Friday, April 22, 2011

Intro to my Outfit Analysis Checklist

When i took my hiatus from this blog, one of the things i wanted to focus on was how i would present to you some of the ideas and concepts which have helped me find and hone my personal style and wardrobe. This is especially important to me because i've yet to run across most of these ideas on the internet, and i've found them so useful that i want to get them out there to you!

Today i'm introducing my 'outfit analysis checklist' ('checklist' for short). I use this checklist for many purposes - to discover what i like and don't like style-wise, to discover likely ways to expand on my style or adapt it to different situations, to pinpoint my shopping lists, to hone in on what will work for me while shopping (since i've nailed my own style & know how to enlarge upon it), to figure out what i need to learn more about style-wise (color, line, etc.)

I also have used this checklist many times to create a 'formula', 'rule', or 'recipe' that i can use to shop my own closet for new outfits. I analyze a look of mine that i really like, and come up with my 'rule' from the results. Then i use this 'recipe' to shop my closet for new looks that have a similar underlying structure to the original inspiration.  In addition, looking at my wardrobe in a new way often results in new, great looks which have nothing to do with my 'recipe' - this process sparks creativity.

I used this checklist to analyze one of Cynthia's outfits - the one in this post. Her first line in this post reads, 'I totally enjoyed what i was wearing today.' That's the type of look that's worth putting this kind of work into! My hope was that i would discover enough about Cynthia's personal style that i could suggest new outfits to her that she liked and truly enjoyed - that felt like her. As it turned out, i found that Cynthia had put together outfits that fit my 'rule' with no information from me - this casual look contains a large scale print, a small scale print, and the pants are a solid color. All three garments are blues. But did Cynthia like it? She says, 'This is one of those swishy, happy outfits that derives some of its awesomeness from movement and does not show up as well in stills."  Here's another all-blue ensemble with a medium-scale print (the tee), small scale striped cardi, and solid color jeans. Cynthia doesn't say much about the clothes, she was having a rotten weekend. But she looks great! And here's the link to our first outfit collaboration.

Interestingly, as i studied Cynthia's wardrobe i realized that she could do more with detail than she has until now. I thought she could take any garment with nice detailing, label it as larger or smaller scale, and then just plug it into the 'pattern' part of the formula. She beat me to it. This look contains a large scale print on the (completely achingly fabulous, by the way - looking at Cynthia's wardrobe in depth was no pain at all) red/white/blue skirt, a small scale ruffle detail on the dark blue blouse, and a solid black cardi. Here Cynthia pairs a military/safari style olive drab jacket (large scale details) with a medium scale detail/pattern tee and solid color neutral dark browny-green pants.

These examples gave me confidence that i'd actually discovered something about Cynthia's style, instead of just imposing my ideas on her. I hope she feels the same! In fact, this post will be the first time i've shared my methods with her - she's just received a list of possible outfits to try. In the video i recorded for you, i give an overview of this checklist, some definitions of the checklist items, and explain more about the process of using this list to create more outfits. I plan to publish at least one post on each checklist item, with definitions, vocabulary words, examples, and resources where you can find out more.

(If i seem distracted at moments during the video, it's just the cat.) Please let me know if there's anything you'd like me to expand on or explain further. If you have an outfit you feel great in and you want to 'figure it out' so that you can create more outfits with a similar flare, leave me a comment or send me an e-mail! This material is pretty dense, but it's less so if you just focus on one element at a time, or only on the elements that you're interested in. If you're bopping around style nation, just spend a little time on your favorite blogger outfit of the day - what's the silhouette? how many colors? does she use one pattern or more? Little by little is how you increase your knowledge and experience.  Thank you so much for reading and watching!


Grit and Glamour, Vahni's site

Checklist with Definitions:
Silhouette: how a garment is shaped, including fit and any 'fashion' fullness such as a bustle or gathers at waist or shoulder.this includes neckline, shoulder, and hems (sleeve, top, tunic, skirt, dress, pant leg).

Color: how many colors are in the outfit? are they saturated or pale, a tint or a shade, warm or cool? how do they relate to each other on the color wheel - are they opposites, triads, or...?

Pattern: any design printed on or woven into fabric.

Detail: any three-dimensional embellishments - collars, lapels, epaulets, gathers, pleats, pintucks, cuffs, buttons, zippers, pockets, etc.

Drape: how a fabric hangs and falls. dependent on fibre, weave, weight.

Texture: smooth, shiny, metallic, rough, fuzzy, furry, and so on.

Style References: these can be to an era (1920's, 1940;s), a nation (German lederhosen, French beret, Mexican sombrero), occupation (sailor, cowgirl), to a certain fashion designer (Coco Chanel, Dior's New Look), or to trends of the current day.

Accessories: any jewelry, scarves, handbags, etc. Since barefoot people have no influence in society, i consider shoes as part of the clothes more than as an accessory. Use your best judgement.

Checklist of Cynthia's January 19 Outfit:
Silhouette: classic to classic-relaxed. indicates the contours of the body, but nothing tight or strong waist definition. Natural shoulder. Neckline neither too tight or revealingly low. Sleeve hems between elbow and wrist, skirt hem around knee.

Color: two 'colors' and two 'neutrals'. The 'colors' (red and blue) are both saturated, clear, and warm. The form two 'corners' of a triad on the color wheel. The tee stripe is a warm grey/ivory neutral. The boots are a warm brown cognac, which can be read as a 'neutral' or as the 'third corner' of the color wheel triad (yellow) with the red and blue (due to the strong yellow undertones of the leather).

Pattern: two patterned pieces, the cardi and the boots both are a solid color. The pattern of the skirt is very large scale, colorful, low-to medium-contrast. The stripe of the tee is small scale and low contrast.

Detail: pretty absent. mostly fastenings (buttons on the cardi), tho the boots do have nice decorative buckles.

Drape: not too clingy, not too floaty, not too stiff.....medium.

Texture: The boots have a nice finish to them with a bit of shine, there is almost a hint of shine in the cardigan, but the rest of the outfit is matte. Nothing feels dull, just enough shine to make things come alive (the boots).

Style References: the pieces feel current, nothing is dated or trendy. The cardi, tee, and boots are classic. The skirt has a wonderful ethnic, folkloric, eastern european embroidery feel to the floral pattern.

Accessories: one small, beautiful pendant. There is enough pattern and color in this outfit that accessories are almost superfluous (it is fun to think about what that bee would get up to in those huge flowers!)

The 'Recipe' derived from this outfit:
For a look comprising a top, bottoms, cardi or little jacket, and shoes or boots.

Color: Option A: two pieces will each have a different color, while the rest of the outfit is composed of neutrals (black, white, denim, grey, navy, any color so dark it's hard to tell what color it is).
           Option B: two-three pieces will be variations on the same color (robin's egg blue, denim blue, navy), whilte the remaining pieces will be neutrals (black, white, denim, grey, navy, any color so dark it's hard to tell what color it is).

Pattern: one piece will have a large-scale print, one piece will have a medium-to-small scale print, the remaining pieces will be of a solid color.


  1. First of all you look fantastic on the video.Nice skin ,beautiful blue eyes and this hair cut suits you the best.
    Your approach is interesting and I'm sort of trying to pin point my style these days so I'll study your remarks.
    I also like that you put so much effort in analysing style and the way we get dressed.For many of us is a creative process but then go figure how to explain it to most people.That's when you lose faith and you need to get inspired by people who feel about dressing the same way you do.

  2. Steph, this is awesome. I would not have been able to put it into words like this but it makes complete sense.

    I wonder if I tend to not bother with detail because I'm such a large person that small delicate details kind of disappear on me.

  3. A VLOG A VLOG! That makes me so happy! I love it!

    This is a great post with great advice.

  4. Your checklist is very helpful and needed by many women!! This is a great idea! I will tweet your post today for others to catch!

  5. aw angie, you are a sweetheart :) i found that when trying to figure out my own style that analyzing other people's style really helped - it is good practice, and it's always easier to figure out other people than yourself!

    and thank you for saying that - i wanted to put this out there because i figured SOMEONE would find it helpful. but i thought it would be way too dry for most people. it's good to hear that there are kindred souls out there, even better that they read my blog :)

    Yay Cynthia! that makes me so happy to hear that!! ' makes complete sense.' that was my goal, to get at what YOU are doing that works for you. and you can eyeball other fave looks that you come up with to refine a recipe or make anew one.

    i don't know...i think it has more to do with what's available that suits a person, and just what they prefer. i find very few people with a strong style focus on more than a couple of elements....Audi of Fashion for Nerds really pulls it off, but she puts a lot of time and energy and $$ into her clothes. plus it's one of her major creative outlets, she's very dramatic, and has an easy-to-dress figure, so that makes it more practical for her, too.

    and you DO have pieces with small details that look great on you - the 2nd dress in your Target or Tucker post, that kind of denim 'prairie' i think it's more of a choice, and the fact that there's more nice prints out there for you to work with, than 'can' or 'can't'.

    Hi Meg! i was thinking about how to make this less dry, and your v-log came to mind - my new camera has video, so i went for it! thank you!

    Hullo Pam! you are such a sweetie, and so plugged into the social media stuff - i should follow your example. Thank You!

    Happy Weekend Everybody! steph

  6. Stef--I came across this post in the wee hours of the morning and promised myself to come back when I felt alert enough to watch the video. It is wonderful to hear your voice and this post is just PACKED with useful information. It corroborates my recommendation to others that YOU have and identifiable style. I am ready to hire you as a stylist!! So much of this past year has been about pushing my own margins and discovering through trial and error what works for me. I began mostly focused on pushing color and recognize that I need to do more with accessories...a bit of progress has been made.

  7. This is such a great video! (I love your hair, btw, it's SO gorgeous!) I'm gonna dig through my closet now and do some analyzing. =D

  8. oh Terri, you make me blush (!). it was a lot of fun to 'talk' to all of you, and i'm glad you (and others) think it's an effective way to get these ideas across.

    you've been really methodical in exploring/pushing your style limits, which i think is good. it's weird, we have ideas from who knows where, looks branded 'style' from a picture in a mag or a friend of our mom's, and we think that when we want to 'be stylish' that we need to go in that direction.

    but there are so many ways to express our own style, and what we like and feel are 'me' has to do with our own body's aesthetic and our personal tastes. that's one thing i like about this checklist, if i'm bored or feeling like something's 'off' i can 'scroll thru' to see what i'd like to play with - it doesn't have to just be 'color' or 'belt everything'.

    you DO have QUITE a way with accessories, Terri!!

    Hi Ravina! i'm glad you think it's helpful. let us know what you come up with!! it's frustrating to not have the 'big bucks' to buy clothes at times. but any time you can spend looking and figuring out is gold - you can really focus your shopping much more successfully, and avoid many costly mistakes. plus you can start wearing outfits you love!

    if you have any inspiration outfits from a mag or another blogger, those are also great to analyze for ideas you may want to riff on.

    happy sunday!! steph

  9. Ok, I love your voice and the way you look on camera. Seriously. MORE Vlogs, please!
    So many good tips here, I just think more pics, and less clicking away from this post would make posts like this more useful. Looking forward to your new focus and by the way: Welcome back!
    the Citizen Rosebud

  10. Hello Bella Q!!! thank you, sweetie! and thank you for the pointers - i really appreciate getting feedback on how i can make info easier for people to 'get'. people get nervous or uncomfortable about giving feedback sometimes, which is understandable but for me it helps :)

    have fun with that fabulous new 'do', you!!! happy sunday! steph

  11. This is seriously wonderful information. I think I've been doing this on some scale in the past, but never really had the "formula" or specifics to do it with any kind of consistency. I think this is a great step in the right direction for people who want to hone in on their 'successful-for-them' outfits.

  12. Megan Mae, thank you for leaving such a thoughtful comment! i hope you have fun with this - it sounds like you mite :) take care, steph

  13. I came back to this post today - I finally performed that much needed closet clean-up/cull the other day, so now I am attempting to analyze what I have, how it works, and what I need to add to it. And of course there'll be times when I'll want to add it even when I don't need to, so I'll have to draw up some guidelines for those instances as well. Your blog really has helped me in the process! I look forward to more posts on this method, I'd love to read some more analysis of outfits using the checklist as well. :)

  14. Thank you little mouse :) i'm really happy to hear that this information is actually helping you!!

    & thank you for the encouragement - i have been slacking off in posting the last couple of months, but i'm focusing on posting more regularly now. and i have some more looks to go thru the checklist with, as well! (you can send me a look if you want, too.)

    take care, steph

  15. I love this! I'm not terribly style-conscious (beauty-conscious, yes, but fashion and I don't click) so there are certain things on this list I've totally eschewed. But I've found that on the rare occasions I do pay attention to, say, the details/embellishments, I get a lot more compliments--it's small but makes a difference.

    (Oh, and I'm glad to find someone else whose daily approach to style is basically 30 for 30. When I heard of that project, which has yielded interesting material for other people, I totaled up the number of items I was 21! Ha!)

  16. Welcome Autumn! yes, it's true that beauty doesn't equal fashion doesn't equal style. i'm very into style and beauty as well, fashion is okay but i don't keep up on it. it sounds like you might enjoy paying a little more attention to the details and accessories in your outfits!

    wow! 21!!! dang! since starting this blog and really paying attention to what i need, i think i'll most likely end up with a larger wardrobe than i thot i would find ideal (maybe closer to 45-50 pieces). but that's because i'm pretty hard on clothing, and having a little back-up can help avoid 'emergencies'.

    there's a growing # of small wardrobe blogs out there. angie of has recently culled her pieces down to 13! Fleurette of is a young woman in the process of creating her perfect small wardrobe - she is very exacting!

    two women have blogs which lay out a lot of info. relevant to small wardrobes. Angie of is a personal style consultant with amazing personal style, great advice, and she comes across as a very sweet, kind person as well. she also runs a lively forum along with her blog. Allie of is a working mom with great advice for women who want to look pulled together but who aren't fashionistas, don't have perfect bodies, unlimited funds or time. she is very straightforward, and worked in women's clothing retail for many years.

    and of course, all these blogs have blogrolls and links. have fun exploring! steph

  17. This is a fascinating project and I was very interested to read this checklist. You should write a style guide! I actually used the first five categories of your checklist to put together the "taxonomy" which I was going to use to split out my wardrobe peices into database form!! I had a column for each characteristic to tag each item in Excel - I'm such a nerd - but I'm glad I've found someone who gets just as analytical about clothes!

  18. Hullo Veshoevius! that's so interesting to me - even in so many ways our styles, budgets, approaches to dressing and wardrobe creation differ but we both have this really analytical side. That Excel spreadsheet sounds pretty darn interesting - any chance of a post? :) take care and have a great week!! steph

  19. This has been incredibly helpful to me. Thank you so much for sharing your ideas. I have been working on this, especially the developing the rule out of the outfits part. So fruitful!

    I went from wearing a current favorite outfit this morning - 3d time in a week - to seeing how I could put together about a dozen more using the same principles. I could suddenly see, too, why putting together florals of different sizes and sharing some common colors "works" except that I don't like something about it. I realize most people wouldn't like something about it. :) I like florals and geometrics or animal print. That's the whole difference for me.

    I also chuckled at your lederhosen example and didn't think I wore or liked ethnic influences. And mostly I don't but suddenly I could see that many of the accessories I group together signify an Indian (subcontinent) look to me. I was shocked. I started pulling out jewelry and patterned items and yup, there it is. I guess I have my secret Bollywood side.

  20. ah, Vildy, i wish i had your e-mail or website to make sure you get my reply :) (altho being anon has it's wisdom)

    thank you SO MUCH for taking the time to leave such a thoughtful comment! it is so exciting to me to hear how these ideas have helped you to figure out more about YOUR OWN style and preferences! of course it's fun when someone copies your style, but to be able to help a person discover something useful about's the whole 'give a guy a fish, teach a guy to fish' principle!

    going from repeating a fave to coming up with a dozen looks that capture what you love about that fave look - i know these concepts have done the same for me, and it's thrilling that they have worked as well for you. and i love how the penny dropped about your 'secret Bollywood side'!!!

    just, thank you again! and keep having fun! steph

  21. don't have a website but read your reply right
    here. Thank you again for sharing your brilliant strategy. I've recommended it to others. I love how it helps develop *personal* style vs. the typical Must Haves that are so
    constricting and cookie cutter.

  22. (((((( BIG HUG ))))))


    thank you Vildy!! steph

  23. I'm still working with this and loving it. Changing the whole direction of my shopping purchases, too. I've discovered an additional
    checklist category that's important to me: movement. I know this might be included in drape but how my clothes move, in which direction, or whether some parts don't move, and also directional protrusions that suggest movement, makes a huge difference to me.

    I've found that I might like some movement in a skirt or enough fluidity in pants that they slightly kick around my ankles but that I am frustrated when tucked in blouses shift and billow and want my main top layer to stay put!
    So I like knit or stretch tops with tautness.
    I like shirts well enough, with their crisper structure, but hate the whole slithery blouse thing. Using your guidelines helped me to see the difference between shirts and blouses, crisper and softer. I also find that I like overshirts that are airier and fly away, that movement idea, again. I sometimes want accessories that move: scarves with ends that fly, or accessories that stay put but can have subtle movement: statement necklace with connected layers - as a whole, it stays there but internally, shifts just a bit back and forth. Hate necklaces that are long enough to slap against my body when I walk briskly.

    I like my collars and cuffs popped up to suggest a bit of explosive movement.

    Ever think about this aspect?

  24. Hi -- I'm here on Vildy's recommendation from Thanks for the video and the checklist. It is so very much helpful!

    Right away, I'm able to identify my favorite silhouette, and my color and print preferences. I'm going to go to work analyzing other things, and making myself more clothes that fit in my silhouette (since I have, um, two shirts that work with both my silhouette and print prefs).

    Maybe I'll get around to taking a picture in my favorite outfit and posting it, with my analysis based on this checklist.

    Thank you so much!

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