I know, everybody HATES L.L.Bean clothes, but their clothes are perfect for illustrating the concept of building a capsule wardrobe by fours. And frankly, there’s a world full of women who would look better dressed in these simple garments, rather than the gaudy, poorly-made tat that they’re wearing… (none of us, of course, but we all know people who might tone it down a notch or two…)Rather than using accessories from Bean, I’ve chosen a few things from the other end of the fashion scale – iconic scarves, fabulous shoes. That’s the real beauty of simple, unadorned clothes in neutral colors – they serve as a perfect base for accessories that do the real “talking”.
Chiffon scarf – Stella McCartney, square scarf – Hermès, Ballet flats – Lanvin, Loafers – Lanvin
Give me a basic shell any day over all those prints and sequence… And with beautifully chosen accessories how can you go wrong.
Oh my! I was going to ask you last week if you could do a four by four for fall! Thank you so much.
The one you did for summer truly simplified my life. :)
Perfect timing….beautiful ideas!
Personally I love LLBean and have a large number of items. The linen has been a blessing this hot and humid summer. I live in a very large city with a lot of shopping malls, and after treking through numerous stores usually end up with LLBean. I appreciate that they have other neutrals (with matching undertones) that are not black. Shar
Yeah, I gotta say, summers and me now…it has to be linen, and I'll pay the extra for it. Of course it gets rumply but it BREATHES…and I don't want it lined. The only other thing I'll consider is the thinnest cotton…not t-shirt cotton…and I don't want IT lined either. Give a look at my panties and bra, I just don't care half the time anymore; I HAVE to be COOL (not in trendy cool, in temperature cool…). I don't know how I'm feeling these days about J.Jill as a thoughtful manufacturer/seller but, a few years ago, I bought a black linen sheath, unlined, sleeveless, very unadorned and I wish I had bought ten of them. I have washed it 100 times, it is so soft, the stitching is intact…but the black color has definitely seen better days. I'm thinking of black Rit dye as one way to extend the dress for one more summer.
To Vicki, I don't know if you will see this, but I recently dyed a rayon dress and in my research I found that Rit dye is not recommended. Essentially it's a case of something trying to be everything at once ("all-purpose") and not being very good at anything. For linen and other cellulose fibers (my dress was rayon) you want fiber-reactive dyes like Procion MX or Dylon Permanent. I used Dylon as their black dye is a pure pigment rather than a blend of pigments. My dress did not come out completely black, but it was a lighter green color to start with. I think you would have good results with Dylon; it's available at Joann, just make sure to get the one marked "Permanent" or buy soda ash to add if you don't. I detailed my dye project below:
I love LL Bean too…I do avoid the bright colors and boxy fits of some items…but their clothing is so well made and will last forever…which is what you want in basics. I have a beautiful light weight gray cashmere sweater from three years ago, and I can't wait for it to get cool enough to wear again….with my soon to get new gray pants (I am learning!)
Sadly, LL doesn't fit me too well…Check out their newish Indispensable Knits collection. Some of the pieces look positively chic.
I tried on the dress on Saturday. The SECOND the shopping moratorium is over, that dress is MINE. And it's going to Paris…
Huh? People HATE L.L. Bean? I ADORE them. If money were no object, everything I would EVER wear would come exclusively from L.L. Bean and Lands' End.
Looking over my closet, I discovered I own a thousand black tops (may be a slight exaggeration…) and my slacks/pants are black, navy and khaki. So, black/black (depressing- sorry NYC); black/navy (no go)/ black/khaki (OK)- BUT what colors should I buy (for bottoms) to make all these nice black tops useful??
A pair of bright jeans – in any color you like! You'll be on-trend (which is something about which I usually don't care!), and you'll be able to wear any of your black tops. Grab a scarf or a necklace that compliments your pants, and you're good to go!
Or… winter white? A soft taupe? An unexpected pastel?
I also love a black and white tweed with black tops. It's not as severe as all black, but still a neutral base for scarves and jewelry.
Just purchased a pair of red jeans for exactly this purpose. I had SO many black tops and needed something to work with them. Voila! Amazing what a difference the red makes, love it and wouldn't have thought of it without the help of this blog.
Love the color idea, but would that still be valid for someone with a (ahem) less than model figure? By the way, I love that you are using LLBean. You just have to choose carefully because of the boxy issue, but I have to agree on the quality. I have had things from them for years.
I love black and navy together. I prefer it to black and khaki. Just make sure that you choose the silhouettes carefully so that it looks pulled together rather than haphazard. You can integrate accessories that use both black and navy to pull it together further.
I love everyone's comments here; great ideas. I, too, have a silly number of black tops AND black bottoms. I risk identifying with the undertaker. Obviously, a black silhouette makes me think I look thinner. Red and black seem wintry to me. I have rosacea, so red near my face is a no-no, but I didn't think about maybe a fun red skirt, black nylons or tights when it's not summer; possibilities! I have a young, slender, model-looking cousin who lives on a strict budget (3 kids, stay-at-home mom for the time being) and she doesn't wear anything but black and white, year'round, and she always looks terrific; she can rock black leggings and a white shirt with French cuffs. I've seen her take one black sheath and wear it a million ways, just changing up the jewelry and shoes. Reminds me; I'm going to give her my grandmother's (her great-grandmother's!) TIMELESS black and white silk scarf and see what she comes up with for it (I expect she'll even try it as a belt!). I never pair black with navy; wow, can I, like you're saying? I don't like navy against my skin tone. Maybe I'll try the scarf idea to tie it all in, and soften the navy effect against the skin. I've just always thought navy and black were too much alike, and wearing them together was a mismatch. Okay, more to think about!
I personally don't wear LL Bean, but the silhouettes and colors in the core and expansion fours are classic. In fact, you've convinced me to go take a look at their cardigans. The funny thing is, when I get a catalog in the mail, I am overwhelmed by all the sherbet colors and khakis, but when you distill the catalog down to a few key pieces, it becomes much more inviting. They really SHOULD pay you!
Janice, I wanted to let you know that I discovered your blog over the weekend and devoured it. It inspired me to determine what my core six pieces in neutrals would be, and I was surprised to find that I had almost everything in my closet already! I just wasn't putting it together. I selected pieces from my wardrobe in gray, navy, black and white, with accent colors of rich red and purple, and moved that curated wardrobe into a smaller closet. I bought a few important pieces that I was missing (yeah, I was really excited to get started) and I've been dressing out of that smaller closet for a few days now. Already, it's like a weight has been lifted. I love looking in that closet and seeing the harmonious color palette, and I feel so much better dressed when I go out. I have embarked on a project to gradually donate or sell what didn't make the cut, one piece a day.
How this relates to this post: your blog, with all the cores of four and not-so-crazy-eights, was incredibly inspirational and educational to me. I took your ideas and applied them to my own closet and my own style. So the pieces that you used to illustrate your principles weren't as important, to me anyway, as the principles themselves.
By the way: I own over a dozen of style books about how to shop, which 100 (!) pieces every woman needs, etc., but my closet was still a wreck until I came to your blog. So thank you.
This is a very inspiration comment and is motivating me. Janice's instructions put to the test! I keep envisioning the clutter gone, and I've got my eye on the calm…
Love their waffle knit henley. I wore 2 last winter week in/week out. They don't carry it in black so ordered one from QVC that just does not do the trick. It isn't as soft, it's too baggy, the collar doesn't life flat, blah, blah…grrr. Don't like any of the colors this year except the navy which is still fine from last year.
I think you have to have a pretty good figure to look good in a lot of LL Bean.
We don't have LL Bean where I am so I am not concerned about that. But I LOVE what you do with simple everyday clothes to be truly fantastic! I just wish we had more than black black black in the stores here, its hard to make up 4s or 8s… but these sets really help – why NOT two pairs of pants etc etc. I admit I wake up and look at 2 blogs each morning… I have just been inundated with flurry and rules etc with the other, then this is serenity and bliss! Like another respondent said, it is a delight to open one's wardrobe to calm each morning. AND you give both dressy and casual versions – its great to LOVE your shorts and t's as well! Thank you – so glad I found you
Where are you? L.L. Bean is famous for its catalog. :-)
Well, yes, the only time you lose me is with LLBean. I am way too short and weighty to look like anything but a sack of potatoes in anything I have ever ordered from them. But as for organizing garments by restraint, by a sure sense of purpose, and by neutral basics, you are the queen of inspiration.
Janice and LLBean are fab in my book…thanks for the post. NJ
Can we get down to specifics and identify the pieces from LL Bean that are NOT boxy? Can anyone help with this. Boxy is murder on a curvy figure.
Great post Janice. Thank you once again!
Who hates LL Bean ??? Not me ! They have great basic add ins to my wardrobe and they make some great coats ( especially their Signature line). Especially when you live in a farming community and don't want to look "too too" or one of the 5 officers in town will come by for a chat and coffee to be sure you are feelin' ok. But I digress…..
I don't hate Bean at all- their sailor shorts are my summer sweaters. You're onto something crucial: the simple pieces are lifted by the accessories that are sharp and high quality . The other "secret" is to stick to the simple, classic tees, jeans, perhaps some crisp plaids, in neutrals. The corals, blues and most greens in their garments look like outlet mall clothes.
I would also not buy a shirt unless I replaced the buttons, swapping the plastic for mother of pearl.
I look like death warmed over in black tops. Can you design a 4 X 4 around grey as the core? What, then, would be the expansion color, and the mileage options? Thanks for all the food for thought!
It's all fabulous, as usual. The thing with Bean's (and I live in Maine, so it's practically a religion here) are the cuts. Some are fabulous beyond belief. Their sweaters are an amazing value and usually quite good. The bottoms range wildly from being extremely flattering to Grandma pants. So…it's just best to keep an open mind and look at each piece, rather than the whole range. That said, these are fabulously made, and for the money, exceptionally well priced. In Freeport, Maine, where the L L Bean flagship store is located, the town has been taken over by outlets. J. Crew (of which I'm also a huge fan), Ellen Tracy, Ralph Lauren, etc., are there. That said, the Bean prices are pretty much equal to the *outlet* prices of other name brands. So..it's good to know.
Also, if you happen to find yourself in Freeport, there is a L. L. Bean outlet too! I have found my favorite Bean bags there…for a fraction of the price.
Well, I think you hit the nail on the head. Of course the skirts and pants with elastic waistbands are frumpy but there are way more hits than misses the way I see it.
You really hit the nail on the head again. I'm sure in NYC or other big cities like Chicago, women on the street are dressed to the nines like their Paris friends but, in the other large part of America, we're more casual, and casual can get sloppy. The one thing I really like about L.L. Bean is how true they stay to their quality and craftsmanship. The clothes really last; my dad passed away a few years ago and he was still wearing L.L. Bean flannel shirts I'd given him in the 1980s. It was kinda sad to give them away, but Goodwill was glad for the donations of shirts that were still in great shape, after countless wearings and washings. Well-made, unadorned (as you coined it), basic, "real" clothing. Some of it is pricey, but you get (good) what you pay for, so to speak.
Yes, these clothes last. Unflattering forever, yay! If you are shorter than 5'6" and weigh more than 140 pounds, LLBean is utter poison.
I'm 5'4" and quite a bit over 140 pounds, and I look smashing in my L.L. Bean. Promise. ;-)
Well, one woman's poison is another woman's smashing bean, what can I say? :)