Update: 34-day capsule test, 20 days In (long)

In late July I decided to put myself on a 34-day / 34 item capsule test.  My goals were to "seek first to understand" -- know myself, my behaviors, and wardrobe needs.  And to use this knowledge to pare down my wardrobe to a more manageable level.  I also wanted to come up with a wardrobe count, and thereafter to practice one-in, one out.

Net capsule is up to 35 pieces.  
The work capsule grew, the smart casual capsule shrank.  The casual capsule would like to have permission to increase.  I miss all of my colorful Summer tops.


  • Similar to what I observed after 8 days, my smarter attire needs are minimal.  This is where my closet needs a lot of paring down.
  • By engaging in what's become for me a mindful process, I am better appreciating the clothes that work.  And, I'm having an easier time letting go of what doesn't work.  What's important here is the focus, the mindful observation (= tracking what I'm wearing and why, and observing what I'm not).  3 items from the capsule are on the purge list so far.
  • Unworn items -- smart casual capsule mostly.  Duplicate colors (too many white tees in the capsule) and items with fabric issues (fabric look or feel not stellar - some of my Zara things fall in this category).
  • I crave color variety.  When I created this capsule I had a more limited color palette.  But as each day wore on, I found myself substituting the whites and grays for more colors.  I know cool pale blues and greens aren't my best, but I like the way they make me feel.  Summer is my longest season.  I am going to enjoy all of my casual colorful Summer clothes, they don't take a lot of room, and make me happy.  Conclusion:  I don't need as much paring down from this section -- everything is getting worn.
  • For all of the non-Summer seasons, this color explosion will be unrealistic.  More layers means more clothing.  I must focus on a more limited color palette, because I like a coordinated look.
  • Failure at the shopping ban effort!  I got some sandals (love them!) and another Three Dots Hi-Low top (Missey I'm coming clean!).  I don't like feeling bad about myself.  Or comparing my will power to yours.  I must think twice before joining another shopping ban.  :-(

Some WIWs.
1/2 -- My one and only smart casual occasion was seeing a matinee showing of "100 Foot Journey."  Jean Paul Gaultier sheer pencil skirt, Zara tee. Gorjana necklace.  Here in my "runway" pose. ;-)  Do you think it's better with Birks (picture 2)?  What about length, would midi be better?  Do I need bike shorts due to sheerness (sheerness shows selectively, with flash photography and in certain light).
3 -- Worn today, the new Donald J Pliner slides, and my second Three Dots Hi-Low top.  Thanks again Sarah for the first top!  I have worn these sandals daily since I got them.  They are much better quality than my usual Summer footwear.  The jeans are Mother "The Groupie," my improved Mom jeans (bye-bye BDG Mom jeans, they were great starters but these are so much better).
4 -- A top that's getting the ax.  Love the color, but it's too low cut, the armholes are too big, and it's not my best length (ends where I'm widest).  Do you agree -- purge?
5 -- One of my several colorful striped tees.  Stripes = high happiness factor.  From last year, Madewell.  Worn with TR Camerons 2 + year old workhorse jeans.
6 -- Work look of the moment.  

Feedback appreciated on the italicized areas!  And anything else.

This post is also published in the youlookfab forum. You can read and reply to it in either place. All replies will appear in both places.


  • Sterling replied 5 years ago

    First, I love your posts and am following them closely.  My plan is to emulate your process in the near future.  

    Second, shopping bans have a purpose.  That purpose is not to inflict guilt in any way whatsoever.  I like the idea of a shopping ban as a means of slowing the process down (not necessarily stoping the process) and making more mindful and purposeful purchases.  For me a shopping ban is a really good thing, but if I decide to develop my workout capsule this month, then I will without a second thought.  I will still have "won" because the purchases are well thought out.  

  • Ruby Tuesday replied 5 years ago

    Throw that guilt away Denise, there is nothing to be gained from it!

    Firstly you look amazing as usual. I personally don't think you need to wear cycle shorts with your skirt I think full coverage knickers would be enough. I also have a slight preference for the cleaner line the Birkenstocks produce but either option is great :-)

    White t-shirts - I find my white t's have a limited lifespan because I love them to be box fresh white. Could you maybe keep a couple in rotation but have the others on hand for when they begin to look tired?

    I'm loving how you wear your Mom jeans, I am rocking a pair now.

    I also hear you on craving colour in the summer but neutrals in the winter, this happens to me year upon year.

  • Tanya replied 5 years ago

    I am always following your posts with great interests, and this one is no exception.  I am impressed with your discipline and how much you are learning.  I love variety too much to even undergo a similar challenge.

    The new sandals are gorgeous!  You should not feel guilty about buying some things, since it is not all about the will power.  I also bought one thing, despite taking the shopping ban quite seriously, because it was an item that is on my shopping list that I found at incredible price.  So all is good.

    These are all great WIWs.  To answer your specific questions, I do prefer the skirt with Birks, do I like ti with the other sandals too.  I would personally wear it with bike shorts for modesty, but it comes down to what you are comfortable with it. I think I would also prefer if the length were a little short.  The coral top in #4 is a gorgeous color on you!  I do not see the arm hole problem, but maybe it is the pose.  It does seem a bit long.  Have you tried semi-tucking it?

  • shevia replied 5 years ago

    Shopping bans are made to be broken. What you really were after was shopping mindfulness I think and you seem to have achieved that. I think I would like the first outfit with a midi better, but it looks good as is and the sheerness does not bother me. I prefer the strappy sandals with the maxi. I have also purged too low, too big arm hole tanks for that reason, and think you are right to get rid of this if it is bothering you for that reason. I love your outfits and am finding your posts on this very insightful and helpful.

  • Suz replied 5 years ago

    Shopping ban. The very phrase makes me shiver. Yes, I signed on for Austerity August. But that doesn't feel like a ban since i don't need anything after Juggernaut June.  :) 

    I think this challenge is working for you because you are bringing new mindfulness to the whole process, which is what you were after. As you know, I plan to join you in this challenge quite soon -- I'll be getting a start on my own capsule come September. 

    You look terrific in all these outfits. In answer to your questions: 

    Love #1 and prefer the strappy sandals. Don't think the skirt is too sheer or needs bicycle pants underneath. 

    If you feel that tank in 4 is too low cut in the sleeves, say goodbye. You'll find a replacement that works better. 

    Very interesting discovery about your desire for colour in the ultra casual capsule. This is the kind of information we don't really know about ourselves until we keep careful track of our happiness factor in various outfits. 

  • Sarah A replied 5 years ago

    I am inspired by your capsule exercise!

    I like the skirt maxi length, and with the criss cross strappy sandals best. The birkis look very fashion forward but feel a little heavy to my eye.

    #4 Oh I have a shirt with a neckline the drifts too low during the day, drives me crazy! PURGE without regret :)

    I really like the drop shoulder and alternating striped cuff on the coral stripe T. Very nice with the distressed jeans.

    Your work look at the moment has a very Emanuele Alt feel. But with danskos! the rolled length is perfect here. I love it.

    I ll be curious to see your reflections at the end of the capsule exercise, very interesting to think about how our preferences for color change by the season and light.

  • viva replied 5 years ago

    It's so interesting to read about your journey, Diane. (And how did you like the 100-Foot Journey? I was disappointed. :().

    Anyway, the sheer pencil skirt is beautiful. It doesn't seem too sheer to me here. I would say, if you think about how sheer it is when you wear it, pop on a pair of shorts. I don't like to be so conscious of what I wear. But it looks lovely.

    I like it with both shoes but espiecally the new Pliner slides.

    I would keep it the length it is, for more flow. I would be afraid to shorten it, personally, but maybe fear is not the reason to hold back?

    The comments about the shopping ban are so interesting. I'm not sure that I should sign up for another one. It's causing me a lot of stress today - ;).

  • texstyle replied 5 years ago

    Another one loving your thoughtful posts - and learning from them too. I agree with all of your assessments. It bothers me too when something is too low cut or has armholes the wrong size (too big or too small) so I think replacing that coral tank is a good call.

    I love the strappy sandals with the outfit in #1 but Birks aren't my cuppa so I am biased. I don't see the sheerness in the photos so I'm not sure if you need anything under the skirt. I do think a slightly more midi version might be good. Loving your jeans outfits, esp. today's #3, and your work outfit looks fab too.

  • amiable replied 5 years ago

    What a great job!  Aren't these smaller capsules fun and good learning tools?  I really love all your looks - especially the drapey tees.  You do that shape to perfection.

  • Angie replied 5 years ago

    You are doing a stellar job of assessing your needs and preferences for your lifestyle, Denise. It's actually not that easy defining them, is it - which is why an exercise like this is brilliant. 

    Love the model pose and the new sandals, and you're gorgeous in coral. Of course you crave colour. I do too. Your work look is GREAT. Wow. Fun to see that thrown in. #3 is so fably on trend. I like your feet in light coloured footwear too.  

  • cheryl replied 5 years ago

    I love reading about your process. It's so fascinating and insightful. I think you look wonderful in everything but #6 is just WOW gorgeous!

  • jackiec replied 5 years ago

    OMG your WIWs are just amazing. I'd like to live by you to share your awesome clothes!!!

    I really appreciate this exercise and it rings SO true for me. Good analysis and exercise. It really highlights your needs vs wants.

    I love the length of the black skirt. In fact, in the first photo I thought they were fluid pants. Love. I like both shoes but prefer the first strappier sandals for a dressier look. I love the juxtaposition of the simple Zara white tshirt with the designer skirt. Great necklace too. Effortlessly elegant.

    I LOVE THOSE SLIDES!!! OMG they are so fantastic. I bought a pair of camper sandals in a similar colour but rarely wear them. I think it's because I crave a more substantial look on my feet - like the nice thick soles of these Pliners. I can see why you are wearing these all the time. They are outstanding. Too bad I've blown my budget and summer buying should be over for me.

    All other outfits look great as well. You wear those 3Dots tops so well. I like the coral tank, and don't think it hits in an unflattering place. If the low cut-ness of it bothers you then I'd purge (it would bug me), but the colour looks beautiful on you.

    The stripes and TRs look great, and your work outfit is also a big winner for me!! Jeepers I'd love to wear that as a non work outfit!! Fab!

    Oh I feel like I'm gushing, but it's 100% real. I also really like how you've bolded what you'd like feedback on. Good idea in light of IK's thread. I'll have to remember that.

    Thanks for sharing :)

  • Joyce B replied 5 years ago

    Your thought process is very inspiring. I am keeping your post as a favorite.
    Your outfits are fab. I am not an expert but I think I prefer a midi lenght.

  • Carole replied 5 years ago

    I'm so impressed with the discipline it takes to commit to a challenge like this. I keep thinking I need to do this but have not yet been able to take the leap! Congratulations. You are well on your way to honing your closet to fit you and your lifestyle!

  • Mo replied 5 years ago

    I want to tell you how much I love your work look.  I know making a uniform feel like 'you' is not always easy.  I never thought I could do clogs with a crop or shorts or a skirt, but this totally works.  Will have to rethink my clog stance . . . 
    I also adore #1.  I don't see the sheerness so I wouldn't worry about the bike shorts layer.   
    Agree on purging the orange tee.
    I get the need for more color in the warmer months, too.  I'll be curious to see how much you end up purging after doing this exercise again in cooler weather.  (and I share the problem of shopping for smart casual but not having nearly the opportunity to wear it) 

  • bj1111 replied 5 years ago

    You really have a skill at putting together simple pieces to create wow outfits. Love that long skirt and a tee. I do prefer it with the strappy sandal in the longer length. A midi would make it less soecial, i think.

    You find the best drapey not so basic tees. The tank does not belong. I'm confident you'll find a better replacement.

    off to read the original post!

  • LACeleste replied 5 years ago

    Incredibly helpful analysis.  Thank you Denise!  What you wrote about color and shopping bans really resonated with me.  You look really stylish in all your outfits and your work look is very inspiring to me.

  • ironkurtin replied 5 years ago

    I need to do this myself.  I think this exercise is allowing you to really refine and hone in a disciplined way, something I admire.

    Honestly I think you're making all the right calls; the skirt looks great both ways, showing how versatile it is.  I too have decided to purge tops that are not perfect, seeing how many good tops are out there.  So I fully support kissing the apricot tank goodbye (unless you want to wear it as gear, I never mind flashing sports bra).

  • bella replied 5 years ago

    Great reflections! Yes, purge on the orange top. I have to say, I really like your work look, it looks very chic!

  • rachylou replied 5 years ago

    Runway pose is excellent.

    I think the skirt needs something under, but this is from how it appears in the web pic.

    I think you look really pretty in #4, but it's true it's not fashion forward and a little low... it totally doesn't *hit you at your widest point*, tho...

    Interesting practicing mindfulness and that making it easier to let things go...  hmm...

  • CocoLion replied 5 years ago

    Sterling -- Great point about a shopping ban making for more well-thought out purchases.  The fact that I have integrated these two new pieces immediately into my wardrobe, is a sign of that.

    RoseandJoan -- Excellent suggestion to hold back the new white tees.  And go team Mom jean!

    Tanya -- I like variety too! That is why, I suspect one of my conclusions at the end of this exercise will be that a minimal wardrobe is not for me.  But a lower count is still in order, due to space and clutter limits.

    Shevia -- I like the shorter hemline too.  But then I need to wear the skirt high up on my waist AND rolled to get to the same length as the model.  The high waist of this body con skirt shows all of my lumps and bumps!  I love the Birks with this skirt but since this was my most "dressed up" look for 20 days, I went with the stappy sandals.

    Suz -- The color realization was an epiphany for me as well.  I tend to shop for design and cut not color, but I reach for color.  They are probably affecting two different parts of my brain.  The shopping part is stimulated by newness and innovation.  The a.m. dressing brain looks to sooth a more emotional part -- comfort and the sense of well-being that color brings.  If any PHD neuo-scientists want to study my shopping and fashion brain, I volunteer!

    Sarah A -- I was so excited to see you post on my thread, as I haven't seen as much of you lately.  To associate my work look with E Alt is the highest praise I can think of.  And with apron pants trending, it seems my work uniform could become fashionable this year!  LOL.

    Viva -- Agree the movie was just OK.  It felt a little slow to me, but I had popcorn to make up for that.  O_o  Interesting to hear your thoughts about shopping bans.  You are an excellent purger with a much smaller wardrobe than mine, what you've achieved is what I'm after.

    Texstyle -- Another validation on the sleeveless tank.  This exercise has also taught me that I need to be much pickier about sleeveless tops.  

    Amiable -- You are my inspiration. I watch all of your posts with great interest.

    Angie -- Thanks for the encouragement!

  • E replied 5 years ago

    You look stunning in your work outfit! :D

    I love the colour of the tank in #4, but too big armholes drive me nuts for myself, so if the cut makes you fuss with it, probably not worth it. Your summer casual outfits are so nice: I love the lighter colours with the distressed jeans & the swing shape of the white top on you.

    I'm enjoying learning about your capsule experiment too! If it makes you feel better, I've been merrily thrifting clothes all year after thinking in January that I was pretty much out of the wardrobe building stage & shouldn't need to add many pieces this year. ;) I've also become so loose in my interpretation of my 1in/1out resolution that it's essentially meaningless. Oh well. (I'm only enforcing it among tops, and even then I'm pretty sure it's not a 1:1 ratio.)

    I have decided, after reflection, that as long as I stay in budget, and within my storage space, going thrifting 2-4 times a month is a fairly mild coping strategy/pick me up & why suck the joy out of it?

  • CocoLion replied 5 years ago

    Just now getting to respond to the rest of you.  I'll go backwards this time.

    E -- I love your thinking!  I agree, there are worse coping strategies than thrifting!  Thrifting in particular has benefits -- lower cost, more environmentally sound, plus your money usually goes to a better cause.  I can't say the same for all of my e-commerce activity, but I do know that buying clothing has a huge economic impact on the world.  I heard a radio story about this a while back, were the economist said when everyone buys one piece of clothing a month, it has more positive global impact on individuals than the latest tech innovation.  Wealth in technology is super concentrated and 1% whereas spending on apparel gets spread across many people.

    Bella and Cheryl and Mo -- I never, ever thought a work outfit would get praise on a fashion forum so I'm thrilled!

    Rachy -- As for letting things go -- every day when I get dressed I think about putting each piece to a test.  How does it fit, feel, wear as the day goes on.   I usually don't spend as much time evaluating my clothes, so that's where the mindfulness and letting things go is connected.

    Ironkurtin - Oh, I did not think about the gear idea!  I don't have a gear capsule, I just wear casual clothes to walk my dogs in, that's my exercise.  As well as working on my feet and clocking 3-5 miles per shift.  But I do have a sleepwear capsule, much of it is demoted tops, so I could use this well-made tank that way.  I have a great quantity of knit tops and am going to have to be super picky about them to get my wardrobe count down.

    LACeleste -- Looks like I'm not alone!

    bj1111 - I ultimately chose the longer length as rolling the skirt wasn't really working right.  To wear it as a midi, I'm thinking I have to commit to an alteration.  Glad you like it as is!

    Mo -- You bring up purging and I'm wondering if it's better to put more of the Summer purge items in a storage box rather than letting go completely.  That way, when warm temps happen again next year I can view the items with fresh eyes and purge things that are seasonally relevant.  While this makes sense my main concern would be that I'm counting the holding zone item as a purge and buy more new stuff.  Which has, errr…. happened in the past.

    Carole and Joyce -- Thanks for your support!

    Jackie -- You crack me up!  The slides are available at Amazon at a great price. #Enable.

  • Suz replied 5 years ago

    That is really interesting about the effect that shopping for clothing can have on the overall economy. Ha! YLF, just doing our bit to save the world.... (of course I know I should not joke, given how much damage overproduction can do to the environment, not to mention the appalling working conditions that people face all over the world in manufacture and retail....but I could not resist.) 

    On the colour/ cut thing -- this makes a lot of sense to me. When I was more clueless about fashion I tended to shop for colour (or by colour) only -- it was my emotional reaction. Now I have an emotional reaction to cut and line itself -- but I also find that colour still lifts my mood. I can do a long stretch of neutrals but if it goes too long I get depressed, especially when the light is clear and bright. 

    Here is another thought: the need to wear a constant rotation of black and white at work may also make you tend to seek out colour more in your off hours. If your daily wardrobe were a bit more varied, you might not need that emotional lift in the same way off the job? 

  • E replied 5 years ago

    That is interesting re: wealth distribution in different industries and fashion in particular! 

    I hope that one day every country will have the same minimal environmental & social regulations, so that we can all buy clothes, and food, and other stuff we need (granted, we'll probably have to buy less of it but hopefully it'll be better quality across the board to balance that out), without having to constantly worry about what might have happened during their manufacturing or that we're doing irreversible environmental harm! But the tech industry, and really pretty much everything we buy now, has equally awful manufacturing/material sourcing trails, so I think it's suspect that so many articles seem to focus on the clothing industry alone (which is traditionally associated w women rather than men). Thrifting does let me side step those retail issues, but of course if everyone else weren't buying so many cheaper clothes retail, I wouldn't be able to thrift the way I do. 

  • Marley replied 5 years ago

    Thank you for sharing your process Denise.  I am fascinated with this - and found myself nodding along with you as I read this post.  I am sure that I am in the same boat as you with way too many smart casual clothes and not many opportunities to wear them.  I am thinking of going through this exercise myself starting September 1 - I know that I would learn a lot from it and hopefully, would become a much more responsible shopper!
    In answer to your questions -
    * I think I would like the skirt at a midi length and I like the Birks with it the best.  I cannot see any see-thru issues in the pics, but if you're self-conscious about it I'd put on a pair of shorts underneath.
    * I agree about purging the coral top- you can find a better one!  
    * The hi-low shirts are a great silhouette for you.  You wear them with such ease and they look so darn cool on you!
    * How is it that I did not know that you were a "stripes" girl?  Its a cute top - and the jeans are so fun - this is one of those cool, super casual outfits that I'm going to try to copy.
    *  And finally, your work outfit!  I love it!  And yes, you need to get yourself a pair of those apron pants!  (I do too!)  Also, I've had a lightbulb moment in realizing that your wear Danskos - I have been working at a warehouse 3 days a week where I'm on my feet all day - and they hurt so bad at the end of the day, no matter what kind of supportive athletic shoes I wear they just scream at me when I go to bed at nights! I need to try some Danskos!  Duh! 
    *  Lastly - do you decide upon a certain group of colors that you are going to use in your wardrobe - or, are you an equal-opportunity color person?

  • catgirl replied 5 years ago

    Well, I loved everything but the shirt you want to purge - it's just too elongated somehow without any style.  The color is good though!  And your other looks have me taking notes and wondering what I can substitute for white!

  • lyn67 replied 5 years ago

    Loved to read your great analysis! +Wow, for the last look, Denise, but all are great, really(except perhaps  nr 4 where I agree to purge that tank).  I love both shoes for nr 1. Depends on your life requirements. 3 and 5 make me also happy. BUT  (wo)-man:-) the last look is k2k!

  • frannieb replied 5 years ago

    Thanks for sharing - I enjoy reading these posts from others. I learned about casual capsule and smart capsule from your post and it has helped me a great deal as I work through this process myself.

  • JAileen replied 5 years ago

    I immediately noticed the sandals in #1. Even though I wear Birkies a lot, I prefer #1 to #2.

    I definitely hate wearing tops that feel too low cut. I'd give the top in #4 the axe for sure.

    I love stripes, too. I think I have 7 or 8 striped tops.

    I know your work clothes are kind of a uniform, but even this uniform looks great.

  • La Belle Demimondaine replied 5 years ago

    I've been meaning to reply to this for several days, but am just now sitting down to do so... I soooo enjoy your process - this has been motivational and inspirational.   Thank you for sharing!

    #1 vs. #2:  I have a poison eye for Birks.   I know everyone loves them, but they're just not my thing, so take that with a grain of salt when I say I like the first picture better than the second.  Cute outfit though, love that skirt!   It fits you nicely and looks very comfy

    #5   I like the silhouette, but for me, the too-low neck and the low-cut armholes would drive me insane.   Clothing that you fidget in or feel uncomfortable in, or have to keep adjusting, is a deal-breaker in my book.  I would find a replacement for that top that you feel happier in.

    I like your other looks :)   I look forward to seeing what happens next!   More colored tops?   Adding some smart casual items?

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