growing a minimalist wardrobe: seasonal favorites.

September 28, 2017

Call it poor planning or a general indifference to overly prescriptive projects, but when it comes to capsule wardrobes, I do my best work when looking backward. What did I wear most this summer? What felt best? What ended up not feeling so good this time around? Are there lessons that I can apply to getting dressed this fall? 

I’m the first to acknowledge that it’s hard to anticipate what my most-loved items might be at the beginning of a new season. But a bit of reflection after the fact can be telling (and useful) and I’m starting to learn to listen to myself. Like with my breakfasts, where I have a tendency to eat the very same thing for weeks on end until I tire of it, I often wear the same few items over and over again for a good long spell. Forget having a capsule wardrobe, for me it’s more like having a capsule outfit—just the one—that I wear until the weather shifts or my mood changes.

Last fall, while I was pregnant, I wore the same sweater several times a week for months. I rotated the two pairs of fitting pants in my closet and on many days, you could see me wandering around with my favorite popcorns in tow, the bottom of my belly covered up by one of two tanks. This summer, I wore this black jumpsuit and a white dress that James bought for me from these folks on repeat, with quite a bit of filling in from a favorite dress from these guys that I bought in the summer after Faye was born when emotions were high and breastfeeding access necessary. If someone had handed me three outfits at the beginning of the summer and decreed, “You shall wear these three things and nothing else,” I would have protested. But in looking back over the past few months, I realize that’s effectively just what I did.

Sure, there were moments when I wore other things. I slipped into my silk jumpsuit for a smattering of date nights and a few work meetings. My culottes went strong there for quite a while, paired with some simple tanks. On days when it was cool enough, I wore this gift, an Edwardian-looking number. But even with these additions included, I stuck to a very limited wardrobe, not out of a sense of obligation, but a sense of comfort. In fact, so comfortable had I gotten with this state of sameness that when we went to Oregon at the end of August, I wore my black jumpsuit on the plane and packed just a few t-shirts, a sweatshirt, and pajamas to complement it. One week, one jumpsuit is about as much suitcase planning as I could muster. (Proof here and here and here).

Heading into a new season, as always, I’m trying to keep in mind what worked in this last one. Because I relish making quick work of getting dressed, I imagine that I’ll try to stick with my jumpsuit as long as possible, though cooler days will complicate matters a bit. I’ll surely add jeans into the rotation and revisit my sweater love affair. Cold weather means more layers which can sometimes spell discomfort for me, so I’ll pay extra attention to what I like to put on my body and what gets returned to the hanger on frantic mornings. What about you guys? Lessons from summertime favorites? Comfort in sameness or comfort in change?

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  • Reply Annie September 28, 2017 at 1:43 pm

    I too have the black Hackwith jumper and wear it more than it was intended for. It is so comfortable, fashionable and womanly. Nice reflection.

  • Reply Jess September 28, 2017 at 2:20 pm

    Yes, reflecting back on the season is my favorite part of wardrobe planning. I think it might be the most valuable thing we can do in terms of slow fashion — it requires no money, encourages thoughtfulness, affirms/appreciates what we already have, and can motivate better care of our clothing. I use loose adaptations of both a capsule wardrobe model and the bullet journaling method to track my wardrobe and it helps me stay on top of mending and making the most out of my small closet.

  • Reply Jennifer September 28, 2017 at 2:42 pm

    This fall and winter I’m living in a pair of ballet flats (from Margaux NY) and my favorite black pants ( with a black turtleneck sweater on top. Like, every day! Trench coat if it’s chilly and rainy, wool camel coat and chelsea boots if it’s freezing.

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE September 28, 2017 at 2:44 pm

      Sounds like a plan!

    • Reply Erin September 28, 2017 at 4:15 pm

      I adore wearing black on black in the cooler months. Not only is it chic but doesn’t require much thinking…

    • Reply Evie Squadrille September 28, 2017 at 9:40 pm

      Sounds like my wardrobe…with the addition of two pairs of jeans I rotate.

  • Reply Erin S September 28, 2017 at 3:36 pm

    Hi! A couple questions about that jumpsuit! It looks so great on you. How are the armholes? Are they super long or not? Can the jumpsuit be worn reversed – with the V in the back instead of the front?

    • Reply Erin S September 28, 2017 at 3:37 pm

      One more – how thick is the cotton fabric?

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE September 28, 2017 at 3:39 pm

      Not reversible; average sized arm holes, but a pretty deep v in the front, so I often wear a tank top under it; fairly thick denim!

  • Reply Brianna September 28, 2017 at 4:50 pm

    I’m right there with you! I’m not sure if it’s due to having kids or having a tiny closet or some combo , but I have worn the same three linen dresses + one denim one since spring would allow. They are so easy and comfy and I enjoy not having to spend the time thinking about it, they just work. I’ve started adding a long sleeve under the same dresses to get me through most of these chillier days/mornings. Considering adding tights as well, is that too far? Idk. Idc.

    • Reply Amelia September 28, 2017 at 11:36 pm

      This is how I feel. Turtlenecks and tights with my summer dresses and I should be good till the snow flies?

    • Reply Heather September 29, 2017 at 2:00 am

      Idk. Idc. Ha! Stealing that one ☺️

    • Reply Milly September 29, 2017 at 9:23 am

      Looking for comfy linen dresses – mind sharing where you purchased your? How they wash – ironing- shrinkage ect?

  • Reply Trish O September 28, 2017 at 6:32 pm

    Like you, I tend to wear the same few things over and over again. However, I am starting to feel like I have a bad overconsumption of clothing issue. I don’t tend to get fast fashion, I just buy too many items. Fall is the worst. I have way more than I need. I am really attracted to beautiful clothes, but I need to stop buying. All this stuff is not how I want to live my life. I love the clothes as I am getting them, but then I am annoyed when there is so much stuff. This post is timely, today I decided to make a major change. I am pledging to buy NO clothes for myself for a year. I don’t need anything and won’t for a long time. I feel like to need to do an all or nothing to change this habit. I am excited to see where this journey takes me.

    • Reply Jay September 29, 2017 at 8:26 am

      Trish, I am excited for you! I am on the no new clothes for a year challenge too and I love it! Thinking of extending it another year. It feels really liberating. I still shop for clothes but for other family members and only when they need a specific item. This new-ish mindset has allowed me to be more mindful about shopping for clothes . Recently I have noticed some labels/websites with no models who are people of color. None. Not buying from them until that changes.

      • Reply Trish O September 30, 2017 at 7:50 am

        Thank you for the inspiration. I love how you have become so aware of the industry by this new habit. I am with you,looking for companies that reflect all.

    • Reply Heather October 3, 2017 at 10:22 am

      Trish I am often in the same boat. I haven’t had much luck with shopping bans sticking: I quickly discovered in the absence of shopping how buying beautiful things – and the ethical narratives attached to them – was tangled up in emotions for me: a little bit of an effort at self-actualization through what I wear/buy, a little bit of needing control, a bit of that dopamine hit from something new. I went 3 months without shopping, and then fell off the wagon HARD after seeing one interview with Elizabeth Suzann and NEEDING to embody that aesthetic. I’m trying a different approach this time, Project 333, to help me be at least more purposeful about what I buy and how much I have. I hope this works a bit better for me. And I’m wishing you all the best in your efforts, too!

  • Reply Lisa September 28, 2017 at 8:18 pm

    I’m having a struggle with clothes lately — I’m the type who would wear the same uniform every day if it was socially acceptable, and I don’t like to put a huge value judgment on the brands someone wears — but that’s not the case for at work, where I hear all kinds of things about how someone’s shoes/hair/purse/car status makes them a more valuable employee, or more highly considered for promotion, and I fear that I’m the minority here. I was on a hiring committee where another person on the panel dismissed a candidate because her purse wasn’t designer. (And I work at a nonprofit!) I feel like that sort of judgment of people is a slippery slope in America that has contributed to the current social and political climate and I hate it. A piano could fall on anyone tomorrow and their designer goods don’t go with them, so why does it matter? Any thoughts on navigating colleagues who place a high value on quantity of “stuff”, or rather, ignorance of the beauty of a person being more than skin (or clothes) deep?

  • Reply Rue September 28, 2017 at 10:07 pm

    How often do you wash your staple items? I’ve been having a slow-roll ah-ha moment this week, and I’m finally starting to want to cull my wardrobe in a serious way. But my current rhythm for laundry reflects a larger number of clothes, but includes ones I feel less excited to wear.

  • Reply Аnn September 28, 2017 at 11:46 pm

    “As always, going to the new season, I try to remember that I worked in this last”. – Golden words, I absolutely agree.
    It is difficult for me to try something new in clothes, I am growing up with a comfortable one and carrying it to infinity, and then the next. And really, is this bad ?! My short gray wool coat fits perfectly to the yellow and red autumn leaves.

  • Reply Heather September 29, 2017 at 2:03 am

    I am so with you! I love wearing the same few things. The past month has been a pair of Elizabeth Suzann linen pants almost nonstop. Lots of people think I’m into capsules but my whole wardrobe is probably as big as some of the bigger capsules I’ve seen ☺️

    • Reply Heather September 29, 2017 at 9:28 pm

      I wore my Elizabeth Suzann Florence pants about four times a week from December to last week, when I notice that I had worn a huge hole in the bum! I can only hope my bum wasn’t hanging out in the grocery store! I can’t afford new ones right now, so I picked apart the pair I wore out and, with the help of my mom, I’m making a couple of new pairs, with linen yardage that my mom thrifted for $2-$4 a piece. 🙂

      • Reply Heather September 30, 2017 at 2:32 am

        That is so, so smart Heather! I’m sad to hear yours wore out. Mine might too in time. I wish my mom or I sewed more than basic hems ☺️

      • Reply Trish O September 30, 2017 at 7:48 am

        You are so smart. Well done! I never would have thought of using the pattern from the old pants. Love that.

  • Reply Willow Westwood September 29, 2017 at 7:16 am

    This summer I was on the proverbial road for a full two months (going from one New England beach house to another with no home base, it’s terribly fun and I recommend it!). In preparation I put all my possessions into storage, save two market baskets and a beach bag packed with everything I thought I would need, clothes- and self care-wise.
    But the first stop on my adventuring was two weeks spent in Germany, living out of a small backpack, where I essentially wore the same jeans + sweater + jacket + sneakers combination, and rotated out a few shirts. It was so freeing! When I got back to New York and picked up my stashed baskets, I suddenly felt like I had a ridiculous and overwhelming amount of clothes! It became easy to judge what wasn’t pulling it’s weight in my “closet” and downsize to one basket. Then it became shorts + loose linen top + sandals + sandy hair almost every day.
    Now that I have a h̶o̶u̶s̶e̶ cabin and have all my stuff back, I haven’t found myself craving more variety at all! Although I did buy a second pair of jeans…

  • Reply Katherine September 29, 2017 at 8:50 am

    I too am trying not to buy anything new and shopping my closet. I really don’t need anything. I’m doing the same for my kids even though they are growing. They have enough. I am always surprised when other parents say their kids have grown out if everything. I digress… I love the idea of carrying over summer pieces by adding layers. I do that with my tanks. They go under sweaters. Skirts or dresses get sweaters and tights or leggings. It’s fun and satisfying to accomplish it!

    • Reply Amanda K. September 29, 2017 at 10:36 am

      Yes! Kids definitely don’t need a ton of clothes. One of my friends just told me she was going shopping bc her son only has five pairs of pants and I silently chuckled because my son only has three pairs! And we never have a problem! I get overwhelmed by organizing kid clothes!

    • Reply Trish O September 30, 2017 at 8:02 am

      I am also adding my boys into my one year no clothing purcheses. My boys are teens, so not growing as fast (I hope) but it seems like everyone is comfortable with the amount we own. My husband has never overbought, so he might live this way naturally. My oldest son is almost 16. He is tall (6’3″) and has broad shoulders. I bought him a Patagonia men XL coat and it struck me that this might be the last winter coat I buy him. He won’t need a bigger size, it will last. So in a few years, off this coat will go with him to college and adulthood. Well, now I am a little sad. Bitter-sweet to watch your little boys turn into men. Funny how things like coats become part of the process.

  • Reply Su September 30, 2017 at 2:56 am

    Hi Erin! I try to buy less clothes, too. Sometimes it takes me ages to find the right piece I need. I think I look for clothes too long which is a bit tiring and makes me feel uncertain about buying it or not . And I like to support local brands as well, but it doesn´t make me sense to buy new clothes every season if the pieces in my wardrobe are still in a good condition. I´m wondering how do you manage your shopping. Do you have any tips not to get stucked while researching? Do you have your own list of brands and shops where you do look at first? How often do you change your seasonal clothes in your wardrobe? What do you do with unwanted items? Thanks

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE October 2, 2017 at 8:01 am

      Hi Su! I think you’ll find answers to most of these questions in past posts in this series! I enjoy the work I do for this space to research folks making thoughtful clothes, but I admit that I’m really not much of a clotheshorse myself. Not to say I don’t appreciate or admire beautiful clothes, but I just don’t spend very time shopping!

  • Reply Stephanie September 30, 2017 at 5:20 pm

    Not so much comfort as energy in change! I love how different looks tweak the way I feel about myself and how other people see me — including my son. He is always delighted when I wear something colorful or textural, so I find myself dressing up a bit because it makes him happy, even if it is just a scarf to wrap around my hair. It’s nice to sneakily embody a little joy at a time when the world is so grim.

  • Reply Melanie September 30, 2017 at 6:06 pm

    I can relate. I am much for sameness when it comes to getting dressed. My favourite thing in my wardrobe right now is a chunky cardigan. I can’t stop wearing it. I sometimes have to stop myself because it needs washing!

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