Tuesday, March 28, 2017

How to Accent a Denim and Khaki Capsule Wardrobe: Start with Art - The Stairs of the Asylum by Van Gogh

I'm sure there's a story here, and I'm afraid it might be a sad one:

Stairs in the Garden of the Asylum by Vincent van Gogh
Stairs in the Garden of the Asylum by Vincent van Gogh

Even in difficult circumstances, van Gogh captures the exuberant energy of nature, in a very limited palette:

Stairs in the Garden of the Asylum by Vincent van Gogh with style notes and color palette

Celebrating Nature is Her Profession

Landscape architect - it was the title that she always wanted. So she started out working as a landscaper with a successful female manager, and she went to school in her spare time...

sweater – L.L.Bean; cardigan – L.L.Bean; denim shirt – J. Crew; tee - Lands’ End; white shirt – Lands’ End; sweater - Simply Be; khakis – L.L.Bean; skirt - L.L.Bean; jeans - L.L.Bean

For a long time, she wore a uniform of khaki pants, and a bright green polo shirt with a logo, and a matching bright green jacket when the weather demanded. So when she finally wasn't in a "uniform" position anymore, she didn't feel the need for a wildly extensive wardrobe. She found that her simple khaki, denim and white wardrobe gave her lots of options...

a dozen outfits taken from 9 wardrobe Neutral Building Blocks

12 outfits taken from 9 wardrobe Neutral Building Blocks

Now that she had some extra money to spend on her clothes, she was determined to do so with a clear plan:

how 9 wardrobe Neutral Building Blocks fit into a 4 by 4 Wardrobe

Of course, she would continue to wear green - it was part of her life! But not the bright green of her uniform - more of a deep teal that she really loved. And the allure of a warm caramel was not to be denied, either. When in doubt, she turned back to her van Gogh inspiration to keep her on track:

cardigan – Lands’ End; v-neck sweater – Uniqlo; floral tee – Kettlewell; green & white tee – Marks & Spencer; teal tunic – L.L.Bean; cropped pants – L.L.Bean; pants – J. Crew Factory

She spent most of her time looking at seed catalogues, and books about historic gardens around the world - not a lot of fashion magazines in her life! But when she opened her closet door, she was delighted with what she saw:

a 4 by 4 Wardrobe in denim, khaki, white, teal and caramel

Most of the time she needs to dress nicely enough so that everyone knows who's in charge, and occasionally she even has to dress "up" for client meetings. Despite her small wardrobe, she has literally dozens of outfit options.

a dozen outfits taken from a 4 by 4 Wardrobe in denim, khaki, teal, caramel and white

12 outfits taken from a 4 by 4 Wardrobe in denim, khaki, teal, caramel and white

Most of her friends have wardrobes that revolve around a core of denim and khaki, but they're never worried that they're going to be dressed alike. She's going to meet up with them at the end of the week, and it will be interesting to see how they've each put their own very personal "spin" on their neutral wardrobe cores.


PS - For more articles about building a wardrobe from a core, check out the 4 x 4 Wardrobes page.

How to Accent a Denim and Khaki Capsule Wardrobe: Start with Art - The Stairs of the Asylum by Van Gogh


  1. Thank you so much for collating this 4x4 wardrobe - the base colors of denim and khaki and the added accent colors of caramel and teal make me sing with delight. My wardrobe base is khaki, caramel and olive green, with denim, teal and coral as well-represented complements. I am so happy to think denim and khaki might be showcased this week - I can't wait for tomorrow's Vivienne's Files post! Thank you too for a very balanced 4x4 wardrobe, it works very well as a capsule wardrobe for me. Cheers!
    Rebecca in Rose

  2. Denim and khaki are so universal (and there are so many styles and options to choose from, which helps a lot), that this is a very smart base.
    I recently went to Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, where Van Gogh stayed in the asylum. A beautiful place.

    1. I'm really happy to know that it's beautiful - his life was so tormented that some beauty was deserved...

  3. Yes yes yes! Love denim and khaki, my summer wardrobe along with cream; and teal is my favorite accent. Looking forward to the other installments. Just ordered the teal tunic!
    Janice Collins, Washington DC

  4. Just lovely. I'm using blue and white and khaki as my spring/summer wardrobe with accents of coral and spring green, somewhat similar to your heroine. I think I'd like to meet her and have lunch ... with lots of lovely vegetables of course!

  5. Janice,
    This post is gonna' be bookmarked as one of my favorite color combinations that you have done and is so representative of my own personal color scheme for Summer, and casual lifestyle, along with olive and coral , as was mentioned by Rebecca in Rose. Love it, love it !

  6. Really nice neutral building blocks. I suspect most of of us have several of these items already in our closets so it will be easy to imagine new outfit combinations inspired by your posts. That oatmeal sweater in particular caught my eye with it's deep v-neck that allows for multiple looks.

  7. Love this! So simple. I'd love to see what this "all natural" gal does to accessorize in her own fashion. Lovely!

  8. I really enjoy practical and lovely color palettes, such as these! I could definitely enjoy this one!!

  9. Love this. What about shoes? I'm planning to drive the Alaska-Canadian Highway this summer, and this is pretty much where I'm headed with clothes. (Space is at a premium. Me, a dog and a kayak in a compact SUV doesn't leave much room for clothes.). But shoes -- which take a lot of space -- are difficult. I've been studying post posts lately for shoes -- and most wardrobes have almost as many shoes as clothes. Can you expand your thinking to a shoe wardrobe plan?

  10. Love it, Janice! Thank you for doing some more casual ensembles. This woman is me, how did you know? but I can't wear anything warm near my face. At the end of this series, would you consider doing a post on denim and cool colors, but still with the outdoorsy feel?