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Test Driving a 21 Garments + 21 Accessories Capsule

Now that we have built this 21 garment capsule using a grid of color-based rows...

...and we have created our 21 piece accessory capsule to accompany it...

...I thought it would be helpful to look at the garments and accessories together. It's interesting...each row of the accessories grid looks like the start of what the legendary Brenda Kinsel called a Beauty Bundle (a group of accessories in a similar color or theme that can be worn with a variety of outfits). I have mostly seen them described as a way to jazz up a neutral outfit or add a new accent color to an outfit, but it seems they could also be used to harmonize with clothing that you're wearing, too. This gave me the idea to put the garments and accessories from each color-based row together to look at grouping. Let's work our way top to bottom.

Row 1: White/Silver Grouping

Our first grouping has the pieces to make an outfit, and though it would be rather minimalist in color and style for my own preferences, it would certainly be an acceptable one! It's also easy to see how different elements in the grouping could be switched out for various looks: a bright print scarf instead of the silver; a different base outfit in a color or neutral with the same accessories; a pair of neutral, accent color, or print pants in place of the blue jeans. As we'll see with all these groupings, by having some of these "go together" pieces, it makes for an easy modular way of dressing.

Row 2: Beige/Lime Grouping

This row has the making of two outfit options, one a little more colorful than the other. I really like the sort of ombré effect of the ivory sweater, beige pants, and taupe-brown boots as a base outfit. The emergence of the lime element in this row surprises me a little, but it's a fun and cheerful color to appear in the capsule.

Row 3: Olive Grouping

It's nice to look at this colorful set of items, which also includes a vibrant print scarf. You can tell that I consider denim such a neutral that denim pieces can slot into pretty much any row and fit nicely. The sweater, pants, and boots are from three different brands but happen to be really close matches in color, which is definitely not a given when working with olive. The subtly paisley dark olive scarf is a nice option with the sweater and/or pants to get that "matching scarf" color formula that I like. The scarf is a deeper, warmer version of olive, but I find that it works with the other pieces just fine.

Row 4: Blush Pink Grouping

Here is our row without a pair of pants. I don't have a pair of blush pink pants so that was an easy decision! But if I wanted to have a pair of pants in each row, I could have included a pair of grey pants in place of the grey striped sweater (or in addition to the sweater, really, since there's no law about a 21 For 21 vs. a 22 For 22). I do like the theme that emerges with this set in addition to the blush pink color scheme...Rabbits and Small Florals. The blush pink sweater and vest are two different brands but go together perfectly.

Row 5: Wine/Bright Pink Grouping

The wine trio worn with the bright pink earrings and scarf would be a lot, but it's a workable outfit! The print scarf gives a more muted option for a "matching scarf" formula. The print blouse, pants, and vest are not spot-on color matches (again, three different brands) but are quite close and work together beautifully. The earrings and scarf are a bit weak as a Beauty Bundle goes (only 2 pieces), but still have some great possibilities for adding a pop of color to various outfits.

Additions 2

Row 6: Peacock Blue Grouping

This is a very pleasing set of items, anchored by three garments I purchased from the same retail collection (CJ Banks, winter 2020). I find that the blue-teals can be quite difficult to blend, let alone match, so I made sure to buy several pieces when I realized how much I wanted to commit to this gorgeous color. I like that the heathery quality of the cowl neck top adds some depth to the trio. The DIY paper bead bracelets were actually made to wear with a different item (a teal and black floral blouse) but the use of metallic peacock blue paint and peacock blue glass pearls in the design makes them work with this color very well. The scarf is definitely the surprise piece of this set; until creating this capsule, I had not considered wearing it with peacock blue, but I think it's a terrific pairing.

Row 7: Black Grouping

I love the pieces in this set together as an outfit! The various textures/patterns of the marl sweater, velvet vest, and skinny-pants-with-stretch make for a trio that can readily be worn together without looking boring or flat. And of course that base outfit (or any two pieces from it) can be accessorized in a LOT of different ways. Looking at the scarf + shoes + bracelet combination as a Beauty Bundle, I can see those pieces working with a variety of different base outfits.

Here are just a fraction of the outfits that could be created from this 21 + 21 For 21 capsule! I added accessories to the outfits I put together using various color formulas in the 21 garment capsule post.

I love the variety of color combinations appearing across these various outfits...every one of which I wear would personally wear (though I understand if some of the outfits/color combos are not to everyone's taste). I would probably rotate through the pants colors because a different color of pants really makes me feel like I'm wearing something different so I like to mix that up. I think this makes me a bit unusual, but perhaps the reason is that when I'm sitting at my desk for work and look down, my scarf, pants, and shoes are the most visible pieces of my outfit. I'm sure that's why I've gotten so strongly on the bracelet stack wagon now that I've figured out that stretch bracelets that fit somewhat close on the wrist don't bother me at the computer...they are very visible to me in a way other jewelry is not.

So anyway, as I've said, one of my biggest problems with the typical capsule wardrobe is that the color palettes are way too limited. I mean, even this is more limited than I would want in the long-term, but I can much more easily see myself wearing these outfits for 21 days than the usual "21 mostly neutral outfits with some kind of black bottoms" you get with so many minimalist capsules. Somehow we're supposed to not feel bored because the 4 pairs of black pants have different cuts or textures, but my brain doesn't work that way. Maybe yours does; you do you!) I agree with the statement that "color is the design element that people see first and remember most" so it seems quite reasonable that a change in color will create a greater feeling of variety than a change in silhouette or fabrication.

Another take-away for me is that the "wild card" outfits I put together (the bottom right outfit of each image) look quite wearable once accessorized! It's so strange...I didn't choose accessories specifically to make those outfits work; I just used the color-based row concept and kept in mind the colors across the rows when selecting pieces. This is where I think considering colors for both the garments and the accessories can be really just naturally causes you to gravitate toward items that will repeat a color and increase the intentionality of it and/or will help bridge various color combinations.

Two more points:

(1) You absolutely could devote multiple rows to a single color if you want! For example, you could have a row with a blouse, cardigan, and skirt and another row for a sweater, vest, and skinny pants. I can definitely see this happening if you have multiple refinement levels or silhouettes/outfit formulas in your capsule or just really wear that color a lot.

(2) Sometimes I hear people who use the capsule concept get a bit overwhelmed when they are considering adding a new color to a, whoa, do I need to start over from scratch? Not with the grid of color-based rows. You haven't committed to a specific color palette. You would just add another row. 3 garments + 3 accessories = 6 pieces, which is pretty similar to a French 5. Your new row could be an accent color or a new neutral or semi-neutral or even motif based if you want. The French 5 is often discussed in the context of how many pieces you add to wardrobe in a season, highlighting the "shopping plan" element of it, but can also be a method for systematically adding a color to your wardrobe, either as a short-term fling or in line with a long-term vision.

Have you ever thought about your wardrobe in terms of groupings by color? What colors do you have the most/least of in your wardrobe?

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