A capsule wardrobe is a planned collection of clothes which can all work together and give enough different outfits to last all season and all likely activities. It uses color and silhouette to create a cohesive look that is right for your personal style and the life you lead.
Updates I’ve made to my wardrobe in 2021
Here’s what I’ll be wearing for the next three months. That means these pieces have to see me from cold windy weather (like today) through to sunny and warm days. So layers are essential.
Here in France we’ve gone back into lockdown again so I’ve had less chance to try on lots of clothes to see how the silhouette looks. Which is a pity because I think the silhouette is so important especially as we get older. And this year clothes are so different from even two years ago.
Anything tight or constricting has disappeared as we’re now all used to hanging around in our sweat pants. Shoes have all but vanished as everyone has been feeling so comfortable in sneakers for so long now.
Fashion is always on the move and this year the trend is bulkier clothes reminiscent of the late seventies through to the eighties. Big-shouldered tops are back in with puffed sleeves. Wide jeans have returned. Sleeves are pushed up to create fullness. Belts are in evidence and everything is tucked in to create even more fullness.
A comfortable trend perhaps but frankly not that easy to style after so many years of slimmer pants and long straight tops.
It’s all too easy to just look frumpy!
However I ordered some items I’m happy with from marksandspencer.com and did a swift shop in Angouleme the day before all clothes shops closed for at least the next month. Then I tried eveything on in a long mirror back home. Some things worked better than others but over all I’m fine with my Capsule Wardrobe this Spring.
Doing more with less during the pandemic
As you’ll know if you follow these try-ons, I’m short (62″) and wide (140lbs). I don’t edit the photos to slim me down or elongate my silhouette. The whole point of making these photo diaries is to show what a very average older woman can do with just a few items. And to give you a little nudge towards making a seasonal Capsule Wardrobe too. It’s a lot of fun and you never again get that ‘What can I wear today’ panic when you open your closet.
By adding a few strategic items each season you can look up to date without spending a fortune.
I’ve laid out my recipe for a Capsule Wardrobe here. Basically I’ll be keeping a tight rein on color whilst finding a very few bottoms and many more tops. Then I’ll be adding some simple accessories.
I’ve not added anything dressy because there will be no face-to-face socializing here and all events and venues will be closed for the next couple of months at least. But I know that over in the UK you’re now coming out of lockdown (lucky you) so this wardrobe may look a bit too bland. I’m not sure whether my other readers in Canada and the USA are confined or free right now.
But as always, this is my wardrobe based on my simple country lifestyle. Follow the steps but of course create a Capsule that is right for your personal style and how you live your life.
And if you’re not sure what your personal style is then take the 5 minute quiz to find out. Click on the button at the top right (laptop) or scroll right down to the end of this article (on tablets and phones.) You might find you are much less casual than me. Or you may be someone who likes to look unique. I’m a casual classic dresser but you should follow your own take on style.
Right, let’s get started and see what I put into my Spring 2021 Capsule Wardrobe and why.
The base or neutral color
This anchors the whole wardrobe. I chose denim – that pale to mid blue of vintage jeans. It’s everywhere this year and it goes so easily with most colors. It’s a good color for Spring after wearing a dark collection of clothes over the winter.
The secondary color
How this second color works with the base color sets the tone for the Capsule. Make these two colors clash and you’ve got a unique and dramatic wardrobe. Make them tone and you’ll be neat and elegant or even minimalist.
I chose navy as my secondary color. It goes well with denim blue and they make a classic duo.
The special color
This adds the highlights to the collection. You can add liveliness and fun with a bright bold splash of color. Or you can keep your wardrobe understated and classy by choosing a toning color that adds interest and depth to the color scheme without shouting out its presence!
I decided on orange. I had been thinking of the more refined look of tan but oddly I have accumulated a few items in orange over the past year or so. And when I looked at the denim next to the orange I thought ‘Yes! I need that lift after these quiet, too quiet, months and months of isolation.’
I generally select three bottoms for a season. This doesn’t include, this time, easy jersey pull-on pants though I’ve got a pair as an ‘extra’ now that I’m ‘home alone’ again.
The new wider jeans in an old school pale wash are a key new purchase this season. I tried on lots of jeans a short while ago and decided to wear these this Spring. They’re in the base color of my Capsule. And they’ll set the new silhouette for the wardrobe.
Last year I bought some dark (navy) wash Mom jeans and I’m going to wear them again now. They’re narrower in the upper leg than the new jeans but I still like the look and they’re in my secondary color: navy.
Finally I’ve added a pair of stretchy white cropped pants that I must have had for well over 5 years. By June the jeans may simply be too warm and heavy for the daytime so these will be ideal. They’re very comfortable to wear too and don’t need a belt. This means I can leave tops to hang down rather than always tucking in.
Anyone with a wide waist or big hips knows the joys of straight-hang tops!
My recipe suggests at least nine tops and I’ve chosen ten plus two dresses.
It’s so cold here right now that it’s difficult to imagine being too warm. So I needed to add lightweight layers as well as a big woolly sweater for colder weather, and evenings later in the season. In addition I’ll need some short-sleeved summery tops that I can pop a jacket or shirt over if the sun goes in.
My jacket is the one I bought in the sales last summer. It’s the right-ish color to be counted as a base. It’s cotton but lined so not too heavy yet works well as a cover-up if I (ever again) go into town or sightseeing. You’ll see I’ve scrunched up the sleeves to give it a more up to date vibe.
Another layering piece is a navy cropped cardigan, again purchased last year. It is in my seconary color and works over all my shirts and tees and the dresses. Easy to wash, quick to dry as it’s in man-made fibre. The short wide cut of this top helps to big-up my upper body so my hips don’t look quite as large.
The blue sweater is right on trend for the season. It is wide and bulky with relaxed sleeves that demand to be pushed up eighties style. It’s a new purchase. I was crossing my fingers that it would look right as I knew I didn’t have time to send it back before this photo shoot. Fortunately it’s even better than I’d hoped. I hope it washes well because I’ve fallen in love with it and will probably add it into my Fall or Winter wardrobe too.
The short-sleeved white tee with broderie (do you say ‘cutwork’ in American English??) detail was new last Spring. I usually buy one or two fresh new white tops for my Spring/Summer Capsules as white never looks as good the second year. But I didn’t get the time to look for the right things so I’ve stuck with this one. It’s kept its shape which is good as it’s been washed several times. I like the easy boxy cut.
The pale blue and orange breton tees help to marry up the color scheme. They’re quite old now but then…so am I!
I’ve done a try-on of my new Brora Liberty print shirt. I bought it because it has so many of the colors in it that I often wear. But it also has orange. And in fact that’s what got me thinking that orange might be a good special color this season. This shirt is long sleeved but fine so can be covered by a layer or worn alone with the sleeves turnied back in warm weather. Again, it’s a sale item.
The denim blue chambray shirt is new. These shirts are everywhere this year. It’s got nice buttons that add to the denim-style theme and it has gathered details on the cuffs that stop it looking too plain. Of course the gathered shoulder seam is part of this year’s look.
My orange dress had to be brought into this wardrobe, didn’t it. It’s a huge splash of my special color. I bought it from Boden last summer and wore it often. It fits me well, has no fastenings, washes a dream and all in all is a useful item for warmer weather.
The navy and white dress I bought at a fraction of its original price. I was wandering around Sanary on the Cote d’Azur this winter one sunny day. A few small boutiques had been allowed to open. Of course there were very few tourists so they all had massive discounts on their clothes.
Shirt dresses are in fashion this year. I can style it with a navy belt or just use the drawstring it has at the waist. It’s light and wide so perfect for warm days and evenings when I want my arms covered but don’t want to be too warm.
The shoes and accessories
I bought the lightweight sneakers online at marksandspencer.com and added the denim bucket hat. Both items are fun on-trend looks this year. The very fine long pale blue scarf comes from the same online shop and helps to integrate the outfits.
I didn’t want to buy more shoes so decided to add these fairly hefty pale pink sneakers I bought from the local supermarket a year ago. They’re not perfect but I hate to relegate things to the back of the closet. So I’ll wear them this Spring and then decide whether to keep them or donate/recycle them in June.
Jeans look best with belts this year so I’ve added one from my small collection. And I found an elasticated navy belt that I can use with my navy dress if need be. I haven’t worn this belt for probably ten years or more. I love discovering items that fit into my Capsule. If I didn’t make a planned wardrobe every season I’d probably never wear this belt for another 10 years (crossing fingers of course that I have another 10 years haha!)
My one special item
Now I come to my favourite item: The woven cotton bag in bright orange. What a godsend when I saw it on marksandspencer.com and could get it sent to me along with jeans, hat and sweater. It just lifts all the outfits and makes them so much brighter and more confident.
I usually like to add one special item that may not go with everything in the Capsule but which I love. I guess this bag is it. Though in fact it works with every single item.
I also added the two gold chains and the hoop earrings that I bought around Christmas for my Winter Capsule. This is not the time to invest in fabulous jewelry. So I’ll wear these through the year I expect. Once we can go out more, will be the time for better accessories or jewelry.
Where I shopped
So that’s what I’ll be mixing and matching till the end of June or until the weather turns decidedly warm. In case you’d like to look at prices and sizes for the clothes I’m including links to them below. Where I bought something locally I’ve tried to add a ‘similar to’ link.
I shopped at M&S online this season. It was the first time I’ve used their new French website.
They’ve gone thoroughly international now and have sites for most countries in local currency and with any import taxes included in the price. Since Brexit import duties have become a nightmare here in Europe. Some UK stores have ceased all European deliveries whilst others leave any extra taxes up to you – so you’re never quite sure what anything will end up costing. But some large retailers are now up to speed and the ever-useful, well-priced and ethical marksandspencer.com is out in front.
So even if you live in North America or Australia you can have confidence ordering from them. Use the link given (Thanks!) but remember to choose your country at the top right of their site. My french ‘haul’ came super fast, by the way. And the returns policy is generous.
Pale blue sneakers at marksandspencer.com
Orange bag at marksandspencer.com
Blue scarf at marksandspencer.com
Denim bucket hat at marksandspencer.com
Pale blue sweater at marksandspencer.com
Chambray shirt bought locally, similar here
Orange dress by Boden no longer available, similar here
Liberty print silk shirt by Brora
Shirt dress bought locally, similar here
Navy cardigan this year’s model
Girlfriend jeans bought locally, similar here
By the way, I’ve published my Summer 2021 Capsule Wardrobe at 72 now. Take a look and see what you think!
Have fun creating your own Spring 2021 Capsule Wardrobe. It saves you money, gets rid of the guilt of having too much ‘stuff’ and is a super project for when you’ve got a little extra time on your hands.
If your found this post interesting why not read one of these next?
Classic Liberty print silk shirt by Brora try-on
This was a perfect capsule for me except for the orange items. I might have to use bright pink or turquoise instead. Thanks for your super ideas.
Hi Roena. Thanks so much for your positive comment! I just happened to see a bag I liked in orange but it could just as well have been another bright color. I just wanted something brighter after the lockdown winter months. Joni x
Love, love, love to see wardrobe ideas for 70 plus ladies and also for someone short and square. I am 63”.
Hi Winnie. So pleased you find the blog interesting. Makes my day when I hear from someone who says that! Joni x
Love this. I too am short 60″, I’m plump , but I love the tea of a capsule wardrobe and a put-together look. It is so refreshing to see a capsule wardrobe that I could actually wear! Love your ideas – now to work on my own capsule.
Hi Averyl. Glad you find the article useful. I’m telling you, you’ll love it once you’ve got that capsule organized. It’s a life-changer! Joni x
Hello Joni from Stillwater Minnesota ,
I just found your blog on Pinterest .
I am 69years old, 5’1 and 137 pounds. I have a very rectangular body wide shoulders no waist, wide hips. I Stick to dark wash denim straight legged jeans, in the summer months I wear white cotton pants. As a retiree I am on a very strict budget. I have found J Jill, Talbots, The Loft all carry petites so I don’t have to do any tailoring. You might be interested in checking them out, They carry clothing in very moderate prices.
I enjoy your blog very much, hope you keep blogging
Hi Alice. Thanks for the heads up on reasonably priced clothing in the US. Now the vast majority of my readers are US based I’m getting deeper into retailers like the ones you suggest. Unfortunately due to costs (shipping, exchange rates and so forth) I can’t do real life try-ons of US clothing. But I can use online research to suggest items from these retailers in my posts. Keep safe in Stillwater! Joni x
Hi from Atlanta
I enjoyed your post, lots of good ideas.
Love the blue and orange!
Hi Kate. Thanks for the positive comment. It’s been so cold here that I’ve had to add a couple of thicker sweaters to my Spring Capsule. But I’m still keeping to the blue and orange vibe! Stay cool in Atlanta! Joni x