I thought we’d take a break from discussing the virus today and settle back into our happy zone of what to wear. I’m keeping it relevant because this is a personal project. On Sunday I sat down as usual to think about the week ahead and with no complex projects ahead, it struck me that this is an opportunity for a quasi-clinical test on the smart casual element of my wardrobe. So I set myself a test to build a capsule wardrobe for the week.
Of course without any of the usual pending trips to London or business events with Mr MC it’s the perfect time for me to work on smart casual. The weather this week is looking settled so I have the perfect set of ‘control’ conditions for an experiment like this. It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a while because my mind often flits ahead to the day when we leave this house and my generous dressing room behind. How will I manage with an ordinary sized wardrobe? Where will I start? So with my holiday packing capsule posts in mind (very much in mind – but only in mind sadly) I worked to a similar system.
I eventually decided that twelve was the minimum number of smart casual items that I needed to keep me relatively happy for a week. Having less choice meant that I veered towards pieces that I really love wearing which in itself was enlightening and I added some new season buys that I’ll be testing at the same time. Today I’m going to show you what made the capsule wardrobe cut and when we have our Coronavirus catch-up on Friday, I’ll include some daily pictures and a bit of chat about how it went.
Capsule wardrobe – smart casual
So here we go, this is my smart casual selection for the week. I’ve added notes where I can at the end on what the brands I’ve featured are doing to protect their distribution staff because I know a few of you have concerns about it.
L – R, top to bottom, capsule wardrobe – smart casual
- Red and navy striped breton. Both of the bretons I’ve chosen for my capsule wardrobe are old favourites but each is a different cut. This one is French and so it’s made from a slightly heavier, denser knit cotton as a marinière should be. It also has a neat boat neck and is quite fitted so it feels smarter to wear than the average style. It has a subtle slogan in gold embroidery that gives me a lift each time I wear it – mine says ‘joie de vivre’ which is no longer available but new ones have taken over now. Mine is a medium and it’s true to size.
- Pink cotton jumper – you’ve already seen this new addition to my wardrobe; a simple, comfortable style in an uplifting colour that feels neat to wear. True to size.
- Cotton linen jersey shirt (more stock here) – a fantastic new buy, I’m stupidly excited about this. The thing is that I love the look of a white shirt with jeans but it never really works for me. Over the years I’ve come to understand that it’s one of those pieces that looks great on a gamine frame (think Audrey Hepburn) but not on strong-boned northern farming stock. The reason is that shirt cotton is stiff and so rather than following your contours, it adds volume. This one moulds to the body and yet the linen blend gives it more structure than your average jersey shirt so it still achieves that pared down simple look. True to size.
- Blue cotton linen jumper – another simple jumper in a great colour. The neckline is described as a crew but it’s actually cut under the clavicles so it’s far more flattering. The linen in the blend helps the relaxed fit to look a bit neater which works for me – I sized down to a small for a less slouchy look.
- Classic breton – I think any capsule has to include one of these for spring. I’ve had this for ages but ironically I don’t often wear it because I like it so much that I worry about spoiling it. Anyway when you have fewer items in your wardrobe they all have to be best quality so I’m getting it out now. It’s 100% top quality smooth cotton jersey (it isn’t a tight weave like the French one). This makes it feel more relaxed and casual. It’s true to size and in the sale at the moment.
- Grey boyfriend cardigan – it’s too early in the season not to have an extra layer to hand so I chose this favourite, it goes with everything and can be draped over the shoulders if it’s too warm to put it on. It’s a simple piece in a lovely cut and I find it works with everything. True to size and currently in the sale.
- Navy down jacket – my trusty workhorse, I have these in just about every colour of the rainbow but if in doubt I always opt for the navy one. Perfect for walks with Teddy because I can crush it into its little bag and loop it onto my jeans if I get too hot. Also good for supervising the landing stage project!
- Navy cargo trousers – new but rapidly becoming a key part of my everyday wardrobe. A great fit and good for days when I want to feel that I’m dressed for work. (20% off with MIDLIFECHIC20).
- Leopard loafers – as a few of you have mentioned, it feels important to have a proper pair of shoes to put on when I’m working. I even slip these on if I’m going out to the village shop because making that little journey in a low heel makes life feel more normal – I add a slash of lipstick too. And looking at this I can’t quite believe that my sartorial pleasures have been reduced to this! (True to size, further discounted in the sale).
- Favourite jeans – just before the lockdown I bought a new pair to celebrate my reduced waist measurement after all the training I’d been doing. I may soon be relaxing back into the original ones but for now I’m really pleased to have a pair that isn’t baggy. In my opinion they’re still the best jeans you can buy for cut, colour, fit, finish and quality. A size 12 is a 28 or 29 inch depending on which end of the scale you veer towards. I find they give quite a bit so if in doubt start with a pair that feels snug.
- Trainers with a silver flash – now that the ground is dry I can put my wellies away and wear white trainers for canalside walks and these are still my favourites. If you haven’t yet moved into white trainer territory they’re a great pair to start with. The diagonal line of the side styling makes them look less clumpy on the foot as does the almond shaped toe box. They have extra points for being cool and of course you have all of the comfort of proper sports footbed technology. Approved as a ‘perennial classic’ by the sneakerhead son. True to size.
- Joggers – for relaxing; light cotton with a little added detail at the cuff, what more can I say? True to size.
I started this project on Sunday and I’m taking a quick photo every day so I’ll let you know how it’s gone in Friday’s post. I should add that I haven’t included sports kit – or PJs but otherwise this is what I’m sticking to. Simple things like this are helping me to feel a little more in control during these unusual times. By the end of it I’ll either have enjoyed the ease of not having to think in the mornings or be frustrated by the lack of creativity that I find in choosing what to wear each day.
And I’m going to leave it there for now because I want to get back to replying to your comments. They’ve been absolutely fascinating to go through – if you haven’t read them go back to them because people from all over the world are sharing how this is affecting them in different ways. It’s exactly as I hoped it would be, a social diary of Coronavirus as experienced by thinking midlife women. I’ll be back on Friday for more of a chat.
Capsule wardrobe – notes about delivery
I understand that some people have worries about ordering online at the moment. In my view we need to help support the retail industry by ordering but perhaps with a little more thought than usual. I’ve managed to get information from some brands about how they’re protecting their distribution staff.
John Lewis & Partners: a strict two metre rule, optional protective visors, daily deep-cleaning procedures, plenty of handwashing facilities and hand sanitising wipes for delivery drivers. No signature required on delivery. A support fund has been set up to help any staff who are facing additional costs such as childcare as a result of the pandemic. Partners are offered free meals at work.
Boden: warehouse teams in Leicester and Pennsylvania are now working under careful new protocols. They have introduced extra deep-cleaning between shifts with a longer changeover gap between them. Shift patterns have been altered so that only a third of the team is on-site at any time to ensure there is plenty of space for social distancing. Everyone working has volunteered to do so and is receiving normal pay. Those not working are supported through the government schemes available. Deliveries are likely to take longer than usual to arrive.
Baukjen: the warehouse team has been split into smaller shift patterns to practice the most effective social distancing. Because of how the shifts and space are organised there has always been an individual distance of much more than the 2 metres recommended by the Government. Extensive sanitation takes place before, after, and every hour during each shift. No members of the warehouse team travel on public transport, instead they travel alone to their own car and park in Baukjen parking facilities.
Hush: no response. They had yet another complete change of team at the end of last year so I’m out of contact with them (again!) – it always takes me a while to convince new team members of the value of our audience. Their website says “the wellbeing of our staff is our number one priority. Staff in our warehouse have been provided with gloves when handling orders.” I can’t find any more than that so it might be worth ordering their products from John Lewis & Partners for now.
Disclosure: ‘My capsule wardrobe for the week – smart casual’ is not a sponsored post
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