Capsule Wardrobe


Last month I did a major closet cleaning. Since we bought our house in October 2012, I’ve been thinking about how we need a wardrobe in the bedroom and closet updates, and etc. Only recently did it occur to me that rather than needing more space, I just needed to own less stuff. And so the purging began, as this rainbow of barren hangers can attest. All my favorite shirts with holes in them had to go, all of my old, ill-fitting bras had to go, all of the in-perfect-condition-but-never-gonna-wear-it-again clothes from before I started freelancing full-time had to go, and anything that I just didn’t feel comfortable in one way or another had to go, no matter how much I paid for it or how little I had worn it. It’s a waste of space, other people can use it more, and having less choices means I actually wear more of what I have.

Before, I’d look in my closet and be overwhelmed by the sheer amount of things crammed in there. Now, when I look in I only see clothes that I like, that fit well, that are in good condition, and that are seasonally appropriate. It makes it so much easier to get dressed, which makes me way less likely to wear the same Columbia hoodie 4x a week.

I don’t remember where I first heard the term “capsule wardrobe”, but it kept coming to mind as I was cleaning out. I did some Googling and after reading blog posts like this and this, I was convinced it was worth experimenting with (though I haven’t wheedled my wardrobe as far down as 33 items, at least not yet). I used to subscribe to Lucky Magazine, and one of the things I always liked best about it was the wardrobe mixing and matching articles they sometimes ran, or any time there was a how-to guide on packing for a vacation. There’s an aspirational element to it (living more fashionably but simply) as well as a bit of a puzzle (how many combinations can you make and actually wear in public?), which seems fun. And while I, like most human beings, like looking well put together, I’m not one for bold fashion statements. My patterned-tights wearing, lunch box carrying high school days are well behind me and now I’m looking for easy, with a dash of she-has-her-life-sorted and – very importantly right now – warm. And mostly just want to wear nautical stripes, to be honest.

Anyway, this is all to say that I cleaned my closet, adapted the capsule wardrobe way of shopping/dressing, and began creating my own Cher Horowitz inspired virtual dressing room in Photoshop. That’s my point, internet: Clueless. I’d ask if anyone remembers Cher’s Wardrobe computer program, but that’s just a dumb question because we all remember everything about Clueless because it is perfect.

So this is the slowly progressing, un-animated version of that which contains no designer labels whatsoever.


Here’s what that looks like in Photoshop:


It’s essentially a paper doll drawing of myself, and there are various folders in the layers menu to the right, which I can open to find different items, and turn layers on and off depending on what items I want to “wear”. Aside from being kinda fun and kinda ridiculous, it’s actually kinda useful too, being able to create “looks” without having to try anything on. I’ve drawn quite a few pieces so far, but am not nearly finished. I figured this blog could use an update though, and I might as well share my progress on this little for-fun side project as I make it. So here are a few combinations so far…


I did not own white ankle jeans prior to these drawings, but you can bet I do now. Also, I have a blazer now. A magnificent blazer that I will draw next…


Flower Girls

In a recent pattern post I mentioned being smitten with Orla Kiely’s Flower Girls print. Now, I’m smitten with Orla Kiely in general, but this print I love. It looks great just as an abstract graphic, but when you look closer, you see a field of flowers, and then when you look even closer you can see all these gangly gals, and that makes me love it all the more. So I decided I would draw figures based on the shape of the girls in the pattern wearing dresses inspired by those shapes and the lovely fabrics in the Orla Kiely Spring/Summer 2012 lookbook. Here’s what I started with:

a swatch of the fabric in “liqourice” and a few really quick sketches of the figures I saw. It was a bit like cloud watching.

And here’s the final illustration…

The background is scanned from a paper collage I made while in college.

One of my favorite things about drawing people has always been dreaming up clothes for them. It’s something I’ve enjoyed since I was little. I remember being about 7, maybe younger, and having drawing competitions with Michelle, my younger sister. We would pick a category (evening gown, party dress, swimsuit, generally anything you would find and be offended by during a Miss America pageant) and then give ourselves 10 minutes to draw three or so “looks”. Then we would vote on our favorites (and no, we didn’t always vote for our own), rank them, and repeat the whole process. We would do this for hours. That’s what I thought about while I was working on this. It was just fun. Now that we all know what my actual closet is full of, you’ll understand why it is I must look to the realm of fantasy (and Pinterest) for cupcake-shaped dresses and oversized bows.

Fell Into the Gap

A couple things.

A combination of warm weather and a recent read through of Kendi Everyday’s “working closet” tutorial gave me the itch to spring clean my closet. During Step 1 (Purging), I discovered the following:

This is pretty much what I look like on a day-to-day basis. No shame or anything, I love the Gap. I just didn’t realize how much I loved the Gap until I went through my closet piece by piece. I didn’t even note the chipped red nail polish and skinny belt figural me ought to be wearing, both of them Gap products.

I enjoy “what I wore” drawings much more than photos. I get so sick of seeing the same girls photograph themselves on my Instagram feed that I start to hate them all. Danielle Kroll’s clothing illustrations are some of the best I know of and I love how Eveline Tarunadjaja visually lays out her clothes. They’re more art than self-indulgence but still have that voyeuristic diary element that makes the otherwise potentially mundane so interesting. Clothes are more like talismans in drawings. Not exact like a photograph.

Anyway, between sketching, regular internet image hoarding and closet cleaning, I wondered: what would it look like if I made one? And then I realized I might only ever need to make just the one. What I Wear as opposed to What I Wore. It’s not all the same, of course (my uniform turns to skirts in the summer and skirts with knee socks in the fall), but it’s mighty close. During a recent shopping excursion I noticed I was only looking at striped shirts (of which I had recently acquired two already) and it occurred to me that if I didn’t inventory my wardrobe and Assess (Step 2), I would soon find myself with a cartoon character closet of nothing but black/navy and white striped boat neck shirts. There was once a point in my life when I owned seven black sweaters, you guys. I don’t want to go down that road again. I’m not Wednesday Addams, much as it saddens me. So until I reach Steps 4 and 5 (Shopping and Remixing), consider this my look.

The other thing:

I am having a great moral dilemma concerning iPads. Or more specifically: tablets as sketchpads. This is related because I borrowed my parent’s iPad to try out some drawing apps this past week and it made me rethink how I use Photoshop. Drawing on the iPad without a stylus (I know that’s not the proper way, but it was just a test drive) and the low resolution made me feel like I might as well just be drawing on my desktop. But I liked the ease of the preset brushes in some of the apps. The 53 Paper app, for example, is so sleek but, as one reviewer stated, “featureless”. You can’t zoom in? Your palette is limited to nine colors? No brush size or opacity control? Really? But it looks great. There are little simulated Kyoto Moleskine booklets with manilla pages. And after I finished oohing and ahhing I thought… you want to spend hundreds of dollars to get a digital notebook and an eggshell background? It encouraged me to open Photoshop and create a more sketchbook like setting. Stop drawing on pure white, make your own brushes, add texture, and for god’s sake, try using the pressure sensitivity on your tablet for a change, Nicole! So that’s what this sketch is. A better desktop sketching experience that makes me feel excited to draw in a way I haven’t felt in a while.

Another digital sketch. A bit uncharacteristic but a really enjoyable bit of experimentation with brush transfers.
You can see other sketches at my Tumblr sketchbook.

But I still feel torn about the iPad. It’s so impressive, but compared to my desktop, so limited. Is it worthwhile or just frivolous? Up until now I’ve pretty much written them off as bulky iPhones without the phone. I don’t need to be able to surf the web more often or even more comfortably (which would only lead to more of the more). I don’t want to read on it (I prefer eInk screens). I don’t have a long commute anymore and don’t need a portable device to entertain me on any kind of regular basis (the phone that’s glued to my palm aside). But I wonder, would I sketch more if I had one? Would I sketch better? Would it make me lazy? Would I be writing pen and paper off forever in favor of lesser digital approximations? I don’t know why I have this all or nothing attitude. I used to sell Nooks and always thought that the people who approached buying one as if it meant they’d never be able to purchase another hardcover novel again in their lives and were they willing to give that up (at this point, said people would generally mention how they loved the smell of books, which I always find stupid. I love books too, but when books smell it’s because they’re old and musty and it isn’t actually a pleasant thing so let it go). YOU CAN HAVE BOTH. Children’s novel with full color illustrations that I’ll probably drool over numerous times? Buy the hardcover. Latest stupidity in the Pretty Little Liars series? eBook. Poetry collection I want to be able to quickly leaf through? Paperback. 800+ page Russian novel that I don’t want to throw my back out lugging around? eBook. So why do I have the same stupid feelings about my sketching habits that other fools have about reading? Well… it isn’t exactly the same. Books are typed words either way. Digital pencil strokes will never look like real ones. But most of my finished work is digital at this point anyway. I don’t know. I guess that iPad as sketchbook makes me feel like I’m at some sort of crossroads. Like it will make me irreversibly art-lazy. Fortunately I don’t actually have any iPad funds and this whole debate I’m having with myself is utterly pointless! For now. But it’ll come around again (it’s the FUTURE after all) and I guess I want to know how I feel about it.

Flight of Swans

Anthropologie always seems to have an “It” dress that makes me drool like an overexcited bulldog. Which is to say a lot. Last season it was the cranberry/white striped dress with navy sash. Now It’s the Flight-of-Swans from Twinkle by Wenlan. Look how purdy!:

It’s like wearing a birch tree! As I wish I lived in a birch forest (like, had my bed in the middle of one. Cottage not included), this is speakin’ all kinds of lovely things to me. Sadly, I haven’t the funds to fund such a splurge, so I just did a lot of staring. Staring lead to taking a crack at a fashion illustration. Here’s that:

You can find the full illustration here, if you like. I had fun doing the hair, but an impossible time deciding on colors. Plus she’s got dead eyes. In the end, I thought it worked much better cropped, anyway.