April 20, 2022
We visited this fascinating painting a few years ago, and I’ve never forgotten about it!
So when someone asked me about having a couple of accent colors for summer, and after we looked at the possibilities of 1 scarf for 4 women, I got to thinking…. (as my mother would say – “we knew you were thinking; we smelled the smoke…”)
The last time we looked at this painting, I only isolated 3 accent colors, but today I’m choosing four!
So my plan is this – I’m going to start us out with a core summer wardrobe in light colors – white and beige. Then I’m going to scare up four French 5-Piece Wardrobes – one in each of the accent colors…
Let’s start here:
I’m not going to run through how many outfits are possible just from these 10 garments – suffice to say that it would be at least a dozen…
Let’s imagine that our first heroine has these 10 garments, and wishes to accent them with soft green – she adds these things to her wardrobe:
Just assembling these 15 items on one page gives us a whole new look!
Just considering what dear Verda could do with her new clothes gives us at least 6 fresh outfits for warm weather:
Does Verda have a friend named Rose? She might be the woman who likes to add a flowery touch to her neutral wardrobe:
Even thought 77% of her clothing is the same, Rose’s wardrobe looks quite a bit different!
And her new outfit possibilities have a completely different feel to them:
Their buddy Azula ALWAYS wants blue in her wardrobe…
Again, the impact that accent colors have on the neutrals is kind of amazing – out of proportion to the space they take up in a closet!
Her new outfits are so easy to assemble…
Nobody is sure if Sunny is her real name, or just a nickname; they suspect the latter, because it suits her so perfectly!
Nobody could mistake that this is indeed her wardrobe:
She gets a lot of bang for her buck here…
Which heroine are you? I’m astonished to admit that I must be Rose…
p.s. Should I look at how each of these heroines accessorizes her beige and white wardrobe?
p.p.s. Ten years ago, when I was swapping out my winter clothes for my summer clothes, I did some self-analysis about my shopping mistakes…
What a brilliant example of the power of an accent colour & the French 5-piece wardrobe. So great!
Beth T says
Ooo, I do love candy floss colours (as my Mum called them) in summer. My summer accents are mostly light pastels. This is the time of year when I wear pink in abundance, so I would also add the pink French Five. I have a pink striped dress with fine stripes of two shades of pink aqua green, yellow and a very fine gold thread which catches the light.
My favoured neutrals are light grey, light to mid-blues and ivory.
I would love to see accessories with these French Fives. For me, I love crystals in summer as they catch the sunlight and reflect the colour of anything you wear them with. I also wear pearls and mother of pearl has iridescent qualities.
The look-back is pertinent as I’m going to tackle the switchover. Having gone through a purge a few years ago when I first found the Vivienne Files, my wardrobe is in much better shape and my daughter was very helpful in giving advice on what suits me. Everything, I have, I like and it suits me. I probably still have too much. I like the idea of asking questions to aid the process. However, I was wondering, whether you might expand that post with real examples. Seeing your thinking process in action is invaluable.
Beth, I was hoping you would comment, as I know you are not so big on beige. When I wear beige or oatmeal tones near my face I sort of disappear. As you say, maybe a light grey or blue would work as a cooler-toned summer neutral, and still have the potential to mix with a pretty accent colour.
Beth T says
Oh I’m the same with beige near my face – it’s too yellow. However, I have found that rose-beige and taupe are OK.
Sally in St Paul says
Beth T, I have two striped linen pieces for summer that remind me of your dress. A jacket with horizontal stripes in somewhat saturated pastels like yellow, peach, pink, light green, and blue. A boxy top with vertical stripes of white, beige, peach, a darker pink, and sky blue. Both pieces are amazingly versatile and bring together multiple accent colors in an outfit with ease. I was actually astonished at how useful they are. A good reminder that my style really depends on those bridge pieces that tie colors together, and that I need a few of these print garments in summer when it’s too warm to rely on scarves to do the job. I definitely like a color blocked look, but not for myself every day.
The look back chic sighting nailed this for me with those cute striped flats. The neutral top + accent pants + print flats outfit is right up my alley.
For colours I am absolutely Verde and Rose, but the styles are hit and miss. If Sunny’s wardrobe was either of theirs, then out would have been an instant yes. It really is a pity that yellow and I don’t like each other.
Accessories: at least one of them as hats, headbands and bags with jewellery as rings and bracelets only, please. Any scarves should be huge ones that completely cover arms.
At first I thought this was going to be one wardrobe with 4 accent colours for a kindred soul. I have been worrying that my wardrobe includes too many colours but I can’t bear to part with them. My neutrals are navy/indigo denim and black/grey with white and khaki green and accents of blues, light green, dark chocolate and burgundy. Although since all my bottoms are indigo or black jeans and my jackets/layers are navy, black, grey or khaki green my wardrobe is still pretty much a “whatever’s clean” with just my t-shirts and polo neck jerseys coming in all my colours.
Sally in St Paul says
Bobby, I hear you; I’m an all-the-colors gal myself. I could see this working as capsules for 4 different women or capsules for 1 woman’s 4 moods.
That could happen…
I love the way you made the names of your women reflect their colors. You really do enjoy your work, don’t you Janice?
I would be any of them BUT the rose… which gives you an idea of what my closet looks like. I actually have had that yellow striped shirt in my cart for a couple of weeks now – along with a blue striped. My plan was to concentrate on adding green this year, but I have been enjoying bright yellow as a pick me up. yeah, I’m kind of all over the place. My criteria right now for tops is it has to go with multiple bottoms. I tend to wear skirts when it’s warm out, and have a couple in floral prints – which actually gives me a lot of latitude with tops. And I loved wearing stripe tops with floral bottoms. You just have to get the prints in the right proportions. Would love to see accessories. Thank you Janice!
PS My summer neutrals are mostly black, some navy. I do often wear “accent” colors on top and bottom without a neutral….
I am just as surprised to discover I am a Sunny. Those earrings have inspired me to commit to a lemon theme for Mother’s Day. A lemon tart, daisies and my lemon pattern dress. Here’s hoping for a sunny day in Chicago.
Did you see this lemon scarf?
Thanks! That will make a great gift for my mom!
What a joy Laura! Those earrings truly are spirit lifters :)
Thank you Arwen! Spirit lifters indeed!
Sign me up as Azula. Blue is always a part of my wardrobe. Love those cute slip on shoes. I’m with Rex, I love to look at yellow but it doesn’t love me back (makes me look like I am recovering from a serious illness). Verda’s green would be okay. Wanted to love Rose’s florals but they wouldn’t work for my lifestyle.
Thank you, Janice for making me reassess my wardrobe needs. You give such inspiration to those of us who are fashion challenged…
This is such a great illustration of the power of a core wardrobe with favorite accent pieces. Since I limit the amount of clothes in my closet, which is very doable for me after years of reading TVF, I wouldn’t have all three of my bottoms so similar in style. Different silhouettes and fabric, really helps me avoid some boredom with a limited closet.
Thank you for such a lovely glimpse to spring.
This is such a great post- I’m going to use it as a template for 3 week trip that covers 2 very different style family weddings.
That said, one of my favorite things about your posts are the looks back that you link. I’m relatively new to your world, so it’s always fun to read previous posts. Thank you for the thoughtfulness you (and work!) you put into both!
I’m thrilled with your creativity. The women’s names are the crowning touch! I am a lover of color and this comes very close to mirroring my wardrobe. My spring/summer neutrals are denim blue (rather than beige) and white. I can’t imagine limiting myself to one or two colors – I’d probably die of boredom – so my accent colors are all of these plus a light lilac. The warm weather feel of these wardrobes speak peace to me.
Well, I adore all the colours except pink. The styles, I mostly ignore because they’re not quite what I reach for, but it’s easy to translate a preferred cut from a post if the colour is working. I have more difficulty with colour, level of dressiness, accessories and number of pieces than cut. My current wardrobe is in transition. Problem 1: my mom loves to gift clothing in her style and colours. Problem 2: the Mr likes to inject his eclectic taste if he’s with me on a shopping trip. Problem 3: it is hard to find a vintage style piece in both my size and colours. Problem 4: I’m at an age when certain styles that were great in my 20s and 30s just don’t look great anymore, but i don’t want to dress in things that are seen as ‘old lady’ styles because then I look weird. Final result is a wardrobe that feels wrong. So, I really do enjoy and appreciate every idea Janice teaches or shares. Keep the great ideas coming please!
On rare occasions you do a commentary post instead of an example post. I’d love to hear your thoughts on Kari’s issues. Or perhaps that could be a story post (or posts), too? I know she’s not the only one with these sorts of struggles…
Linda P says
Yes! I want to avoid Frumpville as much as possible!
Sally in St Paul says
Co-signed. Kari is definitely not alone with her wardrobe woes, and we all love the commentary posts.
Beth T says
Like Bobby and Deb, I also love my accents. In the summer, I go for blended outfits in shades of one or two accent colours. Grey and ivory/,white are my only true neutrals in summer.
I love the names of today’s heroines. They are so fitting for their color choices. I would love to see a repeat of this exercise with bolder summer colors, perhaps turquoise, lime, hot pink, and coral. Though really any colors could be used just by following your 5 piece French wardrobes concept. I so enjoy watching your thought processes and reading about your heroines.
Oh, this is great! They need a friend Roya (G Biv) who combines all 4. That would be me. I have basics in navy and denim then french fives (or close) in raspberry pink, turquoise, bright blue, and brown (including cognac) for spring and summer. I am excited to see how it works out!! And yes, please to accessories!
Helen Haig says
I love them all!!! And, yes, thank you for offering to accessorize these wardrobes further. I’d love to see how this goes.
As an elderly woman with white hair, so-called candy floss colors fade me into the background. I find black, dark grey and taupe are necessary to lift lighter colors out of obscurity.
I love them all !
Sally in St Paul says
For me, the blue version resonates…the simple lines/cuts of the clothing, the ever-so-slightly more saturated pastel color, and sneakers not sandals! I would need to tweak the common wardrobe a bit…grey/taupe for the beige (though this is a nice light beige) and probably chambray/denim for the white bottoms.
Accessorizing is always welcome!
Lovely! I am more attracted to the Sunny wardrobe, it seems so fresh and happy. Thank you for showing us what a good core of clothes can do.
Amy M says
I love these! I adore green, so I would probably be Verda, though I’ve been learning that yellow looks good on me even though I don’t normally reach for it. So, maybe a little Sunny in there, too.
Janice, love it when you do a basic wardrobe and add the five piece French wardrobe. I do tend to wear white and stone in the summer so the basic wardrobe is all ready in place. Love the lemon earrings so cute! I will probably end up getting the blue pants because I’ve been looking for a light blue almost chambray colored pair of pants. I don’t typically wear colored pants but could handle the light blue ones. BTY, as many have commented, the names of the heroines are so perfect! Accessories would be fantastic!
Sharon Reddick says
My Heroine would be Verda! I love the green and stone colors. I have gray heair and green eyes. I would live in these clothes ! Yes! Beautiful! Thank you for giving me my look!
Sharon Reddick (65)
Judy Stewart says
I’ve been a long time fan of VF but this is my first post – inspired by today’s wardrobe and the comments! I look forward to M, W, F and the collective wisdom from Janice and the VF entourage.
My core wardrobe would be black with a sprinkling of gray and denim – and my French 5 one favorite item from each; Verda’s striped dress, Rosa’s floral T-shirt, Azula’s shoes and oh, dear… as much as I love the yellow it just doesn’t suit my skin tone at all so I suppose Verda’s sandals as well to have a head to toe green. Thank you for allowing us to play dress-up multiple times every week, Janice.
I would definitely be Sunny. I love bright, clear and warm colors…so if I were tempted by pink, green or blue, they’d just be clear and bright instead of soft and warm, not cool. My beige would be warm rather than stone, but I’d definitely keep the white because contrast is flattering to my coloring.
Pam Dixon says
Just a quickie to say how much I loved the reference cited to clearing out your closet posted 10 years ago. Really loved the post and the comments. Thank you!
beth byrd says
My heart skipped a beat when I saw your post today. I have been “waiting” patiently for the perfect art print for my living room … at this is IT!!! I know your blog is fashion-focused, but now you have helped me dress my house as well!!
I am most definitely Verda, but I am going to borrow Sunny’s striped tee. I love the softness of these colors.
I search for hours to find art that I really love – I’m delighted that you like this one as much as I do!
Linda P says
Hi Janice and Everyone! Thank you for the accent inspiration for the Core Summer Wardrobe. I would have to say it’s pink by a nose over blue, then yellow. On my screen the green choice looks one shade past beige so there is not much of a contrast. I would probably lean more toward a mint green although it’s not really in the painting. I do not know if I have any pure beige in my closet–I think I lean more toward tan/camel but in lighter fabrics. But Janice!!! You forgot about peach/apricot hues! Could you please include them in a future post?
I also enjoyed the look back post. I will be doing the wardrobe switchover next weekend (now that the threat of frost is past haha). I have an old toychest where the out of season clothes are stored, and an old duffel / suitcase that gets the sweaters and turtlenecks because they can get bulky. There are some fall/winter holdouts that are destined for donation, and there may be spring/summer items that might make me wonder why I’m still holding on to them. I am a big believer in the one in/one out mindset, so if I donate these clothes it might be time to go shopping 😊 .
Thank you all for reading my rambling.