Friday, October 30, 2015

Building a Capsule Wardrobe by Starting with Art: Dantis Amor by Rossetti - Step 3

Now the fun starts! The clothes from yesterday are certainly very nice, if not mind-bending, but in order to give things just a touch of zest, and a sense of finish, some well-chosen accessories are imperative! (well, shoes are imperative, even if you never wear a scarf or a piece of jewelry; when pressed to offer up what piece of clothing every woman, without exception, should own, the only thing I can honestly think of is shoes...)

Reminders of our basic style source, and the clothes with which we're working:

            Cardigan – Boden; jeans – Madewell; turtleneck – Madewell; cords – Lands’ End;
cardigan – L.L.Bean; jeans – L.L.Bean; tee -Sunspel; trousers - J. Crew;
Blue top– J. Crew; red crew – J. Crew; shirt – J. Crew; striped top – Lands’ End
Fleece vest – J. Crew; striped top – J. Crew; star sweater – Chinti and Parker; corduroy skirt – L.L.Bean

As I said, shoes first! I always look for something comfortable - that's completely NOT negotiable. When men start wearing uncomfortable shoes, I will too. In the meantime, my feet are just as important as theirs...

This seems like a minimum assortment for autumn and winter. I don't think that anything dressier is required; a corduroy skirt isn't a ball gown, and so peau de soie pumps don't have a place here; if you have to have a special-occasion dress, you'll need special-occasion shoes too. But you might be surprised how far you can go in life without one!

Remember, when you're looking at tall boots that have a buckle near the top, check that buckle like crazy, to make sure that there are no protruding metal pieces that might catch the hem of your skirts. Nothing like having your hem ripped out 5 minutes out your front door to ruin your day!

short boots – Kork-Ease; tall boots – Dr. Scholl’s; driving loafer – UGG Australia

Next, if you're inclined in this direction, look for scarves. Many women would NOT be interested in a square silk scarf, and that's fine. Even if you're going to wear a silk scarf, it doesn't have to be from Hermes, and don't forget that there's a world of secondhand Hermes scarves online that cost a wee fraction of retail. If you're dubious about the authenticity of a scarf, send me an email!

When choosing a printed scarf, let your heart and your color palette be your guide. This scarf wins out because of the deep navy background, the warm camel details, and the touches of our bright blue accent. If you were going to pick up orange as an accent color, rather than (or in addition to!) the red we used, this scarf would answer up to that challenge too.

The plaid scarf is SO perfect - it combines your neutral colors in a timeless pattern, and thus should be wearable for ages. Don't be put off because it's from Neiman Marcus - it's from their outlet store! ALWAYS check places like outlet stores from high-end retailers for goodies that you would never normally buy...

Square silk scarf – Hermes Dans un Jardin Anglais; plaid scarf – Neiman Marcus

I can't tell you how much I HATE having only 2 items in that image. Too much symmetry...

Now, jewelry. A tiny assortment is really more than enough. I always look for earrings first - something really plain - almost neutral - that gives a finishing touch to an outfit, and keeps your empty piercings from showing! These have a brushed surface, in keeping with the burnished and textured surfaces of our painting. These are from the Saks Fifth Avenue outlet store - I really can't emphasize often enough how it's worthwhile to check those stores for lovely items at very good prices.

The plain bar necklace isn't brushed - that felt too matchy - but it is simple enough that you could wear it almost constantly.  The navy bracelet is a good place to add a touch of navy back into an outfit that feels too "camel-ish" - like a camel sweater and tee, with navy pants. This bracelet would add a bit of navy back above your waist. (depending on where your hands happen to be at any given moment!)

And then, I fell into the wonder world of stars....

First, the earrings caught my attention - they're really unusual, without being freakish or unsuitable for a grown woman. (they're available in silver, and rose gold...) And the ring is just plain fun and pretty. So I threw myself headlong into the star theme, and added a pendant too. It might not be advisable to wear all three together, unless you wanted to. (I don't really adhere to a lot of rules!)

Brushed gold hoop earrings – Jude Frances, leather bracelet – Celine
bar necklace – Madewell; star earrings – Tada & Toy, star ring – 

And finally, something you probably need, and something you don't! A small, cross-body bag, that is in the same leather family as your shoes, is pretty necessary. I was able to find one that didn't have screaming logos all over it...

Socks? Well, you have to wear them; would it be wrong to have a tiny bit of fun with them? These are such ideal colors to wear, just once in a while, when wearing one of your accent-color tops. If you're going to have a wardrobe whim, this is a nice inexpensive one to have.

Socks – Talbots; cross-body bag - Halogen

My next project is always to arrange all of the accessories on one page. This can take AGES, but I think it's important to be able to see everything together. This is a great way to see things that really don't belong, and is a step I would never skip. Accessory Families are probably my very favorite thing to do on The Vivienne Files!

Even more challenging might be putting all of the clothes and accessories together in an image, but again, I feel that it's important to see things all together. This just feels like an autumn trip - wear 3 pieces, and pack the other 13. Everything seems to look comfortable together, and the options for how to wear just throw themselves off the page at us.

My last step is to go into the outfits created previously, and accessorize them. I sort of imagine that I'm getting dressed in the clothes in question, and envision what I would reach for in order to feel "complete". If I can't do that, I know that I've missed the boat on choosing accessories, and I go back to that step and start again.

That, in a very large nutshell, is how I do a Start With Art wardrobe on The Vivienne Files. Yes, it takes me anywhere from 6 to 10 hours...

Tomorrow, the 2nd of the scarves I need to sell. But for Monday, are we interested in a dressy wardrobe based on this same Rosetti painting? I'd be happy to oblige, of course!


Gorgeous Shop


  1. Love the accessories, the socks really made me smile! An 'expansion eight' might be fun - I've a feeling that with a handful of extra items that could be mixed with these the whole set could take you through the next few week, Christmas parties included. Personally I'd stick to the same bold shapes and colours, but others might prefer something more elaborate.
    This 'start with art' has brought it home to me how much I like simple, quality pieces!

  2. From Margie in Toronto - Wonderful! What a terrific series of lessons this has been - thank you. At first I didn't think these colours were for me but I've come to look at it differently and will definitely consider these two neutrals for future additions.
    I would love to see a more dressy version - some office additions, along with some holiday dress up options to add. And then of course, outer wear for the coming winter. Just to see how this Fall/Winter colour combo would work for a complete wardrobe. Thank you again.

  3. These colors make my heart sing, so I am very much in favor of the dressier version. This is so much fun to watch. And proof once again, that there is a lot of mileage in a small but cohesive wardrobe. Looking forward to more of the scarf sale... Have a lovely weekend.

  4. This post is yet another testimony to the power of accessories. The starry socks are my favorite part!

  5. This has really been a great series of posts. I've made two 4x4 charts for fall/winter in an attempt to get my wardrobe under control. I'm now going to go back and make four outfits for each bottom and then accessorize them, as you've shown. Eventually, I'll have a wardrobe that makes sense to me! Thanks for all your inspiration. My biggest issue, however, is that I can't commit to a second neutral to go with my khaki/camel. I have gray, espresso, and olive...and like but don't love any one. Suggestions?

  6. I would be interested in a different version of a casual wardrobe, one that emphasizes the opulent textures and mysticism rather than the stars and stripes. My question is whether opulent / mystical and casual can go together. I'd also love to see a dressier wardrobe, btw! These aren't my colors, but it's been a fascinating series.

  7. Wow, what a difference accessories make. Now I really like this collection and can see how it can be more than casual/plain. The Hermes scarf really echoes the painting and would look great tied to the purse for people not comfortable wearing it around their neck.
    Yes, please to a more opulent selection.
    Deb from Vancouver

  8. Amazing. Thanks for showing us your professional process. Your system puts impulse shopping to shame. Theresa

  9. I've really enjoyed htis. Now here's a pracitcaly question from a person relatively new to the blog: How do you use a 4 x 4 wardrobe? Do you, personally, have one and do you wear only the garments in it for a particular period of time or season? Or do you have, say, two that you alternate between? Do you have additional garments that you add to it? Just curious as to how this is supposed to work.

    1. There's no rigid policy for how to use this- I'd use it as a base for a packing wardrobe, or a guideline when shopping, to fill in gaps that I hadn't realized were in my wardrobe. It would be a great way to limit your clothes for a week or two in order to give yourself a brain break (similar to Courtney Carver's Project 333). I don't have one right now - I'm sort of obsessed with wearing dressed almost every day - but I might pull one together when I get around to paring down my winter clothes.

      If I were going to have two 4 by 4's, I would try to have some overlap between them. For example, if I were going to add a 2nd 4 by 4 to this one, I'd think about maybe navy and grey, or camel and maroon - something that had some color in common, but introduced something new.

  10. What a thorough look into your thought process. One could combine this process along with the Starting From Scratch concepts and have an absolutely perfect wardrobe.

    Are you going to do a review of the new suitcase you were sent by a vendor?

    1. I am indeed going to review my new bag from Standard, but maybe not until mid-December. I have another trip coming up, and I will have a better ability to assess the bag's strengths and weaknesses by then. At this point, I'm liking the bag quite a bit!

  11. I second bomm's comment and question. Is it possible for casual to be opulent and mystical? If yes, then please show us. It has been so interesting to follow your process. Thank you for all the time, effort, and creative energy that you put into these posts. Mary

  12. I particularly like the accessories that you have chosen to pair with these garments. Your tip about the buckle would have saved me hours of frustration had I heard it before I purchase boots...which by the way were later consigned!

  13. I have been playing around with your process beginning with the palettes generated by pixelating a picture using Lunapic. It is fascinating to watch the transitions and refinements of colors as the pixel size increases. I am focusing on Blue Pool from an earlier Start with Art post and am loving the colors (very different from these). Next to identify 2-3 neutrals and 2-3 accents and go "shopping. Such fun!


    1. Thank you so very much for you explanations, Janice!


  14. Hear hear to all the grateful comments on your sharing of the thinking that goes into these Start With Art posts, Janice. The ideas are extrapolatable (?) to other starting points too. Something I'm always grateful for, as a recovering shopaholic, is the opportunities you give me to (a) play around with what I have to create different looks, (b) think and plan for possible shopping strategically, and (c) spend time mucking about with wardrobe ideas and clothes instead of going shopping.
    Robyn in Tasmania

  15. I completely agree with Marge in Toronto and the others who call for revisiting this collection with a thought to work wear, occasion dressing, and outerwear. That would round out the lesson nicely and be a great addition to The Vivienne Files...

    Plus, I would love to see it! Thank you for sharing this, Janice.
    Sue G

  16. Such a great look into your process! I have loved this series! This is very similar to my current color scheme with the exception of black for the navy. I also have a gray neutral too. These 4x4 wardrobes have been a life saver for me when packing! I travel so much lighter these days and don't feel like I am missing a thing!