the capsule wardrobe, part 2: where I shop


like a lot of women, I find my body hard to dress. I’m quite short and busty, with athletic calves that are remnants of my long-past running days. petite jeans fit me lengthwise, but petite tops often do not. I have a really hard time with dresses because the proportions of most dresses are all wrong on me (they’re obviously made for a taller woman), and while petite sizing works length-wise, it doesn’t accommodate my top half, unless it’s made of something with some give, like jersey. ah, jersey. where would I be without jersey? I have a love affair with jersey, but that’s for another post. this is all to say that I’ve gotten years of practice in figuring out what brands and stores work for my body and what don’t. this part of building a capsule wardrobe was actually one thing I already did previously.

my list of go-tos won’t necessarily work for you, but maybe some things will and end up on your own shortlist.

where I shop for what

tops | zara, old navy (basic, trendy), gap (classics, i.e. striped shirt), j.crew (something interesting when on sale)

jeans | gap (they’re awesome! I’m partial to the legging jean, the real straights, and sometimes the always skinny)

sweaters | j.crew/j.crew factory (casual), br (dressy), old navy (trendy), gap (casual)

dresses | j.crew factory, old navy (trendy), gap (casual), br (dressy), nordstrom (special occasion, certain brands)

workwear | ann taylor (mostly tops), loft (business casual), br (dressier options), j.crew (mostly shoes and sweaters)

outerwear | nordstrom, h&m (in their h&m+ section), macy’s

shoes | zara (trendy), madewell (boots, flats), j.crew (heels, flats), (dv by) dolce vita (I like pretty much everything they make), nine west (pumps), via spiga (dressy), clarks (comfy!), ann taylor, nordstrom rack

misc | gap (workout gear, underwear), t.j. maxx/marshalls (socks, basics), nordstrom (lingerie), hanes (lingerie)

splurge | nordstrom, shopbop

beauty | walgreens, ulta, sephora, nordstrom, zappos

aside from being tried and true, I also buy a lot of my things from these places because of their shipping and/or return policies. it’s inevitable that something won’t fit right, and when that happens, it’s nice to know that I don’t have to stress about exchanging it or returning it within a reasonable time frame. and lastly, while it’s good to curate a list of places that are pretty much fail-safe, don’t be afraid to branch out to other places if your go-tos don’t come through. sometimes it happens if you’re looking for something very specific or something that might not be in season yet. if a brand you’re unfamiliar with happens to have what you’re looking for, do some research – what are their policies, what reviews do they get, what reviews did that particular item get, etc. also, go back to the basics of the product itself – what is it made of? is it of good quality? I believe you can find good-quality products at all different price points from all different places. you might just have to look a little longer/harder.

what are your go-tos?





the capsule wardrobe, part 1


I mentioned last week that I had done a major overhaul of my closet, an overhaul that was completely inspired by Caroline and her lovely blog. you should read about the idea of a capsule wardrobe on her blog here, but the main idea is to limit yourself to a concise edit of clothes for every season. I’m tweaking her system a little bit and changing it to my own, partly because of weather differences (she lives in Texas and I live in Chicago) and partly because we’re two different people. I love that Caroline encourages each of her readers to make the system his or her own and advocates the capsule wardrobe idea as one thing to try if your current system isn’t working for you. this is what sold me on giving it a try, since she wasn’t proscribing that it was going to be the solution, just something worth giving a shot if the status quo wasn’t something you were satisfied with. that’s where I was at. I had plenty of clothes, but I always felt like I had nothing to wear. I was overwhelmed by all the choices hanging in my closet and 95% of the time, I ended up wearing the same things over and over. after reading Caroline’s blog, I realized that the 5% I reached for constantly were either the things I loved or the things that worked best for my life, or both. they were literally where form and function met in my closet. was it any wonder that they were the ones kept in heavy rotation and everything else was neglected? then I thought about how I didn’t like having things I neglected, how I didn’t want to be someone who had more than she used. so…

…I did a major edit of my entire wardrobe. since I’m an overthinker and partial to sentimentality, I went with my gut when selecting what to keep or not keep. when considering an item, if I immediately remembered that I loved it or used it frequently, it stayed. if I hesitated a little, it went into the maybe pile. if I hesitated a lot or flat out hated it, it went into the gone pile. the majority of the items that didn’t make the cut were either donated to goodwill/savers/the salvation army or packed to be sent to my family in the Philippines. a handful of things I ended up consigning or selling on the spot. I revisited the maybe pile and edited it further down, with most things being added to the give away pile. the 8 things I was still undecided on got put into storage. if I come looking for something in that box during the fall/winter, then it stays. if come spring, I haven’t given any of these pieces a thought, they’ll go. although I didn’t do an accounting of how much exactly I had before the edit, judging by how clothes look in our new (smaller) closet and comparing it to how they looked hanging in our old apartment, I’d say I cut at least 50% of my wardrobe, if not close to 2/3.

from here, I tweaked Caroline’s 37-item, season by season capsule wardrobe to my own 56-item, somewhat seasonal capsule wardrobe. I chose to do a combined fall/winter capsule wardrobe, because in Chicago, fall lasts for about a month before things get really cold for the next 5 months. I chose 56 items because it seemed like a happy medium between 37 and 74 (37 x 2). like Caroline, I chose not to count such essentials like underwear, socks, hosiery, pajamas and workout clothes in my 56-item count, but like her, I did go through these categories and edited them down as well to amounts that felt generously limited. unlike Caroline, I chose to not count coats/jackets as part of my 56 items since by my logic, coats and jackets are not primarily fashion choices (though they can certainly be fashionable) when one lives in a place that gets cold for over half the year – they’re essentials. how many items do they amount to? 10. I have a puffer coat, a parka, a jean jacket, an army green utility jacket, a khaki utility jacket, a light fleece, a black topper, a rain jacket, and a classic trench. if you’re keeping count, that’s 9, but I am planning on adding a peacoat/car coat to my fall/winter wardrobe, so including that that comes to 10. 10 seems like a lot, and it is, but all of these are of different weights to account for all weather between -30 degrees to 60 degrees and some are multi-seasonal, so I find 10 to be a good number for me.

the last of my tweaks comes to shoes. I’ve decided to keep the total number to 40 and under, which if spread throughout the year, is about 10 pairs a season. my current total is at 36, including flip flops.  if I do add a pair or two that I’m considering, they will most likely replace a couple of pairs from the 36.

whew. that took awhile. but enough about the prep work and onto how I put my capsule wardrobe together. below is a collage of what I’ve been tossing around in my head for the upcoming season. some of the items aren’t actually items I’m considering purchasing but represent a color or a shape or a texture that I’m intrigued about and thinking of incorporating in my wardrobe for the next 6 months. some things aren’t even things at all – pencils, hot chocolate, scenes – but things I’d like to be doing in the next season. a little bit of the things that speak to my style, a little bit of things that speak to my life and who I am and who I want to be – that mix is what I’d like my closet to reflect (again, Caroline inspired me with this post when I was creating the collage). this is my inspiration board of sorts and the springboard from which I picked my color palette, which I’ll talk about in an upcoming post.

fw inspiration

what are you wearing this fall?

images via one | two | three | four | five | six | seven

backpack, backpack


I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I’m on the hunt for a backpack. I haven’t worn one since high school, making the conscious decision to eschew one all through college. all through undergrad, I used totes. but I find myself a student again at the same time that the 90s  are back…which means backpacks are in again. usually I do a double take before jumping on an obvious trend, but I have a soft spot for the decade of my childhood (Spice Girls forever!), and I actually do need one. now the only question is: chic or sporty?

chic || black grid| tan | black with zipper

sporty || grey | black | red



a lot has been happening around here, and I realized that if I were to dedicate a post to it all, it would end up having to be 20 posts or a 20-page post. I’ll spare you all that reading and give it to you in (friendlier) bullet points:

  1. first things first: I’m a student again! I waited until I felt ready and excited to study again, and that time is now. it’s the early stages yet, but I’m loving my classes. they’re challenging and interesting and thought-provoking, and I love it. I feel ready for the challenge, and I’m eager to take it all on.
  2. commuting is…ok. it’s not as hard as I thought it would be, but it’s certainly draining. it takes me about 2 hours going in and about an hour and 20 going back out, so 3.5 hours round trip. I’m sure it will be worse once the winter sets in, but I’m taking the “I’ll deal with that when it comes” road on that one.
  3. workouts are back on. I get off work at 4 and head straight for the gym, where I do a combination of stretches, cardio, and weight training for a little more than an hour, then I shower and drive downtown to pick up James on the way home (he gets off work at 6). it’s been working out nicely. the exercise gives me the space to let out some stress (that sometimes I don’t even know I’m carrying), it re-energizes me for the drive home, and it gives me the stamina to do all the things I have to do in addition to keeping me healthy. it’s been feeling really good. I wake up in the morning feeling sore, but in that good way where you feel limber and active. my body and mind have been thanking me for it. to make sure I stay on track and ready to go, I pack my gym bag the night before so that I can just grab it on the way to the car.
  4. we’re working on our retirement…and got us a financial planner. we’re still working on beefing up establishing our 401ks, but you have to start somewhere, right? we’d like to retire someday…and have kids…and send them to school…so, yeah, we’re reviewing the financial plan packet our adviser just created for us. seriously, the fact that I have a financial plan packet and thinking of terms like diversifying and really knowing our long-term and short-term financial goals is a little weird, but we’re doing it. does this mean we’re adults now?
  5. my closet has shrunk to 1/3 its former size. I’ve been inspired by Caroline and in the process of tweaking my wardrobe for the fall/winter. more on that soon, but I’m loving that I know exactly what’s in my closet and that I use it all.
  6. I know IKEA gets some flack sometimes for not being the best quality, but it has been a lifesaver the past month. making our 10 x 12 bedroom a multi-purpose room would have been 1000x harder without them. they just design pieces that work in tough spots. I would like “real” furniture someday, but IKEA will always have a fond place in my heart.
  7. I’m growing my hair out. honestly, I’m tempted to chop it back into the long bob I’ve been rocking for a couple of years, but it’s growing out so nicely and I don’t want to mess with it, so I’m letting it do its thing right now.
  8. after a few years of feeling like I’m slogging through mud at every turn, the past couple of weeks have been the exact opposite. I feel energized and renewed, like I’ve awoken from a stupor I didn’t even know I was in. things I struggled with for years suddenly ceased to be important, I’m no longer racked with guilt or indecision or regret. I want to get things done and move on to a new chapter. there’s a part of me that worries if this is a flame that’s bound to burn out, but I quash that thought as soon as it comes and push on harder. I’m grabbing this clarity and running with it as fast and as hard as I can.

whew. that’s all of it, for now. if you made it this far, congrats and thanks!

what have you been up to?