Developing a wardrobe – a visual approach

I had a crisis – I was going out to a nice place for dinner and needed to figure out appropriate clothes to wear. My first thought was to use a jacket from my tiny wardrobe and sew a dress (from fabric I currently have) twardrobe1.jpgo wear underneath.

In the past, I might pick out a color from a print and sew a coordinating piece. However, sometimes that resulted in two pieces that overall didn’t coordinate. It took me a while to  learn that picking out one color from a print to match a solid wasn’t a good strategy. Since it was critical for something to work the first time, I decided to try auditioning the dress fabric as if it were worn under the jacket. My dress length is approximately 40″, so I folded fabric to be about that long and put it on a hanger with the jacket over it. One thing this showed me is that the proportions may be better with a shorter jacket. The purple dress fabric is ok but not great with the jacket even though the purple color is found in the print. I find that this combination makes the red squares in the jacket catch my attention, which is interesting but not the look I wanted.

wardrobe2Next I tried a light navy blue fabric as the dress, and that didn’t work very well. I think blues are some of the more challenging colors to coordinate since they can be on the green/yellow side or the red/purple side or greyed out. If the coordinating piece is not the same undertone, the different blues really scream at my eyes.

(Try this out – put different reds together or different greens together. They may not completely harmonize, but maybe you’ll find they don’t put your teeth on edge like blues do.)


wardrobe6I then grabbed a different jacket and tried it with a printed jersey to use as a dress. There are hints of the aqua from the jacket in the print. In the photo, I’m not sure this coordinates very well, but I liked it in person. (Lesson learned here – photos do give a lot of valuable information!)

I started to consider if I wanted a printed dress to wear with a solid jacket – how would that work for an overall strategy? It seems like (when I’ve got such a limited number of pieces) it would be better to have either printed/attention-getting jackets or printed/attention-getting dresses. The mixing and matching would go better if one element is the focal point. It’s a bit beyond me to do print mixing (though others are so good with it).

wardrobe3I looked at future jacket alternatives for if I sewed the print into a dress. I like this option with the soft navy (same as the second picture above). This is probably one of my favorite combinations of the pairs I tried during this experiment.

I mentioned in a previous post that I’ve been working with Anne Whalley, an image consultant, to rebuild my wardrobe, and I think she might say this is a safe combination. She’s been encouraging me to get more creative in my choices, and this combination is definitely something I’d be very comfortable with. That’s an indication to me that it’s likely too safe.

I tried one more color combination with this print (below), and I really like it. While the aqua solid may look like the picture above, it’s a darker color and coordinated really well with the print. (I do love wearing aqua/turquoise/teal. : ) I didn’t get a photo of the combination in terms of proportion, and I’ll likely do that before moving forward. I think the full length photos are really helpful in determining what will work for me.

wardrobe5This exercise was really helpful in terms of visually mapping out what pieces best coordinate. In the past, I would have done this same thing with small swatches and in my head. Sometimes that worked, and sometimes I was disappointed.

In the end, I decided to wear the first jacket shown here and modify a dark navy blue dress. While I was looking at jacket options in my closet, the dress caught my eye, but it had 3/4 sleeves. I cut them off to a short length  It worked well and I felt appropriately dressed. As is often the case, I needed the jacket to stay warm in the air conditioned restaurant.





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