Thursday, November 20, 2014

An Embellished Cardigan: How to Dress Up a Starting From Scratch Capsule Wardrobe

A frequent concern for many of us this time of year is how to take our normal, everyday clothes, and make them "party-worthy". I don't like to buy a whole new outfit for a party - I'd much rather figure out a way to elevate the things I already own through the purchase of one strategic item.

There are a couple of different ways to do this; today I'm going to explore the possibilities inherent in a cardigan with some sort of beaded, embroidered or metallic detailing. If you don't want to buy a new sweater, this is a great opportunity to do something crafty - I've seen some amazing sweaters dressed up with ribbon embroidery, or hand beading, done by the sweater owner. In one case, the initial embroidery was done to conceal a tiny hole, and eventually transformed the sweater into a one-of-a-kind gem. 

  • The Embellished Cardigans:
grey cardigan – Viyella, metallic argyle cardigan – Blugirl
Red beaded cardigan – Valentino, cream cardigan with chain trim – Moschino
sequined cardigan – Nougat, metallic cardigan – Havren

  • The Caramel and Black Starting From Scratch Wardrobe 
black tee – Warehouse, blue tee – Majestic Filaturescaramel tee – Hallhuber, coral tee shirt – Warehouse, floral tee – Jason Wu, black jacket – Minimalblack cardigan – Michael Michael Korsblue cardigan – Lorena Antoniazzicaramel wool and cashmere cardigan – Customer Lovers, striped tee – Kainleather jacket – Jaegeroff-white tee shirt – Josephblack mandarin collar blouse - Closet, coral silk tunic – Equipment, black long-sleeved tee – Mint Velvet, off-white cotton sweater – MIH Jeans, denim shirt – Nili Lotan, blue linen shirt – Jaeger, white shorts - Uniqloblack turtleneck – Uniqlo ivory silk top – Jaegerblack shorts – Hallhuberwhite shirt – Whyredshort-sleeved sweatshirt – MET, tank top – Dorothy Perkinscoat – Jil Sander, dress – Charlotte, copper twill trousers – Lands’ Endblack trousers – Mint Velvetblack dress – Y.A.S.caramel jeans – Toastblack jeans – R13, black skirt - French Connection

  • The Caramel and Black Starting From Scratch Wardrobe Accessories

tan bag – Dorothy Perkinstigereye oval earrings – Max and Chloeenamel bracelet – Fendi, gold hoop earrings – Lauren Ralph Lauren, watch – Fossil, light grounded scarf – Play Manterobeaded bracelet – Tiraphan Hasub, coral print scarf – B.A. Printed Artworksbrown stud earrings – Michael Michael Kors black d'Orsay pumps - Sole Societyblack cord necklace – John and Pearlbrooch – Lanvin, carnelian, quartz, amethystlapis necklace– Ritubrown scarf – Erfurt black bag – Diane von Furstenberg, boots – BP, black canvas shoes – A2 by Aerosolesbrown ballet flats – Fryesandals – Munroblack ballet flats – Armani

From this wardrobe, I chose a few of the simplest garments and slid the cardigan over them. There wasn't a simple gold bracelet in this wardrobe, but the addition of that, or a gold necklace, would be idea.

  • The Black and Grey Starting From Scratch Wardrobe 
black tee – Hallhuberblue tee – Hallhuberabstract tee – Balenciaga, red tee – Oasisred cardigan – Bottega Venetagrey cardigan - Mango black cotton and cashmere cardigan – 10 Crosby Derek Lam, white tee – French Connectionsweatshirt tunic – IROblack v-neck sweater – Vincevertical striped top– Malene Birger, grey sweater – Wal-Gwhite cotton shirt – Diane von Furstenbergblue shirt - Uniqlo, denim shirt – Nili Lotan, black elbow sleeve sweater - Hobbs London, grey tee– T by Alexander Wang, red blouse – Cutieblack cashmere turtleneck – Jil Sander, black denim jacket – J. Brand, shorts – T by Alexander Wangstriped tee shirt – 10 Crosby Derek Lamgrey skirt – Diane von Furstenbergred print skirt – Desigualblack jeans – Current/Elliottgrey pleated trousers – Alberto Biani, black skirt - Joseph, black linen trousers – Viyella, dress – Maison Martin Margiela, coat – Sportmax, black leggings – Liu Jo

  • The Black and Grey Starting From Scratch Wardrobe Accessories

grey pearl earrings - Lee Renee, onyx bead bracelet - Simon Sebbagonyx dots necklace - toosis, coral patterned earrings - anzu jewelry (sold out), cord necklace– Lamprini, bracelet – Alexis Bittar,  teardrop earrings - Toosis, black white and red scarf - Vince Camuto,  brooch – Alexis Bittar,  red scarf – Isabel Marant Etoile,  watch - DKNY,  red tote bag - chissenesandals – Cole Haanstar print scarf – Jimmy Choo, black bag - Gregory Sylvia, nautical scarf – Brooks Brothers, boots – Aquatalia by Marvin K.grey ballet flats – Café Noirblack pumps - Trottersred loafers – Robert Zurpointed toe loafers – Kelsi Dagger Brooklyn

This might be the easiest wardrobe to dress up, given the general dressiness associated with black. Red earrings, or a bracelet, might go well here too..

  •  The Brown and Beige Starting From Scratch Wardrobe 
tan tee shirt - Uniqlo, blue blouse – Uniqloyellow top – Uniqlobrown Henley tee - Uniqlo, tan jacket - Lands’ End, light blue cardigan – Sonia by Sonia Rykiel tan marled cardigan – Junarosechocolate brown fleece cardigan – L.L.Beanbrown cotton tee – Uniqlo, off-white tee – Chloe, denim shirt – Nili Lotan,  light blue tee - Velvetbrown tank – Uniqlo, lace tank – Uniqlobrown back-buttoned blouse - Alberto Bianibrown patchwork tee – Szen,khaki skirt – Merona ivory silk blouse – Jaeger, light blue floral shirt – Equipment brown sweater – Gestuzyellow floral blouse - Topshop, light blue sweater – Dear Cashmere, yellow sweater - Topshop, camel sweater – Warehouseblue dress – Dorothy Perkinsdenim skirt – CCbrown twill trousers - Lands’ End, beige pants – The Row, tweed skirt - Precis, Coat – Tomasobrown jeans – Viyellapaisley lounge pants - Uniqlo
  • The Brown and Beige Starting From Scratch Wardrobe Accessories

square scarf – Radical Chic, blue necklace – Oliver Bonas, pearl and chain bracelet – Givenchy, solid blue scarf – Nordstrom, hoop earrings – Alexis Bittar, beaded bracelet – Chan Luu, necklace– Givenchybrooch – Luisa Viaromablue and brown scarf – Paola Pecora brown round earrings – Kasturjewels, watch – Timex, smoky quartz earrings - toosisbag – Ferragamo, tote – Coettassel loafers – The Flexx, boots – Frye suede oxfords – G.H. Bass and Co.brown pumps - Vanelitan ballet flats – Michael Michael Korssandals – Jimmy Choo

These are colors that aren't usually associated with the winter holidays, but they're YOUR colors, so you wear them because they're right for you - who wants to blend it? A few sequins are all it takes to make this wardrobe perfectly suitable for all sorts of festive activities. Stuck in the kitchen until the last minute? Hang your cardigan in a corner somewhere, and when you whip off your apron, you slip on your cardigan, and it's instant party time!

You DO have, and wear, an apron, I assume... They can be the smartest purchase you ever make, if they save you from ruining just ONE garment...

  •  The Khaki and Olive Starting From Scratch Wardrobe 
Turquoise tee – Kin by John Lewiskhaki tee - Target, maroon tee – Linea Weekend, Off-white tee – Chloe, turquoise cardigan – Fedeliolive cardigan – Meronamaroon cardigan – Distantekhaki cashmere cardigan – La Garconne, beige blouse - French Connectionolive tee – Shu Moriyamaturquoise angora sweater– Roberto Collina, floral sleeveless top – Dorothy Perkins, beige hoodie – Uniqlo, turquoise silk blouse – Ralph Lauren Black Label, green cashmere sweater – Jason Wu, denim shirt – Nili Lotan,  ivory shorts – Erika Cavallini, turquoise sweatshirt – Blumarine, sleeveless top – La Fee Marabouteebeige skirt - Vicky Tiel, ivory silk blouse – Jaegerfloral shirt - Uniqlomaroon floral shirt – Zanetti 1965green tee shirt -  James Perse, coat – Mary Portas, sweatpants – American Vintageolive trousers – Isabel Marant Etoile, ivory dress – Roberta Guercini, maroon velvet jeans – J. Brand, skirt – Derek Lam, tan trousers – Hallhuberbeige jeans – Morgan

  • The Khaki and Olive Starting From Scratch Wardrobe Accessories
Turquoise earrings - Ippolitamaroon bag –  Longchamp, jasper and pyrite necklace– Nangara by Julia Fusinato, turquoise bag – Sondra Roberts, pearl necklace – Maria Calderarawooden earrings – Hring eftir hring, tiny beads bracelet – Chan Luu, garnet earrings – Khun Boomwatch – Armani Exchange, leather brooch – Hoss Intropiazigzag infinity scarf - Brazenturquoise bracelet – Argento Vivo, tile print scarf – Mosaiquesheer scarf – Missoni, suede wedges - French Sole, boots – Cobb Hill,  olive canvas booties – Matisse, sandals – Cole Haan, penny loafers – Cole Haanolive ballet flats – Chloe

At first glance, this wardrobe doesn't look very "holiday" either, but these colors shine when paired with deep red. The cardigan can go from quite dressy, over your best beige dress, or can be relaxed enough to go to a pub for an after-work part, with trousers and a blouse.

  • The Navy and Beige Starting from Scratch Wardrobe 
Denim shirt – Nili Lotan, green shirt– Silvian Heach, navy blouse - Vince, white cardigan – Labo Art, navy and tan jacket – Madewellnavy wool cardigan – Miu Miubeige cardigan – Marellalong tee shirt – Uniqlo green floral tee – MSGM, beige tank top - Uniqlo, navy silk tee – Theory, white tank top – Oasis, mint green tee - Reiss, tunic – East Gracie, white silk blouse – Nic +Zoe, tan shorts – A.P.C., navy tee – Lands’ Endyellow tee – Warehouse, navy floral blouse – Sugarhill Boutiquenavy cashmere turtleneck – Jil Sanderyellow sweater– Woolrich, bone cardigan – kaliko, tan cashmere sweater – Masterstan pants – Uniqloyellow dress – Miss Selfridge, flaired skirt - Hobbs London, navy leggings – Wallis, coat – Marella, navy print dress – Sea, navy trousers – Viyellanavy jeans – Uniqlo

  • The Navy and Beige Starting From Scratch Wardrobe Accessories
navy earrings – Dorothy Perkins, silk necklace– Saako Design, watch – Anne Klein, brooch – Brooks Brothers, gold hoop earrings – Argento Vivo, enamel bracelet – Hermes, navy floral scarf – Dickins and Jones, rope bracelet – Brooks Brothers, silver and amazonite earrings – Alexis Bittar, beige and navy checked scarf – Aquascutum, boots – Attilio Giusti Leombruni, navy bag – Halogen, yellow diamond necklace – Allurez, pastel checked scarf – Collection Weekend, beige bag – Marc by Marc Jacobs, pumps - Jimmy Choo, canvas shoes – Wanted, sandals – Via Spigaballet flats – Me Too, black penny loafers – Cole Haan

If you're mostly a sporty sort of person, don't forget the power of a little bit of metallic thrown into an otherwise quite casual pattern! And don't forget that a dress you already own is almost certainly more than appropriate for a winter holiday party - even though the weather is cold, the parties are usually over-heated. Your mid-weight dress from warmer weather can get another airing in these environments and be both appropriate and comfortable.

  • The Grey and Navy Starting From Scratch Wardrobe 
lilac tee – Nougat London, white tee – Majestic,  silver grey tee – Hallhuber, navy silk blouse – Theory, pink merino cardigan - Uniqlonavy cardigan – Dorothy Perkins,  navy seed stitch cardigan – Joseph, grey cashmere cardigan – Jaeger, pink wrap blouse– Velvet, navy cotton sweater – Closedwhite cotton shirt – Diane von Furstenberg, grey hoodie – Uniqlo, denim shirt – Nili Lotan, navy tee – Lands’ End, floral blouse – Parkerpink short-sleeved shirt – FennWright Manson, navy skirt – Nina Ricci, grey shorts – Dorothy Perkins, cloud print tee – Second Day  grey tweed skirt - Marc Jacobs, sweatshirt – Topshoplavender blouse– Marni Editionnavy cashmere turtleneck – Jil Sandergrey crew sweater - Dear Cashmerenavy trousers – Jacques Vert silver grey trousers – Viyella, dress – Jaeger lounge pants – Sonoma, coat – T by Alexander Wang, navy jeans – Valentino, grey dress – Diane von Furstenberggrey jeans – Rebecca Taylor

  • The Grey and Navy Starting From Scratch Wardrobe Accessories

Silver earrings – Anne Klein, pink amethyst brooch – Alok Jain, grey pearl bracelet – Majorica, knotted scarf – Nina Ricci, fabric necklace– Saako Design, pastel bracelet – Anne Klein, amethyst pendant - Lee Renee, navy and grey scarf – Hinge, grey pearl earrings – Majorica, floral scarf – Twisted Muse, pink earrings – Lagos, watch – Fossil, grey bag – CK Calvin Kleinboots – Roberto del Carlonavy bag – Brooks Brothers, grey wedge pumps - Trotters, canvas shoes - Reebok, sandals – Munro,  tasseled flats – Trotters

A little more metallic - which jazzes up monochromatic grey very well! A tweed skirt becomes much more festive when paired with something that shimmers in the light...  Again, your best dress, with beautiful jewelry, might be all that's required. As much as we are pressured to buy new things - better things - DIFFERENT things - for this time of year, don't forget to take a step back and consider the possibility that you have everything you need already, and that you just have to be confident enough to wear something that someone might recognize. After all, that says more about them than it say about you.

 Please remember that these Step by Step Wardrobe were completed a few months ago, and MANY of these links might be invalid now.

I have a few other ideas of how we can dress up these wardrobes for the holidays - do you want to see these suggestions?  Let me know!




  1. This is a great post Janice! Love how you've dressed up these different wardrobes. I'd love to see your other suggestions for dressing up the holidays too. Also, I want to let you know there are no links to any of the cardigans. At least not on my computer. I'm loving that first gray cardigan for my particular wardrobe.

    1. Oooh, thanks for letting me know - those just weren't broken - they'd reverted back to my original text notes! I love computers...
      big hug,

  2. This is wonderful! Who doesn't love a sparkly cardigan? Also love that deep, rich color.

  3. Fantastic. I love bling and how one item can dress up and enhance what you already own.

  4. You do such beautiful work, Janice. The black and grey with red and blue accents is totally me!

    1. That is my favorite too! The fancy cardigan is a great idea! Thanks Janice!

  5. Janice, even though it says that I am following your posts on Bloglovin, they're not coming in anymore. Has something changed ? I don't want to miss any of your posts --you are my wardrobe guru ! Hugs !

  6. Hi Janice,
    I have been following your blog daily for at least two years and thought it time to tell you how much I enjoy it. I admire you for keeping it fresh and informative over time. I would love to learn your other ideas for dressing up our wardrobes.Perhaps your ideas will entail shoes? When I was in Paris last month the sales person in Agnès B stressed that comfortable, beautiful shoes are an investment that
    changes the whole feeling of an outfit. I was buying a dress and not shoes there. I find Agnès B clothing simple and low key enough that this is true. She is a designer I learned about on your blog!

  7. I love these embellished cardigans. I own two vintage versions and am looking for another in a classic black.

  8. Hi Janice,
    I am wondering if you have ever visited the famous Ikrams in Chicago? I'll bet she has wonderful and outrageously expensive things to dress up a wardrobe. I am a firm believer in the impact of a great chandelier earning or necklace.

    Deb from Vancouver

  9. more ideas for dressing up an everyday wardrobe would be really welcome... I tend to either have very workaday clothing, with a few "party" clothes, and until I read your post today hadn't thought of using a decorative cardigan, which is somewhere in between those two extremes... Am now considering making an Alabama Chanin style cardigan in the more decorated/beaded style for just such an effect. Thank you so much for what you do here - though my personal style is quite different than the clothing you show here, I learn a LOT from how you combine colors, shapes, and the general principals of wardrobing. Your writing and blog posts are the best and most accessible explanations I have found anywhere

  10. Hi! I've discovered your blog this past summer and loved it so much I devoted time to reading all your posts from day one (I love your new menus btw, makes searching your blog so much easier!). By doing that I got a good understanding of what a nice yet minimalist wardrobe might look like (something my dear auntie had desperately tried to teach me since I was a teenager... Never too late to learn!).
    You see I always loved bright colors and crazy patterns and hated looking dull and dark. So over the years I bought a lot of pretty items that either weren't very practical or didn't match each other well. I didn't know how to work that out so I usually ended up wearing jeans and sneakers with my favorite t-shirt and whatever sweater I could find. It wasn't great, but doing better seemed too complicated. Add to that the fact that I had to move a lot in the past five years so I've been going into some pretty intense decluttering.
    And now thanks to you I realize that dark colors and plain solid clothes are perfectly acceptable, in fact, they're exactly what I need to be able to wear more daring clothes in a pretty way. I'm also starting to learn the power of accessories.
    I keep reading your blog daily, I think you do a great job sharing something you love and know well with us, thanks!
    I particularly love this article about dressing up your ordinary clothes with one statement garment, nice! I'm curious to see what you come up with next. Fancy thighs maybe??
    Sorry this comment is so long, I've put off writing to you for quite a while! I have one request for you : I wonder if you could do an article about incorporating hats, gloves and scarf into our basic wardrobe? I'm in need of those but I still haven't bought anything cause I don't have a plan yet. (Shop with a plan, shop with a plan!)

    PS: Sorry if my English is a bit off. I'm actually a Frenchwoman with no innate sense of fashion :-p

  11. What great timing! I just remembered that we will be attending my husband's office Christmas party, but since I am a Project 333 convert, I am determined to use what's in my current capsule instead of buying something.
    I will be adding my pearl necklace and leopard ballet flats to a long-sleeve black V-neck sweater and beige mini-wale corduroy pencil skirt, all of which are in my current capsule. I had decided on this before your post, but was feeling a little nervous about it, since I will more than likely be underdressed, but your post has confirmed my decision. This is who I am, and that says more than going out and buying a one-time outfit. :-)

  12. Janice,the links for the brown and beige accessories show incorrectly (as garments). I'm keen to know where to find the scarf,top left.

    1. I think the links are repaired, but those items are from a few months ago, and might very well no longer be available. But I think the link for the scarf still works. If not, go to, and look for a designer called Radical Chic - the scarf is called Leonardo!