Thursday, November 18, 2010

Have Fun With Your Clothes!

Double outfit post today....actually triple outfit (including the one i posted on Monday).  Recently i've been focusing on my Europa Geisha Blouse,which i made out of cotton Geisha printed fabric using La Fred's Europa Blouse pattern.

my Europa blouse - pattern by La Fred

I've worn three pretty different outfits which each feature this blouse over the last 2-3 weeks, and it got me thinking about what made this blouse so versatile for me.  After all, while it's not completely over the top in pattern, fabric, or styling, it's not a plain black tee shirt or button down blouse.  Flexibility is the key to avoiding boredom with a small wardrobe, so how to pull off this type of manouevre?

First, color.  I've explained before about color in the small wardrobe. My two 'foundation' colors are black and beige, so the parchment/tan of this fabric fits right in. I chose beige as one of my colors precisely because there are so many variations of beige: taupe, khaki, tan, ecru, dark ivory, eggshell, on and one. They all play nicely together and all play just as nicely with black.  Grey could play the same role in a person's wardrobe: charcoal, ash, cobweb, pearl grey.........although for me grey falls under the 'watered-down form of black' category.   Any other colors in my wardrobe have to go well with both beige and black in order to make it in.  As it happens, that's not much of a restriction, so how do i choose?

Secondly, choose only pieces that flatter your particular physical form. We all know the many many items out there that we can't wait to get our hands on - they're so cute, it's the color of the season, vinyl is so fashion forward, i've always wanted to rock a PVC corset ever since i saw one on Sarah Jessica Parker, it looks just gorgeous on my kid's first grade teacher, Tim Gunn says every woman needs a trench coat, if i just belt it and hem it and wear that scarf near my face to 'take care of' the color.......blah blah blah.  You don't want these type of clothes, as fun as they may be.

 Then there's you standing in flourescent light wearing two-sizes-too-big grey sweats, with a 102 degree fever, and you put on the floppy aubergine paisley blouse and all of a sudden you look like a million bucks. It's not in style or out of style, no spectacular 'features' to it. You can ball it up in your hand and it's nothing special there. But when you put it on, you just look fabulous. 

You want those type of clothes.  The 'you look like a million bucks' clothes.

Certain colors, fits, shapes, textures, types of patterns, sizes of patterns, and hem lengths will flatter your form while many others will not.  You can determine these characteristics by actually trying on a bunch of different items and taking pictures or notes, then studying them. Look for clothes that you don't have to 'work with' in order for them to make you look great.  There are plenty of looks you can pull off - with work.  This exercise is about finding the effortless pieces. You don't have to buy anything, especially before you've nailed down what really flatters - it may take time to determine how to work what flatters in with your lifestyle, comfort requirements, etc.

 Even if, to begin with, the really flattering items might seem a little all over the place, with time and observation you will begin to find the common threads. Clothes that truly flatter you will tend to 'go together' because they will have so many commonalities. These commonalities are determined by your own physical aesthetic. The Triumph of Individual Style by Carla Mason Mathis and Helen Villa Connor is an excellent explication of this concept. (Click 'show more formats' to see the really cheap older paperback versions - the information is just as good.) It will instruct you on everything you need to know about color theory, proportion, art history, and how all this relates to dressing your body beautifully. 


Thirdly, clothes that have 'built in' flexible styling options will be easier to style in multiple ways.  That's why so many 'top twenty' lists feature the white button-down shirt with collar. White goes with all colors, you can button it all the way up, leave it open, tie it at the waist (buttoned or open), tuck it in, belt it out (buttoned or un)....all with the collar turned up or down.  Not to mention what you can do with the addition of scarves, necklaces, camis, tees...

the geisha ladies on my Europa blouse
A crewneck or turtleneck sweater, for example, is just inherently more limited.   There's no way to change the neckline without scissors. You can try wearing it backwards, but it basically looks the same (except for the stitching holding the tag on). These types of items are great for base pieces in layerings, but they tend to always look pretty similar.  You can't rely on them to provide a variety of looks. 

Pieces with removable collars, fastenings up the front or back, different necklines back and front (so you can wear it backwards for a different look), loose fits in thin fabrics which can be belted in or layered over, pieces with ties which can be tied or bowed in different ways, skirts which can be pulled up to look shorter or pinned up at the hem - pieces with these types of features allow you a lot more room to play.
me having maybe a little too much fun with my clothes
That's why i sliced up the front of this olive drab turtleneck to turn it into a cardigan. I've worn it more in the last month than i ever did in the previous six years i had it. 

So, my dear readers, do you have any tricks of guidelines for getting more 'looks' out of your clothes? Is it possible to have too much fun with your clothing? Tell all!

Europa Geisha Blouse: La Fred Europa Blouse
Plaid Sundress: Liz Claiborne
Olive Drab Turtleneck: Macy's mens store, rapidly becoming vintage

Shoe Boots: MaineWoods
Belt: old

Sage Crochet Sweater: April Cornell
Tee: Merona at Target
Skirt: own design, inspired by some girls wander
Shoes: Bass Lacey Heeled Oxfords
Belt: vintage Coach

Monday's outfit post


  1. First of all, I love your motto of having fun with your clothes! That is muy, muy importante!
    Second, I just love that little geisha print AND the blouse pattern. I am always a sucker for an eastern aesthetic!
    great ensembles!

  2. Thank you Paula! i had an inkling you mite like that's not the type of thing that screams 'blouse!' but that's one of the things i like about this Europa pattern - it shows off more unusual fabrics quite nicely.

    FUN - muy muy muy, indeed!! : ) steph

  3. I love the green lacey cardi outfit - so pretty!

    I like the structure of that blouse - not too frilly.

  4. Hi Sheila! i so agree - if i could find something similar to that cardi in black and in a cobwebbey-grey, i would be in HEAVEN!!

    La Fred's patterns are some of the best being produced these days, imo...really well thought out and very versatile. and they don't date. (not that patterns have a social life, but - oh heck!) happy almost friday! steph

  5. Test. I've left a comment on every post for the past week or so, but none are showing up...I'm wondering if they are going through.

    perhaps I haven't been patient enough to type in the word verification. This is just a test, feel free to delete.

  6. You seem to be having a lot of inspiration lately.I mostly like the first outfit but all the other outfits are equally beautiful.I admire that you really love your clothes.Apparently the longer you have your clothes and the more you wear,the more you love them.Is that so?

  7. ach, Terri, that's awful! i sent you an e-mail - please feel free to let me know at

    if you have trouble in future.

    and you make a perfect Ms. Dietrich! beautiful!

    hi angie! thank you, that first look would work in your climate, too : ) i am very loyal with my affections, including clothes. but as you can tell from this post, i also am super particular about letting any item into my wardrobe in the first place. i design and make quite a few of them, as well....

    so if it's something that i love to begin with, over time i come up with more ways to wear it and that makes me love it even more!

    i know that style blogging is so much about what's new and shopping. but that's not me so much, and i figure there's got to be at least SOME people out there who go about things in a similar fashion. it's very personal. but i hope this blog is interesting and helpful for the people out there who might like a different type of relationships with their always, you ask such interesting questions, angie! have a great weekend! steph

  8. hello..just found your blog link..really love it..your outfits are have fab style:)

    Stop by and say Hello♥

    Statements in Fashion Blog♥

  9. Hi Colette! thank you for your kind words.

    my mom will be *particularly* tickled to see you've commented here - you've really caught her eye! have a great friday! steph

  10. Hello, I could have sworn I already left a comment here (love the plaid skirt with the print shirt so much) but I'm a bit bleary eyed lately, so who knows...

    You said: "i know that style blogging is so much about what's new and shopping. but that's not me so much, and i figure there's got to be at least SOME people out there who go about things in a similar fashion" and I could not agree with you more. only I have zero interest in outfit posts that show me the latest throwaway from F-21, or Zara or Primark. I know fashion is about the new but I care more about the history...of the garment, of the wearer. So rest assured you are NOT alone. And like a good story, a good article of clothing always deserves a re-telling.

  11. "And like a good story, a good article of clothing always deserves a re-telling." i love that! thank you for chiming in - it IS nice to hear that other people share interests in the same ideas, & to hear their take on it.

    Serene at The Elegant Bohemian had some thoughts about the difference between fashion and style today that seem to fit into this conversation as well (her link is on the rite).

    i'm changing the posting settings to see if that makes things easier to comment (grrr). and have a great weekend - that is SO EXCITING! can't wait to find out about trunk shows - i may have to brave the tule fog to get up there!! : ) steph