Wednesday, August 05, 2015

Building a Capsule Wardrobe by Starting with Art: Still Life with Apples by Henri Matisse

As soon as I saw this painting, I knew we were going to have some fun. I really admire the juxtaposition of the very traditional navy and grey with the striking, almost shocking, colors of the apples. That Matisse knew what he was doing...

Still Life with Apples by Henri Matisse

If I were to expand this wardrobe further, I would pull in more shades of grey, and a wider range of blues... so many possibilities just from this limited palette.

Just the slightest suggest of unplumbed depths...

Turtleneck – Polo Ralph Lauren; long wrap skirt – Joseph
Pleated panel blouse - Schumacher; fluted skirt – Iris and Ink

The subject of her came up before the Director's meeting started.

It wasn't anything that they could actually put their finger on; they agreed that nobody in the room had ever even seen her knees!

She was always dressed appropriately, and there could be no dispute that she did her job with extraordinary skill and grace.

Navy cashmere cardigan – J. Crew; navy pleated skirt – J. Crew
Navy silk blouse – L’Agence; navy fluted skirt - Tibi

But they all agreed that there was something about her that always drew one's gaze back to her. Just a sense that there was so much more to her than was revealed on the surface. Something unique, unexpected, vaguely unsettling, but never unprofessional or offensive.

Print blouse – See by Chloe; orange sweater - Joseph; 
Orange blouse – Stella McCartney; tweed sweater – Ermanno Scervino

Maybe, it was agreed, they should move her into a more visible position - something with more responsibility. It would be a chance to see what she could do, and an opportunity to observe her more closely. Perhaps they could figure out what made her stick in their minds with such clarity and persistence...

Navy dress – Planet; orange cardigan- L.K.Bennett
Green cardigan – White Stuff; grey dress – FennWrightManson

She always knew that sticking with orange and green as her signature colors would pay off some day!

Orange bag- Marni; peridot ring – Michael Aram; fossilized coral earrings
 - Pamela Huizenga; green crystal earrings - Slane; orange ring – Roberto Coin;
 bakelite and peridot bracelet- Mark Davis; fire opal pendant – Cathy Waterman;
 paisley scarf – Ralph Lauren; hot pink Flamingo Party Hermes scarf; suede 
wedges – Tod’s; navy patent pumps – Jimmy Choo; anthracite suede pumps – Prada;
 navy sling backs – L’Autre Chose

I love to imagine that there are women who manage to express their uniqueness, or quirkiness, within the confines of an otherwise conservative environment. I've never worked in an environment like this, so I've never seen it first-hand...




  1. I love the stories as much as I love the clothes.

  2. This palette is absolutely stunning! Personally I never wear trousers, so this ensemble resonates in more ways than one. Not sure if I am alone in trying to envisage how I could incorporate this all into a SWAP (sewing with a plan), but this really does look workable.. Thanks

  3. I love the story, but what about the blue?

  4. Some unexpected color combinations for sure! And once again it s a beautiful scarf that all ties it together successfully. I have the grey and apple green, and never thought about putting them together.

  5. Beautiful...and the wrap skirt is gorgeous! A great wardrobe addition.

  6. Janice, you hit it out of the park! The colors and styles are beautiful. I love the grey and need to add more to my wardrobe. I'm ready for fall sewing ... thank you! Mollie

  7. I adore orange and grey together. So unexpected and so sophisticated.

  8. Ah, yes--never show them your knees at work. That's always been my motto. Dark neutrals, with inexplicable pops of color. I love the greens and oranges you chose for this grouping.

  9. OH, me!! me!! me!!
    In my 20s, I did tech support/IT for a company where all our "clients" were spread across the USA, so my work was all via computer and phone. We were in the same building as the US headquarters, but they were on the 10th floor and we were on the 2nd floor, so we only saw executives/HR/accountants/etc for HR training events (so, almost never). Still, we had to adhere to the super conservative dress code. ENTER ME: young, wild with personality, earning more money than I knew what to do with. I noticed the only mention of color in the dress code referred to hair color (hair could only be a color "found in nature"). I managed to find tailored navy suits....with bright hippie flowers all over the jacket. And tailored acid green suits. And tie-dyed silk dress blouses to wear under my solid suits. And other assorted outfits. My co-workers were amused as hell at my clothing choices, and the director was both repulsed and impressed. He couldn't call me out on it because I adhered to the dress code to. the. letter.
    Fast forward 20 years later to day, and I'm a stay-at-home mom to young kids. I'm called out by the other moms all the time because I "look too put together" for 8am, and they can "tell I'm not from around here" because I wear brightly colored clothes. Too bad they didn't see me in the office back in the day!

    1. I love that you had such a "rebellious streak" while adhering to the dress code.

    2. You. Are. Awesome.

  10. Many squeals of delight from Canada!!! Love this whole post. The coral earrings are truly swoon worthy as is the combined wardrobe. This is giving me some great ideas for sewing. Plus another great storyline, what happens next??

    Deb from Vancouver

  11. this is outrageously sophisticated and really special. what a special palette. I'd also love to see it expanded with the blue. I hope somewhere some women still dress like this!

  12. Not colors I can wear, but so stunning on the right person. Lovely wardrobe as always.

  13. Love the unexpected melon colors with classic gray! One of my all-time favorite posts.

  14. I would NEVER get tired of these pieces! Love the green and orange!!!

  15. Gray wrap skirt amazing . . . I'd never need another article of clothing (hah!). Thanks for this one!

  16. Very unusual colours, I'm delighted to see such an adventurous capsule. And green's my signature colours, so please, please can I have the tweed sweater?

  17. Love this one! I'm slowly converting my wardrobe from mostly black to navy and gray. Your posts on transitioning from one palette to another (from 4 years ago!) are invaluable. The navy and gray blouse is a great find - I haven't had much luck with that combination other than some tweed jackets (too heavy for my climate) or slogan tee shirts (definitely not my style). Thanks for another inspiring post.

  18. love all the shoes, conservative but with style. And I echo everyone on the gray skirt even though I can't wear that style.

  19. This is the palette of my wardrobe! Navy, grey, and white as neutrals; apple green and golden orange as accents. I even have some very similar garments. I built my wardrobe using your Starting From Scratch template because I was sick of having a ton of clothes and so few outfits. I love love love these colours. I've added a little cobalt to pep up the navy. Getting dressed is so much easier now and these colours are "me". Going to study this post for fresh ideas on garment combinations. Thank you, Janice.

  20. Oh I really like the green cardigan and the orange blouse! I even could wear those if I could afford to buy them...

    On another matter, I couldn't find how to email you "privately" so I'll ask you here: do you think you could plan a wardrobe starting from a necklace? This one caught my eye today and I thought you might be interested: I'd love to see what you can make with it.

    1. That necklace cries out for soft, muted colors in simple tops that won't conflict with all of the beautiful details. Dusty rose pink, celadon green, cloudy blue...

  21. WOW! What a gorgeous wardrobe!! I do not know any women who dress this way anymore. That is sad! I rarely wear dresses or skirts. Some cobalt blue added to this would be stunning! I wonder what salary one would have to earn to afford these clothes?? Love the story line as well.

  22. Late to the party... but I echo those saying "what about the blue!?" I would love to see this with a real French blue, as in the painting.