Saturday, April 21, 2012

Suddenly Summer

 After a chilly, damp spring which lasted until about Wednesday, we're predicted to hit 90F today. The weather is changing that quick! Well, that dratted 'real life' has been getting in the way of my blogging duties this last week. I managed to drive too much, thus missing Closet Housewives last night (J's wonderful craft - music - food gatherings). I'm keeping to hearth and home (and out of any cars) for the next few days to prepare for the Bread-i-nar coming up Saturday. Mom has generously agreed to teach a few of us greenhorns the ins and outs of sourdough French country bread. Wish us luck, and send mom a nice web-based group hug!

I've seen local stylist Jennifer Robin's book Growing More Beautiful at several local bookstores. It's very differently written and illustrated than any other book on how to dress yourself. I find myself more and more drawn to her outlook and wisdom, though at first encounter it seemed too touchy-feely for me. You know how sometimes you're just kinda stupid about things? Yep, that was me about this.

A few days ago i saw the book again and just had to write down some of her thoughts to share with all of you. My mind is too stuffed with ideas to write coherently, so enjoy Jennifer Robin's thoughts and please share any of your own reactions with the rest of us.

On shopping and identifying 'enough', how to know when you're hungry and when you're feeling satisfied: "Our consumer culture counts on you feeling like you are never perfect enough......Knowing I am in this for the long haul helps me stay focused...." 

"...even if money weren't an issue it isn't satisfying to have more clothes than you have days to wear them."

On living and dressing yourself in an authentic and creative manner: 
"We grow and learn in a messy and inexact way . To live a creative life, you need permission to do things poorly."

Not many letters or words, but how much would you have to change in order to embody their meaning? Jennifer's whole book is full of these kind of paradigm-popping ideas.

Heigh-ho, looks like our heroine Ms. Robin has been doing a wee bit o'bloggin' herself! I'm heading over to check it out as soon as i post this - why not you too?

Friday, April 13, 2012

Comfort Equals Style

I'm doing a post and run this morning before a busy day. We're getting drenched here, very unusual weather for this time of year. And unusual for this area at any time - the weather service counted 750 lightning strikes in the San Francisco Bay area last nite! We awoke repeatedly to huge, rolling, baroque thunder all through the night. Exciting and dramatic, but by mid-afternoon i bet i'll be ready for a nap.

I've been dressing for comfort in easy-dry clothing for my walks, then donning comfy yet put together duds for the day at home. Here in the U.S. the thinking is so constricted about comfort. You are either wearing sweats, a tee, or jeans (possibly leggings) or you are dying of pain and constriction and suspiciously vain. Growing up in the 1960's and 70's i couldn't help but notice that thick, stiff seams running up my tender inner thighs to even more tender areas wasn't feeling 'comfy and relaxed' to me. But when i wore soft, wide trousers with a big of ease i was accused of being 'so dressy and stiff'.

Early on i figured i better chart my own path in these matters and started to pay attention to how particular fabrics and cuts actually felt when i wore them. This came to mind recently when i looked in the mirror and realized that this look would be dubbed 'dressy', 'fussy', 'too fancy to relax in' by many people of my acquanintance.

Yet - cotton leggings provide warmth and total freedom of movement. Ditto for the rayon/spandex wrap top. Both silk crepe slip and poly chiffon skirt feel like nothing, and wash in the sink in a snap.  All-over patterns in dark colors hide the odd stain or two.  And nothing's more comfy and fun than a low heeled slip-on sandal.
yep, high humidity = big hair
 I have to say that i've found absolutely no connection between comfort and style. Some dressy, stylish, pulled together looks feel fabulously comfortable, even luxurious on the body; while some of the most uncomfortable clothing i've ever worn has been stereotypical comfort wear. (Huge handfuls of scratchy poly sweat/fleece bunched up between your legs? ugh.) And in my philosophy the more comfortable you feel, the more you will exude style. Frankly, this false equivalency mythology is one of my biggest bugaboos regarding dressing. How many times have i heard, "Oh, i'd love to dress up like you do but i just want to be comfortable....." (Usually said with the implication that their version of comfortable is more 'authentic', but that's another story.)

What's your experience with comfort vs. style?

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Color Theory In Your Closet: Complementary Color Schemes

Coral/Tangerine with Two Complementary Blue Jackets

First, a definition. The terms 'complementary' and 'opposite' really mean the same thing when it comes to color theory. They refer to colors which are straight across from each other along the diameter of the color wheel. In other words, if you draw a straight line across the color wheel but only slice off a little sliver that is not a complementary relationship. Complementary colors are the colors at either end of a line that cuts your color circle in half. This is what we mean when we say colors are opposite each other.

 Complementary color schemes use hues which sit opposite each other on the color wheel, as do the outfits in our first example. This gorgeous chiffon dress contains orange, fushcia, gold, ivory, and olive green tones. I pulled out the dominant tangerine color to select two jackets in orange's traditional opponent color: blue. In the look on the left the color scheme is varied by using a baby blue which is much less saturated than the tangerine. The accessories echo the tangerine, and as the blue is so lightly saturated this outfit comes across as an orange outfit with the baby blue in a neutral role.

orange and royal blue (the blue on the left) are strict opposites (as in the tangerine dress and the riding jacket). yet the warmer blue (the book on the right) works just as well (as in teh tangerind dress and the soft blue jacket).

In the outfit on the right, the blue is just as saturated as the tangerine in the dress. Any time you use the colors in a scheme at the same saturation, the eye will focus on the relationship between those two colors more than on other features of the outfit. The beautiful asymmetric shape of this riding jacket was just a lovely bonus! I kept the focus on the battling colors of tangerine and royal blue by using neutral accessories. Booties, cuff, and earrings all have a woven or basket weave texture, which i liked against the printed chiffon. The ultra-high heel on the booties and color toned to skin will compensate for any leg-shortening effect of the high vamp.

But how many times do you have pieces which happen to live exactly opposite one another on the color wheel? What do you do if you don't have the exact opposites? To answer question one is - more often than you might think. One rule of color theory is this: If you can wear a color well, you will wear it's exact opposite on the color wheel equally well. Since this rule applies whether you know it or not, you will often have opposites in your wardrobe because they both look great on you so you've purchased them over the years. This rule works wonders for expanding your wardrobe color palette as well. Take all of the colors you love, locate them on the color wheel and find their opposites. If you don't like the opposites as much but like the way they punch up your faves, use the complementaries in less saturated or shaded colors.
Coral Dress with Complementary Jackets: Green & Blue

Neither of the toppers in the second polyvore picture are exact opposites to the coral  of this sculptural sheath. The jade green of the coat is over to the yellow side of exact opposite, but that warmth is present in the dress as well. Both pieces are made of a flat textured fabric with similar drape, and both have a little grey overwash. All of these elements help to tie the pieces together. I liked the color story so much i chose jade for most of the accessories, varying textures for interest. Can you believe those cuffs!?!?! Elbow length sleeves with mis-matched cuffs is a great look on anyone, and truly outstanding if you are long, slender and graceful in the wrists and hands. I couldn't resist the way the bows on those patent leather pumps echoed the draping on the dress' hips. Of all the looks i've been creating for this series, this is the one outfit i'm very sorry is not in my closet!

the jade of the coat lies between these two colors (aqua and grass green), which in turn veer to the warm side of this orange's true opposite hue

The outfit on the right also goes to show that "close enough is often good enough" when it comes to choosing color opposites. The Chanel style jacket's blue is nicely balanced between warm and cold. I really liked the similar textures on the jacket and purse, and the clutch functions as the main accessory in this look with it's strong color, pattern, and texture. I chose neutrally colored pumps and earrings in order to let the clutch shine. However, small gold details on earrings and pumps tie them in to the clutch with it's gold chain strap. The gold details also lend a bit more finish for when you're out on the dance floor sans clutch and jacket. The truly observant (and the foot fetishist) will be rewarded with tiny skulls returning their curiosity, right above your tootsies. Details make all the difference.

Again, the royal blue of the Chanel-style jacket is between the two blue books on this color wheel, which is to the cool side of this coral's exact complementary color 

I hope that these examples help you see that you can 'tweak' color schemes to suit your closet, what's out there in the stores, even your own tastes. Take a look around at different color schemes that catch your eye and see if some of them are tweaked or do not adhere exactly to the rules. Do you like them better than standard interpretations or not? Practicing identifying color schemes, saturation, warmth and coolness, and so on in your surroundings and in media is the best, quickest way to hone your eyes and increase your skills. The basic principles aren't that complicated, but you can get so many variables interacting that two similar schemes come across very differently. Just take it bit by bit and you'll learn.

Off topic, i have to say that i've been plagued by some truly wretched earworms of late. BE WARNED: none of the links in this paragraph are realistically safe for work! First, i watched a video of Bohemian Rhapsody (good lord, ole Fred in his jammies with the widdle wings on the wrists). Lately, the vapid thumping behind 'the guy with the forehead fro who did the slackline in the superbowl', as one guy on the Rigorous Intuition forum put it. If you know of any way to break this tedious curse, please help a sufferer out and comment!

As always, questions or requests for clarification are very welcome! Next up, our final color scheme: the triad.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Cursed Camera!

Fiddle! After a mild winter, we're experiencing a bit of a cold snap - just when we're in the mood for spring!  The frustrating part is that it's not too awful cold around here, just in the low fifties. But it's definitely too cold to wear sandals and little flippy skirts with no hose, a thin tee and cotton jacket.

But as they say, "Hope springs eternal..." and that's exactly what i wore Saturday morning to run a few errands. It was fun and very spring-y, my legs looked long in the gas station windows, i even felt a bit 'French'! However, once i got home and prepared to head out to Berkeley for the afternoon and evening common sense prevailed. I changed into jeans and my leather bomber jacket. Warmer and wiser!

 However i'm not too impressed with these pictures.These snaps do affirm my preference for a bit of a vee neck. I love crew necks for their spartan, classic feel but i look so top-heavy i'm surprised i don't topple over. I did have some fun with GIMP, it's funny how much photo editing can enliven 'blah' pictures.I like the first image worked over to look like it's been hanging around since the mid-1970's in non-archival conditions. Definitely more mysterious, maybe even a little ahead of my time!

Whilst out and about we stopped in DIESEL bookstore. I sat down in one of the graciously provided comfy chairs to peruse the latest Alabama Chanin offering, Alabama Studio Sewing + Design. Yowza! I spent 30-45 minutes ogling, soaking up, plotting and scheming......The brilliance of this particular Alabama Chanin book is that it tells you how to accomplish all of the individual components of their trademark style - how to stencil, embroidery techniques, permanent marker embellishments, garment construction, and so on - and then shows many examples of finished garments. This allows the reader to mix and match the various parts in order to create her own custom piece.

image from Alabama Chanin: Kristina's Rose Skirt Kit
 I actually had trouble sleeping for a couple of hours after i lay down because my brain simply could not stop turning over fabrics, threads, stitches, stencils. I'm very attracted to the luxe feel of the overall embellishment using layered techniques - stencils, topped by pen, then cut outs, followed by embroidery, then beading. All of this handwork develops a truly rich fabric which Alabama Chanin's very simple garments showcase to perfection. If i don't make something inspired by this book i'll go mad!

image from Alabama Chanin: Anna's Garden Fitted Top

It strikes me that a simple cap sleeve tee and slight A-line skirt in matching fabric could be worn separately quite casually, as well as at once for a more formal dress. With the springtime return of swallows and swifts i can't help but think of an all over stencil pattern based on swifts in flight.

image from Saisons de Sainte-Cecile
 I haven't mentioned yet that Alabama Chanin constructs all of her pieces using strictly hand sewing. You cannot find any machine 'work-arounds' in any of her do it yourself books, either.  This contributes enormously to the beauty of these garments, and also eliminates lack of machine experience as an impediment. Plus its so nice to have a hand work project to occupy yourself when you're not sleepy but not sharp enough to accomplish any real brain-work. Not to mention it's perfect for long telephone calls!

Do any of you have opinions about/experience with the Alabama Chanin books and/or clothing? Is spring getting here fast enough for you? I'm linking this one up to Patti's Visible Monday as soon as the post is up and i can get to a computer. Be sure to take a look, i always discover great new ladies as well as spying my favorites!

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Report On Repeats

As you know, around the end of last year i decided to let go of my decades-long remixing compulsion and repeat some of my fave outfits, for heaven's sake!  One quarter of the year later, i have yet to repeat a look verbatim. However, i have reaped many benefits from my 'resolution'.

i was tickled at the way the bottom of the tunic peeked out below the jacket - like a peplum

To help in my repeating efforts i started a 'GRAND SLAM' folder. This includes all outfits i loved unconditionally. I loved the way they looked, i was physically and emotionally comfortable wearing them, they are right in line with my style sense and goals, they're appropriate for the occasion and activity. Surprisingly and very happily i'm at around 30 outfits now, and i need to add a handful (i haven't updated this folder since January).

I heartily recommend starting this kind of folder or list yourself. It's handy for repeating looks of course, but also for getting a visual 'style statement', identifying wardrobe holes and wardrobe workhorses for shopping lists, identifying color and texture holes and workhorses, and getting a feel for how potential wardrobe additions will fit into your existing closet. This type of document is also plain fabulous for cheering yourself up when you're feeling down or like you're in a style rut. How fun to inspire yourself for a change, instead of looking exclusively to others!

the first inspiration look

These two looks were spawned by the GRAND SLAM folder without being strict repeats. I came up with the first look the afternoon before a busy day. I like to lay out my entire look (down to jewelry and undies) the night before to make the morning less hectic. I checked the weather, and since i was feeling kind of scatter-brained i took at look at my GRAND SLAM folder for ideas. As it happened, the first look in the folder was it! Cute, not too dressy, shoes very easy to walk and drive in, and i was really feeling the column of dark color with a light colored contrasting jacket and hat on top.

I pulled the black embroidered tunic out (the only piece which occurs in both inspiration and final looks). I'd worn my black cargo capris recently and was still in the mood for them, and as they also create a dark column with the top they were in. The original look features (!) my Bass oxfords. My Bass Lamont boots are the same leather, last, and heel, plus they look great with the cargo capris. Perfect substitute. My Anne Klein for Vogue Patterns jacket would have worked well, but the jean jacket is just a touch warmer and stretchier. The day was predicted to be a kind of cool, so i chose the denim. I wore i tank under the tunic and wool socks for warmth as well.

re: accessories. Same earrings, same watch, but i'd restrung my pearl necklace and mixed it up so that it's a shorter length but with bigger pearls (i also used bright orange embroidery thread and added a big grey pearl as an accent). In a closet cleanup the beautiful 'snow lion' scarf resurfaced, adding a nice lighter accent to replace the hat (which is a little fussy for driving and wrassling a pooch).

I did not wear this particular iteration out on the public thoroughfares
Really, the importance of color-coordinated layering in our Bay Area climate cannot be overemphasized! The day turned out to be gorgeous and much warmer than predicted. As the day wore on, off came the scarf, the jacket, and finally the tunic. Visitors from out of the area, take my example to heart when packing and dressing for the golden state! I was relieved i wore a modest and snazzy tank under the tunic instead of a ratty old cami. Not that i have any of those.

inspiration look numero two
My second almost-repeat is much closer to it's inspiration, and i wore it 'as is' all day. I was having family and friends over for food, baking, haircuts, gabbing through the afternoon and evening. I wanted something easy to move in, a bit festive, and shoes that i could stand in for a long time. Honestly, the last criteria wasn't a deal-breaker as in my own house i could easily take my shoes off and go barefoot or even change my shoes every hour if i felt like it! But, that was my mood that day and i figured why not indulge your mood in your dress, given all the areas where you cannot indulge.

However. I'd come up with the inspiration look during my  "walking look" project and my favorite part was the way the patterns on the belt and the top worked together. The jeggings just set off the top and belt perfectly, and they are excruciatingly comfortable! I didn't need a jacket indoors (plus you can see the top better without it). So the main thing was what shoes? I'd been thinking about my black lace socks since i'm considering getting a similar pair in navy (the better to highlight the russet tones of my Fossil Savanas), and you know how much i love my rugged contrasted with lace. Done deal!

I really enjoyed this outfit - it was pretty and had just enough detail to feel festive for guests, with all that stretch i was completely physically at ease, little boots were perfect for a "sit up stand down go go go" day. It seems whenever i start some challenge or resolution it turns out differently than i thought, but i can't recommend starting your own "GRAND SLAM" file enough!

Raise your hand if you keep a record of your best looks. If you don't, tell us why not and we'll peer-pressure you into starting!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Color Theory In Your Closet: Analogous Color Schemes

We're almost to the fun part - outfits! First, a word about the color wheel. The color wheel illustrates relationships between colors. Any colors which stand in the same relationship to each other on the color wheel will 'work' or 'not work' in the same way. In the rest of this series we will be working with three relationships or color schemes: analogous, complementary, and triad. Colors in analogous relationship sit right next to each other on the color wheel. If you sliced a pie in four or six slices, all the colors in each individual slice would form an analogous scheme. Complementary colors sit right across from each other, they are opposite each other on the color wheel. Finally, triadic colors sit each one at the points of an equilateral triangle.

You will notice that i have changed the arrangement of my books on these color wheels to reflect their true position on the color wheel, as opposed to how many books i have in each hue.

First Outfit Colors in their Positions on the Color Wheel, including Lime
 In this post we'll look at a couple of outfits which illustrate analogous color schemes. The first outfit draws from the orange through red-orange hues. The first thing that strikes you about this look are the vividly saturated, super warm hot tomato skirt and sizzling tangerine blazer. Both pieces are made in fairly 'flat' fabrics with little texture. If you complete an outfit using similarly saturated, flat pieces the looks will have a strong graphic feel, almost 'mod'. But i wanted to show you a few ways you can play with this color scheme to add interest and to drive the aesthetic in different ways. You can also use these tricks to 'make do' when you have gaps in your first-choice color scheme.

The first way to vary a color scheme is to employ a number of different textures. The bag and cuff are both very close in hue and saturation to the skirt and top, but the bag is leather with a nice pebbley texture and the cuff has beautiful polished cabochons. You can also vary the saturation of the colors, as in the lightly saturated background peach of this lovely floral blouse. Prints work beautifully in analogous schemes. You can key the color scheme to any color in the print - a dominant color as in this example is the most obvious, but you can choose a less dominant color for a more dramatic, unexpected feel. Choosing saturation levels in the rest of your outfit that differ from the level in the print is a little more unexpected, but it works quite nicely. You can use this trick when you feel certain saturation levels are more flattering worn next to your face, or when you have restricted choices in your closet.

By now i hope you've noticed that the shoes are nothing like orange, red, or red-orange. They work because they are lime-green, a hue which is complementary to red-orange, or it's opposite in the color wheel. We'll discuss complementary schemes in the next post in this series. This is another way to add some spice to a color scheme - 'embed' a different color scheme into the dominant scheme. In this case, the bulk of the outfit is built around one scheme (analogous), but one part relates to a color in the rest of the outfit in another way (complementary). But you can mix any two color schemes you like. It sounds very complicated to explain the theory of it, but in practice it's easy and unexpected. This way of working with color will develop naturally as you become more conscious of color relationships.

Blue thru RedViolet Analogous Colour Scheme

This look is more strictly analogous. To tell you the truth i had some trouble finding enough colors to give you a variety of examples in polyvore.  This reflects my experience that within a single year or season the variety of colors offered in clothing is pretty limited. If you want to accumulate a wide range of colors to work with you need to commit to shopping over a number of years in order to accumulate a wide palette.

Anyways, getting back to this outfit, i again used patterns and pulled the dominant colors of both patterns as part of the analogous color scheme. As a rule, making sure that all of the items in your outfit are either warm or cool is a good way to keep the look pulled together and cohesive. However, analogous color schemes give you a way to get around that rule. The booties, groovy fringe bag, and scarf in this look all have warm undertones, but they work well with the cool toned skirt, blouse, jacket and other accessories because of how close they all are to each other in the color wheel. There's a lot more dramatic texture in this outfit than in the first look. In fact, using an analogous color scheme is a wonderful way to tie together a look with so many different textures and patterns going on. Traditionally you think of using a monochromatic look (one hue only) to accomplish this. But analogous schemes work just as well, are much livelier, and are a lot more on trend with this season's mass explosion of color on the fashion scene.

Second Outfit Colors in their Positions on the Color Wheel

The other aspect of this outfit i wanted to point out is the use of neutrals, in this case the silver and black jewelry and jacket hardware. Neutrals are awesome, as you can use them as much or as little as you want in any color scheme whatsoever. The true neutrals are black, white, and the range of greys (dark, medium, and light greys; warm through cool). Other colors which work as de facto neutrals are the khaki/camel/ivory range, the olive drab range, gold and silver metals, and denims. It is possible to use more than one neutral in an outfit (for example black and white). But it can get tricky, and it's hard to explain why - let me just say that it's more advanced color use. If you are just starting and want to be confident in your choices, stick to one neutral color and one neutral metal per outfit. If you just want to have fun playing around with color, go with what looks good to you and what you want to wear!

In this outfit, i pulled black from the skirt's print and silver from the jacket's hardware in choosing the jewelry to put with this look. You could switch out the blue jacket for a black one, or wear black knee high boots instead of the red-violet ones very easily and still maintain that vividly colorful effect.

Again, please ask if you have any questions. And, as you surf through your favorite style blogs, see if you can spot any outfits using an analogous color scheme! Interior design mags, fashion mags, even garden mags and all types of advertising are great to study to dissect their color schemes to sharpen your skills and find inspiration. Next up in the color series: Complementary Color Schemes.

Blue thru RedViolet Analogous Colour Scheme

Blue thru RedViolet Analogous Colour Scheme

Blue thru RedViolet Analogous Colour Scheme by tinyjunco featuring flutter sleeve tops

Hi all! polyvore published this automatically, i didn't mean it to - then i saw that Patti of Not Dead Yet had left a comment, so i'm leaving this up! I wasn't thinking of her at the time but she would be an absolute knockout in this look! Anyways, hopefully i'll figure this machine stuff out and publish my next color theory post later today.