Monday, May 29, 2017

It's probably the most common question I get in my email: How can I pick accent colors?

Couple that with lots of questions about the most versatile neutral colors, and I've got a lot to think about!

But I've got to admit that more and more, I'm beginning to suspect that starting with navy and beige in a wardrobe might be the very easiest choice. Only if you have the luxury of starting from scratch, of course, or if you're in a position to build a capsule wardrobe of over a dozen pieces for a season (plus accessories!).

We often find, as we explore ideas on The Vivienne Files, that something that starts out really well with one color scheme can be expanded into lots of others, so this idea might really grow to include many other neutrals; we shall see!

First up, let's start with the neutrals as I see them:

navy and beige color wheel with space for possible accent colors

Please note that I've included the top center accent color as white; in reality, it could be any light "shirt and blouse" neutral that's not pure white, such as ivory, bone, etc. The only thing you have to be sure is that it is a color that works well with both the navy and beige. I suspect that at some point in the future I'll be using a slightly warmer neutral there...

Having established the 2 neutral colors, and that light-color accent, there are (potentially) almost countless possible accent colors that could be tossed into this mix. I've tried to be somewhat systematic about how they are shown here, but I'm open to trying a LOT more combinations if suggested. (that's a hint...)

navy and beige color wheels with pastel accent colors

navy and beige color wheels with bright accent colors

navy and beige color wheels with muted accent colors

navy and beige color wheels with other neutral colors as accent colors

navy and beige color wheels with traditional choices for accent colors

navy and beige color wheels with unexpected choices for accent colors

To show how this works in "real life," I'm going to pull together a small 13-piece travel capsule wardrobe. This isn't going to be a strict "Whatever's Clean" wardrobe because I'm going to be a little bit more relaxed in the choices of accent pieces. Nonetheless, this wardrobe's going to offer up about 2 dozen possible combinations - more than enough for most travel adventures!

First off, I'm going to start with a core of pieces in the 2 neutrals, and a pair of comfy summer shoes in the beige...

(Yes, I got all of these clothes from L.L.Bean. I did this deliberately - probably the biggest drawback to using navy in your wardrobe is the "matching navies" dilemma. Buying from 1 source might help minimize the issue of having navy garments that don't look good together... If you sew, this is a great excuse to buy a big hunk of navy fabric! Note that all of the navy pieces are described on their site as "classic navy," and that the beige is called "heritage stone.")

six core garments in navy and beige for warm weather, with a pair of beige espadriles
classic navy cardigan – L.L.Bean; classic navy tank – L.L.Bean; classic navy pants – L.L.Bean; heritage stone pants – L.L.Bean; heritage stone shorts – L.L.Bean; heritage stone cropped pants – L.L.Bean; espadrilles – David Tate

I'm just starting with the very first color scheme, which uses a soft bluish green and pastel purple as the accent colors. Figuring out what to search for when you want to look at clothes in these colors online is a tricky business!

Color wheel with navy and beige neutrals, and aqua, white and lavender accents.

I'm also going to drop the six "starter" garments into a 13-piece template so that my additions to the wardrobe are chosen with some kind of plan. As much as it is important to listen to your heart and buy things that you truly find appealing, it's also pretty urgent to make sure that you don't go overboard in one segment or another of your wardrobe!

13-piece wardrobe template with six core garments in navy and beige

A couple of pretty tops, a lovely bracelet, and a pretty extravagant baseball cap! Knowing that the tops won't last terribly long, you don't have to pay a fortune for them, but something like a hat might be around for a long time, and could justify a splurge...

Accent pieces in mint green or aqua - two tops, a bracelet and a baseball cap.
aqua tee – J. Crew Factory; aqua ruffled top – H&M; bracelet – Sole Society; baseball cap – Maison Michel

I'm just going through the same general exercise with another accent color - note that these colors don't have to match exactly because you'll never wear them together! Again, I chose one really classic tee shirt, and then one top that's a bit more relaxed and has a bit more... distinctiveness. This scarf would be really pretty with the tops above too, of course.

This Lands' End tunic comes in 8 colors, so if the style appeals, give it a look. I'm seriously thinking about the red...

two accent garments in lavender, along with an amethyst necklace and a pastel scarf
wisteria tunic – Lands’ End; tee – Uniqlo; necklace - Leocadia Designs; scarf - K’amolon K’i K’ojonel

I could add more pieces in the accent colors, but I'm feeling a need to "shore-up" the neutrals somewhat. This print tee shirt combines the neutrals nicely, as well as sharing the overall soft feeling of this wardrobe. And for those of us who don't look our best with too much beige near our faces, this rather minimal cardigan might be okay for warm weather...

a floral tee shirt and a short-sleeved cardigan in beige, for a warm-weather travel capsule wardrobe
tee – Uniqlo; cardigan – L.L.Bean

Referring back to the 13-Piece Wardrobe Template, I remember that we're going to need another "bottom." And a dark pair of sandals makes sense... I truly intended to put solid navy sandals here, but I just could NOT resist these beaded ones... Sometimes, you have to give in when your temptations are strong!

If this skirt feels too "above the knee" for you, there's a longer version available too!

navy skirt and purple beaded sandals to add to a 13-piece travel capsule wardrobe for warm weather
skirt – L.L.Bean; sandals – Comfortiva

Now, when we look at the wardrobe template, it looks both nicely complete and has an overall feeling of coherence and harmony. Nothing sticks out terribly, and you can at a glance see all sort of outfit possibilities:

13-piece wardrobe template with a summer travel capsule wardrobe in navy, beige, lavender and aqua

This is how it all looks, including the accessories. For some reason, when I see all of the pieces in 1 place like this (like spread out on a bed, perhaps?) I can more easily see the possible combinations.

This might be why I'm so fond of having a template to complete - to avoid missing a critical wardrobe component. Once I'm sure that I'm "covered" on all of the normal travel bases, then I can get creative...

travel capsule wardrobe in navy, beige, mint and lavender for warm weather

But just to be certain, I'm going to run through 20 outfits... I really like the way these look!

four ways to wear beige shorts from a travel capsule wardrobe

four ways to wear navy pants from a travel capsule wardrobe

four ways to wear beige cropped pants from a travel capsule wardrobe

four ways to wear a navy skirt from a travel capsule wardrobe

four ways to wear beige pants from a travel capsule wardrobe

I'd deeply, madly love to change out the accent colors here and see what other possibilities can be discovered in the navy and beige neutrals. Are you interested in these possible experiments?

What Accent Colors go with Navy and Beige? I Have a Dozen Ideas!
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Friday, May 26, 2017

Doesn't this make you want to just sit somewhere and watch the world go by?

oil painting in La Musee d'Orsay, Dans le Parc (Les Muses) by Maurice Denis

Someone driving up with friends for a spa weekend is using this color scheme to inspire her packing... (well, it inspires her entire wardrobe, not just one weekend!)

Dans le Parc (Les Muses) by Maurice Denis with style suggestions and color palette

Since they're driving, she can be super-casual and relaxed, but she still has her favorite leaf-motif jewelry - the painting strongly suggests that she's a nature lover.

casual warm-weather travel outfit in black and rust
sunglasses– Ray-Ban; polo – Uniqlo; leaf earrings - Balangandãs; bracelet – Trina Turk; linen shorts – L.L.Bean; watch – Olivia Burton; tote –Tommy Hilfiger; sandals - Sakroots

Once they're at the spa, they'll be living in their robes, but she's going to need an outfit to get home in, and maybe something other than a robe in which to dine. Just because they put you in a robe doesn't mean that you're not allowed to get dressed!

travel capsule wardrobe for warm weather in black, ivory and rust
clutch – Vince Camuto; leaf earrings – Catherine Zoraida; dress – Uniqlo; scarf - Laura Biagiotti; ring - Riverlight Jewellery; gold bra – Coco de Mer; gold briefs – Coco de Mer; beige bra - Hanro; beige briefs - Hanro; ivory top – Velvet by Graham & Spencer; shorts – L.L.Bean; sandals – Cole Haan; silk pajamas – Olivia von Halle

It's a tiny amount of stuff, but she has a few options for how to combine things, if for some reason they're delayed on their trip. (or just if she changes her mind!)

warm weather travel capsule wardrobe in black, ivory, gold and rust

Doesn't the idea of just a day or two away with friends, being pampered, sound appealing?


p.s. Just in case you've been living under a rock, or you just don't obsess about these things, the Nordstrom Half Yearly Sale is going on right now. I could tell you what I think is lovely there, but I think you can figure out what you want without my guidance! If you click on that link and purchase something, you do generate a wee commission for me, for which I am eternally grateful...

How to Pack for a Spa Weekend? Start with Art: Dans leParc by Maurice Denis
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Thursday, May 25, 2017

I get dozens of these lists, and once in a while I actually take a look to see if there are any fresh ideas I can learn, or at a minimum some insights into the fashion zeitgeist that I can observe... In all fairness, this list was written by a young lady half my age, so her insights might be very different from mine!

In finding examples of these trends, I've tried to stick to relatively inexpensive pieces (with 1 exception I can remember). If you're tempted by a trend, it only makes sense not to spend the monthly grocery budget on an item that you might not want to EVER see again after Labor Day. (aka early September...)

As always, some aren't bad ideas, some are ridiculous, and many of them depend on the individual. At no point in time is there EVER a must-have item for every women. Never. No garment is universally required... And unless you are literally struggling to be adequately and appropriately clothed, you don't need to buy anything.

So let's see what we were told to buy this time...

1. Statement Sunglasses: I think if you're wearing any sunglasses, they make a statement! And any woman anywhere better already OWN some sunglasses, because they're important for protecting your eye health. This isn't about beauty...

And let's be realistic - it's not frivolous to have more than one pair of sunglasses!

Four pairs of sunglasses for Summer 2017
top – Quay Australia; second –Quay Australia; third – SONIX; bottom – Quay Australia

2. A Romper? I'm sure that one of you wears a 1-piece shorts and top combo successfully, but that's about as far from necessary as humanly possible. Many of them that I saw were either insultingly infantile, or absurdly provocative for a garment that was originally a toddlers' play garment.

I'm offering up the thought that your wardrobe might be brightened up quite a bit if you add a fun pair of shorts. These would bring a bit of pizazz to the most staid tee shirt:

four pairs of shorts for Summer 2017
floral – Dorothy Perkins; plaid – J.Crew; geo print – Lands’ End; patchwork – L.L.Bean

3. Maxi Dresses... A definite "it depends." Don't wear them so long that they drag on the ground, and you're okay. I rarely see them in the city that they look "right," (and don't ask me to pinpoint what that means - the women wearing them just seem uncomfortable) but out on our patio/deck, they look lovely. This is a case where you have to know yourself and do what's best for you! (but please avoid the "I never went to the prom" look...)

4 maxi dresses for Summer 2017
blue tile print – L.L.Bean; striped – J.Crew; red mélange – Lands’ End; geometric print – Dorothy Perkins

4. Ankle-wrap sandals. Well, these are cute as heck - especially those silver ones that look like a little jeweled cobweb!

But you have to remember that the straps aren't going to stay UP on your leg unless you tie them tight enough to cut off circulation to your pedicure. (they spray adhesive on the models' legs...) And your sunscreen's going to get ALL OVER those pretty white canvas straps. If you can live with those 2 caveats, these are a fun little update for the season.

4 pairs of wrap sandals for Summer 2017
wine – Rebecca Minkoff; canvas – Soludos; silver - Loeffler Randall; denim – Soludos

5. A Weekend Bag... don't we already HAVE these? As I said, the target market for this list was obviously women much younger than I am! But it's certainly reasonable to make sure that you've got a nice bag to carry for an overnight adventure; maybe this is the right time to pull out what we currently have and see if we're due for an upgrade...

4 weekend bags for Summer 2017
grey – Longchamp; black & brown – Sole Society; floral – Herschel Supply Co.; striped – Baggu

6. Denim Cut-Offs. No. Unless you've worn out a pair of jeans ON YOUR OWN to the point that cutting them off makes sense, this is a completely silly trend, along the lines of the billions of pairs of distressed jeans currently in the world. (actually, I wonder how many pairs of those there are... hmm....)

But unless you live in the hottest place imaginable (and you just might!), this could be a reasonable time to get a new pair of jeans. The white ones here are described as "lightweight;" I could be tempted to order them just to see what that's like. And if you avoid shorts and skirts, a pair of cropped jeans make sense, don't they?

4 pairs of jeans and cropped jeans for Summer 2017
faded – J.Crew; white – L.L.Bean; cropped – L.L.Bean; cropped blue – Per Una

7. A Denim Jacket. This is another one of those things that I have to imagine you already own, if you want one... but there's always an opportunity to get a nicer (or more weathered?) one, or get something denim that's far from the traditional jacket. This smock is really appealing; I'd wear it with leggings and boots over a black turtleneck in the dead of winter!

four denim jackets for Summer 2017
madly faded – Current/Elliott; smock-style – H&M; blazer – Ralph Lauren; pink – H&M

8. A lace or eyelet top. Heck yes! Why not? Don't spend a fortune (well, the black one isn't cheap...), and this could be something that you wear every week until it falls into teeny shreds in the bottom of the washer. This is a case in which a trend can be wearable by almost anyone...

four lace or eyelet tops for Summer 2017
floral – Dorothy Perkins; black – MICHAEL Michael Kors; (already sold out!!!); tank – Dex; tunic – J.Crew

9. Gold Jewelry. Hmmm... I never think of jewelry as being seasonal! But I think it could be fun to buy a new piece of moderately-priced jewelry and just wear the heck out of it every day until the weather changes, or your skin starts to turn green! I bought a black necklace recent - from J.Jill - and I intend to have it on with great regularity until the days start to get shorter...

(yes, the bracelet is available with the full range of birthstones...)

4 pieces of gold jewelry for Summer 2017
birthstone bracelet – Kendra Scott; crescent necklace – Panacea; earrings – Anna Beck; ring - Argento Vivo

10. Swimwear with ruffles. This could be GENIUS for some of us, who would love the ruffle to augment an area that's diminished, or to distract from something that's not up for inspection. And I broke one of my normal rules for The Vivienne Files by including the black suit with the front ruffle - I think it's got that much potential.

But that ruffle-shoulder one? Or the 1-shoulder? It's not like me to be so attracted to swimsuits!

4 ruffled swimsuits for Summer 2017
tankini top – Lands’ End; black 1-piece – Lands’End; print 1-piece – Underprotection; one-shoulder – J.Crew

I was surprised that this list didn't include off-the-shoulder tops, which seem to be absolutely ubiquitous, or the weirdly tricky "choker" tops, where a strip of fabric that goes around your neck is attached to an otherwise normal top. But one of the things that comes along with constantly churning store inventories (as opposed to back in the day when stores got shipments once a month) is that odd little mini-trends are going to spring up, and die just as quickly.

Any trends you're jumping on this year? I will need new jeans at some juncture, but otherwise I think I'm pretty well covered for the heat and fun to come!


10 MUST HAVE ITEMS for Spring and Summer 2017
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Wednesday, May 24, 2017

If you're in Chicago, you of course must go to the Art Institute of Chicago, our very deservedly famous art museum. But when you're there, make sure not to miss the fabric exhibit. It's small, it's in the basement, it changes every few months, and it NEVER disappoints...

Seen there last weekend, included in a really stunning exhibit of batik fabrics:

Batik Fabric early 20th Century from Central Java
Batik Fabric, early 20th Century, from Central Java

This fabric is maybe 9 or 10 feet long, and 4 feet wide. It's really kind of breathtaking...

Seeing these neutral colors working so beautifully together, our mythical heroine was able to solve her packing dilemma...

Batik Fabric early 20th Century from Central Java with style guidelines and color palette

I've got it all arranged...

We'll just go from city to city by train; I've already purchased the train passes....

Well okay, she thinks...

You just have to be able to carry your own bag; you know that I'm not going to be able to corral a mess of luggage on a train platform....

travel outfit in black and denim with brown leather accents

earrings – Chimento; cardigan – J.Crew; watch – Skagen; tee – L.L.Bean; jeans – L.L.Bean; scarf – Echo; suitcase –Thule; loafers – Naturalizer; tote - Baggu

And can I tell you something?

This should be interesting!

I wish that you would dress a little more casually for this vacation. I always feel under-dressed when you look so lovely, and I'm just wearing trousers and a shirt. You're not like other women; you don't need to get all gussied up to be beautiful...

She's gobsmacked. But this is worth doing, if it's worth mentioning, it must really matter!

So she plans. She schemes. She swaps things in and out (and in and out!) to get down to 13 pieces (plus a rain jacket!) for six weeks in Europe...

a cool summer travel cluster in black, ivory and brown

brown tee – Uniqlo; earrings – Talbots; scarf – Echo; bracelet - Miansai; black embroidered top – Jigsaw; cardigan – Stefanel; jeans – L.L.Bean; crossbody bag - Fossil

Scarves surely don't count as dressy, do they? Especially not in Europe...

She hesitates over a 2nd pair of jeans; these might need to be swapped out for a lightweight pair of black pants. Very casual black pants, though!

a travel wardrobe cluster for warmer weather, in black and ivory

satin dots top – Dorothy Perkins; bracelet – Siriporn; oversized tee – French Connection; scarf – Echo; ivory tank - Majestic; shorts – L.L.Bean; sneakers – Josef Seibel

So she packed trail shorts, instead of a dressier pair in linen. She packed her sneakers. She packed her lighter-colored tops without fear, because they have a long-standing agreement that she can shop any time she needs to!

warm weather travel outfit in black and blue

necklace – J.Jill; rain jacket – L.L.Bean; blue tee – J. Crew; sandals – Earth; skirt – L.L.Bean; scarf – Chomsuda Samana

She remembers her rain jacket, and reminders her sweetheart to pack one too...

She actually hesitates over her cotton skirt, and asks if it's too dressy for their plans.

Just don't take anything high-heeled!

an 11-piece travel capsule wardrobe in black, brown, blue and ivory

When she spreads everything out on the bed, it looks good together. Not exactly what she'd imagined, but she can see lots of possibilities...

a Whatever's Clean travel capsule wardrobe for warm weather in black, brown, denim blue and ivory

In all fairness, it took her a couple of tries to get to this point! And she was working with a pretty clear guideline...

a Whatever's Clean 13 travel capsule wardrobe for warm weather

They've long since agreed that they'll do laundry the first day in each city (and they've budgeted to have laundry done FOR THEM at least twice...).

She's got lots of possibilities, but after six weeks, these pieces are going to get OLD...

four ways to wear black shorts from a warm weather travel capsule wardrobe

four ways to wear blue jeans from a warm weather travel capsule wardrobe

four ways to wear a black skirt from a travel capsule wardrobe

four ways to wear black jeans from a travel capsule wardrobe

She will definitely have to replace 1 or 2 things, over the course of their trip.

And while she's carefully adhering to the request that she not be too dressy, she's also mindful that no mention was made about what lingerie should be packed....


How to Pack a Foolproof Travel Wardrobe, All in Neutrals
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