As I approach the halfway point of the Wardrobe Architect series, it finally feels like a cohesive style is starting to emerge from my choices. Where before I was floundering through each assignment, I’m now trying to resist the urge to rush out and buy an armload of patterns and fabric for the new wardrobe I’m envisioning.
No changes from last week. When I compare my actual wardrobe to this ideal, I see that I have plenty of grey but could use more browns, especially in pants and skirts. I also need more white basics: short- and long-sleeved t-shirts, a cardigan, and a versatile skirt or dress are on my to-make list.
I’m really fond of all three of these colors as more interesting versions of neutral colors, but all three are lacking in my closet. I especially want more navy, both in garments and accessories.
Since I promoted olive to nearly neutrals, I replaced it among the remaining colors with Kelly green, a color that’s been growing on me recently because it pairs so nicely with navy.
I’m on the fence about this. For a very long time I’ve preferred silver tones to gold tones, but in the last year or so I’ve found myself gravitating more toward gold because it complements my warmer complexion. I also gifted myself the Naked 3 eyeshadow palette last summer, and discovered that I look surprisingly good in rose gold tones. I guess I’d like to have a little of both silver and gold, so that I can accessorize as fancy strikes.
I suspect this palette will evolve over time, especially since it leans more toward autumn/winter colors. I’d like to wear brighter colors in the spring/summer, which means I’ll probably lean more heavily on statement colors and may add a few, too. I’m really looking forward to exploring solids and prints next week, and putting them together with these colors.
I like stories. I like telling them, especially through writing but also through conversation, although I’m definitely prone to rambling and vigorous arm-waving while I’m doing it. I like listening to them—I like experiencing them. A compelling story is paramount for me when I’m considering what to read or watch. The story doesn’t have to be unique or original, it just has to be told in an engaging way. I see narratives not only in books, television, film, and video games, but also in what the news chooses to report, in how my coworkers and I talk about our relationships with clients, and in how I understand my own life.
Despite this fascination with stories, it had never occurred to me that color can also tell a story. I’ve appreciated the harmonious color composition of a piece of art or the striking contrast of elements in nature, but I’d never considered that colors, with their various associations, could in combination create a sort of through line for my wardrobe.
I’d always assumed that the point of having a clothing color palette was to make shopping and getting dressed easier, because the more items you have that keep to that palette, the easier it is to mix and match to create outfits (and the less likely you are to get bored and feel like you have nothing to wear). Practical, sure, but if wardrobes were only about pragmatism than we’d all have own uniforms that we never deviate from.
It’s much more interesting to imagine that color works with shape to form a visual narrative, where the most often-worn pieces are an exposition of one’s strongest or most enduring characteristics, specialty or special occasion clothes offer dramatic turns, and accessories or unique pieces are lyrical passages or poetic turns-of-phrase that enliven the prose.
(I…might have stretched that metaphor a bit, but hey, even metaphors need a little exercise now and then to stay healthy.)
My palette features a heavy dose of neutrals, with black being the only one not represented. I have a considerable amount of black in my wardrobe, but I find it rather harsh and would prefer to browns, greys, and navy instead. Blue and green is my favorite color combination by far—so much so that we used it for our wedding colors. I find a have more than a little purple in my closet, although I often struggle with what to pair it with. Most of the red in my closet is closer to an orange-red, but I’m trying to slowly weed it out and replace it with truer reds, which I find more flattering and easier to coordinate with. Mustard, mint, burgundy, and pink are all colors that I’d like to bring into the mix more, since they work well with navy and my neutrals
Laid out like this, my palette actually seems to have some cohesion, and there are some obvious and some not-so-obvious combinations that I can see even among this small grouping. I’m looking forward to further refining everything next week.
What colors are you most attracted to? What colors do you like to wear? Is there a lot of overlap between the two? If not, how do you reconcile the difference?
Building silhouettes to create balance is a point of intersection between the Wardrobe Architect series and Amy Herzog’s Fit to Flatter philosophy. Amy acknowledges that a proportional shape, where the top and bottom of the torso are the same width and are separated by a narrower waist, is often held up as an ideal, and then explains how the three basic body types—top-heavy, bottom-heavy, and proportional—can use clothing, particularly sweaters, to create or emphasize the appearance of proportionality. For instance, you can’t change how broad your hips are (because bones and stuff), but you can balance out wider hips with horizontal elements at the neckline of a sweater, creating visual weight to balance your overall shape. Of course, if a proportional figure is not your ideal, you can use all of the recommendations she makes to achieve other looks too.
Sarai, in the Wardrobe Architect series, takes things one step further and brings in the idea of balance in terms of length and snugness. This is actually an idea I had seen before, in a dressing room ad of all places: to create interest and balance between top and bottom, consider wearing a fitted shirt with flowing pants, or a billowy shirt with tight pants.
Since these are ideas that I’ve been exposed to before, it was less difficult to come up with silhouettes that I like than it was to come up with styles that I like. Here are a few of my favorites:
During the late fall, winter, and early spring, I live in jeans and sweaters.
Bootcut jeans + pullover or cardigan-over-cami + heeled boots
My lounge clothes, which I put on pretty much the minute I come in the door after work and any weekend where I’m not leaving the apartment, is pretty simple.
Leggings + t-shirt
Unfortunately, both of my pairs of leggings have holes in them and I live in one super-soft t-shirt, so I’d really like to make myself some new, comfy, and slightly more stylish lounge wear before my current uniform is reduced to rags.
Right now I don’t have much in terms of skirts or dresses, which is another problem I’d like to remedy. When it comes time to fill those gaps, I’m currently gravitating toward these looks.
Cami dress + cardigan
Fitted knit dress + pumps
Knit dress with fitted bodice and flared skirt
I realize now that I didn’t spend a lot of time on shoes. I think it’s because I find it really difficult to strike a balance between comfort and style when it comes to shoes. Flat sandals have been hugely popular the last few summers, and they’d go great with my skinny jeans + drapey tops silhouette, but I can’t understand how people walk around in them for more than an hour without their feet aching from the lack of support or cushioning. On the flip side, my sister loves deck shoes because they’re so comfy, but every pair I’ve tried on make my feet look and feel like huge shapeless lumps.
What are your favorite silhouettes to wear? Do they vary a lot based on the seasons? Do you have a recommendation for shoes that a both cute and wearable?
After I spent last week focusing on the clothing shapes that I enjoy wearing, I decided that this week I would bust out my camera and Amy Herzog‘s Knit to Flatter and spend some time getting familiar with my own shape. Unlike basically everyone I’ve ever met, I love having my picture taken. If I see a camera coming, I do not dive behind the nearest person/piece of furniture/houseplant and pretend like I’m invisible—I beam like someone has just rolled out the red carpet for me personally. I’m also not shy around mirrors, although in my defense, it’s usually because I’m having a Hermione-ish “Is that what my hair looks like from the back?” moment.
At least, I normally love having my picture taken. There were declarations of love and self-acceptance and empowered fist pumping right up until the moment I dumped the photos on my computer and opened them up. In addition to cringing at the picture quality, I spent several minutes questioning whether this exercise was still a good idea.
I don’t have any issues with my measurements or weight—they’re just numbers, and having the right ones are essential to getting clothes that actually fit. But for some reason scrutinizing my shape, which is supposed to be a lot less emotionally charged, since according to Amy understanding your shape is the starting point for creating visual balance through clothing, was more than a little uncomfortable.
It’s not that my shape is a surprise or revelation. I’ve understood for a while now that I have a straight proportional figure, which is confirmed by the lines on the photo below:
The awkward wrinkle near my bellybutton is the waistband of my leggings, which I pulled up to avoid creating a mini muffin top.
Looking at the side view, I can add that I have an average-sized bust, a curvy booty, and a little extra tum to (literally) round things out.
In truth, it was hard not too look at that photo and think, “My stomach sticks out as far as my chest.” Which may be true, but then I have to ask myself why that matters so much. I’ve never had washboard abs, and it’s not really a thing I aspire to anyway. (I hate ab workouts; you can’t lift heavy things with your abs, you know?) While I certainly do need to be more active, because I understand the risks of the sedentary lifestyle of an office dweller and I definitely start to feel lethargic and heavy when I do nothing but sit all day, I also understand that I’m not physically unfit, either.
Also, let’s get real—how often do I or anyone else I know walk around in nothing but spandex that clings to every curve? (Okay, so this is basically my at-home uniform, but I don’t make a habit of going out in public like this.) No one else is looking at me this closely and sizing up whether I’d look better in a v-neck or crew-neck sweater. A healthy body, clad in clothes that fit well and a happy smile, is all that matters.
I had to repeat that to myself a few times before it really started to sink in. Admiring a gallery of photos of my favorite short, curvy sewing blogger, who is hilariously funny and completely fearless, definitely helped. And reminding myself that I already have too many hobbies to juggle without adding “worry about body image” to the list was the final kick in the pants I needed to get back to focusing on the fact that I’m on a journey toward a more awesome wardrobe, not a one-way trip to Sad Town—so enough criticizing!
Based on my shape and extra features, Knit to Flatter recommends the following elements to maintain the balanced proportions I have:
High-hip or mid-hip length sweaters with deep, narrow necklines and elbow-length or longer sleeves
Sweaters with an interesting hem treatment to balance wide necklines and three-quarter sleeves
Short or average length sweaters with plain hems to complement crew necks or turtlenecks with any length sleeves
Of the three, the first and third options are the ones I tend to gravitate toward, and are the ones most represented in my closet already. Knit to Flatter doesn’t address pants (because it’s a sweater knitting book), but I’m finding that it’s best to wear heeled boots or pumps with slightly flared pants and stick to skinny pants whenever I wear flats. Straight or wide-legged pants don’t really do my short frame any favors, even with heels, so I generally avoid them.
If I throw all of the information about the shape I am, the shapes that make me look balanced, and the shapes I like to wear into a blender, I should be able to come up with plenty of silhouettes for next week’s assignment no problem, right?
Compared to the previous weeks’ assignments, this week’s exercise was a breeze. Rather than a battery of questions that benefited from deep reflection or a wide search for inspiration, it consists of tables of common style elements found in clothing and asks you to rate them on how much you loved or hated them. Sarai even encourages participants to go with their guts and not to second-guess their decisions—marking something favorably or unfavorably doesn’t in any way represent a commitment to sewing something or not sewing something else.
For anyone who else who has gone or is going through the exercises, I want to point out that I did deviate from the instructions in one small but meaningful way. Instead of using a 0-10 system to indicate how much I liked something, I used a simpler four-point scale:
0 – I would never wear this
1 – I would rarely wear this
2 – I would sometimes wear this
3 – I would always wear this
I chose this approach for two reasons: 1) It’s a lot less prone to over-analysis, since I felt like I could rate each style individually rather than trying to rank styles against each other, and 2) By framing the question in terms of things I would wear rather than things I do wear, I don’t feel like my answers are in any way constrained by my current wardrobe/dressing habits.
Now I think it’s time to let the numbers do the talking.
A few things stood out to me:
I like wearing skirts, but since it’s been so long since I’ve actually worn one—a combination of purging several that no longer fit comfortably and favoring pants in the winter because I chill easily—I don’t have particularly strong feelings about skirt shapes.
Any time that I strongly liked a very fitted shape, it was because I was imagining it in a knit, or at the very least a stretch woven. I’m a lot less fond of snug woven fabrics.
I had no idea what a jewel neckline was. Apparently it’s synonymous with crew neck. I’m not sure why you’d choose to use one term over the other; I guess “jewel neck” is considered a prettier or more feminine way to describe the neckline of a dress than “crew neck,” which has martial connotations?
Like many people (I imagine), I’m loath to say I’d never wear something—hey, if the right outfit came along, I could be persuaded, you know?—but I’ve finally realized that having sleeves stop at my waist, which is not narrow, does me no visual favors, and off-the-shoulder tops are just a pain, so why bother with either? It was kind of liberating to say, “Nope, not for me!”
What do you think of rating styles like this? When you think about your own preferences, are there any surprising favorites or seemingly conflicting preferences? Are there any styles you feel confident you would never wear?