Thursday, November 30, 2017

This is the last month of birthstones... I'm already thinking that next year I'm going to look at the flower associated with each month, just for fun!

Turquoise is pretty easy to wear, since it comes in such a range of colors. Tanzanite only seems to be available in shades of that vivid violet/purple - not that there's anything wrong with this color!

First up, greenish-blue looks absolutely perfect with warm orangish brown.. And that touch of hot pink in the scarf is really unexpected, but lovely...

a copper brown outfit worn with turquoise jewelry and a printed scarf
blouse – Uniqlo; earrings – Isabel Marant; scarf – Liz Nehdi; bracelet – Astley Clarke; ring – Lizzie Fortunato; pants – Uniqlo

Some tanzanite jewelry is madly expensive, but oh so lovely...

a navy outfit worn with tanzanite jewelry and a purple floral scarf
navy sweater - J.Crew Factory; tanzanite earrings – Effy; necklace – David Yurman; ring – Temple St. Clair; cords – L.L.Bean; scarf - Mila Schőn Concept

Maybe wearing all of these accessories at the same time would be overdoing it, and maybe it wouldn't! Would you dare?

an olive outfit worn with turquoise jewelry and a printed silk scarf
sweater – L.L.Bean; earrings - Zoe Chicco; bracelet – Aurelie Bidermann; ring – Aurelie Bidermann; cords – L.L.Bean; scarf - Salvatore Ferragamo

I love this ensemble - I don't know that I'd wear the necklace AND the scarf, but I wouldn't at all mind having the 2 options...

a grey outfit worn with tanzanite jewelry and a peacock print scarf
turtleneck – Uniqlo; tanzanite earrings -; necklace - Poppy Jewellery; ring – David Yurman; cords – Lands’ End; scarf – Liberty London

You've got to take a close look at this scarf - I don't ever remember Hermes having such a sense of humor - a horse accepting an award? What will they think of next?

a camel outfit worn with turquoise jewelry and an Hermes scarf
cashmere turtleneck – Uniqlo; earrings - Karen London; bracelet – Chan Luu; ring - ILA Dunbar; cords – L.L.Bean; scarf - Hermès “The Horsewards”

This jewelry feature tanzanite along with other stones, in striking color combinations; the scarf is the perfect complement...

a black outfit worn with mixed-stone jewelry and a floral print scarf
merino turtleneck – Uniqlo; earrings - Bavna; ring - QVC; bracelet - Amour; jeans – L.L.Bean; scarf – StephieAnn

Some of this jewelry is so lovely... sigh...

But I'm already eager to tackle the idea of flowers - there's no telling what I'll find!


More from the Birthstone Series:

December's Birthstone is either Turquoise or Tanzanite - They Go with EVERYTHING...
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Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Winter White (aka cream or ivory) is such a pretty option in cold weather! You of course have to be very cautious about street splashing on your lovely pants, but that's well worth the bright change of pace that this color brings to classic navy (or any other color!).

Two of these pieces are deliberately and obviously dressy, and two are more timelessly classic. Yes, I have an abiding passion for cabled sweaters; in cashmere, in an unexpected color, they can be absolutely lovely!

Four Key Pieces in winter white for the winter holidays
embellished cardigan – Lands’ End; lace blouse – Halogen; cabled cashmere sweater – L.L.Bean; pants - Sportsmax

If you'd prefer less dressy trousers, Lands' End has corduroy pants in this color, that are styled like jeans - same unexpected color in a more relaxed fabric and silhouette! And Uniqlo has a fleece skirt that might be this color - it's hard to tell online.

As I always do, I'm starting with a few classic pieces in navy, and navy with off-white. With just these 9 pieces you could travel long and far...

A Common Wardrobe in navy and white for cold weather
striped turtleneck – Lands’ End; tee – L.L.Bean; plaid flannel shirt – Lands’ End; turtleneck – Uniqlo; cashmere crewneck sweater – Uniqlo; cashmere cardigan – Uniqlo; cotton pants – L.L.Bean; cords – L.L.Bean; wool pants – Lands’ End

The cardigan can be pretty "grounded" with paired with a solid navy core, or go full-on evening/party wear with the pants, some pearls, and a pair of dressy (but comfortable!!!) shoes...

2 ways to wear a winter white embellished cardigan
earrings – Sophie Buhai; velvet loafers – Bettye Muller; ivory clutch – Menbur; bracelet – David Yurman; earrings – Majorica; flats – Badgley Mischka

The lace blouse works pretty much the same way - it can be appropriate for almost anything when worn with the pants in the same color, or it can add a festive touch to a navy "suit."

And yes, GOLD SOCKS. A bit extravagant, but they can change the look of the entire outfit!

2 ways to wear a winter white lace blouse
earrings - Kitik Jewelry; flats - Manolo Blahnik; bag - INC; earrings – Judith Ripka; bag – Sondra Roberts; socks – Dsquared2; loafers – Naturalizer

These outfits are much more relaxed, but would still be appropriate for many of the events one attends this time of year - in someone's home, or in a restaurant, you and your friends don't always go full-tilt formal! A bit of jewelry always gives a feeling of completeness...

2 ways to wear a winter white sweater with navy
earrings – Majorica; bag - GiGi NewYork; loafers – Trotters; earrings – Bloomingdale’s; necklace - Theodora Warre; boots – Kenneth Cole

The winter white pants automatically make things look a bit dressier, don't they? And don't miss the chance to add on a festive brooch this time of year - it will spark conversation and make you look "in the season."

And if your feet are not playing nicely, why not wear gold athletic shoes? Your friends will understand and applaud your creativity, and the people who disapprove aren't truly your friends (and thus who care what they think?). We've got to dress in a way that's comfortable, as well as attractive, and sometimes we have to make adjustments...

2 ways to wear winter white pants with navy
snowman brooch – Talbots; earrings - Nakomol Design; patent loafers – Splendid; JOY brooch – Talbots; braided earrings –Talbots; athletic shoes – Tretorn

Dear oh dear, these patent loafers come in EVERGREEN... How much fun could that be?

I tried to work with cooler shades of light blue and found that I could NOT find garments that suited out requirements... Maybe I'll revisit this idea in warmer weather as we're confronted with the spring and summer onslaught of weddings, graduations, and other events... Help me remember!


Will Winter White Dress Up Navy? Let's See...

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

I was asked to show some options for cool colors - especially including grey - for dressy events in cooler weather. Grey can be so elegant...

First I went "shopping" for cool clothes - mostly in silver grey, but I could NOT resist that luscious aqua sweater! It also comes in grey, as well as a really light beige heather, and a glorious bright but heathery blue... The aqua and the blue are such uncommon colors to see this time of year - you won't see yourself coming and going on the streets...

Four Key Pieces in mint and silver grey for the holidays
sweater – Lands ‘ End; cowl sweater – Uniqlo; blouse – Hillier Bartley; skirt – Ralph Lauren

To provide us with a basis upon which we can build some outfits, I'm referring back to A Common Wardrobe in grey that I used a few weeks ago. Realistically, you could easily wear both the grey sweater and the gorgeous silvery blouse with the lace skirt, but it's good to have a few other choices available... Owning a dozen pieces of clothing that are timelessly classic and that all work together will make ALL of your "getting dressed drama" much less dramatic!

A Common Wardrobe in shades of grey
grey tee – Lands’ End; white tee – Lands’ End; blouse – Banana Republic; washable wool sweater – L.L.Bean; white shirt – Lands’ End; long-sleeved tee – L.L.Bean; merino turtleneck – Uniqlo; washable merino cardigan – L.L.Bean; striped tee – Marks and Spencer; herringbone pants – L.L.Bean; cords – L.L.Bean; skirt – L.L.Bean

The sweater is a lovely, relaxed but pretty way to dress up any pair of pants you own - and it's never wrong to wear beautiful mint-green loafers...

two ways to wear a mint green cabled sweater with A Common Wardrobe
earrings – Auree Jewellery; mint flats – M.Gemi; socks - Muk Luks; bracelet – John Hardy; square earrings – Azuni London; mules – Diane von Furstenberg

Same general idea with the off-the-shoulder sweater (which I believe can be worn as more of a cowl neck style - it would depend on your shoulder width, I'd suspect?) Some amazing earrings and a pretty bag, and you're good to go!

two ways to wear a grey off-the-shoulder sweater with A Common Wardrobe
loafers – Nicholas Kirkwood; earrings – Nadri; clutch - Michael Kors; bag – Coach; ballet flats – Me Too; earrings – Baublebar

This blouse is an INSANE extravagance, but it's so beautiful that it would dress up anything... The top outfit could go so many places... and the bottom outfit is a comfortable way to look like you've gone to a lot of trouble!

two ways to wear a grey satin blouse with A Common Wardrobe
earrings – Ted Baker London; pumps – Prada; bag – Steve Madden; earrings – Oscar de la Renta; ballet flats – Børn; bag – Gigi New York

A lace skirt is always good to have stashed away. This one isn't dirt-cheap, but it's not insanely expensive by the standards of holiday attire... And it would NEVER go out of style, unless we all start wearing those space-suit uniforms that we were all promised for the 21st Century...

two ways to wear a grey lace skirt with A Common Wardrobe
earrings – Alexis Bittar; tassel necklace – Alexis Bittar; boots – Steve Madden; ball earrings – Lord & Taylor; infinity scarf – Treasure & Bond; boots – Sigerson Morrison

Some of these outfits might push your "comfort envelope" a little bit, but I would like to encourage everyone to think a bit creatively, so that we can all get as much mileage out of our clothing as possible... Being "out of the ordinary" can be a very good thing!


Can I Wear Grey for Dressy Events? Heavens YES!
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Monday, November 27, 2017

Almost FOUR YEARS AGO I built a casual summer wardrobe around this painting - you can see that my brain was at that time beginning to come up with the "4 by 4 Wardrobe" concept upon which I now often rely!

I was asked to revisit this painting, and I thought that it would be interesting to use the 4 by 4 system, and then to carefully analyze the results in a variety of ways...

Seascape by Van Gogh with style guidelines and color palette

I'm always a big fan of making sure that every wardrobe has a solid core of dark neutral garments. If your choose to forego this step, make sure that you have a good alternative plan! Many of us would struggle to get dressed without these core pieces:

a Core of Four garments in navy, for cool weather
navy cardigan – L.L.Bean; tee – L.L.Bean; corduroy pants – L.L.Bean; knit pants – L.L.Bean

Even though this isn't particularly illuminating at this point, I'm still going to put these garments into the 4 by 4 Template, just to remind us of the overall plan!

a Navy Core of 4 in a 4 by 4 Wardrobe template

It's so nice that these colors don't have to match nearly as much as the navy! In fact, I think that these colors look much more rich and interesting if the shades vary a little bit...

a Core of 4 in beige, for cool weather
cardigan – L.L.Bean; tee – Lands’ End; pants – L.L.Bean; cords – L.L.Bean

At this point, this wardrobe isn't particularly interesting, and it has a LOT of pants in it...

a 4 by 4 Wardrobe with 4 navy and 4 beige garments

But realistically, there are already 16 possible outfits here, from just 8 garments! You might not like the overall balance or "feel" or some of these, but they are all absolutely acceptable and would not cause upheaval and remark if you wore them:

16 possible outfits from 8 garments in navy and beige, for cool weather

Here's where it always feel like the fun starts! Look for something cozy, something basic, something with a print that combines 2 or 3 of your colors - you've got LOTS of possibilities here...

cowl-neck top – L.L.Bean; short-sleeved tee – Lands’ End; striped tee – Faith Connexion; gingham shirt - J.Crew

This wardrobe is now taking on some personality!

12 peices in a 4 by 4 wardrobe, in navy, beige and sea green shades

This last 4 pieces might require the most thought - do you want a skirt? Another plaid shirt? Maybe you love your navy cardigan so much that you want another one in green? (there's nothing wrong with this idea - in fact, it might be genius...) How about a sparkly sweater to use for "festive" occasions? Do you dare wear plaid pants? This is your chance to do some serious self-expressing, while staying within your color palette and style guidelines.

The Expansion 4 in navy, beige and green
plaid flannel shirt – Uniqlo; cardigan – L.L.Bean; beige sparkly sweater – Uniqlo; plaid pants – Marks & Spencer

Here's a pretty good-looking, complete 4 by 4 Wardrobe, I'd say!

Now I want to share a bit of what goes through my mind before I share any of my work with you...

First up, do we have enough pants and skirts? It's so easy to neglect these "below the waist" pieces... but I think that having about 1/4 to 1/3 of your wardrobe in these pieces is essential:

Analyzing a 4 by 4 Wardrobe for balance among the layers

Secondly, is there enough pattern and texture in a wardrobe to give some interest, but not so much that it looks magpie? I don't really have a strong numerical guideline here, but I tend to stay around 25% to 33% of the overall wardrobe for anything that's not solid. If there are textures (like the cabled cardigan) I will keep the number of print pieces even lower...

Analyzing a 4 by 4 Wardrobe for balance between solid and print garments

You may choose to eschew this idea, but I'm always a big fan of having at least 1 or two "completely matching" outfits available. Some days just require this kind of clarity, and if you want to go a bit nuts with accessories, this is a good way to start!

Analyzing a 4 by 4 Wardrobe for solid-color "base" outfits

Here again, if you hate the look of a twinset, you won't care about this. But I find that this can be an easy way to get dressed, and a flattering base for a pretty necklace or scarf:

If you're the kind of person who really feels comfortable wearing an "accent" 2nd layer, having a few good neutral "inner cores" or columns of color will be helpful!

Analyzing a 4 by 4 Wardrobe for solid-color cores or columns

And lastly, I'm a big fan of having a couple of pieces handy that mimic the look for a suit - i.e. a 2nd layer and a skirt or pair of pants in the same color. This is yet again an easy way to get dressed, and can lend a slight air of seriousness to an outfit when you need to pretend to be an adult...

Analyzing a 4 by 4 Wardrobe for a suit-like combination

Is this helpful? I'm going to be revisiting a few older works of art, and this is 1 way to do it! Also, would you like a few accessories for these outfits? Just let me know...


Almost FOUR YEARS AGO I built a casual summer wardrobe around this painting
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Friday, November 24, 2017

Of course I've been thinking a lot about what it means to say that you're "dressed up." In the absence of showing more skin than usual, I think I've learned that there are four ways to go about this process:

  1. Anything metallic or sparkly - if you can find a garment in one of your colors that's been given some sequins, some beads, or metallic thread, the dressiness quotient is automatically raised.
  2. Ruffles, bows, or other trim that you would not normally wear. Swapping out an ivory cotton shirt for an ivory silk shirt with a bow at the neck can make a world of difference, while filling exactly the same role in your wardrobe.
  3. Swapping for a fabric with more texture or shine. Satin, velvet, lace, or brocade are all instantly dressy, even if you're talking about velvet jeans!
  4. And specifically for the winter holidays, certain patterns, like Fair Isle sweaters, are always seen as being festive. A sweater with reindeer, no matter how stylized, screams Christmas. Snowflakes, although hanging around the city until April, are a tired sweater or jewelry idea by January 2nd...

With these very "subject to change" guidelines, let's look at A Common Wardrobe in colors that aren't usually associated with winter holidays, and see what's possible!

A Common Wardrobe in caramel beige and ivory
ribbed tee – Uniqlo; ivory tee – Lands’ End; shirt – Lands’ End; pecan sweater – Lands’ End; Henley – Patagonia; ivory long-sleeved tee – Lands’ End; corduroy shirt – L.L.Bean; cashmere cardigan – L.L.Bean; striped tee – Banana Republic; khakis – L.L.Bean; cords – L.L.Bean; skirt – L.L.Bean

Winter white is relatively common this time of year, but finding anything festive in brown is really tough! Look for the color "copper" or "bronze" to help hunt down the few offerings available.

Four Key Pieces in caramel beige and ivory
Fair Isle sweater – Uniqlo; ruffle-front blouse – Lands’ End; metallic cardigan – Care of You; lace skirt - Uniqlo

With these 4 pieces I've tired to represent the idea of the Fair Isle sweater, something with a low-key ruffle, a very relaxed gold-flecked sweater, and an easy to wear elastic-waist lace skirt... As you can see, these outfits come together pretty easily! A few accessories, and you'd be ready for most occasions this holiday season.

how a ruffle on a blouse dresses up anything

a brown Fair Isle sweater for the winter holidays

a metallic cardigan dresses up A Common Wardrobe for the winter holidays

Should I try this with other colors? Suggestions always welcome.


What IS Dressing Up? Taking a Warm Common Wardrobe into the Winter Holidays
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Thursday, November 23, 2017

Happy Thanksgiving in the United States! (well, heck, Happy Thanksgiving to everybody...) I know that I should be plying you with news about "Black Friday" sales, and lots of gifty stuff, but you will get quite enough of that kind of information without The Vivienne Files piling on, right?

So I'm going to respond to the overwhelming demand for teal for the holidays by looking at it with 3 different neutrals partners... Nothing like a bit of excess for today (says the woman who fully intend to have at least 2 desserts, and then work it off tomorrow in the gym...)

First up, three gorgeous teal pieces, paired with a core of black silk:

Five Key Pieces in teal and black
jacket – Self-Portrait; cashmere tunic - Halsbrook; velvet top – Eileen Fisher; silk pants – Eileen Fisher; silk shell – Eileen Fisher

The blazer is shown with velvet shorts at Nordstrom, if that appeals...

And while the pants are described as cropped, I found that for me they fit more like ankle pants... There are a variety of silk pants available right now from Eileen Fisher, including some really luscious velvet ones, and some wide legged silk too!

Similarly, if you're more comfortable with sleeves, there are plenty of silk tops available...

And I was reminded again today that it really is worthwhile to be patient while looking for accessories - I despaired repeatedly while preparing this, but in the end found some truly amazing and beautiful things! This is the time to look far and wide - beyond your normal "go-to" retailers. There are lots of people out there selling lots of surprising things...

These pieces come together in a variety of ways, from quite dressy to a wee bit more casual. The accessories really do a lot of the "heavy lifting" on these outfits, I think.

a teal blazer and black silk top and pants for the holidays
jacket – Self-Portrait; necklace - Heidi Daus; silk shell – Eileen Fisher; bag – Shiraleah; silk pants – Eileen Fisher; black velvet mules – Jeffrey Campbell

I own this Bao Bao Issey Miyake bag in silver, and I really love it. It was a mad extravagance which I don't regret in the least!

a teal velvet top and black silk pants, for the holidays
velvet top – Eileen Fisher; earrings – Louise Olsen; bracelet - Heidi Daus; flats – Jimmy Choo; silk pants – Eileen Fisher; bag - Bao Bao Issey Miyake

A sweater almost automatically makes books an okay choice, I say! And these boots are a perfect example of looking far and wide - the retail price of these can vary by LITERALLY over $300...

a teal sweater and black silk pants, for the holidays
cashmere tunic - Halsbrook; earrings - Heidi Daus; boots - Tibi; silk pants – Eileen Fisher; clutch – Dries van Noten

What if you want to branch out from black? Winter white - any shade of white, really - is beautiful with teal... (and the Eileen Fisher pants shown above come in bone, along with a number of bone silk tops...)

Five Key Pieces in teal and winter white
jacket – Self-Portrait; cashmere tunic - Halsbrook; velvet top – Eileen Fisher; satin ankle pants – Uniqlo; layered silk top – Nordstrom Signature

Winter white always suggests pearls to me! And the teal shoes tie the whole outfit together and keep the jacket from giving it a "top-heavy" feeling...

a holiday outfit in winter white with teal accents
jacket – Self-Portrait; earrings – Kenneth Jay Lane; layered silk top – Nordstrom Signature; bracelet – Majorica; satin ankle pants – Uniqlo; bag - Chloé; flats – Treasure & Bond

I'm not as worried about balance here, because the top is less structured and has shorter sleeves.

a teal velvet top and winter white pants for the holidays
velvet top – Eileen Fisher; necklace –Marco Bicego; flats – Gentle Souls; satin ankle pants – Uniqlo; clutch – Natasha

yes, the gold flats are very discounted!

a teal velvet sweater and winter white pants for the holidays
scarf – Pam Weinstock London; earrings - Aspina of London; cashmere tunic - Halsbrook; satin ankle pants – Uniqlo; ring - Mizuki; boots – Sol Sana

And what if you want to span a range of moods? A sparkly skirt and a classic dress give you plenty of choices:

Five Key Pieces in teal, gold and black
jacket – Self-Portrait; cashmere tunic - Halsbrook; velvet top – Eileen Fisher; sequined skirt - Simply Be; dress – Lands’ End

This would be perfect for an "after-work, office-ish party" evening - festive but not unbusinesslike.

a teal blazer and black dress for the holidays
earrings – Michael Aram; jacket – Self-Portrait; necklace – Nest; clutch – Edie Parker; dress – Lands’ End; pumps – Vince Camuto

I'm quite smitten with this scarf - it could dress up anything!

a teal velvet top and gold skirt, for the holidays
velvet top – Eileen Fisher; earrings - Mela Artisans; scarf – Collection 18; bag – Serpui; sequined skirt - Simply Be; mules – Mansur Gavriel

This is sort of a "relaxed festive" outfit - no uncomfortable shoes, and a warm sweater! Of course I've paired a square-motif scarf with square earrings, bracelets with angular faceted stones, and shoes that have tiny square holes in them - it's what I like to do...

a teal sweater and gold skirt, for the holidays
scarf – John Lewis; earrings - Argento Vivo; cashmere tunic - Halsbrook; flats – Vionic; sequined skirt - Simply Be; bracelets– Hila Gardner

I'm going to work on at least 1 or two more of these - the holiday merchandise is already starting to vanish from stores! What's the rush? sigh...


Teal for the Holidays? Three Different Approaches!
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