Saturday, September 12, 2015

Building a DRESSY Capsule Wardrobe by Starting with Art: A Bridge in a Snowy Landscape by Utagawa Hiroshige

One last look at our beautiful art, and the very unusual, but workable, color scheme that I chose from it:

You Must Always Look Elegant and Refined

That's what they told her when she accepted the position. They even give her a clothing allowance any time they change the color scheme of the business, which is every 4 to 6 months, sometimes more often!

But she's clever, and knows that they aren't going to ask for receipts, so she chooses timeless, elegant, classic clothes that might be "recyclable" into a later scheme...

Cashmere cardigan – Uniqlo; wool skirt – J. Crew;
Silk shirt – Stella McCartney; trousers – J. Crew

She knows that a simple ivory silk blouse might be usable in any number of different "aesthetic messages" that her employers choose. No frittering away of a that shopping money here!

Cashmere cardigan – Uniqlo; skirt – J. Crew;
Silk blouse – Theory; twill trousers – Temperley London

One of her smartest moves is to buy a few distinctive blouses or sweaters, that seem to be specifically made for the current "look". When she wears these, nobody much notices that she pairs them with a classic skirt that might be back around in six months, when the whole staff needs to wear powdery pastels...

Blue blouse – Erika Cavallini;  grey blouse – Steffen Schraut;
Cap-sleeve print blouse – Ulla Johnson; orange blouse – Max Mara

Yes, a couple of pieces might never make it beyond this current "vision" of her bosses. But that's okay, because it gives her employers the clear sense that she's completely on-board with this nutty, constant, wasteful changing of their "signature look."

Cashmere cardigan – J. Crew; grey skirt – Cedric Charlier;
Orange floral blouse – Giambattista Valli; grey floral blouse – Giambattista Valli

Accessories are key to making this work - these outfits look a lot more polished with just an earring or brooch. And since she has to greet people and "mingle," comfortable but beautiful shoes are essential. She has a PILE of accessories, that get rotated in an out of active circulation depending on how well they suit her current color scheme...

Moon brooch – Lanvin; aventurine earrings – Nareerat;  silver and pearl 
lariat – Effy; silver pendant – Jantana; stud earrings – Vince Camuto
 blue stone circle earrings – Kenneth Cole New York; cuff bracelet – Achara
 pearl brooch – Bukkehave; labradorite chandelier earrings – JCPenney;   
charcoal pearl earrings – Melissa Joy Manning; silk square –  Brooks Brothers 
pale grey pumps – Prada; silver flats – Shoes of Prey; bone pumps – Bella Vita;
 bone loafers – Munro; cap toe pumps – Nina

Since she chose her pieces carefully, she will have plenty of outfit options for the next few months. It's always interesting to see how different members of the "team" interpret the color guidelines that they're given...

At home, she wears jeans, and black tee shirts. The idea of color reminds her of work, and that's not necessarily good... but she's accumulating an amazingly varied wardrobe, and she's going to have the world's best garage sale, some day!




  1. I really want to be this woman in this fantasy with this fascinating job, a clothing allowance and the intelligence and taste of Janice.
    Deb from Vancouver

  2. Me too, and since I live in the sticks, I wonder what kind of business requires a 'color change' every six months or so. Happy weekend!

    1. High-end restaurant. Art gallery (which is what I was thinking of when I wrote this - I know of a gallery that changes their interior color scheme when they change exhibits). Interior designer. Fashion promotion company. It's not common, but it's not impossible to find such a great job!

    2. And me too, please. The ultimate wardrobe porn micro-fiction: a woman with a clothing allowance!

    3. Gail, I had to giggle at "wardrobe porn" when I realized that's what almost every post actually is :-)

    4. Amy, indeed. But free of calories. There are worse vices. :)

  3. Now I know why I need to work in a place without a strict dress code! All three of these lovely sets are within the range of what I would wear out running errands/visiting friends/out to dinner/to the office/to church. My clothing levels appear to be: exercise/destruction (fieldwork, painting, heavy-duty cleaning), normal (encompasses all 3 sets with just a few exceptions - no sweatshirt at work, no skirt for just hanging out alone at home), and super dressy (cocktail party, bridesmaid dresses - mostly stuff I don't own). I actually prefer alternating among Janice's three using nothing but my mood, and am lucky that in most of my life I can do so!

    - Kaci

  4. I think I would HATE to be forced to wear someone else's colors! Maybe it would become an interesting creative challenge, but my first reaction is no no NO.

  5. Janice,
    This is a bit off of the above topic, but a friend and I (I'm 70 and she's 77) were recently discussing attire worn to college football games back in the 1950's and 60's. My friend's mother had to attend one college football game a year just to see the clothes worn by the other ladies. Often, she would have seen tweed suits, penny loafers or pumps, with nylon stockings, of course, completed with a large yellow chrysanthemum corsage on a lapel along with ribbons in the school colors. Where have those classy days gone ? I miss that kind of ogling myself !

  6. I love this collection as well as the story behind it. I would love to have a clothing allowance!
    I'm currently struggling to find white or ivory blouses that are not see-through. Camisoles are not that comfortable living in a hot, humid climate. Are there certain brands or fabrics that I should look for?

  7. Hi Janice, You have had me spellbound with is colour combination for the last three days. I adore orange and have been collecting garments and other items for quite a few years. Even have a small orange teapot. However, I have not got the styling quite right until you put it all together. It is a rainy weekend here so I am going to go through my closet selecting only the white, blue, grey, and orange items to come up with some new combinations. A request if you please. I have a down parka in sunny orange for those January days when it is -30 C and the winds are wicked. Would you do a post on outer wear for the fall and winter, something with coats, snow boots and woolly knits. Thanks.

  8. Great job showing the concept of different levels of dress. My life is in the super casual set but my daydreams are in the dressy set. I keep just a few pieces for those twice-a-year occasions where I can dress up. Love the color schemes, too. Look forward to your blog and my morning cup of tea every day...and if you don't post, I reread older posts!

  9. Am very smitten with the silver - ivory outfits, a version of which I could put together from my closet. I even have blue accessories that would add some interest. I steer clear of orange as not being one of "my" colors, but the pieces you have chosen are so lovely and add so much to the wardrobes that I may have to reconsider.

  10. Gorgeous wardrobe! What a job that would be! I do think it would be a challenge if the color scheme was one you looked horrible in, but what a fantasy to have a wardrobe allowance! :) There are some beautiful pieces here. I have enjoyed the whole gamut of casual to dressy.

  11. The wardrobe collections you've assembled using this gorgeous painting have me going through fabric and pattern stashes. I love the elegance and ease of this. Like bomm above, the addition of orange to this collection has me re-thinking my aversion to the color.

  12. I have really enjoyed the last few days. I love the colours and the serene feels. I feel a bit like a heel for wanting more. I was wondering if it would be possible to add a "corporate" wardrobe as well--fewer cardigans and more structured jackets? Pleaseee?

  13. I must admit that I was completely distracted by the story. Oh, how I would LOVE to see that woman's story fleshed out!!

  14. I really like all these posts but this last one disappoints me a bit. The clothes look wonderful but but concentrating on one value of gray, you dispense with one of its (to me) big advantages. Gray garments in a variety of values but one hue gives you a big advantage, in that the overall look is much more varied. If you choose all the same value (here, a sort of pewter) you get much the same feel as garmetns that are all black -- they look good, they match, but they are monochromatic. THe other two wardrobes took advantage of differences in value (very light gray to dark pewter) and that gave each outfit a more varied feel. Again, these look great. I just wanted to point out a further difference possible when using different values or shades of the same hue/color.

  15. I would hate to be told to wear a color I looked awful in, like orange. But a clothing allowance would be wonderful.