I’m a big fan of having a capsule wardrobe for each season. Everything works with everything else. It’s what you pack. It’s at the front of your closet. It’s your main stay. You keep all the items laundered, ironed and hung ready to pop straight on. A summer capsule wardrobe just makes life so much easier.
I’ve laid out my 10 Step Recipe for a Capsule Wardrobe in a previous post. I’ll use the same rules here but adjust them to the season.
If you follow this blog you know that these Try-ons are about showing a real woman (me, overweight, short and 71). So that you can imagine what styles might suit you. Slim young models make clothes look wonderful but it can be disappointing when you try them on yourself, can’t it.
Dressing for sunshine and the outdoors
So first of all I want to create a wardrobe that fits my summer lifestyle.
I live in South West France. Up to July the weather can fluctuate between cold and hot. But from July onwards the summer sets in, tourists flood through France, the cafes and restaurants boom (yes even in these sad times), and, most importantly for my lifestyle, everyone lives outside most of the time.
It’s usually too hot for long country walks or city window-shopping – my main outdoor pursuits in spring. Now it’s about sitting outside cafes and watching the world go by. Evenings with friends around the pool, the barbecue or in their pretty gardens (socially distanced this year of course).
Dressing for a summer evening
With the ten weeks of tourism in full swing towns and villages explode with activities – from piano recitals after lunch in cool stone houses through to live theatre, jazz, rock and blues in castles and village squares once the sun goes down. Most villages host at least one huge outdoor street party with food, bands and dancing going on until the early hours.
So I need warm weather very casual day clothes but also casual through to smart-casual for evenings. Those stone chateaux often require a cardigan or jacket whilst sitting still for two hours of music. And covering legs and arms is often best for late evening outdoor meals when the mosquitos are looking for their supper too.
Packing for trips
I don’t take a ‘summer holiday’ as such – I consider myself to be on holiday in my beautiful chateau already. But I visit friends and family in the UK. It could be hot or quite cool. With some family (foodies) we like to sit in the garden or a pub garden and chat and we usually go to at least one upmarket restaurant for lunch or dinner. So I need loose summer easy-to-wear outfits as well as at least one pretty dress.
With others (culture-vultures) we go to art exhibitions, theatres and concerts. (Though how many of these will be running in the UK this summer I don’t know). So I need more coverage. A jacket perhaps and certainly a cardigan. And I want to look smart because we are mainly in town.
So depending who I’m visiting I’ll pack slightly differently.
At home I need lots of easy-care items, certainly shorts and plenty of colorful tops.
So let’s dive right in and see what I decided to include in this year’s summer capsule.
My summer capsule wardrobe 2020
Step One. Set the base or neutral color of your summer wardrobe
I decided on white. It looks good day or evening and makes my slight tan look healthy. White linen is cool and depending how you style it can take you from lazing in the garden to the restaurant. My wide linen pants are ‘crushed’ linen so I’ve left my top the same. A bonus – no need to iron while you’re away either.
Step Two. Select a secondary color
I’ve gone for blue. I bought a Boden mid-blue cardigan that I love and that set the theme for more than just my usual navy this year. It’s cropped so can sit at the waist over a dress or over a longer top that hangs below. Both styles are slimming. It’s so lightweight it’s the ideal cover-up on a warm evening when the bugs are out.
Step Three. Choose a special color to add a pop
I saw a fab pair of red shoes, fell in love and the rest is history. My special color this summer is bright red.
I’ve added a striped tee in red, a dash of red on a floral top and embroidery on a dress. Once I’d decided on red as my special color I remembered a red midi skirt I bought last year and never got around to wearing because it was too big. No problems this year though (sadly).
My skin dosn’t look great in red but a pop of color makes outfits look less officey.
Step Four. Decide on bottoms – at least three
I sometimes change several times throughout the day depending on what I’m up to. So I’ve included four bottoms.
My midi skirt is cool and perfect for outdoor eating in the evening. My shorts are structured enough to look OK even with a jacket for lunch out. My floaty linen pants I’ve mentioned already.
Finally my white jeans…ah yes! I actually like Mom jeans best but the blue ones I had ready proved to be simply too tight this year. Oh dear. So I decided on some narrow clingy jeans instead as I already had them. What do you think? Too tight?
Step Five. Pick out tops – at least nine
I’ve decided on nine tops – one of these is a dress – plus three layers. I won’t pack them all for a week away but they give me a good selection while I’m at home.
The Laura embroidered dress is from Boden – you’ll see I bought several items from them this summer. Opening the package (with gloves on) was soooo much fun!
I chose this linen dress because it’s cool enough for a very warm day and looks good with either of my short cardigans for the evening.
Embroidery is in vogue this year so it updates some of my classics well.
Step Six. Choose footwear – minimum two pairs
I had hoped to keep my shoes to no more than three pairs but in the end had to include five pairs. They each have a different role to play and I think they are all essential. I’ll only pack two pairs (and wear one pair!) and will decide which after I choose my clothes for the trip.
Here’s how I decided on footwear.
I had the white sneakers from my spring capsule wardrobe but given the restrictions this year I didn’t wear them much. But they re fun to wear and I find they look young and relaxed with skirts, dresses and shorts.
For feminine sandals I bought some flat stripey little numbers with a bow on. They even make shorts look feminine.
If I’m in town I like the support of ‘proper’ shoes – besides nothing was going to stop me buying the red shoes anyway!
Then I was in a dilemma. For an evening smartish do I wanted the height of platforms (I never wear high heels these days). These ones work well with the bag and the rope platform makes them summer casual. I know I’ll only wear them when I’m in the UK but I feel I need them.
Then, horror of horrors, I realized that my linen trousers really need flat leather sandals. Well I’ve worn and worn the black sandals and they are super comfy. Fortunately they pack nice and flat. Even so…. I feel my capsule is getting a bit heavy – just like me.
Step Seven. Pick out a bag – at least one
To make up for those extra pairs of shoes I decided I could manage with just one bag. It will go everywhere with me this year so I expect I might only get this one season out of it. Lucky it was inexpensive then. It’s the bag for this summer. Sure, you can buy it more expensive. But us older gals don’t waste our pensions on designer labels if we don’t have to.
Step Eight. Choose your accessories – a small set, say four
I like to wear more jewelry in summer. So I’ve included gold earrings (three pairs), a chunky gold necklace, a gold and diamond bracelet (no of course not real diamonds!), a string of fabric covered beads my niece gave me years ago and a pendant plus two other long chains. Minimal suitcase space assured. I bought the woven belt in the sales earlier in the spring (along with the bag) to draw the collection together by having natural rope-like materials in several outfits.
Step Nine. Add a special item that may not go with everything
I ordered a dress from Boden thinking it would be red. When I opened the package I realized it was orange. But I really like it and so in it goes as my one special item. Perhaps I should have sent it back. But it’s petite (big thankyou to Boden who understand us short square women) and fits me like a glove. Looks good with either cardigan so good for anywhere with the aircon turned up.
Step 10. Recycle anything that’s taking closet space but you don’t really want to wear
Getting ride of stuff once it’s obvious you’re never going to love wearing it again is an important step we all struggle with.
But I now have plenty of paint rags and dusters for the year thanks to my clear out of shapeless tee shirts. You crafters out there will have plenty of good ideas I’m sure.
The items I still like but can no longer fit into this summer I’ve folded away (so they don’t make me feel depressed) and if I can’t get into them next summer either – then out they’ll go.
My Summer Capsule Wardrobe 2020 full list
Just to demonstrate that I make my clothes work hard for me and buy inexpensive items topped up with a few at mid-price.
Mid-blue shorts (local supermarket) bought this year
Skinny white jeans (Cache Cache, France) bought last year
Wide linen trousers (source unknown) bought several years ago
Red viscose midi skirt (Monsoon) bought last year
White embroidered linen dress (Boden) new this year
White linen hankie hem shirt (johnlewis.com) bought earlier this year
White cotton broderie sleeve top by Joules (johnlewis.com) from my Spring Capsule
Square cut cap sleeve floral top originally from M&S, donated to me by my daughter three years ago because it needs ironing (!)
Red and pink checked tie front shirt (Cache Cache, France) bought last year
White tank top (johnlewis.com) from my Spring Capsule
Square cut V neck cotton top with short sleeves (Cache Cache, France) bought two years ago
Sleeveless V neck red striped tee (local supermarket) bought this year in sale
Three quarter sleeve lightweight navy Breton tee (Cache Cache, France) bought two years ago
Cotton/polyester textured jacket (marksandspencer.com) bought this year
Navy viscose petite crew neck cardigan (marksand spencer.com) bought this year
Mid blue petite cotton crew neck cropped cardigan (boden.com) bought this year
- Special item:
Jungle print orange jersey dress (boden.com) bought this year
Tan rope-edged platform sandals bought two years ago (M&S?)
Red tasselled loafers (Cache Cache, France) bought this year
White cotton sneakers (plimsoles) from my Spring Capsule
Black leather flat sandals bought two years ago
Blue and off-white flat slide sandals (local supermarket) bought this year
Most of the items from the supermarket were discounted. I luckily purchased while both Boden and M&S had their lockdown sales. At the time of writing Boden has reduced many items listed here but M&S have finished their discounts for the moment.
Having a capsule wardrobe you are building means you know exactly what to pounce on when you see a sale. And, just as importantly, what to leave on the shelf because you know they won’t work with your scheme.
I hope you’ve enjoyed my Real Wome Real Life Try-on. I’m now 71 but I refuse to be invisible. I hope that seeing me – a typical older woman with no waist and chubby thighs – will inspire you to sort through your closet and put together looks that make you feel good, whatever your age or shape.
Comment if you feel inclined. It’s so good to make contact.
Have a great summer but stay safe.
By the way, I’ve published my 2021 Capsule Wardrobe Try-on at 72 now. I’ve re-used some of the items above and purchased some other clothes to up the style a bit. Take a look and see what you think!
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