Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Building a Capsule Wardrobe by Starting with Art: Monet Water Lilies

Someone asked me to build some outfits based on this painting.  I didn't really have a specific plan for this; it was more a feeling, or a mood.  I was looking for a mysterious softness, a sense of depth...

Dress – Lela Rose, earrings – Ralph Lauren, slingbacks – John Lewis, chinos – Michael Kors, sweater – Suno, loafers – Roberto del Carlo

Tee shirt – Vanessa Bruno Athe, Skirt and sandals – J. Crew, bomber jacket – Acne, sundress – Allsaints, espadrilles - Soludos

Navy sweater – Fatface, Navy skirt – Stella McCartney, navy ankle boots – F-Troupe, tank – Uniqlo, cropped chinos – J Brand, ballet flats - Madewell

Dress – 3.1 Phillip Lim, cardigan – J. Crew, pumps – Van Dal, sweater and chambray pants – Vanessa Bruno Athe, silver boots - Acne


  1. Adore this! Especially the way you capture so brilliantly the "sense of depth" in the gorgeous textures and hues. You are an artist, no two ways about it!

  2. Wow. A mood of depth indeed. Those suede loafers would give any outfit depth (how I wish I knew how comfortable they are--they're perfect). Indeed, these periwinkles with metallics, and the softness of that navy sweater . . . they show how emotive colors and combinations and fabrics can be. Style is in the details.

  3. This is perfection! Inspired by this blog, I recently purchased 6 pieces in various shades of blue and white to create a perfect capsule wardrobe of intermixing pieces appropriate for work and play. But what to do with my perfectly fine - though completely multicolored and uncoordinated - existing wardrobe? I recently went through a big purge, but I can do more I am sure. Attachment issues linger. I am sure this is not what Vivienne had in mind. I have a lot yet to learn. Thank you for your ongoing lessons, Janice. -DT

  4. Hello, first I'd like to say, of course, that I love your work! I check your blog daily, and sometimes more than that to 'study' :)
    I have an idea for a blog post where you take a 'dysfunctional' wardrobe and show people how to pick items from that mix of colors and use it as a base for a beautiful new cohesive wardrobe, and maybe how to transition.
    It seems a lot of people want to put your ideas into practice, but they have the misconception that they must start new, and get rid of all their old clothes (or maybe its just an excuse to ;)
    Personally what I have done, thanks to inspiration from your blog, is photograph my clothes. It's not too hard, just as they come out of the wash every week I do it. Then with my existing clothes, using those pictures, I put them into color groups. What do I find? I have 6 blue tops, and 3 brown skirts, and nothing to bring them together! So I decide, blue really is a good color for me, but I need a blue skirt, maybe blue pants. Brown is not my favorite, so I keep 1 brown skirt, that I'll replace when it wears out, and maybe buy a taupe tee that will work well with my brown skirt AND the navy. (Of course you can just do this with a list, or in your own closet by hanging your clothes according to color.)
    I know you understand the concept Janice :) just thought it might be helpful to illustrate it for others. Thanks again!

    1. Chris, this is a brilliant idea for those of us who react better to pictures than to words. Thanks for posting it! Also, photographing what comes out of the wash shows one what one is really wearing. Later, one could move on to those items hanging in the closet and not being worn!

    2. Would somebody - anybody! - post a list of "typical" clothes that are currently in an unmanaged closet? Just a general outline of "3 black pants, 4 tan pants, 2 red pants etc."

      I'm all over tackling the editing process, but I need a starting point!

      big hugs all around,

    3. I think some other people have already answered this - but here's my typical unmanaged closet -
      Black Blazer
      Black wide-leg pants
      Black slim-leg pants
      Black-white tweedy wide leg pants
      Black-white tweedy bulky sweater vest
      Black-ivory tweedy wool vest
      Black pencil skirt
      Black-white zebra sleeveless top with cobalt embroidery
      Black-white zebra long sleeve tunic top
      Ivory-Black silk blouse
      Ivory silk blouse with feather print
      White tie-front blouse
      White 3/4 sleeve blouse
      White safari jacket
      White Capri Pants
      Grey Blazer
      Grey slim-leg pants
      Grey cardigan
      Grey metallic voile tunic
      Grey tee shirt
      Dark grey skirt
      Grey sweater dress
      Grey-Black-Ivory print skirt
      Light grey skirt
      Light grey cotton pants
      Grey-white stripe tee
      Spruce Green sleeveless v-neck chiffon & knit Anthropologie top
      Yellow-Fuschia-Black print Anthro top (same style as above)
      Grey-Green open weave sweater
      Cobalt rayon v-neck sweater tunic length
      Orange pencil skirt
      Fuschia tee shirt
      Periwinkle wool sweater
      Periwinkle cotton sweater with orange inner binding
      Periwinkle pencil skirt
      Periwinkle linen jacket
      Periwinkle-fuschia white tweed jacket
      Lavender cotton sweater
      Lavender tee shirt
      Navy full skirt
      Navy-white sleeveless top - lined in orange
      Navy-white polka dot tee
      Black sleeveless shift dress
      Purple ruched knit dressy dress
      Black-white-purple-grey tunic
      3 pairs jeans
      Pale Yellow linen wide-leg pants

      I've tried to group things by color, and I'm trying to get disciplined about my closet - but!!

      Patti C from Artisans Square

  5. After I color blocked my closet, the colors I buy and wear really came into focus. I think it will take a full cycle of seasons to tune my wardrobe up. I have eliminated reds and most greens. I am in the process of distributing over one hundred pieces of clothing. Either to daughters, friends, Goodwill. . When those pieces are gone, I will start eliminating again. Maybe by that time I will have figured out how to mix better. I think multi-colored scarfs or jewelry are key. This is all thanks to Janice.

    1. WOW..good for you Kare! I am motivated when I can hear excitement in the voices of all those making this giant leap!

    2. Kare, what size is the clothing you are giving away? I wear size 8 to 10, medium to large tops and I love all pure colors, red, royal blue, emerald green, pure yellow or orange. I would love to be the recipient of some of your unwanted clothing!

  6. Absolutely beautiful!! I am learning from you every day. Thank you for what you do for all of us.

  7. A trick I've been using to edit my closet this spring (inspired by you, of course, Janice!)is to use a portable garment rack (I bought mine on ebay for about $30). Every time I wear something that I think fits and flatters enough to consider a core part of my professional or dressy occasion wardrobe, instead of hanging it back in the closet, I hang it on that rack (after laundering it, if necessary). I've already learned a lot about what garments and colors (gray, taupe, camel,a little tomato red, a little coral and citron occasionally in hot weather)are my go-to clothes and how many things are just taking up a chaotic amount of closet real estate (I have so much black but so rarely choose to wear it!). Casual clothes are much easier for me to sort through and discard--mainly because I've got those down to a simple, perennial uniform and just discard without pangs of conscience when they look too worn or stained.

    1. This is a fantastic idea and I have one in my basement. I'm pulling that sucker out:)

  8. The Metropolitan Museum Store has a scarf inspired by the Monet water lilies.

    I love reading the comments. You are a lifesaver and inspiration to many--including me.

  9. This is stunning. It's my favorite of all you have ever done. The colors are just breathtaking. Wow..just..Wow.

  10. Janice, much earlier you had a black and white wardrobe. You mentioned that you wanted to "finish" it. I wonder if you still have it on your radar?

    Susan in WA

    1. Was that my personal wardrobe, or some other one I was working on? My radar is very crowded, and sometimes things drop off... If you can scare up a date for the relevant post, I'll be eternally grateful, AND I'll finish the wardrobe!
      big happy hug,

  11. Here's a rough list of my wardrobe, (which I'm sure is very different from others', as we all have our 'weaknesses'):
    1 pair of jeans
    2 black pants
    cardigans: 1 navy, 1 teal, 1 gray, 1 burgundy, 1 gray and cream polka dot, 1 tan crochet, 1 pink, 1 brown, 1 purple, 1 cream shrug
    skirts: long brown plaid, tea length brown, knee length brown, brown and blue paisley, black with white micro dots, olive maxi skirt,, black, gray, white with teal flowers,
    tanks: 3 black, 1 purple (that doesn't match the purple cardigan), dusty rose, warm blue
    tees: dark teal with floral print, deep blue with large flower print, gray, green with darker green baroque print, dark gray, dusty plum, cream/brown pattern
    blouses: blue/purple plaid, dark brown georgette button down, dark taupe silk cowl neck
    sweaters: royal blue, red, gray, 3/4 sleeve deep red
    jackets: black/white chambray short sleeve, deep magenta wool coat with black buttons, tan trench coat, dark brown hooded jacket, dark brown toggle coat
    1 long dress in a paisley olive/orange/pink print
    There's actually more, but you get the idea. No cohesive plan. I'm actually trying to get away from black, and lessen the brown. I'm leaning towards deep warm blues, gray and camel, that's the goal. With accents of red, soft warm green, and purple.
    But you can do whatever you like with it Janice :) I know its in good hands.

  12. Wouldn't that make a stunning scarf print?!