Wednesday, March 23, 2016

How to Build a Capsule Wardrobe in Denim, Stone, Pink and Soft Blue: 1 Piece at a Time

This woman is one who really love denim, and a good sweatshirt, but who also has a side that wants a bit of the feminine, and the softly colored...

Her starting "favorite" outfit:

shirt – Uniqlo; sweatshirt – H&M
 jeans – L.L.Bean; scarf – Hinge

And this is the color scheme she has in mind. This is a really good scheme, in that the two neutrals are both typically available in a variety of casual fabrics, so they're a good "couple" to work together. And since both of the accent colors are equal in intensity and value, they will also be usable in the same situations, and very likely to appear together in prints and patterns. When your chosen colors have a certain "feeling" in common, you might find that they work better together than colors that are all over the map in terms of mood and strength.

shirt – Uniqlo; sweatshirt – H&M
 jeans – L.L.Bean; scarf – Hinge

Even when outfits are very casual, there's no reason to abandon the idea of a solid column of color. This column idea is great for the whole "looking taller and thinner" thing, but a column is also a great neutral base upon which you can wear all sorts of fanciful accessories, or 3rd pieces like a cardigan, jacket, or sweater.

Tank - Uniqlo

Just as you don't want to abandon the column idea in a casual wardrobe, there's no reason to toss out the concept of a suit, even if it's a sweatshirt and jeans! This sweatshirt, with jeans in approximately the same shade of blue, open the door for you to wear literally any kind of tee shirt, blouse or shirt underneath the sweatshirt. These aren't amazingly fun purchases, but they will more than pull their weight in your wardrobe! 

Sweatshirt Lands’ End

Stone was specifically requested in this wardrobe, and for someone who loves to wear jeans, a pair of stone, tan, or beige cotton pants isn't a big "reach" into the world of the dressy. Pants like this can take you a ton of places where jeans might be just a touch too casual.

Pants – L.L.Bean

The right print can do amazing things with neutral clothes! This shirt seems to include all 4 colors that we're using in this wardrobe - not an easy thing to find, but exceptionally versatile once you've discovered it!

Tee – Ojai Clothing

Here again is a small step up from a sweatshirt that is quantum leaps upward in the "dressed-up" world. A nice cardigan is easy to wear, but the change in fabric from fleece to another knit makes a lot of difference.

Cardigan –  White Stuff

If you don't wear shorts, you can always get cropped pants (make sure they're not too wide in the leg - keep that leg area a little bit "trim" looking...) or a skirt. 

Shorts – L.L.Bean

Since there's such a core of neutral, solid colors already established here, finding another fun print top in pretty colors is completely okay; you can live in all solid colors, but you might not want to!

Top – Boden

I love this sweatshirt; I don't know why. It just looks really classic to me....

Sweatshirt – 321

Denim skirts never went out of style, no matter what anybody tells you. These kinds of arbitrary rules about what you "should" and "shouldn't" wear drive me crazy; is this the most important thing some people have to worry about?

Yes, I ended a sentence in a preposition. I got carried away....

Skirt - Boden

You want feminine and soft? Don't forget about the beauties of lace, or floral prints, or even a nicely-done ruffle!

Top – Twin-Set

I'm 100% sure you've seen this cardigan before, but I chose to bring it back because it works so beautifully well with everything in this wardrobe. It's worth being patient, and focused, in order to find key wardrobe pieces that include both of your neutrals and at least 1 accent color.

Cardigan – L.L.Bean

This simple tank top is going to leverage the usefulness of the cardigan you just bought to an amazing degree! It's also just a really pretty color....

Tank – L.L.Bean

I wasn't sure if I wanted another pair of shorts (denim shorts, maybe?) or a pair of capri pants maybe, but when I saw the absolutely dead classic perfection of this dress, I knew what I wanted! This is a 10-month dress - with a turtleneck, tights and boots in the cold weather, or open over pants and a tee shirt in warmer weather. Maybe over a tank top, with a few buttons open, and a nice pair of sandals? (sleeves rolled up, of course...)

Another neatly organized 4 by 4 Wardrobe, which could keep you happily well dressed for quite a long trip, or through much of the warm weather:

Tomorrow, I'm going to put some accessories with this lovely wardrobe. The hunt for the relaxed but pretty continues!


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  1. That stone cardigan is brilliant.
    I bet you could do pink jeans or trousers and have a pretty column. It might be daring to be head-to-toe in pink, but I've seen some street photos that make it tempting.
    A French friend was discussing "noble" fabrics, like silk. It's true that those go a long way toward dressing things up. My wardrobe is far too heavy on wash-and-wear jerseys.

    1. I always think it looks chic and authoritative on most women -- and have you noticed that many famous women who have personal stylists end up with some version of the one-color column? Might be worth a try. : )
      Sue G

  2. From Margie in Toronto - love the navy, blue and pink together - and will occasionally wear beige/stone summer pants but not a colour I can wear close to my face. I have a cardigan in that shade of pink and I love wearing it with my jeans - just makes everything pop. Can't wait to see the accessories tomorrow.
    PS even like that pink sweatshirt!

  3. I think this is my request from a few weeks ago, but I was thinking stone gray, not the tan you have. Good to see the striped cardigan again, and the shape of the other cardigan is perfect. Thanks for another casual and pretty wardrobe!

  4. Janice,

    While I would need to buy the denim in a more medium value of blue, and make the pink a more salmon or coral color, I am loving this soft feeling, casual, relaxed wardrobe ! When you are doing your searches, how do you approach what companies you explore on your search engine ? I've seen you frequently use LL Bean, Land's End, and Uniqlo. However, there are many other sources you use, so what do you do in the address bar -- type in a color and kind of item and see what appears ?

    1. Sometimes I search for a color, sometimes for a color + garment combination (like "salmon pink blouse"), sometimes I go straight to the site, if I feel like I have a good chance of finding what I want there... it's all over the place, how I find things. It takes me, on average, 8 hours to complete a post on The Vivienne Files, and fully 2/3 of that time is looking at (and rejecting!) thousands of things that don't suit what I want to see...

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

    3. Janice,
      All the more to appreciate your daily posts, which your readers adore ! Thank you, passionate lady ! I love not only your explanations with illustrations, your "novelettes ", and also how you express a theme and/ or a mood in your examples ! But--- please tattoo on my forehead to be patient in the search for just the right item !! Oh, I recently was able to get a pair of ankle pants in the Caribbean Blue color that was offered last year, and that I stupidly hadn't bought, through the catalog from which I often shop. I'm sure that it was a left over from last year, but I am ever so grateful to have had it be available ! See, you are so right ! Hugs right back atcha ' !

  5. I am a huge fan for lace tees! They can be worn with shorts all the way up to a ball skirt. :)

  6. this is a perfect wardrobe for me! Oh my...I have some shopping to do! Thanks, Janice!

  7. I have had a denim skirt in my wardrobe since I went to college in 1980 (not the same one of course!). I find that my denim skirt is a versatile piece that can go many places. Pay no heed to the "fashion police"; we can make our own style that fits our life.

    I love that shirt dress, I could see that working well for me! Thanks Janice!

  8. You mentioned ending a sentence with a preposition. Reminds me of what Winston Churchill is said to have replied when criticized for also doing that:

    "That's the kind of nonsense up with which I will not put."

  9. I have never liked pink. I prefer the more peachy or coral tones but this is a great casual wardrobe. My Mom would love this!

  10. Sharing a mood, and not all over the map - brilliant advice! I love orange and lime and soft pinky-coral and deep brownish purple, and have always struggled to us them well. Your comment immediatley made me think of several things: Hermes orange & purple are always done with chatreuse and fuschia - same colour families, but a shared mood! Likewise, my midtonepink/coral is more in the mood with ethereal versions of palest lime and faded oranges, more Pucci-like in mood, or dusted down with pale beachy colours and complex petrol blue. What a revelation. Simply by grouping my favorite accent colours by mood, I am distinctly more likey to find pieces that mix them!

    It all sounds so simple, Janice, right AFTER you clearly write it out for us. (insert forehead-smack emoji here)
    Sue G

  11. Oh, and hoorah for another great lesson today, Janice...

    My wardrobe desires are almost the exact opposite of this grouping for the woman who loves denim and wants to add femininity. You did it beautifully, and I can apply these skills to my tastes: I'm a woman who loves silk and cashmere, but wants to dress sporty and casual. I can choose pieces in the mood and fabric I love, but make sure the colours and details reflect the more modern, masculine edge that I like. Same lesson, opposite results.

    My favorite purchase EVER is a navy men's scarf you featured last winter -- it has a picture of Napoleon wearing pink sunglasses

    I have worn it with almost every coat I own - camelhair topcoat, charcoal tweed blazer, black ski jacket, navy vest (the one Janice suggested and I LOVE it), taupe parka (another Vivienne Files suggestion), brown waxed iverness cape, british khaki cargo jacket, gorgeous petrol blue trench, an inherited sable and mink, my pale pink duffle...and it looks good with everything. Perfect blend of masculine/pretty for me. (I know this is a long list of outerwear - particularly to confess to on a blog that encourages owning fewer and better-chosen garments - and it is not all that I own - but those of us with huge closets and looooooong northern winters sometimes come to have enormous collections of well-used and well-loved outerwear over the decades).

    For clothing, shoes, bags, jewelry, and especially for scarves, I do aim for very few yet perfect pieces. Like my Napoleon!!

    Following that ideal, I have never regretted a single purchase I made because I fell in love with it on your blog and followed the link, Janice. Seeing how a piece fits into a larger picture makes your blog much better 'shopping' for me than designer showrooms or fashion websites.

    I especially like how you source little-known creators for special pieces, and use Nordstrom's and other major retailers with good selection and easy return policies for the basic pieces. That makes it possible for those of us without major shopping nearby to try several styles or sizes and get the fit just right - so important in core pieces. A HUGE blessing to the internet-only shoppers amongst us!
    Thank you, as always, Janice!
    Sue G

  12. The power of an inside and outside column is amazing and has been very useful as I pare down the number of pieces I own.