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.

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!

    Apr 012014

    Or What Anthropologists Wear.

    Speaking of values, as I was earlier in the week, brought this link to my inbox Pandora’s box (follow it at your peril: it leads to what in my experience was a couple hours good reading, if you follow any of the links therein): Conference Chic, or, How to Dress Like an Anthropologist.

    The Cliff Notes:

    black + ethnic jewelry

    To really fit in, wear a scarf 😉

    This formula can be further reduced to the following universal template:

    lifestyle segment basic required clothing
    nod to your personal values

    For the retiree, jeans and tee-shirt are the basics of the leisure lifestyle segment; white athletic shoes signify mobility, time, and money they can’t be white unless they’re new, right?

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    For the elementary school teacher, business casual is the base and the playful element states, “I enjoy children”. Which is as it should be. While this type of dress seems normal in early elementary; at university, it is just confusing.

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    Then there are those who use subtractive rather than additive methods to display their personal values: the very fit and the totally indifferent.

    Mar 192014

    Choosing a uniform template is a form of automating wardrobe decisions. In past years, I have really struggled to come up with a formula for spring; this year, it more or less fell in my lap (thanks, Vildy, for sending me the link!). From Cathy Horyn’s article Sign of the Times | Slave No More:

    Lately I’ve noticed many more women, all of them in the zone of careers and complicated family routines, all of them with an eye for fashion, gravitating toward an almost boyish uniform of slim-cut trousers, pullovers and flat shoes.

    I don’t know that I take that as much a rejection of fashion slavery as I do a particular moment in the fashion cycle; either the moment when stylish women turn to simplicity, rejecting the piled-on bells and whistles that appear late in the life of a look, OR simply a gamine moment. Either way, this is for me!

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    My spring 2014 uniform template:

    colored jeans + pullover + blazer + leather flats

    Pictured is one example of what I will be sporting this spring: the sweater was new with tags for about $7 at thrift, purple skinnies are a few years old and I am not planning on buying new pants this spring (perhaps another post). The third piece (not pictured) in this template is a fitted blazer; in this outfit, a chocolate brown velvet. If the weather is 50 degrees and rainy, I will wear boots; if 60 and sunny, flats.

    If I want to look like everyone else, I will roll the pants up. 😉

    Mar 182014

    Do you enjoy getting dressed? Or, like me, do you just enjoy being appropriately dressed?

    In his TEDx presentation, The Habits of Highly Boring People, business student Chris Sauve shares strategies for automating the decisions you don’t like to make, thereby freeing time and energy to focus on doing what you love:

    1) make the same choice every time. (Example: Steve Jobs and others who always wear the same thing.)
    2) let someone else choose. (Like the celebrities who use a personal stylist. Or the hero, who lets me choose most of his clothes.)

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    Some people enjoy composing outfits. Hey, I have even heard of people who enjoy cooking as a creative outlet! But the point of my culinary efforts has always been eating well with minimum effort; the goal of my blogging is a streamlined wardrobe planning process.

    Curating a functional and attractive (is that redundant?) wardrobe is a time-consuming task. If you don’t love the art of dressing, why not simplify this spring? Unless you are willing to delegate. 😉

    Feb 132014

    I had to stretch a little to find a confidence-related old post to re-run today. Not sure this is the best connection, but it seemed worth editing to re-post. The idea of settling on a formula to simplify dressing feels even more appropriate for today than it did when I first wrote this in February 2006.

    Most of us, when we consider the concept of wearing a uniform, find it somewhat restrictive. A few, however, would be relieved. If you are one of those few, pay close attention now. I have a suggestion to make your life easier. When I was growing up, my mom wore a uniform. Not a company logo polo shirt, or fatigues, or navy shirt and shorts; she had a certain formula for dressing that just worked for her – a template, if you will. Wearing a suit everyday in my former professional life was the same concept. Easy, but with variety not afforded by a traditional uniform.

    The project (this should be fun):

    • Get out your collages, clippings, or pin boards of looks you like, grouped by lifestyle segment.
    • Work on one season at a time. Depending on where you live, you may choose to work on Winter or Spring, or even Summer at this time of year.
    • Identify a “template” you would like to use for the season you are working on, in each category.
    • “Bottoms up”: Start with pants or skirt (or dress) and shoes; add jacket or sweater; connect with blouse or top. To be very thorough, plan also for jewelry and accessories, even undergarments.

    Here’s a fictional Winter template plan:

    Leisure = jeans + cotton tee-shirt + wool sweater
    Casual = wool trousers + dress shirt + blazer or cardigan Business = pant or skirt suit + silk blouse
    Social = dark sleeveless dress

    This concept adds structure to our thinking about what to wear. And I need to revisit. 😉 Comments, suggestions, snide remarks?

    Jan 282014

    In the aftermath of my recent wardrobe trauma, I have been strategizing how to avoid such trouble in the future. Realizing that it happens most when I am going to a daytime social event is a clue. I may be overthinking the impression I want to make on people. Or I may just not have the right undergarments 😉

    The first thing I tried on that day didn’t work because it didn’t fit at all. I had gotten a pair of purple, patterned tights at a clothing exchange and it never occurred to me that I should try them on. They came up just above my knees! Oh well.

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    image1.jpgIf, for some reason, I had rejected the suit I ended up wearing, my next option was this (dress from youngest daughter’s wedding, with tights and sweater). Wearing it to church the next day seemed like a good opportunity to test-drive an outfit. Although it was fine, it was not great. The dress is sleeveless and the sweater was a little bit itchy.

    Many people use this template to wear their summer dresses year-round.

    Sundress + tights + sweater

    This year I kept my summer clothes out, going for more variety, but I haven’t found them very useful. Do you have separate summer and winter wardrobes?

    Dec 242013

    Fila orange mesh tank.jpgScanning for color is one of my best time-saving shopping strategies, but I am afraid my color-scanner needs a tune-up. After living these many years thinking I was a “soft autumn”, I need to retrain my eye to notice lighter, brighter colors.

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    When, the other day, the hero and I were out doing some Christmas shopping – ’cause who doesn’t look just a little for themselves? 😉 – this orange tank top, $7 on clearance at Kohls, caught my eye. In a solid fabric, it might (or might not) be too intense for me, but in mesh the color is softened by what I wear under. As I retrain my color sensibility, I am finding that the bigger problem (than intensity) is actually mutedness.  Sticking to my David Zyla colors simplifies everything.

    I haven’t fully decided how I will incorporate this piece into my exercise wardrobe. One thought:

    swim shorts + bikini top + mesh tank

    The YMCA requires, but does not define, modest swimwear. Thoughts?

    Dec 032013

    You know that moment when you realize that everyone is wearing, eating, drinking, carrying, listening to, or some-other-how sporting the same thing? And, worse, maybe something you haven’t even noticed before now?  This happened to me a few weeks ago.

    Around the time the cold settled permanently in, I swung by the coffee stand in our neighborhood on my way home from thrifting.  Both baristas were wearing the following uniform template:

    leggings & boots + tee & gauzy scarf  long, shaped cardigan

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    Designer brand clothing, shoes & handbags on saleI doubt they called each other up the night before and planned to dress similarly. Their hair was similar too. Suddenly I felt very uncool; it had not yet occurred to me to put together such an outfit.

    But it was exactly what I needed later in the day when I dressed for the exercise studio.  Worn with boots and a long sweater, workout pants (even capris) look just like casual clothes.  I could wear that template all day long!

    image.jpgimage1.jpgExcept I cannot find sweaters.   Until now, I couldn’t even find a picture to post to show you. This was in today’s Shop It To Me mail.

    All this time I have been shopping, thinking that the reason I couldn’t find a sweater to cover my b_++ pockets was the proportions of my figure. Apparently not 😉

    I think I prefer hi-lo with the hi in the front and lo on the back, not the other way around!