Here’s my Fall 2020 Capsule Wardrobe – a minimal set of clothes, some old some new – to see me through from late September to late December. Easy to mix and match, easy to pack, easy to wear for my casual lifestyle, easy on the pocket for my retirement pension.
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A week ago I was in the pool to cool off. Today we’re into Autumn with a blustery wind showering the ground with russet leaves and occasional heavy downpours interspersed with a blue sky. Typical unpredictable Fall weather here in South West France.
So it’s time to pack away the Summer wardrobe and replace it with my new Fall Capsule Wardrobe.
I’ve been gathering the elements of this together for the last month. Trying things on that might go together and noting where the gaps are. Then scrolling through the online stores of my favorite retailers.
It seemed more difficult to prepare this year – not only because browsing in real shops is not a great idea at my age but also because even online stores have waited till the last possible moment to showcase their latest collections. It was mid September before there was much of a choice of this season’s clothes. Presumably shops were trying to sell off their summer items and empty the warehouses after a very difficult year.
I have a 10 step recipe I use each season to put together a small but hard-working Capsule Wardrobe. I’ve laid out the rules I use in this post: Create a Capsule Wardrobe Over 50
Why do I publish my seasonal capsule wardrobes?
There are hundreds of beautiful capsules on retail sites and social media. But most are modelled by young, or at least very slim, women. And most are based on buying everything new.
My site is for post-menopausal women whose figures are changing and whose lifestyles may be changing too. Frankly, most of us no longer look much like the slender young models so the way the clothes look on us is different too. But that doesn’t mean we should give up looking our best.
I’m now over 70, I’m overweight, squareish and my ankles have thickened. So I’m pretty typical for my age. I’m retired but (touch wood) still active and healthy. I no longer attend business meetings or give smart dinner parties. My life revolves around hobbies, friends and family. I live in the French countryside in the warmer months and at the seaside in the cooler months. I am single. This wardrobe is for this lifestyle – yours will be different.
Perhaps you still go to an office (or do Zoom meetings) every day. Perhaps you have a partner and love going to restaurants (when they are open). Or perhaps you live in a city and need to look chic. All these things will determine what you put in your capsule and how much you spend on updating it.
This Fall Capsule Wardrobe is published to encourage other older women to plan what they wear and enjoy looking good whatever their figure and their age. I hate feeling I have nothing to wear. And I hate spending lots of money at the last moment just to cheer myself up.
How to dress for my lifestyle and the season
I live in a small village in rural France during the warmer weather. Then in mid October I set off for my tiny studio apartment on the Riviera. I won’t be back before mid March.
So having a Capsule Wardrobe is hugely useful because I need to pack for two seasons and get it all in my car. I can’t take everything I have or even everything I think I might wear. I have to plan carefully and take as few clothes as possible by making sure everything goes with just about everything else. I also have to make sure that I have the right clothes as the weather changes from rainy and blowy to clear, cold and bright. And that I have enough outfits to cover all likely activities.
How Covid has changed my Wardrobe
In Spring this year I expected to be visiting my daughter in the UK and enjoying my choir and walking groups here in France. I was looking forward to the street markets starting up too. None of that happened. I went out very little and simply didn’t need smart or even smart-casual clothes. Fortunately my Capsule Wardrobes are based on the typical day to day life of a retired woman so were pretty casual anyway.
In Summer this year I had hoped to visit some interesting museums and hear some wonderful recitals. My family usually visits me and we go out to restaurants together. None of this happened. A family member was seriously ill with Covid and we decided to stay apart. Fortunately he is now in good health. And instead I joined in lots of very impromptu and informal (socially-distanced) get-togethers with friends and neighbours, always in the open air.
So for the Fall I’m reckoning that my semi-isolation will continue. If I’m lucky one or two of the local bars and restaurants in the seaside village I live in will still be serving coffee on the terrace. But I know now that I won’t need more than casual clothes.
Choosing my Capsule for Fall
I’ll be leading an outdoor life as I love walking along deserted beaches when the Riviera is quiet from October onwards.
But I’ll be spending quite a bit of time lounging indoors too. So I’ve added some loungewear to my Capsule for the coming season.
I will probably not go out at all in the evenings as all the art openings and similar events will be cancelled. So I’ve not added any extra jewellery or smart shoes.
How I’ve structured my Fall wardrobe
I’ve followed my basic 10 step recipe.
My base color: Navy – a great color for the seaside, especially as I live near to a busy French port.
My secondary color: Tan – recalls autumn leaves.
My special color/s: Bordeaux-red. It’s one of the fashion colors for Fall this year so it’s easy to buy new items for updating my older outfits.
Pale almond (let’s not use the dreaded word ‘beige’) is also one of this season’s new colors. I needed a lightweight padded jacket I could stuff into my bag if the sun came out and the best one was in a pale almond color. So I made sure my new dress and my new sweat top also had that pale almond color in the mix.
The pale color really helps to lift a rather dark scheme. Annoyingly it means, though, that I need to wear something between the jacket and my face as the beigey look is draining (more on all things beige in my post Can we wear beige at 70 )
Bottoms: I’ve chosen 4 bottoms -3 pairs of pants and a skirt. I had the right color skirt so thought I’d start wearing it again this season. Having different textures helps the capsule not to look too boring. I don’t want to look like I’m off to the office every day. The skirt and velvet jeans can be made to look reasonably smart when necessary whilst the thick cotton pants – a pair of stretchy jeans and a pair of square-cut chinos – are so easy to wear and super casual.
Tops: I’ve chosen 8 tops from a sleeveless tank top through to a warm wool cardigan plus my special item cardigan and my athleisure sweat top. The weather is very changeable on the Riviera so I need lots of layers. I like to include a few elements of up-to-date fashion so I invested in a long silk shirt which is one of this seasons must-haves. Look at lots of ways to style the new long silk shirt here.
Dress: A new Boden dress in this year’s color. I experimented with Boden dresses in my summer wardrobe and found they could be dressed up or down yet always looked good and fitted so well. I love the fact it’s in cotton and that there are no zips. It’s great to find a retailer who makes petite (and tall) clothes.
My special item is my new Brora fairisle cardigan. Very autumnal. But its mix of colors means it not ony picks out the blue and brown from this season but should marry up with other color palettes in future years.
Shoes: Three pairs, all flat and very easy to wear inside or out. Fortunately it has become fashionable to wear sneakers with just about any outfit. Perfect for us older gals!
Accessories and bags: Two bags – one large, one small. There are some pretty local towns I like to visit so a handbag can be useful when I’m trying to look just a little smarter.
I’ve included my heavy gold chain necklace because there’s something about the Riviera that demands just a bit of bling – even out of season.
Finally, I’ve added 3 scarves because these can keep you warm as well as bring an outfit together.
Additions: I’m taking some old sweat pants and a new sweat top as my loungewear/athleisure wardrobe.
I’m including a raincoat because we get quite a bit of rain in November.
And – a bit of a cheat really – because I need to take my Winter Capsule Wardrobe too, I might borrow the black boots and black biker jacket from there if the weather turns wintery before Christmas. Both of these items work well with all my Fall capsule. Sometimes boots can look smarter than flats with a dress.
What I’m not including: I haven’t packed anything for Christmas. With the virus rampant in the South of France I really have no idea what my Xmas will be like this year. I’m just going to wait and see and be prepared to splurge on a new dress (and shoes) if necessary (Yippee!). Or I might spend out on some really great food and wine if I have to spend the day alone.
The Riviera climate only gets cold in January and February so I’ll include woollen hats, gloves and scarves then, but not for Fall.
So here is my Capsule Wardrobe Fall 2020
Dark blue velvet jeans (local supermarket) purchased two years ago
Navy chinos (Cache Cache France) bought for this year to replace an identical pair I’ve worn to destruction over the past three years
Tan cotton jeans with stretch (local supermarket) new
Bordeaux-red needlecord skirt (Jigsaw) with small kick pleats at the back – bought about 5 years ago but only worn occasionally
- Tops: I’ve bought these almost all new for Fall. I wanted a warmer navy cardigan and some shirts with collars (these give my rounded shoulders a bit more structure than tee shirts).
Mid blue cotton button through shirt (Marksandspencer.com) new
Cream silk shirt (Marksandspencer.com) new
White tank top (Johnlewis.com) from my Spring 2020 capsule
Bordeaux-red V neck short sleeve tee (local supermarket) new
Bordeaux-red animal print long sleeve jersey top (local supermarket) new
Three-quarter sleeve thick cotton navy and white Breton stripe tee (local supermarket) from my Spring 2020 capsule
Navy and grey long sleeve stripe sweater with ‘marine’ shoulder button details (local supermarket) new
Thick knit navy edge to edge cardigan with silver details (Cache Cache France) new
Bordeaux-red cotton jersey dress (Boden.com) bought new for this season after loving wearing Boden dresses over the summer
- Athleisure/loungewear: Easy comfortable warm clothes for walking the beach or writing this blog on the sofa!
Black jogging bottoms with white ‘go faster’ (!!) stripes (Marks and Spenser’s UK) at least 6 years old
Various navy leggings (Marksandspencer.com) from previous years
Bordeaux-red sweat top with pale almond pattern (Boden.com) new.
Tan suede boxy jacket (Carroll France) at least 10 years old
Pale almond lightweight padded jacket (local supermarket) new
Black and light tan houndstooth check three-quarter raincoat (Marks and Spencer’s UK) at least 6 years old.
Tan handbag with shoulder strap (local supermarket) bought in Spring but not used
Mid tan soft leather shopper (local independent shop) new
Tan plaited leather belt from previous years
Various gold earrings from previous years
Heavy ‘gold’ chain necklace from Summer capsule
Bordeaux-red hair scrunchie (Cache Cache France) new
Small Bordeaux-red and other colors Ralph Lauren silk square from Spring capsule
Brown and tan Oscar de la Renta long silk scarf bought in the sales years and years ago
Large pale pink pashmina scarf (Phase-eight.com) bought last summer for daughter’s wedding
Bordeaux-red trainers (local supermarket) new
Beige and animal print trainers (Cache Cache France) new
Tan flats (local supermarket) new
- Special item:
Fairisle wool cardigan (Brora.com) in grey, blue, brown and green purchased for this season in the expectation it will last me several years
How much to spend on a Capsule Wardrobe
Before deciding to get your credit card out take a good look through all your clothes. You might be surprised at the items that fit right in with your color choices.
I re-discovered my red needlecord skirt which was the perfect color for this season. And once I’d decided on tan as my secondary color I looked through all my scarves and found the long brown one that I’d almost forgotten I had.
It’s human nature to keep wearing your favorite outfits but choosing a slightly different seasonal wardrobe from last year will give some clothes a rest as well as giving you more fun. But base the wardrobe on items you either already have or which you definitely need. In my case I had dark blue pants and a red skirt. But most of my tops were nearing the end of their life so I was happy to buy some new ones such as the heavy navy cardigan and the shirts with collars.
Treat yourself to one thing –yes ONE thing – special. It could be something you know you will only wear occasionally or in a color that doesn’t go with most of your capsule or something a bit more expensive. But you must LOVE that special item.
As for me, I’ve been wanting a new Brora cardigan for a while. Brora’s woollens and cashmeres cost a little more than say, Boden, but that’s because they are woven in Scotland and are excellent quality. I love the ethos of Brora and their slightly vintage vibe – it reminds me of what I used to wear on Sundays to church when I was a child. So all these things made me decide to buy a Brora Fairisle cardigan as my special item this season to love and to cherish.
If you are retired it is unlikely you will need to buy high priced items in general. However if you work your wardrobe will cost more. You may need a good jacket or suit (or perhaps just a couple of really good-looking shirts for those Zoom calls) or smart shoes to show you mean business.
Just make sure you are not spending because you’ve given up trying to make things work together. The more time you put into creating your capsule from items you already have, the more satisfied you will be.
What to do with all your other clothes
Here’s what I do. I hang all my new Capsule Wardrobe on one small hanging rail and put my shoes on a rack. If soft knitteds need folding I stack these neatly on the wire shelf below the hanging rail. You could use a closet of course if you have enough space.
I check all my previous season’s capsule to ensure all items are in good condition and laundered. I fold away most of these clothes into drawers. But I keep a couple of outfits hanging in my closet in case the temperature suddenly changes – sometimes we get unusually hot weather in Fall.
I will start my next season’s planning soon so I shuffle my clothes around to make all potential winter items easy to reach in my closet. As I select and discard items for next season I fold away, or hang at the back of the closet, what I’ll not need.
I know in summer I won’t need winter clothes. I know in Fall I won’t use spring outfits. So I fold away items only used on the other side of the year or store them on hangers well out of reach.
I only have one medium-sized closet – a French armoire. I have one chest of drawers. And I have various shelves as well as my hanging rail and shoe rail. So I have to be well-organized. You might have lots of room to hang everything but even so I would put most clothes out of reach or out of sight apart from your current capsule, a few items in case the weather is unusual and a few additions for the current season which you can keep right at the front of your closet ‘just in case’.
As I look through potential outfits for the following season I not only note any repairs needed but I also make decisions about style and fit. Frankly, if an item no longer fits – or if it is unlikely to be back in style within the next year or so – it’s better to send it to a charity or consignment store or put it into the recycling system. Hanging on to clothes you never wear makes you feel a failure.
But don’t get rid of classic items or accessories. These always come in useful even if not for a couple of years.
What additions do I have to hand in my closet?
Your additions might include a special dress ‘just in case’ you go out somewhere grand or perhaps sports clothes. I keep walking boots, wellies and my Barbour all-weather waxed jacket on hand from Fall through to early Spring. I keep my swimming costumes and a sun-bathing dress handy all summer. I also have a couple of pairs of jeans – because sometimes blue jeans are all you want to wear!
But always make your current capsule your go-to wardrobe. Then when the season changes Voila! A whole new set of clothes to enjoy. If you keep everything on show all year you’re already bored with them before the new season starts. So you’ll find yourself buying lots of new items.
Today we know that the more we consume the faster we are depleting the precious resources of the Earth. So make buying new clothes more about filling in the gaps than getting rid of boredom. Spend time on tweeking your capsule and I guarantee you’ll not get bored.