I had intended to present you with my summer 2017 capsule wardrobe at the beginning of summer, in a kind of “ta-da!” manner of the big reveal. That just didn’t happen, a) because I was too lazy to photograph everything when I was supposed to, and b) because my capsule wardrobes never go quite to plan and so things kept changing week to week. If I had presented you with a capsule selection at the end of June, sure as eggs is eggs it would have been out of date a week later. (Isn’t that a weird expression, sure as eggs is eggs? Apart from the bad grammar, why are eggs so particularly dependable compared to anything else?)
So anyhow, this post is now more of a recap to describe what my capsule wardrobe actually was, rather than what I had initially planned it to be. Perhaps that is more helpful anyway, as it reflects reality rather than aspiration.
First, on the matter of colour:
Every year for a long, long time, I have been drawn to nautical colours for summer. These are usually somewhat outside the soft summer palette that best suits my skin tone and so I suppose I shouldn’t really be drawn to them so much, but I am and there it is.
I was trying to work out why I gravitate to them so consistently. They are the colours of summer holidays in places like Cornwall and the Mediterranean, and I have very rarely spent such a summer holiday. But still I have this lovely vision of lots of blue, some sand and white, and accents of bright red and green.
Then it came to me – of course! Many, many years ago I did a work placement at the Bowes Museum in County Durham in England. That summer they were showing an exhibition of paintings called something like “Monet, Boudin and the beach at Trouville”. As the title suggests, it showed paintings by the impressionist artists Claude Monet and Eugene Boudin of the beach at Trouville (in Normandy, France). In those days it was the fashion for the wealthy members of Parisian society to flock to Norman beaches and resort towns every year. In their wake went the painters who dared to paint en plein air and who depicted them socialising on the sands. (Boudin was apparently the first artist to paint outside instead of in the studio; he specialised in marine landscapes).
I was very taken with Boudin’s paintings. He had a formula of long landscape paintings with a somewhat flat plane, showing the beach in the lower half and the sea/sky in the upper half. Splitting the painting lengthwise and covering the meeting of sea and sand are usually lots of little figures, mostly in blue/grey/white, but with strategically placed splashes of bright red, and sometimes green or yellow. I spent a lot of time looking at those paintings while I was there, admiring the way he placed the bright accent colours as a kind of punctuation in amongst the overall blue and sand. And I also liked the way I could feel the weather on the beach – I got the impression that Norman beaches experience a lot of wind with broken clouds and sunshine – much like here in fact. In the days of crinolines and parasols, it must have required quite an effort to keep oneself from being blown away!
So here is the colour inspiration behind this year’s summer capsule wardrobe: a selection of paintings by Eugene Boudin (images culled from Pinterest).
OK, now to the items themselves:
I didn’t get around to photographing each item. So I made a video and uploaded it to YouTube, where I show each item and talk about them. It’s just me talking while showing you through the clothes, nothing fancy – I can’t stand watching myself talk so I didn’t do a face-to-face intro or anything. I did forget about one item, a Lindy Bop green fit-and-flare dress. I think it was in the wash or something when I did the video. But it’s very similar to the blue one I show you:
- 8 dresses – 1x vintage, ditzy print sundress/house dress; 1x linen maxi polkadot dress; 1x elegant empire line maxi dress; 1x Boden “Terese” maxi dress; 1x Laura Ashley dolman sleeve knee length jersey dress; 2x Lindy Bop “Audrey” dresses; 1x Paul and Joe folk print dress
- 4 tops/tees – 1x navy linen tee; 1x Toast “Madras” linen top, 1x cotton tee; 1x tank top
- 2x merino longsleeve base layers
- 1x jeans
- 5x knitwear – 1 chunky cotton/merino jumper (navy), 1 thin knit merino jumper (blue), 1x cropped cotton cardigan (green); 1x cotton cardigan (black); 1x acrylic men’s jumper (beige/sand)
- 1x paisley pattern kimono thingy
I didn’t go into the rest of the “extras” in the video, such as jackets, shoes, scarves and such like. I mostly wear a pair of chucks in summer, with wedge sandals for formal occasions.
I didn’t do my planning so well this time. The wardrobe kind of developed as the season wore on. Some items I bought during the summer.
My first purchase was the linen spotty maxi dress, because I went to visit my stepmother in Germany in June and completely underestimated the heat and humidity of the weather. The first day I went out gasping and melting in my jeans and bought the first linen tent I could find. It is rather tent-like, and therefore not terribly flattering, but my goodness it was cool and airy and it was so comfortable I even ended up doing two 10k hikes in 30 degrees C in the Swabian alps in it. However once I got home and had more attractive numbers to choose from, this dress kind of hid in the back of the wardrobe.
The Laura Ashley dolman dress (which was a hangover from my spring wardrobe) I wore only once, for a job interview. I found as the season wore on I didn’t want to wear it. Not for weather-related reasons, but because I didn’t feel myself fin it. This was interesting, and I am seriously considering selling it on as a result.
The vintage ditzy print sundress I picked up on impulse earlier this year in a charity shop, thinking I probably would never wear it and that I had just lost £3.95 and wasn’t I a wicked wastrel. I tested it out on a particularly sunny day in the garden, and then I was hooked. It is somewhat shapeless, but I just love the colours and the print and it is SO COMFORTABLE. It has become my go-to dress for everything except looking respectable. I wear it to work in the garden, I wear it to walk the dog, I wear it lolling around the house. I have even worn it in bed as a nightie when my PJs were in the laundry.
The elegant empire line maxi dress: I picked this up in Germany because I was a sad weak sucker of a spendthrift and I couldn’t resist it. I wore it to a friend’s work “leaving do” and received many compliments on it, and so now I wear it whenever I feel the need to look pretty. Plus it’s the only item I have that gives me decent cleavage. I love it, and I’ve worn it more and more as the season has progressed.
The Boden Terese maxi dress: I bought this in the sale (no way would I have paid the outrageous original price for it). I know I said I would never buy Boden again (note to self: one should never say never), but this one actually is ok. Its waistline sits on my actual waist rather than on my ribcage like most Boden dresses, and the shirring of the bodice means that it is very flexible and allows full range of upper body movement. Plus I look floaty and somewhat archaic in it, which suits me. I’m never going to succeed in looking modern, so I might as well embrace it. I wear this to work if I’m just dealing with the public and not grubbing around in museum stores and lifting heavy objects. I once wore it to walk the dog in but it’s really not suitable for that sort of thing and I won’t be doing it again. (note – since I drafted this post, I have somewhat fallen out with this dress. It’s actually too long, and is a bit loose around the shoulders so bulks out in strange ways. I may not keep it beyond this season after all).
Oh, and remember the butterfly print dress from Nomads that I said was going to carry over from my spring wardrobe? It didn’t last a week beyond writing that post. I had written before about how it kept shrinking every time I washed it. Well, I washed it again and this time the hem was halfway between my knees and my buttocks and the waist sat right up under my breasts like a Jane Austen dress. For a dress that originally was knee length with a waist at waist height, and that was never washed above 30 degrees, that is ridiculous shrinkage. It’s also way too short for someone of my years with my chunky thighs. I’m not a teenager and even when I was I didn’t really go in for short skirts. So that dress went to the charity shop. It’s a shame because the fabric was so pretty and in other respects it was very comfortable. It didn’t even last one season. I don’t know if this is typical of Nomads dresses or not so I don’t want to generalise, but it will make me very wary of buying from them again.
I had two linen tees already, a navy one that looked ok at the beginning of the season but got shrunk in the wash half way through, and a grey one that looked like a sack right from the start and is too embarrassing to wear out so got demoted to exercise gear. At some point at the beginning of July I made the mistake of clicking on a marketing email from Toast about their summer sale, and ended my computer session the terrified owner of their breathtakingly expensive Madras checked linen top (still breathtakingly expensive in the sale, let alone at full price). I went through the full wringer of buyer’s remorse after clicking the “pay now” button, but when the top arrived I fell in love with it and wore it pretty much non stop for weeks on end. I would still be wearing it every day now if my dog hadn’t eaten a huge hole in my jeans which means I can’t wear the top again until I patch the jeans to wear with it.
The cotton tee I stole from my mum’s closet when I happened upon it while looking for something else altogether at the beginning of August. She doesn’t seem to have noticed yet, even though I keep wearing it in front of her.
Merino base layers
I couldn’t survive without these, even in summer. I usually get the long sleeved Icebreaker ones, which are expensive but TOTALLY WORTH IT. Some I bought years ago and they are still as good as new after many, many wears and washes. The thing about merino is that it provides warmth when it is cool, but you don’t overheat when it gets warm. In our climate, when a proper summer day is 18 degrees C, they’re perfect. And come winter, they make excellent layering pieces for underneath other stuff.
I have one pair. They fit wonderfully well, and the only drawback is that my puppy got hold of them and chewed three enormous holes out of the side of one of the thighs, rendering them completely unwearable. This is a shame because I was wearing them with my Toast Madras top constantly until this happened. The problem is that the holes are so big, I need to find something suitable to patch them with and I don’t have anything at the moment.
I did flirt with another pair of jeans. I bought a pair of ASOS boyfriend jeans over EBay. But they look really weird on me, too weird to wear, so I’m selling them on. I also bought a calf length jeans skirt over Ebay but I looked horribly frumpy in it so I sold that on as well. So I’m left with what I started with, a pair of nicely fitting but dog-eaten jeans.
I guess you could say my navy cotton/merino jumper goes with everything else. I don’t think you could say it looks nice with everything else, as it is large and baggy and also there was a great big hole it in (courtesy of my puppy, again) which meant that it was only really suitable for home and gardening. I finally got round to darning the hole in mid August and suddenly the jumper went from tramp-like to wearable. It’s extremely comfy but I wouldn’t say it was flattering, exactly. It’s kind of preppy and a smaller size on a stick insect would look great, I’m sure. On me, not so much.
Otherwise my knits included a mid-blue, fine knit merino jumper of the sort that is just tremendously useful and not embarrassing to wear, and a cropped green cotton cardigan from Cath Kinston that I got two summers ago. Then I could probably have called myself reasonably slender and it hung very nicely; now all I can say is that it does the job of covering my arms up when I need it to. I also have a black cotton cardi that does a serviceable job, and a cheap acrylic men’s jumper that I picked up in a charity shop. I got it for my mum who wanted a “wear around the house and not care too much what it looks like” jumper but it was too long for her and so I kept it instead.
This is the culprit. She looks (is) cute but she has CROCODILE JAWS and a penchant for eating my clothes.
I’m not very sure how many pairs I have. But they are vital to my comfort, especially as a wearer of skirts and dresses. I am not comfortable with baring my legs to all and sundry, both for aesthetic reasons and because it is just too damn cold here. It’s too hot for tights however, and so leggings save the day, pretty much every day.
Of course there are other things. I had a hen-do to go to this summer where them dress code was “tea party” so I dug out a silk 1940s-esque tea dress to wear to that. However I don’t think it merits a position in my “official” summer capsule wardrobe, and anyway it was totally off colour scheme and would mess my nice summer palette up if I included it. I have jackets, shoes, scarves and sun hats. But the items in the video are the “core” pieces and the principal “extras”, and are therefore the basic structure of the capsule.
Hats off to you if you got this far. I see I have written reams, which wasn’t my intention starting out. However, I find it useful to clarify the summer wardrobe experience in my own head by writing it down, and you never know, maybe someone out there will find my tedious wardrobe reflections helpful in creating their own capsule wardrobe.
I particularly want to make it clear to people that you can have a feminine, colourful capsule wardrobe if that is what you prefer. I am so fed up with seeing sleek, “classic” black, grey and white-based capsules. I love colour, and I don’t suit sleek trousers and crisp business shirts. Perhaps there are others out there like me who would like to know how a different sort of capsule can be put together.
I plan to do a putting-away video on storing my summer wardrobe, and also one on prepping for my autumn wardrobe, which will debut very soon! You never know, I might even talk directly to the camera for that one. Maybe.
UPDATE – end of summer
Well I got my autumn wardrobe prepping video done, but I don’t think I will have time to do a packing away one for my summer wardrobe. So I will just update here with a review of what I am keeping to pack away, and what I am getting rid of by either selling on or donating.
The Keeps and the Rejects
- keep – empire line maxi dress. love this one so much.
- keep – ditzy print sundress/house dress. Ditto with the love.
- keep – Toast Madras check top. Ditto. I am even thinking of creating a pattern from it and trying to make similar style top in wool as an addition to my autumn wardrobe.
- keep – blue merino sweater. Nice colour, useful, still in good condition.
- keep – acrylic sand-coloured men’s jumper
- keep – fern print Laura Ashley dress. I know I said in the video that I wasn’t enjoying wearing it but I don’t want to be too rash in giving it away.
- keep – blue Lindy Bop dress
- keep – green Lindy Bop dress
- keep – ancient navy linen tee
- keep – liberty print tank top
- keep – linen dot tent dress. Excellent for very hot weather abroad.
- keep – green cotton cropped cardigan. It’s looking a bit baggy and shapeless but I think it can last another year.
All of these will be packed away.
- keep – navy Icebreaker base layer
- keep – navy chunky knit jumper
- keep – jeans
- keep – black cotton cardigan
These are carrying through into my autumn wardrobe.
- reject – Joe Browns red folk dress (not Paul and Joe as I said in the video, that was a mistake). I know it was pretty but the red is too much of an orangey-pillar box shade for my colouring. It was making me look a bit yellow and jaundiced which is why I didn’t wear it as much I might have. I can really only wear reds that have a slight blue tint in them. Will sell on.
- reject – Boden maxi dress – it was strangely baggy and bumpfly around the shoulders, too long and I just wasn’t loving it. Will sell on.
- reject – Monsoon ombre tee. Didn’t like wearing it for both style and fabric reasons. Will donate to charity shop.
I think that’s it. I had a couple of jackets that I used in my wardrobe as extras which I will keep as well, and shoes and bags etc. But this list is the main body of the capsule.
Please leave a comment if you have any reactions, observations or suggestions! I love hearing from you.