by Colleen

While I am not ready to take on Taneem’s challenge of adhering to the capsule wardrobe, I decided that I was going to move back to Iowa City having purged my closet of at least 40 items. As I really love dresses I have to look into the capsule wardrobe to see if that is even a possibility for me; I’m not much of a skirt person, and I really don’t like wearing pants. From what I’ve read about capsule wardrobes, many people do a lot of mix & match tops and bottoms, but maybe I can just do 25 dresses, one pair of jeans, and 2 shirts, or something along those lines that better fir with my own aesthetic. We’ll see.

I have bought a few new things here and there over the course of this academic year–new red Mary Jane shoes to replace a pair that died last year, a few new sweaters, some new tights, a chambray shirt, most recently a black lace dress that I’ve been eyeing and waiting to go on sale for months, and probably a few sale items I can’t think of right now (and almost all of these purchases were replacing old worn down pieces that were similar rather than a brand new item)–and buying new things means that I need to think about what could reasonably fit in my car at the end of the semester as I drive halfway across the country with a ton of books and my husband, who is flying East to drive back with me.

When I went back to Iowa City over spring break, I packed a suitcase of some of my heaviest sweaters, sweater dresses, winter boots, wool tights, and green winter coat and left those there, hoping that spring would soon be here and I was not making a huge mistake. So, those items were already gone from my VAP closet.

But, I decided to try the Lent challenge: choosing 40 items over the 40 days of Lent to donate. (You can just pick your lucky number and go that route, too.) I liked the easy reminder of the number 40 and knowing that I had until Easter weekend to choose my 40 items, so that’s why I decided to affix the liturgical reminder to my donation/trash pile.

So, here we go…



  1. The sweater was a hand-me-down from a friend and it’s really pretty, but it’s that wonderful shade of beige that looks terrible on my really pale skin.
  2. The pants, too, were a hand-me-down but didn’t fit quite right.
  3. The dress was an end-of-summer clearance purchase, and in hindsight the $5 or so I paid was too much: it is both dowdy and made of such unnatural fibers that it is too hot to wear in summertime.
  4. The black Mary Janes were already dying, but a button fell from them during my conference weekend last week. RIP shoes.


ITEMS 5-10


Items 5-10: 

5. My bright orange Old Navy peacoat is raggedy, and I am moving to Iowa, which is so cold and I will need a new winter jacket.

6. The scarf was a gift, but not my style and still has the tags attached.

7. The dress is looking a little worn, like something a woman wears in a Steinbeck novel.

8. The cardigan is too large.

9. Old Navy Rockstar black jeans have a shorter lifespan than most carnival goldfish (Suggestions on cheap black skinny jeans? Thanks. I am eternally grateful.)

10. Black very thick and heavy short-sleeved sweater. I don’t need oxymorons in my closet.


ITEM 11-15


11. Tomato and white dress. It’s pretty but the v-cut was always deep, and since gaining weight the cleavage situation is now absurd. And I don’t want to wear a camisole with it because it’s meant to be a breezy summer dress. and that defeats the purpose

12. Green and white deer dress. It’s very cute, but I’m slowly getting rid of some of my woodland creature dresses. Whoso list to hunt… I know where there will be a dress at SalvA.

13. The collar on this shirt is very high and frilly, which I love, but the rest is a shapeless trapeze.

14. Peplum t-shirt that flares at a weird spot and I always feel like my stomach is exposed, even if it’s not.

15. I own lots of striped sweaters, but this one is too large and I wore it a lot for two years and I am tired of it.

NOT #16. Davy the cat, who I am not donating.




ITEMS 16-22


16. Black drop waist dress. This is not the silhouette for my body. I am not Lady Mary.

17. Union T-shirt. I paid my dues, but I don’t need the T to prove it. I have dental coverage instead.

18. Striped dress. I have other striped dresses. I like some of those other striped dresses better.

19. Gold and white sweater: too small.

20. Boatneck striped T-shirt. Tight across the chest, baggy across the torso.

21. Frumpy cardigan in bad non-colors tat look bad on my skin.

22. Thrifted floral t-shirt that was worth more than the $5 I paid for it. But now it’s faded and pilling.



ITEMS 23-26


23. Another oxymoron dress: thick corduroy with long sleeves… and a very short skirt.

24. Time to retire this cardigan.

25. The red and white it dress is too large.

26. The pineapple dress is cute. But it’s too twee, even for me, and it makes me feel like I am the zany best friend in a romantic comedy.



ITEMS 27-33


27. Grey quilted circle skirt. I’m too old for this shit.

28. Striped dress. It’s cute, in a Bert & Ernie type of way.

29. Red tunic. My torso is too short for tunics. They always look bad on me. It looks as though I am very pregnant or like I’m wired for a sting.

30. Navy sweater. Went into the dryer. Oops.

31. Pink and orange Mary Janes. I bought these via Amazon and they are cheap material and look awful, and the strap snapped the first time I tried to figure out the fake buckle. At least I was completely comped when I complained about the quality and they let me keep the crappy shoes.

32. Graphic silk T-shirt. I like this and would keep it, but it’s too snug.

33. Sleeveless shell printed with eyeglass frames all over it. Sometimes I buy insane things. This is an example.




ITEMS 34-38


34. Boring blazer. It was one of my first ones. I have better ones now. It also shows some wear. Buh bye.

35. Put a bird on it sweater. Was this an ironic purchase? I don’t even know.

36. This polka dot sweater fits cute, but the colors are boring.

37. The colors on this polka dot are so cute, but it’s baggy.

38. These fake blue suede Chelsea boots got me through a few seasons, but I want to buy a grownup pair. Like real Chelsea boots.

NOT #39: Davy is still not up for donation.



ITEMS 39-43


39 & 40: I won these two infinity scarves. Our relationship is not infinite, however.

I like all of these dresses, but it’s time to say goodbye.

41. I love the pattern on this silk dress, but it fits like a bag if it’s loose and it’s much too short when cinched. 😦

42. This dress has bugs all over it! I love that! But it’s pretty short and shapeless as a dress (kinda like cute pajamas), and the top gapes open when I try to wear it as a blouse under a skirt. 😦

43. This dress is very cute, and it’s a good length, and it’s nice & light for summertime. But… it’s also very faded and pilling (when viewed up close). 😦



 To sum up, the items I am donating or tossing could be categorized into one or more of the following categories:

  1. Faded, shrank, or otherwise showing natural wear and tear. (#4, 5, 7, 9, 22, 30, 38, 43)
  2. No longer fits, physically. (#2, 8, 9, 11, 14, 15, 19, 20, 25, 30, 32, 37, 41, 42)
  3. No longer fits, professionally, spiritually, or some other intangible sense (#3, 11, 12, 16, 21, 22, 23, 26, 27, 28, 34, 42)
  4. Sartorial Ennui. Very tired of the purchase. Either it was a staple for a while and I just wore to the point of exhaustion (and I imagine that is what would happen with everything I own if I tried the capsule wardrobe) or it was seasonal/trend that now feels dated (#3, 4, 5, 7, 9, 15, 16, 18, 22, 24, 26, 28, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38)
  5. Gifted clothes that didn’t work for me. (#1, 2, 6, 17, 39, 40)
  6. Bad purchasing. Cheap purchase=poor quality, poor fit, etc. Or, I just bought something I felt iffy about in the first place. Or, I just bought something bonkers. (#3, 9, 10, 13, 16, 29, 31, 33, 35, 38, 39, 40)

Clothes shrink, fade, tear,and bodies change, too, which leads to clothes no longer fitting, and so I cannot feel bad about donating or tossing clothes in those categories (Categories 1 and #), especially if these were also clothes that I really wore a lot for a few seasons, or in some cases a decade or so (some of the clothes in categories 3 or 4).

Many of these clothes are from when I was a graduate student, which is different than my current position and so I feel fine about moving beyond some of these clothes  (Category 3). A few items are even from when I was an undergrad or in the time before I began graduate school, so those are clothes that had a very long lifetime (Category 3).

Sometimes people buy or give me clothes, and sometimes I love them and sometimes I don’t, but I try them out and pass them on if they don’t work for me (Category 5).

It’s the last category that I need to work on (Category 6).

It’s hard to pass up a good sale, but I often settle for something that is of lesser quality or not as flattering of a fit just to save money. Then I do not wear it very often, or I wear it and it falls apart. I need to stop doing that.

I like to dress a little quirky, but that doesn’t mean I should dress like an insane person. It’s something I am working on. (It’s something I’ve been working on for about 20 years tbh).

It’s hard to try clothes on in a fitting room without the proper undergarments or shoes, but I need to make sure that I really, really love the fit and color if I bring something home before committing to it.

And, I need to spend a little more money on items I know that I like and want to last longer–e.g. really good black skinny jeans to wear with knee high boots or real leather Chelsea boots.