Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Color and Proportion - Step 3: Adding Print Scarves and 2-Tone Shoes to Solid Garments

Here's where the fun starts, for me! As an avowed fan of scarves and what they can accomplish to balance, accent, and just generally jazz up, I was happy when we get to the patterned scarf part of our experiment..

4 patterned scarves, in black, beige and white
Beige with black tassels scarf – BP., black and white scarf – Dolce and Gabbana
beige and white chevron scarf – Missoni , striped scarf – Lanvin

I've owned these black and white loafers a COUPLE of times in the past (literally, I believe they've been making these since the '80's) and I always wear them to death. And I'm embarrassed to confess that the Trotters loafers are, in fact, beige and dark brown. On my monitor, the trim looks black! I truly didn't know the "real" colors until I was almost finished.... sigh...

And you can always find deck shoes in a ton of color combinations...

three pair of two-toned loafers, in black, beige and white
Black and white loafers – Bass, beige and black loafers – Trotters
beige and white loafers – Sebago

I personally now really like the first two outfits, but just still can't make #3 work for me... I think the white really needs a capri pant and some sandals in order to have the right "feel". This much white just screams hot weather and bare skin, to me.

3 outfits with a white tee shirt and white jeans, each with a cardigan, scarf, and shoes in black, white or beige

But, if I were a beige person, all three of these would be fine for me; the touch of white in the shoes and the scarf make #6 finally feel planned and... symmetric, I think is the word I want.

3 outfits with a beige tee shirt and beige jeans, each with a cardigan, scarf and loafers in black, white or beige

I know you're all shocked that I love both #7 and #9! And if I wore beige, even #8 would appeal. To my eye, the touch of a color in the shoe that is echoed in the upper part of the outfit makes everything hang together...

3 outfits of a black tee shirt and black jeans, each with a cardigan, scarf and loafers in black, beige or white

I'm still not entirely sure about a white cardigan over a darker tee shirt; someone mentioned last week that the "show through" factor can be off-putting. But I'd at least be willing to try these outfits...

2 outfits of a white cardigan and white jeans, with either a black or a beige tee shirt, printed scarf, and two-toned shoes

Both of these are great; if I didn't look ghastly in beige, I'd be all over both of these variations!

2 outfits of a beige cardigan and beige jeans, one with a white tee shirt, one with a black tee shirt, and each with a patterned scarf and two-toned shoes

#14 is ripped straight from my closet - this variation of a "suit and white shirt" has tons of possibilities! And #15 is great for someone who doesn't favor stark white...

two outfits of a black cardigan and black jeans, one with a white tee shirt, one with a beige tee shirt, each with a patterned scarf and two-toned shoes

The idea of a white shirt as a neutral base garment is something to which all of our eyes are accustomed, and so I think #16 works pretty well. And the scarf in #17 keeps the black tops from dominating the outfit as much. But if you don't like the "twin set" look, nothing will redeem a matching shirt and cardigan!

2 outfits with beige jeans and a black cardigan, one with a white tee shirt and one with a black tee shirt, each with a patterned scarf and two-toned shoes

I think the hardest "twin set" to wear is the all white one! But the beige scarf does keep the white from being too overwhelming, so it's got potential.

And here we see the three colors with a scarf that ties them all together. I still hesitate over this particular ensemble, because the white cardigan over the black tee shirt feel awkward. It's hard to put my finger on what bothers me about it, but it doesn't quite flow. Hmmm....

2 outfits, each with beige jeans and a white cardigan, one with a white tee shirt, one with a black tee shirt, each with a patterned scarf and two-toned shoes

#20 might be a possible combination for someone who's top-heavy and who wants to downplay their... ahem... upper torso. I feel a lot more comfortable with the beige cardigan over the black tee shirt, rather than the white cardigan up in #19. It's an odd subtlety, but it's there!

And #21 is fine, unless you abhor the "twin set" idea...

two outfits of a beige cardigan and white jeans, one with a black tee shirt and one with a beige tee shirt, each with a patterned scarf and beige and white boat shoes

I would cheerfully wear #22, because I'm all about long legs, exposed ankles in the warm weather, and downplaying the degree of crowding on the balcony! #23 can accomplish the same goal of minimizing the top and accenting the bottom for those who don't care for solid black above the waist...

2 outfits of a black cardigan and white jeans, one with a black tee and one with a beige tee, each with a patterned scarf, and both with black and white penny loafers

To my eye, the black and white scarf in #24 helps A TON in balancing out the all-white tops - it just pays sufficient reference to the jeans and loafers without being heavy or weighing down the entire outfit.

And for no good reason I can pinpoint, I think #25 isn't bad. Maybe the beige and the white are close enough in color? What a learning experience this is!

2 outfits of a white cardigan and black jeans, one with a white tee shirt, and one with a beige tee shirt, each with a patterned scarf and black and white penny loafers

#26 looks balanced now, to me; it's interesting how well a white tee shirt can function where any other top makes too much of a "statement" in the outfit equation. I must remember to keep my white tee shirt stash fresh and tidy...

And #27 works well for those who can bear a matching tee and cardigan. The touch of black in the scarf is all that's needed to give the eye a sense of connection throughout the outfit.

Just for reference purposes, these are the original garments...

9-piece capsule wardrobe in black beige and white, with three tee shirts in black, white and beige, three pair of jeans in black, white and beige, and three cardigans in black, white and beige
                           Tee shirts – Uniqlo, jeans – L.L.Bean, cardigans - Uniqlo

I'm thinking of taking one more pass through this idea, with tee shirts in stripes or other prints that combine two or more of our neutrals. What do you think?


PS - For those of you who like to read ahead, here are all the articles in this "Color and Proportion" series:


  1. What a difference the scarves and shoes make. This is the color palette I have settled on, and I need to get some base pieces in beige. (I started with black & grey, but decided that too much grey doesn't quite look right on me) I will be studying this and trying these combinations, I even have some similar scarves. I don't own white pants, maybe I could try white jeans or capris. The only combinations I really wouldn't want to try are #3 (too much white) or #5 (too much beige). Other than those 2, I think I would be willing to try any of the others. I am interested to see which combinations look best on me. Thanks...this will be a great reference for building my wardrobe and creating outfits.

    1. Shop the thrift store for the trial phase of changing your colors. If it works it'll hold you until you find the right pieces. If it doesn't work you haven't spent a large enough amount of money to induce guilt over giving it away.

  2. Whatever you come up in this series is fine with me. As a wearer of all neutrals (I own exactly two printed tops that I wear when I travel in case of a spill), I use scarves to balance my wardrobe. I never ever wear a 'statement' necklace, because they make me feel like I have been decorated, but a boldly printed scarf suits me just fine. You have taught me over the years to fine tune my eye. Never got around to comment yesterday, but I do like your clothing choices. And, yes, I like to see more of that scarf.

  3. The scarf/shoes made such a difference in some of the combos for me.

    #8 & #15 were a "no" from me, but now they look better to my eye. I would prefer them both with black shoes, however. I don't care for a light shoes with a dark pant. (this I did not know until this series!)

    #19 has now gone from "no" to so-so

    #23 was a so-so and imho, with the beige scarf with black tassels in place of the stripe, it would be a "yes" for me.

    Going with a printed top would be fun as would the addition of some jewelry, maybe?

  4. I love your choice of scarves and shoes and how they expand the chosen colors. The accessories certainly lift the outfits and also meld them together. Tying the colors together. Sometimes subtle and sometimes bold. Beautiful to look at. Carol S

  5. As someone who is strangely addicted to stripes (plus spots!) I look forward to seeing your next post.

  6. As someone who is strangely addicted to stripes (plus spots!) I look forward to seeing your next post.

  7. Wow! What a difference the patterns make. Those three-color outfits now look more purposeful, rather than the sort of randomness of the plain pieces. It would be interesting to see this experiment with other colors: gray, white, and navy perhaps?

  8. Janice
    Can't help but comment on the connection I felt today, when I heard your name on the radio station I listen to constantly, Lyric FM. As an avid reader of your blog, but based in Co Mayo the world shrunk.

    1. HELEN, THAT'S SO COOL!!!!! I'm listening right now - I often listen to Lyric, because it makes me feel closer to Ireland. My husband and I used to live there (he has dual US and Irish citizenship), and we're going to retire there in about 5 years or so... We have relatives in Ennis...

      big Irish hug,

  9. White capris! That moves several of the white bottomed outfits into the Yes or Maybe categories for me. And adding accessories moves the white tee from the Definitely No category to Maybe. What a difference a few small changes make.

  10. Love these colors...and the accessories are perfect!

  11. Please continue with this experiment, it is like a palate cleanser helping us to view clothes in a "clean" way without distractions. Another big factor is a person's body type. Straight bodies are one thing but a triangle, pear, apple etc would be wise to view these proportions and balance features to suit them. Jewelry is another aspect in helping balance

    Deb from Vancouver

  12. Yes, patterns, please ! Can't wait !

  13. I like the khaki and white combo, I need to remind myself of this possibility in the too warm weather we have here most of the year.

  14. Thanks so much for this series, Janice. I find it so helpful when you state your reasoning why an outfit does, and especially, does not work.

  15. By choosing clothes that are so undistinguished in shape, you have helped me to see that color is only one dimension of what makes an outfit attractive. For me, the scarves matter less because they pull colors together than because they add some drama and intentionality. I can picture a cream and camel outfit that was distinguished by the cut or texture of the clothes (cf MaxMara) rather than by adding a scarf. The black-and-white outfits worked best from the start because the contrast adds some flare. I am sure that striped shirts would help but probably any shirt with interest (even just a collar) would, too. For me, the lesson is that the cut of clothes matters as much as color.

  16. I would wear every one of them. (Without the loafers, which I really, really don't like. I'll use ballet flats.) Handbags and jewelry would help, too.

  17. Dear Janice,

    You are one of the Fashion Wonders of the World! Your fabulous blog file contains more incredibly perfect information, more utterly superb inspiration, more highly varied outfit photos, and more wisdom and common sense than I have ever found anywhere. In the few short months that I've been following your blog, I have hungrily read every single entry from all the years past. Your daily email (so inspirational, so smart and sensible, and so utterly elegant) is like finding a present on my doorstep. I can't wait to open it, but sometimes I hold off just to savor the expectation!

    I think what you did (are doing) with this Color and Proportion series is beyond brilliant---all the more so because of your including ALL the combinations and remarking on how or why some don't work as well as others.

    I am completely in your thrall!

    Linda T

  18. This series has me thinking that buying a pair of light blue jeans could be one way of lightening up the look of my mostly dark wardrobe.

  19. Would love to see stripped t versions. The BP scarf is now on my must have list!