Wednesday, December 31, 2014

While I was away for the winter holidays, I received two requests from women who are required to wear "All-Black" for their work, asking about ways to accessorize their limited palette. (if you're not a rugby fan, please be aware that the All Blacks are the New Zealand national rugby team, and the current world champions. If you enjoy looking at handsome, fit young men, I encourage you to look them up!)

This is a really interesting question for me because my capsule wardrobe migrates more and more each month toward unrelieved black. Also, I know a few women here in Chicago who have this same work wardrobe requirement; a surprising number of different organizations ask their "front of house" staff to dress in this way. You'll see it in restaurants, real estate offices, retail, auction houses, and other places. Generally, the directive is to wear only black clothing and shoes, but complete freedom is granted for jewelry and scarves. I can work with this!

Today, I'm going to pull together a Four by Four wardrobe, and tomorrow, we'll look at an approach to accessorizing an all black capsule wardrobe.

The first core of four in the most basic - a cotton shirt and a pair of jeans (two pieces which might not work for all work environments, and can easily be swapped for a cotton button-front shirt and a pair of dress trousers), a v-neck sweater and a pair of ankle pants.

Henley – Uniqlo, jeans – Uniqlo, v-neck sweater – Uniqlo, ankle pants – Uniqlo

We've gone over this one before, but never lose sight of the fact that these four garments equal four outfits - that's really good mileage!

Note that I've included two pair of shoes here. It's really not necessary to own dozens of pairs of shoes! According to a recent survey by VoucherCloud, virtually all women have items unworn in their closet, and 71% of the time, that includes shoes. Buy fewer, buy better, be healthier and more comfortable, and quit wasting money - you and your feet will be much happier.

The second bundle of four garments dresses up our ensemble quite a bit - a cashmere cardigan that button up "far enough" can be worn alone as a sweater, or layered over a shirt. A silk blouse with some interesting seam details, and a pair of skirts are all appropriate for almost any work day. (you might wonder that the BRAND of the blouse is Frame Denim, but the blouse is indeed made of silk. hmmm...)

Again, I have included shoes - one pair - which are dressy enough to complement the skirts, but comfortable enough to make it through a work day. Sacrifice neither beauty nor comfort!

Cashmere cardigan – Uniqlo, pencil skirt – Diane von Furstenberg,
silk blouse – Frame Denim, pumps – Taryn Rose, pleated skirt – Fausto Puglisi

Maybe I make this point too frequently, but with the addition of four garments (and essential shoes), you have added twelve outfits to your wardrobe.

Our next four garments are simple, easy to accessories tops. Some of these items aren't wearable all 12 months of the year, but all of them work with the skirts and pants; if they have to be given a break from time to time, you'll still get a lot of use and benefit from having them available!

Turtleneck – Hallhuber, long-sleeved tee – Tommy Hilfiger,
short-sleeved tee – Acne Studios, black silk top – Diane von Furstenberg

Four tops = SIXTEEN more combinations...

With all of those basics in stock, it's time for a touch of fun. Let's imagine that the woman wearing this wardrobe loves lace - two lace tops! Add in a couple of simple dresses and a pair of ballet flats, and this should be a sufficient wardrobe for most work occasions.

Lace sleeved top – Kaliko, lace sleeveless top – Diane von Furstenberg,
black sleeveless dress – Red Valentino, black knit shirtdress – Y-3, black ballet flats - SoftWalk

Two tops gives you a dozen more outfits, if you remember to layer your sleeveless top under your cashmere cardigan... Plus, you have two dresses to work with, also!

There are now 48 outfits here, plus two dresses - an abundance of monochromatic variety. (not bad, when you consider that all of these clothes would easily fit - plus shoes - into a medium or small suitcase!) In the next post, I demonstrate a logical and organized way to accessorize all of these choices.


Tuesday, December 30, 2014

but resort wear is now in the stores, and it might be time to starting planning this Spring/Summer's "French 5-Piece Wardrobe."

Don't freak out completely, quite yet. I fully acknowledge that the weather is still winter in the Northern Hemisphere, with much of the worst of cold weather yet to come in Chicago. But excellent personal style is the purview of those who plan ahead, and who aren't stuck on the first warm day trying to find a pair of sandals. By mid-April, a lot of the excellent stuff is sold out, or only available in limited and eccentric sizes...

But most of all, if you have a plan, and you start looking now, you can know EXACTLY what you're going to buy when you finally get around to shopping. The weird new styles will neither astonish nor tempt you, and you will be able to focus on what you already know will be most efficient, most effective, and most elegant for your OWN wardrobe.

I've got my list started:

  • A black summer dress. Maybe silk. Knee-length, with cap sleeves or short sleeves. Print? COS has a dress currently on sale from last fall that might be perfect - why did they have a summery silk dress in their fall collection? I may be able to profit from their silliness...
  • A black blazer-ish jacket. I need to haul myself out to the Eileen Fisher Company Store in the Chicago suburbs to look for this. There's no rush for this, which is good, because it's still a nebulous concept in my mind! But I wear cardigans so often - a jacket might be a good change.
  • A silk jacket in an accent color, to wear over black silk neutrals. Eileen Fisher again!  This is something I want to wear when I'm doing public speaking... The accent color can be a "one-off"; it doesn't need to match anything else I own - it just need to be pretty!
  • Silver sandals. My black sandals will easily last another summer, or two, or three, but a 2nd pair of sandals will give the black ones a break. Plus, if I'm going to wear lighter dresses, a lighter colored sandal will look right.
So far, I've seen these sandals:

Top left – Stuart Weitzman,  top right – Stuart Weitzman,  middle left – Aerosoles, middle right – K. Jacques, bottom left – Vince Camuto, bottom right - Prada

My best guess right now is that I'll get either the K. Jacques or the Vince Camuto - I really like sandals that don't take up too much visual "space" on my feet. For some reason, they just feel cooler! But I can't rule out anything from Aerosoles - the idea of a sandals that I just slip on holds some appeal, and I've had Aerosoles in the past that I wore literally to pieces.

Having already looked at sandals, and narrowed down my preferences, gives me a feeling of mental "uncluttering" around this one subject. I now know that I'm not interested in any footwear with someone else's initials on them, with stratospheric nosebleed heels, with pointy studs, (will those things NEVER go out of style, already?), or with wings on them. Seriously, have you ever seen someone on the street wearing those winged sandals? They look like an FTD delivery person...

Honorable mention must go to these Vionic sandals below. They may be a 2nd pair of sandals that I buy this year, just because of the comfort factor! After working out, it could be good to put on some sandals that legitimately make your feet feel better. Whether or not they work as well as advertised? We shall see...

sandals - Vionic

Note that this list isn't probably EVERYTHING that I will buy this spring and summer. I know for a fact that I need a new black silk tank top, and I imagine that when I pull my summer clothes back to the front of my closet, at least one or two other items will need to be replaced. (white tee shirts, anybody?)

Maybe I'm really getting ahead of myself thinking about spring clothes, but I'd rather be prepared than caught unawares. And on bitter cold winter days, looking at sandals online is a nice, encouraging diversion...


de Mode Ltd

Monday, December 29, 2014

It comes as a surprise to nobody that I am not a spring chicken; Dwight D. Eisenhower was President of the United States when I was born... so it also won't surprise you to hear that I have a few... marks of experience and character about my person.

And frankly, it doesn't bother me a bit. I'm not going to dye my hair, nor shoot dubious chemicals into my face in order to try to look younger. After everything I've done in my life, I look pretty fabulous! (your preferences may vary - do you own thing!)

I'm coming around, more and more, to feeling that way about inanimate objects too - particularly scarves and jewelry. Small spots on silk, or tiny scratches on metal, don't bother me much - most people around me can't even SEE the flaws... and frankly, I often find that I can purchase a really gorgeous vintage item for less than half the price of a similar item purchased at retail.

Best of all - someone ELSE had to endure that first scratch or spot!  Let THEM eat the depreciation...

This year, for the holidays, I gifted myself with this lovely gem:

This scarf is no longer manufactured by Hermes, and if they choose to re-release it, it won't be the fireworks jacquard fabric...

All of this babbling is in pursuit of encouraging you to look at non-retail sources for indulgences that you avoid. I can warmly recommend Tradesy, Vestaire Collective, and The Real Real.  Poshmark and Ebay both have lots of appealing things, but exercise caution when purchasing from them - they don't have the best record regarding authenticity of items. (I get no money from any of these companies, by the way)

If you're looking at a scarf, send me a note and I'll authenticate it. For other items, just search on the internet for a collector's group, and ask them! There are collectors for everything in the world...

So we save money, get to own beautiful things, and save the environment by destigmatizing vintage goods. (as if that really needed to be done...) We have unique accessories that nobody else owns, and we're beautiful. Not a bad outcome, I'd say!


p.s. those of you who have purchased the Images and Color Schemes document - which of those would you like to see expanded into a wardrobe?

de Mode Ltd

Sunday, December 28, 2014

When you think of a tweed coat and pink accessories, how do you imagine them?  It's great fun to remember that there are so many options available...
Double-breasted tweed coat – Dsquared2, pink scarf – Burberry, pink gloves – Forzieri
calf hair loafers – Saint and Libertine, long tweed coat – Fenn Wright Manson
coated jeans – Seven for all Mankind, hot pink scarf – Cedric Charlier
hot pink and black gloves – Oliver Bonas, metal toed loafers – Saint and Libertine

Looking Back:

2013: From Desk to Dinner Party: Pastel Silk, Some Earrings, and a Nice Bag
2012: What to wear with a scarf: Hermes Reve de Corail
2011: A Field Guide to Winter Sounds

de Mode Ltd

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Friday, December 26, 2014

Cold weather brings out the creativity in many of the students here in Chicago...

Fleece-lined parkas – Uniqlo, medallion print scarf – Nordstrom, turquoise duffle – Le Sportsac,  
jeans – Junya Watenabe Comme des Garcons, pink shoes – Sketchers, purple infinity scarf – BP
orange bag – Lipault, purple shoes – Sydney Brown

Looking Back:

2013: Chic Sightings: Grey Coats, with Brown Leather Accessories
2012: Start with Art: Les Bateaux, by Vincent van Gogh

Shop the Latest Jewelry by Vita Fede at!

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Looking Back:

2013: Love to You All

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Looking Back:

2013: From Desk to Dinner Party: Cardigans go Solo
2012: will you be in Chicago January 5, 2013? (an invitation to a group tea; anytime you're going to be in Chicago, get in touch with me and we can have breakfast/coffee/lunch/tea together!)

Shop the Latest Jewelry by Vita Fede at!   

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Yellow coat – Arts and Science, black rubber boots – Bogs,  leather gloves – L’Autre Chose
yellow and black scarf – Marni, black turtleneck – Uniqlo, black trousers – Alexander McQueen
grey turtleneck – Uniqlo, grey trousers – Incotex, orange and grey scarfMissoni
orange coat – Alberto Biani, orange gloves – Sessun, grey suede boots - Bogs

Looking Back:

2013: Chic Sightings: Camel Coats, with Grey
2011: A Wardrobe Based on 2 suits: Was Chanel Right? (one of my FAVORITE posts ever)

Oxygen Boutique

Monday, December 22, 2014

I'm away for the week; there are a couple of posts scheduled for the upcoming week, but I won't be able to respond to comments. Have a wonderful week - I'm back soon!

love to you all,

Looking Back:

2012: What to wear with a scarf: Hermes Concours d'Etriers
2011:  Michigan Avenue Style Lab: brown and blue, twice

Oxygen Boutique

Saturday, December 20, 2014

One last look at this idea - substituting green for the burgundy with which this travel capsule wardrobe was originally presented. Other colors that would work well with camel would include rust, coral, peach, other shades of green, pretty much a whole bunch of shades of blue... lots of choices!

Sweater – Burberry Brit, pants – Erika Cavallini Semi-Couture, scarf – Missoni
green agate earrings – Allurez, coat – Viyella, watch – Movado, loafers – Paul Green, tote – Jil Sander

Alpaca and silk turtleneck – Michael Kors, bracelet – Kenneth Jay Lane
green silk blouse - Vionnet, skirt – CC, merino dress - Uniqlo, scarf – Hermes, riding boots – Frye

I think by now we've all figured out that these four garments would get you through 3 or 4 days pretty easily...


Looking back:

2013: From Desk to Dinner Party: Incorporating a Gem Tone into Neutrals
2012: Two sides of the whole "color" system question


Friday, December 19, 2014

Yesterday, there were a couple of concerns/questions about what to do if you don't look good in camel. How about navy? (grey would also be fabulous, as would taupe...)

navy and burgundy travel outfit
Tee shirt – Lanvin, pants – Jaeger, snood/infinity scarf –  Genie, garnet earrings – David Yurman,
 coat – Jaeger, watch – Cartier,  loafers – Tod’s, tote – Halston Heritage

Navy and burgundy Four Pack travel capsule wardrobe
Cashmere turtleneck – Loro Piano, bracelet – Kenneth Jay Lane
burgundy silk blouse - Yves Saint Laurent vintage, skirt – Jaeger, silk knit dress – A.P.C.
scarf – Brooks Brothers, riding boots – Fendi

Of course, still lots of possible ways to wear these few simple basics!

four navy and burgundy outfits from a Four Pack travel capsule wardrobe


Thursday, December 18, 2014

Many of us are preparing for holiday trips of varying lengths, so today I felt like putting together something that just oozed luxury and subtlety.  These rich, beautiful colors, fabrics and textures make a quietly elegant statement, without gaudy logos or overdone ornamentation.

Camel and Burgundy Travel Outfit
Tee shirt – Lanvin, pants – Erika Cavallini Semi-Couture, scarf – Jean Paul Gaultier Vintage
garnet earrings – David Yurman, coat – Viyella, watch – Cartier,  loafers – Tod’s, tote – Bric’s
camel and burgundy Four Pack travel capsule wardrobe
Alpaca and silk turtleneck – Michael Kors, bracelet – Kenneth Jay Lane
burgundy silk blouse - Yves Saint Laurent Vintage, skirt – CC, merino dress - Uniqlo
scarf Pierre-Louis Mascia, riding boots – Fendi
four outfits from a camel and burgundy travel capsule wardrobe