love to "spend more on less", every month or so I ruin, absolutely ruin, an item that needs to be replaced. a 12-item wardrobe that "lasts" 5 years would only give me one-fifth of the value I invested.
posted by rebent at 8:08 AM on July 18 [3 favorites]


So I went through her cute little flow chart and would have made it all the way to the end were it not for this:

Could a (fashion-conscious) stranger accurately sum up your personal style in a few sentences from looking at your wardrobe?

Well, I'm a lifelong fashionista. I have spent way too much time thinking about these things, honed my shopping, dressmaking and packing skills, amassed a diverse wardrobe full of things I honestly love to wear year after year, yet now, well into my middle years, I have no idea how to answer this question myself, let alone entrust it to a stranger.

As I get older, the more I'm convinced that in a culture obsessed with youth and beauty, among the worst things we can do for ourselves as maturing men and women are to make ourselves invisible and then allow ourselves to fall into ruts. The problem with this kind of reductive, minimalistic thinking is that it's great if you're a gorgeous 20-something with a glamorously uncomplicated lifestyle and perfect instincts for what's right just now, but for the rest of us mortals it's incredibly difficult to pull off convincingly without looking, well, boring and repetitive.

Of course we all want to fill our lives with things we love that last for years, but nothing breeds contempt like familiarity. I don't want to go meet a customer, teach a class, hoof around town and then go out for the evening in variations of the same damn outfit. I dress differently in cold weather and in hot weather. I like to be casual or formal, sporty or businesslike depending on the environment. While it's great to have signatures, ultimately personal style should be situational and mutable. We are, after all, adaptable creatures.
posted by Elizabeth the Thirteenth at 8:16 AM on July 18 [11 favorites]


ctrl+f garanimals
posted by mikelieman at 8:23 AM on July 18 [5 favorites]


Nicely said, Elizabeth. I felt like that question was kinda off but couldn't put my finger on exactly why.

I mean you could probably sum my look up with something like "vintage store chic" or "inappropriately sexy maiden aunt" but really I find it varies. Is today a bright color day or a drab day? A notice me day or a fade into the background day? Not that fading is easy, given that my rule for a while has been "only buy things that look fabulous on me". I need to grab one or two super schlubby outfits.
posted by egypturnash at 9:17 AM on July 18 [1 favorite]


"inappropriately sexy maiden aunt"

THE BEST KIND.
posted by maryr at 9:32 AM on July 18 [3 favorites]


"inappropriately sexy maiden aunt"

...You have given me a life plan with this, as opposed to a wardrobe concept.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:34 AM on July 18 [27 favorites]


It's not quite the same, but if there isn't yet an fpp on kulturants there needs to be one sharpish.
posted by ominous_paws at 9:39 AM on July 18


I really need to see Mame at some point.
posted by maryr at 9:43 AM on July 18 [1 favorite]


The flowchart didn't have, "You're 46, a size 14, can't find anything you like at all, and you don't have time for endless clothes shopping," so I'm not sure where to go next.

I've even been mulling over an AskMe about this (even though I am generally AskMe adverse) because I need some new dresses and I can't find anything I even want to try on.

I guess sheath dresses are the in thing right now? Not with my body! Sigh. I don't want to dress like a 22-year old or a 80-year old, but those seem to be my options.

I enjoy internet fashion advice as much as the next person, but I don't often feel it's coming from anyone who is close enough my particulars to be helpful (to me.)
posted by Squeak Attack at 11:14 AM on July 18 [4 favorites]


LL Bean?
posted by mikelieman at 11:15 AM on July 18


You're very welcome, o callipygean one! "Inappropriately sexy maiden aunt" has been working out pretty well as a life plan for me, too.

Protip: two or three layers of lacy things found at a good vintage shop are somehow sexy and sensible at the same time, and retro without feeling rooted in any particular time and place. Panties and bra optional; choose based on your support needs. At least that's what this IASMA is wearing this summer; it may be different in a couple years.
posted by egypturnash at 10:02 PM on July 18 [1 favorite]


Oh God, that flow chart is terrifying... You mean I need a style concept, not just some clothes?
posted by penguin pie at 2:35 AM on July 19 [1 favorite]


Is today a... notice me day or a fade into the background day?

Years ago a colleague engaged a color and clothing consultant who provided her with advice on cuts and a notebook filled with swatches. They all looked great with her skin/hair/eyes but the colors/combinations were also organized by the response they evoked in others and, to a lesser extent, herself. "Stand out" and "blend in" were definitively two of them, but also "inspire confidence" and "evoke good will." This friend always looked phenomenal even though her clothes weren't particularly expensive or unusual.
posted by carmicha at 7:32 AM on July 19 [1 favorite]


Over the past year or so I've sort of developed my own wardrobe "system" that has parallels among the capsule wardrobe crowd (which was a term I only discovered after I'd started fine-tuning my system). My basic problem was not so much that I didn't have anything to wear (I actually get quite far down on the "why you don't have anything to wear" flowchart before I start running into problems) but that I did have pieces I really liked that were hard to mate with other pieces in my wardrobe, and that since I am drawn to colors and bold patterns I tended to by bolder statement pieces and acquired solid/neutral pieces rather haphazardly. And of course, I would buy stuff on sale thinking more of the price than how it would work with the rest of my wardrobe.

Step 1 was determining a palate: I've got a summer palate (turquoise, peach/coral) and winter palate (navy, rust) that are basically bright vs. dark variants on the same color scheme, plus three neutrals: denim, khaki and black. Step 2 was determining what garments I tend to wear--pants, capris, short-sleeve t-shirts, button-downs, etc. I then set up a spreadsheet with these colors and garments and everything I have bought since then has had to fit somewhere on the spreadsheet. I don't need to have everything in every color, but it does help me narrow down choices when I'm window shopping and occasionally I go on a "hunt" because I feel like it would get a lot of use out of garment X in color Y.

It's not totally minimalist, and I've still got a ton of clothes from the pre-system days that I like too much to get rid of hastily. But at least it gives me a reasonable sense of structure, limitations, and direction.
posted by drlith at 7:56 AM on July 19 [2 favorites]


So, I went and stood in one of my closets. There are things in there that are years old with price tags on. These are things that look fabulous on me, but for which I have no occasion to wear. Why do I have 8 formal gowns? I do not know. But they are magnificent, and I love them, but it's hardly appropriate for a jaunt to the market. Although, to be fair, I have a collection of tiaras which I do wear to the market. One just hates to be underdressed, you know.

My old age look is going to be a combination of Fairy Gothmother and Sunset Blvd, I just know it.
posted by dejah420 at 2:12 PM on July 19 [1 favorite]


Y'know for the first time in my life I've been figuring out how to dress myself, and then I hear phrases like "clear story line" and I break out in hives again. Clothing needs a PLOT? All I know is I've figured out the center of the Clothing Venn Diagram that includes "cheerful" and "androgynous", and it pleases me greatly.

(At work: Black pants with brightly colored button downs, short sleeved tops, or sweaters, black lab-appropriate shoes, hair like an extra in Grease, rare accessories. At home: add in jeans, nerd shirts, and sneakers. I'm finally starting to mostly dress like this as I wear out the things that aren't in any of those categories and have been getting compliments for the first time in my life, so I think it's working. I haven't figured out fancier-than-work clothes yet but that comes up rarely enough that I probably won't wear out my current set in my lifetime.)
posted by tchemgrrl at 9:47 AM on July 23 [1 favorite]


This is lovely and complex and seemingly universal -- but it's a really, really old idea (my Mom's old copy of "Secrets of Charm" had charts listing the proper number of blouses to skirts, and explaining how often to buy a new coat). It's always had some problems.

The big problem is that all the wardrobes she shows are dependent on current trends in almost invisible ways -- not wild-ass silly fads that are only current for a season, but more pervasive things like cut, palette, and types of items. All the clothes in this post are very casual and relaxed. There's lots of loose-ish long sleeved tops. All the t-shirts are loose floaty things made out of thin drapey fabric, meant to be layered. The denim is faded and bleached: the jackets are a loose boyfriend style, and the whole look is very Patti Smith in 1979 or Annie Hall. As per jeoc's comment above, all the pants are very casual tight skinnies, essentially non-denim jeans. All the shorts are very, very short, which is something quite new: in 2011 I bought several pairs of bermudas, but I couldn't find any this year. The palette is cool pastels: these are things that are in the stores now, but that wouldn't have been available in 2010. And even if you're just talking about real basics, like jeans or a white shirt, the cuts, rise, length and style will change every year. You can't pull out a pair of jeans that you bought in 2003 and wear them now without looking odd.

In other words: this stuff will be dated (and will probably have holes in it!) in two years. Buying 'quality' will not stop this from happening. Also, these wardrobes aren't going to work for an older woman, a larger woman or a woman with a more formal job: Angela Merkel and Hillary Clinton don't dress like this. I wear wide-legged slacks and jackets (as well as some super-awesome Marni and Miyaki pieces that will have to be pried from my dead hands) to teach, not because I like to look dowdy, but because I'm fifty plus, a size 14 and I cannot get away with dressing like my students. More importantly, I don't want to. The stuff in the capsule wardrobes is the stuff I wear on weekends -- but only some of it, because lots and lots of it looks like merry hell on me.

It's lots of fun, and she's taking clothes seriously and thinking about them, which is always fun. But fashion is fashion, and the colours, cuts and all the rest are changed every year. You can't outrun those changes: they're built in.
posted by jrochest at 12:27 AM on July 31


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