Choosing items for my 2021 May 30×30 capsule wardrobe

The #may30x30 is an Instagram-based capsule wardrobe prompt where for the month of May, you pick 30 items and wear only those for the 30 days! The 30 items typically doesn’t include things like workout wear, undergarments, or accessories, and as it’s more of an exploratory activity than anything else, you can choose whether you want to include shoes and outerwear. (I include shoes and outerwear in my count, but not accessories like hats or bags.) It was previously organized by @petraalexandra and @jazzyhwang, but this year was picked up by @elysehollday.

As I’m currently at a point where I like pretty much everything in my closet and know how to pair things well enough that 30×30 isn’t much of an actual challenge, I decided to take the lazy way out and start out with a “progressive capsule”, which is just a slick way of saying that you pick items as you go instead of meticulously choosing your items ahead of time.

To me, picking 10-15 items is fun, but balancing cohesiveness and variety in 30 items is just overwhelming! So seeding the capsule with some items and then more consciously curating things from there is easier. The following screenshot is from Instagram, so it’s in reverse chronological order starting from the bottom left (May 2nd, as on May 1st I was still in the early stages of recovering from a concussion and still marinating in the same set of pajamas from three days before).

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The first week of the month was pretty warm and I still wasn’t feeling like trying too hard on outfits, so I started out with some one-and-done dresses that were comfortable to take extended naps in. I think my favorite dress of all time might be that dusty turquoise midi dress because it’s super romantic, easy to dress up or down, AND is one of the most comfortable dresses I own.

In a fit of boredom I had styled a bunch of looks for my Frog and Toad graphic tee post, so I followed those up with my favorite (aside from the classic combo with simply jeans and sneakers) from the batch. After another few days of comfort and inertia motivated outfits, I decided that I should go ahead and pick out the rest of the items because there was now 1) a color scheme, 2) enough used items that I didn’t want to dress myself into a corner with missing practical items after a few too many spontaneous outfits, and 3) the weather got chillier so I wasn’t going to be able to repeat the same lightweight dresses indefinitely.

As of May 12th, I had the following items in the pool (shoes aside):

This is rather bolder and bluer color scheme than I usually go for, but for a capsule challenge I actually find that using items that result in a different concentration of hues keeps things feeling novel. Orange/blue/teal/black/white is actually one of my favorite palettes (as documented in Mini Theme Wardrobe: Lazy Sunday in the City, or “Wears a Kanken Backpack”), even if it’s not something that most people would associate with me.

Still, colors alone can’t keep you warm, so the first pieces I decided to add were items more suitable for cooler weather. The bodysuit and chelsea collar blouse are two statement pieces that I don’t feel like I wear nearly enough, so I threw those in. However, with any sort of capsule, whether for fun or travel, I find it’s essential for me to include at least one very boring, practical, and comfortable top that goes with jeans, and so I added the fitted scoop neck for an easy option for colder days.

The initial set of items is mostly crew neck pieces, so these should also be helpful for mixing things up with the more varied necklines.

Looking back at my grid, I felt that things were reading more red/blue I wanted, so I selected a few more orange items and my second dusty turquoise dress to pull the palette more toward green/orange. To make sure the colors would be mixed in through different types of outfits, I picked a variety of base and layering items in those colors.

I know myself enough to know that within a month I’m definitely going to miss black denim, especially now that I actually have some that fit. My two options were the pleated pair and the straight pair. The straight leg pair is less interesting, but given that I already included a pair of pleated trousers I went with them for more variety. They’re also more comfortable than the non-stretch pleated pair, and I know that will be useful on days when I’m going to care more about practicality than fun.

After all that, I’d added these 9 pieces for clothing. Looking at them together, this is a much more typical mgetsdressed spread. But with any longer term capsule, for me it’s always nice to include a mix of newer pieces (like the Frog and Toad tee and the quilted dress) and staples to see how you can realistically mix newer pieces with stuff you know you’re going to wear anyway.

(Bonus “secret”, I actually own two each of those sleeveless dresses after I realized they went with basically everything I own.)

For shoes, at the time I decided to put together the rest of the mini wardrobe, I’d already worn my Converse, chunky sneakers, granny boots, and both my sandals. I added the platform boots to round out the color values and add a cold-weather friendly walking option, and the white pointed-toe boots for a dressy option. The brown derby flats are a staple with the shorter dresses and black jeans, so I picked those out for good measure. When I’m on vacation the number one thing that I miss most is always shoe variety, so since this is an at-home capsule I’m going to save myself the anguish and just use most of the things in my usual rotation.

I think this is a larger portion of footwear than people typically include in capsule challenges, but I’m a Shoe Person and I saved myself some space in the count by including 6 (six!) dresses.

Shoes

So in addition to the 8 shoes I now have 18 pieces for a total of 26 items. I’m leaving the last 4 spots open as wildcards to accommodate for any whims or freak weather changes that may come up. I feel like I say this every time I do a capsule challenge, but this might be my best yet. All those items, sorted by category:

dresses and pants

Items

tops and layering

Items

Looking at everything together, it definitely looks like I was inspired by the bags and hats that I’ve been using the most in the last few weeks.

Items

  • Embroidered cap (bought at local garden shop, you can find basically the same thing on etsy and amazon)
  • Brixton “Joanna” straw hat
  • Urban Outfitters embroidered corduroy tote (sold out, but they periodically release totes in the same form factor with embroidered prints with the same energy)
  • The classic Trader Joe’s canvas tote

I don’t count accessories, but here’s a spread of some smaller items that will be in the mix. My clothing is predominantly solid colors, but I’ve come to enjoy using masks as a pop of print. As with the rest of my wardrobe, I tend to collect very similar accessories in different colors. For me, I like the comfort of knowing the fit and feel will be consistent and color is the main thing that keeps me from feeling like I’m in a rut.

Items

One particular accessory that I want to try and style in some “outfit outfits” is this big-ass mesh daisy scrunchie. I wear it with lounge outfits but I’ve yet to actually have it in the feed. I’m thinking I might use it more as a bracelet with the black and orange dresses as a purely decorative touch.

It’s also always useful to discuss things that didn’t make the cut. Some regulars that you might be wondering about:

  • clogs – these might still make it in, especially since they work so well with the wide leg jeans. But we’ve moved to a pretty hilly neighborhood and to be honest these are a little wobbly to walk in and I saw myself always reaching for Birkenstocks instead. I appreciate having these around as a mid-dressy option for spring/summer events, but I’ve just not been feeling less practcal shoes.
  • 1460s – These seemed redundant with the Dr Martens Leonas, and since I’ve bought those I find myself reaching for the 1460s less often as I think the Leonas are better suited to my foot shape. Sometimes an outfit needs a punch that only a Hieronymus Bosch print combat boot can add, but those outfits tend to be mostly black or with fitted bottoms and this capsule was more relaxed.
  • pink quilted jacket – I’ve been wearing this a TON lately for walks, but with the high-waisted baggier pants and I think the cropped silhouette of the fleece will be easier to style in a flattering way. Also, I just wanted a change.
  • puff sleeve waffle-knit shirts – I included these in the May 30×30 last year and I wanted to switch it up. I look forward to wearing the black puffy top with jeans and the printed docs on the first suitably mild day in June, though. And I also prefer wearing these with more fitted skirts and pants, and they don’t layer easily with the button down shirts I’ve included, so they wouldn’t be the most versatile in this mix.

To round up, some things I’m digging about this collection are

  • Color palette – bold and springy but not super typically springy like pastels. I think this may also be the most prints and graphics I’ve had in my wardrobe at once since I was a little kid.
  • Comfortable – when I first started out thinking about my outfits, I found it easiest to feel put-together and intentional by wearing more structured items. In my earliest capsule challenges, there were a lot of non-stretch waistbands and fitted items. Here I appreciate that except for maybe the statement collar shirt, there isn’t anything that is so uncomfortable or fussy that I’d want to change out of it to have a nap on the couch or go for a longer walk. (And even that shirt is actually a stretchy fabric.) But there’s still a solid variety of cuts, so it doesn’t feel like I’ve resorted to the same few items. This is a big relief from a few months ago when I didn’t have any jeans that fit and only sweatpants for casual options. I’m very pleased that the wide leg jeans and all the beachy dresses have gotten a lot of regular wear.
  • Includes some storybook/romantic pieces – comfortable doesn’t mean it can’t also have billowy sleeves and ruffles. The whole reason I got into fashion in the first place was because I was tired of only wearing t-shirts and jeans, so being able to mix in the fun pieces without waiting for an event is great. When I first started getting back into dresses and skirts, I tended to consider them as more of a separate style sub-capsule in my wardrobe, but lately I’ve enjoyed styling them with casual hats and sneakers to integrate them more into the “crunchy casual” vibe.
  • All the fabrics – everything from fleece to flannel to floaty gauze

I’m looking forward to

  • Outfit repeating some best-ofs from the “tale of two dresses” combos
  • Styling the wide-leg jeans and quilted dress, which are newer pieces
  • Just wearing my dang collection of Free People dresses. I didn’t pay all that money to have them as decor on the wooden clothes rack.

Are you doing the May 30×30? If you’re in this year or have recently played around with a capsule, what aspects did you prioritize? Let me know in the comments below, or leave a note on whether this post was interesting or helpful. I love feedback!

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