Life in a Capsule: An Interview with Nubby Twiglet

When I opened up the suggestion box a few months ago, many of you asked for capsule-wardrobe guidance. How do you keep your looks fun and interesting if you’re working with a small group of well-loved and well-edited pieces? I feel a bit ill-equipped to answer this one myself, as someone who relishes a large and varied wardrobe, so I asked the amazing Nubby Twiglet if I could get her input instead.

A talented graphic designer and artist, Nubby has fabulous taste in clothing, yet generally confines her purchases to items that are black, white, and red. She definitely throws in some other bold hues, multicolored pieces, and accents on occasion, but if you’ve been reading her blog for long, you’ll see that her core wardrobe is simple, elegant pieces in those three iconic shades.

I asked Nubby how she felt about her commitment to this relatively confining style aesthetic, and she gave me some truly fascinating answers. Read on for the interview:

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Your personal style centers on a color palette of black, white, and red. How did you settle upon that group of shades?

I think that everyone has a signature color, whether they consciously realize it or not. I’ve always enjoyed the clean and sophisticated look that monochromatic ensembles lend but I still like the occasional pop of color to bring it all to life. My passion is graphic design and I’ve always been inspired by Swiss design in particular — the use of clean lines and a palette of red, black and white. For me, my design work, house decor and personal style are all singular. It’s all connected to form a bigger picture.

Do you ever feel confined or stifled by your desire to stay true to your personal aesthetic?

Not at all. I like having a defined, recognizable look. Some people are comfortable changing their outward appearance constantly. Personally, I thrive on consistency. Being pulled together and recognizable (not looking like a different person every day!) are my two goals. Like many others, I keep a very busy schedule and knowing what works and having a well-stocked closet of basics makes life so much easier!

How do you keep your ensembles from looking stale and repetitive?

Accessories are key. While I may rotate through a pile of little black dresses, skinny black zipper jeans and t-shirts covered in graphic type, I can still transform my look with a pair of kick-ass shoes, a great scarf, an awesome handbag and unique jewelry.

Do you find that having a signature set of colors leads you to purchase an abundance of new items in an attempt to keep things fresh?

Not necessarily. I love the classics. The most basic items in my closet are the ones I wear the most. I’m fairly practical and I have a lot less clothes than some may think. Because of my limited color palette, I tend to really get my use out of what I have in my closet. If anything, I spend way more on accessories. I won’t buy yellow jeans but I’ll buy yellow shoes. Because, instinctively, I know that I can get a lot more wear out of those yellow shoes.

What advice would you give women hoping to simplify their wardrobes by culling down to a small group of pieces that work interchangeably?

Ask yourself what you wear the most. Is there a favorite cardigan that you constantly gravitate toward when you don’t know what to wear? Do you own that one pair of jeans that fit perfectly? Is there a pair of shoes that seem to go with everything, whether you’re dressed up or down? These are your key go-to items. If you have many other items taking up space in your closet that you just don’t wear, ask yourself why. Are they ill-fitting? Were they gifts that you just can’t part with? Is there an emotional attachment? Either get rid of them or move them to a separate space where they won’t interfere with your basic, everyday wardrobe. I actually have a spare closet in my home office that I call my “costume closet” and I store all of my whimsical, costume-y, special occasion and vintage oddities in it. This frees up space for me to access my everyday pieces.

Because they’ve been tested over and over, I think that it’s okay to buy duplicates of your “everyday basics” that are the highest quality you can afford. They are the key anchors to the rest of your wardrobe because they work. One of my biggest pet peeves is having to re-buy an item because it was poorly made and wore out quickly. Even though I’m spending significantly more upfront on a handful of items – whether that be a great coat, shoes, or a handbag – chances are that I’ll still have it in rotation in 5, 10 or even 20 years. For instance, my favorite black jacket began to wear out after 10 years of regular wear so I saved up and found a great deal on my dream Rick Owens jacket on eBay. Sure it was still really expensive but I feel great wearing it, the quality is unparalleled and it’s something I instinctively know I will always have.

What do you feel are the advantages of creating strict parameters for personal style?

Consistency. Some of the most iconic people in history had somewhat of a uniform that made them instantly recognizable. Part of the appeal of having a strong sense of personal style is knowing what works visually before you even open up closet. Getting dressed shouldn’t be a battle; the outcome should be uplifting and make you feel good!

Huge thanks to Nubby for collaborating with me on this interview, and for such thoughtful and thought-provoking answers. You can peruse more of her striking and artfully-assembled looks right here.

Who among you is working within the parameters of a small wardrobe? Do you agree with Nubby’s perspective on capsule dressing? Anything to add? Any questions for her?

  • angie

    Thanks for getting us to know such inspiring bloggers.

  • Lauren

    Fascinating interview! Thanks for sharing this – I've never heard of Nubby before but she is gorgeous and I love her sense of style. I'd like to have a capsule wardrobe myself but I'm still at the stage where I'm trying to figure out what works. I also keep changing my mind about my favorite look – one day it's animal prints, the next day it's boho. Much as I'd like to be consistent about the way I look, my fickle moods end up dictating what I wear.

  • Allison

    Very interesting! My color palette tends to be less …compatible? as a capsule. Something to mull over.

  • Sue

    Great stuff. I have been feeling a bit restrained by my own wardrobe lately — coincidentally black, white and red (with a touch of grey and cobalt) — but Nubby's comments have given me renewed interest and confidence in my choices. Thanks, Sally and Nubby!

  • Ms. M

    I totally agree with Nubby (and I love her style!). Especially the part about buying the best quality you can afford. The most frustrating thing I've encountered with my small wardrobe is the problem of things wearing out quickly because I wear them so frequently.

    I wear mostly black and dark colors with a few bright accents. I need to invest more in accessories. I've pretty much given up on pale colors and I don't miss them at all.

  • angie

    Hello, Nubby Twiglet! You and your pooch are simply divine. Thanks for sharing your valuable perspective.

    These are great questions and answers and I really enjoyed reading them. Loved the bit about the duplicates. I double up and buy the same thing in the same colour if I need to. Can’t stand laundry bottlenecks!

    My approach to wardrobe capsuling is a little different – I guess it's looking more from the top down. It's very lifestyle based. If you're interested, I've attached a link. It's how I start mapping out a small and effective wardrobe for clients. Like Nubby, I very much believe in a small wardrobe :)

    http://youlookfab.com/2009/06/25/wardrobe-capsules-for-your-lifestyle/

  • tinyjunco

    Wonderful interview. Ms. Twiglet lays out the basics of a small wardrobe cleanly and concisely. & i should know- i've been dressing this way for ~20 years now, real hard core the last ten.

    as Ms. Twiglet lays out, consistency is the key to true personal style. if you know yourself, sticking with what works for YOU will be the exact OPPOSITE of confining. everything you have works, it all goes together in infinite ways, you love it all, it's so easy to know what to get….and you can look your greatest all the time with less work!

    I'm glad to see Angie of youlookfab here – the queen of small wardrobe bloggers! i've been blogging on small wardrobe ideas, as well – i have a 'Building a Small Wardrobe' list of links there, if people are curious.

  • Anonymous

    Hey Sal, great interview. I have a question for Nubby or for yourself. I don't think I have a problem with my style, it's eclectic but I like it that way. My problem is space. I live in a small house with 5 other students, and have the smallest room in the house. I don't have a closet, and shove everything into my dresser and a couple of bins. This makes it incredibly difficult to keep my room organized or to find things in the morning. I don't have a lot of money/room for most organizers. Any tips? The mess is driving me crazy and it takes me forever to get ready some days. Thanks!!

    and I love love love your blog :) Love the positive thinking.

    My mom is the kind of person that makes you feel beautiful no matter what (and always told me and my sister to never change a thing about ourselves) but just from the comments on your posts, I can tell how much you've helped your readers. You're beautiful!

  • Sal

    Anonymous: Ugh, how frustrating! I'd recommend buying a cheap rolling rack like this one: http://www.containerstore.com/shop?productId=10000191&N=&Ntt=rack That way, you could keep your clothes neater, see them better, and plan outfits ahead of time.

    You could also try organizing your stuff by type and color: http://www.alreadypretty.com/2009/11/grouping-easy-route-to-happier-closet.html

    Hope that helps, and thanks for your kind words about my blog!

  • Diana

    Thanks for introducing us to yet another great blogger! I love her style. Personally, I don't think I could ever commit to a capsule wardrobe, since I'm too schizophrenic when it comes to style, and I like to have a lot of choices on any given day, but I am really impressed by people who can edit their wardrobe to just a few stunning capsule pieces that all go with each other!

  • Mother of Style

    Love her! My takeaway is to have great shoes- she certainly does!

  • Lisa Z

    I feel best working around a small wardrobe and a "uniform" of sorts. I'm learning from your blog to branch out a little bit, i.e. add a little style every day to the jeans and t-shirts, but all in all I will stick to my uniform. Also, through much trial and error over the years I have found the colors I prefer and that look best on me (mostly I have learned this through pictures and compliments). My colors tend to be black, gray, navy, white, red, plum/burgundy, hot pink/fuschia and some paler pinks but I have to be really careful about them. I also like dark green and chocolate brown but don't have much of them. So basically I'm in the black/white/red categories too.

    Sometimes this seems boring to me, but I like to keep life simple, and I've always read that European women and some of the most stylish women out there tend to have smaller wardrobes of better quality. And besides, I don't have much closet space or money so it works.

    Thanks for the constant tips and inspiration!

  • tinyjunco

    Hi Anon 10:12! yeah, that's a problem with lots of clothes….unless you have photographic memory!

    here's one idea. Since you manage to keep all your things in a dresser and a bin, can you organize the dresser drawers? by whatever makes sense – color, season, type of item (l/s tees, s/s tees, leggings, tights, etc.). so you could have reds on the left side of one drawer, purples on the right side, etc. roll or fold items and stack them together on end so you can see them.

    in bins, you could organize smaller items by stuffing them into one gallon ziploc bags (freezer are stronger, get on sale). slip in a piece of paper with clearly marked label facing towards the outside of the bag.

    you have to spend time each week making sure things stay neat and organized…but you make it up in time and aggravation when getting dressed. good luck! steph

  • bubu

    fascinating post! I'm so impressed by Nubby, both the writing and the photos- it's clear less doesn't mean less style…. realistically, though, don't think i could ever do this -i love variety and changing shapes/colors/moods/personalities too much… you can do amazing things with a box of 8 crayons, but i guess i really love the box of 64 with the built-in-sharpener!

  • tinyjunco

    angie (first commenter) does remixing and explaining small wardrobe ideas on her blog:

    http://fashionmeblog.blogspot.com/

    and she gets a LOT of color in her looks, too!

    another place with 'these type' of ideas is wardrobe oxygen:

    http://www.wardrobeoxygen.com/

    i'll do my best to stop now (blushing) steph

  • Anonymous

    Great interview. This fall, for the first time ever I created a core wardrobe. The core colors are black and gray and my accents colors are different shades of purple. I use lots of scarve and my favorite piece of jewelry is the pearl necklace my parents gave me when I was sixteen. I feel confident and everytime I leave the house my statment to the world is I am chic sophisticate.

  • ほし

    Yay! I found your blog through Zeynep's links, and I'm also a frequent reader of Nubby Twiglet, so…all signs point to Already Pretty! That said, I like this interview and I like your blog. Specially the title. Reminds me to stop thinking about silly stereotypes and just realize that I'm fine the way I am.

  • MsKatieKat

    Thank you for posting this, Sal! And Nubby you're stunning!

    I've been working on my capsule wardrobe myself but it's difficult. I'm having issues with age-appropriateness as I just recently entered a new decade (30!!!) and my style is both edgy, bold and feminine. I also have a very difficult body type to dress for so it's a whole lot of trial and error, which is incredibly frustrating.

    Either way, thanks for this!