Expanding my warm weather clothing capsule in a red hot hurry

Between my new job and lots of stunningly beautiful, unseasonably dry weather, I’ve been having quite the fling with spring. Blue skies plus two months of temperatures rocketing into the 70s and 80s equal Vix and Spring, sitting in a tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G.

Surely nothing could harsh my sunshine-yellow mellow!

Except: I’ve got a regionally appropriate wardrobe, and that region is one where morning radio jocks make (truthful) cracks about summer kicking off July 5th. Plus I’ve moved into a slightly more conservative work environment with a very conservatively dressing boss. And I have a recent past full of items bought to ADD more print and color to my wardrobe of neutral solids.

My closet and I needed seasonal help, and we needed it fast.

In hopes of minimizing purchasing mistakes I forced myself to gather everything I owned that was remotely summery, try the pile on, and assess. Once I’d slogged through the evaluation phase with many a self-congratulatory comment, I knew it was time for some ground rules.

Clothing Capsule Purchasing Goals or, Can’t We All Just Get Along?

  • Simplify integration into my existing work/play capsule by sticking to variations within my color palette
  • Cherry-pick 2013 spring/summer color trends by focusing on cool-toned deep greens and blues, taupes, and medium purples
  • Make transitional weather less of a PITA by growing my collection of prints/patterns that mix dark and light colors
  • Add a lace item; purchase both looser and more fitted shapes; and get more of trends I’ve enjoyed for a few years such as high-low hems and sheer blouses
  • Keep my three style personas happy enough by choosing items that could combine into Contrarian Classicist, Minimalist Magpie, and/or Persnickety Bohemian wholes

Given that I’m a corporate creative, I have some leeway in clothing as expression—but when I start somewhere new, I generally like the focus to be on my work product and ever-so-charming personality, not my more…vivid…clothing items.

Somewhat reluctantly, then, I accepted that I needed to spend money on pieces that COULD work together in an all-quiet ensemble. From there I hit the sales to find things I could wear together or with my existing clothing and accessories.

You Complete Me (for Now): 10 New Pieces I’m Wearing Together + Apart

  • Color-Color
    • emerald/cobalt sleeveless silk print button up shirt
    • blue + purple + taupe floral print shell
    • sheer purple + grey print long-sleeved top
    • white + navy + light blue short-sleeved faux-wrap dress (not shown)
  • Neutrals
    • navy straight leg tropical wool pants
    • ivory + taupe lace pencil skirt
    • lightweight taupe blazer
    • white boho luxe silk blouse
    • black tropical wool sheath dress
    • black + brown + taupe leaf print dress
  • #11
    • cobalt leather work bag big enough to pack all my crap (necessary replacement) 

If I’d given into my baser desires, I would have bought all blues and greens and spent every day humming “La Isla Bonita.”

Using a fairly strict color palette to build my seasonal clothing capsules = a more functional closet + ability to rationalize going overboard with favorite shades (here, Spring/Summer 2013 buys of a cobalt leather work bag, bold emerald-cobalt button-up silk blouse, and navy tropical wool pants)

In the interests of being more well-rounded, however, I decided to look at the hot-to-trot shades for Spring 2013; since time was short, I wanted to choose my color palette variations with an eye to what would be easier to find in stores.

My  2013 Spring/Summer Color Palette, Give or Take: When in buying mode, it’s easier to choose color palette variations from trendy shades — so I looked at the Pantone Spring 2013 forecast and decided to focus my buys on shades close to Emerald, African Violet, and Linen (aka deep green, medium purple, taupe) + navy

Amusingly, buying things I love in colors that flatter sometimes means I’m accidentally on-trendish. Here, new navy pants meet up with a T and high-low hem top from several years ago.

As an (oblivious) early adopter of emerald-colored items, sheer tops, and/or high-low hems, I’m still trying to evaluate how I feel about semi-tucking and slouchy — here, the new navy pants combine with old pals for weekend wear

On a related note, wearing things I love in colors that flatter has resulted in a lot of mullet outfits: they’re sedate from the back but a party in the front.

I dialed up the sedate when I started my new job, but am now easing in some mullet wear (staid from the back, party in the front)…here, navy wool pants plus my Parade of Peacock Feathers Dress worn tunic-style

Another mullet outfit with the new navy pants — this time with my Periwinkle Silk Goes Goddess-y Blouse worn sans sash and tied in a side knot

Of course, sometimes my looks are sedate from the front AND back. I find navy + grey combinations seem to add a banker’s touch to everything…

New items include an ivory/taupe lace pencil skirt + a print shell with blues, purples, and light taupe + a navy cotton blazer — all chosen because they play well with each other and with existing closet items

…especially when a little boho weasels its way into an outfit.

Despite being too-big vs oversized, a $15 price + perfect-to-me colors/print means I bought this floppy-sleeved sheer blouse; I twist, tie, and/or cover to rein in its volume (Top, over a sheath dress for work as a non-flamenco dancer; bottom, for play)

When navy’s not around and grey’s gone missing, though, I rely on blazers and denial to tame drapey boho luxe silks and highly textured tops and bottoms.

Other new items include a highly practical lightweight taupe blazer and a highly impractical but somehow irresistible (hello, Persnickety Bohemian side) white silk shirt

As the final element in my capsule round-up, I offer a rather terrifying-in-retrospect triptych of 99% neutrals. Pay no mind to the mannequin stance and seemingly surgically attached taupe suede boots.

Is this a cheerful study of neutrals, or Vix Paper Dolls #12: A Reflection on the American Office Worker’s Socio-Intellectual Boundaries? Either way, the leaf print dress, taupe blazer, and black sheath dress (worn alone and as a faux-skirt) are now wardrobe staples

Six or so weeks into my fast and furious purchasing, all 10 pieces have passed their road tests with flying colors (and neutrals). Even better, I’m back to a no-fuss closet that gets me from robe to ready in 5 minutes flat. Feel free to share your strategies for capsule dressing below!

Looking for more examples of creating a capsule with a color palette in mind? My pals Fizz (Fall/Winter + Spring/Summer) and Eileen used similar approaches.

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Ranunculus Neckline Dress

Lately when I try to make things easier they get harder. It’s not really a knack that endears me to me, but it does make for extra delight when plans trundle past intended mileposts instead of making sharp U-turns into oncoming traffic.

So let me keep this short and fairly sweet….

First, I met some fabric. Then, I met a woman intrigued by my desire to merge a simple wool jersey dress with a dramatic collar. I mentioned “1940s” and “draped” and “rouched.” From there the Affable Experimenter came up with an interpretation that reminds me of the gorgeous Persian buttercup (aka ranunculus asiaticus):

After much patient experimentation, a local dressmaker succeeded in topping a wool jersey dress with a ranunculus-like neckline

Although I certainly see a connection to the soft swoops of fabric so prevalent in vintage clothing. And to dimensional dresses worn by not-so-vintage sirens.

With the help of my creative collaborator, I’d say I ended up with a dress that’s 1 part 40s Vogue : 1 part Katy Perry

While my Contrarian Classicist side influenced the design from start to finish, adding a few shiny accessories makes it simple to get buy-off from my Minimalist Magpie side. When the dress is worn on its own, all it takes is a little patent:

Long sleeves and a staid length meet up with patent platform peeptoe heels…

and also pair with highly walkable boots that have their own take on platform + patent (via a tough-to-see shiny heel)

But adding a matching jersey tube that lightly cinches the waist and upper hip area makes the perfect backdrop for an off-the-clock chain belt:

A removable tube of matching wool jersey lets me create more waist definition (and provides a handy backdrop for a chain belt once I’m off the clock)

As with most of my custom projects, the Affable Experimenter and I had to do some problem-solving here and there; overall, though, the whole process was so smooth I may be in withdrawal from “complicated.” Could that be why the highly impractical cape below seems so appealing?

A 1955 cover line touts bulk against slimness—and makes it mighty tempting to add another charcoal item to my closet

Towards a closet with more method than madness, or Making the most of my style personas

It’s been more than 7 years since a friend shocked me into sartorial self-examination by observing:

In the nearly 20 years I’ve known you, you’ve always been prone to wearing clothes that are black and baggy. But now they’re black, baggy, and covered in cat hair…and that’s just one thing too many.”

She was right.

Unfortunately her assessment failed to magically create a closet perfectly aligned with my lifestyle, budget, and preferences. So I got to work. Along the way I encountered lows (my dependence on solid-colored dark neutrals) as well as highs (having a fabric I loved turned into a top that makes me feel like a walking vintage book cover).

Gradually, my studies and experiments made it clear I gravitated to modern classic looks. Progress! Except that I found “modern classic” a stunningly broad and deeply useless category name since I coveted items both staid and flashy, classic and boho, and on opposite ends of the color-color vs neutral spectrum.

How to indulge all that? Should one indulge all that?

I wanted the answer to be yes. But without setting boundaries and thinking through how I’d wear Basic or Exciting Potential Items, I was neither close to closet nirvana nor maximizing my wardrobe dollars.

After even more navel-gazing, I realized:

  • too much classic feels wrong to me
  • too much boho feels wrong to me
  • too much “muchness” feels wrong to me

Which led me to see that overall I like to mix classic with shiny things, classic with color, and classic with boho. Ah, the joy of being a simple woman with simple needs!

Except I don’t like being THAT simple. And the formula wasn’t—and isn’t—enough to keep me on track when shopping. I needed glitz, I needed jazz hands, I needed to cheat my way through all the typical style quizzes/worksheets and christen more than one style personality. I gave myself an A for effort and a ratio for guidance:

1 part Minimalist Magpie : 1 part Contrarian Classicist  (with fluctuations to make room for their unacknowledged love child, the Persnickety Bohemian)

Wearing representations of my 3 style personas (left to right, top to bottom: Minimalist Magpie, Contrarian Classicist, Persnickety Bohemian)…and realizing I can find elements of all in this fountain

I confess my labeling is both loose and highly subjective, and I don’t fret if things teeter on the brink of multiple categories. When shopping, I just evaluate items with a dominant persona (and color palette) in mind, then try to cross-pollinate items across all three descriptors. Advantages: a smaller closet and more for the shopping money, honey.

How to  Placate Multiple Style Personas With a Cross-Pollinated Closet

Below, a not-at-all-comprehensive glimpse at how I attempt to use one item to meet my varied stylistic whims. [It all boils down to a lot of looks that are Vaguely Vintage or Barely Boho.] Disclaimer: one-note posing, Missoni fabric by the yard, and snoozy shoe choices abound!

Black leather blazer (with knit sleeve insets and edging) + Black knit pencil:

Back in black: with a few tweaks, it’s easy for my leather blazer and knit pencil skirt to suit both my Contrarian Classicist and Persnickety Bohemian sides

Rose-brown wool jacket + (multi-way) Periwinkle silk blouse + Emerald herringbone pencil skirt: 

A classic dark rose-brown blazer and emerald pencil skirt get mixed and matched with a boho luxe periwinkle silk blouse that can be worn multiple ways, keeping my Contrarian Classicist and Persnickety Bohemian sides happy

Barely Boho scarves worn with classic items + Classic scarves worn Barely Boho style: 

Top, a fringed knit scarf goes from work to play, while a silk scarf wraps around hat, hair, and waist; Bottom, a simple blue jersey dress skews Minimalist Magpie when worn with a glass pendant and shell bracelet, then serves as an underlayer for a boho scarf-as-dress

My custom Ultimate PMS skirt + Velvet burnout scarf:

My Ultimate PMS Skirt goes classic with a pink panther-esque pairing…then takes to bohemian life by pattern mixing with a sinuously blossomed velvet scarf…while the scarf goes on to rescue a staid corduroy/sweater outfit (creating a Contrarian Classicist and Persnickety Bohemian toss up)

Rosy Missoni by the yard pencil skirt and tank + Custom plum wool jersey jacket 

Budget boho luxe items—my Missoni by the yard pencil skirt and tank—work across all my personas, but straddle the line between Contrarian Classicist and Persnickety Bohemian when paired with a equestrian style wool jersey jacket, plain-Jane knee high boots and colored net tights, or simple sandals

Vintage, vintage, and more vintage—including a mohair capelet, Whiting and Davis mesh bag, and BettyDraperBlue silk scarf—mix with streamlined shapes 

I often use (inexpensive!) vintage items to either put the magpie into my Minimalist Magpie ensembles or amp up an outfit’s Persnickety Bohemian factor

5 year-old grey skirt suit (together and apart) + Heeled moto boots

Left, a 5 year-old classic grey wool skirt suit pairs with everything from white cotton to chain belts, boho blouses, and knits; Right, buckled boots decrease the sweetness of a flounced midi skirt and the ho-humness of a stick-straight skirt

Items with a retro flavor pair up with modern classic basics 

Retro-flavored items are Contrarian Classic staples, but contain elements—the red glass pendant, the bucket handbag—that easily cross over into Minimalist Magpie and Persnickety Bohemian outfits

Pewter silk charmeuse animal print top + Sharkskin blazer + 13 year-old black spiderweb wool dress

Appealing to both my Minimalist Magpie and Contrarian Classicist side is easy with a little presto chango: Left, a silk animal print top and sharkskin jacket pair with each other and more casual items; Right, a 13 year-old black spiderweb wool dress with a d’Orsay cork wedge in 2007 and with shinier pals in 2012

Enough…more than…about me. As an inherently nosy person, I have to ask: who’s playing this game with their own style goals/preferences?

A week of wandering in and around bold, beautiful Vancouver BC [pt 2]

Previously, I detailed how my Vancouver trip included a laid-back exploration of the city’s vibrant west side and downtown/west end neighborhoods. In addition to seeking out some of British Columbia’s slightly more rustic treasures, however, Mr Vix and I had two other goals to fulfill: find colorful plants in highly landscaped settings and observe Canadian hipsters in their natural habitats.

Hailing from a region where the descriptors “iconoclastic,” “weird,” “funky,” and “repurposed” are tossed around with both pride and derision, my travel partner and I were curious to see how Vancouverites lived/worked/played in settings known for fewer tourists and more attitude.

We were realistic about the hardships we’d face—including being surrounded by loads of appealing restaurants, bakeries, coffeehouses, and independent shops—but after securing our pith helmets and loosening our belts, we pushed forward.

Once we hit Commercial Drive, it didn’t take long to see that when it came to standing out, the stakes were high:

On Commercial Drive, it’s not cool enough to have a pristine vintage car: you also need Satan as your chauffeur

Luckily, having just watched comedian Simon King perform a set in which he shared his (hilarious, blistering) thoughts on “the Drive,” I was schooled in how to (theoretically) attend a poetry slam and one-up anyone who arrived on a bike decorated in Barbie heads.

Barbie heads with x’d out eyes.

Though it’s dubious I’ll ever be ambitious enough to steer my mid-life crisis in the hipster direction, I appreciated Mr King’s insights. Currently, however, I’m all about the intersection where bourgeois meets hip: food. Locally sourced, organic, family-operated, gluten-free, fair-trade, fusion…if that’s how you want to roll and the end result tastes good, I’m game.

Especially if cherries are involved.

Having gone wild for local cherries during our trip, we plucked more from one of the Drive’s many greengrocers to take home (and two sets of eyes were on the prize vs my rumpled clothes)

[As a fairly high-quantity purchaser of local cherries, raspberries, strawberries, and blueberries on this trip, I have to say with some regret but mostly glee that I deem BC cherries superior to Oregon’s. Ours are quite good; theirs are extraordinary. We still reign supreme when it comes to strawberries, though.]

The day we were on the Drive, French-Tunisian won our lunch money. And not just because my (derumpled) Missoni-fabric-by-the-yard outfit coordinated with the setting.

An interesting French-Tunisian menu plus a great view of the Drive’s action made the Carthage Cafe our choice for a late lunch–but the flavors captured most of our attention

As I tottered toward the car with a belly full of chicken tangine, I realized that anytime I’m in an area described as being artsy or edgy, I encounter tableaux that make me want to squeal, “Oh, aren’t you just the CUTEST THING!”

Visual, consumer, and edible treats abound on the Drive

Of course I’m never sure if that’s irony at work or the desired response.

Rather amazingly, Vancouver seems to offer opportunities to reflect on social issues even when one swaps streets for leafier settings. One minute it’s all heirloom roses and fern grottos, the next, compelling biocultural art installations:

At the VanDusen Botanical Gardens, we came across artist Nicole Dextras’ captivating Little Green Dress Projekt (Earth Art 2012)

Somewhat confusingly, though, artist Nicole Dextras’ work made it both easier and harder for me to resist the wide variety of eco-friendly clothing for sale in Mount Pleasant/Main Street (SoMa) boutiques.

The silk saris that had been transformed into skirts and tops entranced my Persnickety Bohemian side, but I eventually managed to ignore them.

Main Street’s Mount Pleasant area, aka SoMa, is filled with shops (including Spirithouse, where silk saris have been refashioned into skirts and tops)

Then I offset the pain of saying no to featherweight multi-culti clothing by saying yes to ethnic food.

Also in resistance mode was Mr Vix, who abandoned yet another of the city’s temples to vinyl so we could continue exploring the zones labeled Riley Park, Little Mountain, Mount Pleasant, and/or SoMa.

While the decor of Bob Likes Thai Food demonstrates the warmer side of Main Street/Mount Pleasant, Red Cat Records & CDs is all about the cool

Sure, the Red Cat record store clerks may have eyeballed my [repurposed, thank you] top and [ancient but out-of-the-landfill] underlayer’d dress and wordlessly conveyed that they thought Mr Vix was taking a break from escorting his sheltered virgin aunt on a genteel sightseeing tour. But dammit, I wasn’t going to let that keep me away from admiring the neighborhood’s older homes and visiting the nearby Queen Elizabeth Park and its stunning gardens!

Besides: Queen Elizabeth Park, a former quarry site, really is a fantastic place. Multiple vistas of the city, great use of color and texture, and many an inviting spot to meander or rest.

What’s not to love?

Especially as I finally got to feel like a neighborhood insider when the flowers saw my blouse and gave me the half-nod that means “you pass, man, you pass….”

Just a short distance from the many charms of Main Street/Mount Pleasant, Queen Elizabeth Park offers visitors admission-free views of beautiful gardens

Next: Part 3 of A week of wandering in and around bold, beautiful Vancouver BC, featuring more and less rugged examples of British Columbia’s natural beauty 

PSA: Get a probably NSFW taste of the bawdy Simon King during a Comedy Now show several years back or connect with him via his website.

Parade of Peacock Feathers Dress

Having apparently squashed the rose-colored glasses I keep around to help offset personal and global downers, I’m extra-bummed that anytime I fall in love with something beautiful there’s always a least a little darkness attached.

Take silk: though I felt called to start budgeting for my Periwinkle Silk Goes Goddess-y Blouse the moment I saw it—and vowed to have a less poufy, more printed version created in dress form—knowing the very very tough life that captive silkworms lead definitely cast a cloud over my greed.

Because even I, with my “Let them eat mulberry leaves!” perspective, feel a bit guilty about how ole silkworms feast, molt, mate, lay eggs, and die soon after. Author Dana Thomas, observer of modern silk production, leaves no room for one to have happy fantasies about silkworm eggs going on to live happy caterpillar/silkmoth lives, either; she notes that (hopefully unexploited) workers steam the critters in their cocoons before unwinding the cocoons onto reeling machines and getting down to a process where “the work is swift, the water filthy, smelly, and very hot.”

Kind of grim, right? By the time I’d done two months of off-and-on searching for silk fabric I was worn down with liberal guilt.

[But then that’s part of the reason Thomas’ excellent book is titled Deluxe: How Luxury Lost Its Luster and not Consumption: Enjoy It Mindlessly.]

Naturally I could have reassessed my wants, abandoned my quest for a silk print, and turned to bamboo jersey. Once I stumbled upon a fabric with the right colors, design, and sheen for my purposes, however, I’m afraid the plight of the silkworms was mentally filed under D for Denial and cross-referenced under H for Hypocrisy.

As a bonus, the madcap print—varying sizes of peacock feathers sprawled over a 2-foot repeat—reminded me of one of the most amazing spaces I’ve ever seen, James McNeill Whister’s Peacock Room.

I’m discovering that my custom peacock feather print silk dress (worn V-neck/halter style) loves a good breeze

Though a mere dewy-eyed girl when I first encountered Whistler’s beautiful deep aqua and gilt creation, I’d still move in today. Especially as the room boasts a mural that captures the seemingly eternal battle between those who create art for money and those who hold the proverbial purse strings.

My childhood love: James McNeill Whister’s Peacock Room — loved even more now for its mural (Art and Money; or, the Story of the Room)

But back to the dress, close sibling to my voluminous periwinkle purchase.

As documented earlier with the blouse, the style is a mix between a simple Greek chiton and a peasant blouse. A drawstring neckline and a detached belt let the wearer transform it from two sewn-together rectangles to a dress/tunic that can be worn in a variety of styles.

In my case all the “variety of styles” involve feathers on poitrine and posterior, but when one is channeling a peacock, shyness isn’t an option. I’m actually hoping a wild print plus under-engineered clothing shape = loud and clear sign of midlife crisis.

WAKE UP PEOPLE

L, 3 yards of silk Haute Hippie peacock print fabric await transformation; R, pale silver sandals meet up with meandering peacock feathers

However, as a fan of structured clothing, I’m naturally clinging to my creation’s drawstring for dear life. It’s my gateway to texture and shape, and although the string and channel construction is underappreciated in my household (“It looks…Amish,” quoth my beloved), I stand by my belief that a gathered neckline or sleeve has timeless charm.

If the style was good enough for the innovative Madeleine Vionnet, by gum, it’s good enough for me!

Speaking of art and money: As one of the master’s of the goddess-y gown, Vionnet’s mix of technical and artistic skills centered around ease of movement and letting the inherent qualities of a fabric shine (L, detail of a 1936 pleated neckline; R, shoulder detail from a 1938 gown — both c. the Metropolitan Museum of Art)

Lately it’s been good enough for those hired to carry on Vionnet’s work, too.

During her long career, Madeleine Vionnet expanded industry horizons; today Vionnet SpA reinterprets her vision (Spring 2011)

In fact, I’m somewhat mourning my tradeoff of fewer pleats for less width/more manageability—but since I’m busy trying to figure out how and where to put necklines, hemlines, and volume I don’t have much time to dwell on my decision.

I’ve pretty much decided I can do false-advertising-in-action demure…

A short + straight waist means I rarely belt, but the crazy print of Peacock (keyhole in back/high neck variation) does keep the eye moving…hopefully away from slatternly slip straps

fear I need to draw the line at front-pleated skirts…am safe with the split shoulder, V-neck halter style better modeled with the Periwinkle Pouf…

A multi-way dress has many challenges, and while my sewist conquered print placement I’m testing necklines, hem lengths, and volume distribution

…and may have broken something trying to be trendy via tunic, cuffed skinny jeans, and vaguely cage sandals.

Technically, my Peacock dress can become a Peacock tunic…so I’ve thrown my staid basics aside in order to experiment with about 10 (aging) trends at once

Luckily for me and my styling efforts, the peacock symbolizes renewal. Here’s to having such a vividly colored reminder that every failure marks another opportunity for success!

PSA 1 and 2: Learn as Betty Kirke, costume historian and author of the classic Madeleine Vionnet, shares her knowledge about Vionnet’s revolutionary construction techniques—or get a glimpse of the Vionnet retrospective at the Museum of Decorative Arts (redirects to YouTube):

PSA 3: Get a look inside the jewel box known as the Peacock Room, currently housed in the Smithsonian’s Freer Gallery of Art, and read up on the artist-patron feud that inspired the room’s famous mural