Let’s be honest, I’ve been putting this off for months! With pregnancy, the craziness of having a newborn baby and then lockdown I have been living in leggings and scruffy jumpers. But if I’m completely honest, it doesn’t make me feel good.
Clothes have such a big influence on how I feel about myself, and I’m sure I’m not the only one that feels this way. Over the last few months I’ve found what I wear restricting further and further. With no where to go it doesn’t matter if I pull on the same leggings and baggy jumper for the third day in a row. But those clothes, while perfect for lounging around the house don’t make me feel good after a while.
Of course choosing comfort over style has become the norm after giving birth. I made sure that my pregnancy wardrobe would last right through those crazy newborn days. After R was born I put away a lot of my work clothes as well as anything that wasn’t suitable for breastfeeding. I even foolishly went shopping in the January sales to try and find clothes that would make me feel better about my new mum-life (something I now regret because time-pressure of having a few minutes to shop without a baby plus sales does not equal good wardrobe choices).
But as we emerge from lockdown and I get ready to return to work I’ve had to accept it is time for a wardrobe reshuffle. If I’m honest I’ve been putting this off for weeks. Although my pre-pregnancy jeans do still fit there’s the voice in the back of my mind worried about whether my work clothes would still fit or still feel like me.
Before I started minimising what I own the wardrobe clearout was always a full weekend task. I would pull out the massive wardrobe full of clothes and slowly work through them – remember all the purchases I should never have made. I would usually end the weekend feeling exhausted and breathless due to the dust from clearing everything out aggravating my asthma.
But for several years I’ve slowly been working down to a capsule wardrobe. I’ve followed the principles of Project 333, mostly packing things away rather than getting rid of things completely. As a result most of my summer clothes (restricted to a few items as I tend to wear clothes all year round) and my pre-pregnancy work clothes have been neatly packed away in our spare room.
So here’s how I set about my back to work wardrobe edit:
What do I have?
I always start by putting all my clothes together on the bed. I’ll pull out any boxes of seasonal items or things I have put away and put them in the pile too. This always used to make me feel overwhelmed as there would just be so many clothes, but over the years the pile has got smaller.
For this review I didn’t get out any of the special occasion dresses that I keep in the wardrobe in the spare room (I have two jumpsuits and two long dresses) but I did pull out a summer jacket to add to the pile as I know I’ll be wearing it over the next few months.
What do I love?
I always start by pulling out the things that I absolutely love. I find that hanging them up together first helps me to think through what fits together. Whenever I’ve read posts about capsule wardrobes there’s always a lot of emphasis on identifying your style. For me that has been a real struggle as there are many styles I love and those that I love sometimes don’t fit my lifestyle. For example, I would love to have a wardrobe filled with floaty romantic linen dresses but 1) that wouldn’t really work for the office and 2) most dresses in that style don’t suit my shape and leave me feeling unhappy about my body – the total opposite of what I want to achieve.
The biggest thing that has helped me hone in on what my wardrobe should include has been understanding my colouring. I actually did a personal shopping session at John Lewis with a stylist which helped me to identify the colour palette I should be aiming for. I really recommend doing this – when I first started moving towards a capsule wardrobe I was heavily influenced by the beautiful styles of other minimalist bloggers and set about filling my wardrobe with clothes in whites, blacks, greys and blues.
But those colours are totally wrong for me. I looked washed out and felt pretty down. It was only when I recognised that I need to focus on a much warmer palette that I started to really develop a wardrobe that I love.
Over time my wardrobe has developed to include lots of greens, pinks and berry shades. I know these look good on me. So for this review when I pulled out a few favourite items I was really pleased to see how well they when together – finally I could see my own style emerging!
What do I wear?
I keep my clothes on a hanging rail in the bedroom. It helps me to see what I have and also keep track of what I’m wearing and what gets left on the hanger. Before pregnancy I would try to review my clothes every three months or so. If I haven’t worn something during that time I try to think why. Is it because I’ve not had a suitable opportunity to wear it? E.g. I tend to only wear my suit jacket if I’m doing a presentation to a client. Is it that it doesn’t fit with my other clothes? Or perhaps I just don’t feel good in it any more.
Thinking through why I’m not wearing something helps me to think through what to do with it. If I think that I might wear it in the next few months I’ll leave it in my wardrobe. If I’m unlikely to wear it, it gets packed away.
By looking at my favourites hung up next to each other I was able to pick out other items that I had previously put away. For example, I have a pair of moss green wool trousers that I had been debating whether to keep. But now I could see how they would make a perfect partner for many of my tops. So they are staying (I’m actually wearing them as I write this post).
I also decided that another pair of trousers that I love would be packed away for now. They are beautiful but in a shade of navy that doesn’t really fit in with the rest of my clothes. Perhaps next time I review my wardrobe I’ll feel differently about them.
Where are the gaps?
Only once I have put everything I’m keeping back on the hangers and put everything else away do I start to think about whether I need to buy anything new.
I’ve been trying to move to a much more eco-conscious and sustainable way of dressing. I’ve never been a big fan of fast fashion (though I’ve certainly bought into it) and learning how exploitative it is has made me realise that I should be using my wealth privilege to be buying better – something made easier when you are only buying one or two new items.
I decided, after a very long time debating whether I would wear it, to invest in a silk camisole from Boden. It’s one of those items that I feel fits with what I want my style to be but I still feel a little nervous about wearing and whether I can pull it off. I decided to take the plunge as I think that it will be a versatile top that will work dressed up for work and dressed down.
I also need to invest in a good pair of trainers – something I can wear with jeans that will still look smart rather than sporty. I spent most of my pregnancy in a pair of super comfortable slip on Sketchers but now that I no longer have swollen pregnancy feet I find them a little too loose to wear. So I’m on the hunt for the perfect pair of shoes to fill this gap.
Can I breastfeed in it?
Perhaps the biggest transition for my wardrobe has been choosing clothes that I can easily breastfeed in and feel comfortable. Unsurprisingly most of my work clothes don’t fit the bill. This is something I have really struggled with as some of the clothes I really love just don’t work for me because I don’t have access to my boobs. Over time this will become less of an issue but for now it remains a key consideration when choosing my outfit for the day.
My wardrobe in full
So after all that, here’s what’s in my wardrobe:
- 1 pair of jeans – I have a pair of skinny fit jeans from Fat Face that I bought several years ago. They are super stretchy and comfortable but are looking a bit worn so I’m debating whether to re-dye them soon.
- 1 pair black leather leggings – these leggings from Next have been an absolute staple in my wardrobe for several years now. I love how they can be a relaxed weekend outfit or dressed up for going out (not that I get much opportunity to go out)
- Green wool trousers – these trousers from Hobbs are comfortable but smart and perfect for work.
- Pink cotton midi skirt – bought from the Gap several years ago this is the perfect summer skirt and even has pockets.
- Gold pleated midi skirt – bought as a Christmas item this Marks and Spencer skirt is super comfortable and looks equally good for a summer night out as it does dressed up for a winter’s day.
- Navy star print dress – I bought this after I had R as it was so flattering on and has a button down front perfect for breastfeeding. If I’m honest the navy colour doesn’t totally fit into my wardrobe colour palette but rules are made to be broken right?
- Navy leopard print dress – another post-partum purchase which is flattering and suitable for breastfeeding. I normally wear this with black leggings as it’s more tunic length than dress length.
- Black strappy dress – I normally keep this simple dress packed away for holidays but I decided to keep it in my wardrobe for the summer to see how much I wear it.
- Silk pyjama shirt – I bought this shirt when I did a personal shopping session. I love that it’s perfect for work but I can also wear it with jeans.
- White blouse – this is really just a work piece as I’m not sure I could pull it off as a casual outfit.
- White shirt – every wardrobe needs a white shirt, mine is a casual one from the Gap.
- Blush silk cami – the only addition to my wardrobe and I’m hoping it becomes a staple piece.
- Silk vest – I’ve always felt this is slightly too loose but it works well tucked into a high waist.
- 3x vests – I have three tank vests from Primark in grey, navy and pink. I plan to wear these to death as they are really comfortable and versatile.
- Pink chunky knit cardi – mine is from Fat Face.
- Lightweight green knit sweater – I find this lightweight jumper from Gap perfect for colder summer days.
- Pink boiler suit – I bought this the day after I found out I was pregnant with R. It actually did pretty well throughout my pregnancy.
- Black jumpsuit – I think I bought this for a Christmas party several years ago but I actually think it works well for work.
- Mustard tweed blazer – this was another purchase following my personal styling session. I like how throwing it over an outfit instantly makes me feel work ready.
I also have a couple occasion pieces (not that I’m likely to get a chance to wear them) and my black work suit. I also have workout / hiking gear which stays separate to my main wardrobe.