There are a selection of colours that look good on nearly everyone, we call them universal colours. The caveat here is they might not be your very best, but you’ll still look good wearing them.
a) Buying a gift for a friend, when I don’t know her season or tonal direction but I want her to look great wearing it.
b) I’m in a hurry, there are days when I’m pushed for time, you know the feeling, right? You dash into the store, stare aimlessly at clothing and accessories while madly trying to identify the right thing for the impromptu party tonight, the last minute work thing.
c) I’m choosing a uniform for staff and would like them all to look as good as possible, but know that if I choose the wrong colour, at least half of them could look like death warmed up.
d) I’m getting married (friends and most of all my boyfriend, I’m not getting married, it’s a scenario, relax please, people). I need outfits for my bridesmaids and maid of honour and I’d like them to look and feel good.
Purple – our drape for this is called Medium Violet and it suits pretty much everyone.
Teal – Teal is the perfect mix between warm and cool and always look great.
Lavender – looks great on most people and is a beautiful, feminine colour.
Soft Pink – most people can wear a pretty soft, pale pink and it’s very feminine.
Stone – a wonderful neutral and easy to dress up with pops of your best accent colour
Mid Grey – this is a medium grey, it works well as a neutral for most people and goes with so many things.
Navy – again is a great neutral, looks good on everyone and is easy to brighten/soften with accent colours or key jewellery pieces to suit you.
I was chatting to a good friend the other day and I know she is a big fan of capsule wardrobes. I was saying I had a warm weather capsule and a cool weather capsule. Some items I can wear all year and others for special occasions. I told her I love that I can now grab a few things and know they all go together.
Result? I don’t spend ages trying on half a dozen outfits only to feel miserable. It’s taken all the decision making about clothes out of my life. She said “Exactly! It doesn’t matter what I grab out of my closet, it all fits, and it all goes together.”
If you look at someone like Steve Jobs, he must have had 30 or more of the black cashmere sweaters he wore and dozens of pairs of 501 jeans. He found a style he was comfortable with, picked a limited palette and stuck with it. One less decision to make every day. I’m not suggesting you go that hardcore, but I never once thought he looked scruffy or questioned his expertise. A ‘uniform’ whether that’s your work suit, smart casual or jumper and jeans, tells people you mean business. You don’t have to look exactly the same every day, you can add different accessories or accents of colour, but that sense of continuity can actually get you taken more seriously at work and in life.
In this article Alice Gregory talks about ‘finding her uniform’ in much the same way Jobs did. She’s come up with a style that works for her life, invested in a Winter coat and a Summer coat and some great boots. They’re things she’ll wear daily, depending on the season. Investment buys like this, would ideally be in your best neutrals.
The number of items you’ll need in your capsule wardrobe might vary to mine, for example I wear a pair of jeans three times before washing. If I want to do one load of laundry for myself per week, I need at least three pairs of jeans/chinos in my casual capsule. In warmer weather I’ll change my T shirt or top daily. I have four linen blend Ts in a warm stone colour that go with everything in my capsule. I have one purple ‘burnout’ T for layering (in winter this goes under a burgundy lace sweater and looks fabulous), two khaki Ts (one long sleeve, one cap sleeve), one burnt orange V neck T and a burgundy dolman 3/4 sleeve top. Any of these can be dressed up with good shoes/boots, nice accessories and a good handbag. I have a box of scarves, some in neutrals, some multi in neutrals or my best colours, a few plain ones and lots of hand knit shawls in luxury yarns. These are great for dressing up a casual outfit in a hurry and an extra bit of warmth on a cooler day or if you work in an office with air conditioning.
For work, smart trousers/pants might be worn for brief periods four times. Typically I wear them for meetings of a few hours at most and they are hung up between wearing to air. That means one or two at most pairs of smart pants/trousers, plus a skirt if you wear them. I don’t really wear skirts that often.
Gregory also touches on another concept of ‘cost per wear’. I’ll admit that in the past I talked myself out of some amazing suits or Winter coats by looking at the price tag and thinking it was too much to spend on me, even if I had it.
If I had taken the same view with my Aleutian 300 Fleece Jacket from Lowe Alpine, 20 years ago, I wouldn’t have such an amazing warm jacket. At the time I did a lot of hiking/fell walking and this was perfect. It’s in a deep teal colour, I’m a Soft Autumn (Muted and Warm), it’s a colour I wear a lot. Nowadays, in cold weather, it’s worn every day for dog walking and it looks as good now as it did when I bought it. My partner often grabs it when he’s taking the dogs to the beach as it’s also wind resistant.
If I calculate the cost per wear, it’s £4.00 per year, divided by 90 days of wear (for this exercise we’ll assume it’s three months), making it £0.04 per wear. From around October through to March, I probably wear it EVERY day. While it’s a casual jacket, it’s easy to dress up a bit with a nice scarf, a good handbag and some smart trousers/pants. Now, that is a bargain.
If you have a capsule wardrobe for work (or any other part of your life, and you can have several), you don’t have think about what to wear each day, you’re sorted. You don’t waste time in front of the mirror or drive everyone else nuts by asking ‘Does this look okay?’
Save time when shopping, if you know what you need to replace or is missing from your capsule, you can breeze past everything else in the store and just look at those items.
By avoiding those wardrobe disasters you save money. (You know you have at least one, it looked good on the hanger or on your best pal, but it’s hideous on you?) Avoiding those bargains that really aren’t bargains at all, means you can save cash for an item you really love and know will make you feel amazing when you wear it.
That means you can afford to invest in yourself. Save up for that amazing Winter coat, if you love colour then pick one of your best colours, if not, then pick your best neutral for the season. For me, my smart Winter coat is a deep, chocolate brown or charcoal navy. In Summer my casual jacket is in khaki and my smarter coat is a warm camel colour. The cost per wear on a good coat will be less than a penny or a cent during it’s lifetime and it’ll more than earn it’s keep in your closet. I’ll also admit to having a fabulous deep tomato red coat, it’s reversible and the other side is in a leopard print. I do love the pop of pattern at the collar and cuffs, but I rarely wear it with the Leopard side ‘out’. Maybe one day …..
The same applies to shoes or boots, buy good quality, make sure they fit you well. Buy shoes mid afternoon, when your feet are at their largest to get the best size. Choose a neutral to go with the coat, it’ll help pull your outfit together and can make you look taller.
Remember that more choice can be paralyzing rather than liberating. Having a grab and go wardrobe means you can get on with your day quickly and always looking great.