Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Two 1940s Capsule Wardrobes

There can be a lot of challenges to building a great vintage wardrobe but there's one in particular that I want to talk about today and it comes from our modern upbringing. We think that we need a million pieces in our closet to have a complete wardrobe! Fast fashion says more more more but that's not how ladies of the past lived!

If you've ever see the closets in a vintage home, you've noticed how tiny they are compared to modern walk in closets. People didn't feel the need to have so much stuff (and couldn't afford to buy it all) especially during WWII. So today I'm going to show you two 1940s capsule wardrobes one for spring and summer and the other for fall and winter. This mode of thinking is so different from how most of us today approach our wardrobes but I hope to be able to show you that you don't need a closet bursting with vintage and reproduction dresses to have great vintage style.

After I filmed the video, I decided to take some photos and elaborate a bit more.

The Core Wardrobe

The core pieces of each wardrobe are above. You'll want a suit and coordinating cardigan. Pick a long sleeved cardigan for a suit with a short sleeved jacket or a short sleeved cardigan with a long sleeved jacket. Throw in a few coordinating blouses and a hat.

The suit can be worn by itself or with either of the two blouses. You can also wear the skirt with each of the blouses with no jacket for a more casual look. The hat can be worn with any of these outfits. I picked sort of a bold color palette with the red suit but more traditional colors like navy, black or gray would be even more versatile.

Pieces: 5
Outfits: 5

The Spring/Summer Wardrobe

For spring and summer, pick the short sleeved top for your suit. Add in a nice springy dress or two. I didn't have another coordinating summer weight skirt but that would also be nice.

Accessories are how we are going to really change up the core pieces. Add a springy hat that can be worn with any of the outfits you can build. I picked two pair of gloves-one white and one lavender- and a floral brooch with lavender flowers. Add in one neutral bag and matching shoes and you are good to go.

The dress can be worn by itself or with the suit jacket. Changing accessories like hats and gloves adds even more mixing possibilities. For example, with the white blouse and red skirt we could do a) green hat and white gloves, b) straw hat, lavender gloves and brooch c) straw hat and white gloves d) green hat, lavender gloves and brooch e) green hat and lavender gloves f) straw hat and lavender gloves g) green hat, white gloves and brooch and h) straw hat, white gloves and brooch. Each of these outfits could also be worn with the jacket or blue blouse. It goes on and on.

New Pieces: 6
New Outfits: 48 (more if you add the springy skirt)

The Fall/Winter Wardrobe

We've swapped out the spring dress for a more wintery one and added a winter weight skirt. Swap out the long sleeved top for your suit to be more winter appropriate. Another great piece you could add is a sweater that could be worn alone or over either of the blouses.

 The winter accessories include a black beret, black gloves, sparkly brooch and black bag. You'll also want a black winter coat and pair of black shoes.

Ok, even more outfits now. Accessory combinations include a) beret, black gloves and brooch b) beret and black gloves, c) beret, white gloves and brooch d) beret and white gloves e) green hat, white gloves and brooch f) green hat, black gloves and brooch g) green hat and white gloves and h) green hat and black gloves. Two blouses and two skirts plus the option of suit jacket or no jacket gives us 8 bases. With the 8 accessory combinations we're up to 64 outfits! Add in another 16 from dress combinations (8 different sets of accessories with and without the jacket) and now we are at 80! Just adding that extra skirt gave us a huge number of extra outfits.

New Pieces: 7
New Outfits: 80

So let's see where we are at:

Total pieces: 21 (includes winter coat and 2 pairs of shoes not pictured)
Outfits: 130+

Wow! You'd only have to wear each outfit 3 times to make it through the whole year. I didn't even include outfit options with no hats! Adding another dress, more accessories or another skirt or blouse would give you even more options. So you see, you really don't have to have a huge wardrobe to have lots of outfit options.


  1. Wow! This is so helpful as I am just now getting into vintage and don't have a huge budget to spend. I am sewing my clothes so this will really help me focus on what I need to do first in order to get my wardrobe built quickly! Thanks.

  2. Wow, the versatility astounds me. Thank you for putting this together. I really shows that the effort put into choosing a good core wardrobe really pays off.

  3. You make some really excellent points, and I feel like my wardrobe would probably benefit from some editing. On the other hand... all the prints! All the colors! All the different silhouettes and hemlines and shapes! I just don't ever see myself succeeding at having a capsule wardrobe, so matter how full my closet becomes.

  4. 'Walk in closet'. I think I know one person in the UK with one of those! They're not the norm here, though. I just have a little wardrobe. It's possible to do quite a lot with a little.

  5. Absolutely stellar post and topic to raise. My own (literal) closet is very, very small by modern standards, but even then, I fully admit my wardrobe is larger than those of most in the decades that it filled with. I find that constantly staying on top of weeding out pieces that don't work is a must, as is building it around certain core pieces, many of which are akin to the excellent suggestions you've shared here. I'd love to have a genuinely big closet one day for ease of storage and access, but wouldn't feel like I had to cram every know and cranny full (quite the opposite, that's how having a tiny closet feels and I'd love to experience the opposite!).

    Thank you for this great post, dear lady!

    ♥ Jessica

  6. I completely agree with this post. I noticed I tend to dress this way a lot. My two go to colors are red and blue. I do mix and match these colors like you pointed out and add accessories to make my outfits look different. And I tend to change my hairstyle all the time too. Some times I do feel like I should have more clothes in my closet. When I do buy my clothes to I always have in mind will this go with every thing I own. Thank you for the post it is very helpful, sometime I feel bad wearing the same stuff all the time even though I make my outfits look totally different.

  7. Thanks so much for the reminder that we don't need dozens of pieces to have a complete wardrobe Stephanie! I am definitely going to keep these capsule wardrobe ideas in mind as I continue sewing.

    the Middle Sister and Singer