Making a capsule wardrobe

Last week I had a terrible fashion week. It was partly a logistical failure. When the air was sticky and humid, I wore a gray fleece-and-leather dress. When the rain came, I forgot my raincoat. And it was partly a style miscalculation. On Thursday, sick of sweating in my thick fall clothes, I wore a blue silk patterned romper with camel-colored wedges. My supervisor at work said I looked like I was going to the beach.

This fall’s climate has forced me into a catch-22 situation. I can’t pull out my sweaters, boots, and Barbour yet without sweat beading on my back. Neither can I keep rotating my bright summer dresses, white denim, and wedges in October in D.C.

My wardrobe difficulties are minor, I know. But by the end of the week I felt out of sorts. I put my outfits together with care, and when work sucks and I can’t write anything well and the people on the other side of my desk decide to play YouTube videos without headphones, my outfits hold me together like a safety pin. Even if I fail everything else, at least I succeeded in looking stylish.

Really, my insecurity last week was less about what I was wearing, feeling out of step and out of place with the weather, and more about feeling out of place in a fast-paced, political, expensive city that smells like marijuana.

Exasperated, I researched capsule wardrobes over the weekend. Capsule wardrobes are all about simplicity, ease, and lightness, things I am craving in my overly planned life. To make one, you choose a color scheme and curate a small closet with interchangeable pieces. For instance, your dark denim jeans can work with an ivory sweater or a lighter wash chambray shirt. The grey knit dress looks good with a denim jacket and boots or with a raincoat and plaid scarf.

So I pulled all six of my white dresses, the yellow gingham dress, the pink linen midi dress, and the one-shouldered red top I always mean to wear but never do and everything else brightly and packed them up in a suitcase that now sits on the top shelf of my closet. What’s left: a few muted colors – cream, navy, olive, pink, and gray (my favorite) – in a few softer, warmer, medium-weight materials – wool, denim, and heavy cotton.

The weather didn’t change. And theoretically, I could still make a choice that feels wrong from among these few selected pieces. But clearing out my closet felt like clearing out my head, and I felt a little less overwhelmed and out of sorts.