What I Wore: Adding Color to a Neutral-Heavy Wardrobe

adding-colorMy summer wardrobe has lots of corals, tomato reds, teals, and a dash of cerulean that liven up some neutral pants and dresses.  My winter wardrobe, though?  It’s a pretty stark assemblage of creams, greys, and navies with a tiny touch of blush pink and gold.  I have an open closet and staring at all those neutral cold weather clothes lined up every time I passed was starting to make me feel a little too Ice Queen.

My first thought was to get some red shoes to warm things up.  Because red shoes are SASSY.  They are bold and fun and insouciant and they completely change the tenor of a wardrobe.  And red – either a solid bright red or a darker oxblood variant – would be the perfect winter version of the corals and tomatoes so prominent in my summer closet.

Well, shoes are a bit harder to thrift than other things, partly because our feet come in so many different sizes and partly because I personally have AAA narrow feet and need an arch.  So it’s a rare affair to find thrifted shoes that fit and are comfy, and ankle boots (the style I had in mind) are even harder to come by – as a still-current trend they haven’t really made it to the thrift sales floor en masse yet. (These Sam Edelman suede beauties aside.  I’m still sad they were too big for me.)

I thought for awhile about buying a new pair retail, which is how I have gotten a few pairs of my shoes – either as gifts or bought with my own hard cash – because I care that much about having comfortable, well-shod feet.

But then I started thinking there had to be a cheaper, more environmentally friendly way to bring some color into my wardrobe.  I realized I already owned nail polish in oxblood that I LOVE and could easily sport on days when I’m feeling too neutral.  I also already had a scarf in the neighborhood of cranberry and with some gold and coral accents that would make it interesting and translatable to other parts of my wardrobe.  So far I hadn’t spent a cent and my closet already had more life!

I was still hoping for an actual piece of clothing, though, so I thought about thrifting for a turtleneck or thin sweater in burgundy/cranberry/oxblood.  But I was a little wary of wearing the color near my face since it’s pretty robust for my skin tone.

Then I nabbed the Talbots catalogue that comes to my boss at work and spent my lunch flipping through it for inspiration.  (I feel like Talbots is about half twee and half dead ringer for my style…so this little habit is a half-guilty pleasure.)  The color and texture of this “rum raisin” skirt fell in the dead ringer category and I made a mental note that that hue would work as a great “red” for fall/winter.

Lo and behold, the very next Saturday I had a chance to go to my local Goodwill and flip through the pants racks for something similar.  I found American Eagle Outfitters jeggings (great fit, too casual for work), Talbots cords in a spectacular flame red-orange (my size but didn’t fit and too intense), and some Style & Co. cords in a slightly redder, less purple cast of “rum raisin.”  They were a size larger than my normal and marked “P,” but something told me to try them on anyway.

They fit!  Well, they fit in the waist and had a nice high rise, although a belt may be necessary; but they are too short in the leg for my normal taste.  HOWEVER they are the perfect length for wearing with ankle boots without having to cuff/tuck/overlap:

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I also picked up this Joan Vass top which is a perfect fit for my wardrobe for reasons I’ll write about next week.  This outfit would have read a lot more neutral/monochrome with grey pants or cream pants, but instead the red changes things up completely.  It’s able to bring a little fall to those green green trees you see in the background…10 days into October.  Not complaining though!

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Giving the photographer that “quit making me do weird facial expressions” look.

The split hem draws attention to the two colors playing off each other:

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Which I gotta do whenever I can since even my necklaces are neutral:

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Top: Joan Vass Studio, thrifted
Pants: Style & Co., thrifted
Ankle boots: Lucky Brand, Christmas gift
Necklace: DIY from thrifted parts

 

That’s the saga of adding some color to my neutral-heavy winter wardrobe – and for now, I think it’s enough.  I can’t wait to pair these pants with almost infinite top/cardigan combinations since they will all work together.  I’m looking forward to painting the nails when it gets well and truly cold – that color’s a little dramatic for fall.  And I’m excited to try that scarf out with my white sheath dress – or what else?  Scroll down with suggestions!

If you’d like some more ideas about adding color to your neutral closet, check out this series (link goes to the oldest in the series) and this series (link goes to the newest post in series) over at The Vivienne Files.  I hope my post convinces you that you don’t need to go out and buy a bunch of stuff (thrifted or not) to enliven your wardrobe; Janice’s visual magic might help you envision how one or two pieces could make what you already have really pop.

 

If you have a neutral-heavy wardrobe, do you ever feel the desire for some COLOR?  If so, how do you mix it in?

 

 

Why You Shouldn’t Duplicate What Works (and a sneak peek at my winter wardrobe restyling)

As I’ve been retooling my off-season wardrobe, I’ve been tempted to double down on the one sweater I kept from this past winter’s wardrobe – my snow leopard print beauty:

A photo posted by LeahLW (@thriftshopchic) on

 

Here is some photo evidence of my apparent obsession (and/or sartorial laziness) regarding animal print: Continue reading “Why You Shouldn’t Duplicate What Works (and a sneak peek at my winter wardrobe restyling)”

I’m Breaking Up with Sheer

I’ve never been in love with sheer clothing.  It looks sexy on other people, but for me it feels like something I’d have to be 15 and going to the beach to pull off, or at the very least headed out clubbing.  (Nothing against clubbing, you’re just more likely to catch me bowling.)

I have a couple of tops that are juuuuust sheer enough to require a layer underneath to qualify as office appropriate, and I was excited last year to thrift a silk camisole that would serve that purpose grandly while breathing and holding up decently.

But honestly, it’s just annoying. Continue reading “I’m Breaking Up with Sheer”

Signature Accessories

Do you have a signature accessory?

I’m talking about the piece you always wear – or the specific style of accessory from which you never deviate.

They add that recognizable detail to your look, save you time and money – no dithering about what to wear or whether you should buy new stuff! – and, hopefully, they put a smile on your face.

Mine are, in no particular order… Continue reading “Signature Accessories”

The Style Doctor Pays a House Call

This post should really be called “The Style Magician…” because that is what my friend called the process when she talked about it to her spouse. But I don’t think magicians pay house calls, and “The Style Magician” sounded a lot more hokey than “The Style Doctor.”

A few weeks ago my friend Caitlin asked if I would come hang at her house and help her evaluate her style (and her closet).  I couldn’t say YES! fast enough. Continue reading “The Style Doctor Pays a House Call”

Print Mixing 101

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On Tuesday (LINK) I talked about where to put your prints, arguing that the simplest way to a streamlined closet was to pick just one place for your patterns.

Where’s the fun in that, you say??

Well, if you’re a print lover (or you want to be), this post is for you.

Tips for Mixing Prints (from dipping a toe in to daring)

  • Mix subtle and bold. As mentioned Tuesday, a pinstripe, tiny polkadot, glen paid, very faded/light print, or even a seersucker stripe will read neutral when paired with a larger, bolder print.

A photo posted by LeahLW (@thriftshopchic) on

  • Use texture as a print.  Like the subtle prints mentioned above, lace, tweed, cable knit, etc. all walk the line between full-blown pattern and solid and will help ease you into the world of print mixing.

A photo posted by LeahLW (@thriftshopchic) on

A photo posted by LeahLW (@thriftshopchic) on

 

  • Break it up. Use a wide, solid belt or a color-block top with solid on the bottom and pattern up top to create visual interest without visual overload. My favorite way to do this is with fun shoes on the bottom, a solid pant, and a printed top:

A photo posted by LeahLW (@thriftshopchic) on

 

  • Stay in the same color family. If the main background colors of your prints are pretty close, it’ll read as a variation on a theme instead of competing narratives. Likewise, think about whether your prints are generally the same warmth/coolness* or saturation – layering neons over rich autumnal colors is just gonna make everyone queasy.
    (Check out these two Into Mind posts for an intro to color theory – e.g. what the heck is saturation? – and examples of harmonious color palettes for your wardrobe.)

Ps #printmixing ftw

A photo posted by LeahLW (@thriftshopchic) on

 

  • Mix two different genres. Floral + stripe.  Stripe + animal. Polkadot + tweed.  Monochrome check + bold cartoon colors.

A photo posted by LeahLW (@thriftshopchic) on


Speaking of monochrome…

  • Black & white + color. There’s enough of a contrast between black-and-white and colors that our eyes tend to read them as background + foreground (or vice versa).  For your colors, stick to bold and bright, more saturated hues if you don’t want to muddy things up (i.e. navy is probably not a great idea here, nor are super-soft pastels, unless you tone down the black in your monochrome to a correspondingly soft grey).
    I have very little black in my wardrobe so I have no outfit examples to show you, but the graphic at the top of the post is a good illustration of how well this works.

 

 

What are your tips for mixing prints?  Do you love to live on the leopard/zebra/tiger stripe wild side, or are you print-mixing shy?

 

*Apologies to artists everywhere.  Saying more blue/yellow/red instead of warmer/cooler is pretty confusing for us non-artists.

 

Where to Put Your PRINTS

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Have you ever looked at your closet and despaired at the mish-mash of prints that rarely go together in wearable combinations?  Or do you have a gigantic wardrobe with too many pieces because you bought those solid pants to go with that printed top and that solid top to go with that printed skirt, ad infinitum?

The solution is elegantly simple, but it requires a little bit of discipline: Put your prints in ONE PLACE.*

Pick bottoms, for example, and go nuts with printed pants (so fun!) or skirts.  Stay more simple on top and you’ll never worry about patterns clashing.

Or do what I’ve done and keep all your patterns in your shirts, leaving the bottom half solid…and then firmly tell yourself to walk away from all the amazing lobster pants out there.

OR concentrate your prints in your toppers – cardigans, jackets, etc. – and let your tops, dresses, and bottoms take a back seat.  (The reverse with dresses/toppers works, too – if you have a love affair with patterned dresses, go for solid toppers.)

Wherever you put your prints can also be home to solids, of course – solid pants + print top OR solid top – since solids play so nicely together.

And wherever you put your solids can also usually stand subtle pattern, like pinstripes, a tiny polkadot, or a finely textured weave.

Also, feel free to change up where your patterns live between work/casual wardrobes or hot/cold weather wardrobes for a little variety without major wardrobe exponential crises.  See what I did there?

(For example, as mentioned above I’ve given center stage to prints in my tops and let my pants/skirts/dresses/blazers/cardis do the supporting work.  But I’ve just figured out that sticking to my solid winter turtlenecks underneath the toasty patterned toppers I love will keep my eyes from bugging out on print overload.)
If you just can’t resist ALL THE PRINTS, check back Thursday for some ideas on how to successfully mix prints.

 

*I have Janice over at the Vivienne Files to thank for this brilliant concept. She illustrates it beautifully here (scroll down to the 2nd and 3rd templates).  Check this out especially if you are a visual person.

 

Helen Hunt’s Sex Surrogate Wardrobe – Or, How I Realized I Was in Love with Popover Tunics

In her role as sex surrogate Cheryl Cohen Greene in The Sessions*, Helen Hunt doesn’t wear a whole lot of clothes.  But a few of the tops she does wear caught my eye when I watched the movie a few years ago.  Why?  Two words: popover tunics.

To be fair, Ms. Hunt’s film wardrobe was more 1980s-embroidered-kurta (especially the only one I could find a decent picture of, below) than straight up popover tunics.  And we can get into a whole ‘nother discussion about whether white lady Helen Hunt wearing them is cultural appropriation.

Continue reading “Helen Hunt’s Sex Surrogate Wardrobe – Or, How I Realized I Was in Love with Popover Tunics”