Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Building a Capsule Wardrobe by Starting with Art: Echo and Narcissus by Waterhouse Version 2

This is a painting that easily provides a second color scheme! Remember last week, when I used more pastel colors as the accents?)

The Pre-Ralphaelite painting Echo and Narcissus by John William Waterhouse, and a color scheme taken from the painting

Today we will see how a change of accent colors alters to whole mood of the "Whatever's Clean 13."

Start out - the same outfit as before - I'm still deeply smitten with this sweater....

three brown cold-weather garments: jacket, jeans and turtleneck sweater
Jacket – Damir Doma; jeans – Austin Reed; turtleneck – L.L.Bean

I changed a couple of pieces here, just to show you a little bit of variety:

three green cold-weather garments: jacket, sweater and twill pants
Jacket – L.L.Bean; ribbed sweater – The Row; twill pants – L.L.Bean

And at this point, I still feel that some accessories are handy - at least you're going to want some shoes or boots! A scarf that pulls the colors together is helpful, and a pair of earrings never goes amiss...

brown accessories: Etro geometric print scarf, Munro short boots, and Khun Boom smoky topaz earrings
Scarf – Etro; loafers – Munro; earrings – Khun Boom

Here's where everything changes! Bright accent colors, with accessories that include the accents as well as the neutrals. Instead of a white or off-white top, I included a more beige tone this time. 

three tops in autumn accent colors of red, gold and beige, with coordinating scarf and necklace
Red sweater – J.Crew; yellow tee – Ann Taylor; beige sweater – J. Crew;
 scarf – Dsquared; necklace – Art Smith by Barse

As before, you need to add a couple of "bottoms", and a top that can be worn with everything. If you wanted to, you could include a piece or two in one of your accents here - there's no real strict rule about any of this!

three green garments: P.A.R.O.S.H. skirt, Sonia Rykiel tee and Dorothy Perkins pants
tee shirt – Sonia Rykiel; skirt – P.A.R.O.S.H.; green pants – Dorothy Perkins

And the last step is one more "bottom" (which I see are now on sale...), as well as another footwear option, and maybe a bag, piece of jewelry, or other accessory that gives you choices about what to wear, as well as giving you a sense of having everything you need. I found a bigger bag that looks good with these colors - some people just don't do well without a tote bag!

brown items for your wardrobe: L.L.Bean corduroy pants, Louise et Cie riding boots, and Fiorelli tote bag
Corduroy pants – L.L.Bean; boots – Louise et Cie; tote bag - Fiorelli

If you compare the overall mood of this ensemble to that from last week (view it here), you can see that just changing up a very few pieces makes the entire wardrobe feel different. That's the power of accent colors!

13-Piece "Whatever's Clean" travel capsule wardrobe for cool weather, in brown and green with red and yellow accents

As before, this is ideal as a travel wardrobe, or just a capsule to have pulled together in your closet to minimize stress when getting dressed. Less stress is always good!

A "Whatever's Clean 13" wardrobe for cool weather, in brown and green with accents of red and yellow

And yes, you ABSOLUTELY can include all four accent colors in your wardrobe! As long as you're working with a solid core of neutral garments, the sky's the limit for accents colors. Your preferences, your budget, and your coloring are the only constraints.


Saks Fifth Avenue


  1. Janice, that's so cheerful.. I wish it was winter here, or better, have the ability to adapt your suggestions to our humid climate. Please think of the summers in Chicago for a couple of days..for your Australian friends.. With hope! Chris from Australia x

    1. Have you tried the search bar for June, July, & August posts? There might be something that'll work for you.

    2. Thanks Susan, I'll try that!

  2. I love that green floral top so much! I can't afford it, and it doesn't fit into my plan, but I will wistfully admire it from a distance.

    Yay for having all four accent colors! I've been rethinking my wardrobe plan again and accepting the fact that I really love a lot of colors. My current phrase is Curated Rainbow :-) Basically going with fewer styles in more colors.


    1. Curated Rainbow - what a lovely phrase! Kaci, you've helped me to see my flirtations with colour in a whole new and constructive light, thank you.

      Janice, this is a fun capsule - so versatile and good inspiration. Thanks to you too, as always.

      Robyn in Tasmania

    2. The way it works for me is that I have a lot of colors, but I'm very specific about them: white, bubblegum pink, fuschia, cranberry, olive green, leaf green, emerald green, sky blue, cobalt blue, royal purple, lilac, chocolate brown, black, slate gray. I know them when I see them, and I know when something is or is not close enough to the color I like. I'm skipping yellows and oranges because they don't look as good on me, and I need to set some limits somewhere!

      My wardrobe is also about 60% solids and 40% patterns. Almost any color can go with any one other color pretty readily. Anything new has to be able to be worn at least five ways - a dress on its own and with four different toppers or pullovers; a short sleeve top with at least five different bottoms; a topper with at least five different dresses or short sleeve top/bottom outfits.

      Most things have way more versatility than that. For example, I just bought a lovely cranberry corduroy jacket at the thrift store ($5 - great bargain!). It can go with my solid white, red, leaf green, denim blue, brown, black, and gray short sleeve tops with some combination of jeans, khakis, black pants, gray pants, denim skirt, solid brown skirt, or solid black skirt - particular combinations depending on color harmonies. I'll also wear it with my black and white paisley short sleeve top over black pants or a black skirt. And I'll wear it with solid olive, blue, and maybe purple dresses, as well as a black and white and a grayscale print dress. It comes out to about 1/3 of my wardrobe that I can wear it with (and that's including other toppers in the count, which generally aren't going to be worn together) :-)
      - Kaci

    3. I love lots of colour too - 'curated rainbow' is great. I avoid chaos by keeping the pieces and styles fairly simple (e.g. mostly a blazer + tee shirt + jeans/trousers). It seems to work (at least nobody has ever commented that I basically were the same 'uniform' most days), and allows me to indulge in my love of different colour combinations.

    4. I think it also might help to have a clear idea of what you like for prints and accessories. I'm all about floralsand lacey, leafy, viney looking things. Again, I have a pretty clear mental image of what I like - not all florals will do it. The size has to be right for me - not big but not prairie print small; I have to love the colors together; lots of symmetry, etc. Actually quite difficult to describe but I know it when I see it. Stripes also show up in my wardrobe just because it's a much more readily available way to get color combinations.
      - Kaci

  3. Janice,
    A winner once again ! I seem to be drawn to half neutrals and half accent colors in tops. Question --if going away for 6 days to visit with family, primarily indoors over Thanksgiving, would you take 6 tops, a clean one for each day, or 3 tops and wear each one twice, mixing with different pants and toppers ? I travel a lot and don't always take my Nexus Tablet along, so I occasionally miss one of your posts and can't wait to get home to find what I have missed. I've just come across the post where you show Blacks with Brights in a Slot Machine format and now I finally understand the solution to my packing challenges. On that template you keep the bright colors all at one level, either all in the toppers, or all in the tops, etc.. In order for all of the clothes to be able to go together, as is suggested for travel, this format makes the most sense ! Plus it maintains a column of color, either suit like or internally, whichever I choose, or the twin set approach. I still respectfully ask you to consider two more headings at the top of your column --one for Wardrobe Slot Machines, and one for Whatever's Clean 13. The Start With Art column encompasses both formats, but it makes finding a particular post a bit tricky, as I don't always remember what color scheme or format a particular named painting includes. Thanks and hugs !

    1. If I was a little more awake and had my morning coffee, I would have also noticed the one level of colors in today's template.

    2. That "slot machine" concept changed everything for me. I'd been working on my wardrobe and finding this blog so helpful in the process, but I was still frustrated that my items still didn't quite "work" together for me as well as I thought they should. The "rule" to keep all prints at one "level" was the key I was missing. For me, I've decided that my summer wardrobe's print level is bottoms -- specifically skirts -- and dresses, because I can't bear to wear scarves (which are usually a print) in hot weather and I prefer the look of most necklaces on a solid background of fabric and I'm usually wanting a tee of more or less dressiness in summer. For cool/cold weather wardrobe, I wear scarves frequently, so most of my clothing is solid, although I do have a few useful print tops. These personal "rules" have been guiding my purchases since Janice helped me figure them out.

    3. Lori,
      I hear ya' ! While I don't wear prints on the bottom level as I am bottom heavy, I kept trying to put complementary colors in two of the upper levels, say red and green as an example, which then limited my number of outfits, because I would not wear a red sweater over a primarily green top, unless it was a print with a light background and had both red and green in the print, as well as one or more of my neutrals. I always feel that the outmost layer is the most memorable in color, and I'm usually wearing a topper, as I'm always cold. In addition, I crave variety as well as a color balance of both core neutrals and accent colors, and I'm also wanting the maximum amount of outfits with the least number of clothes, especially for travel packing.

  4. Such a vibrant autumn wardrobe! Beautiful, and, as always, so much to learn from this post.

  5. And I am deeply smitten by the Damir Doma jacket. Deeply.
    Vancouver Barbara

  6. yes, that is a very good jacket! It is following me around on the ether ever since I followed its link!!!

    Deb from Vancouver

    1. Quite easy to sew! Cutting Line Designs has several easy patterns that resemble it. Just in case $1,900 is a bit daunting.