How my closet let me down... (looooong)

This is how it usually happens: when you think your closet is in a great shape something comes along to show you it is not so!

It came to me in a form of unexpected summer business trip....

I was leaving early Monday morning and knowing how reliable my closet is I left all packing for Sunday afternoon. Should be easy, right? Imagine my horror when I began to pull things from my closet  to build outfits for travel and suddenly realized  that I don't have right items for the trip!

Here are the conditions: 
- Location: US South in August (North Carolina). Hot and humid outdoors and of course arctic A/C indoors;
- Venue: IT at the bank so I need to pack business casual;
- Duration: 5 days including plane-to-office and office-to-plane outfits.

My regular work code is smart casual (self-imposed, my office is just casual). However I could not dress the same way for the trip, I need business casual as I was going to the bank.

I have started with bottoms. I will take one skirt and one pair of pants for the variety. For a skirt I selected Halogen grey pencil skirt.
Now for the pants (pic 1). My first thought was micro-window pane tuxedo stripe pants which are a nice weight for summer. However when I began to create outfits with them they just did not feel right for the occasion:
they felt too busy for the customer site so I gave up after a while.

Oh bother - none of my other pants works either:

  • blush khaki - too casual in fabrication;
  • linen grey pants - the same;
  • micro check crops - too big now, don't feel fab in them anymore; also that cropped length was more like shorts - not appropriate for the bank setting;
  • all denim is out;
  • white wide leg pants - they might have worked but I wore them once already and they were in the laundry;

OK, maybe I take 2 skirts. Let's see (pic 2):

  • flared midi with subtle silver stripes - too big now and this style just does not seem business-y enough for the occasion;
  • striped VC tube - too casual and too busy;
  • red Halogen pencil skirt - the color feels too bold;
  • polka dot flared midi - too busy.

Hmmm, no luck with another skirt - how about a dress (pic 3):

  • floral sheath - feels too busy;
  • tropical print sheath - too busy and bright.

Other dresses are either too casual or too warm for summer (like my Tahari ponte sheath).


Hold on, I have Martin black cigarette trousers, should work, right? Put them on - they are too big now! They supposed to be fitted and not fluid so they definitely look wrong (see how the fabric sticks out on the hips?) - pic 4.

Oh no! My flight is in 12 hours, my bed is strewn with clothes and I have nothing to wear!!!

In the end after 3 agonizing hours I did take the black cigarette pants: I paired them with long blouses to cover the ill-fitting hips and bum and they were passable.

So this is what I took in the end for 5 days (pic 5 - 9):

  • 2 jackets (cream and blue Zara jackets: I think they were fine even though not very formal. If I had business meetings it would be a different issue but for working in IT they were fine);
  • one skirt;
  • one pair of pants;
  • 2 long blouses;
  • 1 sleeveless and 1 short sleeve top to wear with a skirt under a blue jacket;
  • one button down to wear with the skirt sans jacket.
  • 2 pairs of shoes: silver pumps and round toe grey low wedges. I don't love these wedges now but they worked and I traveled in them. 

I survived this trip and want to think that I did not look like a hot mess but it uncovered some serious holes in my work wardrobe. Some of them are related to my weight loss (half of my bottoms are too big now) but they also show that I am lacking a proper business casual capsule which can work for me for 2 week trip. That interview jacket / suit hole I discovered some time ago? It also would be a part of this capsule. I also need it to work for summer and for winter - or I need 2 seasonal capsules.
So now I have this work cut out for me: to create this business capsule(s) re-using what I already have (if possible) and adding what I definitely lack.
I think I will be doing another post on this subject as I sure need help with this!

Sorry it was such a long post - if you stayed with me to the end you are my hero :-)

This post is also published in the youlookfab forum. You can read and reply to it in either place. All replies will appear in both places.


  • Suz replied 6 years ago

    What a story!! As usual,  I couldn't stop reading, wanting to know how it was going to turn out! 

    Imagine my shock when, at the end of it all, I saw you looking just as amazingly stylish and gorgeous as ever! Gee, for a woman whose closet has let her down, you sure look FAB in those last outfits. The Zara jacket pairs beautifully with the grey skirt -- inspired combo. And your disguises for the pants worked perfectly. 

    Still, I think you have definitely identified a key wardrobe hole. And I sympathize with your last minute panic. Many times I have been in a similar position, and it is never any fun. 

  • UmmLila replied 6 years ago

    Sveta, I am feeling all your pain but I had to laugh when you got to the part about the bed is strewn with clothes and I have nothing to wear. I think we all feel like that sometimes! Through size variation or personal taste changes, I always keep a decent looking black pants suit in the closet. Just in case of emergency. Obviously, it doesn't have to be black for you but I agree with your previous idea of having an "interview" suit on hand. I think you still managed to put some very decent looks together for the trip, even if they are not what I think of as the usual Sveta smart casual. Probably everyone you interacted with was just all impressed with the fabness of the blue jacket!

  • replied 6 years ago

    I was expecting a horror show myself, but was treated to you looking like a Vogue model from the 50's . I'm so with you on these business trip capsules- it's one of my goals too ( to create a few workable ones that don't require buying entire new outfits). And , lastly, it's usually at that precise moment when the bed is strewn with clothes I now actively hate and am mad at, that DH wanders in and asks what in hell is going on in here.

    Glad you survived the trip:)

  • Alana in Canada replied 6 years ago

    Sveta, I am so sorry you were in this situation. I have no advice, just sympathy.

  • Deborah replied 6 years ago

    Well done! Sveta, I feel like you are saying you didn't want to look to fashionable? The outfits you put together are in my opinion, very appropriate. I hear what you say about the dresses being too busy, but the one worn with the blue jacket looks very professional and stylish to me. There is nothing worse than being "caught out" but I think you mastered it. My work is super casual but I try to always have a couple of more "strict" pieces to throw together a suit look on the rare occasions that I need to. This might sound funny, but sometimes my funeral capsule works a treat for a formal business environment.

  • Gigi replied 6 years ago

    Sveta, I will tell you what your problem are too stylish a dresser! If you had had a wardrobe full of boring, blah clothing all in neutrals, you would have been ready for this trip no problem, ha ha!

    I think you still look great. And to look on the bright side: now you know exactly the kind of stuff that your wardrobe is missing; you don't have to guess. :)

  • replied 6 years ago

    Sveta, you were dealt a very difficult hand to play! North Carolina is typically so hot and humid in August, but they have had so much rain this summer that the temps are cooler (I'm headed there next week). How to dress for that? And then Business Casual? The phrase strikes fear in my heart. What a packing nightmare. Of course you did a great job with what you had. A few of your more overtly feminine outfits would have been perfectly appropriate there too IMO, bank or not.

    Your closet is in good shape, you are just not the same size and shape as your closet anymore! Thank God your mum is such an excellent seamstress. I think three-season or tropical wool might be nice for suiting for a trip like that one. Was the A/C very cold? I'm sorry for you bad packing experience, but I'm glad it illuminated the holes. Onward!

  • Joy replied 6 years ago

    You had me on the edge of my chair with your packing story, but your outfits look great. You had to have made a good, professional impression. There is something about packing for a trip that makes those wardrobe holes clear.

  • Sal replied 6 years ago looked great at the end of it so well done.

    I do know this feeling though and the panicky sensation of trying to find something appropriate that still feels like you!

  • Debbie replied 6 years ago

    Your outfits looked great and professional. Dressing for the heat and AC is always a challenge. I am still looking for an interview suit. Who knew it would be so hard to find. Weight loss makes things harder.

  • bj1111 replied 6 years ago

    I'm sorry you did not feel your best, even if from the outside the outfits looked intentional and fab. The pants did not look sloppy. At. All.

    I think 2 capsules should cover the weather for most of the country for most of the year. A couple of toppers/bottoms, like a suit jacket and pants would bridge both capsules if in a breathable all season wool. In the cold, a couple of pieces from your smart casual everyday work wardrobe could substitute or add. Bottoms seem to be what anchors the business part of biz casual. The jackets tend to taken on the character of the bottoms and can read as more smart or biz side of casual. Also, it seems that with the weight loss, the fluidity of tops are more forgiving when worn large than the bottoms are. Maybe concentrate on the bottoms as a start.

    On the plus side...more shopping for your slammin' bod. Seriously great shape.

  • Neel replied 6 years ago

    You rocked the travel capsule .... Even though it was agonizing to get there! I love the variety, the shoes, the colors and how well they mixed and matched. But now since you have discovered the wardrobe hole (and assuming you would have lot many business trips like this one), it is time to hunt for that interview suit which can double up as business casual when the need be.

    I think you did very well for this one :). I might have gone shopping o_O

  • JamC replied 6 years ago

    I knew you could do it! Black pants look great the way you styled them.

  • krishnidoux replied 6 years ago

    I am sorry that your wardrobe wasn't there for you. I think it is because you seldom have occasions like this trip in your current life. So you need at least one very classic, neutral, ultra-comfortable all-purpose pair of pants for such occasions. 
    Of course you look absolutely stunning in the pics. 

  • unfrumped replied 6 years ago

    Fantastic story! You did great.
    Such a classic situation- an event dress code a step up, or down, from our usual lifestyle.
    A suit would work, but you rock separates, so I think you've identified your need to maintain several somewhat classic items in a modern iteration - black or gray pants, for example; simple skirt -- that you can wear in your " normal" work by wearing just one piece as the foundation and jazzing up the shoes and mixing with more casual and edgy pieces, but then could pull those items into their own capsule. You don't want to invest in suits or pieces that are too stodgy or not " you" to wear on a regular basis or they'll sit and get outdated anyway.
    Also, FEIW I think summer warm- climste business is the hardest, as in more casual workplaces people are wearing more casual fabrications as well as styles and just in general it's easier to get the " serious" look with fall and winter items.

  • La Belle Demimondaine replied 6 years ago

    I agree with Suz - what  stylish looks you put together!

    Because you're IT (not finance), and because you're in the South, I really feel you could wear that red skirt, and dampen it down with some darker neutral colors and conservative shoes, and it would totally work.   Depending on the temperature, I think you might be able to squeak by with those shorter length gray pants that are all the way on the right in the first picture - again, with some very conservative shoes and a jacket.  

    When in doubt, in the South, put on some pearls, and everybody thinks you're very dressed up.

  • lyn67 replied 6 years ago

    OMG Sveta, I would have never guessed that this may happen to others, too! I have been there, so I know it' not fun, at all-it even hurts, and trully  dissapoints to think you must have a great wardrobe on which you have worked so hard to put it all up together, and  finding out it is still not ever enough, ugh.:-((.. I'm so sorry you didn't posted this thread before leaving as am sure we would have advised you on including some of your posted outfits here like nr 2 and 4 from the pictie nr 2, and the dress with the light blue jacket, in nr. 3 which are all still fantastic choices in my opinion, for what you have had needed. The final capsule was gorgeous, too-but at least  you wouldn't have ended  so stressed up before leaving:-).

  • viva replied 6 years ago

    Well, now I know what to do today. Pre-pack for my September work trips!!!

    Sveta, I can completely relate to this story and I loved reading it all the way to the wonderful and stylish ending. I think packing for work travel is very challenging on its own. And weight loss, although it can be great, can also be very frustrating when it makes clothing ill-fitting.

    So sorry you had such a nightmare pre-flight experience, but I hope you get some benefit from knowing that you may have saved me from the same fate. :)

  • Angie replied 6 years ago

    Svetlana Sweetheart, first, you STILL looked fabulously stylish each day. You may not have been 100% happy with the outfit results, but truly - you are too hard on yourself. Certainly on my computer screen, you showcased your usual high style quotient. Fact. 

    Second, it is no wonder that you've found wardrobe holes. You operate on a tight mix and max wardrobe as it is - and with the weight loss - you lost at least half your bottoms this year. That's very slim pickings to say the least, especially since you have the lifestyle to wear biz casual outfits frequently. It's WOW amazing to me that you've made it this far without purchasing much while dropping at least two sizes this year. I am much impressed. 

    Third, you need to shop a little more to tide you over, Darling Honeypie. And that's a YLF order.

    Fourth, you are ultra fabulous and I just have to tell you that again. xo

  • Lyn D. replied 6 years ago

    Well said Angie!
    Fab outfits- time to go shopping with Suz now- can't wait to see your new choices :)

  • Windchime replied 6 years ago

    Oh, Sveta, I am sure your coworkers who saw you on the business trip were VERY impressed by your wonderful outfits. But Angie has spoken, and now you can enjoy some guilt-free shopping for this unexpected wardrobe hole and your fab new size.

  • Kyle replied 6 years ago

    S -- if you want to keep your shopping to a minimum, how about finding a pair of simple black pants? I love the BR Sloans, and they do come in Tall:

    Also, I have them in Cabernet and Looove how versatile that color actually is. By the way, they are on sale, too. Check out the reviews.

    A black pant and a button down with or without a blazer will take you a long way. You can wear them at least two times on one trip. I also love the Kamali dresses when travelling for business. Again, with or without a blazer.

    As others have said, you are always stylish and chic.

  • shiny replied 6 years ago

    Firstly, I must say you looked just fine and perfectly stylish -- but also I can see "not quite Sveta." I know this packing panic very well, I have been there myself, though presently because I'm gaining, not losing, weight. 

    Secondly --and quite selfishly! -- I wish I hadn't read your post today, because I am in process of wardrobe de-cluttering, and this makes me want to hoard all my skinny items... just in case I drop the weight! 

    Please reassure me that you are quite happy for the excuse to shop for new items... 'k?? 


  • lynn replied 6 years ago

    Wow! You are just drop dead gorgeous! It's hard to believe how you struggled when the end result was so fabulous. Kudos to you for figuring out the solutions! Losing weight is wonderful except when it messes with the wardrobe. I can't wait to see how you fill your empty spots!

  • SW Ann replied 6 years ago

    Of course I stayed with the story until the end--I consider you one of my YLF style icons, and had to see how you solved this! you looked great, and although I can relate to how trying that "all my clothes are on the bed and I have nothing that works!" feeling, you came through looking terrific, as usual.  And, really, aren't you glad you know what you know now?? Because of identifying the "holes" now, you'll be more ready for the next time....
    Thanks for sharing your angst, and solution....

  • Sveta replied 6 years ago

    Thank you all for sharing in my story. 
    Suz, this blue Zara jacket doe look good with this grey. This skirt was the only option for me but then I discovered that the buttons on the jacket are actually grey and in a very similar shade - how cool is that?
    Ummlila - a "decent" suit which feels like me and which can be worn together as well as separately is my hole to fill now.
    lisap, I had my DH occupied playing card games with kids during my packing madness so it was safe :-)
    Deborah, I was lucky enough not to need a funeral capsule by now but this could be another use for that HEWI suit. It is becoming quite versatile, who said there is not much use for a suit in a modern lifestyle? :-)
    Gigi, you are right, this is EXACTLY what my problem is! :-)
    Claire, the first 3 days was a perfect weather and I enjoyed it very much - but then it became hot and humid and I was happy I was leaving :-)
    Ruth, you are right than when tops became bigger somehow it is less obvious than the bottoms - especially when those bottoms were fluid to start with.
    Neel, I MIGHT have gone shopping but it was Sunday evening and stores were closed...which was a good thing of course :-)
    Krish, I do have several business trips a year but none of them was in summer for the last 7 years. I think I may have been OK for the cooler weather trip but hot weather one caught me unprepared.
    unfrumped - yes, summer travel is much trickier!
    LBD - it is true about South and IT but going on a client site puts  more stringent conditions on a dress code than just working there. If I worked there I would be completely fine with my style but as a visitor I felt I need to step up.
    lyn67, I don't think posting would help me. It was not as much how I looked to others but mostly how I felt for myself.
    Viva, I hope it helped you to pack  :-)
    Angie, you are a sweetheart. If not for my wizard Mom I would not be able to function without buying new bottoms at all. I need to shop for sure and it is going to be a very targeted shopping - and I count on Seattle trip to have some of it done! :-)
    Kyle, thanks for the link. In the past Sloan cut did not work for me but I should try it now - who knows, it may have changed with a weight loss. Love those burgundy trousers and only wish they were full length. 
    Shiny, I am happy for the excuse to shop - but my bank account is not :-(

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