Friday, May 31, 2013

Boreas, by John William Waterhouse
Somewhere in my imagination, I walk across windswept moors, my long flowing hair sweeping behind  me.  I'm dressed in something graceful and fluid, and  it's all very dramatic and romantic...





And for a long time, I would occasionally buy something for this life...

Reality check?  I wouldn't walk across a windswept moor, I'd stride at about 4 mph.  My hair won't GET long - it won't grow past my shoulders. And even if it would, it would never flow.  It might boing and sproing and ping and pong in it's curly way...

The fluid garments would get snagged on the gorse, and would get all wet and muddy around the hem...

The hardest part of having a focused wardrobe is the part where you have to decide that you are going to surrender all of these wardrobe "dreams" that you have.  I'm not going on a safari.  I can't dress like I'm going to a garden party.  I'm not a gypsy.  I don't live in the 19th century.  I'm not goth. I can't swan around Chicago in a high-necked lace blouse with a cameo brooch at the throat.

Figure out who you are, and dress yourself.  Dreams are lovely, but you can't put money and self-esteem into chasing after alternate personalities...  If you're going to chase a dream, chase something more substantial than a costume.

                       

Thursday, May 30, 2013

paisley scarf - Brooks Brothers, red earrings - Blue Nile, knot earrings - Brooks Brothers, navy sunglasses - Paul Smith, square scarf - Etro, gold chain necklace - Brooks Brothers, red & white scarf - Monsoon, turquoise earrings - Michael Kors, navy & gold bracelet - C. Wonder, watch - Nixon

You could survive without three scarves - you can live with no scarves at all!  The gold jewelry all shares a chain/link sensibility, and two simple pairs of earrings in your accent colors can get a lot of mileage.  Sunglasses in one of your core neutrals, and you're ready to travel...







Navy short-sleeved tee - J. Crew, navy long-sleeved tee - J. Crew, navy pants - J. Crew, navy linen capris - J. Crew, navy oxfords - Hotter, navy flats - Gabor, Dress - Patrizia Pepe, ballet flats - Hotter, pants - L.L.Bean, skirt - Mango, Cardigan - J. Crew, floral tee shirt - Paul Smith, draped top - Alexon, turquoise tee shirt - Burberry, turquoise cardigan - Jardin des Orangers, striped tee shirt - Uniforms for the Dedicated

Wednesday, May 29, 2013



I get some amazing questions, with descriptions of trips that make me absolutely green with envy!  One of my friends recently shared that she's going to be in Belfast, London, and Paris - what a dream trip for me...

She had isolated two jackets that she wants to take, and around which she would like to build her travel capsule wardrobe.  
navy rain jacket - Jack Wills, short trench coat - Woolrich

These are great choices - something waterproof is ALWAYS essential in Ireland, and it's wise to have a lightweight jacket even in the middle of the summer.

So my thinking: you need to start with a dark neutral color; navy is the obvious choice in this case.  I always start with a "core of four" in the dark neutral, but in this case, I'm not going to include a skirt, because these garments are going  to be worn a LOT, and linen capris could be very useful if the weather gets hot... Two navy tops - short sleeved and 3/4 sleeve, navy pants, and navy capris.

And at this point, I include two pair of navy shoes, chosen primarily for their classic simplicity and their extraordinary comfort.  Vacations are all about walking...

Navy short-sleeved tee - J. Crew, navy long-sleeved tee - J. Crew, navy pants - J. Crew, navy linen capris - J. Crew, navy oxfords - Hotter, navy flats - Gabor

Yes, I chose all four navy garments from J. Crew; if you don't already have your core of four, it is easy to purchase them all from one company, and this also increases the chances that the colors will blend nicely.

Next, we need to bring in the other neutral - khaki.  AND, we need more pants and/or skirts.  So... a simply khaki dress, khaki pants, a pair of pretty but comfortable khaki ballet flats, and our first accent piece - a skirt that includes all of the colors in our palette. With both a dress and a skirt, you will be prepared for all but the most dressy of occasions.  If you get invited to a formal ball, you'll just have to go shopping...
Dress - Patrizia Pepe, ballet flats - Hotter, pants - L.L.Bean, skirt - Mango

Now some red!  I always think everyone should travel with a cardigan - it's a great layer over sleeveless tops on cool days, or in harsh air-conditioning.  A red top that works with the cardigan gives you a twin-set like look, or a pretty dressy top for hot weather.  And a great printed tee shirt that combines your neutrals and accent colors...
Cardigan - J. Crew, floral tee shirt - Paul Smith, draped top - Alexon

And finally, we need to consider a second accent color, and some more tops.  A second cardigan, and two more tee shirts... Always remember that a cardigan can be worn buttoned up, on it's own,as a crew-neck sweater.  It's easy to forget that...

turquoise tee shirt - Burberry, turquoise cardigan - Jardin des Orangers, striped tee shirt - Uniforms for the Dedicated

Tomorrow I'll show some accessories, and how these garments come together in a lot of outfits...

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

So let's revisit our friend who had the navy and pink Common Wardrobe.  Her accessories look kind of like this:
Striped scarf - Missoni, navy sandals - John Lewis, square patterned scarf - Dareen Hakim
bracelet - Luv Aj, Pink quartz earrings - Fantasy Jewelry Box, pink necklace - J. Crew,pink 
watch - Radley, tote bag - Jack Wills, navy linen scarf - Isola Marras, white sandals -Hotter
pink scarf - Faliero Sarti,  silk bracelet - Brooks Brothers, Hermes Passementerie scarf - vintage
, navy penny loafers - Bass, pink flats - Sperry Top-Sider, pink socks - Bank, pink argyle socks - Chrissy's


Since this friend is really dedicated to wearing pink and navy as her core colors, it's not a stretch of the imagination to assume that she has both a solid navy wrap, and one in solid pink.  Additionally, I've taken the liberty of giving her a couple of pair of sandals - flat, comfortable sandals, in navy, and in white.

Now I got an email from this lovely friend, telling me that she needs a summer dress.  Nothing over the top; just something that is legitimately a dress, and that will be appropriate for picnics, family events, and casual evenings with friends.  She's spotted this little gem at L.L.Bean, but isn't quite sure how she could wear it.
With her core wardrobe of navy and pink garments and accessories, she has a wealth of choices, from really casual with a denim shirt worn as an overshirt or jacket, to relatively dressy with pink accessories. (Theoretically, the shirts could also be worn UNDER the dress, but I would NOT assume that this was possible). This dress could be a great purchase!


Once you've chosen your signature colors, shopping can be much easier, and often much more productive.

Just a reminder - these are the garments in The Common Wardrobe of pink and navy.  All are from L.L.Bean.

Artisan Made Jewelry Designs

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Just as a reminder, these are the additional accessories that we haven't discussed yet:
Bandanna - Jacob Cohen, watch - Wewood, star scarf - Dianora Salviati, green earrings- Nan Fusco, bracelet - Chan Luu, striped scarf - Faliero Sarti, necklace - Seta di Jaipur

Picking patterned scarves is exponentially more difficult than working with solid scarves, but for this wardrobe I've stuck with the simplest solution - scarves that combine the two or three main colors of the wardrobe.  As a reminder, the adjectives I was keeping in mind while searching for accessories included natural, organic, lineny, matte textured, and relaxed.

A bandanna seems obvious, but this one, color-blocked with khaki and green, was a fun variation and looks a lot more elegant than just any old bandanna purchased at a truck stop.

The wooden watch - what a brilliant idea! It combines the two colors we want, and it has that summery, woodsy sensibility that I think suits these clothes well.  It's a fairly casual watch, but certainly could still be worn with the dress without clashing horribly.

The star scarf just just plain fun, and the striped scarf is a shape and size that can be worn in a variety of ways.  You don't really have to have six scarves in this wardrobe - you don't HAVE to have any scarves - but I kept seeing scarves that suited these clothes so well, I just couldn't resist.  For summer scarves, it makes sense to be sure that they're washable - a quick rinse in the bathroom sink and they're fresh and ready to go without ironing or fussing...

The earrings just captured my heart - they're simple but utterly unique, and not so over the top that you couldn't wear them frequently.  These, and a pair of gold studs, might be all you'd need, all summer.

Chan Luu bracelets have all of the qualities that this wardrobe demanded.  They make a statement by virtue of the multiple strands, but because they're simple cord and beads, they're not frou-frou or too lady-like to wear while barbecuing or walking on the beach...  and the necklace has those same virtues.  The green color we love is pronounced, while the overall "feel" of the necklace is still kind of relaxed but not timid.

How does this all play out? (remember, all clothing comes from L.L.Bean).




Saturday, May 25, 2013


white scarf - Sperry Top-Sider, green striped scarf - Faliero Sarti, starry scarf - Dianora Salviati, solid green scarf - Kin by John Lewis, two-toned bandanna - Jacob Cohen, green earrings - Nan Fusco, solid beige scarf - Valentino, watch - Wewood, necklace - Seta di Jaipur, striped flats - Keds, sunglasses - Oliver Peoples, sandals - Massimo Dutti, bag - Georgina Skalidi, green sandals - Diba

Okay, the above shows the accessories that I would choose if I were going to have the following green and khaki Common Capsule Wardrobe for this summer.
all clothes - L.L.Bean

Right away, you can see a sort of harmony between these two pages - similar colors, and a similar relaxed and sort of organic feeling.  But how do I get from the clothes to the accessories.  It requires patience, to keep looking until just the right thing appears, and the focus to keep in mind what the goal is.  In this case, I was definitely looking for things that were summery, with a linen-ish texture or feel, and that were relaxed and a wee bit whimsical.  Let's look at it one piece at a time.



You've got to have shoes - virtually no way around this fact!  I knew that I wanted Keds, or some kind of canvas shoe; it just feels more like summer when your shoes are canvas.  Browsing through the mountains of Keds available, I spotted the striped ones and was immediately smitten; they're neutral but fun, and they combine the two neutral colors in this wardrobe.  As slip-ons, they're a step up from shoes with laces, so they can even be worn with the dress...

Next, I wanted GREEN.  For summer, you know that someone, somewhere, had manufactured a sandal in any color you desire.  These won because they're flat, they seem like they'd stay in place on your foot pretty well, and I like the woven texture on top.

The bag was found strictly by accident.  The combination of colors is perfect for this wardrobe, and the unique design guarantees that nobody else is going to be carrying the same bag...

Finally, a neutral, simple, comfortable sandal that will go with every garment in this wardrobe.  Don't skimp on something like this, because you might wear them 4 or 5 times a week all summer long...
For scarf rookies everywhere, the easiest way to ease yourself into the world of scarves is to start with solid colors.  These three, in the three colors of this wardrobe, can be worn around the neck, as wraps if the weather turns cool, as a belt, or tied to a bag.  Once you've chosen your signature colors, you can hunt down these scarves and keep them for the rest of your life...

Sunglasses should be an investment too; good quality sunglasses are essential to protect your eyes and your vision.  This is another case in which isolating your colors around which you're going to build your wardrobe gives you the freedom to really concentrate on ONLY the items that will be workhorses for you for the long haul.  This style is classic, they're very well  made, and they are neutral enough that you can wear them with anything and not get tired of them.

Just a tip - when you've chosen the colors upon which you want to focus your long-term purchasing, wander into a craft store and buy a skein of embroidery thread in each of the colors.  Stash them in a tiny plastic bag (like the ones in which sample cosmetics are delivered) and tuck them into your bag.  Any time you're shopping, pull them out and carry them like a talisman of your personal style!

Tomorrow I'll discuss the choosing of the patterned scarves and of the jewelry.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Let's go back and visit our friend who loves black, white and pink.  She has a black suit - remember?  and I suspect that she has a simple black sweater to wear with her black cardigan.  And she wouldn't be a real lover of pink if she doesn't have a pretty pink blouse. Since she owns black pants, a pair of black loafers would certainly be included. So she has a core of items looking kind of like this:

White cardigan - Rag & Bone, black blazer, skirt and pants - Mango, pink cardigan - J. Crew, black cardigan - J. Crew,  black sleeveless sweater - J. Crew, sunglasses - Ray-Bans, pink silk blouse - J. Crew, ring - Baccarat, black flat sandals - John Lewis,  earrings - Baccarat, scarf - Guess, black pumps - Brooks Brothers, bracelet - Baccarat, black &white slingbacks - Miu Miu, pink pumps - Michele Grimaldi, black kitten-heel sandals - Ralph Lauren, black slingbacks - Stuart Weitzman, black loafers - Dolce Vita

So when she determines that she need a new skirt - something a bit more feminine and fun, this one immediately strikes her fancy.
floral skirt - Olivia Rubin


 Can she get any mileage from a skirt like this?  Absolutely!


And a simple striped top has a lot of potential, too.  Shopping, once you have a plan and some well-defined core colors, becomes somewhat less difficult, and often much more successful.
striped top - LNA




Thursday, May 23, 2013


Yes, I go to the gym five days a week.  I walk two miles, at least, on a treadmill, at something just over 4 miles per hour.  It's boring, and tiring.

And I don't really find that television keeps me amused...

So a few years ago, I started buying and downloading courses on music, philosophy and literature from The Great Courses



I'm particularly smitten with this professor - Dr. Robert Greenberg.


He's smart, he's funny, and I know more about opera, symphony, and a bunch of composers...

You might as well enjoy yourself and learn something while you're burning calories.

Why yes, I AM running behind schedule... More normal posting will follow!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Okay, let's do some imagining...

Imagine a person who has truly made the choice that their wardrobe core colors are going to be black, white, and pretty pink.  Over the years, she accumulates the necessary basics - cardigans in her colors,  a black suit, shoes and sandals in black, with a fun pair of pink dress shoes, just for kicks.  She has a beautiful pink scarf that has been around forever, and she has been carefully, gradually accumulating pink and silver jewelry...

white cardigan - Rag & Bone, black blazer - Mango, pink cardigan - J. Crew, black cardigan - J. Crew,  sunglasses - Ray-Bans, ring - Baccarat, black flat sandals - John Lewis,  earrings - Baccarat, scarf - Guess, black pumps - Brooks Brothers, bracelet - Baccarat, black & white slingbacks - Miu Miu, pink pumps - Michele Grimaldi, black kitten-heel sandals - Ralph Lauren, black slingbacks - Stuart Weitzman

Now, one day this person is shopping, and they see a dress.  A classically cut, simple, (no beads, nor sequins) dress.  In black, white and pink! 

dress - MaxMara

It's easy to immediately fear that a dress in a print or pattern won't be versatile, but once a core of accessories and a few "top layers" have been accumulated, this print dress can be worn to almost any event or occasion, throughout most of the year.

Ah, the benefits of having a plan...

 This dress could go to work in any but the most rigorously conservative environments.

 And could easily be worn out to dinner, to religious services, concerts or other social functions.

 It could even go to a wedding, or just running around on Saturday afternoon browsing through antique stores...

Versatile does not have to be synonymous with "boring, solid-colored, stodgy"...

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Remember this wardrobe, from the "Whatever's Clean" summer clothes?  Someone wondered how this  capsule wardrobe would play out with a few accessories...
all clothes - L.L.Bean
fringed scarf - BCBG Max Azria, blue star scarf - Becksondergaard, sunglasses  - Fossil, earrings - Georg Jensen, cuff bracelets - Maison Martin Margiela, necklace - Dorothy Perkins, tote - American West, Hermes scarf - Photo Finish, canvas shoes - Keds, espadrilles - Soludos