Personal Style & the Capsule Wardrobe

Curating a capsule wardrobe every season has certainly helped me discover my sense of personal style.  My capsule has to cover a formal work environment as well as a more casual style.  While I’ve noticed, over the past few capsules, that I can mix and match pieces quite well, the two styles are quite distinct.  This has the disadvantage of some pieces, but only a bare handful, being worn only at work and vice versa, so my capsule is not quite as hard working as it could be.  The advantage, however, is that it gives me a clear delineation of the day.  Changing from formal work attire to a relaxed outfit is symbolic of the change of role and is a key step in clearing my mind of work issues and stresses.

I’m Lorraine at work but Lol at home (no prizes for guessing why I’m using my nickname of Lol for the blog, then!).  At the risk of sounding like I have a dual personality, I do find it quite therapeutic to move between roles and my personal style reflects this.

After many expensive shopping mistakes, I think that a tailored, structured wardrobe, with pencil skirts, tailored trousers, dresses and jackets suit me for work.  I like the pulled-together look and it also worked quite well over the past twelve months, when I have been losing weight.  At home, I am, as they say, a jeans and tee-shirt kind of girl, with a weakness for stripes.  But fundamentally, the style isn’t too different.  I like the sharp silhouette of skinny jeans, in a dark wash for the cooler months but changing to green and taupe for the warmer months.  As the bottoms are fitted, I keep the tops looser, as I like this look.  I tried the more boho, all-over flowing look but it’s just not me.

Having to choose a finite number of pieces helps me define my personal style.  My first couple of capsules were all encompassing in their shapes, leaving me looking fairly shapeless, as a result.  I certainly tried different pieces, of varying styles, but they never gelled for me.  As Courtney Carver says, Project 333 is not an experiment in suffering but a minimalist fashion challenge!

Every piece has to earn its place in my wardrobe so if something is not my style, I tend not to reach for it and that becomes very obvious with a pared back set of clothes – it’s taking up a valuable space that another piece could inhabit.  So, my clothes suit me more, I’m happier with them, I’m spending less but enjoying more, honing my sense of personal style, learning what works and doesn’t and I have fewer clothes but better quality.  Capsule wardrobes – what’s not to love?!  Have a great week 🙂

Why minimalism?

Three years ago, I went through a difficult time, when a dearly loved one was ill.  I felt helpless, angry, upset, out of control and frightened.  Then, I realized, it wasn’t about me.  My focus and energy needed to be channeled where it was needed most but everything seemed so complicated.  It wasn’t really or at least it was as complicated as I made it.  Fewer complications meant more time and energy available, which is what I needed, but I took the scenic route, not the direct one, on the way.

At first, I thought I needed to be ultra-organized.  I’m quite a structured person anyway (I’m a ‘J’ for those of you interested in Myers-Briggs!).  So, I organized.  I had a container for everything and if a container was ever empty, then I ensured I filled it.  Every minute of every day was planned.  Every article on every shelf was straight.  Funnily enough, this didn’t help!   But I didn’t understand why.

At some level, I knew I needed more simplicity and fewer distractions.  So I started to search the web.  My searches focused on ‘simplicity’ as I had never heard of the term ‘minimalism’.  But it kept popping up.  I stumbled across a site called ‘The Minimalists’ hosted by Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus.   I read a few of their posts with interest and then saw that they were due to visit London, just a train ride away. 

On Wednesday 8th October 2014, I made my way to Parkgate Road in London, somewhere I didn’t know and had never heard of, a prospect that would have daunted me before.  (I’m Irish, living in the UK, so usually everywhere is different and new!).  However, different results needed different approaches.  That evening was a watershed moment.  By that stage, I had read many articles by The Minimalists and even had one of their books.  However, hearing them speak brought the whole concept of minimalism alive for me and more importantly, within my reach.  They also mentioned some of their friends, Courtney Carver, Leo Babauta, Colin Wright  …. I realized there was a whole world of minimalism and alternative views out there.

The weekend after, I looked around my carefully organized belongings and saw them with different eyes.  Yes, I was fortunate to have so much – but I also had so much distraction, so much anxiety and so much excess.   How much did one person need, for goodness sake?!  I saw the difference between organization and minimalism, which is probably quite obvious to many others, but as I said, I took the scenic route to this realization.

My loved one is now so much better than I ever thought possible.  And the dark days which I hated and feared at the time, showed me a less conventional but more satisfying life.   I’m still on a journey to simplicity but I know why I’m doing it.  As Jim Rohn says, ‘ When the why gets stronger, the how gets easier’.

 

Photo courtesy of http://www.freeimages.co.uk

Capsule Wardrobe: Basics, key pieces and statement pieces

I was always a big fan of Anuschka Rees’ blog, Into Mind and was thrilled when she recently published her book called The Curated Closet.   It’s chock-full of useful strategies and ideas and one in particular, feels like a great way to view clothes in a slightly different way.

Anuschka maintains that the basis to a great wardrobe, which will allow a versatile mix of pieces and enable multiple different looks, is to have the right balance of:  Basic pieces, that form the backbone of your wardrobe; key pieces, that add versatility and encapsulate your own personal style; statement pieces, that will enable you to add variety and a little something special.

The great thing about this approach is that these pieces may be different for everyone.  What is a basic for me may be a key piece for you.  I feel this simple tactic is powerful because it allows me to see my capsule wardrobe in a different light.  At the moment, the basics and key pieces are well covered but I’m a bit light on the statement pieces so if I need one, I tend to go to my tiny ‘special occasion’ capsule and pull out something from there.  This is where I keep a couple of special dresses to wear to a wedding or a party, a smart pair of shoes, a dressy top or a sparkly jacket!  However, with Anuschka’s approach, by incorporating a small number of statement pieces into my ‘normal’ capsule, I can wear these special pieces more often and not keep them for the ‘just in case’ times.  It will also allow better mixing and matching and jazzing up a plain outfit to make it more my own.

I will be starting to think of my summer capsule wardrobe in a few weeks’ time so I’ve decided to use this approach for summer shoes, to dip a toe in the water first, so to speak.  I tend to live in flats in the summer and wear my heels far more in the colder months.  They also go better with my summer clothes.  So, I could view my black ballet flats, which feel like slippers after 4 years, as basics; my pointed flats which, because of their neutral colour, go with many combinations and are a key piece; and my pink flats could make a statement, with a more neutral outfit.  Before this, I think I may have been inclined to pair my neutral flats with neutral basic clothes – resulting in a ‘meh’ kind of look.

     

The other reason I love this approach is that minimalism is all about de-cluttering the excess and appreciating what we are so fortunate to have now.  Loving and using things on a daily basis and not putting them away for ‘special’ occasions seems a better way.  Every day is special, right?

Easter Meltdown!

Happy Easter to you all 🙂  Mr. Minimal-Lol kindly bought me an Easter egg to celebrate the day.  This is what it should look like – viewed in its pristine condition on the M&S website. 

However, in an effort to be super-organized, he purchased it early in the morning and then left it on the back seat of the car, on a sunny day, only to remember it some hours later.   Like my wardrobe, it has undergone some down-sizing and this is what I was presented with this morning!  Nothing like starting the day off with a laugh!

This will be shared between us and enjoyed in stages over the next few days.  There was a time when an Easter egg may not have safely made it to lunchtime, still intact.  I believe there is a real connection between minimalism, healthy eating and weight loss.   I began my minimalism journey about three years ago, when I badly needed to simplify my life, in order to deal with some extra pressures.  It’s a work in progress and I have a long way to go.  However, an unforeseen benefit has been the impact on my weight.

It started when I became interested in a capsule wardrobe.  I had some major de-cluttering sessions and I found a variety of sizes, for my weight spectrum.  First of all, there were the clothes that fit me at that time.  True, they were uninspiring and boring but they fit – that was the key factor that earned their place in the wardrobe.  Then there were my just-in-case clothes – in case I increased my weight, I had a mini capsule of clothes just waiting for that dreaded day.  Talk about creating the conditions for weight gain.  I had a real wake-up call when I realized that was why I was holding on to these clothes – as though it was outside my control if I gained such a significant amount of weight, that I needed clothes in a whole other size.

Then there were the tantalizing few pieces that ‘when I slimmed down’, I would fit into perfectly.  They never really acted as a motivation but it felt like a goal achieved when I started wearing them again.  But I found that many of them were tainted and heavy with the weight of hope and despondency, so they only sparked limited joy.  They were never going to live up to the expectations I had placed on them.  My transition to a more intentional way of shopping and indeed viewing my wardrobe is my long-term goal.

I didn’t so much minimalize my food as de-clutter the cupboard that contained the sugary foods and that made the most difference.  I realized that the simplicity I craved in my wardrobe could best be attained by achieving a stable weight, which would allow a wardrobe with fewer but better quality clothes that I loved and that fit me well.  So, I will enjoy nibbling on a small piece of the lovely (albeit transformed in a melted sort of way!) Easter egg that Mr. M-L bought me but, as in my wardrobe, less can be more satisfying than more, and way better for body and mind than too much.  Enjoy the break 🙂

Spring 2017 Capsule Wardrobe – Overview

I’m at the midway point of my spring 2017 capsule wardrobe and it’s working just fine.  The weather has really warmed up here in the UK lately and my capsule is still fit for purpose.  It’s great to be able to discard some of the layering pieces though!

In the winter, I love my neutrals of black and grey with touches of white but for spring, it’s good to lighten it up a little.  My base colours this year are navy and burgundy with some brighter colours as accents.  I really have about three capsules a year, rather than four, as I find that my choice of clothes tends to be very similar for spring and autumn, due to the similarity in the weather.  Summer and winter are where I notice a big variation.

So, keeping it real here, a visual overview of my spring capsule follows:  Spring 2017 Capsule WardrobeThis year I have 9 tops, 7 bottoms, 4 toppers (jackets/cardigans), 3 dresses, 5 pieces of footwear, 3 outerwear and 2 key accessories.  This just happens to total 33 and although I am greatly inspired by Courtney Carver’s Project 333, I don’t get too hung up on the numbers.  I rarely have fewer than 33 pieces but often go up to 36/37 – for me, it’s about having the right clothes for my lifestyle, not about a magic number.  I don’t count jewellery as an accessory, thought I only have a capsule collection of that also, and sometimes swap in a scarf or two to brighten up a darker outfit.

I mentioned in a previous post that when I started out, I had a strict delineation between my work and home capsules, and totalled over 60 pieces in my first attempt!  Now, I mix and match between the two far more frequently and easily and find that 33 pieces covers both quite well. 

I found it a good exercise to pull a visual together so I can see everything at once.  I do like a stripe, don’t I?!! 

I’d love to hear if you’ve tried a capsule wardrobe and why – do you find anything particularly liberating or frustrating about it?  Have a good week 🙂

Capsule Wardrobe for a Weekend Away – Review

Okay … I am never over-packing again!  I experimented with packing light for a five-day trip to Dublin, using the principles of my capsule wardrobe and it worked beautifully.  In fact, I think I could have packed even less but that’s learning for a future trip.

In the end, I brought two pairs of jeans, three tops, two cardigans, two pairs of shoes and some layers.  The weather in Dublin was, uncharacteristically sunny but freezing, as opposed to mild but raining, which can be more usual.  This meant that I wore my layering pieces a lot more than I thought I would and was I glad I had packed them!   On review, I wondered if I should have brought clothes from my warmer winter capsule, rather than my spring one, but I think it would have felt like ‘cheating’ a bit and also the colour palette is so much darker that it may not have felt as appropriate in the Dublin sunshine.

I brought my leather jacket which kept me toasty and matched everything I wore.  My scarf was used – a lot!  It’s bright pink and warm, in all senses!  I packed a pair of shoes and wore a pair of boots – the boots by themselves would have been plenty, so that’s a useful note for future weekends and the shoes took up a lot of room in my bag – not a good deal, as I only wore them once.

I didn’t go out anywhere fancy, which was lovely, as it meant loads of cosy evenings with friends and family, chatting and laughing.  I had packed a dressier top but rather than bringing it back untouched, I just wore it one day, with one of my cardigans and felt a little more dressed up than usual.

So, I think the experiment worked.  I had plenty of options, I felt presentable and most importantly, I was able to focus my time on the people I travelled to see and didn’t spend time fussing over what to wear – and if I had enough – and what would people think – and what if – what if …….  It’s so liberating.

I couldn’t help but notice, though, that I had over-packed my toiletries/make-up bag – next project I think!

Capsule Wardrobe for a Weekend Away

This weekend, I am going to Dublin for five days and thought it was a great opportunity to discover more about the portable capsule wardrobe.  I like to plan (a lot!) but the downside is that I can tend to over-pack, having considered every possible permutation of outings and extremes of weather, not to mention lack of laundry facilities.  Inevitably, I would unpack after my break and take clothes out of my bag that had been untouched by human hand.

So, after some reflection, I decided to try something different this time.  I am spending time with family and friends and it will all be quite low-key, so no need to pack three cocktail dresses and a fascinator, then!  I took Courtney Carver’s advice and packed for half the time, in this case three days.  I am using my trusty packing cubes, which help focus the mind and neaten the luggage.  I winnowed down (goodbye four pairs of jeans – really, for three days?) and ended up with two pairs of jeans, three tops, two cardigans, two pairs of shoes and some layers, as the forecast was for sunny but cold.  Every top goes with every bottom and cardigans can be layered for warmth or discarded if the forecast was unduly pessimistic.  I snuck in one dressier top though!

The great thing about packing a minimal capsule wardrobe from my ‘normal’ capsule is that I’m already ahead of the game, as anything I pack is a favourite, suits me and my general lifestyle, is of good quality and I would be glad to wear anytime, anywhere.

I know I have enough combinations to make several different looks so I will just see how it goes.  I haven’t packed too many accessories, which can be key for changing up a look, however, this is all a bit of trial and error.  I won’t deliberately restrict my choices but neither will I bemoan the fact that I may not have packed a key piece.  I just want to see how I get on.  I’ll check back in next week with the results of this experiment …..  Have you any tips on minimalist packing?