Monday, August 2, 2010

How This Outfit Came About

Hi everybody! I hope you all have had a nice week or so. When i got back into town and got a little caught up on my blog reading, i noticed Sal at Already Pretty had posted a suggestion box. Many of the commenters requested information on how to build smaller wardrobes, how to dress in the heat, and how to put together new outfits. It heartened me to realize that some people actually are interested in what i'm talking about here! And it also encouraged me to write more explicitly about my ideas and practices in these areas, since everybody has different ideas and experiences.

I've also noticed that many of my readers and commenters create some stunning outfits on a regular basis themselves. So please 'tell all' in the comments and feel free to post any links to posts you may have written on this topic. I'll copy them to the body of the post so people will be sure to see them. (p.s. if anyone wants to do a guest post please let me know - i will contact you
immediately upon regaining consciousness.)

UPDATE: i should've gotten farther on my 'catching up' before posting - here's a great profile of Gitte Lee on Advanced Style. Ms. Lee takes the concept of a template to it's strictest extreme and ends up looking consistently elegant. Some might use the term 'uniform', but that's way too boring to apply!

As a rule, i wear outfits comprising a top, a bottom, and a jacket. It's one of my basic 'templates' for getting dressed.
Using the template process will really help you come up with new outfits, find the holes in your wardrobe, and 'shop your closet'. If you haven't already, it's a good exercise to look or think through past successful outfits and find the common structure. Can you develop one or more 'templates' from your successful outfits? Any time you create a great outfit, make a note of the pieces and how you put them together. Does it fit a pre-existing template or can you use it to create a new template?

If you write or sketch out your templates you can use them to help you generate more outfits from your existing wardrobe. Pick a piece of clothing you want to wear and a template you'd like to work with. Identify which part of the template that article will fill, then add more items piece by piece. A little later in this post i walk you through this process using this outfit as an example.

Templates can also help you identify which pieces to acquire in order to create the most new outfits from your existing stock of clothes. For example, in my case (many moons ago), i identified the 'top, bottom, jacket' template. If i go to my wardrobe and notice i have plenty of tops and bottoms, but only two jackets, i know where to focus my efforts. Get more jackets! At the same time, can any of my existing tops 'work' as that jacket layer? Any button-down shirt with a little structure will fit the bill, as will many sweaters.

So. This outfit here. I confess, i don't plan my outfits the week or even the night before, barring some big event or an out of town trip. I wake up, flail about, and get dressed. This morning was a little cold and foggy, so i decided to go with pants. These cargos are the only pair i have light enough for summer, so these cargos were the starting point. I got the bottom. For some unknown reason, i was in the mood for a little sparkle or glitz. This Ann Ferriday tank or shell has metallic details in the lace and metallic beading at the base of the 'vee'. I pulled it on. However. It's pretty low cut, and this was going to be a bopping around the house and a walk kind of day, no nightclubbing or fancy dinners. Using a scarf to 'fill in' a neckline is a centuries old practice. I rifled through my scarves - this one was the right shape, i liked the muted grey-blue next to the berry tones of the top, PLUS it has mild metallic gold stripes.

On to the jacket. This outfit already had enough color for me, and i liked the overall 'fitted' line that was developing (that top is skin-tight). The palm tree jacket is just about the same color as the cargo pants and when belted creates a longer lean type line. I wanted a stronger waist so i wore the Coach belt instead of the tooled one. It's not that cold out, so i rolled up the sleeves and the pant legs. I thought a small head would look better with the overall leaner look. I have two hats that create a smaller head, and the other one is a dark brown leather that would look a little harsh against the light khakis of the rest of the outfit. The dark brown of the belt and of the (again, smaller) shoes add a bit a structure or grounding to the palette without calling too much attention to themselves. The earrings are comfortable and go with everything, so that wrapped it up.

I use this process quite often when getting dressed. I decide on a likely template for the day. Then i choose a piece of clothing i'd like to wear that day, based on the weather and whatever i'll be doing. I plug that piece into the template in my head and start filling in the rest of the template, based on weather, my activities, and the color and style of the first piece. As i add more pieces to the finished look, my choices for the remaining pieces generally become more restricted, which makes the process less overwhelming and more natural than it might appear to be upon description.

What tips, tricks, theories or spells do you find helpful in creating new outfits? Any that are especially helpful when you are stuck or feeling worn out of ideas? Let it out!

Jacket: Issey Miyake for Vogue Patterns, made by me
Top: Ann Ferriday
Pants: Columbia
Belt: vintage Coach
Shoes: old Borns
Hat, Necklace: gifts
Earrings: own design


  1. I like this outfit, and I like hearing how other people put outfits together. I'm not on the "work with a small wardrobe" train, because I love bargain/thrift shopping (i.e. I can get high quality pieces at low, low prices), and I don't want to limit myself. However, my closet size is finite, so I do weed through it about 4 times a year and get rid of things that don't ring my bell anymore.

    I pick my outfits by focussing on one item (maybe shoes, maybe a dress, maybe a vintage jewelry piece or maybe something I've only worn once or twice), then I play off that, by holding stuff up to it and seeing how it goes together.

    I've never thought of them as templates, but I do have particular looks that I go to on a regular basis. I don't keep a style book, notes or anything aside from my blog to record combinations. I don't really think about it too much!

  2. holding stuff up to the closet/jewelry box/etc. is a great one. and the small vs. larger wardrobe is a very personal choice, it depends on a lot of factors.

    you know, for decades i just approached clothing pretty unconsciously....things just happened and it was fine.

    then about ten years ago so many things changed in my life - hit middle age, got married, moved to a different climate than i'd ever lived in before, i got seriously ill and gained 60-80 pounds from steroids.....and nothing worked anymore. i've always been one of those 'super sensitive to clothes' people so i couldn't really just go to target ,fill a shopping cart, and be done with it.

    so i ended up having to put a lot of thought, research, creativity and trial and error into creating a wardrobe that would work for where and who i was NOW. that process is a lot intellectually harder than it would seem, and i developed a lot of creative and communication skills from going through it. but it was a BIG change for me!

    and weeding out your closet 4 times a year? you're an example to us all!!!

  3. Of all the jackets you have made, I love the palm jacket most - the palms just are so perfect, and the cut is so good on you.