Monday, January 20, 2014

Shopping with a Painting, or What I Bought, January 2014

For quite a while, I've described my personal style as La Valise de la Garçonne, aka The Tomboy's Suitcase.  I try to remind myself that I really don't need clothing much beyond what I would pack for my next trip, and that as much as I'd like to be a classy, elegant, lady-like creature, I'm much more likely to be the person who climbs up the ladder and fixes the broken gizmo than I am to be the prim princess with the clipboard supervising the process...

I've just recent stumbled upon the perfect painting to express my colors and overall feeling that I want to accomplish in my wardrobe: Two Sisters with a Cello, by Marie Laurencin.  I can't actually SHOW you the painting, because I can't afford to buy rights to use an un-"watermarked" image of it...  But you can find it somewhere if you're really curious.

So in lieu of the painting, I've digested the colors and the overall theme that I'm pursuing into a little graphic, shown below.

Note the bow-tie-like shape?

In addition to including my keywords, this graphic is designed to reflect the proportion of my wardrobe that I want to dedicate to accent colors versus neutrals.  And I've got the full range of shades of grey, grounded in my always essential black.

Segue to the western Chicago suburbs, where one finds the Eileen Fisher Company Store.  It's taken the place of what used to be a more traditional outlet store, and it is a heartbreaking ocean of delight for those of us who really love Eileen's clothes.  They always have about 20% of the store dedicated to really serious marked down merchandise, they keep about 10% of the floor for the "core" Eileen garments which never go on sale, and the balance of the (large) store is merchandise, in season, that has been reduced below the original retail price.

Last weekend, they had a sale - an additional 20% off of the sale prices of winter clothes. At this point, some of the garments would thus cost something like 15 - 20% of the original retail price.  If you don't approach this sale with a plan, you're in big trouble!

I had a plan: 
  • I wanted black velvet!  (Little Lord Fauntleroy is one of my heroes)
    • Leggings for sure, if they were available.  
    • Another skirt, in a less super-swishy version that my die-hard go to skirt from the last 5 years.  
    • A top of some ilk - either a tee shirt or a tank, which could be used for layering...
  • One of my grey tee shirts needed to be replaced.
  • An accent color cardigan, jacket, or layering “piece” to elevate all of these neutrals.

This is what I found...  these are not the exact garments, but they're absolutely close enough to give you an idea of the success that I had!  

I can't always assume that I'll have this level of success when I go shopping with my image literally in hand (seriously - I walked around the store with the above image clutched in my little paw, and if something didn't blend with this, it didn't make the cut!).  But I was delighted with how quickly I found what I wanted, and how easily I managed to walk away from things that didn't fit the plan.

I'll let you know how the quarterly shopping goes in April!



  1. I also have learned to shop with a important to go prepared. I really want to see the painting now and I will look for it. This blue will look awesome on you, Janice...such a great color. The other pieces are perfect for a versatile wardrobe...good job!

  2. I found the painting. Interesting. It's amazing the eyeof the beholder: The first I saw was this taupe and pink, then the blue, greys and black! In that order! All the same, it is all there in your graphic. Educational to see how the inspiration translates to a your particular vision and concrete plan... Very thought-provoking...

  3. My goodness, you have taken shopping with a plan to another level. I am a devoted fan of Eileen Fisher, andthere is hardly a day when I do not wear something of hers. And since I am in the camp of basic neutrals with a cardigan, her line suits me to a tee. I like you purchases but I admit that I could be in serious trouble living near a BM store with sales like that.

  4. As you may know I am not a woman who has found love with EF, though I like it on others if the cut is not too boxy and the woman is wearing the right size for her body. These clothes knock it out of the park!

  5. I wish I had access to your shop! I will be in Chicago this spring but will use my precious time there at the Art Institute and other such spots.

    I was lucky enough to see a Laurencin exhibit last summer at the Musee Marmottan. Most of the paintings were from the Laurencin Museum---in Japan!

  6. I'm a HUGE fan of Eileen Fisher myself (altho I agree with Duchesse that it is important to avoid the most boxy shapes). In the last year I have slowly replaced most of my basics with EF, as the fabric is so outstanding. Oh, for an EF Company Store in my neighborhood!!! And your example above with the 80/20 split of neutral and color is exactly my approach. Thank you again.

  7. Oh gosh, Janice, what an inspiring post! The Two Sisters painting is so beautiful and subtle - i wish i could be so simple in my colors but I like color! Nevertheless, I have been happy with navy/tan/taupe with aqua, teal, blue, green and pink accents. I was inspired by you to find a painting-- I found it! La Porte St. Denis Paris, 1880 by L. Abeissonier. These are my colors! I'll try to send you a copy of it for a possible post. It is a beautiful painting. Eileen Fisher has such quality stuff - too bad the cuts are not for me but her clothes are beautiful. So inspiring!!

    1. I was also inspired to find a painting, and I found Derain_Charing-Cross-Bridge by André Derain. I am all about bright colors.

    2. Oh my goodness, I love the colors in Derain's work. Thanks for the tip!

  8. Yay for shopping with a plan. I tried it for the first time in my life a couple of weeks ago and it worked brillantly. Usually I'd wander looking at what was there and wondering if I like it or having vague ideas like 'I need some trousers' so shopping too ages and was quite wasteful.

  9. I haven't been keeping track of your purchases, but it seems that you buy around 4-5 items per quarter--or 16-20 items per year. Is that right? I find numbers very helpful in my quest to buy less.

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  11. Dear Janice,

    Your posts on "start with art" are basically brilliant. I've noticed that you exclusively draw from paintings. Have you considered working from sculpture? Architecture? Other forms? With the colors of Chagall's America Windows, the Tiffany mosaics in the Marquette Building and the ceiling of Marshall Field's, or even the contrast of the city's skyscrapers over the lakefront, I'd love it if you considered branching out to taking inspiration from even more artistic forms.

    Anyway, I love your blog; keep up the amazing work!

    Mille bises,

    Ex-pat Chicagoan Laura

  12. I really enjoy all your posts - the "Start from Art", the scarf-based, the clusters.... but.... I cannot bring myself to reduce to just 2-3 neutrals. I like the variety, and I can make up clusters now (thanks to the blog) that cycle round pretty much all of the neutrals in my cupboard in 2- or 3-way combinations (the multiple options .pdf you did waas great for that, too).

    As for the art, well...... I like a lot of things that are not colours I could wear - such as Mediaeval Promenade by Eyvind Earle (which I only foubd by a fluke today; see: - I think this would make a fabulous capsule - for someone else! For me, I adore a lot of Kyffin Williams' paintings, especially the coastal ones with the very clear light in greys, beiges, blue-greys etc (you can see a lot of his work here: My latest "find" with colours that I could wear myself is this work by Peter Tunnicliffe: Any chance of a "Start with Art" on any of these?

  13. Someone has pinned this lovely painting.

  14. I think you have shared a very nice thought with us Shopping with painting. I think this is going to be a very interesting idea for a person like me. I love shopping and painting in a same way. I could not think about implementing these two together without your help. Anyway thanks for your suggestion. Keep sharing.