Caroline Joy at Un-Fancy has a great post outlining various tests and rules of thought to use when compiling and considering items to add to a capsule wardrobe. Unlike the usual "eh - it'll work" mindset I typically inhabit while shopping, purchasing for a capsule requires a little more decisive thought. Namely, when shopping for a capsule, it's imperative to remind yourself that you only get one.
So you'd better make it count.
Take this cautionary tale, in which I neglected to heed Caroline's advice, and instead impulsively purchased a white sweater that currently resides in my capsule, nearly untouched.
A couple of months ago, I was in the throes of Winter capsule preparation, making lists of things to buy and giving old clothes to any store or individual who would have them. My kind in-laws had recently gifted me a J.Crew card, and I excitedly headed to the store after work to search for three high-quality, have-for-many-years pieces to fill my newly emptied closet. I found and loved a green silk blouse and black long-sleeve cotton shirt without trouble (on sale!), before turning to stare down a beautiful but full-priced white sweater. I should tell you, the perfect soft and chunky cable knit sweater is something that has been on my list for many years and yet somehow remains elusive. I have searched high and low, and purchased quite a few contenders, without ever finding one that does exactly what I want it to do (i.e., turn me into a seafaring Grace Kelly).
I tried on J.Crew's version of the classic cable knit, and noticed a few less-preferable things right off the bat: 1) the sweater was too long for my short torso, requiring a series of tucks and folds to get it to hang just right, 2) the knit was just big enough that I would need to wear a cami under it, meaning I'd spend the day tugging down a slowly rising tank top, and 3) it was not on sale. Definitely not the perfect cable knit I was searching for.
Looking back, those three issues were painfully obvious from the moment I glimpsed the damn thing. Had I applied Caroline's advice, I would have put the sweater back on the rack, purchased my other two items and moonwalked out of there to continue the search. Instead, I pushed the voice of reason out of my head, decided that it was "good enough", and bought it. Guess what? It's too long for my torso. And the holes in the knit make it just see-through enough that I have to wear a shirt underneath. And I paid full price.
The perfectly nice and fairly pricey sweater pictured above is hanging in my closet at this very moment, collecting dust. Oops.
If the first flop of my capsule experience has taught me anything, it's to always listen to that little voice, and to consider some basic guidelines before whipping out a credit card. In buying that sweater, I purchased something that fails every single one of the seven standards outlined below. Please, learn from my mistake and ask yourself the following questions the next time you're about town and looking to pick up a little something new.
1. If I only get one, is this really the one I want? Is this the best one out there, in my price range?
2. Is it flattering? Really? And I don't mean, is it flattering when you lift your shoulders and suck in your stomach and tuck it in just-so. Can you throw whatever it is on and feel great right then and there? Without making adjustments?
3. Does it fit? Seems like such a no-brainer. But really, does it fit you well?
4. Are you buying the brand? Check yourself - would you buy this if it were a no-brand, consignment find, or are you caught up in the perceived significance of the brand? Is it really better quality than something less expensive?
5. How is the quality, anyway? Check the label. Is this a dry-clean thing? Will the quality of the piece stand up when placed in heavy rotation?
6. Is it in your budget? Can you find it cheaper? Will it go on sale? OR, are you buying it solely because it's on sale? Check yourself (see #4).
7. Is it versatile? Can you picture wearing it with more than just your favorite pair of boyfriend jeans?
If only I had taken the 15 second mental break required to consider the sweater in the context of these guidelines, you'd probably see me walking around in a different sweater. It might even be the elusive magic fisherman cable knit that I have longed for all these years. As for now, I'll kindly retire the J.Crew sweater, try again in a few seasons, and do a better job of remembering the Rule of One.