These are my favorite to posts write.
They always bring me back to my core.
They remind me that this is all one grand experiment. It’s playing. It’s not meant to be taken too seriously. It’s about curiosity and trying new things and making mistakes.
You know what I’m about to say, don’t you?
How fascinating! is my favorite mantra from my favorite book, The Art of Possibility. In it, Benjamin Zander, the renown conductor of the Boston Philharmonic, writes:
“I actively train my students that when they make a mistake, they are to lift their arms in the air, smile, and say, “How fascinating!” It is only when we make mistakes that we can really begin to notice what needs attention.”
Don’t you love that mental picture? A bunch of serious musicians throwing their arms in the air and exclaiming to themselves? Makes me smile every time.
For me, How fascinating! reminds me to embrace the human experience. The whole human experience — including mistakes that make me want to fidget and sweat and can we just go already?
After all, if we’re being real, any mistake has a cost. But … what if there’s another side to our mistakes? A quieter side, that’s perhaps harder to feel, but just as real.
Another mistake? How fascinating! Another opportunity to learn something just presented itself.
So … in light of that, let’s take a look at a few of the mistakes + lessons learned from this winter. These lessons are specific to my experience, but I hope they’ll help you too.
1. In winter, opt for v-necks or scoop necks.
When I was decked out in my warmest sweaters, the only skin showing was my hands … which started to feel sad after a little while. I felt so covered up that I lost that feeling of femininity. Has this ever happened to you?
I think it would have helped if I had picked a few more v-neck or scoop neck tops. That way, I could throw on a scarf to stay warm, but I could have shown a little of the décolletage too.
2. Even if you love neutrals, include some color.
This was the first capsule where I had zero color — not even much in the blue jean department.
I’m really glad I tried it. After all, I’d always wondered if I was a 100% neutral kinda gal.
But I definitely got my answer:
The lack of color really started to get to me after about a month. Don’t get me wrong, I still love my neutrals, but I now know that a handful of color is a must in any capsule wardrobe from here on out.
3. Make sure to mix two different styles in your capsule.
When I first started living with capsule wardrobes, I swore by this practice of mixing two opposite styles in one capsule. Like cool-edgy + soft-organic — think a black leather jacket with a boho white dress.
This mix meant I could create a lot of looks that fall on either side of the spectrum – or right in the middle of the two, which is where I usually hung out.
But this time around, I didn’t pay attention to that practice. The result? My winter capsule didn’t have enough variety — it felt one dimensional.
The only look I could really pull off was cool-edgy. Which was great for a little while. It is, after all, a fundamental piece of my style. But after a few weeks I was craving some variety. Lesson learned.
4. Pay attention to fabrics when dressing for cold weather.
You probably already knew this, but cold weather dressing is not my strongest suit. I blame it on Texas. Damn you and your mild winters. Just kidding. I love you for your mild winters.
Anyway, a couple of days ago, I discovered this awesome article on layering for cold weather travel, and I felt like I was getting the cold weather education I never had — especially when it comes to the power + purpose of fabrics.
If you need a cold weather education, like me, you might want to bookmark it.
5. Take a deep breath. Admit you will always be learning — and then celebrate that.
If you remember, back in December when I posted my winter capsule, I touted it as being effortless and 100% “me”. I was so proud of it, so certain of it.
But … it ended up surprising me. It wasn’t the best wardrobe ever, like I was sure it would be.
I didn’t want to admit it at first.
Besides, I’ve been doing this for like a year and a half — I should, you know, HAVE IT DOWN BY NOW.
But you know what I realized? Instead of trying to wrestle + pin it to the ground, I’m going to celebrate that my style is fluid. Style — just like humans — will always change, grow, and evolve.
So right now, I’m letting go of this “I’ve arrived” idea. Want to join me?
No matter how much I learn, there will always be an opportunity to discover something new about myself.
P.S. What did you learn this winter? Did you have any similar discoveries?
One of my friends posted this quotation on Facebook the other day, and it really resonated with what I’m learning to be fashion-wise right now. It goes right along with your idea of embracing the fluidity of style. “Your closet needs to be a place of joy and celebration of who are you now – not who you were.” – Stacy London
So true! Ah, the wisdom of Stacey London :) I think of her every time I clean out my closet.
Thanks for such an honest review of your capsule! I feel like everything in life is more of a work in progress rather than a finished product no matter how well I think I nailed it.
Ann Marie says
Well said! Sometimes those things we loved and were so sure of 6 months or a year ago aren’t so great anymore. We have to tell ourselves it’s ok to let go of the stuff we are not that fond of today.
Thanks so much for writing this! I thought I had finished my personal evaluation, but your post today brought up a few more things to my attention.
1.I’m really thrilled that I took a gamble and found three non-nuetral colors that jive with my skin tone, besides blue. For the rest of you pale, freckled brunettes, hint, try forest green, soft moss green, and pale peach.
2.In spite of our mild-ish winters, I’m in serious need of a few more sweaters. I had plenty of v-necks and button ups, but not enough warm, comfy wear. I now know I need major comfort and warmth during the cold months to send the winter blues packing.
Thanks for including the link to finding warmer wear! I’ll be referencing it next fall/winter!
Also, I’m (selfishly) glad to see the more organic style reappearing here. Its a major part of my wardrobe, and I found it a bit difficult to relate to your winter capsule. I’m eager to see your spring wardrobe! I already replaced my winter wardrobe as the weather is already playing around in the 70s and 80s over here. :)
This was great. Thanks for your candor. I only had one colorful sweater in my capsule, and I think it made a lot of difference. Especially on those unexpectedly warm days close to the end. Ready for spring too!
Melanie Fisher says
So much to love about this post. Thank you!
I love the idea of this capsule wardrobe self-reflection. I think you pointed out a good points about how you made some mistakes that you didn’t in the past. Personal style changes as we grow (both mentally and physically), and I think that the capsule wardrobe is a great guideline to make smart, deliberate decisions while still being focused on your needs. It also gives room to play with creativity, which we all need to some extent!
I know you’ve shared that quote today, but I thank you for sharing it again today. I loved your winter capsule lessons, but I have to admit that quote made more of an impression today. My Master’s thesis is due one week from today, and I’m really struggling with it. The quote was a good reminder to change my perspective and tackle it again. Thank you!
Steph M says
I, also, missed having “style” options. My wardobe was also too one-dimensional (I have migrated to a similar style to yours over the past couple of years) and I’ve added a few softer pieces to my spring wardrobe. I’m excited to see how much wear I get out of my kimono. :D I realized this winter I love to be able to style-chameleon a little. I like the edgy-cool, but also the preppy-classic, and a touch of boho. Weird but true.
I’m just now wrapping up my winter capsule as spring is slowly creeping in here in Philly. I’ve found myself doing some serious soul searching over the past few weeks. What went wrong with my winter capsule (if I refuse to go to the dry cleaner because it’s too cold, pick less dry clean only pieces next time!) What went right (nailed my color palette of shades of purple and a strong neutral base). As I’m curating my spring capsule, I can already anticipate that the first few weeks will be filled with “fascinating!” moments. I wanted to do a black-less capsule for spring, but then decided that would be both expensive and definitely not “me.” The weather here changes rapidly from the beginning of the capsule period to the end. Also, my warmer weather clothes don’t transition as well as from work to play as my winter clothes do. Adventures await! Thanks as always for the thought provoking piece and another addition to my to-read list.
x Bonnie @ http://www.cocktailsandquinoa.com
Amanda Wilkerson says
This is such an honest review of your wardrobe! I love it! I just started reading your blog half way through Winter and didn’t want to build a capsule right in the middle of a season so this past week I purged my closet to get ready to build a Spring capsule wardrobe. After picking out my most loved pieces and giving away or selling all of the clothes I didn’t absolutely love or didn’t fit anymore I saw my style slowly come together. I have about 5 items I need to buy for my Spring capsule to finish it off. I’m so excited to try this process out and I’ve already started putting outfits together in my Stylebook app. Thanks for all the great inspiration and useful tips! Can’t wait to see your Spring capsule!
One of the hardest parts about planning a capsule for me is reconciling the pre-planning with a strong desire to stay in the moment (i.e.–it’s really hard for me to know what I’m going to want to wear to dinner on May 7th (when I might be feeling light and easy) as I’m planning my capsule on the morning of March 15th (when I’m feeling classic and structured)). Your inclusion of contrasting style options is a great tool to help address this hurdle.
Brittany Deal says
I love your reviews at the end of each season, so honest and real! It might not have been your favorite capsule wardrobe but that is the beauty of seasons, they are only temporary. With the changing of the seasons comes new opportunities and chances to redefine yourself. I know to some people clothing is simply what you put on your back but they really are symbolic of who you are and where you are in life. That is part of the reason I love your capsule wardrobes they really are so symbolic of life!
Thanks for your honest review. We probably need a little more color during winter because everything is pretty bland outside. And we are always changing and evolving so like you said, it’s best to look positively at our mistakes. :)
This winter was the first time I’ve tried having a capsule wardrobe and WOW was it ever beneficial!
By living with less, I was so much more content. I was a lot more careful when I went shopping. I felt more creative because I had less to work with. I was able to pin down my personal style. It made me simplify other areas of my life.
I had SO much fun playing around with my wardrobe this winter. Although having a set number of clothes in my wardrobe didn’t quite work for me, I will still definitely be living with less from now on. There’s no way I’m ever going back!
Thanks for your honest recap of your winter capsule wardrobe. You’ve given me lots to think about as I prepare for my first ever capsule wardrobe, starting this spring. I’m so excited! I too love my neutrals, but I did include a few color pieces to brighten things up a little.
On a non-fashion related note, thank you for sharing the “How fascinating!” story. I homeschool my three children and I am going to share that with them first thing tomorrow morning. My kids (as most kids do) tend to get quite frustrated when they don’t understand something right away or get it wrong. What an important lesson for us all to remember. We are always learning and every mistake we make helps us learn. I have a feeling I will be seeing lots of littles hands in the air :)
Sandie B says
This winter was my first season with a capsule wardrobe and I liked it alot.
It really made me see how little I can live with and also made my life a little easier on some points.
So thank you for the inspiration and guidance!
I learned to not try and change mystyle. I am always comfy plus rocker edgy. I added a few fancier items for versatility, and even if they were sort of edgy I’m not fancy. I didn’t wear them more than once or twice in three months. So for spring it is comfy all the way. The best thing I’ve learnt from starting a capsule wardrobe is to accessorize. I was never good at that. I would change outfits instead of wearing the same outfit but with different accessories. I’ve bought a lot more scarves, belts and necklaces and I actually wear them. Often.
I’ve been following for a while, but first comment :)
I also tend towards neutrals in winter for some reason. Somehow they seem cozier? But I am normally a color person so what’s helped me stay with my cheerful colors in winter is having a nice coat in a color (a nice dark teal) and my bag which has bright flowers on it. This way even with all my gray sweaters and jeans I can always have a bit of color without having to buy a sweater in a bright color that I know I won’t wear much.
I’m not quite the queen of capsule wardrobe yet but I seriously reduced the number of clothes in my cupboard! And before I get up every morning I plan what I’m going to wear, and it’s never been clearer or easier to do. So I’m more efficient : great! This winter I haven’t stood in front of the said cupboard wondering what to wear as in “I haven’t got anything” : less is more. And I’ve started wearing my “best” and enjoying my best clothes on a daily basis. Great again!
strongest “suit”. no e on the end.
Kelly NH says
I love hearing about what worked and what didn’t in your capsules Caroline. Im still refining mine and losing weight slowly doesn’t help, although that’s definitely what Im trying to do!!
I found this article yesterday on Refinery29 regarding Drew Barrymore and how she thinned out her closet and made it work for her now she has two children.
Its hard letting go of the fact that Im not late twenties anymore – Hell, Im late thirties now with two kids myself!!
I will put the link on here for anyone who is struggling with their new identity in relation to their wardrobe.
Thanks for all your insight, its most appreciated!
Thank you for sharing the article; it was really helpful to me.
Well done for putting so much thought into creating the ideal capsule. No matter this is your best capsule or not, your perseverance and persistence really shone through.
I wanted to say I’ve been following you since June and appreciate your effort and authenticity which come across on this blog. I undertook your challenge Dec 15-Mar 13th and learned so much during it. I learned to be content with what I had (which allowed me to pay off half my credit card debt) but also that I need to rebuild my winter wardrobe with warmer clothes. I also learned little things like I love solids and stripes as my pattern. It was eye opening to see what I had loved on a clothing rack vs. What I loved at the end of everyday life. I’m still totally with you on the not having everything 100% figured out but that’s also why this experiment is so much fun. You learn something different each time. I can’t wait to see what my spring capsule will bring ( 3/14-6/14) and I’m just as excited to see your reveal on Wednesday!
Just wanted to say thank you for being an inspiration that less is more and that change and contentment are both possible.
OMG- very similar experiences for my winter capsule – which happened to be my 2nd capsule.
Just like you, I had:
– too little variety in color- mostly neutrals and lots of gray lesson learned- I’m not a neutral girl
– too little variety in style – mostly sweaters and casual pants – it was a strong winter here in NC but I needed more skirts/dresses in my mix- lesson learned- I really do like dresses even in winter
Shopping for my Spring capsule now and SO excited still by the process. Taking what I’ve learned and applying it to this capsule. That’s SO what it’s ALL about!
I learned a few things about fabrics this winter, too. As in, some generate enough static electricity to light a small town, and should be avoided at all costs. I bought what I thought was a fantastic black cocoon sweater that I was sure I would wear with everything, but it turned out I couldn’t stand to wear it at all because it attracted all the cat hair in a 10 foot radius, clung to me in ways that clothing should not, and crackled like mad when I took it off. Lesson learned: Pay attention to fiber content during dry winter months!
Hi Caroline! I just wanted to say that I super big heart your blog and what you’re doing here! You’ve inspired me to start a major closet clean out and overhaul my entire relationship with shopping! Like you, I struggle with shopping to excess, to the point that I *try* to hide my online purchases from my ever-patient husband (*he’s quite observant), and feel wretched with guilt and shame over my addiction. Your willingness to open up about yours and write about it in a public forum has given me the courage and desire to change my habits too! So I guess this isn’t really what I learned this winter, but just a general comment. I guess I learned that I have a problem, and that having had a baby 7 weeks ago hasn’t curbed my desire to online shop, though it has dampened it a bit. I guess you’ve made me realize that I have to nip this in the bud myself and can’t expect someone else to do it; discovering your blog (and reading it in its entirety over the past week: nursing a newborn=a LOT of time to read on my phone…) was the proverbial kick in butt I needed. Thank you and please keep up the fantastic work!
This winter, I learned that I am not a colorful patterned leggings person. My sister had two pairs and I wore them a lot so then I bought my own pair. I eventually realized that the reason I put them on so often was because they were comfortable + cozy + worked well with my Uggs, so what I really need is a pair of equally as comfortable leggings in black. Every time I put them on, I wished they were black, because then I would’ve been wearing something that was all ME. I’ve thought about black leggings often, never bought them because I have a grey dog, but it turns out that I would wear + love them enough that I’m totally willing to lint-roll. Good to know!
Elizabeth, My mother bought me the coolest thing this past xmas: reversible Spanx leggings [footless] – one side is black and the other side is grey – OMG they work with everything, are thick enough to not be transparent at all and keep me warm without bulk [who doesn’t need that?!] – Thank goodness for Mom’s that are on the look out for multi-functional pieces! Maybe they would work for you?!
So, I’m coming off of my very first capsule. You helped my plan my Winter Capsule in January and I was, for the most part, VERY pleased with the results. Perhaps it was beginners’ luck. Some observations:
1. “In winter, opt for v-necks or scoop necks”. OMG, yes! I couldn’t put my finger on why I never wore my crew neck tees, but that’s exactly it! Thank you. Got it.
2. “Make sure to mix two different styles in your capsule.” I need a little help here. You chose great words… edgy/cool, soft/organic. I need help finding those words… keywords that can guide me. I’ve even tried Google-ing a list of words like that. I was unsuccessful.
3. I learned from my experience to keep something in my closet that is inappropriate for work. I am more than my 9 to 5 and, somehow, if I only have clothes that I wear to my job, I have a harder time getting out of work mode when I’m at home or away from work. I want something for Fun Megan.
4. I love the skinny pant silhouette and all, but I’m tired of wearing such tight pants!! Will try to vary my pant cuts in summer. (Easier to do, perhaps, in summer…)
5. Can you talk a little about jewelry? I don’t really get into jewelry, but there are some pieces that can help finish an outfit. I never seem to have the right thing. My necklaces are always the wrong length and kind of boring. Surely there’s a short list of what a gal needs… a jewelry capsule.
I have so loved this discipline. Delving into the details so that my mornings can be spent reading instead of fussing over what to wear. Thank you for your help!
I LOVE the idea of a jewelry capsule – great idea…on that note, one thing I’ve noticed is that some earrings I can’t wear [too long] in winter months when I’m all bundled in layers and bulky coats and scarves…Same goes with delicate chain necklaces – they end up ‘eating/wearing’ the fuzz from whatever sweater I’m wearing. Rings [without sharp edges], watches and bracelets seem to be great winter jewelry…But that’s just me and my 2 cents :) I too would LOVE to hear from other people on this topic! And does anyone else go through silver phases, then gold phases, then pearl phases, then turquoise phases, etc etc??? EGADS! Maybe that’s something to do as well: pick a theme for season and see how that works? Lost…
Another inspiring post! Ever since I discovered your blog, it’s been one of my favorite daily reads :) I think your approach to capsule wardrobes is the best one I’ve come across, and you inspired me to start capsule wardrobing myself! Can’t wait to see your spring capsule!
I own very few clothes. I counted, actually 110 pieces (socks in pairs, underwear, scarfs and sportswear are also included), and 14 pairs of shoes. But I want to try capsule, to try different seasons. I live in Helsinki, so winter is hard, and spring and autumn are cold (so I can wear shorts in summer only).
Also I’m wearing almost only black, there is only 3 grey and one violet pieces in my closet. I’m interested in texture, material and shape more than colour so I prefer to have almost all black. I buy quality clothes which are made without any childlabour. Also I need to have quality material to stay warm in finnish winter so cashmere knits are must. I use wool, silk, cotton, and other quality materials, polyamid stays out. So I buy rarely but high quality, repair and take care of my clothes extremely well. Every pieces cost me quite much, I must be very selective. Now I’m starting my second season with capsule. I mainly have list “what to buy”. What is extremely important is to learn mix outfits more. So I can use this capsule wardrobe experiment to make my minimalism work better. For me it will be like around 30 pieces for every season. So I’m curious what will happen. There is so many sides you can learn and use capsule wardrobe system, so clever!
I’d love to see what sorts of things you put together! This winter it was so cold here and I spent some time researching Scandinavian street style to see how people dress stylishly in the winter. Have you ever seen the blog Hel Looks?
I have been living here always so question is a bit hard… but actually I have also looked for inspiration what to wear stylishly on winter. I prefer to stay warm, so windproof hooded jacket, warm leather mittens (windproof!) are must. I also wear ordinary leather boots, but flat, because it is safer if you have ice and snow on streets. I also love my warm woolly hat, made from kashmir. I use ordinary jeans and pants, but in coldest, windiest day I put thin merino wool leggings (like long underwear) under. I also love warms knits, I succeeded to buy V-neck kashmir pullover and it was best thing against cold. Freezing is not sexy or stylish, so I could say staying warm is number one… then you can play with other elements. Wearing layers is practical, just add or remove during weather.
Hel Looks is crazy!
I’m coming towards the end of my summer capsule and I’m imagining that soon I’ll need long sleeves and actually be able to wear jeans… I think my main lessons were
1) I need a work and casual capsule for summer, there is no overlap
2) A limited palette is great (casual: navy, white, cream, coral, blues; work: black, grey, red, blue, white)
3) I can wear white strapped sandals + love it + keep them clean
4) I very rarely pick navy shorts over denim
5) I have yet to nail the casual brunch/lunch with girlfriends type outfits (in summer) as I either feel to casual in denim and my experiment with skirt + t-shirt didn’t leave me feeling confident
6) Jury is out on the wide legged linen pants
I can only hope this helps someone headed into spring/summer
Love your reflection posts to see how you got on each season! I am also super excited to see your full spring wardrobe.
My lessons would probably be quite obvious because my capsule was merely my wardrobe reduced in number, due to not having the money for a full fashion make over (until my spring wardrobe) that I needed!
1. I am so over all the clothes I own: half of them I have owned since I was 18, so 7 years. My spring wardrobe is very apt because its all about embracing a new me, new life style, new chapter in my life.
2. I have no casual clothes, especially for work. I had dresses and shirts for meetings ect but nothing for working from home (hello dressing gown!) or working alone in my tiny office.
3. I really need to expand the shoe section of my wardrobe. After a leak and subsequent mould issue in my previous flat I had to throw out most of my shoes meaning I have trainers and a pair of ankle boots. And Sue to a injury I am having to get used to life in flat shoes most of the time = I need to invest!
SO excited for April 1st! My husband thinks I am crazy for not wearing my new clothes yet but I am so excited about it. And we are both doing a wardrobe clear out this week! Hopefully I can get his clothes under control! :)
Thanks so much for sharing with us all x x x
I learned so much in this post. I copied down Benjamin Zander’s quote because I absolutely love it. I struggle with admitting I am wrong or made a mistake. Yet, this is such an awesome and exhilarating way to take “failure.”
Also, I tried my first wardrobe starting in January and loved it so far. I love that you have realized style is every growing and can shed that insight with us.
Thank you for your inspiration!
I have to call you out and say your spring capsule is all neutrals too :) but there is a BIT of variation. how about some floral? it can really be paired with A LOT if it’s the right pattern. ever evolving..right?
Thanks for sharing what you learned from your capsule. I enjoy reading them each time. I like your tip about mixing styles in the capsule so you can have the variety to mix things up.
I’m glad you’re letting go of the “I’ve arrived” idea. I’m doing that too. I used to think that there would be some point when I would be all set and have everything figured out, but now I see that we will always learn and grow–including with our capsule wardrobes. And that’s kind of exciting.
I love that ‘how fascinating’ approach, it brings a lightness and joy to our mistakes as the learnings they are. This (summer for me) capsule has been my first and I’ve loved the ease and simplicity it’s brought. I have been surprised though by how many items I’ve needed to do without as the season has progressed and they’ve shown too much wear or become stained…mostly due to my not having bought many clothes for years & then only cheap disposable type ones…so a takeaway for me has been to go for better quality.
I feel like I just read an article written by myself. We are basically soul mates. If you live in NY we need to be friends. ;)
the travelista link isn’t working any more … noooooOOoOooooo :(
Love your blog. It really is an inspiration for me & super the most motivating to simplify my life <3 thank you
Definitely gonna use the “How fascinating!” approach now, there’s just no use in putting yourself down for mistakes. We’re all here to learn and evolve.
It’s really fascinating (HAH) how capsule wardrobes make you realize even more about what you need and don’t need in terms of materials, colours, etc. While I do keep a minimal closet I never thought a capsule wardrobe would be for me, but I might just try it for a while to be able to find out even more about my habits.