Thursday, March 10, 2016

How to Build a Capsule Wardrobe of Accessories, 1 at a Time: Beige, Sage and Blush

Adding the accessories is fun  - I'm going to do a few of these in a row, so we can all see the system, and the cumulative benefits that accrue when you get a nice core of accent pieces, growing bit by bit.

Here's where this second "1 at a Time" started: (you can see the original wardrobe post here)

Shoes will ALWAYS be the first thing to make sure you have, for obvious reasons. It's entirely likely that you already have the shoes that you need, but it's always wise to be absolutely certain.

Tee – L.L.Bean; cardigan – Lemaire; chinos – H&M
ballet flats – Me Too; mules – BC Footwear
blush flats – Andre Assous

A bag is, to me, the second most important accessory to have. This time I've put the tote bag first...

Tee – L.L.Bean; cardigan – Lemaire; chinos – H&M
top tote – Street Level; second tote – Michael Kors
straw tote – San Diego Hat

From those two essential pieces, everything after that becomes much more discretionary! I love a small pair of earrings to give a feeling of polish to even the most casual outfit, so that's what I'm putting 3rd.

Tee – L.L.Bean; cardigan – L.L.Bean; chinos – H&M
reversible earrings – Marc Jacobs; curved earrings – Elizabeth & James;
 crystal studs – Louise et Cie

Years ago, I sold shoes (yes, I've had LOTS of interesting jobs!), and one of the old wives' tales that proved to be true was the idea that you should rotate your shoes, i.e. not wear the same shoes on consecutive days. So let's try to make our shoes last longer, and introduce a 2nd pair, in a subtle gold, now.

Tee – L.L.Bean; cardigan – L.L.Bean; twill pants – L.L.Bean
 suede driving mocUgg; leather espadrilles – Ugg
woven strap flats – Vince Camuto

There are a lot of watches available that are lovely, but aren't blindingly expensive. Maybe, if you like wearing a watch, it might make sense to own 2 or 3 of them, including 1 or 2 in accent colors? You could blaze a trail of "anti-status" watches!

Tee – Austin Reed; cardigan – L.L.Bean; chinos – H&M
top watch – Timex; second watch – Timex; last watch – Anne Klein

 Bracelets are as much a source of pleasure for the wearer as for the people around her - every time you look down at your hands, you get a little zing of beauty.

Tee – L.L.Bean; cardigan – Dash; twill pants – L.L.Bean
 “moth” bracelet – Alex and Ani; labradorite bracelet – Khun Boom
gold leather bracelet – Marilia Guimaraes

Sandals, or something similar, are great to have in warm weather. If you don't like to expose your toes, there are still plenty of summer shoes from which to choose. I particularly like all of these various subtle textures:

Tee – Austin Reed; cardigan – L.L.Bean; skirt – L.L.Bean
wedges – The Flexx; sandals – Bella Vita; slingbacks – The Flexx

An accent scarf - always useful!

Top – Dorothy Perkins; skirt – L.L.Bean; first scarf – Nordstrom
striped scarf – Tory Burch; third scarf – Echo

And small accent-colored earrings will be surprisingly useful in this wardrobe:

Tee – L.L.Bean; sweatshirt top – L.L.Bean; twill pants – L.L.Bean
 seaglass earrings – Cole Haan; green beryl studs – Melissa Joy Manning;  
moldavite hoops – Cynthia Ann

If you're going to get your 10,000 steps in every day, you're going to want some canvas or other athletic-ish shoes...

Tee – L.L.Bean; shorts – J. Crew;  
sneakers – Superga; slip-onsVince; suede sneakers – Dansko

It might be much more practical to buy a beige handbag for this wardrobe, but there are so many beautiful blush bags available this year, there was no way I was going to pass them up.

Tee shirt - J. Crew; cardigan – L.L.Bean; skirt – L.L.Bean
top bag – Rebecca Minkoff; backpack – Rebecca Minkoff
flap bag – Dune London

Using an accent color as inherently pretty as blush sort of suggests a floral scarf, maybe?

Tee shirt - J. Crew; cardigan – Theory; skirt – L.L.Bean;  
top scarf – Chanel; middle scarf – Etro; bottom scarf – Nordstrom

If you're only going to put 1 necklace in your capsule wardrobe, make it a cool one! Sometimes, a completely neutral outfit looks more complete with just a single accessory addition.

shirt - Uniqlo; cardigan – Theory; skirt – L.L.Bean
 gold & crystal necklace – Alexis Bittar; disc-trim necklace – Gorjana
multi-metal necklace – Topshop

Never forget your sunglasses! Blush glasses on your face serve almost as a cosmetic, don't they?

shirt - Uniqlo; cardigan – Theory; skirt – Garcia; top sunglasses
 – Ray-Ban; second sunglasses – Oliver Peoples; bottom sunglasses – Maui Jim

Couldn't you travel for a couple of weeks with this? You could turn New York City (or any big city), and all of their black, completely on their collective heads if you wore this. What a breath of fresh spring air you could bring!


NORDSTROM - Shop Women's Spring Essentials


  1. This is really useful stuff- good having these two examples back to back to get the idea. Thanks Janice.

  2. What a fresh spring wardrobe Janice! Apropos watches, we are a Skagen watch household - they are definitely worth checking out.

  3. I love your last two posts. Accessories really make a wardrobe sing!

  4. Janice,
    These colors are so easy on the eye , so sweet ! The accessories really make these outfits complete ! Thank you for this entire 1 Piece at a Time series, it has been another wonderful learning tool from you !

  5. I agree that accessories make a wardrobe. My wardrobe looks pretty simple and boring, but when you a just one thing special, it takes it to another level.

  6. I agree that accessories make a wardrobe. My wardrobe looks pretty simple and boring, but when you a just one thing special, it takes it to another level.

  7. I continue to try to break down accessories into a kind of template. Here is what I came up with by analyzing today's post. (Comments in parentheses are explanatory notes for myself.) [Comments in brackets are what I would substitute for Janice's choice.]
    Accessories Template for Casual Wardrobe

    Phase 1: flat shoe (ballet, mule, slide, loafer) in neutral
    Phase 2: bag in main neutral – purse or tote
    Phase 3: jewelry – earrings, metal only [necklace]
    Phase 4: shoes - second pair in neutral
    Phase 5: watch
    Phase 6: jewelry – bracelet, including metal
    Phase 7: shoes in neutral – warm weather (sandals, slides, espadrilles)
    Phase 8: scarf, solid, in accent color
    Phase 9: jewelry - earrings in accent color [bracelet or necklace or scarf in accent color]
    Phase 10: shoes – athletic
    Phase 11: bag in accent color
    Phase 12: scarf, print, in accent color
    Phase 13: necklace – striking but easy to wear (think about summer heat; figure out favorite length)
    Phase 14: sunglasses

    I would add for my wardrobe:
    Phase 15: shoe, dressy, in neutral
    Phase 16: shoe, flat, in accent color
    Phase 17: shoe, warm weather, in accent color
    Phase 18: sunhat in neutral or accent color

    What do you all think?

    1. I think you've been sitting in my brain! This is a really good analysis of what I've been doing; I'm going to keep this in front of me when I put together some sort of a template for accessories...
      Thanks for sharing; next time you're in Chicago, tea is on me!
      big hug,

    2. I'm glad you like it, and you wouldn't owe me tea, although I'd love the time together. I owe you so very much for all you've taught me about organizing a wardrobe I enjoy wearing every single day, whether I'm attending formal functions or digging in the garden. Understanding the importance of the right accessories is at the top of the list of what I've learned here, and my minimalist heart wants to make each one of them earn its keep.

    3. Thanks for your list Lori. It is helpful.

    4. This is a great list! I love the intelligence and logical approach on this blog. And I agree with Lori: Janice, you have helped me so much! (And every time you use an Etro scarf, I try to figure out how to justify purchasing one for myself. Their prints are gorgeous!)

    5. I really like the pink and sage with beige, but I am not sure I'd be committed to it. Lori's list is very practical in thinking through a slightly different palette.

  8. I would be happy to go anywhere in this wardrobe! Love your thought process! And I am a watch wearer, instead of digging my phone out of my purse or pocket I can easily check on the time.

  9. This is a fun series. I like that you are including three choices for each accessory. I've been picking my favorite for each. It reminds me of when my sister and I would sit down with the Sears catalog and play which do you like best on each two-page spread. Then at the end I can see which one you wound up putting in the last photo and compare with my choices.

    1. It's really no fun to guess which one I include, because it's always the first choice! Maybe I need to mix it up some, eh? But I think looking at assortments of things and making choices is an important exercise in developing your personal style. If you can actually describe what you do and don't like about things, all the better! And if you get to the point where you can say that you don't like anything because you have something else in mind, you've truly isolated your personal preferences.

  10. I'm loving the accessories breakdown. Looking forward to the template too.

  11. Oh, Janice, this is great! I have lots of jewelry languishing in the drawer and usually opt for my favorite accent color. This exercise helps me realize it's time to clear out excess colors and focus on my core and accent color options for day or evening. You are the best!
    Thank you for all you do and share.
    A faithful fan,
    I can't wait to see what you do with chocolate. I am determined to create a season-less wardrobe and am always looking for new ideas for brown that do not include an obvious, high contrast color of cream.

  12. I happily join the chorus of admiring readers. I appreciate the choices for each accessory as you go through this. I don't think you are doing this on purpose but it is thought provoking to see the same type in different price points. Sometimes pricier really is better and sometimes is not.
    Deb from Vancouver

  13. Dawn, I used to play that game with the Sears catalog too!It was so much fun.

  14. Boy do I need to clean out my jewelry collection! LOL! Much like every other part of my wardrobe it is all over the place! Most of it hasn't been worn in years! Great posts showing how/when to add the accessories. Janice you have taught me so much! I am still a work in progress but I have made great strides. Thank you so much!

    My sister and I would spend hours dreaming with the Sears catalog! Good memories. Love your list too Lori!

  15. Faithful Fan Pat, you can easily swap Browns for creamy whites in this color scheme.

  16. The stores don't seem to be carrying beige/tan tops lately. I've been looking for a basic shirt or tee to go under jackets or sweaters. I want something a little deeper than a cream or white.

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