Thursday, August 12, 2010

Remaning Stylish Whilst Roughing It: Casual Accessorizing Part One

Okay! Clothes, or putting it all together to look and feel fabulous in the out of doors! To (hopefully) illustrate the ideas in these posts, i put together six different outfits. Three are based on relaxed-fit khaki jean jacket and cargo pants (the ones in this post). The other three are based on a sleek-fitting black shell and black leggings (i would have preferred jeggings or fleece pants, but....). I show those three looks in the next post. The idea is you'll get a feeling for how much you can express your own personal style by changing out shoes, hats, scarves, tees or blouses, and jewelry around pretty basic functional outdoor wear.

How to start accessorizing your casual outdoor duds? Decide on which pieces you need to wear from the functional perspective. When you have that nailed down, look at what items can be changed out for more style - can you wear a graphic tee instead of that grey-black capilene tank? Converse sneaks instead of those beat-up pink cross trainers? Striped cotton knee socks to peak out the top of your norwegian pattern wooly socks instead of heather grey ankle liners? Would a straw cowboy hat work as well as that khaki bucket hat from L.L. Bean's 1992 catalog?

Now it's time to accessorize proper. Your main clothing pieces can be either mostly background (like in this first black floral themed outfit) or folded into the look (like in the southwest themed outfit at the end of this post). Either way if you choose your accessories to work together as a whole, they will pull your outfit together and put your style across.

You can choose accessories that work together in color, pattern, aesthetic 'style' (ie. steel cut engraving, comic book style, art deco), size of pattern or repeat, feeling associations (romantic, nostalgic, edgy, utilitarian), material (wood, gold, bakelite), texture, object depicted or some combination of these attributes. The eye will 'pick out' the similarities in objects near one another and you can use this to your advantage. Let's say you have a bright pink silk scarf with white polka dots. Next to a bunch of other polka-dotted scarves, you have a polka dot theme. Put it with a fuschia blouse, shocking pink bangles, and baby pink hat and you're doing the pink thing. Pair with lemon-yellow capris, a lime patent-leather belt, and mandarin orange shell and you're working brights. The same object can be a contributing part of many different looks depending on what you put it with. You can pull out any of it's attributes and use it in your outfits.

Disclaimer: These outfits were put together as visual illustrations. I went through the house and use whatever i could find (that's why i'm not wearing some of the shoes - they're not mine and they don't fit). The pink floral tunic is actually a gauzy, quasi see through tea length dress. But i've seen countless cotton blend tunics and tees in beautiful pinks, mauves, corals, turquoises, teals in gorgeous floral, paisley, and ethnic patterns. Any of those would work beautifully in a similar scheme. You may not feel comfortable in a silver chain belt with rhinestones, but a metallic leather belt would lend a similar sparkle to any outfit. I hope these illustrations inspire you to look at what you already have in a fresh new way and give you the knowledge to pick out more versatile pieces to add to your wardrobe.

Now i'm going to analyze the way i put together the elements in this first outfit in excruciating detail to explain these concepts. For the rest of the outfits i'll just point out a few highlights. Again, please leave any questions in the comments - i love to get your feedback!

I started with the pants and jacket, as these are classic, functional staples for outdoor wear. I next chose the cotton print blouse as my real 'base' for the look i was going to create. This print has black, white and grey colors, curvy, scrolling round lines, and flowers. The feeling associations include romantic, nostalgic, feminine, old fashioned. With that as my starting point, i started hauling out pieces that included some of these same elements.

That hat has black trim, is very round, and the bow has a romantic/nostalgic feel. The earrings have black bows, and the hearts reinforce the romantic/nostalgic vibe. Silver is the 'white metal' and the oxidized parts on the belt are black. The chain links are curvy, and the flowers are a nice bonus. Frankly, i wouldn't usually go with rhinestones out of doors (the glinting light can startle birds away) but the rest works. The lace scarf has a beautiful scrolling, curving design and expands the romantic theme. The ivory color helps to lighten the palette as well. I've found that sturdier, heavier laces work fine as outdoor scarves as long as they loop easily around your neck. You don't want one that's so long it's getting caught on branches, catching on fire down by your elbows, etc.

The wooly socks' black/white/grey color scheme echoes that of the blouse. Norwegian style knitted wear doesn't have much of a romantic feel, but it does have an old-fashioned flavor to it. And you are camping, where these type of socks are completely appropriate and functional, so they make sense in this outfit. It's a plus that the color scheme blends in so well. It's a similar idea with the bandanna - they are so classic an outdoor item, so useful, that they are just a 'given' in an outdoor outfit. The beauty of bandannas is that you can find them in a rainbow of colors so they can work in any outfit imaginable. The black/white color scheme, scrolling design, and old-school feel of this bandanna help it blend seamlessly into this look.

The ribbon flower pin has the floral thing happening, is romantic, nostalgic, old-fashioned.....but it's purple. In my judgment it's 'thematic' associations override the color, which is still pretty dark. That's what makes it 'personal' style. I don't show a mid-layer with this outfit, but a black fleecy, black white grey plaid flannel shirt, or grey floral corduroy shirt would all work nicely. Or you could take a cue from the pin and go dark purple to add some color depth.

Next is a tomboy look, inspired by my Converse sneaks. I chose bright colored florals to keep it more 'girly'. I layered a lace trimmed tank under the shirt for the same reason, as well as choosing a floral-embroidered hanky in a similar color scheme for the pocket square. (To keep from losing the hanky, safety pin it to the back of the pocket from the inside of the jacket.) The sneaks are navy so i chose a navy fedora to balance the top and bottom of the outfit. In sunny locales you'd want a bigger brim. These type of hats can be nice and warm if made of wool, or if you wear them over a knit cap or scarf.

My everyday watch takes on much more of a 'menswear' vibe when paired with these pieces. The tie would be more practical out of doors worn as a belt or tied around the hat. You could also tuck it into your waistband or button the shirt up a bit more and tuck it in the shirt. Pearl posts are ladylike but don't interfere with the tomboy feel. They even keep your holes from closing up.

Try a navy fleecy or 'boyfriend' cardigan, a plaid flannel shirt in bright yellows, oranges, blues, or a vintage athletic team hoodie from your favorite town as a mid layer piece with this look.

This is your basic southwestern look. Here the 'base' pieces (pants and jacket) contribute more to the overall look since the southwestern style is so outdoor-associated. So you can get the look across with fewer accessories. A straw version of a cowboy hat is cooler in the heat. Central American embroidery really works with these elements but is kind of unexpected. You can also find graphic tees with indigenous art on them - Hopi, Zuni, the tribes of the Pacific Northwest all have exquisitely beautiful art traditions. The silver and inlaid turquoise earrings are Zuni sun gods. I tied the little brown wallet on a string into the rest of the outfit by adding another silver inlaid piece on the front of it. (This wren is a pin/pendant, so i safety pinned the piece to the wallet through the pendant loop.)

The Norwegian-style socks don't look out of place because of their function, because they are also indigenous art, and because scale of the repetitive pattern so closely matches that on the shirt. The black bandanna is there 'just in case' and to add definition to the collar. It also ties in with the black edging on the socks. I find that outfits which are overall light in color can start to kind of blend out into the background unless you ground them with a touch of really dark color.

Good midlayers for this outfit would be a Norwegian style wool sweater in burnt orange, black and cream, a red and orange plaid flannel shirt, or a shirt or cardigan made of AmerIndian blanket style material.


  1. You must be the most stylish person ever seen on the trails. I'm impressed!!!

  2. thank you! i must say you do see some very stylish and some very eccentric people out on the trails. it's a big part of the fun ; )

  3. Until I found your blog, I would never even consider dressing up for the outdoors! You are truly inspiring! I am going to have to step up some of my outerwear!

  4. Hi Sheila! and of course we'll be seeing your new efforts on your're really expanding your range these days, what with your casual Saturday outfits (go check 'em out, people!) i'm looking forward to seeing what you come up with. steph