Winter Wardrobe problem solving

Winter Wardrobe problem solving

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking out loud here the past few weeks — have you noticed? — and think I’m very close to having a fully formed thought (lol) about how to solve the fundamental problem of my winter clothes being too warm, on the whole. Last week it felt like less of a problem: It was in the 30s and gloomy and rained like it might never stop. But this week we’re back in the 50s and 60s, the trouble zone for me. I’ve come to realize, though — in the midst of my closet cleanout — that it’s a classic case of missing connective tissue that’s fairly easily resolved. In addition to the sort of layering that the dickey has inspired, I’ve been thinking about what it means to have sweaters that are less hot, even if they are wool, which means finer gauge things, shapes that don’t hold in heat (such as the breezy Big Rubble I got from Meg), more abbreviated proportions (shorter, smaller, cropped, whatever), and — ta da — sleeveless! And we know I have plenty of sleeveless sweaters.

I wear those sleeveless things mostly when I can get away with being sleeveless, and what I’ve been missing to make them work in cooler weather is basically just long-sleeve tees, which I haven’t wanted to make — or had the time to. The other day it dawned on me there are these things called stores where you can buy clothes that are already made and ready to wear (seriously, it’s like I forgot!), so I went to Everlane and ordered a couple of skinny long-sleeve tees that will instantly change the equation considerably. But I’ve drawn up the sketches above to illustrate a few of the thoughts I’ve been having:

TOP LEFT: I made that wool knit muscle tee last year to wear under things and found it a tiny bit itchy for that purpose. I’ve since realized it’s fine with my linen sleeveless tee under it (which has become otherwise problematically thin), so it will work with cardigans and such as intended. But I also discovered it’s great over things — like the black jersey turtleneck in my closet that I never wear. It should be perfect with the long-sleeve tees en route, and an excellent opportunity to add a dickey!

TOP MIDDLE: Same goes for my two Anna Vests (black and plum), which somehow don’t feel quite like me over a button-down (although I love that on everyone else) but will be great over a long-sleeve tee. And then it’s easy to add a cardigan or shirt-jacket on top of that, weather permitting.

TOP RIGHT: Same goes for my Sloper — all it needs for extended life is the right tee! Although I do love Sloper over a button-down, and will wear it that way this year as well.

BOTTOM LEFT: This is the neck blankie situation I was postulating last week, along with a shrunken raglan sweatshirt or sweater. I have my grey sweatshirt and ordered two things from Everlane that also meet this definition, if I like them when they arrive. Otherwise (or maybe anyway) there’s another Linden sweatshirt in my future. I’m still debating the cowl but between this and yesterday’s mood board, I was inspired to pull out my eggplant State Street Cowl and take it for a spin.

BOTTOM MIDDLE: For a warmer version of the dickey situation, I was thinking about making something like a Top No. 2 in wool melton or somesuch, and realized I already have the wool knit sweatshirt thingy I made last year. I’d had that in my “maybe” pile from the cleanout and have just put it back in my closet! But still considering the other idea as well. I really like the idea of a couple of easy non-sweater pullover tops for layering with.

BOTTOM RIGHT: This is actually an outfit I wore in the cold snap last week that I want to remember: jeans, black muscle tee, dickey and cardigan. The dickey is so fantastic (obviously) under a cardigan or kimono jacket or shirt-jacket — a way to feel like I’m wearing much woolier, cozier clothes than I can actually get away with. More of that, for sure.

So those are some not-terribly-original thoughts that nevertheless lead me to a make list and some further outfit ideas, coming next week!

(Fashionary sketch templates from Fringe Supply Co.)


PREVIOUSLY in Winter 2018 Wardrobe: Early Winter ’18 mood board

Early Winter ’18 mood board

Early Winter ’18 mood board

It might be the result of having the Fringe Supply Co. Winter Lookbook palette spread out in my studio since July (all that plum and toffee and butterscotch and black), but my Winter ’18 Mood board is speaking to me the most clearly of any of them so far. It’s the mood and colors of a bright but cold early winter day — all the burnt caramel-camel-brown tones against blues and dusty lilac purples and the softest fading green. With plenty of black, white, navy and grey, of course. But it’s also more specifically a set of reminders to myself: that I need to think about some blouses with sleeves, about tees and turtlenecks to layer under things, about knitted neckwear layered on top of things that might not be sweaters, but pullovers or tops of other sorts. (Hence my including myself on my own mood board. In my dickey.) That a little touch of femininity with all the androgyny is important to me. And as usual, it’s about very easy shapes and a classic casualness that steers clear of being dull.

I think I’ve OD’d on my silhouette lately but my pants are my pants and we’re back into jeans-and-boots season, so I’m thinking hard about new ways to put things together, and which old friends to pull forward and let star this season. More on all of that to come, along with the very focused little make list it has inspired.

Oh, and that sweater in the top right is a thought I’m having about my steekalong Sólbein. Maybe.


PREVIOUSLY in Wardrobe Planning: Faux Fall outfits

Faux Fall outfits!

Faux Fall outfits!

This is 30 days of outfits, fashioned from a total of 27 garments and 5 pair of shoes. (See the closet inventory for details.) There are also probably another 10-15 to be had simply by swapping out, say, one of my other two camisoles for the green one pictured, or a different pair of the wide-leg pants in nearly any scenario. These also range from not really warm at all (fine at the moment) to too warm if there’s really no cooling trend in the next 30 days, but I think I’ve given myself a fair chance of not having to think about getting dressed until the end of October. And with the light layers and sweater vests and closed shoes, and a little bit of sleeve action in there, most of these outfits do give me at least a hint of that Fall feeling. Hopefully that will keep me content until actual sweater weather arrives! (Although I should note that 6 of these involve the faded old jeans that are currently at Indigo Proof, so those combos are fictional until the jeans come home to roost.)

I believe there are only 5 garments here that have not factored into previous rounds of Closet Rummy™, and 2 first-appearance pairs of shoes (although one of those is just a replacement pair of white sneakers, so not exactly a paradigm shift), and yet I think there are only 2 or 3 outfits out of the 30 here that I’ve ever worn in these exact combinations, and then only once. It’s not that I’m averse to repeating outfits within a span of a season or whatever — this summer I’ve basically worn the same five outfits over and over and over again — but this is really the central challenge of a slow-turnover closet for me: forever finding new ways to put the same things together, as I am a person who is easily bored and who also finds joy and creativity in getting dressed.

Faux Fall outfits!

One of my favorite things about this exercise is that, once I have a given set of garments laid out in a grid like I do, I can see things I never would have thought of. Like in the top row up there: a Wiksten Kimono + Fen Top twin set! We’ll see if I ever actually wear it, but it amuses me greatly. And the more I’ve done this, the easier it is to also just glance at the grid and spot combinations without needing to actually spell every one of them out like this.

I’ve had a lot of questions lately about how I do this, and I truly have found it to be the most beneficial thing in understanding my closet and choosing more wisely about what to add and subtract from it, so I’ll dedicate a whole blog post to it during Slow Fashion October.

Faux Fall outfits!

PREVIOUSLY in Fall 2018 Wardrobe: Not-quite Fall closet inventory

Not-quite Fall closet inventory

Not-quite Fall closet inventory

As much as I wish it were the onset of Sweater Weather here, I’m trying to be super realistic this year and just straight up accept that it will likely be late October before I can put on an actual sweater. So rather than taunt myself by including pullovers and cardigans in my not-quite-fall inventory, I’m pretending for the moment that they don’t even exist. What I can do now is start in on some lighter and/or sleeveless layering and switch (mostly) from sandals to closed shoes, and those little tweaks will at least make me feel like there’s a progression happening. I’m thinking of it as Sweater Vest Weather. If the temperatures do drop, I’ll be pleasantly surprised and will have no trouble reaching for the sweaters! Otherwise, you won’t see them here until I get to do winter-ish outfits (but if you care to see them in the meantime, I did a full sweater inventory last month right here).

I alluded yesterday to the idea that I’m organizing Slow Fashion October this year around the process of assessing, editing and (re)building a slow closet, and for the sake of this inventory and my need to change things up a bit, I’ve jumped ahead and pulled a few new/old items from the periphery of my closet to breathe some new life into the things I’ve been wearing ad nauseum.

That said, I’m holding off creating any kind of Make list until I’ve completed the deeper dive that’s about to happen. Right now, I’m all about what I already own. So above are the 33 garments that will form the backbone of my wardrobe for this in-between moment and beyond. It’s quite late at night as I’m putting this together, so I only have time to highlight the few recent or resurfaced things. For details on the rest of the items, please scroll back through the closet inventory archive.


— Khaki cotton blazer (J.Crew c. 2009)
— Black cotton kimono sweater (Elizabeth Suzann, sample sale 2017, no longer available)
Blue striped kimono jacket (2018)

For ages, a blazer was my favorite kind of garment in all the world — I wore one nearly every day. When I moved cross-country I donated most of them to Dress for Success and kept only two, one of which I’m suddenly eager to dust off and start wearing again. I’ve also decided to hang onto the previously debated Elizabeth Suzann kimono sweater thingie and give it a chance. Many are the times when I was unconvinced about something and wound up addicted to it, and since it’s already in my possession I feel like I should try. If that doesn’t happen, I know there are plenty of people who’d like to give it a good home. And I’ve also decided to let my pajama-y Wiksten Kimono (which I lovingly refer to as “my housecoat”) leave the house. It’s the lightest imaginable layering piece and gives me a hint of that fall feeling without creating any real warmth.


Second from the left is the ES Clyde jacket I refashioned into a vest in May, and far right is the State Smock that was white in previous inventories but I indigo dyed at Squam in June.


Second from the left is an Everlane sleeveless tee that I screenprinted under the tutelage of Jen Hewett in SF last week. The op art is an old piece of my husband’s, and there’s a second one with a cactus drawing on it so both will turn up in future outfits. (They’re not likely to be white for long, but it’ll be great while it lasts.)


Left is the linen-cotton pants I made a couple weeks ago, and center are my tissue-thin old beloved jeans that have now made their way into the queue at Indigo Proof, for those of you on the edges of your seats about that! (Or is that just me?!) They’ll be back with me soon, shored up except for the giant hole in the thigh, so that one will have to be patched, but I’ll be able to wear them again!


PREVIOUSLY in Wardrobe Planning: Spring ’18 Mood and Strategy



Fall ’18 wardrobe planning: Mood and strategy

Fall ’18 wardrobe planning: Mood and strategy

I’m not really sure what we’re in for. Officially, calendar-wise, Fall is here. The trees in Nashville are getting a tiny bit droopy and the temps have dropped into the upper 70s, but the humidity is as high as ever. So it’s cool and sticky, is what I’m saying. It feels as if actual sweater weather is still a long ways away, but I’m thinking about how to bust out of my boring summer uniform and trick myself into thinking it’s fall, even when the weather isn’t about to cooperate. Which means, of course, I’ve started a Fall ’18 Mood board.

This particular mood board is a bit of an oddball, as it won’t likely convey to any viewer what it does to me. My mood isn’t nearly as colorless as this board, for one thing, which is more about shapes and accents and ideas for ways to combine things. (Color-wise, I’ll be hanging onto the blues and army and spot of orange you’ve been seeing the past couple of seasons.) As always, though, I’m in the mood for loose, comfortable, easygoing clothes, along with an unexpected detail, some last-minute sandal action giving way to oxfords and loafers. And I’m thinking a lot about volume. And that dickey. What the board doesn’t convey is that my faux fall wardrobe plan will involve all of the vests and smocks — basically a still-sleeveless layer on top of my summer uniform — so I’ll get into all of that as I take inventory and start putting together some new outfits with my same old clothes.

But I’ve also been mining my closet for a few “new” old things with which to change things up. We’re only a week out from the start of Slow Fashion October, and I’ll tell you at this point that what I have planned for this year is a very action-oriented month. We can debate definitions and so on all you want, but I know I’m in need of a proper full-closet assessment and responsible clean-out, and I know many of you are too. So I’m partially doing my normal wardrobe planning steps this week and partially jumping the gun on what I’ll be inviting you all into starting next week! More on all of that will be revealed …


PREVIOUSLY in Wardrobe Planning: Packing a mixed bag for the Cities by the Bay


Packing a mixed bag for the Cities by the Bay

Packing a mixed bag for the Cities by the Bay

It looks like my brand fluffy new aran-gansey is going to get its first outing much sooner than I expected. Bob and I are headed to San Francisco and all the surrounding towns today. He’s doing the Alcatraz swim on Saturday! This has been in the works for a long time, and has been rescheduled more times than I can count, and I’ve honestly been feeling a little bothered that it finally landed in mid-September. The thing that made me craziest about living there (for almost 20 years; please note that I am very familiar with the place) was that it’s freezing all year and then September rolls around, and right when you’re actually in the mood for the sweaters you’ve been forced to wear all summer, it suddenly heats up! Sept and Oct are the only two months in which you’ll ever really get any warm weather when you’re by the Bay. So here I am in stinky hot Tennessee, about to take my first vacation to SF since we moved away, and fuming a little about the inevitability that it wouldn’t actually mean a break from the heat. But then by some miracle, the usual Indian Summer is nowhere in sight!

We are, in fact, going to visit some sweater weather today, and I could not be more delighted.

We’ll be all over the place — SF, Berkeley, Marin, Vallejo, Napa, possibly even Point Reyes — doing a hilarious variety of things (from the messiest to the most professional) in about a dozen different micro-climates, but all of the forecasts call for highs from the mid-60s to mid-70s. Those temps feel different there, with no humidity and that wind, than they do here. But I think I still have my Layering badge, and am taking the above (see the Summer closet inventory for details on the rest of the garments), which should cover all variables, along with a wool scarf, mitts, hat — and my trusty gore-tex jacket for over the sweater when I’m out on the water Saturday morning, watching Bob swim with the … nope, not making that joke.

Never fear: There will be no break in the blog action! There’s a full week of fun stuff queued up, and I’ll be checking comments as much as possible.

And of course Fringe Supply Co. is always open. Which, by the way, we have the new Mason-Dixon Field Guide No. 8 in the webshop today, featuring fun gifty accessory patterns by the always-delightful Thea Colman.


PREVIOUSLY in Wardrobe Planning: Sweater inventory

Sweater inventory, part 3: The pullovers

Sweater inventory, part 3: The pullovers

And wow, we’re back to entirely black/grey/natural. I guess you could argue I know what I like, but this actually surprises me. When you look in my closet you see mostly a lot of blue clothes, definitely assorted blacks and neutrals, a little green and a little purple. I had no idea my only blue sweater at this point is the weirdly blue Bellows in progress, or that the only color in my sweater collection falls within the cardigans. That is certainly something I’ll be bearing in mind going forward.

The other surprising thing is simply that I have 10 pullovers, or nearly so — 5 I knitted (and 1 more in progress), 1 Meg knitted (which also means I have one Meg sweater in each of my three categories!) and 3 remaining storeboughts. It was just a couple years ago that I was lamenting the fact that I had essentially no pullovers, by which I meant I had the little cotton L.L. Bean fisherman and the two wintry turtlenecks (no handmades), and nothing for in-between weather, which is what we actually have here in Nashville. In those two years, I’ve amassed 6.5 handknit pullovers — and I still have almost nothing for the in-between!

Once again, click through on any sweater for complete pattern, yarn, modification and other details—


Black lopi raglan (Feb 2016) — 100% Icelandic wool, worsted weight
I get away with a lopi pullover in Tennessee by virtue of its being cropped and elbow-sleeved — and I am really eager to wear it this year with wide-leg pants — but it definitely stays in the closet until the humidity is well and truly gone. Any dampness at all in the air, and this is a no-go. But it’s cute and cozy and quick and inexpensive and I love it.

Striped raglan (Dec 2016) — Silk/merino/cashmere blend, sport weight
This is the thinnest, lightest-weight sweater I’ve made, and with the fiber content this one is truly a 3-season sweater here. It’s also crazy cute and easy to throw on with just about anything. I think the only reason I don’t wear it even more than I do is that it feels a bit delicate to me! Just because I’m used to thicker, more rugged sweaters. But it’s a total gem.

Black yoke sweater (Feb 2017) — Merino/cashmere/silk blend, aran weight
If you told me I could only keep one sweater from my whole collection (for some horrible, unthinkable reason) I would choose this one. I love the yarn, the fit, the memories of bending it to my will, the way the scale of the yoke patterning cooperates with my big shoulders. Everything. Can’t wait to wear it again.

Fisherman sweater (Aug 2017) — Merino/cashmere/silk blend, aran weight
This is my holy grail, the thing I wanted to make when I learned to knit, and omigod it was so much fun charting the vintage pattern and knitting the whole of it. Even after taking steps to scale this down a little bit, though, I still think there’s a little too much of it, so I’m going to attempt to shrink it and/or might find it a new home with a taller friend. I would happily knit this again — in fact, I’m kind of dying to! — so there’s no down side.

Grey pullover (Dec 2017) — Rambouillet/Wensleydale blend, worsted weight
This one would be the ideal everything/everywhere, better-than-basic grey sweater … had I not opted to knit it in such an incredibly warm yarn. As it is, it’s a truly amazing winter sweater. But it leaves me wanting a non-wool counterpart in a heather grey shade that’s just as perfect as this one.

Charcoal swoncho (Meg-made, 2012) — 100% wool, aran weight
The other sweater Meg gave me earlier this year. It’s more sweater than poncho, but the shape of this one definitely changes the equation from if it were a pullover with long, cuffed arms, which would make it strictly for really cold weather. As it is, I can get away with it in borderline cool/cold weather, depending what I pair it with.


Ivory aran-gansey (begun in June 2018) — Cotton/wool blend, worsted weight
I can already tell you I am going to wear the crap out of this thing. The fabric is so incredible, and 3-season friendly. Plus it’s the perfect bridge between the shrunken cotton L.L. Bean number below (which is cute and useful but not warm or cozy at all) and the heavy wool fisherman above. An ivory sweater for every month of the year, I say!


Grey cable turtleneck (H&M men’s, 2002) — Wool blend, worsted weight
I’m sure I’ve mentioned before, I bought this sweater in the men’s department at the first U.S. H&M store when I was in NYC launching a magazine in fall of 2002, so it has all sorts of very specific memories attached to it. It is definitely looking worse for wear at this point, and only gets hauled out a couple of times per winter anyway, but I’m hanging onto it until I have a suitable substitute. Because on the days and nights where it makes sense, I am very happy to climb into it.

Grey cropped turtleneck (J.Crew c. 2009) — Cashmere, sport weight
This was an epic clearance score back when I was all about scoring everything I ever wanted an mega-clearance. It has been very loved and worn, has a few little holes and bare spots, but it’s still the softest, coziest thing I’ve ever owned. Having cashmere around my neck on a cold day is heaven. So I can’t seem to quit it.

Ivory fisherman (L.L. Bean c.2010 but still available) — 100% cotton, worsted weight
Like I said, this is cute and useful, not cozy as it’s a really ropy cotton, but I do love getting to put it on each year when my mood is fall but the weather is not quite there yet. It’s been in my closet almost ten years at this point, and is welcome for a long time to come.


At this point, it’s hard to argue that I “need” any more pullovers, but it is a genuine issue that most of these are warm enough that it limits their wear and utility. It means they’ll last forever, of course! But to the extent I make any more pullovers for life in TN, they need to be non-100% wool. And a little color wouldn’t hurt!

Bottom line from all of this: I have 26 sweaters in my closet or in progress, and it’s a pretty epic collection! Not a throwaway in the bunch. What a nice place to be after these years of effort.


PREVIOUSLY in Sweater inventory: Part 2, The cardigans and Part 1, Vests and other sleeveless