Feb 172015

Since the early days of this blog, I have advocated a concept I called the uniform template. Basically, it is a formula of pieces which create a look you feel comfortable wearing in a given season and lifestyle segment. for example, I used the following templates last summer (illustration):

Leisure – shorts and sandals + tee + blazer
Casual – dress and summery flats
Active – yoga pants plus sleeveless top

Recently, I began to doubt the concept. Is it a little bit boring to repeat the same formula every day? I doubted until I began exploring the minimalist wardrobe-building material at Into Mind. What I call uniform template, she calls proportion. And it was the use of that particular word that made me realize the brilliance of the idea.

One of the more complicated elements in an outfit is the proportions. And it is a big deal! Once you have a really great outfit design, doesn’t it make sense to replicate it, rather than starting over from scratch? Using different colors, fabrics, and accessories will create enough variety that you will not look like you are wearing the same thing – a uniform.

I have reached a couple of conclusions on this topic –

  1. I think I like the idea of changing the vocabulary from “uniform template” to “proportion template”. Like? Or perhaps there is an even better alternative.
  2. I want to offer this, the creation of a personalized proportion template, as an add-on service to the Style Line Analysis.

What I would do: starting with the base you like to use (bottom and shoes), for the particular lifestyle segment, I would design a proportion template for your unique body type including the shape of the skirt or pants, how long the top should be, placement of the belt, etc.

Feb 122015

Recently I worked with someone who had a number of lovely dresses in her closet, which she would have been wearing if only she had the appropriate shoes! It reminded me of when I identified a major gap in my own wardrobe last November. At this time, my shortage was in the “tops” category; in this Throwback Thursday post from December 3, 2005, I had a different shortage …

Tomorrow is Sunday. No doubt when we leave we will all be dressed, but chances are good that someone will have had some wardrobe trauma in the process. Generally, one of us ladies is the one with the problem and one of the others is the one with the solution. Look out if two of us can’t decide what to wear!

I recall a time a few years ago when my own Sunday morning wardrobe trauma was pretty much weekly. My problem: I didn’t actually own a dress, but every Sunday morning I tried to select one from my closet to wear. My solution: I bought a khaki skirt that I could wear to church with my T-shirts. That skirt was one of the few items I ever paid full price for (I think it was $30 or so), but I wore it several years before selling it on consignment this past summer. In warm weather, I wore it with tanks and sandals. Come winter, it was turtlenecks and boots.

So, figure out your own formula. What do you like to wear to church? I guarantee you won’t find it in your closet on Sunday morning if you don’t actually have it.

Jan 052015

… Or forever hold your peace. If not forever, at least until next season.

Yesterday morning I got up and put on a cashmere sweater. I wanted to wear something under it, for any number of reasons not the least of which is to keep from having to wash it frequently, and I had nothing. The thought went through my head,

I should just go somewhere that has longsleeved T-shirts and buy a bunch of them

A little bit later, the hero wanted to do some grocery shopping – as usual 😉 – and we went somewhere that also sells clothes. It is not where I usually shop for clothes, but I was able to find a small wardrobe of longsleeved T-shirts: white and bright pink crewnecks, cream and violet scoopnecks. Two neutrals and two colors. On clearance. The pickin’s were slim, but at least I got some before they were all gone for the season.

January is the ideal time to stock up on basics. In my idiom, long-sleeved T-shirts are not a fashion staple; they are underwear. Suggestion: take the time this week to inventory your winter basics. Then make a plan for replenishing them. 🙂

Nov 202014

For TBT, since we have been talking about the limited wardrobe and laundry, I am revisiting my original formula for calculating how many of an item I need. Currently my focus is on tops (undertops: the t-shirts and blouses that are the first item of clothing covering nakedness and underwear on top); a dress could also fill this category. This post is originally from December 7, 2005.

There are those who think it amusing that I actually have formulas and mathematical equations that I use for shopping. Like the one I use to make sure I have the minimum of certain key pieces. Since I wear a wool sweater just about every day that it is below 40, today (7 degrees) is the day I will stop, count, and calculate whether I have enough. Just in case you weren’t absolutely certain that I was nuts, here’s what I do:

a) Figure out my laundry cycle. What’s the longest number of days something might sit in the hamper before it’s ready to be worn again? As an “empty-nester”, I can get my clothes back into rotation quickly after washing them (no baskets of clean clothes waiting to be folded); OTOH it could take me a week to collect enough of any one color grouping to wash a load. I am going to assume ten days as length of laundry cycle.

b) Calculate the percentage of days that I need to be able to wear this type of item. Well … I guess 100%. That is definitely going to make the math easier! 😉

c) Estimate how many days I can wear something before washing it. (When I had babies, I would estimate how many changes of clothes I needed per day.) Um, yeah. I can’t always wear a top more than once without washing it. OTOH, I don’t typically have to get dressed more than once a day. To be on the safe side, I am going to estimate that I can only wear a top twice one out of every four times.

The math:
Multiply a and b, and then divide by c.
In my example, a = 10 day laundry cycle, b = 100% (1.0), c = 1.25; therefore, I need 8 tops (100% of 10 is 10, divided by 1.25 = 8). If I were using 100% separates, working back down the Grow Like a Tree method I would have 8 tops, 4 layers, and 2 bottoms; a total 14 piece wardrobe. If I make all the pieces coordinate with each other, it is beginning to look suspiciously like a capsule wardrobe!

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Nov 182014

When I get to heaven, I am going to get to hang out with Lori Neff. In the meantime, I’ve been following her adventures with a voluntary 30 day clothing “fast”, The 8 Challenge (inspired by the 6 items challenge recently going around, and this book).

Hearing Lori discuss this on the radio this morning, I was struck more by the comments of her colleagues. They, in the two weeks she’s been wearing only eight items, thought she looked fabulous! And she, although she admitted to missing color, had felt her use of accessories had kept her from feeling she was repeating the same outfit over and over.

So what can we learn from practicing the limited wardrobe?

  1. People don’t care if you wear the same thing over and over
  2. People do notice if what you wear looks good, much more than they notice if it’s different from what you wore last week
  3. Getting dressed is easier with fewer choices
  4. If you don’t have much, you better not get behind on laundry 😉

Last week was my first with my laundry strictly limited to my clothes and those belonging to the hero. Now the challenge becomes having enough dirty clothes to run a full load!

Nov 042014

Recently, I’ve been musing on the disconnect between what we do and what would actually create the desired result. For example, why do I spend hours shopping for the replacement for an item when everything that went with it is also on its last legs? Why am I shopping at all before I have put together outfits for the new season? Or, outside the closet, why read more great advice (about cooking, relationships, business, or whatever) before assimilating the best of the last batch?

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After wasting a bunch of time last week not being able to efficiently get dressed in the morning, I finally stopped long enough to get into the closet. Lol (kicking self)! Allow me to confess, in case it’s helpful to anybody else:

I have barely any tops really, except some light-weight T-shirts.

So much for growing my wardrobe like a tree!

Curious what I did that finally made the gaping hole in my wardrobe obvious?

  • I removed all the tops and layers from the closet, and threw them on my bed.
  • Next, I labelled each pant or skirt with its shoe options. (The idea that every outfit goes with any shoe just doesn’t work for me.)
  • Next to each bottom, I hung two options for layers to wear with it.

Theoretically, the next steps would have been:

  • hang the tops next to the corresponding layer, recording instructions detailing the accessories to complete the outfit.
  • But, obviously, when you have, say, five bottoms, twelve layers, and three tops, this process cannot be completed. 😉 Now at least I know what to shop for! Perhaps doubling up on tops for each layer is not necessary; my intermediate goal should just be one each.

    Hey, let me know if you try a process like this. Honestly, it was shockingly illuminating!

    Oct 172014

    Allow me to state the obvious:
    Anytime you appear in public wearing something completely of your own choosing, it could be considered “Street Style”

    While that may seem too obvious for print, to me it is a helpful thought. Why? For the sheer inspiration value! Remember school? The great thing about it was you could really wear whatever you wanted, subject to the weather and your ability to withstand peer pressure. (Of course, in High School, it helped to talk your friends into wearing a dress the same day.)

    For the past many years, I have aspired to dress in Smart Casual when I was out and about; at home, it was always something that would not be ruined if I happened to splash bleach on it – as if I was actually deep-cleaning on a daily basis 😉

    Now, as I transition to (image) professional, I still have a lifestyle with few restrictions on what to wear – aside from artistic requirements. Most days, I go to the gym and run errands in the morning, then work in the afternoon. I can wear whatever I want, without regard for the persistent peer pressure (in my head) to not dress UP any more than strictly necessary. But who, at the YMCA (or any of those other places) is going to critique what I happen to be wearing?
    imagePhoto shamelessly ripped from Pinterest.
    In a sense, it is because the places I go are primarily “in between” places, where people go incidentally dressed as they are. So, if I think of my walking around clothes as “Street Style”, that allows me even greater flexibility than “smart casual”. While I probably will never wear a ball gown, I could wear a tutu (that is, a “tulle skirt” – sounds more respectable).

    Hey, what are some other settings that allow the flexibility to wear “Street Style”? There are, no doubt, many; I find that often my perceived limitations are self-imposed 😉

    Oct 032014

    So, October is a natural time to take stock of Winter gear and buy anything you have been unable to get thrift or clearance. If you have to pay real money, you might as well get the best selection. My list:

    Ivory leather winter gloves – size 7
    (If I can’t find ivory, I will go for a bright.)
    Casual segment, knee-high boots – size 9
    (These have to have a functional outsole, because it snows here, and need to have some color that is light enough to relate to my hair).

    If I have to pay top dollar for each of those things, I will not have enough, so I am going to be checking out eBay.

    And there is a big sale at The Rack this weekend. Thankfully, my birthday is in October – I can spend real money, if I have to. What are you needing to be ready for Winter?

    Shop Hot Fall Boots from Vince Camuto, Frye and more at NORDSTROM. Plus, get free shipping and free returns on every order.

    Sep 252014

    Speaking of hard work, the more I understand how to design a beautiful look, the less I seem to be able to achieve it. Okay no longer is. This post from the blog’s infancy – just after Christmas, 2005 – actually contains one of the keys to effortless elegance.

    Welcome back to reality, after a wonderful Christmas break. Okay, some parts weren’t so wonderful: the runny nose, watery eyes, sneezing, and swollen glands. Ever wonder about statistics for being sick on Christmas and/or the day after compared to any other day of the year?

    But now that Christmas is behind us and most of you lovely ladies received new clothes as gifts, what next? You must “style them in” to your current wardrobe. To “style it in” is a term that I made up (this is my blog, I can invent vocabulary as I see fit) based on what professional stylists do in the fashion industry. In other words,

    you must create great-looking outfits combining your new clothing and accessories with your existing ones.

    The goal is to be sure that the outfits you envision in your mind actually work on your body. Try on every possibility. If you have a new sweater, you should try it on with each pair of pants and every skirt it might go with. Carefully recording combinations that work will save you time and trouble on mornings when wardrobe trauma threatens to overwhelm artistic inspiration.

    Have fun with this project. Turn the heat up in your dressing room (for me that’s my bedroom), so you don’t mind repeatedly changing your clothes. Crank up some perky tunes. Older girl children may want to “play dress-up” with you, and pre-schoolers can sit on the bed and keep you company. (I don’t recommend inviting your husband, he’s likely to be too distracted by the sight of you dressing and undressing to be of any help.)

    The downside to blogging about clothes is that now everyone is afraid to buy me any. On the upside, I don’t blog about fine jewelry.

    Sep 222014

    Most women want effortless style. (In fact, for far too many of us, the “effortless” outweighs the “style”, in our sartorial priorities.)

    In my own history, I have rebelled against the need for effort primarily in the embellishments: makeup, jewelry, and accessories. I still, at a deep level, wish I was “pretty enough to go without”. But, obviously, even the models and celebrities aren’t (if we believe those Photoshop YouTube’s).

    Have you seen the TED Talk by Virginia Postrel on glamour? In it, she points out that the essence of glamour is that the effort is not seen. If there is one thing I’ve learned in my journey to become a personal stylist, it is the secret to effortless style:

    hard work