March 21, 2017
Ah, here’s where the heroines with the wardrobes from last Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and yesterday all come together, and where we get to see just HOW much a few accent piece can change the look of very simple, neutral pieces of clothing.
First up – all four of these women own the SAME black cashmere cardigan. But once they put it into the mix with their own things, the results are very different:
Someone didn’t mention to our last woman (the very avant garde lady) that we were getting dressed up, but I don’t honestly think she’s the kind of person who would mind…
If these four women were sitting in a restaurant together, I don’t think anybody would be inclined to walk up to them and point out that they all have the same cardigan…
And the black pants become even more of a “background” item when worn with a distinctive top, and some accessories that echo the wearer’s personal style:
When you wear something close to your face, it’s more memorable, and thus people around you are going to notice if you and your friends are all wearing the same thing. That said, I still think that these four ensembles look VERY distinctive, one from the others.
Similarly, a black v-neck sweater might be somewhat more memorable than a pair of black pants, but once you’ve put a lovely scarf, a distinctive piece of jewelry, and either unique pants or a skirt, nobody’s going to notice that you and your friend are wearing the same sweater.
The only thing more neutral than blue jeans might be jeans in any other color. These 4 outfits show the range of possibilities available to someone who owns a pair of ivory jeans:
When these wardrobes are show together with their accessories, and the painting which was the original inspiration, you can see clear personalities. There’s no way that these wardrobes could be confused for each other!
I hope that the lengthy process has demonstrated a little bit more clearly the potential that a core of neutral garments has within even the most distinctive wardrobes. Many people who struggle to get dressed every day might be well-served to seriously consider the usefulness of adding just a couple of versatile neutrals to their wardrobe.
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
- More Personalized Neutrals – Start with Art: Untitled by Julian Lethbridge
- How to Use Both Warm & Cool Accents in a Capsule Wardrobe – Start with Art: Carnival Evening by Henri Rousseau
- How to Accent a Neutral Capsule Wardrobe with Brights – Start with Art: Le Pot a Tisane by Leger
- Four Paintings, Four Different Ways to Wear Black and Ivory Neutral Building Blocks
You are SO clever! I have really enjoyed reading this series, and this post is the icing on the cake!
I agree :)
Very instructional and well presented.
Thank you Janice, your posts are such an inspiration! This one was amazing.
Stunning. I love this series. Thank you.
Taste of France says
This is genius. Each set of clothes really expresses a different personality.
Yes, this is a wonderful illustration reminding us to choose our assessories carefully. Thank you! Janice for all you do and share so lovingly.
Amazing results. The black sweater in particular looks so uniquely styled for each woman. I can envision wearing each outfit on consecutive days with no one being the wiser about the sweater being worn 4 times in a row! I did have a little trouble with the ivory sweater though. If I was seated with the other three women I would feel very self-conscious that we were all wearing the same sweater, even though the looks are quite different. After considering it, I've come to the conclusion that for me, the knit pattern of the sweater is a bit distinctive and therefore I don't expect to see someone else wearing the exact same thing. I also wouldn't even consider wearing the sweater two days in a row for the same reason. Interesting to see posts like this and run it all through my mind. Guess my core items need to be extremely basic or I won't get the cost per wear from them that I would anticipate. Good to know when shopping for core vs accent pieces. I'm willing to spend more for items that I will wear more. I will also spend more for accent pieces that are a wow. I love the look and style of the ivory sweater and would welcome it in my wardrobe, but it is neither a core nor a wow for me so what I spend for it needs to fit my budget accordingly. Thoughtful planning and shopping lesson appreciated!
Janice Riggs says
You're right that ideally, the ivory sweater would have been a perfect flat knit, which would make it much less memorable. I couldn't find one that really suited (well, I found one that was over $1,000, but I thought that was a bit over the top…) so I compromised with the ribbed sweater. We all have to make similar compromises sometimes, but it's good to know what you can and can't tolerate!
thanks for the feedback,
and a big hug,
I'm glad I'm not the only one that has trouble finding just the right item! I went without an ivory sweater this winter because I couldn't find one (turtleneck or v-neck) to replace an existing turtleneck sweater that had to be discarded. And I really miss it! I'm tempted to purchase two identical turtlenecks as soon as find the right one. And a stain has ruined my favorite black turtleneck so I need to replace that as well. Ugh. At least I am aware of what the wardrobe gaps are for next fall/winter and can be on the lookout for these items.
When it comes to light colored cotton turtlenecks or jewel collared knit tees that I know will work with my wardrobe, I always double up and get two of the same item. This helps for both wear out and laundry day !
So cool! My co-worker and I tend to carry this out in real life. We both have the same neutral core items in our wardrobes, but she tends more toward boho accent pieces and I'm more classical. Also, we're different shapes; I wear glasses; her hair is longer (although we're both blonde). There have been days where we are wearing the same basic item, but we look completely different. We even sit next to each other and no one has ever accused us of dressing alike. :)
Janice Riggs says
You're doing better than me! I once sat in a meeting, next to a woman ALSO named Janice, and we were wearing the exact same twinset from Lands' End! But we worked for a software company, so nobody noticed anything… Style wasn't anywhere in their minds…
I always start with neutrals, whether getting dressed for the day, or packing for travel, then I choose either some scarves or a patterned top to indicate the accent colors that I want to feature. Great job here, showing the versatility of the neutrals and the individuality that is possible with each person's preferences.
This has been a great series. Your blog and posts like these have helped me understand why neutrals are so important and why I never had anything to wear. You'll be so proud…I just bought my first pair of navy cropped pants for the spring, which, of course, will go with all those pretty jackets that only matched jeans. It's all finally making sense.
I agree with everyone. This is artistic genius! After following your blog for years, I've gotten the hang of using very few neutral bottoms and varying the look with different tops, scarves. But this series really shows how to vary the neutral tops to such advantage and use what I already have! I will study this series for a long time. Understanding how to vary the look
of the same top is so helpful in planning a travel wardrobe especially. Maybe I can pack even less!! Thank you so much for this and all the other marvelous things you do for us! Janice Collins, Washington DC
Thanks so much for all of this, I LOVE IT ALL! -Hollyce
Cee Pluse says
I have truly enjoyed this series. When you started, I thought I would have a clear favorite among the four options, but now that you have shown us the possibilities of each collection I can't decide which one I like best! I love the attitude of the "avant garde" woman – as far as the first outfit goes, I have a feeling that may be as dressed up as she likes to get (short of formal gown events, perhaps). The only danger for me with this exercise is that now I want all four accent collections, as well as all of the artwork (except maybe for the first one, as that woman scares me a little!).
Gail Finke says
Okay, I'll be the only complainer… actually not a c complaint but an observation. I found three of these color schemes very similar. It is very instructive to see how such similar color schemes can look so different in a wardrobe with the same garment types and basic pieces, but I would also love to see it with very DIFFERENT color schemes. In these four wardrobes, three of the accent color schemes are in similar tints and values, and the fourth is similar in that, while bolder, the rust red is a muted shade of red (one could argue that mustard yellow is muted as well). But neutrals go with anything. I'd like to see another one with bold color accents. And maybe another with very bold patterns (leopard? plaid? polka dots?). So I guess I'm asking… let's see those same neutral basics with even more, different accents!
Gail, maybe it's my screen, but that mustard skirt looked anything but muted to me !
That was my thought too – sort of bright but still quite muted colours, more so in the painting than the actual clothes. I think it is quite difficult for one person with their own general taste & style to put together super different wardrobes, although like Janice says, the right pictures also have to be available!
Love this series! Thank for putting it together for us! This last was my favorite. So interesting to see them all side by side. I'm just beginning the capsule process and am finding it all a bit overwhelming. It's so helpful to see how you go about editing and adding where needed.
p.s. I remembered this morning a series you did for some days using a v-neck sweater and putting various bottoms and accessories with the same color sweater. I've been trying to find it because that series (one of my favorites) could also be used to vary the look of a top. I remember the v-neck sweater was sooo versatile and you used it for very dressy occasions as well as casual. I can't find the series, can you help? Janice Collins, Washington, DC
Janice Riggs says
This was the first one: https://www.theviviennefiles.com/2013/03/how-to-wear-v-neck-sweater-version-black.html
I did SIXTEEN of those… I should revisit that idea – it could stand to be updated!
It is a great series, and today's comparisons have made a very useful conclusion. I'm sure lots of us have bookmarked it for future reference. The second get-together shown above where the ladies all meet in black pants illustrates my wardrobe perfectly: three pairs of black pants and a pair of almost black jeans, with a range of tops/cardies/jackets in any of three or four colours. So my takeaway from the series is that I needn't feel as though I have a uniform. It's also been fun making up stories about each of the four women. Thanks too for introducing me to more interesting paintings.
Robyn in Tasmania
The last picture is my favourite, and so is the wardrobe that goes with it. I do like the fact that your blog is just clothes, no models, but wouldn't it be lovely to see real women wearing these outfits? All shapes and sizes, do you have a group of friends who would pose? (I know, you'd have to get your hands on the clothes!)
This was a very good series, enjoyed it, though I am still having problems persuading myself to choose neutrals! Linda M.
This was such an interesting series and I love imagining the four women getting together in today's post. In addition to the lesson about how basic pieces can be a canvas for very different accent pieces, I found the way you put the four by four wardrobes together very useful. The roughly half and half balance between basic and accent pieces is a good fit for the way I dress so this is really helping me organize my ideas. I'm also pondering whether some analogue of the four by four wardrobe could be used to organize an accessory or jewelry capsule. Hmmmmmm….
Deanna Rabe says