Week One: Capsule Wardrobe Accessories




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This is the third post on building a Capsule Wardrobe for the 2014 Clutter Cleanse. You can read part one here and see my basics list here. Looking for more about capsule wardrobes from a stylist and mom? I love the e-book The No Brainer Wardrobe by Hayley Morgan ($7.99 which I have saved many times over with fewer shopping mistakes).

If my neutral basics freaked you out don’t despair. Today: accessories.

Long ago I had an obsession with Coach hand bags.

I pined over wristlets and suede hobo bags. When I caved and bought myself an overpriced  handbag (on credit of course) I did so in the name of treating myself. Handbags were bought as consolation for not making the 2004 Olympic team and as gifts to myself after breaking up with a boyfriend.

When I drastically reduced our stuff I also drastically reduced my handbag collection. The ones that got the boot first? The expensive but not practical Coach handbags. I donated them all to a second hand store that supports women in need.


Now I own just three hand bags. None of them are designer brands.

Because my basic wardrobe is full of neutrals in black, navy and grey, I can have brightly colored hand bags and still use them daily. They give a nice pop of color and, along with a few other accessories, make my wardrobe appear larger than it is.

My two daily handbags are a large red tote (vegan leather from Canadian company Matt and Nat that is still in great shape with frequent use over six years) and a medium sized mustard yellow cross body satchel with an adjustable strap. For nights out and special occasions I have a grey clutch. That’s it. If I need some extra carrying capacity I use reusable shopping bags and when I travel on long haul flights with my kids I usually wear a backpack.

I gave up on diaper bags long ago.

Jewelry seemed too fussy back in my 20s.

I was an athlete, showered three times a day and didn’t like the feel of a necklace on me or earrings in when I trained. And now that I have young kids there are limits to what I can wear. Limits and yet some days putting a pair of earrings in is the difference between feeling like I have the “just rolled out of bed” look to having a “put some care into her appearance” look.

Yes, sometimes a pair of earrings masks fuzzy hair, lack of sleep and the stain on your top you didn’t notice until you were a long way from home.

I’ve collected and been gifted a small collection of precious and costume jewelry that I will detail below. Some of it I wear daily, some it I will wear daily once I don’t have a young baby that wants to hang off of or chew on my necklace and some of it is just for nights out.

Again, this is just what works for me, my life and budget. When you look at your own jewelery collection start with an empty box and slowly add in your pieces that you love. If you have nice things that you never wear ask yourself what you’re saving them for. Beautiful things are meant to be seen and enjoyed.

  • diamond studs and pearl studs: these are my daily wear earrings. They take five seconds to put on yet instantly dress up whatever I am wearing – even if it’s the second day for an outfit and unbeknownst to me there is a small yogurt hand print on the back of my jeans.
  • bird necklace, diamond solitaire necklace, long strand of pearls: the pearls were a recent gift and I love how they look casually as a long single strand but become more formal when they are doubled.
  • statement earrings and two statement necklaces: sparkly bold costume jewelry to dress up a casual evening outfit or compliment a cocktail dress.
  • wedding band, engagement ring and set of four stacking rings: I wear my band and engagement ring daily. The stacking rings are mixed and matched and worn a few times a week.

 I’d like to add:

  • another pair of daily earrings: something like this or this.
  • a teething necklace: perhaps one of these statement necklaces that are baby teething safe


A scarf let’s me experiment with color and, again, gives some variety and ‘flare’ to my basics.

I also need a scarf because it’s really cold and windy here most of the year. It’s a wonderful thing when function and fashion meet.

My collection of scarves is at eight right now. Again, finding unique patterns and colors for scarves expands my wardrobe while leaving my closet trim. While I would never wear a neon t-shirt (at least not in the last two decades…) I have one scarf with neon striping. So I get the fun of neon without committing an every day piece like jeans or a sweater to it. Again, I can wear bold colors because my foundation layer of clothing is in neutrals.

So tell me, how is your closet declutter going? Are you happy with your basics? Are you keeping a list? Resist the urge to get it ‘perfect’ right now. Perfect is the enemy of good. I still have items that I am saving for and my wardrobe, while I’m happy with it right now, will probably always have a few spots that I am working on.

Next up: shoes, shoes, shoes. I used to have thirty pairs. Thirty and I wore just a third of them more than once a year.

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  • I am not doing a clothing purge this month because all of my energy is focused on life as usual PLUS Whole30. But I will return to this series later because editing my wardrobe and enjoying everything that I have in my closet is important to me.

    And I’m with you on the diaper bag thing. Haven’t used one since my first was born, five years and two other kids ago:)

    • Yeah Whole30!! I’m on Day 6. Finding this one extra challenging. Maybe because I am solo parenting for half the month? Plus I ate a lot of sweets over the holidays :( How’s it going for you?

  • I am in total agreement on the diaper bag issue. Didn’t use one for either of my girls. And while I agree with you on the number of handbags in a basic wardrobe, I see no reason why those can’t also be designer. My everyday purse and wallet are coach and I love them for their durability, size, color finish, etc. Every inexpensive handbag I have bought fell apart with regular use and I probably spent more replacing them often.

    I am looking forward to replacing my tote with something more expensive and durable. My wallet can also act as a clutch :)

    • Designer isn’t a bad thing :) My Coach handbags aged well and were well made but I bought ones that were impractical for my life as a parent (too small or suede).
      My wallet/pocketbook is designer and I love it.

  • I’m a fan of “matches everything/could survive a nuclear apocalypse” quality handbags and totes for everyday and vintage clutches for evening wear. I’ve had a plain black leather coach slouch tote for the last 8 years, procured secondhand from eBay and still looking good as new. Day to day use is the LL Bean boat and tote with the zip top option as it minimizes the risk of anything falling out in the car and handy for groceries, library visits and change of clothes/nappies for my girls. My evening bag is a vintage gold clutch I bought for my wedding and have used numerous times since. Simple, classic, lovely.

    Can I ask where you got your awesome stripy scarf?

  • My closet purge has been very liberating. I let go of things that don’t quite fit (and haven’t in years) and several things I “kinda liked” but that matched nothing (not even me and my style). Now I like everything in there. As a bonus with a clear plan in mind, shopping doesn’t seem as torturous (no exaggeration there) as it did before!

  • I’ve already done one wardrobe purge and did project 333 last summer. At the end of the project I looked at my wardrobe in a whole new light and got rid of another 50%. Still got a way to go, but I like to purge winter clothes in winter and summer clothes in summer so that I can try out the new combinations of less as I go along. Although as I am in the North of England, like you I don’t have much call for summerwear!
    I am right with you on the bags. I have slightly more than three but the are bright green, orange, purple, red, grey and green and a delicious sludgy grey. They go with aboslutely everthing!

  • I got through mine this weekend. It was a lot of fun and most of the clothes went to my friend’s 13 year old twin girls (they are thinner than I am, but the same height, so most of the shirts fit fine). They also have the same shoe size so I finally got rid of my patent leather, steel toed 18 hole Doc Martens, which I wore only occasionally. I am approaching 40 (next month), and felt that some things in my closet were too young and wild for the person I am now. I also found that I had many things that I bought because I liked them but had nothing to go with them. Comfy clothes got cleaned out, workout wear got cleaned out, and t-shirts got cleaned out. I still have to go through undergarments, but that is for another day right now. I eyed my closet from a different perspective this time- it wasn’t whether or not I liked something, it was whether or not I would wear it and how often and with how many other things in my closet. There is definetly a theme in my closet now. Lots of black and grey, with burgundy and purple.
    As far as purses, as I said in another post, I am in the military. Our purse has to match our shoes (uniform), and we have 3 different color shoes (brown, white, and black). Add to that the civilian purses and I have lots. Have you ever heard of Miche purses? The concept is a base bag with interchangeable shells for the outside of the purse so you can change the look. I like their purses and found that this concept works well for me. Like any other accessory, simply changing the shell on the purse changes the outfit. I need a new base bag and I purged some shells, but I still have 5, from casual to dressy. I get to feel like I have lots of different purses without the need to store lots of purses. It also saves time; I don’t change out the entire purse, just the shell. The shells for the classic bag I have fit into a holder from Miche that I have hanging on the back of the door, so it doesn’t take up a lot of space.

    I have been following your blog for over a year now and I love it. In 2013 I purged over the entire year. It might not look like it to anyone who walks in the door today, but we’ve made at least 5 trips to the thrift store and stuff that needs to go now. I made it a lifestyle change and not an event, which has worked very well. I also finally accepted that just because someone gave me something as a gift, I do not have to keep it forever. Before finding your blog, every horizontal surface had something on it. Not anymore. I feel the difference when I walk in the door and I love it. Thank you for writing your blog!!

    • I haven’t heard of Miche purses. Sounds like a brilliant idea. :)

      I eyed my closet from a different perspective this time- it wasn’t whether or not I liked something, it was whether or not I would wear it and how often and with how many other things in my closet

      Yes! Yes! Yes! I had lots of things in my closet that I liked but never wore (too small, didn’t fit lifestyle, etc). So true that you have to like the garment and be able to wear it seamlessly with the rest of your clothing.

  • I am currently 29 weeks pregnant, so I can’t do this task quite yet, but come fall(ish) when I get closer to my pre-pregnancy weight, I am going to return to these posts! They are so helpful and break it down in a way that doesn’t seem quite as daunting. :)

  • First time post, but I love your blogs!
    I have 3 purses, one winter, one summer, and one evening (which I never use but it’s one of those I-might-need-it-later things).
    I have 1 pair of sandals in light tan, one black pair of black dress shoes, 2 pair of mules which I wear summer and winter, and 1 pair of really expensive hiking boots. I wear a 10 1/2 wide, so I make sure all of them fit well. I do pay a lot, but I recently had one of the mules redone at the cobbler instead of buying new ($22 verses $98).
    Your blog inspired me to go through my clothes yesterday. I played in my closet for about an hour and have several things to go to the Goodwill.
    Right now I am losing weight so I do not have a problem with buying new. I make do with belts and safety pins. I am getting rid of the too big clothes: I figure that my frugality will prevent the weight from coming on again.
    I love the fact that you are tall. I am 5’11” and know the sinking feeling of finding longer sleeves. Pants are not a problem, but oh, the tops are! I solved that by buying one menswear good shirt and wearing 3/4 lenth sleeves the rest of the time.
    My earrings are similiar: one silver, one gold, one pearl. I have 3 matching necklaces, and never wear bracelets.
    Scarves are my downfall. I own at least 12. Should I cringe?

  • Will you be offering any discount codes for the No Brainer Wardrobe? I usually get books from the library to save money, so I was hoping there might be a discount in the future here. I would really love to read this book. :)

    • Check in at Hayley’s website to see if she offers a discount. While I love the book I am sure you could check out a few library books on capsule wardrobes for inspiration and how to :)

  • I had to giggle a little at the irony of “the only 3 handbags you need!” It seemed a little counter-intuitive to me, but I’m glad you found what works for you. I’ve gotten it down to just a clutch. On the days I have to carry more (like snacks and water bottles), I just use a cloth shopping bag. I’ve gotten that lazy/minimalist. I used to have a really nice canvas shopping bag that has now somehow disappeared, so I use a crappier one I still love from my old job. Since our boys are a bit older, I expect them to carry their shit a lot more, which I have to say is really nice. As for jewelry, I’m at a big, fat ZERO since losing my wedding ring last year and also have the same number of scarves since it seems like too much matching for me. I’m definitely a jeans + hoodie/t-shirt kinda girl, which works well for lazy minimalism 😉

    • Yes, as I say often on this blog, I’m a moderate minimalist. I know a lot of people struggle with dozens of handbags (I used to) so having just three has been a big and good change for me.

  • I also have three bags.
    An elegant little golden piece from Monsoon for dressy occassions. A black medium crossbody bag from Radley, which is my everyday/work, and elegant (but not too dressy) bag. Finally, I have a fairly big Longchamp bag, which i use from everyday shopping to (up to a week’s) travel. I also use it as an everyday/workbag when I need to carry more than what fit into the Radley.
    I would like to buy a medium/ large size, bright coloured leather bag. Mainly because i do not have any bright bags, but also because i don’t want to use the Longchamp as often as I do, I prefer to keep that for travel. But then, do I really need another bag?? :)

    Jewelry: Apart from my wedding ring,engagement ring end a necklace, everything is inherited. Most days i wear my two rings, a white gold/diamond necklace and matching earrings. I am not overly keen on statement necklaces, but I probably would need at least one. It would go well with my black rollneck, and other dark tops. Maybe Monsoon Accessorize? :)

    I also need to at least one bright light scarf. I have very summery scarfs and cozy winter ones, but non for the ‘average’ grey damp day. :)

  • My baby is 14 months. I’ve had the chewbeads for her since she was about 3 months old. She still loves them. I picked a necklace in a color that went well with most my clothing choices so I could wear it often. It’s served us well and I expect we’ll use it for a while longer.

  • I am really enjoying your ‘clutter cleanse’ series! I, too, generally have quite neutral coloured clothing, and a big focus on jeans. I love colourful accessories too. My wardrobe really needs a good sorting out at the moment, as it contains a mixture of clothes that used to fit before pregnancy, pregnancy clothing (which has continued to be worn waaaay after the last pregnancy!) and the clothes that I can fit into now. Am going to refer to your series again, once I’ve achieved my goal of losing a few kilos, and will then tame that wardrobe, to organise it in a way that actually works for me.

    Thanks for the inspiration!!! Have been a follower of your blog for a about a year, and love your positive approach to life and finances.

  • I have graduated to backpacks for purses. Yep, Vera Bradley. I had always used messenger or crossover body bags. Then, they were hard to find because they went out of style. The backpack is just wonderful. So much fits in it! It is always on your person. Not easily pick pocketed either. Nor easily snachtable. I have three now. Small for everyday. The double zip which is my favorite and i just got the black campus bag for travel. So easy instead of dragging a carryon. I like the double zip when i take one of my day trips. Paxk so much in it. Highly recommend.

  • Glad to report a HUGE purging has happened here!!! I am leaving my corporate job within the next year and even if the fat Genie came down and sucked out 40lbs, I still had way to many someday and fantasy me work wear in my closet. Out it went. I am also changing fields, so the suits and fancies can go. I have 4 pairs of pants and probably 20 different tops to go with 3 pairs of shoes for work. I kept a fancy lacy skirt and a black sheath dress that I love for fancy attire but I can dress up or down, depending. 2 pairs of ballet flats, 1 pair of kitten heels, 1 pair of knee high boots. (These may go because I am not happy with the way they feel)

    I used the LL Bean boat and tote, zip top, long handles, for my diaper bag as well. Hubby liked it because it was manly enough and could carry a ton. We now use it for travel.

    I have 1 cross body small purse from Coach that I adore and 1 small clutch, 1 leather work bag and I am still on the hunt for something to travel with. I would like to find something that rolls easily and is small-ish but roomy.

    Accessories- 1 straw cowgirl hat, 4 scarves, wedding ring set, 1 pair of diamond studs, 2 watches, 3 necklaces and 1 bracelet. 2 pairs of sunglasses.

    Everyday clothing- jeans/shorts, t shirts and flip flops or cowgirl boots. 2 fleece, a bin of workout gear, underclothes, socks, etc. 1 winter jacket, 1 jean jacket, 1 army green mid season jacket, 1 leather jacket ( I do wear them all and they almost become part of some outfits), 4 floaty tops , 2 pairs of cowgirl boots, 1 pair of UGGS, several pairs of flip flops/sandals (It IS Texas after all) and 2 pairs of sneakers. 1 pair of house shoes.

    I mostly wear navy blue, hot pink, purple and turquoise sea blue with a mix of jeans and a neutral brown and white/black t shirts, here and there. This is all of my wardrobe, so my professional and at home stuff intermingles sometimes. :)

    Need to buy:
    1 hot pink scarf
    1 backpack
    1 pair of jeans (to replace 1 pair I ripped)

    I am still editing but I went from over 400 items total down to 165.

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