Wednesday, March 15, 2017

How to Personalize Neutrals in a Capsule Wardrobe - Start With Art: L'Encens by Ferrand Khnopff

I've made the bold pronouncement recently that it's the accents that make a capsule wardrobe personal - it's possible for any number of women to share a core of identical "base" clothes in neutral colors, and the overall impression that they make will vary, based on how they accessorize and accent those neutrals.

Well, I've been asked to flesh out that idea in some detail, so here goes! For the next 4 days, I'm going to feature 4 works of art that share a base of black and ivory, but which include a variety of accent colors. Each heroine will begin with the same 9 wardrobe Neutral Building Blocks in black and ivory, to which I will then add seven accent pieces. Then, after everybody's got their wardrobe set up, I'm going to juxtapose outfits from each of the four women...

I have no idea how this will turn out - I'm only 3/4 of the way through choosing the wardrobes; everybody gets to share this experiment with me!

First up, this absolutely luscious, riveting painting that I saw in Paris last December, and have thought about ever since:

L'Encens by Ferrand Khnopff
L'Encens by Ferrand Khnopff

We all know someone like this woman - never anything flashy, but always of glorious high quality, and a certain rich texture and depth that catches the eye...

L'Encens by Ferrand Khnopff with style notes and color palette

After much pondering, these were the Neutral Building Blocks I chose. I wanted pieces that were timeless, completely basic, and as versatile as possible to be worn in all sorts of ways. We shall see how they work...

nine wardrobe Neutral Building Blocks in black and ivory

While this isn't the most rivetingly amazing wardrobe in the history of garments, it's still pretty versatile. Perked up a bit with a couple of well-chosen scarves, some shoes, jewelry - maybe a nice belt and bag? - these pieces can be worn a lot of different ways:

a dozen outfits made from 9 wardrobe Neutral Building Blocks

And you can easily see how these pieces fit into a 4 by 4 Wardrobe template:

9 Neutral Building Blocks as the start to a 4 by 4 Wardrobe

But here's where the fun starts! I was looking for fluid, and textured, with depth and some sense of a luxurious feeling - some drape, or sweep, or motion. It's hard to capture in words!

seven wardrobe Accent Pieces in ivory, sage green, taupe and black

Now, let's imagine that the four heroines who own the four wardrobes I'm building are all meeting somewhere for some excellent event - maybe going to the Irving Penn exhibit in New York? This is what the woman of subtlety will have with her:

a Four by Four Wardrobe in black, ivory, taupe and sage green

These are madly NOT my colors, but I could easily be tempted...

And yes, the velvet tee shirt really only goes with the black pants. Unless she sneaks a pair of silk pants, or a silk skirt, into her bag...

The addition of the seven Accent Pieces opens up this wardrobe to another two dozen outfits - that's 36 outfits from 16 pieces of clothing, which is a pretty good rate of return, I'd say!

a dozen outfits from a 16-piece wardrobe in black, ivory, taupe and sage green

a dozen outfits from a Four by Four Wardrobe in black, ivory, taupe and sage green

Tomorrow's wardrobe has accents of apricot, lilac and mint green; she's a very different heroine from the woman we met today...

love,
Janice

For more on Personalizing a Neutral Capsule Wardrobe, please read:


How to Personalize Neutrals in a Capsule Wardrobe - Start With Art: L'Encens by Ferrand Khnopff
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35 comments:

  1. Very pretty and elegant. A slightly more formal skirt would allow the velvet T to get more wear. Although I could imagine the velvet T possibly working with the silk cropped pants.

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  2. I would absolutely wear the velvet tee with the ivory jeans :)

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    1. i would, too. i'd also wear it with the black shorts and my black calf hair mule slides, and with the silk coullottes riding boots with a spectacular buckle on them. i'd even try it with the Vanessa Bruno skirt with velvet ballet slippers and very complex jewelry for full-on miss havisham bohemian for special occassions. Love it!

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    2. I love the juxtaposition of a feminine piece (velvet tee in this case) with a black leather jacket or denim.

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  3. I hope you do some of these in "your" colors. Because your colors are closer to my colors. Great series.

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  4. Janice,
    Oh that velvet tee ! If only black did something good for my complexion ! As I have gotten older, I have been drawn to more luxurious , richer fabrics, and the way they drape. It has taken me many years to figure out out exactly what it is that provides that sense of elegance. A wee bit of sheen or lush texture makes me feel like a million bucks ! Like that velvet baseball cap from a few posts ago !
    Back to yesterday's post for a moment, in reducing the number of items in my closet, I discovered it was because in a given accent color, the hue did not quite match anything I would wear with it. No twin sets were possible, and I love the versatility of splitting up a twin set for various wears, but also being able to use them together. I used to just buy a piece or two if it was in my general range of flattering colors, but I have now refined that to buying matching items from the same manufacturer at the same time.
    There is one caveat to reducing a wardrobe to a given number. It means that each garment will be worn far more frequently, and laundered often, leading to a quicker wear out. If I wore black, that would not be a problem as it is ubiquitous. However, browns and olive greens are far more limited in availability , and I fear ending up with no replacements available for some extended time. So when they do come on the market, I tend to overbuy. And then there's the weight issue with changing sizes --- sigh !

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  5. Do women really wear shorts with long-sleeved tops, or with layered tops? It seems to me that, if it's hot enough for shorts, it's hot enough for tops that match the weather.
    That cuts down on the possible outfits.

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    1. I do in the Bay Area when I want to only get dressed once in a day. We can have 20-30 degree temperature swings between morning and afternoon. I'll wear the sleeves long in the morning and once it warms up I roll or push them up. Or I shed a layer if I wore layered tops. I also see many wear pants with sleeveless tops here, but for me I prefer my legs uncovered. I think it really depends on your climate and preferences.
      Jen

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    2. I also wear long sleeved tops with short skirts, so why not shorts?

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    3. I sometimes am pretty bundled-up above the waist when I'm hiking, but my legs are still bare. My legs don't get cold until it gets well down into the low 50's Fahrenheit, at which time my upper body would be shivering.

      It doesn't make any sense, except I guess that leg muscles are among the biggest in your body, and generate a ton of heat, especially when you're moving around.

      Of course, your mileage may vary!
      hugs,
      Janice

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    4. I've heard this question before, and never fully understood it. No one ever wonders why you would wear a tank top with jeans, for instance. I personally love long tops with shorts, my arms get cold much more quickly than my legs, and sometimes a long sleeve t-shirt with shorts is just the perfect weight.

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  6. What a georgeous painting! Although these are not my colors either, this is a lovely wardrobe. I would substitute a simple classic black strait skirt for the shorts. All the tops would be so elegant with such a skirt. Really looking forward to the next few days if accents. Janice Collins, Washington DC

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  7. This is a great concept!!! looking forward to the rest and of course, I really hope accrues and shoes are included!!!
    Deb from Vancouver

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  8. I meant accessories!

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  9. I would also love to see these "basics" supplemented with prints and stripes in just black and ivory! The strong contrast between these two neutrals (dark and light) is enough to be exciting and give variety to this capsule without any other "color".

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    1. Interesting idea. I'd enjoy seeing that.

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  10. Wow, wow, and more wow! Beautiful pieces, and they look like something the lady in the picture would wear. If I could wear black I'd wear the velvet tee with everything, including jeans and that lovely skirt.

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  11. Love this concept! Can't wait to see what's next! I would wear this wardrobe except for the shorts. Not much on shorts. Beautiful painting too!

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  12. Great concept. Looking forward to seeing the different outfits juxtaposed. It reminds of the very early post on the common wardrobe, with all the creatives in their finery at the conference. Always wanted to see them! Linda M

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  13. Another great idea for a series. Looking forward to each heroine's personality shining through!

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  14. What exquisitely luscious colors in that painting! Thank you :-)

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  15. Well, Marguerite (the woman in the painting) scares me! I like the black and ivory core and the accent colors so far. Can't wait to see more.

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  16. I've been thinking about your style definition at the top and how useful it is/ would be to actually develop a clear statement of one's style. One of my closet orphans is a rich velvety black jacket with high sheen which fits beautifully but I struggle to use because it doesn't "look right" with much of the rest of my wardrobe. Plush and velvety just isn't my normal style. Maybe finding a black skirt with mixed textures would help me put it to use more.

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  17. Excellent idea for a series, thank you! It reminded me too of the common wardrobe but with contrasting colours. Today's wardrobe really called out to me, the colours are so elegant. (As an aside, I've just discovered that since I became grey-haired, I can wear black tops as they don't seem to make me look so old as when I was still a fake brunette. Useful!) The accent colours in today's post really appeal to me and I look forward to seeing the next heroines in coming days.
    Robyn in Tasmania

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  18. This is going to be way fun! I'm excited for this series.

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  19. Looking forward to this.
    Thank you so very much for all your hard work in putting these posts together.

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  20. OMG, that velvet tee. Why oh why can I not find garments as delicious as this in my big round 3X size?

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  21. Oh my, love that painting! Not familiar with the artist but do you recall which museum? It looks like it resides in Ghent so doubtless on loan.

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    1. It was in the D'Orsay - the south wing, on the first floor above ground level (i.e. not down on the level of the sculpture court). That hallway is an absolute treasure-trove of inspirations for The Vivienne Files.

      Put it on the list for your next vacation...
      hugs,
      Janice

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    2. I already did! Headed there the end of April and I will spend some time in the d'Orsay. I usually zoom up the escalators to 5 and work my way down but often run out of steam by the time I get to 1. I will start there this time! Thanks so much! I get so much inspiration from your capsules! And yes, a few years ago I HAD to go to Passage Vivienne to see your header in the floor, lol.

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  22. I like this series and also the decluttering method ones. Thank you for putting together such useful ideas.
    I have a question I've been mulling over and it occured to me that I could ask you. I've been trying to figure out how to use the things I've learned on your blog. I do a lot of my shopping second hand and navy is pretty much out of the question because it's hard to find good matches. But I was thinking that if I worked with 2 or three families of color that might give more leway. Could you be more explict about how to put together families of colors? I see you doing it sometimes, but I'm not sure how to select different shades that will work together. Also are there some colors that do this better than others? Navy wouldn't work, but I think that some different shades of blue look nice together. But how would I collect several garments that can all work together with one or two other families?

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  23. Shades of blue would be beautiful, as are shades of purple. (there's at least 1 woman in Paris who wears NOTHING but shades of purple...) Grey can be a ton easier to blend than navy, so long as you don't stray too far into yellow-ish greys. Shades of brown, tan and beige blend really easily, and beige or brown with grey can be very elegant and unusual.

    My best suggestion would be to find some swatches, or paint chips, or embroidery floss skeins, that match (as perfectly as possible!) garments that you already have, so that you can just whip them out of your pocket when you're thrifting to see how they look.

    Amd let me know how it's going, and bring on more questions. I'll try to address color families in the future in more detail, if I can think of a good approach to the question.

    hugs,
    Janice

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    1. OH that would be a wonderful post! Your insights are so helpful, and this is something I would love to be able to do.

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