Wednesday, March 09, 2016

How to Build a Capsule Wardrobe of Accessories, 1 at a Time: Navy, Yellow and White

I promised you accessories, and I try to always keep my promises!

My plan is to take a representative outfit from each step of the wardrobe built earlier (this one is here), and then show a few choices for accessories. It will make more sense once you see it in action, I hope...

This was the "starter outfit" for the wardrobe in question. The first accessory needed, without exception, is shoes! With warmer weather coming, mules could be a fun choice, but there are those among us who are devoted to their driving mocs, or their ballet flats, so those are also possibilities.

Shirt – L.L.Bean; cardigan – Lands’ End; 7/8 pants – Boden
clogs – SoftWalk; mocs – Cole Haan; ballet flats – Vaneli

For most of us, given the lack of pockets in our clothing, a bag is essential. I was trying to find a mid-sized, classically styled option here.

Blouse – Dorothy Perkins; cardigan – Lands’ End; 7/8 pants – Boden
embossed bag – Brahmin; satchel – Louise et Cie; hobo – Michael Kors

I know some of you never wear earrings, but I'm including them as the next accessory because many of us feel naked without them! If you're not an earring person, this is a wild card moment for you - any jewelry? scarf? another pair of shoes???

Cardigan – L.L.Bean; shirt – L.L.Bean; 7/8 pants – Boden
diamond & sapphire studs – Wwake; dangle lapis earringsKendra Scott;  
opal and diamond studs – Andrea Fohrman

Although navy shoes would be fine with this particular outfit (since it has the dark cardigan to balance the shoes), I'm going to take this opportunity to introduce a pair of casual white shoes. Nothing too dressy; white dressy shoes wouldn't be at all right with this wardrobe.

Cardigan – L.L.Bean; shirt – L.L.Bean; 7/8 pants – Boden;  
slingback sandals – The Flexx; glitter sneakers – Keds
loafers – Bettye Muller

Many of us don't wear a watch any more, but I still find that they can be lovely, and can act almost as a functional bracelet. If you wear a sport monitor gizmo, it's always work checking to see if it is available in colors that work with your wardrobe; many manufacturers are beginning to realize that everybody in the world does NOT love black rubber bracelets.

Cardigan – L.L.Bean; tee - Bassike; 7/8 pants – Boden
top watch – Larsson & Jennings; middle watch – Michael Kors
bottom watch – Nixon

Speaking of bracelets, this is a good time to pick up a nice bracelet. Consider wearing it on the same arm as your watch... 

Cardigan – J. Crew; tee - Bassike; 7/8 pants – Boden;  
rope & silver bracelet – Caputo & Co.; braided bracelet – Caputo & Co.
yellow bracelet - Marni

Another pair of shoes - definitely time for sandals, if you're a sandal person. But if you prefer to keep your toes under wraps, ballet flats or espadrilles both look nice with summer skirts.

Cardigan – L.L.Bean; tee - Bassike; cotton skirt - J. Crew
sandals – Corso Como; ballet flats – Naturalizer
rope-trimmed flat – The Flexx

I have strong feelings that everyone should own a solid scarf in their accent color; here I show you three options:

Cardigan – L.L.Bean; shirt – Lands’ End; cotton skirt - J. Crew;
 linen scarf – Love Quotes; pleated infinity scarf – Issey Miyake;
 ruffled scarf - Magaschoni

More jewelry! Maybe a pair of earrings that are just a bit dressier, or make a bit more of a statement?

Cashmere sweater – Boden; shirt – Lands’ End; 7/8 pants – Boden
oval earrings – Pretty Edgy; teardrop earrings – Marlyn Schiff
bow earrings – Kate Spade

Warm weather just doesn't seem right without a pair of canvas shoes - and wearing a pair with a skirt is a good way to be both dressy and casual. It's great to confuse your friends...

Cashmere sweater – Boden; blouse – Dorothy Perkins; skirt – Boden
silver-trimmed flats – Jslides; sneakersPuma; no-lace sneakers – Converse

Our handbag purchased earlier is great, but sometimes a woman needs a tote bag:

Tee shirt - Uniqlo; cardigan – Lands’ End; 7/8 pants – Boden
navy & white tote bag – Deux Lux; yellow tote – Orciani
navy tote - Azalea

One last scarf, in the dark neutral:

Cardigan – H&M; tee shirt - Uniqlo; 7/8 pants – Boden
top scarf – Caslon; infinity scarf – BP.; navy scarf – Caslon

Summer isn't necessarily the time to wear pounds of jewelry, but a pretty necklace could be useful...

Cardigan – H&M; shirt - Uniqlo; 7/8 pants – Boden
tassel necklace – Vera Bradley; silver on navy cord – Chico’s
station chain – Chico’s

Self-care demands sunglasses! Don't skimp here; your vision is terribly important...

shirt - Uniqlo; pants – Tommy Hilfiger; round sunglasses – 
Sunday Somewhere; cat eye sunglasses – Fendi; aviators – Oscar de la Renta

You can now see how very well this wardrobe will work - there are dozens and dozens of possible outfits here. The addition of a couple of tee shirts might be all that's needed to round out the entirety of your warm weather wardrobe!


NORDSTROM - Shop Women's Spring Essentials


  1. Skirts and casual canvas shoes to confuse your friends.. LOL. Thanks for my first chuckle of the day!!

  2. Janice, I've followed your blog for a long time and just love it. I still have a lot of trouble balancing the various items in my wardrobe, though. A lightbulb went off over my head when I read your statement above: "I have strong feelings that everyone should own a solid scarf in their accent color." That one sentence helped me out immensely. Do you have any other 'rules of thumb' like this that you could share with us?

  3. I just want to rail about shoes for a second. They can really make an outfit go dressy or casual. There was a funny article in New York magazine about Claire Underwood wearing her stilettos even at home in this season--that her shoes are part of her armor and also something that holds her back.
    So I was at this conference in a fancy hotel, and I wore pumps with a 2-inch heel, which really were flatter than that because they had a bit of a platform in front. Comfortable enough.....until you walk and walk and walk across highly buffed marble floors. I kept expecting I was going to go tobagonning down the hallways. I had some flat bejeweled sandals, but they really didn't work with a suit. And I had brought some Adidas for sight-seeing. The problem is finding a shoe that (1) fits (nearly impossible); (2) I like; (3) I can afford; (4) is the right color; (5) gives the right style touch, whether sporty or dressy. What I saw, were a lot of women looking like utter idiots tottering about in 4-5 inch stilettos.

    1. I've struggled so much with shoes that I've decided that I will personally rewrite the rules about what goes with what! Ballet flats go with everything, in my world... but you're right, it's difficult, and there's a huge opportunity for a designer with a little bit of insight into the marketplace of women's shoes.

    2. Your comment reminded me: there is such a designer. Taryn Rose was an orthopedic surgeon before she started designing shoes. Her retail prices are out of my budget, but I've had decent luck buying barely-used designer shoes on ebay (if the idea doesn't totally squick you out).

    3. Based on Janice's reco to invest in a great pair of shoes (starting from scratch), I bought my all time favorite shoes, Munro Travelers from Nordstrom. They look much better in person. They look great with slacks and skirts. Unlike ballet flats, they stay securely on and have arch support. They are lightweight, breathable microfiber. What shoe (or anything else) gets a 95% recommended rating! Sadly they can't be resoled or they would be perfect. They also won't go super dressy but are great for everything else.

    4. After selling shoes, I can tell you with some authority that buying used shoes shouldn't really give you the willies - a good spritz of disinfectant, and maybe a day in the fresh air and sunshine, and they're going to be more clean than most things that you get in a shoe store. You wouldn't BELIEVE what people think is appropriate foot care, and they try on shoes too....
      Shuddering at the memory,

    5. I looked up Taryn Rose--I had heard of her. But there's something off about the shoes. Straps too heavy. Heels too thick or not thick enough (if you check out the latest Chanel shoes, also last season, the heels are downright chunky). It's that aesthetic call--a slim heel that isn't slim fails, as does a thick heel that isn't thick enough. Anyway, looking at the Taryn Rose site, I just thought, nope, nope, nope. Not to mention the prices! I would pay that if they were perfect, but, style-wise, they don't make the cut.
      The Munro Travelers could be an OK choice for casual, or daily dressing, but when meeting with rich, powerful men wearing Berlutti wingtips, they wouldn't cut it. But men in Berluttis can walk very fast, even on polished marble.
      I like Naturalizer and Easy Spirit, but again, I can't always find the right style in the right color that also fits and that doesn't have any style defects that render them frumpy.
      I sound terrible here, but all I want is what the men have: comfortable dress shoes. Granted, I have wide feet and bunions, which make the comfort requirement simultaneously more important and more difficult to achieve. Soles need to be thick enough for cushion, but without any hint of sports shoes. The toe box must be wide, possible squared, but not that rounded toe of 1930s nurses' shoes. The heel must be low yet somehow stylish--a stacked heel, a kitten heel, a barely there chunk on some flats. I am too similar pear-shaped to wear ballerinas and look sophisticated.
      Everything I said here goes out the window for a less-formal look. The thing is, when you have an important occasion you don't always have enough notice to go out shopping for what you need. In my case, living in the middle of nowhere in the south of France is lovely until I need to buy something like shoes for my weirdo feet. Then I have to try bigger towns, either in France or in Spain, Belgium or the U.S.
      One other note, while I'm prattling on here, I went to the mall in Dubai and took advantage of the mind-boggling sloppiness of other tourists to dare to enter ALL the haute couture shops and see the goods up close. A gorgeous dress at Carolina Herrera had POCKETS (God bless her). However, in most cases, it was very interesting to see the fabrics, and, frankly, I wasn't that impressed. Kind of polyester-sh. Yes, there was an exquisite pink spring coat that looked like it was covered with hyacinth blossoms. But it wasn't for business. So I surreptitiously paid attention to the fabric of the suits the conference men wore. That's what I'm going to find. Not a wardrobe of this stuff, but just one perfect, classic outfit.

  4. Janice, I love your is the very first thing I do most days even before getting out of bed. I do have a question. What is the philosophical difference between the "whatever's clean 13" wardrobe and the 4x4 wardrobe, other than the obvious difference in number. I am wanting to put together a vacation wardrobe for when we go to our vacation home in a resort 10 weekends a year. There is snow and sun. It is new to us as usually we vacation 2 weeks each year in a tent in a campground so this is very different for me. I don't want to struggle each month trying to figure out what I will take. I want a simple wardrobe kept in the garage storage closet at the resort home (which we share with 4 other families) People are mostly casual, walking, riding bikes, swimming, kayaking, skiing,... but it is not the old ripped jeans and holey sweater casual of sitting around the campfire, dressing in a tent, bathing in the communal shower that I am used to.

    1. The biggest different between he 13 and the 4x4 is the number of times you would shop, and the speed with which a wardrobe would come together. Whatever's Clean 13 is more designed for someone who wants to shop once for the season, and then completely forget about clothes, except for the getting dressed thing! 4 by 4 was oriented more for someone who was going to built a seasonal wardrobe in 4 stages, starting with 4 core garments that gave you complete outfits, and then building from there. The 4x4 has the possibility of putting together clothes that would clash - not terribly - but maybe something like a striped shirt and a floral skirt kind of clash.

      Give the two different kinds of climate that you're going to experience, I think that you're going to want two related wardrobes - one for warm, and one for cold, with an substantial overlap of things like jeans, cotton sweaters, sweatshirts, and maybe a denim skirt. Just start with figuring out your upcoming needs, and limit it to 12 or 13 pieces, and then build gradually from there as you find that you need something. Then, in July or August, when winter clothes begin to appear, continue to gradually add a piece of two per month, as the weather cools down. Maybe each time you visit, you'll take 2 pieces with you to the home, and bring back 2 pieces that are now "out of season."

      Am I making sense? Let me know!
      big hug,

    2. Thank you Janice, this has helped me to get my head around the difference too! For my wardrobe changeovers I've just been counting 4 or 5 bottoms, 10 tops, etc., but your explanation means I can start with the 'Whatever's clean' idea, knowing that I'm aiming for a 4 x 4 result in time. We seem to have about six seasons here so I'm back and forth between wardrobe (what's current) and top cupboard (what's in storage) a fair bit.

      I think your accessory choices are delightful. My beef is usually about bags - most seem to be enormous and covered in dangly hardware which look terrible on a smallish person aiming to look neat. You've found some excellent choices.

      Robyn in Tasmania

  5. Shoes! Please do write some rules, Janice, about what to wear with what, and how to decide! My cranky feet and I have a load of empathy for the reader who commented about finding shoes that are acceptable aesthetically, that can be walked a distance in and that are affordable. While they were at the upper end of my price range, I took a pair of Ecco walking shoes on a 2 week trip to Europe and managed pretty well. Ballet flats and moccasins are a start, but often lack structure that supports and cushions the foot, so I now consider adding over the counter inserts which help somewhat. Good shoes are expensive (and take up a lot of space in packing!) so it would be nice to have some basics that would work with everything! Mary

  6. Then there are those of us who have been advised to never wear flat shoes, instead well supported shoes with a 2cm difference between and toe-sigh!

  7. Ok, you are just AWESOME! These are just what I've been looking for. Stylish but casual, nice comfortable shoes, no belly buttons, boobs, or butt cleavage to be seen. YES! Thank you , thank you, and yes, thank you :)

  8. I just have to thank you for your posts...not only are they fun, but I consider them a public service, lol!!! I have even devoted a Pinterest board to your posts!!! Thank you for your inspiration and your fun take on fashion. You are my favourite style guru!!!!

  9. Your humor, wit, and expertise are so lovingly shared. Thank you so much for taking a passion of yours and sharing it with me and all the other lucky readers who have found your posts. I cannot thank you enough for making sense of clothes. I am an older reader who has sadly been wearing impulse purchases all my life and wondered why it never felt good. Taking steps to institute some informed decisions is already paying off in looking better and feeling better with what I've already bought. Now I know what to steer toward as well. THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU!

  10. At this time of year it is tempting to go out and buy something new for your spring/summer wardrobe but how can you do this without the guilt trip that follows? I find this website for wide toe box walking shoes