New Year, Old Tricks: Intentional Wardrobe

Casey of Dressed to Code layers up with the Patagonia Better Sweater Fleece Jacket in Birch White and the North Face stretch thermoball down alternative jacket, finished with Madewell 10" high rise skinny jeans in black and Hunter original refined rain boots in a matte black finish.
These staples from my intentional wardrobe are sticking around for 2017 and beyond.

Welcome to the second post in the mini-series I’ve decided to call New Year, Old Tricks. See the first installment here. The year 2016 was disproportionately awful, but there were some personal highlights worth keeping around. Today I’ll be talking about something that has come to be fundamental to the direction of this blog: the intentional wardrobe. I recognized that my free t-shirts and worn out jeans from college didn’t suit my new life or climate. I wanted to revamp my closet in a thoughtful, cohesive manner that would produce a wardrobe I felt great wearing. The latest addition to that intentional wardrobe is a member of my winter layers category: the “Better Sweater” from Patagonia.

Casey of Dressed to Code is cozy in black and white with the Patagonia Better Sweater Fleece Jacket in Birch White and Madewell 10" high rise skinny jeans in black and Hunter original refined rain boots in a matte black finish.
While it’s not black, this dappled grey fleece fits right into my color scheme.

Better Sweater or Fancier Fleece?

I’ve had my eye on this fleece jacket for a while, as it seems to be a Pacific Northwest staple. The “better sweater” comes in a variety of iterations, including a vest and 1/4 zip in both men’s and women’s fits. However, I was willing to pay more for the full zip jacket with front zip pockets. Because the Birch White color in a size XS wasn’t availible in stores, I ordered the jacket online from REI. (As you may have seen on my Instagram story, the jacket arrived with its security tag still on, but the store was able to take that off easily.)

Casey of Dressed to Code is cozy in black and white with the Patagonia Better Sweater Fleece Jacket in Birch White and Madewell 10" high rise skinny jeans in black and Hunter original refined rain boots in a matte black finish.
Here you can just see the pocket on the upper left arm.

The jacket is a thick polyester fleece with a woven-looking finish. There are three zip pockets: two in the usual positions on the front, and one on the upper left arm. The arm pocket is larger than it looks, and my entire card holder wallet fits inside with room to spare. I haven’t worn the jacket too much around Seattle, as my North Face Stretch Thermoball is usually plenty warm. However, I have room for this fleece under my thermoball as part of my layering recipe.

Casey of Dressed to Code is cozy in black and white with the Patagonia Better Sweater Fleece Jacket in Birch White and Madewell 10" high rise skinny jeans in black and Hunter original refined rain boots in a matte black finish.
Here’s the back of the jacket: fitted but not too tight.
Casey of Dressed to Code layers up with the Patagonia Better Sweater Fleece Jacket in Birch White and the North Face stretch thermoball down alternative jacket, finished with Madewell 10" high rise skinny jeans in black and Hunter original refined rain boots in a matte black finish.
It may be cold outside, but these layers are keeping me nice and toasty.

Layering Up

My layering recipe for tops is pretty straightforward: skin layer + fuzzy layer + fluffy layer + shell. Everything except that skin layer is optional depending on the weather. I wear anything from a light cotton t-shirt to a wool base layer against my skin, depending on conditions. However, a skin layer with even short sleeves will protect your jackets and leave them cleaner for longer. In other words, sleeveless tank tops expose your jackets to sweat and deodorant staining.

Wearing so many jackets can be annoying when you come inside and start melting. As an upside, you end up with enough pockets to often leave the purse at home. Nonetheless, the different pieces allow for a wider variety of options. You probably compile many of these options without even thinking about it. If it’s warm but rainy or windy, throw the shell on over your skin layer. If it’s cold but calm, the skin layer and fluffy layer might do the trick. A fuzzy layer over a skin layer is great when it’s chilly inside. The possibilities aren’t endless, but there are seven of them, not accounting for different skin layers.

I tend to use my Madewell Whisper Cotton Tees as skin layers, as they breathe well and are pretty thin. This Patagonia Better Sweater will serve as my fuzzy layer, and my fluffy layer is my North Face Stretch Thermoball jacket. While (shockingly) not in the black/grey color scheme of the other layers, I use my Marmot Gore-Tex jacket as my wind and waterproof shell.

Casey of Dressed to Code is cozy in black and white with the Patagonia Better Sweater Fleece Jacket in Birch White and Madewell 10" high rise skinny jeans in black and Hunter original refined rain boots in a matte black finish.
Black, white, and silver – an easy everyday combination from my overall intentional wardrobe color scheme.

Continuing On

The biggest reason why I’ll be continuing on with the intentional wardrobe process? It works. I needed to run out the door the other day and dressed in two minutes. The result? A better outfit than I might have put together in half an hour before starting this project. (I don’t think I’ve been clear enough that I haven’t exactly been a fantastic dresser my entire life. So if you’re seeing all these bloggers and thinking you’d never be able to do that, you can.)

The simple act of getting dressed becomes easier when your closet is well stocked. Rather than having a lot of clothing, I focused on cohesive, quality items that fulfill the needs of my everyday life. I’m still adding pieces, but I’m happy* with the items I’ve selected so far. (*One or two pieces haven’t quite lived up to my expectations, but that wasn’t foreseeable.)

Furthermore, the coordinated closet makes travel packing a breeze! Stay tuned on Instagram stories for updates from my upcoming trip.

 

What works for you when it comes to shopping selectively?

Keep in your life that which brings you joy.

-Casey

Find Out What’s on My Intentional Wardrobe Wishlist

Moorea Seal Black Wool Morley adjustable hat with Abercrombie satin bomber, Madewell Quincy Wash 8" Skinny Jeans, Hunter Original Refined Rain Boots from Nordstrom, and Apple Milanese Loop Watch.
In my signature black and denim, this is one of those outfits that feels like a better version of myself.

I made my pledge to focus my purchases on building an intentional wardrobe, and today I’m sharing more of my own process with you, along with two of my recent finds. Many bloggers are calling this a capsule-style wardrobe, but right now I’m more focused on cultivating a more intentional basis for my wardrobe.

If you haven’t read the other post yet, start at the beginning: Start Building A Wardrobe.

0. I put down the card and stepped away from the checkout.

I’m not the most impulsive shopper (I may even be too hesitant to hand over the money) to begin with, so this part was fairly easy for me.

1. I figured out what I like.

Trends may change, but you already know I’m drawn to black and denim looks. I’m also visually drawn to lighter colored clothing, but I tend to default toward black when buying.

Outfits that inspire me tend to contain staple colors: black, white, greys, tans, and denim blues. For accessories, I want to expand to black and cognac. See my vision here.

2. I made a list!

This is the stage that I’m sharing with you today. I’m still playing around with exactly how much I’d like, but I have a good foundational list started.

Note that this is a relatively casual list and does not include business formal workwear.

Tops

  1. Short Sleeve Tees
    • Black
    • White
    • Tan
    • Heathered Grey
    • Black & White Stripe
  2. Long Sleeve Tees
    • Black
    • Heathered Grey
    • Black & White Stripe
  3. Button Front Shirts
    • Chambray
    • White
  4. Pullover Sweaters
    • Black
    • Grey
    • Tan
  5. Cardigan Sweaters
    • Grey
    • Tan
    • Black & Grey

Dresses

  1. Black T-shirt Dress*
  2. Black Maxi Dress

Pants

  1. Dark Skinny Jeans
  2. Medium Skinny Jeans
  3. Black Chinos
  4. Black Leggings*
  5. Tan/Grey Skinny Pants
  6. Flared Jeans?
  7. Tights
    • Black Sheer Tights*
    • Black Opaque Tights*
    • Black Fleece-lined Tights*
    • Colorful Opaque Tights

Skirts

  1. Black Faux Leather Skirt
  2. Black Maxi Skirt

Outerwear

  1. Colorful Raincoat
  2. Black Shell
  3. Black Bomber
  4. Grey or Tan Trench
  5. Black Wool Coat

Shoes

  1. Black Riding Boots
  2. Black Chelsea Boots
  3. Black Flats
  4. Cognac Booties
  5. Nude Sandals
  6. Rain Boots

Accessories

  1. Scarves
    • Blanket Scarf
    • Colorful Scarf
    • Black/Grey Scarf
  2. Bags
    • Black Crossbody Purse
    • Cognac Tote
  3. Belts
    • Black & Silver*
    • Black & Gold
    • Cognac & Gold
  4. Other
    • Black Gloves*
    • Black Sunglasses
    • Black Wool Hat

Therefore, with this list, the total numbers of items in each categories are as follows:

  • Tops: 16
    • Tees: 8
    • Shirts: 2
    • Sweaters: 6
  • Dresses: 2
  • Bottoms: 8
    • Pants/Leggings/Tights: 10
    • Skirts: 2
  • Outerwear: 5
  • Shoes: 6
  • Accessories: 11

Altogether, that’s 31 articles of clothing, 6 pairs of shoes, and 11 accessories. Total, that’s 48 pieces!

3. I can now check off what pieces I already have and are in good condition.

I’ve starred (*) the pieces that I’ve already checked off my list above. You can see some of those pieces in prior posts:

  • Black short-sleeve tee, dark skinny jeans, and nude sandals here
  • Rain boots and black and grey draped cardigan here
  • Medium skinny jeans here
  • Black leather skirt and black crossbody bag here
  • Colorful raincoat here

4. Now it’s time to be patient and keep looking!

Moorea Seal Black Wool Morley adjustable hat with Abercrombie satin bomber, Madewell Quincy Wash 8" Skinny Jeans, Hunter Original Refined Rain Boots from Nordstrom, and Apple Milanese Loop Watch on Casey of Dressed to Code.
This new favorite outfit ecompasses several elements on my wardrobe wishlist, which is a good sign that I’m headed in the right direction!

The Morley Hat

I finally made it over to Moorea Seal’s gorgeous store in Belltown. If you aren’t in the vicinity, you can still shop her store online here.

Because I have a pretty tiny head, I’d all but given up on checking the wool hat off my wardrobe wishlist. Cue the Moorea Seal store, where I couldn’t help but try on this Morley hat. Imagine my delight when I was informed that it was adjustable!

The Morley hat comes in five colors, including grey and burgundy. There is a ribbon inside the brim of the hat that you can tighten and secure with velcro. However, I pinned mine with a small safety pin for extra security, and it’s nice and snug. I wouldn’t want this beautiful, handmade piece to blow away!

Moorea Seal Black Wool Morley adjustable hat with Abercrombie satin bomber and black shell from Banana Republic on Casey of Dressed to Code.
The best part of this gorgeous hat is that it’s adjustable. That means that I don’t need to hold it on.

Satin Bomber

This satin bomber was an Abercrombie piece that I initially tried on when I bought my faux leather skirt. However, I watched and waited until it went on sale before pouncing. Score!

This is more of a juniors’ fit, so the jacket is very petite-friendly and would be cropped on someone with a longer torso. I’m wearing a size XS for reference. This is not, by any means, a winter jacket, as it has the thickness of two layers of satin. That said, I’m enamored of the luxurious feel and dressed-up, dressed-down combination of the satin fabric and bomber shape. The cuffs are a thick, soft knit.

My biggest complaint by far about this jacket is that the pocket zippers are upside down! That’s right, they zip up to open and down to close. While it doesn’t sound like a big deal, it has been throwing me off. The pockets could also be bigger – I don’t think an iPhone 7 would fit! I also think that the jacket would have a cleaner look if the main zipper had a sleeker zipper.

Moorea Seal Black Wool Morley adjustable hat with Abercrombie satin bomber, Madewell Quincy Wash 8" Skinny Jeans, Hunter Original Refined Rain Boots from Nordstrom, and Apple Milanese Loop Watch on Casey of Dressed to Code.
One day, I’ll find my replacement pair of black leather riding boots. Until then, I’m wearing these Hunter rain boots.

Top

This top is my shell from Banana Republic. Find a longer description here.

Jeans

These are my Madewell 8″ skinny jeans in Quincy wash. Read more about them here.

Rain Boots

These are my Hunter Original Refined Rain Boots in black, which I snagged during Nordstrom’s annual sale. Find a glossy version here or read more about mine here.

Moorea Seal Black Wool Morley adjustable hat with Abercrombie satin bomber, Madewell Quincy Wash 8" Skinny Jeans, Hunter Original Refined Rain Boots from Nordstrom, and Apple Milanese Loop Watch on Casey of Dressed to Code.
Your wardrobe should put a smile on your face and help you stand a little taller (high heels optional).

What’s on your wardrobe wishlist? Let me know in the comments below!

To quote Albert Einstein, “Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.”

-Casey

 UPDATE: I will keep an updated version of this wishlist, complete with links, here.

Start Building an Intentional Wardrobe

 

Eddie Bauer Women's Flightplan II Cardigan Sweater with Madewell 8" Skinny Jeans in Quincy wash, Hunter Original Refined rain boots in black, Forever 21 tank, and Fossil Georgia leather watch.
The three primary pieces you see here are all on my wardrobe checklist: drapey black cardigan, dark skinny jeans, and black rain boots.

This post could also be titled “Start Building a Wardrobe Instead of Hoarding a Bunch of Things in Your Closet.” With new styles coming out every season, it’s easy to get caught up in trends and start buying pieces. However, unless you have a pretty big bank account, buying individual pieces or outfits gets expensive fast. Instead, by shopping intentionally, you’ll find that the same budget will get you further.

After making my own wardrobe checklist, I’ve recently been focusing my search on sweaters for Seattle’s chilly days. As a petite, I find that “oversized” sweaters are often far too big on my body with comparatively tight arms. Unfortunately, I tried on far too many sweaters that were too thin, draped oddly, etc.. Finally, I stumbled upon this color-blocked drape-front cardigan at Eddie Bauer. I’m wearing an XS in the “Women’s Flightplan II Cardigan Sweater,” which is available in two other color combinations, including a rich merlot red called deep garnet. (It’s currently 25% off too!)

This style is more forgiving than other sweater shapes. Most importantly, I found that the sleeves were fitted without being too tight, and the grey color helps minimize the volume of fabric in the front. The fabric is substantial without being itchy, and the merino wool gives it some breathability. It’s also machine washable (yes!).

Black and grey/gray Eddie Bauer Women's Flightplan II Cardigan Sweater rear/back view.
While a piece with as much fabric as this draped sweater won’t be the most slimming thing in the world, I like that the color block changes just below my natural waist, adding a little more definition.
Black and grey/gray Eddie Bauer Women's Flightplan II Cardigan Sweater with delicate, minimalist silver dot necklace from Silver Cup Studios on Etsy.
I see myself snuggling up in this sweater as things get chillier and tossing it on over my other wardrobe essentials.

I paired my black and grey acquisition with minimal silver jewelry, including my silver dot necklace from Etsy. As you can see below, I’m also wearing my black and silver (see a trend here?) Fossil Georgia watch, which nested nicely under the fitted but not too tight sleeves. I also have the sleeves cuffed slightly where there is a difference in texture, but someone with longer arms could leave them uncuffed.

Eddie Bauer Women's Flightplan II Cardigan Sweater with Madewell 8" Skinny Jeans in Quincy wash, Hunter Original Refined rain boots in black, Forever 21 tank, and Fossil Georgia leather watch.
This petite-friendly cardigan is going to take me into fall by adding a warm layer to my existing base layers.

Now, here’s how I’m building my intentional wardrobe and how you can too!

0. Put down the card.

With online shopping, snatching up new clothing now takes under thirty seconds. The first step is to stop buying individual pieces and focus on creating a cohesive wardrobe of items that work together.

I know I’m guilty of making “desperation purchases” (seizing the first thing you find when under a deadline), but these items rarely make it into my regular rotation. Instead, they often spend a lot of time in the back of my bottom drawer. That’s a waste of money! Right now, I’m pledging to myself to stop doing that. You should join me.

1. Figure out what you like.

Congratulations! If you’re here, you’re probably already reading blogs and following bloggers. I follow plenty of bloggers who have amazing style that just doesn’t line up with my own.  That’s okay. Focus on the bloggers who have style you could actually see yourself wearing. Classic looks are always in style, and you can modernize the basics with a trend here or there, such as adding a bell-sleeved sweater for this fall.

Also take into account what shapes you feel comfortable wearing — don’t bother adding pencil skirts if you’d never wear them. There are plenty of pieces I love on someone else that I wouldn’t on myself.

Pin your favorite outfits and figure out what the common elements are. Is there a common theme or color scheme? For example, I find myself drawn to outfits which consist primarily or entirely of neutrals: black, white, tan, grey, and denim blues. Check out my inspiration board here.

2. Make a list.

Of course, you’ll always have some pieces which don’t strictly fit into your new wardrobe scheme. That’s totally fine. I’m certainly not going to give up my burgundy skirt because it’s not in the neutral palette! You can also omit special occasion clothing (unless you get fancy on a regular basis) and workout gear (unless you’re going for an athleisure look). Remember to include work appropriate apparel if you need weekday outfits that meet a certain look or criteria.

That said, make a list of the core of your intentional wardrobe. I love blue ball point pens and lined paper for getting the creative juices flowing, but I then transferred the list over to a spreadsheet to move things around and organize a little more.

a. Figure out how much you’d like.

How many items and what should be on your list is really up to you. Jesica of Classic in Gray just did a great post on this. Think about how frequently you want to recycle the same looks and how often you do laundry. Those in hot and humid climates probably won’t get away with multiple wears of base layers the way someone in a cool climate might.

b. Figure out what your staples are.

Maybe you’ll happily rock the same great booties all season long. Maybe you’re happy wearing the same tops but like to mix it up with your bottoms. Personally, I’m happy with a few great bottoms that I mix up with a greater variety of tops. Bottoms can be reworn more frequently and are often more expensive, so this is a win-win in the laundry and budget departments.

Figure out what your staple items should be (hint: you’ve probably already got some of them in your closet) and build out from there. Pinterest is a great place to find lists that will help you determine what kinds of pieces work well together.  I like this “50 Classics for Your Closet” list for ideas, even if it’s not item-for-item my style.

c. Don’t forget underwear, outerwear, and accessories.

A great jacket can really define your wardrobe in cooler temps, so remember to add gear appropriate to your geography to your list. Similarly, undergarments are the foundation of a wardrobe. Therefore, add items like tanks, bras, and bralettes to your list, keeping in mind what would pair with your intended tops and dresses.

3. Check off what you already have.

If you don’t own any of the items on your wardrobe wishlist, that’s a red flag that your plan may not be realistic about what you’re comfortable wearing. You probably own multiple of your staple items, so that’s part of your focused wardrobe already available to you! You may also want to evaluate these items to determine whether they are in good condition and fit well or need to be replaced (holes happen, unfortunately).

4. Shop strategically and be patient.

If you don’t already have a monthly or similarly regular budget, make one first! Once you have an idea of what you can spend, think about your target price range per type of item. I’m willing to spend a little more per item for better quality. That said, I still have a price at which I’ll balk and walk away. I also tend to stick things in my bag or on my wishlist and wait until they go on sale. The great thing about being intentional is that you can better figure out where to splurge and where to save.

As a petite woman who doesn’t buy many overly trendy items, the items in my cart don’t usually sell out before going on sale. I also sign up for the lists for my favorite stores, so I can jump on sales when they happen. Also pay attention to your items after you buy them. I’ve gotten as much as $40 back after asking for a price adjustment on a big purchase that went even more on sale after I bought it.

5. Keep reevaluating.

You may never have everything crossed off your list, but it’s important to periodically reevaluate all the goals in your life, including this one.

 

What’s on your intentional wardrobe wishlist? What’s that one item on which your closet depends? Let me know in the comments below!

 

Best of luck, lovelies!

-Casey

Get Rainy Day Ready

Marmot minimalist rain coat with jeans and Hunter Original Refined rain boots.
This rain-ready look is going to be a staple for fall in Seattle.

I’ll plead that I recently moved from drought-plagued Southern California to the Pacific Northwest. Nonetheless, I’m embarrassed to admit that my lightweight raincoat, while still waterproof, was starting to come unraveled at the seams. While I’m fine with weather as long as I’m warm and dry, a quality raincoat was high on my list of necessities.

I’d been halfheartedly looking around for a coat to keep me dry during the rainy season in my new city. Luckily, the REI Labor Day sale ended up being the perfect opportunity to find one before the rain moved in. With the assistance of one incredibly friendly member of the staff, I think I tried on every model of women’s raincoat in the huge (and beautiful) REI flagship store.

Raincoat

The winner is, (drum roll please!) … this Marmot Women’s Minimalist Rain Coat ($60 off through September 5 at REI!). At first try, the coat felt a touch large. However, by tightening the hidden elastic cord in the waist, I was able to create a more snug fit and narrow the look of the body. The sleeves are significantly narrower than many of the other styles I tried on, and can be tightened at the wrist.

The hood is just the right size for my smaller head. Unfortunately, it does not zip or roll away, a common feature in men’s coats. I have plenty of room for a hat or ponytail, but it isn’t a massive hood that comes down over my eyes (I should have snapped a pic of that one for you to see — comical!). Because it is Gore-tex, the raincoat does crinkle somewhat as you move. Nonetheless, I like the matte finish over the shinier look of my old coat.

Because I have such a neutral wardrobe, I can add a pop of color in my raincoat to add a little cheer on a cloudy, rainy day. I fell in love with this deep teal color, which looks greener in warmer lighting than in these photos. I also appreciate that the lining is a dark grey that will stay nicer looking than a lighter color. All in all, there are nine colors for you to choose from, including classic black and a bold royal blue. Branding on the jacket includes the name Marmot on the left breast, Gore-tex on the left forearm, and the Marmot logo on the back. The branding elements are more apparent on some colors than others.

This Marmot Women's Minimalist Rain Jacket in Deep Teal features a dark grey interior.
Don’t forget to check the fit of your hood. When the rain hits, you want it to be large enough to cover your head but not so large as to obscure your view or blow right off.

Overall, I would have loved to see Marmot roll out an XXS size and a zip-in collar (minimalist or not!). That said, I have enough room underneath this coat for a thick sweater or my perennial staple, a black North Face fleece. (It looks like some colors are as low as $27; I just wish that gorgeous green didn’t have a hot pink logo!) All in all, I’m happy to have found a Gore-tex option in such a great color and on sale, no less!

Jeans

I told you that you’d be seeing these again! These jeans are my Madewell Quincy wash 8″ skinny jeans, which I showed you in my very first post!

Rain Boots

I had a pair of leather riding boots that I loved and wore into the ground (4+ years and 3 soles later, the top finally wore through). In my (ongoing) quest to find a new pair of riding boots, I tried on these Hunter Original Refined Rain Boots at Nordstrom’s annual sale (then $129, now back up to $195). The boots come in half sizes only, but the incredibly helpful salesperson (shout out to Jackie in the shoe department at Nordstrom Seattle!) told me they ran a little large, so I sized down to a 6. These are only my second pair of rain boots ever!

I love that ‘refined’ look of the matte black finish and black-and-navy cinching strap in the back. That red and white Hunter logo is, of course, present in the front.

Dark wash jeans and Hunter Original Refined Rain Boots in black.
These Hunter Original Refined Rain Boots might be too tall for petites with shorter tibias.

Side note: the Hunter boots’ box is great-looking and has a red ribbon handle to carry it! I appreciate well-designed packaging.

If you’re a petite, these boots may be too tall. On me, the top of the boot hits just below my knee in the front. This gives me that long-and-lean look I love in a tall boot. That said, they could not hit even half an inch higher without hitting my knee. As you might guess, rubber is not an over-the-knee material! If you do have a longer tibia but find that boots often gap around the calf, these would probably fit well! They are narrower than many boots, especially rain boots, and are comfortably snug (in jeans) to my calf.

I have one complaint about these boots. While they are very easy to get on, I have to be a contortionist to get them off! This usually means asking very nicely for my SO to give me a hand. This probably wouldn’t be as much of an issue if you were on the smaller end of your size. However, in thick socks, my Hunters are a perfect fit.

If you’re looking for a pair of boot-friendly socks, I have multiple pairs of the REI Muted Stripe Knee Socks in both the dark and light grey options. These merino wool socks feature a thicker cushion around the foot to keep your toes comfortable (and aren’t itchy!).

As I wrap up this post, it is just starting to sprinkle outside my window. With this Marmot rain jacket and Hunter rain boots, I feel far more ready to take on fall in Seattle!

May your feet stay warm and dry!

– Casey