Building a capsule wardrobe? I have some advice

I popped up to London recently to drape a client who wanted to know her colours in order to build a capsule wardrobe (for those interested, she turned out to be a Deep/Dark Winter – I’ve been draping a few of those lately!). Her questions about capsule wardrobes got me thinking: there’s so much advice online, and so much I don’t agree with ūüėČ Here’s my two pennies.

Be wary of prescriptive lists of ‘must haves’

Firstly, the lists online that say you need two blouses, a pair of court shoes, two pairs of jeans etc are, in my humble opinion, of very little use. Sometimes they serve as inspiration, but in my experience they’re too individual to be useful, and they often assume a certain kind of office-based lifestyle. What could you do instead?

Make an ‘occasion’ list

In the course of a year, what occasions will you need to dress for? My list includes: weddings, horse riding, work, swimming, yoga, meals/drinks out, sleeping and exercising. Sometimes they overlap – I often do yoga in my PJs!

Let discomfort be your guide

Physical discomfort can be a useful indicator of items you’re missing. Shoulder aching because your bag is too heavy? Then you probably need a smaller, lighter one. Feeling cold? Perhaps now’s the time to invest in a jumper.

It can also be useful to take note of what you’re wearing a lot, the items that you rush through the wash to wear again. Would you benefit from having another? If you’re stressed when it’s in the dirty laundry basket, then the answer is probably yes!

Don’t panic

If making a list of items for your capsule wardrobe feels too overwhelming, start by picking just ONE item you think you need. And remember that building a capsule wardrobe is a process – you can keep revising it until it works for you. You don’t have to buy it all at once, and you definitely don’t have to get it right first time.

Allow yourself to fall in love

It’s so easy, when thinking about a capsule wardrobe, to get caught up in the practical – is it comfortable? fit for purpose? will it go with everything else I own? My advice here is this: allow yourself to fall in love. Trust me – those items you love will be your workhorses. As I said to a client recently: if you want to dress like an off-duty Bellatrix Lestrange, then do!

If you’re struggling to feel the love amid the overwhelm, I’d recommend using Pinterest to make a board of anything that appeals to you. As you pin things you’re drawn to, you’ll start to see a common¬†aesthetic.

Get a colour analysis

As a colour analyst, of course I’d say this. But if you’re serious about building a capsule wardrobe, your clothes are going to have to work extra hard for you. Firstly, they all need to co-ordinate (if you’re buying clothes in your palette, they will) and secondly, you want to make sure that the few items you have look great on you. Knowing your palette makes shopping SO much easier and quicker, because you can immediately discount the colours that aren’t yours.

Author Marian Keyes, a gorgeous Bright Winter

I’ve been a fan of Marian Keyes for the longest time, since the days of Watermelon and Lucy Sullivan is Getting Married. I recently read her latest book, The Break, and was struck by the main character Amy’s love of fashion. Throughout the book, references were made to the kinds of makeup and clothes that the character felt suited her (very consistent with someone who was a Winter, I couldn’t help but notice) and there was even a reference to colour analysis.

With this in mind, I looked up Marian Keyes on YouTube and this is what I found. Take a look at this stunning creature:

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Clearly a Winter like her character, Amy. Her hair colour makes her skin look so clear and smooth (clearly, this lady has some make-up game, too). I would be shocked if Marian hadn’t had her colours done (if only I could ask her!)

This was the interview I watched. Take a look at her house, too, and Marian’s top. The dark hair really suits her, and those eyes! The remarkable pale grey/blue/green of a Bright Winter.

I suspect the interviewer (Sam Baker) is an Autumn. She’s much more muted than Marian, and her hair looks to be a muted russet. I bet she’d look great in an antique teal or a dark olive (I always get such Autumn envy whenever I think about the palette).

Having done a bit of Instagram stalking, I am convinced Marian is a Romantic of some description. She loves her fabulous shoes and her animal prints; there’s a brilliant pic of her in a leopard print dress (all Winter colours).

Both Marian and her character Amy love the Serbian artist¬†Dusanka Petrovic, another ‘Winter clue’. Take a look at the really bright, cool colours:

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‘At the brook’ by Dusanka Petrovic

I enjoyed the book all the more for its references to colour and fashion. I wasn’t at all surprised to discover that both Marian and her character Amy were Winters.

If you’re on the market for a really compelling and at times quite gritty book about marriage, relationships and families, then I can highly recommend The Break ūüôā

UPDATE:
Marian confirmed on Twitter that she has had her colours done and that she’s a Winter!!!!!!!!!! (My day is made!!!!!!)

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Big bust, little bust, cardboard box

Apologies for the title – I trust you’ve heard of the dance move “big fish, little fish, cardboard box”? Sorry not-sorry about that ūüėČ

As an¬†ing√©nue, I don’t want or need bust emphasis. Whilst shopping online today I was thinking about bust size and how it influences the styles that flatter us (or not). Here are my thoughts on what works and what doesn’t, depending on whether you’re small or large of bust.

Small bust

What works: high necklines, a yoke*, detail above the bust, halter necks if shoulders aren’t too wide, long necklaces, polo necks, chokers.

Avoid: Low v-necks and any neckline that is too low.

Top with short yoke
Excellent example of a short yoke here. You can see how this model is very slim and how this would be rather unflattering on a large bust, not least because the top would sit away from the body, giving the illusion that the wearer was several dress sizes bigger than she actually was. Top from Next.
Pretty high lace collar and yoke blouse from ASOS. Small bust required.

Large bust

What works: lower necklines (scoop, v-neck), boat neck (works for medium-sized busts), detail below the bust, e.g. empire band or belt, avoid too much bulk at the bust e.g. ruffles. Romantics might be able to get away with the latter.

This neckline is a cross between a scoop and a v. Better for bigger busts. You could go a little higher if you wanted to slow less cleavage. Black lace top from ASOS.

Avoid: Long necklaces that straddle one asset (if you catch my drift) – necklaces that rest above the bust, as opposed to on the bust, are better. A large bust, when not dressed well, can give the impression of you being heavier than you are.¬†Pepperberry, if you’ve never heard of them, make clothes for the big of bust.

This top needs to hang straight down. A bigger bust will make this top stick out and make the person look bigger overall. If it was fitted beneath the bust (empire line) then it would work better. Blouse from ASOS.

Sheer tops can make higher necklines more wearable for bigger busts, I find.

The neckline here is too high and small. Frustrating that this is marketed at so-called plus sizes. This doesn’t flatter the model, I can’t imagine it flattering any wearer.

Several months ago now I visited Bravissimo in Norwich and it was somewhat life-changing. I was certain I was wearing the right size bra.¬†Turns out I was wearing a band size too big and a cup size too small. The right bra can take years off you and completely change your silhouette,¬†as I discovered. I can’t recommend a visit strongly enough. If your outfit is fabulous but your bra isn’t¬†you can be sure it’ll sabotage your look; I’m not being overly dramatic here. Alas, I digress…¬†There seems to be a lot of high necklines in the shops at the moment, which means I’m struggling. I can see that the slim models look better in these necklines, but I do not.

The above are, of course, only my observations – do you agree? What do you find works for you?

* yoke = a part of a garment that fits over the shoulders and to which the main part of the garment is attached.

More style experimentation

I visited Matalan a while back on the hunt for some more leggings (the search is endless, I swear), and couldn’t resist some more style experimentation. I took some photos… Are you ready for this? Brace yourselves…

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My head looks separate from my body here. Do you like the lovely coral heels that do absolutely nothing for my legs?
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Jessie J would rock that chain. Me? Not so much…
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MY EYES! There is so much wrong with this I don’t know where to start. Lily Allen would wear this outfit well I think.
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This isn’t how an ing√©nue does sexy… Nope! The black is completely dominating.

I’m sure you’ll be relieved to know that none of these outfits made it home. I showed these photos to friends recently, and their replies were not repeatable in polite company. One of my friends commented on the consistency of my style usually, so these clothes are a stark contrast to my usual Summer Ing√©nue Natural look. I imagine a Winter / Bright Spring Dramatic would look good in these. They are pretty much exactly what I shouldn’t be wearing; mostly Winter colours with a little Spring, Dramatic style, large scale, heels. For the sake of completeness and contrast, here’s what I usually wear if I’m going out to something that requires a smarter look…

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I can’t remember why I wore this now, but this is my version of ‘dressing up’.
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Sometimes I’ll swap the leggings and flats for navy tights and kitten heels if I need to go smarter. I do get a little bit scared sometimes when I realise I’m leaving the house dressed like a princess.
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Apologies for the headless shot! If I need to do “going out / clubbing” (not that I’m a big fan of clubs) then the cord hot pants come out, with a pretty blouse.

So there you have it! When I’m next out shopping, who knows, I might experiment some more ūüėČ

My wedding

You’ll probably not¬†be at all surprised to hear that my colour and style knowledge was immensely¬†useful when it came to planning my wedding. As you know, I visited House of Colour back in 2010. You might not know that I got engaged in February 2012 and married in May 2014. Armed with my colour and […]

My Colour and Style Experiment

As you may have judged by the title of this post, it’s time for something a little bit different! I’m very excited to be writing about a colour and style experiment I did recently. For one day only¬†I¬†wore something completely different both style and colour-wise, in part to see if anyone noticed, and also to see how I felt.

I wanted my outfit to be believable. In fact, I wanted it to be something I could and would have quite plausibly worn before I had my colours and style done, so it was put together with much thought and with a little help from my style and colour-savvy friends.

Why did I do the experiment?

I had my colours done over 5 years ago and as a result I’m very¬†used to wearing clothes that feel right for me and not really having to think about what I wear. It is completely liberating. It means I can think about clothes as little or as much as I want. It also means I dress very consistently. I dress true to my clothing personality and I always wear colours from the Summer palette (as a Deep Summer this means I wear a lot of navy, purple and sea green). I did this experiment because I wanted to remember how it felt to leave the house feeling insecure about my outfit. I remember frequently¬†leaving the house for work hoping I wouldn’t have to deal with anyone that day because I didn’t feel comfortable in what I was wearing but I didn’t know what else to wear. When I think back to that time the memory of it leaves me feeling quite drained. I had to think about clothes a lot if I wanted to feel vaguely comfortable when leaving the house. I had a wardrobe full of clothes and nothing to wear. I rarely got it right, and it took me a long time to figure out what I was going to wear.

I did the experiment because I wanted to see how the people I interact with¬†every day reacted to me dressing differently. Would they even notice? Generally speaking people don’t comment on my clothes and I think this is because when the clothes are right, people notice the person wearing them.¬†I’ll admit that I was expecting to feel very uncomfortable all day, but I was pretty sure that no-one would notice or comment. Turns out I was quite wrong¬†about that!

How would I describe my style usually?

Zyla’s tagline for his Sunset Summer archetype is ‘elegant bohemian’ and I think that phrase works well to describe me. I’d also describe my style as¬†pretty, casual and a bit ethereal. I have a love of detail in clothes, anything plain is a bit of a turn-off for me. In House of Colour’s system I’m considered an ‘Ing√©nue Natural’. It’s a young, casual look. Here is my style board on Pinterest, to give you a better idea:

Here are four¬†typical outfits that I wear both for work and during my leisure time. I don’t have a separate work wardrobe as I work behind-the-scenes in a technical capacity¬†and my colleagues dress casually too. We don’t need to wear suits. Apologies for the low-quality nates ūüėČ

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What I chose to wear on my experiment day, and why

I was thankfully able to borrow clothes from friends so I didn’t have to go out and buy clothes in the wrong style and season! I opted for:

  • Wide leg black trousers
  • Heeled patent black shoes
  • A long jumper top in tan
  • A wooden bead necklace
  • A black patent belt

In terms of make-up I kept it minimal: navy mascara, a Summer blusher and¬†an Autumn lipstick; mismatching on purpose because those who aren’t aware of colour analysis typically don’t manage to wear make-up belonging to the same season. I used to wear black mascara (Winter), a warm brown blusher (Autumn) and a neutral lipstick that, if swatched, would have belonged to Autumn.

I chose the black trousers and black shoes because I used to wear those all the time for work. Admittedly I didn’t used to wear a heel but I chose the shoe style because it’s not me at all, but of course they look great on my Winter Natural Romantic friend!

I chose an Autumn/Spring (crossover) top because warmth makes me look ill, and my past mistakes were Autumn. I wore a lot of khaki which I know now to be one of the worst colours I could have chosen because I have very cool undertones and khaki is a very warm colour.

The outfit

When I first tried the outfit on (in front of my colour and style-savvy friends) they pulled horrified faces. I asked them if it was ‘too much’ and they insisted it wasn’t. It was something I might have worn pre-style/colour analysis. It was also an outfit that someone might very plausibly put together if they didn’t have style and colour knowledge.

I asked them how it felt to look at me. They said I looked ill (that’ll be the warm brown jumper!) and that I looked like I was dressing up, perhaps to perform in a play or similar. In other words, not me at all. Like I was dressing as someone else. Their comments didn’t surprise me at all. I felt incredibly uncomfortable looking in the mirror. I could hardly bear to look at myself.

IMG_3889IMG_3890IMG_3894IMG_3895The belt made me feel very uncomfortable. I think it was very unflattering but it matched the shoes. I think I might have disliked the necklace most of all. I still struggle to explain why. I think it looks faintly ridiculous on me and yet I knew that someone else could wear the same outfit and look much better in it (ideally the trousers and shoes and belt would be brown, to match the Spring/Autumn jumper).

The day of the experiment

Getting dressed on the day I noticed I was unconsciously trying to fight it. I wanted to plait my hair rather than have it in a bun (like I used to) because I hate how the bun looks. I wore all my own make-up bar the Autumn lipstick which I borrowed from a friend. I had wanted to wear black mascara but couldn’t find any. Putting on my Summer blusher was just easier and conveniently clashed with the outfit.

I felt more excited than uncomfortable until I looked in the mirror. I just laughed at myself because the outfit seemed so ridiculous, but then I reminded myself how I felt before I had my colours and style done, and suddenly it didn’t seem very funny any more. I hated looking at myself in the mirror, I literally cringed every time.¬†It really bought back memories, of days when I didn’t like what I was wearing and didn’t have anything else but had to go into work anyway (or call in sick). So I’d go to work and feel uncomfortable all day and hope I didn’t bump into anyone I knew.

I hated the noise of the shoes clip-clopping as I walked into work. I noticed I was having to walk slower. I confessed to my husband in the car on the way in that I was doing an experiment and he said (in relation to the outfit), “I don’t like it, it’s just meh. But it doesn’t look that out of the ordinary. No-one will notice.”¬†I had to remove the shoes for¬†driving. The impracticality of the heels drove me mad.

I hated walking down my corridor into work. I felt like the clip-clopping noise was attracting attention and my husband teased me about it. It made me realise I don’t usually make any noise as I walk because I wear flat shoes or boots.

My two (male) colleagues started commenting before I’d even sat at my desk.

“Oh my God who’s this?”

They¬†just STARED at me, grinning. I couldn’t ignore them so I said¬†“What?” and they replied “Can we have Janine back?”

One of them said “I don’t think I’ve ever seen you in trousers before.” I replied:¬†“You haven’t.”¬†I told them I was surprised that they even noticed what I was wearing.

They wouldn’t let up.¬†Later in the day they said: “We’re suspicious, what’s going on? We’ve been talking about it.” I just smiled at them and they said “How did the interview go?”

I posted some photos of me in the outfit in¬†a private group on Facebook for my friends to see. I didn’t tell them I was doing an experiment. Their reactions were really interesting.

“Wow – chuck the tunics girl!” one said.

“Ooooo very grown up… And omg!! your figure!!” said another.

But when I ‘fessed up they were relieved.

“I was quite surprised when I saw someone as expert in style as you, dressed up as someone else. You look ok. But you don’t feel ok. That’s the point. Innit?”

“I thought it was a bit 1980s”

“I think your awesome figure and the slim fitting top saves it, but I did think very classic and odd you in tan then got distracted by your figure so forgot about the colours.”

I made notes throughout the day:

“I can’t wait until the end of the day when I can take it off! Feel SO self-conscious. Looking in the mirror is SO uncomfortable, excruciating even. Dreading getting up from my desk to get water!”

“In order to get on with work today I’m going to have to try very hard to forget about what I’m wearing. It’s very distracting. I feel weirdly naked. Feels like a thought control experiment.”

“In the kitchen I bumped into someone I knew (female colleague). I noticed how distracted they were by my outfit. It felt awful to be looked up and down.”

“Outfit is tiring. Heels are tiring.”

After lunch I¬†‘fessed up to a colleague about the experiment, the one who kept asking me what was going on. I felt more comfortable after that but I still avoided getting up for water.¬†When I told my colleague I was 6’ in heels he said to me: “Your legs are 5’11” long.” I thought that it was interesting that the outfit was causing people to notice my figure more. No wonder I felt naked.

My singing teacher gave the best response of the day. Before she’d even said goodbye to her last student she’d asked me if I was okay. As soon as they had left she turned to me and said:

“Really, what’s wrong? Are you okay?”

I assured her I was fine but she persisted.

“On a scale of 1 to 10, where are you?”

“Honestly, about an 8, I’m fine!” I insisted.

I had to tell her about the experiment before we’d even made it to her studio. When I said, “It’s okay, I’ll tell you, it’s fine honest!” she literally recoiled in horror and seemed genuinely worried. “I knew something was up!” she said. I told her about the experiment and she breathed a huge sigh of relief. “You look so stern!”

She’s very astute and sensitive so I’m not in any way surprised she noticed, but I was surprised by the intensity of her reaction. She said to me that I looked drawn, I told her that would be the colour of the jumper I was wearing. She paused, and then said, “Wow. I really think I should get my colours done.” Afterwards she said, “It’s not that the outfit is bad, it’s just that it’s not you at all. You look like you wouldn’t take any sh*t. I don’t like it. It freaks me out.” I thought how ironic it was that I looked intimidating to her when I had felt so self conscious all day. I thought she might actually like my outfit because it was more her style than mine but clearly I was very wrong.

When my friend and fellow student arrived after my lesson she looked me up and down and said, “What’s all this?” I had to laugh and confess as my teacher said “Thank God you’ve noticed!” I told my friend¬†I was wearing the wrong style and colours for an experiment. “Thank God for that!” she said. “I knew something was up when I spotted the necklace!”

I will be very relieved not to be wearing the outfit again but I will admit that it prompted compliments from some which was a change for me because generally speaking I don’t get any at all. People notice me and not the clothes and of course I don’t usually wear anything quite so figure-hugging!

The experiment reiterated to me the importance of dressing for ourselves. There may be some people who prefer the tan and black outfit but I felt so uncomfortable in it and ultimately how you feel is what matters most.

I’m not surprised I felt so uncomfortable but I was surprised by the reactions I got. I would do something similar again but only in the name of fancy dress or another experiment to blog about. It made me feel very, very grateful for the colour and style knowledge that I have. It is amazing just how much of an impact one outfit can have.