Saturday, April 25, 2015

Integrating a New Accent Color: Smoky Blue

Another interesting email: One of your is seriously considering the coat shown below, but you have some concerns about how this color will integrate into your primarily black and white wardrobe.

Well!!! It's a lovely coat - I particularly like the way that the buttons are placed close enough together that the double-breasted effect is actually vertical rather than horizontal (a rare bit of design intelligence, I'd say). The pockets help with the vertical feeling too, and this shade of smoky blue is beyond lovely - subtle and rich.

BUT! It's a substantial (gulp) investment. This isn't a purchase that you make on a whim...

The writer also indicated that, if she chose this coat, that she wants to purchase a handful of accessories over the next year in this shade of blue, in order to help her new coat feel at home. But she was having a hard time picturing how this would actually unfold...

Let's take this step by step!

  • Step 1 - The Coat Itself

Slate blue or smoky blue coat from Dsquared2
Coat – Dsquared2

  • Step 2 - A Scarf that Complements
The question here is simple - can you picture yourself buying and frequently wearing one of these? If not, what kind of scarf DO you think you would wear with this coat? For most climates, a scarf is important outerwear, and for most style, a scarf is a valuable addition to a solid-colored, long coat.

blue coat with four different complementary scarves
Coat – Dsquared2scarf with angled ends – Hermes, gem print scarf – Radical Chic
geometric scarf –
Florenz, angled scarf – Radical Chic

  • Step 3 - A Piece of Jewelry, or Two
This step accomplishes a couple of things: (1) it tests your willingness to wear this color close to your face or against your skin, and (2) questions your comfort with purchasing something that might be in your possession long enough to be a family heirloom. If either of these prospects makes you uncomfortable, maybe you need to think about what initially attracted you to this color.

Oh, and that heart-stopping moment when you have the PERFECT brooch in hand, but you have to actually PUNCTURE the surface of your new coat. I love the look of a beautiful brooch on outerwear, but it's not lost on me that it's a hard step sometimes!

(does anybody else sort of... do a double take? when you see the brand Nixon on watches? I remember a day when it wasn't considered a really desirable association... I date myself!)

smoky blue Dsquared2 coat, with an assortment of blue jewelry
Coat – Dsquared2, triangle labradorite earrings – Eilisain Jewelry, bead necklace – Lena Skadegard,
 ring – Lana Jewelry, watch – Nixon, brooch – St. John, bracelet - Shanker

  • Step 3 - A Bag
Many women have very strong feeling about the bag that they carry; considering the purchase of a bag in a color similar to that of your new coat is another opportunity to closely examine your comfort level with the color. You might like smoky blue in fabric, but in leather it might be a step too far. Does this change your inclination toward the coat?

Smoky slate blue coat with a choice of blue handbags
Coat – Dsquared2, nylon briefcase – Piquadro, cube bag – Colle’cte, suede sack bag – Orciani
leather tote – Chloe, clutch bag – Miller and Jeeves, shoulder bag – Knights and Roses

  • Step 4 - Other Accessories
Now you want to think about how much you're willing to see this color repeatedly in your accessory family. I'm not suggesting that you buy all of these, but you probably want a hat, and in much of the world you CERTAINLY want gloves. When you consider the possibility of a blue manicure, or a blue Fitbit, are you still in love with the color?

Smoky blue coat with sunglasses, Fitbit, nail polish, fedora, gloves and a belt in coordinating blue
Coat – Dsquared2, sunglasses – Oliver Peoples, fitness bracelet – Fitbit, nail polish – Essie 
(color – Spun in Luxe), fedora – Rag and Bone, gloves – Originals by Jack and Jones, beltPrada

None of these questions are foolproof to keep you from making a buying error - we ALL buy the wrong thing sometimes. But I think there's value in trying to see your new purchase through a "long-term" filter, and to see what other sorts of items might creep into your wardrobe on the heels of this major investment.

What color tempts you? And in what kind of item? I'd love to explore this idea further!


Looking Back:

Friday, April 24, 2015

Choosing the Right Scarf Color - One Approach

Here's a decision scenario: you know you like the scarf - the silk and wool blend, the pattern drawn from foliate motifs and calligraphy of the Sultan's courts of India, the knowledge that your purchase supports the Metropolitan Museum of Art - but WHICH COLOR TO CHOOSE????

scarves - Available at The Metropolitan Museum of Art Store,
online at or by calling 1-800-662-3397

I'm of the opinion that your wardrobe should have a certain DNA - a "fingerprint" that is as unique as your own. If this is true, then anything that you add to your wardrobe should look like it's related to the things you already own.

So maybe this decision can be made easier if we look at some options that might currently be in your closet, and see if any of them look like they're in your style family...

Do you have one of the new, very popular, lightweight quilted vests?  Which of these colors seems immediately like it's "you"?

vests - Uniqlo

Most of us own some jewelry; do you gravitation to the depth of amethyst, the warmth of amber, or the earthy textures of wood and earth tones?

Amethyst necklace – Sasina, amethyst earrings –Shanker
amber earrings – Mariana Llanes, amber necklace – Yves Saint Laurent Vintage
wood leaf earrings – Vaubel, brown bead necklace – Jozica 

It's a rare woman who never wears a tee shirt.... Which of these is already in your wardrobe, or might be an easily-imaged addition?

tee shirts - Uniqlo 

One of the joys of Longchamp totes is that they come in so many colors! But if you had to choose a neutral bag to carry frequently, which of these calls your name?

(for what it's worth, these bags are the BEST thing to toss into luggage when you travel, or into your regular tote on a daily basis; they're great for bringing back gifts from vacation, or for carrying those last-minute groceries home without taking yet ANOTHER bag from the supermarket)

bags - Longchamp

And of course, The Vivienne Files isn't going to go on for more than a day or two without some cardigans! I believe in their - their flattery, and their utility. Can you see yourself in any of these?

cardigans - Uniqlo

At the end of this exercise, it became blindingly clear to me that the first scarf is the one I would choose - grey is an important neutral for me, and I love amethyst. The scarf also lends itself to touches of red, and a substantial dose of black or navy...

The second scarf is for those among us who love brights! But this scarf could make a gorgeous statement pieces paired with a simple dark dress and beautiful gold earrings, too.

The third scarf is the embodiment of all of the beauty to be found in warm colors - all the shades of brown, the beautiful deep moss green, and the accents of red would be a beautiful addition to the wardrobe of the Autumn women among us.

Did this little exercise make your imaginary (or real!) choice among the scarves easier? And better yet, can you see this translating to your future purchases?


Looking Back:

Artisan Made Jewelry Designs

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Start with Art: White Ship by John Singer Sargent

That time of year is fast approaching when the lucky ones among us get all kinds of great invitations for weekends! If you have friends with a lake house, you know what I mean - lots of time in the water  - in a canoe, a kayak, or an inner tube! Chilly evenings, cooking out, laughing 'til your sides hurt... The last thing you want to worry about is what to pack!

Sargent's painting put me very much in the right mood for this scenario:

White Ship by John Singer Sargent

Maybe you're driving to the lake, taking the train and being met, or taking the Jitney, but under any circumstances, you want to look nice - casual, but still pretty, with attention to detail.

Hammered ball earrings – Nest, tan pants – P.A.R.O.S.H. , sleeveless top – Betty Barclay
cardigan – Nougat London, multi-stone necklace – Marco Bicego, sandals – Adam Tucker
pedicure polish – Butter London ( color is called Trollop, tote bag – Mary and Marie

Two swimsuits might seem like overdoing it, but if you're going to wear one for twelve hours a day, it's nice to have options! A hooded cardigan comes in handy when evening sets in and the temperatures drop...

Dress – Toast,  swimsuit – Speedo, plaid shirt – L.L.Bean
zip-front cabled sweater – L.L.Bean,  tan shorts – L.L.Bean, flip flops – Havaianas
sleeveless linen shirt – Uniqlo, print swimsuit – Shan, blue shorts – L.L.Bean

Do you get to take weekend breaks away from home during the summer? What kind of wardrobe would you like to see for your getaway?


Looking Back:

2012: April in Paris: Neutral, with Texture (a guest post at A Femme d'un Certain Age)

2011: Things I Admire (the very first Chic Sighting!)

Ouidad Climate Control

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Packing for a Weekend in the City

So often, you live just a quick train ride from a big city, but you don't make the time to visit! But there's a new exhibit at the big museum that you REALLY want to see, and a new restaurant... So let's cash in a few of those hotel loyalty points, and go downtown for a quick weekend away.

But what to take? How about starting with your favorite shawl, from the Metropolitan Museum of Art? It's a perfect reflection of your preferred color palette of autumn colors, and you know you will want it with you - at least on the train, for drafts, and in the restaurant, too...

scarf - Metropolitan Museum of Art Shop

scarf - Metropolitan Museum of Art Shop

For the trip, break out the saffron cardigan! There's never a bad time to wear it. And a touch of teal on your toes...

Tee shirt – Drumohr, gold hoop earrings – Melinda Maria,  watch – Skagen, trousers – 
pedicure polish – Butter London, backpack – Beara Beara

Since there's a lot of dining involved, a couple of your favorite dresses are good choices. (dressy, but no binding waistlines, just in case the menu overwhelms your good sense!)  All you need are comfy shoes and some pretty jewelry, and they're good to go. (any excuse to wear this wonderful necklace...) The simplicity of ivory separates - again with the striking saffron sweater - will be ideal for your day in the museum.

Even though you're only going to be away from home a couple of days, it's always a good idea to take enough changes of shoes to keep your feet refreshed. Low heels and flat soles don't take up much space at all in your backpack.

Teal dress – People Tree, chrysocolla necklace – Nest, bronze sandals – VC Signature,  
brown bag – Meckela, ivory linen capris – Forte Forte, sleeveless top – Jaeger, mother of pearl
 earrings – Alexis Bittar, gold bracelet – YooLa, ivory flats – Aerin, brown dress – Mango

When you lay everything out on your bed (just to check that you have what you need), you see that you're going to be very well equipped for whatever the city throws at you.

So this is your weekend:

What exhibit are you going to see? Doris Salcedo at the Contemporary? or the Irish, at the Art Institute? or another, in another city?


Looking Back:


Tuesday, April 21, 2015

A Clothing Diary Week 9

Some clarification is needed about how often I wear gym clothes, and where. Yes, I probably have gym clothes on EVERY day of the week - 6 days a week maybe at a minimum. BUT!!! I don't wear them outside of my building unless I'm running outdoors. The gym where I workout is in my basement; residents of my building see me in all of my athletic glory (ahem...), and I might stop at the grocery store in the basement of my building after I've worked out (yes, my building has a grocery store. And a dry-cleaner...) but that's as far as it goes. 

Wearing gym clothes frequently is NOT an excuse to be wandering the streets in tons of too tight, too thin, or too brief clothing. Frankly, on any given day on the streets of Chicago, I see FAR too much of the intimate details of female genitalia. I'd hesitate to wear something like that to the gym; I can't imagine being out in public while revealing that much about my personal bits and pieces...

scarf - Metropolitan Museum of Art Gift Shop, earrings - Majorica, tee shirt - Lands' End,
cardigan - Eileen Fisher, skirted leggings - Eileen Fisher, boots - Munro

earrings - Judith Jack (similar here), cashmere turtleneck - Milan (similar here), scarf - street vendor,
jeans - Eileen Fisher, shoes - Munro

earrings - Majorica, cardigan - Lands' End, brooch - vintage (similar here), shirt - Lands' End,
slouch pants - Eileen Fisher, flats - Thierry Rabotin

earrings - Rika (similar here), tee shirt - Lands' End, sweatshirt - Lands' End,
waxed cotton jeans - Eileen Fisher, shoes - Munro

This shirt, from Orvis, is exquisite. The trim is cut on the bias - who DOES that anymore?  And it's on sale below half price...

earrings - similar here, silk shirt - Orvis, necklace - vintage (similar here),
ballet flats - Thierry Rabotin, black capris - Eddie Bauer

Lots of Maltese Cross jewelry here!  Does anybody else have a recurring accessory motif?


Looking Back: