πŸ”¬ Learning From Miss Louie’s Capsule Wardrobe Formulas

I always really enjoy watching Youtuber Miss Louie’s (Erica) capsule wardrobe videos. I often don’t even feel the desire to copy every outfits, but I always find myself appreciating how the items work really well together while not feeling too repetitive or matchy-matchy, and usually the outfit collages really feel like they have a theme going at the wardrobe level. Have you ever tried to make 30 distinct outfits from 12 pieces of clothing? Or even having 4 tops and 4 bottoms and maybe a dress where all of them really go together while not repeating silhouettes? It’s hard!

I thought I’d write up some notes for myself on patterns in her capsule wardrobes. This isn’t gonna be like, spreadsheet, p-values, answer to life the universe, and everything analytical. Just seeing if there can be some rules of thumb that can be more generically applicable that I haven’t been thinking about when putting together my real (travel) or imaginary capsule wardrobes.

A lot of this I’ve thought about already, and a lot of the same concepts you can find in style how-to books like The Curated Closet so it isn’t anything revolutionary. I just appreciate that she has given us fairly trendy and accessible looking example capsules that can help illustrate some of the points.

I did not meticulously inspect these to see what she was counting as different outfits. I’ve included screenshots of her outfit overview things, but if you’re interested in these at all I would recommend actually watching the videos. Particularly in this latest one, she talks more about how she put these together.

Note that her tips are mixed in with a lot of ad copy, as she has a pretty standard fashion Youtuber business model of plugging Nordstrom, Chicwish, Everlane, etc, but you can mentally filter it down to only the parts about generic qualities of clothing and ignore the specific branded item recs. I personally don’t know any channels of this type that also that have this epic level of production value but aren’t sponsored by large brands, but if you do, please share in the comments!

Let’s get the usual defensive internet disclaimer out: this isn’t a post saying that you should get a capsule wardrobe. There are different ways to do capsule wardrobes, and even within those, it works for some people but not everyone. Take in information, decide what works for you.

Notes

These aren’t all the ones she’s done, but these are all the ones I’m going to look at πŸ™ƒ

Also, I will consider how the overall collages look. This isn’t to say that we should be optimizing for how nice of a Pinterest tile our closets can make, but I think it’s a decent analogy to how you might feel wearing your wardrobe longer term.

One of the periodic questions on r/femalefashionadvice is “I wear the same coat all the time in winter, I am bored to death” or “how do I get out of the sweater and jeans rut?”, since a lot of people do get bored if they wear extremely similar things all the time (inb4 “not ALL people” – yeah, but then you wouldn’t be reading this, presumably. Discussions on how to best put together a personal uniform based wardrobe is a different blog.). Think like, if you were to view all your outfits for a month or two in a collage, would it come off as varied or like the same thing, even if you were wearing different things almost every week?

Spring 2020 (12 pcs x 42 outfits)

miss louie spring 2020 capusle outfits 1miss louie spring 2020 capsule outfits 2

Colors

  • (5) brown, blush, black, light but saturated blue wash, white.
  • 2 light, 2 mid, 1 dark.
  • Black and white appear in tops and bottoms which allows for monochrome base looks.

Silhouettes

  • [loose-fit tapered pants, loose fit shorts, midi skirt] x [fitted top] x [long coat].
  • Some variation in sleeve length and volume. Option to cuff some of them.
  • mix of v-neck, crew neck, and collared tops

Item styling

  • button down knit top as cardigan
  • button down shirt tucked vs tie
  • sweetheart neck vs off the shoulder convertible blouse
  • black top worn over dress
  • dress belted or unbelted
  • I think having the long outerwear is what’s really elevating this from “idk it’s just tops and pants?”
  • scarf hair tie

Other notes

  • This is one of my favorite capsule posts of hers. Clear aesthetic: springy and feminine but not frilly.
  • I think everything goes with everything. Pretty impressive, if you’re not going for a uniform silhouette, this is harder than it looks to do really well.
  • 2 purses add some variety.
  • 2 outerwear pieces (different colors, same silhouette)
  • The beige/white shoes work both as a silhouette extender with the white bottoms and are close enough in value to her skin tone to be low-key in everything else.
  • The pumps get a lot more use than the sneakers.

Fall 2018Β  (12 pcs x 36 outfits)

miss louie fall 2018 capsule outfits 1miss louie fall 2018 capsule outfits 2

Colors

  • (6) black, gray, white, olive, tan, burgundy (only as accent color in purse)
  • 1 plaid item, the shearling jacket is colorblocked
  • Olive and gray appear on both top and bottom. So does white, if you count the one time she wore the sweater tunic as a dress.

Silhouettes

  • 1 long outerwear, 1 hip length
  • dress/skirt have same silhouette
  • 4 necklines: crew neck, turtle neck, collared, scoop neck
  • fitted long sleeve, shirt sleeve, loose long sleeve, option to cuff some sleeves
  • pants are mostly low-key silhouette: fitted or tapered.
  • single pair of boots is nude tone, doesn’t clash with anything

Item Styling

  • Long white turtleneck is worn as a top over the green dress, and as a dress on its own
  • The large scarf + the colorblock lapels on the jacket add variety to the tops

Other Notes

  • The green monochrome fit with the burgundy purse is great
  • The non neturals in the palette make the collage feel visually stronger. Burgundy+green+orangey tan really bringing it.
  • Personally I’m not keen on nude tone boots in general but they do keep the looks from feeling too visually heavy in the collages. I might have gone with white boots instead.

Carry On 2017 (14 pcs + accessories, ~30 outfits)

miss louie carry on capsule 2017 outfits

Colors

  • (6 + red accent color) black, white, gray, tan, olive, dark wash denim
  • I would consider this an all-neutrals palette.
  • 1 stripe shirt, 1 graphic tee, 1 micro print skirt
  • crew neck, collared, square neck with lace-up detail, v-neck
  • Same bottoms formulas, though the skirts are drapier here: fitted pants, tapered pants, midi skirt

Silhouettes

  • Similar outfit formulas as the others

Item Styling

  • Having the bottoms be exclusively dark colors (despite the printed skirt) makes this collage a little less dynamic than the other ones. However having the long camel coat helps break things up.
  • White button down also worn as layering piece, and tied
  • Dress worn as skirt a few times.

Other Notes

  • The green here is a lot more drab than in the previous capsule, so it blends in more with the black/white/gray.
  • This one doesn’t come off as super “capsule” to me in the sense that when seen all together, it just feels like normal outfits. They all look quite nice, but as a set of outfits, they don’t feel actively coordinated. This is my personal distinction between “I have a small wardrobe” and “I have a meticulously assembled capsule wardrobe“. It’s got that next-level coordination at the wardrobe level, not just outfits
    • Again, this is why it’s not for everyone. Realistically there is absolutely no reason you would need to have that coordination if you aren’t using it to make a thumbnail to get people to click on your video. Though of course if your clothes are more coordinated generally, that will make it easier to pull together a coordinated individual outfit when grabbing random things. I have my #ootd instagram account so I honestly do have some of that thumbnail-based motivation when people are deciding whether my feed is cool enough to follow, in addition to getting personal aesthetic pleasure from seeing a well coordinated run of outfits.
  • Aside from the black dress, there aren’t any monochrome looks. I think it’s this, and not the use of prints that is making it feel less focused. I think that her capsules where closer to 1/3 of the outfits are monochrome (black or otherwise) look a lot punchier and less vaguely busy in the collage.

Winter 2019 (12 pcs x 24 outfits)

miss louie winter 2019 capsule outfits 1miss louie winter 2019 capsule outfits 2

Colors

  • (6) black, white, tan, mustard, rust, blue denim
  • coats, which take up the most visual real estate, are high contrast red and black. The next two biggest items, the turtleneck sweater and the scarf, are also different colors (white and tan)
  • No blue top items, only the 1 pair of jeans. I wonder if this would have read better or worse from a collage perspective if she’d gone with a higher contrast wash. I really loved the pop of light blue in the Spring 2020 capsule. Otherwise maybe it would have been better to go with more of a washed black for the jeans.

Silhouettes

  • Mostly volume-on-top silhouettes due to the coats

Item Styling

  • When the bags are the same color as the outfit, it isn’t quite as clear visually
  • Large blanket scarf to break up the outerwear
  • I really like her outfit with the all-white base and the black boots + coat
  • Surprisingly, only one hat. I think if she’d included a white beanie it would have gone with the rest of the clothes and provided a little more variety (+ warmth!)

Other Notes

  • This one had a lot fewer outfit options presented than her capsules usually do, I think because she tried to incorporate the outerwear in most of the looks.
  • But, it’s one of the capsules I personally like the most I think because of how the red and mustard pops + the white monochrome (something that I love to see, but never wear myself because I don’t have the time to do separate laundry to keep whites looking nice, and I don’t really think white bottoms are practical when you take public transit every day).
    • Having 2 clearly different coats (e.g. instead of 1 black parka and 1 black overcoat) really helps with the outfits overview thing.
  • I feel like as a gestalt, this is like “1 red coat and 1 black coat with dark and light fitted bottoms”. I would love to see a winter capsule that does side-by-sides of the base outfit and the full outdoors version, or focusing on just the outer shell (here it feels like the extra outfits without the jackets are cheating).
    • Most people don’t have the space/money/inclination for owning like 10 coats, so I do think that the 2 long coats thing is more realistic. But, then that tends to make more limited options for putting together a visually interesting capsule overview collage. Then you could see how much of a punch say, adding 2 very different colored scarves and 2-3 different hats can make when you have 2 coats.

Winter Carry On 2019 (11 pcs + accessories x ~30 outfits)

miss louie carry on winter 2018 outfits 1miss louie carry on winter 2018 outfits 2

Colors

  • (6) red, black, gray, white, light wash denim, tan, olive
  • 1 striped top, though it isn’t very loud of a stripe
  • I personally love how the red and black really pop out from the wash of cream/tan/light blue in the collage

Silhouettes

  • Similar to the other winter one, pretty much the same silhouette in all of them (can’t blame her, this is a practical cold weather silhouette and I would probably do the same)
  • However, having the big turtleneck option and the scarf helps switch it up. The parka has a fluffy hood lining which makes it more distinct from the more sleek and formal coats.

Item Styling

  • Contrast laces on boots adds visual interest the black pants pairings
  • I feel like socks are underused as an accessory here

Other Notes

  • Again, with winter capsules it’s a little weird because you can cheat the collage with outerwear. Would have preferred if she had an outdoors focused one and an indoors focused set separately.
  • Like with her other travel focused capsules, I like that it includes some loungewear fits. I’d have liked to see collages where the business/casual-out/casual-in outfits were grouped together.

Notes on the notes

I didn’t bother to write this one in every section, but Miss Louie always includes a variety of fabrics in her capsule items: more casual vs formal, structured vs unstructured. she also always has her hair and makeup done in that standard “I have a working relationship with a stylist” sort of balayage.

I think what I really want is an example that changes 1 element of a wardrobe at a time. e.g. Same types of items, but 3 colors vs 4 colors vs 5 colors, or making it so more of the color variety is in the tops or in the bottoms, how much of a difference will it make in the entire collection of outfits if you add just one highly trendy piece if it’s a pants, top, jacket, or bag, etc based on the full set of outfit combos (maybe you could manually nix generated outfits that don’t work). But, that’s a project for someone else, because working on a project that big sounds like a slog (I don’t personally find software engineering fun, although I obviously tolerate it enough to do it for work).

Starter Formula

Again, this is not meant as a “every woman should structure her wardrobe like this!” but just as “what is the generic starter formula for a Miss Louie style and scope of capsule wardrobe?” thing. Even she doesn’t stick to exactly the same numbers of items in each capsule.

Also, these reflect current trends, as I think the skirt and layering silhouettes would be very different in say, 2012 where you might go for a mini circle skirt and cropped jackets only, or with butt-length cardigans that are a similar length to skirts and work well with super-skinny jeans.

  • 3 tops
    • Each should have a different necklines and color (can repeat colors if you do more tops)
    • One of the shirts ideally should be a button down style that doubles as a layering piece
    • One shirt should be dressier (blouse or collared shirt) and at least one should be minimal+casual for layering
    • Bonus points if one of the tops is a long tunic that could also work as a dress. This may be unrealistic as i don’t know how easily the type of tuck she’s doing will hold up IRL when you have to use public restrooms and maybe don’t have the time to spend 20 minutes readjusting it afterwards. Also, I’ve tried the bra/second hidden belt tuck trick, but I’ve always found it never stays. I may just not have the right type of fabrics though.
    • Should have a variety of sleeve lengths, but none that won’t work under the layering pieces (i.e. why I have a love-hate relationship with balloon sleeves)
  • 1 dress
    • dress fabric should be of a thickness that it will work as a skirt layered under one of the shirts
  • 3 bottoms
    • The skirt should have the same silhouette as the dress. These are probably slim profile midi skirts.
    • Any that have the same color should be different fabrics and/or silhouettes
    • She usually includes at least one legging/skinny and one tapered trouser
  • 2 layering pieces
    • Probably a long cardigan and a jacket, or a long cardigan and a long coat
    • Generally, these item(s) should have a hem that works with the skirts and at least one of them should work with any pants that have a less form fitting silhouette (e.g. very long lightweight jacket with full length wide leg trousers)
  • 2 shoes
    • At least one of these would be nude or close to it if you have skirts or shorts
    • The other should probably go with the more common color in the wardrobe palette

General considerations

  • Use 5-6 colors. Usually white/cream and black, denim, camel, and 2 accent colors.
  • At least one set of the tops/bottoms should be the same color for maximum visual effect at the outfits level
  • As much of the color palette as possible should be used across the tops/bottoms (i.e. don’t have all your bottoms the same color)
  • If you’re gonna have an odd-one-out color for an item, it should probably be one of the layering pieces or on an accessory
  • At least one item should be double-duty

Modifications on the formula and examples

So now that we have a more generic starting formula, what are some ways you might adapt it to suit your own style?

  • 🎨 Color palette: Doesn’t have to be all neutrals! For example, I’ve done posts creating mini capsules where the color palette was (red, blush pink, light blue, black, and white) and my personal wardrobe has an awful lot of orange in it. frisky_gatos on Instagram has a great example of a mix-and-match wardrobe that is almost entirely colorful.
    • However, you should at least consider that not including least 1-2 neutral colors will make it a lot more difficult to shop. Most brands will offer neutrals year-round, but certain colors are more widely available in fall/winter or spring/summer. And if they’re not an on-trend color, there won’t be as many options. If you can exercise patience or are okay with shopping mostly online, this can be less of an issue, but it’s something to consider about before you toss allΒ the neutrals out.
    • If you go for fewer colors (or even full monochrome), I would increase the variance in other dimensions of the wardrobe, i.e. silhouettes and textures
  • πŸ•΄ Silhouette: Miss Louie tends to go for fairly wearable and trendy silhouettes. You could definitely use other types of items as long as you consider that hemlines, waistlines, etc should be adjusted to work with each other
    • e.g. if you have mini length skirts and dresses, or dresses/skirts that are more voluminous, you will probably switch out the outerwear to silhouettes that work better with that like cropped jackets or flared coats.
  • πŸŽ€ Formality: She tends to do a range from put-together-casual to creative business casual. I think when sticking to a narrow range of formality, you should pay extra attention that your fabrics still have some texture variety, since that tends to come a little easier when you’re going up/down the formality scale.
  • ⛄️ Seasonal: As discussed in the winter capsule notes, if you are cool with your base outfits but are mostly looking to add variety to your outerwear look, you could consider doing an exercise with how you could expand to a mini capsule of outerwear based items for the winter time using the same concepts of varying color value, silhouette, and texture and having all accessories etc mix and match.
    • Alternatively, you could consciously decide that this is entirely too much work or you don’t want to buy another $200 coat just to add color variety, and if you’re just wearing the jacket for the commute, that’s alright to wear similar black outerwear on rotation with similarly nondescript winter accessories. Choose your battles!
  • πŸ‘– Adapting to not-a-capsule-wardrobe: Pretty much all this advice can be scaled up and adopted as a guideline (vs hard rule, because when you have 100 items in your wardrobe, it’s unrealistic that all tops should go with all bottoms, etc or that you only buy in 5 specific colors).
    • For example, instead of hard numbers for 3 tops 3 bottoms, consider whether you may have a hard time creating outfits because your favorite items are 80% bottom pieces or shirts.
    • Expand the specific colors to a palette that repeats through the majority of your clothes. For example “muted primary colors”, or “saturated pastels as accent colors”, or even metallics.
    • Do you have any outfits that are a bit of a pop from your most low-key looks? Even if you don’t have a ton of statement outfits, I do think that having a few options for statement outfits that fits your own wardrobe is a great way to keep from feeling too bored with it. You can definitely go too far in the direction of having everything match that it eventually all feels like the same outfit. For example even if you only wear casual things, you could have a bold graphic tee that you pair with a belt and jeans with some interesting elements like rips, colorblocking, or a particularly trendy silhouette. Or if you’re more in the bizcaz camp, have a dress that is particularly sharp cut or cheery print. This is all relative so you should tune it to your own preferences for what level of punchiness you’re comfortable wearing.
    • You can adopt these when curating a distinct subsection of your wardrobe, like your clothes that you wear when it’s over 85F if you live somewhere that doesn’t have long bouts of hot weather, or similarly your base outfits that you wear when it’s really really cold, or maybe a capsule for dressier events if you regularly attend them.

Personal Takeaways

  • πŸ–Œ I’ve been doing pretty well on the color palette and texture variety thing. I love that I can identify dark green and rust as accent colors. I found I really liked the capsules that had a bolder color story, so I should consider more seriously moving towards saturated colors in my wardrobe since I’m not about the #mybeigelife as much as I can objectively appreciate an Instagram feed with the dedication to curate and edit for it (this is a real hashtag with over 400k posts).
  • πŸ”€ I don’t have many double-duty items. I think I will always have a large enough wardrobe that I don’t need this, but I am, especially now that I don’t wear outerwear regularly, missing cardigans. They work as a third-piece and if you get it right, open or closed. I see myself using cardigans in outfits more often in the next few weeks.
  • πŸ‘— I have a lot of different types of bottoms, though not so much tops since I’m picky about necklines and the fit of woven fabrics, and don’t do button-down shirts. It’ll be more work, but I should probably focus on tops and dresses for the next long haul.
  • πŸ“± When looking back at my instagram, I often feel like “Idk…. it’s just a bunch of tops and bottoms, isn’t it? What’s the point?” After this exercise, I think wearing dresses and matching tops and bottoms more often would help break that up a bit. I don’t actually think I have many items that work as matching sets aside from black. The outfits that jump out as me as favorites tend to be the ones with a strong color story, or are all-black but with a lot of textures.
  • πŸ€ I have a few items that do work for matching colors, but I need to revisit why I haven’t been wearing them (e.g. I have a brown balloon sleeved sweater that I’ve not been very keen on wearing when it’s tucked in, so I haven’t done an all-brown outfit for a while. Or my dark green long sleeve shirt which I think I’ve been eschewing because it’s just very plain.)
  • β›„ A pair of white pants to go with my six million white sweaters would definitely add a kick to things, but I’m still not convinced that white bottoms are ever the correct choice for me. It might be fun for weekend outfits or loungewear though.
  • πŸ‘Ÿ I have been thinking about getting a pair of light color value shoes for a while now and I think this is really a point towards that. I’ll probably wait until I actually need shoes though before shopping for these, since I hardly leave the house now.
  • ❄️ I’m very interested by the idea of doing a “capsule” style presentation of winter accessories and outerwear. Like how much can you really push the variety when you’re only using two coats, or one of your items is a basic black puffer jacket? I have some hats that I quite like now, but my few scarves don’t have much variety. I think that this is an idea worth revisiting once it gets cold and I can also actually leave my apartment regularly.
wardrobe calculus
me when consuming any fashion content

Big shout out to the bloggers like Miss Louie who make enough content that it could actually merit a 4000 word meta blog post (or does it? I know nowadays the correct answer to ~how to grow your brand~ is to make lots of shareable Instagram and Facebook posts and videos… but my personal content creation preferences are stuck in 2010 and could really edit a lot of my posts down more aggressively).

Of course there is a whole can of worms about the many issues of influencers, but I won’t deny that it was WAY easier to use her capsules rather than to create and photograph or digitally collage my own together. I do plan on generally only posting my own outfits or imaginary capsules though, as there are enough commenting-on-other-people fashion blogs out there, this is just something I’ve been thinking about for a while since Miss Louie is one of the few professional bloggers I follow.

It’s been a while since I’ve done a good specific look at my items instead of outfits, so I think I will spend some time this week looking at my closet in Airtable and thinking about how I’m using them, particularly in light of being WFH for the foreseeable future. Not that I’m planning to dump all my less comfortable office friendly items – that would be stupid, as pandemics are temporary, even if they last a few months – but I do think I’ve been focusing on work-targeted structured stuff too much and realizing including some more cool but comfy outfits even for around the house makes me a lot happier. I’m getting old, I guess.

Let me know if you found this helpful! I have been a bit tired of all the content that is heavily sponsored and I wanted to just clear my head a little of it. I get it, but I also hate it. At least in other categories the sponsorship is more segregated, and nobody thinks that in order to get good at gardening or understand imaginary numbers that you need to get a Skillshare account or Squarespace site, whereas in fashion accounts the sponsorships are usually integrated into the content itself.

Stay healthy out there 🏑

More reading

  • Stylebee tips for creating a 10×10: She includes a suggested formula to play around with as well as general advice
  • Unfancy has a lot of posts on how to streamline your wardrobe. She doesn’t post much nowadays and it is at this point a highly sponsored blog, but there are some good tips in there.
  • The Curated Closet by Anuschka Rees – the bible of wardrobe overhauls. About your full wardrobe, not just making cute little thumbnail-friendly capsule wardrobes.
  • See all my capsule-related posts (including the “translating styleboards to wardrobes” series here
    • PDF guide for translating styleboards into realistic wardrobes (similar content to The Curated Closet or any other advice guide for the same topic, but more tailored at people whose ideal aesthetic is perhaps too costumey for their actual lifestyle, vs those whose style boards on Pinterest are already pretty wearable/shoppable to start with)

 

 

7 Comments

  1. I’m trying to learn why I look at outfits or capsule wardrobes and think “That looks styled, not just haphazardly thrown together,” so I really appreciate your notes! I haven’t actively thought about silhouettes nor necklines before.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow, this was an impressive post to read! I don’t do a capsule wardrobe but I always enjoy reading about them,maybe because the capsule bloggers written in a little more detail about their clothes and why they pick them out and style them? (Really, that’s the biggest thing I miss about older blogs, I love reading people’s thoughts about their clothes and wardrobes and a lot of the bigger bloggers don’t do that any more and so many of the older blogs have stopped posting.) This was really interesting to read through, especially about the outerwear.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks! Yes, that’s one of the reasons I feel like so much of my instagram feed is more capsule/sustainable sorts of accounts. I really like reading how people decide what to wear and that just seems to be the main community that is vocally thoughtful about that.

      I wish it was easier to find more accounts that did wearable but creative looks AND also write about them. #alwaysplaydressup is pretty good for finding more maximalist ootds, but most of the time they aren’t ootd diary accounts, more of aesthetic or shop/influencer accounts.

      Like

  3. Just caught up on a bunch of your posts now. I love your ultra analytical breakdowns on (capsule) wardrobes. I think it’s especially helpful that you analyse other people’s wardrobes as well, since by looking at another person’s style you can still look for the underlying principles. It just recently clicked with me that different people’s personal style, lifestyle, body shape, colouring, etc. affect why I can’t just copy and paste someone else’s wardrobe and be done with it.

    Like

    1. Thanks for checking in! Yeah, another thing I thought of in that vein is how so many smaller capsule wardrobe outfit sets are actually slightly less practical in that they involve a lot of layering, like cami dresses over turtlenecks or wearing a top over a dress. It’s hard to find items that work well as both base and top layers, and having to deal with stuff riding up underneath or belts shifting around or snagging things. It looks great, but I suspect most people would find it easier to do the just-a-top-and-pants combos.

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