351: 8 Strategies for Curating a Spring Capsule Wardrobe That Sings without the Excess
Wednesday February 15, 2023

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Gabriel. No last name needed, but he doesn’t have one if he did, interestingly enough. I’m talking about Gabriel of Emily in Paris fame. Played by Lucas Bravo, Gabriel is the inspiration for today’s post/episode because his clothes don’t do the talking unlike the rest of the fashion-clad cast, but they definitely don’t hinder his appeal.

In a recent article in The Wall Street Journal, Ashley Ogawa Clarke spotlights the character’s no-excess capsule wardrobe that works to a “T” while he works as an up-and-coming chef in one of the most highly fashionable cities in the world. Sharing that “costume designer Marylin Fitoussi wanted to telegraph that he’s ‘more focused on cooking rather than always thinking, How do I look?’” In other words, allowing the clothes support the life he lives, showcase, but not hog the stage.

This observation immediately caught my attention as I have found myself shifting when it comes to my own clothing: not away from caring what I choose to wear, but as I become more confident and focused on running TSLL well, choosing a wardrobe that is simple, yet stylish, requires less thought, but looks smart and yet effortless.

With the release of TSLL’s Annual Spring Shopping Guide arriving soon (March 1st), today’s episode/post will share ideas for preparing ourselves for how to be savvy shoppers with clarity about what a Capsule Wardrobe entails without the Excess. To follow Albert Einstein’s advice, although I doubt he was referring to wardrobe shopping, “Make everything as simple as possible, but not simpler.”

Let’s take a look at how to simplify to amplify as we invest in key items for our Spring Capsule Wardrobe:

1.Love a cut/style/length? Buy it in multiples, but in different colors

This piece of advice is well-known, but something that Gabriel demonstrates well, but that is not often advised is that the colors for the same style are different. Decide to become a student of your skin’s undertones as well as what complements your hair color, and purchase different colors in that same style – a shirt, a pair of pants, a skirt, a dress, a jacket, etc. – that works well with your silhouette, lifestyle and personal taste.

2. Denim just works, so invest in it, buy multiples of the exact same pair, then alter

Something that was suggested in the article mentioned above is this idea. When you find a pair of jeans that just work – they are high quality, the wash is spot-on, the waist-height is ideal and the fit remains constant (in other words, not too much stretch) – buy multiple pairs, and then based on the different shoes you wear your jeans with, have certain pairs altered to work well with that particular pair of jeans, so that while the same jean, each has a slightly different look and adds that extra polish from the tailoring.

For example, you may want an ankle hemline for the summer and spring when you wear with flats or heels, but a longer hem for wearing with booties in the fall and winter.

3. Find a jacket or blazer that you love and don’t stray (buy multiples, in different colors)

For me, it is an oversized blazer that I will be hunting down this spring, and in multiples. They may not each be from the same brand, but the style an cut will be the same. The idea here is that you know what complements your style, what works for your lifestyle, so why stray? Just change up the color, change up the fabric to either dress up or down, and go do what you do and pay no mind to what you are wearing (because you look and feel great).

4. Switch up materials

Speaking of switching up the fabric . . . keeping it simple without the excess means you apply what you know and you don’t add the fluff. A simple slub tee under an oversized blazer with ankle hemmed denim. Done and looking great. Throw your crossbody bag over your shoulder and get about your business. Come the weekend or an evening out, change the denim jeans to crepe pants with the same length and finish, maybe even still a dark navy, similar to your jeans. The blazer and tee still work, but you’ve punched it up a bit.

5. Find your pop of color and home in on that and nothing else (except neutrals)

Something I wrote about in this post last year more generally is knowing what colors work for you and to forget the rest. Keeping in mind that the colors you come up with work with each other, and so to drill down a bit more specifically, stick to neutrals all except one color. And select this lone star color to be a color that complements you without fail. My one color is a cool pink – not pastel, not fuchsia, not maroon – but a cool undertone pink. No other color makes an appearance in my closet as I have learned through past purchases that other colors just don’t work for me as well as I thought they might when I viewed them in the store or online. Paired with my neutrals of cream, navy, denim, and camel, that is just about all I wear, and almost everything can mix and match.

This may sound boring, but there is no reason for me to attempt to dress like a style influencer or like Emily in Paris or Carrie Bradshaw. I adore each of their courageous ensembles and they look AMAZING, but what I gain from watching them is ideas of what types of items can go together, and then I return to my color palette and rest assured that what I end up purchasing will work with what I already have.

6. Stick to the basics for types of clothing and avoid the trends

To relieve any confusion and fret about what to buy each season, walk away from worrying about trying to figure out the trends, and instead return to the basics – basic tees, oversized button-up shirts, blazers, A-line skirts or wrap dresses, knee-high boots, flats – ballet or loafers, blazers, etc. – and within those basics, become the student of yourself and know the answer to the following question: What flatters me? Necklines, hem lengths, sleeve lengths, heel height, waist height, etc.

The simplifying of the process makes the decision-making easier, the selection streamlined and therefore you can narrow down what is available for you to choose from without draining your energy flipping/scrolling through item after item after item which is ultimately how frustration builds up – we see more of what we don’t want than what we do. When the opposite begins to happen because you have edited out what wouldn’t be best for your wardrobe, you feel as though you have ample options and the shopping begins to become more enjoyable.

7. Keep your shoe options to four, with variations

Part of the stress of dressing well is often having the shoe we need, so let’s simplify that as well. Make sure you have these four types of shoes in your closet, and make sure they are investment – high quality and fit well. (1) a trainer or a sneaker that fits what you need – not too wide, the best material for your lifestyle (canvas or leather, etc.), and a color that will work with your outfits. (2) a pump or heel to your choosing for dress and work – choose the height that flatters your leg and is comfortable to wear in a color (or colors) that work with your wardrobe. (3) a boot – ankle or knee high, determine the heel height for your lifestyle. And (4) a flat of your preference – pointed toe or slightly rounded, a loafer, etc.

Begin with ensuring you have one of each, a quality pair of each and then build on that as you discover what will complement your wardrobe.

8. Make selecting quality over quantity your modus operandi

At the core of living simply luxuriously is to live a life of quality over quantity in all arenas of our life, and so with our capsule wardrobe, as I have shared many times before, choose quality items. Even if you can only buy one this season, instead of the handful you would prefer, that one, if made well, fits you smashingly and complements your awesomeness is worth the price. Keeping in mind the rule of investment – cost per wear, and let that long-term benefit ease your mind. From boots, to coats, to sweaters and dresses, blazers and camisoles, when I purchase a quality item, it continues to be worn year after year, for years to come. I wrote a detailed post on my first purchase (and only thus far) of a Burberry trench, and while I waited for years to be able to purchase it, it is still in fantastic shape now six years later and it is worn constantly during the spring and fall months.

Again and again and again, with advice shared in fashion magazines and even in Masterclass by fashion experts, the advice shared for keeping your wardrobe simple, but stylish is to, yep, you guessed it – choose quality over quantity. Ultimately, what you’re doing when it comes to creating a capsule wardrobe that sings but without the excess is investing in multiple versions of the uniform you look your best in and that complements the life you love living.

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With all of that said, look for TSLL’s Spring Shopping Guide to be available on the blog on Wednesday March 1st where I will shop more than 70 items that are available in the new spring collections and items worth investing in so you will have and wear them for years to come. Ranging from low-mid (J.Crew, Madewell) to mid-range luxury (Theory, Vince, L.K. Bennett, etc.) to a few luxury finds (Net-a-Porter designers for example). As always, you can peruse TSLL’s Boutique/Shop where I have shopped and keep updated timeless items for all seasons. On that page – find it in the drop-down menu under SHOP – Capsule Wardrobe – you will also see the past Spring and Fall Shopping Guides shared most recently on the blog.


Petit Plaisir

~The Creative Act: A Way of Being by Rick Rubin


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11 thoughts on “351: 8 Strategies for Curating a Spring Capsule Wardrobe That Sings without the Excess

  1. This was great, so informative and aligns well with a strategy I happened upon by accident at the beginning of winter. I don’t have the time, patience or inclination lately to start from scratch each day with an outfit. Style is something I will always enjoy and appreciate but I feel now that all the work I’ve put into it so far in my life should set me up with better and easier choices. It should naturally move from being “work” to effortless, if I just apply everything I’ve learned.

    My winter strategy came from a purchase of a rainbow of long sleeve (mostly V neck) quality cotton tees (that I wash on delicate and hang) that I match with my mood and task for the day, customized with scarf, earrings, shoes (loafers or booties, usually) and either a quilted vest or jacket or sometimes nothing, depending on the weather. I found myself thinking when I woke up each morning, “What color will I wear today?!”, and this just made me smile. Jeans are the go-to option for bottoms, which aligns so well with strategy #2! I have focused more on skin tone but some colors I just LOVE, so I pair with a scarf that makes it more flattering than it would be alone, and feel like I have more variety available.

    I think I’ll try this method with 3/4 and short sleeves for spring and summer, to pair with my long ago discovered preference for cool linen pants and skirts. Can’t wait!!

    I do still relish the process of assembling something truly special from time to time but found it’s more fun when it isn’t required daily.

    1. Melissa,

      So happy to hear this post/episode resonated with and I appreciate your examples of how and you chose to shift to this approach and examples of what that looks like. Thank you! And reading that thinking about what you will wear brings a smile made me smile. ☺️

      Thank you again for your comment. ?

  2. With Seasons on the verge of change in many areas, this comprehensive list reminds me of one I gathered from a rather pricey class on how to dress. By now, I think I have it! But, this list supplies the common sense lessons that we all need in general and specific terms. Number one for me has always been to buy the best I could afford and to save for special items that were truly investment pieces. Those designer flats that have survived a couple of decades and were recently reconditioned are like old friends. Those shoes have traveled miles with me.
    I admire the way you always seem so comfortable and confident in your clothes. That is how we all should feel. Not fidgeting with the buttons on a shirt or shifting a skirt over our knees…or whatever.
    My color issue is a big one. While my entire wardrobe was designed to compliment my very fair skin tone, with freckles I might add, and my hair color that has been dark brown until about a year ago. On-my-way-to-gray I have stalled at blonde. I know, me, blonde. As a result, there are some colors outside of my neutral that no longer work. I am looking forward to the Spring wardrobe post. You know, it’s always something!:)

  3. I always appreciate your style episodes and posts, and this one was a good reminder about foundational elements of personal style. Over the years, my wardrobe palette has been refined similar to yours — navy, denim, and camel. Those colors just work well for me. I would like to find the right pop of color as you mentioned in No. 5. My hair color is changing from a dirty blonde to gray as I’m trying to age gracefully, and this impacts which colors work best. Aside from a professional color analysis, do you recommend any books or online resources that would help to find the most complementary color? Thanks so much, Shannon. I sincerely appreciate all you have done to help elevate my life over the years.

    1. Jane R., I’m right there with you trying to age gracefully. I’m 44 but have fought gray for years. I gave up that fight over a year ago and while so glad I did, it has changed my flattering color options a bit. I still fall into the “seasonal” palette that Color Me Beautiful laid out decades ago, though. I’m a Spring and need delicate yet clear colors, no black or white near my face, etc. This hasn’t changed and I am thankful I still have it as a base for my clothing options. Hope you find something that works great for you!

      1. Melissa, thank you so much for the recommendation to seek out Color Me Beautiful. According to their online resources, I am categorized as a Summer. I was elated to see that my wardrobe already includes the colors they recommend. Rose and periwinkle will offer the pops of color that I desired — I should have known since I often receive compliments wearing those colors. Thanks again! Time for a closet cleanse with this new information. 😊

        1. This is thrilling news, thanks for letting me know! I’m inspired to do a thorough closet color cleanse now, too!

  4. Shannon it’s working fine now.
    This is very timely as I’m about to spring clean my wardrobe. I have too many scarves! Some gave to be consigned I love a a uniform so much so that I chose my secondary school because I loved the uniform. I always had a capsule wardrobe but never called it that. As a child growing up I had three dresses made to measure every year and that was it. Growing up in the tropics I didn’t need any other garments.
    I then moved to England and had to rethink how I dressed and it wasn’t easy. It was the 70″s though so it was jeans ( I love jeans as I wasn’t allowed to wear them growing up) and blazers which I still love wearing . A small budget meant a capsule wardrobe was a necessity. My mother-in-law was the expert in creating a capsule wardrobe for all seasons. She grew up in the war years so she had to be creative. It was an extreme capsule of fifteen items but she always looked put together. I borrowed ideas from her.
    Moving to the French countryside meant I had to change how I dressed as I’m outdoors a lot. So now I’m back.to a.kind of uniform. Jeans and Breton tops. Different weights for the change in seasons. I always wear a Japanese style heavy linen apron over it. When I have to go out I just take.off my apron, grab my blazer or coat,add a scarf and I’m off. In summer it’s shorts, shirts ,tees capris and dresses in linen No fuss.
    Buying multiples is a great tip. If I find something which fits beautifully I will.buy two because you can.bet the next season it might not be repeaated or if it does it will vary slightly.
    I don’t buy much except basics now but the rule is one in and one out. My armoire ( wardrobe) is deliberately small so I have to be very selective. Here dressing is. very relaxed. Our Mayor wears jeans all the time. He’s a farmer so it’s practical. I’m hopefully heading abroad for a special holiday so my budget is limited but I have my eye on an oversized check blazer for Spring. A.lovely smile is always stylish no matter the season. Kameela 😊

    1. Kameela, loved all your tips and common sense approaches….especially the reminder of a smile being the prettiest and most flattering thing we could ever put on!

      1. Melissa, I am so glad you pointed Kamella’s final comment. I have been reading posts and comments at the end of the day and I think I am missing important points. I remember my mother saying that. One of my favorite activities is to smile at strangers. I had an opportunity yesterday and quite frankly the elder gentleman’s response made my day. Smile the day away is my motto!

        1. Lucy Augustine, your comment had me “slipping into” my smile. I’ll try to remember to wear it in public more often, thank you. I’ve also heard it’s one size fits all. Cute.

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