When my client, who I have given the alias Mrs. Darling, asked me to create a casual capsule for day-long and travel horse events she would be attending with her daughter, a young competitive equestrian, I felt only somewhat prepared.  My soon-to-be 14-year-old niece, Avery, a few years older than Mrs. Darling’s daughter, also competes in these types of competitions.  While this hardly makes me any type of expert in this area, hearing stories from my sister and niece certainly gave me more perspective than the average person.

I’ve learned that when a child starts riding young, this isn’t just a commitment made by the child, it’s an intense commitment made by the parent— nearly every time I call or text my sister she is at the barn and during competition season, weekends are usually packed with horse events.  At these events, once a child is upon that horse, they will stay there until their events are over because what it takes to get said child, and the horse, ready to compete will make your head explode.  And we haven’t even touched on trailing a horse from the barn to the competition itself, always before dawn.

My niece, Avery jumping at a horse event

Plus, the clothes to do all these horse things.  First, there is cold and then there is barn cold, as my husband, who grew up in a family of competitive equestrians, has said, to which my sister knows full well.  All those winters spent at riding practice with my niece, my sister has requested hand-knitted hats from me and has clothing specifically for the barn to keep warm during the coldest months.  Then there is competition season which seems to coincide with times that guaranteed you will bake in the sun.  All this in a competition world that is equal parts rugged and down-home but can also be affluent and upscale.  The equestrian world isn’t cheap and it’s one where there can be an air of snobbery and showiness. English riders wear those riding boots, blue blazers, and neat braids, we think classic American, money, and privilege, even if that’s not entirely what the riding world is like.

Building Mrs. Darling’s Mom Capsule For Horse Events

Mrs. Darling, who I named Darling for her pleasant nature, ease to work with, bubbly personality, and openness, lives in the Pacific Northwest and is new to the equestrian world.  Despite growing up riding, when her daughter started riding last year, she found her wardrobe unprepared to handle the extremes of these horse events.  Being someone who usually prefers skirts and dresses with a cardigan or topper layer, she sweated it out often in jeans, and even resorted to shorts and boots on one incredibly hot day knowing full well she looked ridiculous.  Shoes were another issue.  Horse shows can be a dangerous place for the feet with stomping horse hooves, heavy equipment, physical laboring, and more. But that’s not the most difficult challenge.  Mrs. Darling has a very specific allergy. She’s allergic to polyester.  Do you know how many sporty and durable pieces are made of this fiber?  I do now that I have scoured the internet.  It’s a lot.  I was posed with the challenge of giving Mrs. Darling, who is a relatable and average size 14, durable clothing that also kept her cool on long sweltering days outdoors, without a trace of polyester, shoes that were protective but made sense with what she was wearing, plus, going back to the equestrian world, while Mrs. Darling wasn’t necessarily looking to be a Ralph Lauren ad, she wanted to capture some of her preferred style in her looks.

It was a tall order and one that despite my limited understanding of the horse world required to research, which I always enjoy because once I find these brands I have them locked in for future reference.  I also had my assistant, Rachel, at my disposal who grew up and lives in Colorado and spent time riding horses western, a different type of riding.  

Mrs. Darling’s Capsule

Shop Mrs. Darling’s Capsule

1 Edge to Edge Cardigan 2 Hooded Cotton Linen Cardigan 3 Hemp Cotton Cardigan 4 Linen Delave Cardigan 5 Denim Jacket 6 UPF 50 Hoodie 7 Pull-On Chino Skort 8 Rootstock Gardening Skort 9 Dry On the Fly Skort 10 Everyday Beach Shawl UPF 50+ 11 Gardening Hat UPF 50+ 12 Mobile Caddy 13 Horizon Crossbody 14 Linen Cotton Trousers 15 Undyed Cotton Jeans 16 Tapered Denim Jeans 17 Pull on Pant 18 Utility Straight Leg Pant 19 Perfect Weekday Tote 20 Camp Shirt in Linen 21 Hemp Cotton Jersey Top 22 Fine Linen Sweater 23 Hemp Untucked Camp Shirt 24 Linen Jersey Top 25 Hemp Cotton Jersey Top 26 Hemp & Cotton T-Shirt 27 Shelf Bra Tank 28 Linen Jersey Boxy Crewneck Tee 29 Silk Linen Shirt 30 Linen Jerse Boxy Crewneck Tee 31Hemp & Cotton Top 32 CoolMax Chambray Shirt 33 Wexford Waterproof Boot 34 Steel Toe Work Shoe 35 Keaton Work Boots 36 Reebok Steel Toe Sneaker 37 Ryder Slip-On

There were a few strategies I came up with to create Mrs. Darling’s capsule.  The first was to address her preference for skirts.  I selected skorts that offered a similar look but with more range of movement and would keep Mrs. Darling cool.  Next, I chose several sneaker styles that had steel toes.  On the outside, they just look like basic sneakers but on the inside, they offer her better protection of the toe and front foot area.  The other shoes selected were chosen from Ariat, an equestrian-based company.  Further to that, I chose pieces with SPF protection from brands like Coolibar, shopped Duluth Trading Company for hardworking clothing with special features, looked for lighter weight pants, added a durable crossbody Mrs. Darling could have at the ready to keep her daughter’s horse needs quickly at hand, and lastly, merged them with very wearable everyday pieces.

Decompartementalizing a Compartmentalized Wardrobe 

When I created Mrs. Darling’s capsule, I originally figured this was one that wasn’t going to be blogged about.  I don’t suspect I have many readers who are in the equestrian world and I doubted the capsule would resonate.  It wasn’t until Mrs. Darling texted me back about the capsule and mentioned that she could envision taking many of the pieces from this capsule on vacation this summer and wearing them on a family trip to Disneyland in October.  It was then that it dawned on me.  Even though not everyone can relate to this mom capsule for horse events, they can relate to a compartmentalized wardrobe.

I have tried to illustrate this point in the past, how so many of us keep certain parts of our wardrobe for specific things and never the twain shall meet.  We have work clothes and weekend clothes, though this seems to be merging more now that people are working more from home.  Clothes for vacation, clothes for going to kids’ sports games.  Our wardrobes become a segregated place that we don’t know how to blend.  My strategy has been to lay circles on top of each other and explain that the biggest buys for your wardrobe should be the pieces that overlap and do multiple things in multiple parts of our lives, but I’ve never had actual clothing to really explain this point.  Using the pieces in Mrs. Darling’s capsule, I am going to do that now.

In the illustration above, you see two circles overlapping.  In the taupe circle on the left that doesn’t overlap, all the pieces that are exclusively for horse events are in that sliver.  These are pieces that would never get used beyond this purpose.  As you can see, there isn’t much in there.  The overlapping part houses the majority of the pieces from the capsule.  These are the pieces that can float around to different parts and be decompartmentalized.  The blue sliver on the right would be another area of life, like using Mrs. Darling’s upcoming trip to Disneyland, for example, perhaps she’d add a few pairs of good walking sandals, swimsuits, and pool coverups, etc.  Maybe Mrs. Darling has a compartmentalized part of her wardrobe for summer vacations where she keeps items like this and can pull from to fill this sliver.  These items wouldn’t live past this specific need.

Do you see how it works?  you have your core wardrobe, which is the biggest part, and then you have the smaller parts of your wardrobe that fluidly work into the core wardrobe when needed.  They can be pulled out when you don’t need them and added when you do.   This is how you decompartmentalize your wardrobe when it is feeling too compartmentalized.  You build a core and then you add on a small number of pieces exclusive to a specific need and feed them in with your versatile core pieces.

Outfits Created from Mrs. Darlings Capsule

compartmentalized wardrobe
compartmentalized wardrobe
compartmentalized wardrobe
compartmentalized wardrobe

Even if You Aren’t a Horse Mom, You Can Still Learn from This Wearable Casual Capsule

While they may not be perfectly ideal for you given that you may not be heading to a horse competition with your child in the near future, many of these looks are wearable with just a few tweaks to the shoes.  It really is just a nice casual capsule. The best part of it is how easily all the pieces fall together.  Every color works with every other color which will be the easiest part for Mrs. Darling when waking up at 4 am to get her daughter ready for her another horse competition.

My special thanks to Mrs. Darling for allowing me to share her capsule, for inspiring the idea for this post, and for our time together.  I very much look forward to our continued time working together.