Friday, December 15, 2017

What makes a wardrobe work? And how can you tell if a wardrobe is going to be functional and versatile? Not the headiest questions in life, but still important, if you like to get dressed and enjoy the process (as well as the results!).

Ultimately, your wardrobe works if you can get dressed every day with ease and pleasure. It doesn't matter what's in there, how tidy or messy it is, or how many different colors and/or styles of things you own. It's the most subjective thing in the world...

That said, if you're struggling, I have a few ideas that you might want to consider!

First up, let's start with the black, white, grey and rust wardrobe that I finished up on December 1st:

a capsule wardrobe based on an Hermes scarf, in black, grey, white and rust

Since I built more or less identical outfits each month for each of the 6 wardrobes, they all have 4 "2nd layers", 11 tops and 9 bottoms. It's probably not an ideal ratio - I would probably want a couple more 2nd layers, and certain more tops. One of the things about building a wardrobe "outfit by outfit" is that you end up with a really close number of tops and bottoms. While this makes a lot of sense, if you really want to be able to wear EVERYTHING on a regular basis, having more tops is logical.  Bottoms are usually more basic, and less memorable, so they can be repeated easily and thus can be outnumbered considerably by the tops! (tops are also more fun to buy...)

Of course, each of these wardrobes also has 2 dresses - since dresses can stand alone, I don't include them in this part of the analysis.

Evaluating a wardrobe based on the number of 2nd layers, tops and bottoms.

Next up, does your wardrobe have "enough" printed garments? Some people might not want ANY AT ALL UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES, while other women might really enjoy having a half-dozen (at least!) floral, plaid, striped, starred, and paisley things. This is entirely up to the wearer of the wardrobe, but as a generalization, I think at least 3 to 6 garments in a wardrobe this size add a bit of visual interest and variety.

Evaluating a wardrobe based on the number of solid vs printed garments

Now I start looking at how pieces function together. First up, can you pull together a really plain, simple, solid-colored outfit when you absolutely CAN'T think about clothing? I think that at least a couple of possibilities in 2 different colors are helpful (although I personally can only do this with black - but OH I can do a LOT of black outfits...).

You can really tell that I did this wardrobe - my heroine has plenty of black, but not enough grey...

Evaluating a wardrobe based on the ability to construct a solid neutral outfit

Another thing that I suggest, if you struggle getting it together some days, is to have something kind of like a twinset (if not a legitimate set!) to rely on. This wardrobe does just fine on this criteria...

Evaluating a wardrobe based on the ability to construct a twinset-like combination

Yet another way that I look at things is to try to find a neutral core upon which you can toss ANY 2nd layer, or just jewelry or a scarf. Of course any wardrobe that I build that's based on black is going to excel in this area!

Evaluating a wardrobe based on the ability to construct a neutral inner core

And lastly, sometimes you need a suit. Or something sort of kind of a little bit like a suit! Okay, a 2nd layer and a bottom in the same color? Again, if it's black, I'll have this one covered...

Evaluating a wardrobe based on the ability to construct a suit

So if I were to add a few garments to this wardrobe, what would I suggest? Probably, to do a better job of representing the second neutral - grey - in this wardrobe. These 3 pieces give us a complete grey outfit, a suit, a twinset, and a solid column of color - a lot of work from just a few pieces!

3 garments to add to a capsule wardrobe in black, grey, white and rust

Make sense? Let's look at this beautiful wardrobe...

a capsule wardrobe in beige, grey, pink and blue

Just as it should be, there are 4 2nd layers, 11 tops and 9 bottoms, as well as 2 dresses:

evaluating a capsule wardrobe based on the number of 2nd layers, tops and bottoms

WOW. All solid garments....

Of course, this might be exactly what this particular heroine prefers - there aren't rules here!

evaluating a capsule wardrobe based on the number of solid vs printed garments

I really couldn't put together a beige 3-piece outfit, nor a grey 3-piece outfit! Again, this isn't a deal-breaker if the heroine loves her wardrobe and this isn't a problem for her. But if you find yourself struggling to pull it all together sometimes, this might be something to consider.

evaluating a capsule wardrobe based on the number of solid outfits possible

Again, even though this heroine owns 4 cardigans, only 1 of them has a matching tee shirt, shirt, or blouse. If you don't like monochromatic ensembles near your face, this isn't a problem, but if you'd find this possibility handy, this is something to notice.

evaluating a capsule wardrobe based on the ability to find a twinset like pair of garments

All those beige pants and shorts, and NO beige shirts? This could be deliberate - maybe she doesn't like beige near her face. But if it's just an oversight (buying a beige shirt or tee shirt isn't the most thrilling shopping you can do!) it's an easy omission to correct.

evaluating a capsule wardrobe based on the ability to find a solid inner core

She does have a couple of suits - and the beige is especially handy because almost any top could be put under the beige cardigan and she could be out the door looking just fine....

evaluating a capsule wardrobe based on the ability to find a suit

After thinking about it for a while, I of course had to give this heroine a beige-ish top - she simply has too many other tan/khaki/beige garments to not own at least a tee shirt in that color! (this one's a gentler, more ivory color...)

Maybe she's happy without any prints or patterns, but a tee shirt like this can bridge between almost any 2 other pieces in her wardrobe, and give her lots of possibilities.

And a grey twinset helps her get more wear from her grey pants, as well as giving her a cardigan that will look great with the pink and blue pieces she has.

4 pieces to add to a capsule wardrobe in beige, grey, pink and blue

Let's wrap up today's analysis with this wonderful navy and red wardrobe...

capsule wardrobe in navy, grey, and shades of red

Of course the garment balance is sort of "long on bottoms, short on tops," as are all of these wardrobes...

evaluating a wardrobe on the number of 2nd layers, tops and bottoms

I'm pretty happy with the number of printed pieces here...

evaluating a wardrobe on the number of solid vs printed garments

I also think our heroine has a pretty good balance of her 2 neutrals, although the absence of navy and grey shirts is sort of obvious....

evaluating a wardrobe on the presence of solid base outfits

DEAR OH DEAR... Not 1 twinset that I can spot... The reds don't match, there's no navy top, and there's no grey...

Maybe she likes it this way!

evaluating a wardrobe on the presence of a twinset or equivalent

Well, this doesn't get any better - no solid column of color EITHER! Of course, this could be because this particular heroine likes to have a contrasting top under her 2nd layer - the absence of these kinds of "constructs" could be a deliberate choice...

evaluating a wardrobe on the presence of a solid inner column of 1 color

Of course she has suits...

evaluating a wardrobe on the presence of a suit or suit equivalent

Assuming that this heroine felt the need to add some pieces because she was struggling to really wear her clothes in a variety of ways, these are what I would suggest for her to purchase - a navy top will give her both a navy "twinset" and a navy "solid column" over which to wear 2nd layers. The grey tee shirt does the same thing. And I chose the plaid shirt just to give her another option to pull her red cardigan more into circulation. (a grey cardigan wouldn't hurt here...)

3 pieces to add to a capsule wardrobe in navy, grey and shades of red

I don't think I can emphasize enough how much these suggestions are ONLY for those seeking some different points of view on their wardrobe. The only legitimate measure of a wardrobe's "success" (inanimate objects can't really be successful, can they?) is the happiness of the owner. Don't let anybody tell you otherwise!

I hope like heck that you liked this analysis, because I'm going to tackle the other 3 wardrobes on Monday...

Evaluating a Wardrobe - How do the "12 Months, 12 Outfits" Wardrobes Do?
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Thursday, December 14, 2017

Although most of us are always going to buy what's "on the rack," I think that it's important that we let ourselves dream of what our "perfect" item would be... This is something that I learn from hanging out with people who sew - they can come closer than most people to making their sartorial dreams come true, and thus they have to be pretty focused about what they want, or they're quickly overwhelmed with options!

You might remember that Hanig's Footwear gave me the opportunity to have a pair of shoes made to my specifications - well, I had to use an existing Thierry Rabotin design, but I could then combine leathers (from a range of hundreds of colors and textures!) any way that I wanted!

I was, frankly, a little bit nervous when I went up to their shop (although I've known some of their staff for literally decades!), because I thought that I might really struggle to make a decision. But as soon as I saw a pair of oxfords with a "plug" in the top (that piece of leather that's on top of the front of your foot...) I had an idea:

my 1 of a kind black and silver Thierry Rabotin oxfords
custom oxfords - Thierry Rabotin, courtesy of Hanig's Footwear

It's difficult to tell in the photographs, but the back of the shoes, and the area holding the laces, is black suede. The lower front part is black leather, and the plug is SILVER LEATHER. Yep, my wardrobe is pretty simple, but my shoes are NOT!

Even if you're never going to have the opportunity to have a pair of shoes made for you, I think it's a worthy exercise to dream about what you would get, if it ever happens. Would you choose an amazing pair of sky-high dress heels, or something that you would wear everyday? Is your dream going to be a solid neutral color in a style you've never seen before, or are you going to opt for a statement, maybe even eccentric accent color? Would you mix colors? Add an applique? Stars? (hmmm... stars....)

I have to admit that I'm so delighted with my new shoes that I would consider doing this again. I have a very special wedding coming up in the autumn - maybe something dressy and amazing is in my future?

These are styles that tempt and my current thoughts about what I could do to customize them:

4 shoe styles and ideas about leather and trim combinations
Top shoes - Thierry Rabotin, strappy flats - Thierry Rabotin; wedges - Thierry Rabotin; Mary Janes - Thierry Rabotin

Are you comfortable with "statement" shoes? And do you daydream about things that don't exist, but that would be exactly, perfectly right for you?


If You Could Design Your Own Shoes...
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Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Update - I did NOT go to Paris - a very last-minute fibromyalgia "interlude" suggested that the wiser course was to stay home and try to reschedule. Happily, I have a bunch of blog posts ready for you, so I can still rest for a few days! hugs - Janice

When I left this wardrobe last week, the clothing portion was pretty well-organized, with lots of possible combinations, so let's choose some accessories for this heroine!

a casual 4 by 4 Wardrobe in black and beige with pink
cardigan – Nordstrom; tee shirt – L.L.Bean; corduroy pants – L.L.Bean; jeans - Frame; cardigan – Elena Mirò; tee shirt – Peserico; cardigan – Ralph Lauren; pants - L.L.Bean; tee - Velvet; shirt – Lands' End; tee – Dorothy Perkins; tee shirt – IO Couture; cardigan – Banana Republic; cardigan – Elena Mirò; sweater – Dorothy Perkins; velvet pants - Mimi Chica

It seems that the first outfit is always a very simple one that kind of cries out for a necklace or something at the neck...

adding a pendant to a 4 by 4 Wardrobe
tee shirt – Peserico; cardigan – Nordstrom; jeans - Frame; first pendant – Majorica; second pendant - Effy; third pendant – Jantana

As far as a woman can get with a good briefcase, at some stage she's going to want a handbag instead...

adding a handbag to a 4 by 4 Wardrobe
cardigan – Elena Mirò; tee shirt – Peserico; jeans - Frame; first bag – Kooba; second bag - Frye; third bag - Hobo

I'm not even going to try to resist adding floral boots to this wardrobe - if they could be worn with a business wardrobe, they CERTAINLY can be worn here!

adding floral boots to a 4 by 4 Wardrobe
cardigan – Nordstrom; tee - Velvet; corduroy pants – L.L.Bean; first boots – Dolce Vita; second boots – Gabriella; third boots – Sam Edelman

This might seems like she's buying shoes in a flurry, but sometimes when you really feel in the mood to re-do your shoe wardrobe, you might as well act on that feeling. Energy like that exists for a reason...

adding pink loafers to a 4 by 4 Wardrobe
tee – Dorothy Perkins; jeans - Frame; first shoes – M4D3 Footwear; second shoes – Nicholas Kirkwood; third shoes – Tod’s

When you base a wardrobe on a scarf, it can be difficult to accept that you eventually are going to need ANOTHER scarf. You could wear the same one any time that you wear a scarf, and make it a signature, but for most of us, 2 or 3 scarves in a wardrobe give a better variety.

adding a scarf to a 4 by 4 Wardrobe
cardigan – Banana Republic; corduroy pants – L.L.Bean; striped scarf – Lamini; second scarf - Kate Spade; third scarf – Salvatore Ferragamo

Earrings make a lot of difference in an outfit; it's easy to forget how much impact they have. See if you notice earrings on other people, and then translate that impression into how you choose your own accessories!

adding earrings to a 4 by 4 Wardrobe
tee shirt – IO Couture; jeans - Frame; cardigan – Elena Mirò; first earrings – Oscar Figueroa Escorcia; second earrings - Joaquin & Josefina; third earrings – Lucia Perrone

I guess this heroine likes shoes... but she can really use something special to wear with these velvet pants, right?

cardigan – Banana Republic; velvet pants - Mimi Chica; top mules – Kate Spade; second mules – Sole Society; bottom mules – AGL

Here's another one of those outfits with a very unadorned neckline - a perfect backdrop for a necklace if you're in the mood!

adding a pearl necklace to a 4 by 4 Wardrobe
cardigan – Ralph Lauren; jeans - Frame; tee shirt – Peserico; black pearl infinity necklace – Black; 2 pearl necklace - Majorica; third necklace – Lucky Brand

This outfit sort seemed to call for a lighter-feeling scarf; not necessarily something in some airy fabric, but something with softer colors.... does that make sense?

adding a scarf to a 4 by 4 Wardrobe
cardigan – Ralph Lauren; tee - Velvet; pants - L.L.Bean; first scarf – Armani Jeans; second scarf – Salvatore Ferragamo; third scarf – Francesca’s (sold out - similar here)

More shoes???? Well, she doesn't have a pair of black loafers. EVERYBODY needs black loafers, right?

jeans - Frame; shirt – Lands' End; cardigan – Nordstrom; first loafers – BP.; second loafers – Kelsi Dagger Brooklyn; third loafers – Tony Bianco

Rings are a sort of unsung possibility in a wardrobe - you don't have to wear the same rings every day. In fact, if you change them up from time to time, you'll notice them more!

adding a ring to a 4 by 4 Wardrobe
cardigan – Elena Mirò; tee shirt – L.L.Bean; velvet pants - Mimi Chica; first ring – Effy; second ring – Effy; third ring – Effy

And don't forget sunglasses; NEVER forget sunglasses...

adding sunglasses to a 4 by 4 Wardrobe
cardigan – Elena Mirò; tee shirt – L.L.Bean; jeans - Frame; top sunglasses – Salt; second sunglasses – Gucci; third sunglasses – Kate Spade

Something about the inherent dressiness of this outfit made me want to find our heroine a really festive pair of earrings for her...

adding festive earrings to a 4 by 4 Wardrobe
sweater – Dorothy Perkins; velvet pants - Mimi Chica; first earrings - Jenny Packham; second earrings - Kate Spade; third earrings – Ippolita

I always like to see how different these wardrobes look when the accessories are added. They drive me CRAZY getting everything arranged on the page, but I always love them, when they're finished!

4 by 4 Wardrobe in black, beige and pink with accessories

Just to make sure that things are working properly, I like to build a few outfits using all of the pieces... It would be a great thing to do if this was your wardrobe - you'd have a plan for all kinds of occasions!

3 ways to wear khaki pants from a 4 by 4 Wardrobe

3 ways to wear velvet pants from a 4 by 4 Wardrobe

3 ways to wear black corduroy pants from a 4 by 4 Wardrobe

4 ways to wear black jeans from a 4 by 4 Wardrobe

Just for reference purposes, this is where we started...

Vintage Rose Scarf from KathKath with style guidelines and color palette
scarf - KathKath

Imagine if you owned BOTH of the wardrobes based on this scarf - the dressy wardrobe and this one. There'd be little in life that you wouldn't be dressed to handle!


Essential Accessories for a Pretty but Casual Wardrobe: Start with a Scarf - Vintage Rose by KathKath
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Tuesday, December 12, 2017

She was really thrilled with what she packed for the Holiday Party in New York; she had planned everything using her pocket square as the defining inspiration:

scarf - Hermes

Her sweetheart told her that another, longer trip to New York would be in their near future - probably mid-February. So she thought that it would be wise to expand her current travel wardrobe...

7-piece Travel Wardrobe in black, white, grey and red
red earrings – Jane Basch; red resin bracelet - Vanda Jacintho; grey crystal earrings – Larkspur & Hawk; black earrings – Francesca’s; watch – Movado; black & grey scarf – Eileen Fisher; striped scarf – BP.; pocket square - Hermes; black dress – Eileen Fisher; sweater – Madeleine Thompson;gold bag – Love Moschino; print shirt – Lands’ End; red dress - Lily & Franc; red corduroy pants – Lands’ End; crossbody bag – Lodis; tote – Lodis; black cords – L.L.Bean; black cardigan – Lands' End; flat shoes – Arche; red boots – Arche; black boots – Arche; slingbacks – Vince Camuto

She was going to try to balance clothes appropriate for those "business dinners" with things suitable for the sightseeing that she intended to do, so she needed to be very organized! If she puts together a 4 by 4 Wardrobe, and wears 3 pieces on the plane, she will have 13 garments to pack - she felt that this was a reasonable goal.

First, to "plug in" her existing wardrobe:

7 Pieces of a 4 by 4 Wardrobe in a 4 by 4 Template

The first thing that she realizes is that she has a black "suit" of sorts, but could certainly use a couple of dressy garments in black. A bow always makes a blouse look like it's dressed-up, and a lace skirt will elevate anything with which it's worn. But both of these pieces can be mixed in with other, less formal, items so that she'll be ready for those "kind of nice, but not dressy" events that are the bane of business events...

Core of 4 for a 4 by 4 Wardrobe, in black
cardigan – Lands’ End; blouse – Splendid; corduroy pants – L.L.Bean; skirt – J.Crew

It's kind of somber, but very efficient...

9 garments in a 4 by 4 Wardrobe Template

Next up, she's really excited to add grey as her second neutral. She goes "all out" and invests in 3 pieces from Eileen Fisher that can be worn together or separated and worn with everything else... And WHAT THE HECK - she gets a dressy, somewhat "over the top" tweed skirt, too!

a Wardrobe Core of 4 in grey
cardigan – Eileen Fisher; tunic sweater – Eileen Fisher; pants – Eileen Fisher; skirt - Valentino

Now, when she looks at what she has in her 4 by 4 Wardrobe, she realizes that she only has "room" for 3 more pieces! And no yellow yet!!! Plus, she feels like she could use a casual top to wear with either black or red pants, and maybe a dressy blouse that will look nice with either pants or skirts...

13 garments in a 4 by 4 Wardrobe Template

The yellow is TOUGH to find... the very clever tee shirt with red stars delights her, as does the opulence of the sleeves on her new blouse...

3 tops to finish a 4 by 4 Wardrobe
yellow tee – Juvia; tee with red stars - Pianurastudio; print blouse - Frame

Now she looks into her closet and sees a tidy, well-chosen assortment of pieces that will carry her to anything her sweetheart's company can throw at her... (except maybe bumper cars... anything but bumper cars...)

a 4 by 4 Wardrobe for cool weather in black, grey, red, white and yellow

Just to be certain that she's on track, she walks through 10 options for ways to wear these pieces together; there are many more than 10 possibilities, but she wants to have the images in her mind for those last-minute clothes changes:

2 ways to wear a black lace skirt

w ways to wear black trousers

2 ways to wear a grey tweed skirt

2 ways to wear a pair of grey pants

2 ways to wear red corduroy pants

In the course of all of this business-related excitement, she learns (quite by accident) that her sweetheart recently assumed a great deal more responsibility at work - some people just don't share these things because they don't want to brag? I'd be singing it from the rooftops!


p.s. Of COURSE she's going to need accessories...

p.p.s. I am on my way to Paris, mid-day today, so if I'm not responding to questions, comments and emails it will be because I only have my phone with me for the next 7 days - it's certainly not a lack of interest or affection!

Adding to a Successful Travel Wardrobe: Appaloosa des Steppes from Hermes
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