Category Archives: style development

Rethinking the wardrobe plan

Earlier this summer, I decided that for at least the next year, I want to work only with certain colors, and only specific hue angles within those. Here they are:

Color wheel

I’ll be working with the colors where my Bright Winter palette and my custom palette from John Kitchener overlap.

Now the question is how to plan a wardrobe around these colors. In the past, whenever wardrobe planning came up, whether as a SWAP, 6-PAC, wardrobe capsule, or one of those minimal wardrobe concepts, the idea has been that everything should go with just about everything else. In other words, totally mix-and-match. I’ve worked with it many times, making plans complete with pictures and fabric selections. But I rarely finished any of these plans. And when I did, I ended up not wearing several of the pieces. So it’s time for a rethink.

I am not a mix-and-matcher. I have certain outfits I like and wear often. I’d like to have some variation, mostly in terms of color, but not so the whole outfit is different. I love bright colors but I don’t wear more than one bright color at a time, preferring instead to combine each with black, white, and/or gray. I’m also not big on separates. So let’s say the base of an outfit is a black dress. What I need is different colored collections of accessories that work with this dress. A red collection. A yellow one. A green one. You get the idea.

Yellow collection 1

The beginning of my yellow collection.

Right now I’m working on the yellow collection. It started in June when I ordered a custom hand-painted scarf in yellow and black, and some custom-dyed yellow fingering merino yarn as well. When I started working on yellow jewelry ideas, it turned out that glass beads are not quite right. So now I’m playing with polymer clay. I have made a pair of earrings, a set of two bracelets, and a matching necklace. The black and yellow Cameo shawl belongs in this collection too, and I am currently knitting a tweedy cardigan in black, gray, and yellow.

I have yarn in all of my selected colors, and fabrics in most of them. Polymer clay colors are easy enough to mix up to match just about anything. Over the next year, I’d like to get a reasonable start on each of the colors – a set of jewelry, a scarf, and a cardigan or shawl (or some other shoulder warmer). I’m going to give it a good try to see if this way of wardrobe building will get me further than the mix-all-match-all way.

Stay tuned for some colorful polymer clay news.

See you soon!

Yang Gamine, Flamboyant Gamine… huh?

Remember the refashioned cardigan? My custom-painted scarf arrived and the weather cooperated so I can show you how it all looks.

Outfit 1 comparison

On the left is how I wore it last winter. On the right is how I wore it today. Makes a difference, doesn’t it? And it’s not just the cardigan. Did you notice the earrings? I am wearing ones you can actually see, hehe. Wearing more and bolder jewelry is one of my new style goals so be prepared for more of it.

The jewelry is only a part of my new style direction. You see, I have recently had a consultation with Rachel Nachmias of Best Dressed. She helped me understand where I fit on the yin-yang continuum and sent me a personalized pdf with recommendations plus visuals in the form of a private Pinterest board. The visuals especially are priceless. The keywords for Yang Gamine (or YangG) are bold, contrasting, fitted, structured, and cheerful. Today’s outfit was my first attempt.

Outfit 1 accessories

Scarf or pearls or both? Do you have a preference?

Yang Gamine. Flamboyant Gamine. High-spirited essence. Different names for the same archetype. The youthful, playful, spunky, ball of energy type, with twinkling eyes. That’s me. And I’m going to learn to dress the right way so that my clothes and accessories tell my story. Lots of sewing coming up, hehe.

See you soon!

High-spirited classic romantic

Last year, I went through the exercises in the Triumph of Individual Style book and documented them here. I had learned quite a bit but there were things that I couldn’t quite put together. Kind of like puzzle pieces that don’t appear to fit anywhere until somebody shows you where and how.

So in January, I booked some time with John Kitchener of PSC. He offers what he calls a Style Essence consultation, which I figured would help me connect the dots. And it did.

According to John, my style essence is 30% high-spirited, 25% classic, and 25% romantic. These are my main three style drivers, and almost perfectly balanced. Together, they account for 80% of me, so we’re talking complete outfits that need to reflect this. The other 20% is equal parts dramatic and natural, but with such a small percentage, we’re looking at details rather than whole garments.

High-spirited in John’s system is the yang side of gamine, so playful and fun without getting into the cute and naive territory. I am currently expressing this by using bright color, like lime green, cherry red, or turquoise, worn in a large block (with black or gray). The more I incorporate bright colors into my daily wear, the happier I am. I plan to explore my high-spiritedness in choice of buttons and some details, like narrow trim at the edge. It is always visible in the form of my haircut (short pixie). I call this part of me cheerful.

Classic is smack-dab in the middle, a perfect balance of yin and yang. It is visible in the neutrals I choose, the smooth-faced luxurious fabrics, clean lines, and simple symmetrical shapes. Classic, elegant footwear is an expression of this side of me as well. I call it polished.

Romantic adds yin. For me, this means fabrics on the drapey side of the spectrum, waist definition, skirts and dresses rather than pants when possible, and soft, rounded details (shawl collar, waterfall neckline, etc). I call it feminine.

It is this last bit, the romantic/feminine, that I couldn’t quite place even though it was staring me right in the face. I could see in pictures that some things just worked but could not figure out why. Now I know. Funny how the real me came out in what I wore even though I wasn’t consciously aware of it.

Front view 1

The above picture shows the shape and proportions that I think are correct for the polished and feminine elements. The skirt is an old self-drafted TNT, the cardigan is new. It’s missing the cheerful element because I didn’t have the right color fabric, but it serves well as a wearable prototype. I have two more cardigans almost completed (need buttons and buttonholes) that bring in the cheerful bit. I will show you those next time.

See you soon!

Project 333: week 3

Not even three weeks in, I’m already repeating an outfit. I figured that would happen at some point. Anyway, here’s my week 3 check-in:

Outfits Week 3a

That fur collar came in very handy in the cold weather. I loved it with the gray cardigan so I thought I’d try it with green one. Different scarf though – the first one is 11×60″, the second one is a 30″ square. Both are custom hand-painted by Tanya at Silk Scarves Colorado. (No affiliation, just a happy customer.) She does a wonderful job of either recreating one of her designs in your chosen color palette, or creating a design just for you based on your description of what you want.

Outfits Week 3b

Here comes the repeat – jeans and gray turtleneck. I can wear other sweaters with the jeans but this turtleneck has a nice comfy cotton feel so the pairing is almost automatic. And for our knit group meeting, wool pants and cashmere sweater seemed appropriate. There is something about those lime green scarves that makes me want to wear one every day.

Project 333: week 2

Wow, a week’s gone by and even though I’ve been composing blog posts in my head every day, somehow I managed to post nothing at all. But I have been taking pictures of my outfits to share with you so this is a quick check-in at the end of week 2:

Outfits Week 2a

In the picture above, I used the brooch to turn the gray turtleneck into more of a high shawl collar. It was a very comfortable outfit on what was an incredibly frustrating morning (I got to see ineptitude taken to a whole new level).

Outfits Week 2b

Simple outfits, all of them. Somewhat less colorful than last week – I see three mostly black/gray combinations. Funny, I could have sworn my outfits were more colorful than this. So much for eye witness, eh?

Project 333: week 1

One week in, I have six outfits to show you. It’s been a bit busy for me, in that I actually got out of the house every day except Sunday. Four days is more usual. Anyway, here’s what I wore:

Outfits Week 1a

Outfits Week 1b

Outfits Week 1c

It looks like the short boots are getting a workout and I’ve been wearing my default diamond studs the last few days. Maybe I need to put the other earrings where I can see them easily while getting dressed.

This is an unusually short post for me, but there really isn’t a whole lot to say. At least not yet. Maybe in a few more weeks. I hope.

On wardrobe plans and Project 333

I’ve been making wardrobe plans for as long as I can remember. This probably started back when I came across an image book as a teenager. As one book became a shelf-ful , and self color analysis yielded narrower color choices, I made plans to dress just so. Only, things didn’t always go as planned. As a teenager, I had a tiny budget. As an adult, I’ve often lacked time to make the clothes I planned.

The most recent plan to fall through was the one I made back in May last year. You can read about it here. For reference, this was my closet then (you can see I added some fabrics to make it look less… I don’t know… drab? empty?):


Well, my husband deployed shortly after that post and I had my hands full with the DIY renovation of our house we’d started (think gutted kitchen, replacing all doors and trims, etc) on top of a full-time job. And a few months later, while he was still in the desert, we got orders to Germany. That meant finishing up the reno, selling the house, supervising the move including moving into the inn on base when the house sold faster than we’d anticipated, and training my replacement at work. All this left me with no time or energy for sewing.

Fast forward to now. I have bought a few things to fill major holes and made a couple of sweaters to bring in lime green. Other than that, nothing. So now I’m in a different climate, with a more relaxed stay-home lifestyle. It’s time to plan the wardrobe again. Only this time, I’m doing it differently.

I’ve read a bit here and there about Project 333 over the last couple of years. It seemed to help people conquer their inner shopping addict and get a grip on their ever-expanding closets. This didn’t apply to me. If anything, I had the opposite problem – I would have had trouble coming up with 33 things for any given season.

Then sometime early last week, it occurred to me that I could use the P333 guidelines and daily photos to help me understand what I wear, how I combine garments, and what my preferences are. I think I know but I’m having a hard time putting it into words so maybe I don’t really know. I figure with a month’s worth of pictures, I may start coming up with some descriptive words.

Here’s my closet now:
Closet pic

It’s missing two gray cardigans which are waiting to be laundered and a skinny belt that is not visible here. Undergarments and running gear live in the dresser and shoes are downstairs. Summer clothes are in storage. I like it with the bright colors – it’s an improvement on the old picture, I think.

The point of the exercise is to figure out where I am aka point A. Because eventually I would like to get to point B, which is where I incorporate elements from my inspiration board:

Inspiration board

What I’m picking up here is a vibe of “feminine glamour” or “understated glamour” or something like that. Or I may be totally off, feel free to chime in. At any rate, I don’t think this is what’s in my closet right now. Hence the need to find point A. I have a feeling it’s going to be something very classic.

It was fun to make the slides for my P333 wardrobe. It should be even more fun to plan a wardrobe that marries what I wear now with some glamorous pieces.

See you soon!

The Triumph of Individual Style – summary

"Image courtesy of cooldesign /"

Image courtesy of cooldesign /

Doing the exercises in the book was an interesting process. It made me look at familiar features and contours with new eyes. Some of the results were old friends, some were surprising, still others simply illuminated my existing preferences. It is quite a bit of information to take in so I’m going to summarize it here. This post can then serve as a reference for future wardrobe planning.

My body type is skeletal/moulded so my best fabrics are medium-taut to medium-drape fabrics. Predominant structural lines in my clothing should be straight in the upper body and curved in the lower body.

My body shape is hourglass, which requires clothing that emphasizes the waist, accommodates the straight shoulders, and flares over the hips. This flaring can be achieved in a fuller skirt (not really my style) or with a short peplum (such as a belted cardigan) over a narrow skirt.

My side view body contour is wavy. I can use diagonal construction lines or details to highlight the wavy contour.

If I decide to use prints, they should reflect the qualities of my facial features:  small to medium in scale, predominantly curved and horizontal, with well-defined edges, and a moderate amount of space around them.

My fabrics should be light to medium weight, and mostly smooth with a bit of texture to reflect the smoothness of my skin, the slight waviness of my hair, and their combined light and medium textural weight.

Proportions: short head, slightly long torso, very short rise, very long legs. Upper body to lower body ratio is very close to 3:5 (misses by .6″). I’ll most likely just wear long sleeves to optically balance the long legs.

Balance points and neckline shape:

Balance points

My face and body are both symmetrical – symmetrically cut garments with symmetrical details will harmonize best. Asymmetrical details will create drama.

The scale of details should be small to medium to reflect my small scale bone structure, medium scale facial features, and small-medium scale apparent body size. That means:

  • small scale details (thin topstitching, narrow plackets, ribbing, and pleats, thin heels or thin-soled flats, and skinny purse and shoe straps);
  • medium scale details in the upper part of the body (jewelry, prints, pockets, belt buckles, buttons, bows, ruffles, and other decorative bits);
  • small to medium details in the lower part of the body and a small to medium handbag.

My best colors are found in the Bright Winter palette. This palette contains both cool and warm hues, though still heavily weighted towards cool. The values range all the way from white to black, with a lot of medium value hues in between. I fall into the high contrast, high intensity category. My primary color harmony is neutral, with analogous or triadic secondary.

I still don’t have a fully fleshed out plan for fall sewing but I’m going to start with a dress and a belted cardigan. In those two garments I can incorporate the results of multiple exercises – color, necklines, and maybe even proportions. We’ll see where imagination takes me after that.

If you’d like to read more about the specific exercises, here are all the posts in the Triumph series.

The Triumph of Individual Style – part 8

We’ve covered almost the whole book now: face and body lines, shape/silhouette, length proportions, balance points, symmetry/asymmetry, scale, and coloring. Today’s chapter is about texture.

Texture refers to how things look and feel. They may be shiny or matte, smooth or rough, soft or hard, lightweight or heavyweight.  Think of a woolen shawl – it might be matte, soft, with a boucle or cabled texture. Simple concept, right? Now let’s see how this works on the human body and face.



This is another exercise you can do right along with me. First we examine the surface quality of the skin and hair.

  • Plain smoothness refers to a smooth flawless skin and straight smooth hair of one color.
  • Patterned smoothness refers to skin and hair that feel smooth but are visually textured: skin may have freckles or other variations in pigmentation, and hair may be salt-and-pepper or have natural highlights.
  • All-over textured quality refers to skin with surface depth, say from wrinkles or pock-marks, and hair that is anything other than smooth, regardless of its color.
  • If your hair falls into one category and your skin into another, you have combination of smooth and textured. You also have a combination if your skin and/or hair is smooth in some areas and textured in others.

Then we look at textural weight. There is a neat chart in the book to help with this, pictures included as usual. Columns are light-, medium-, and heavyweight. For each item, you mark the appropriate column.

  1. thickness of hair shaft: fine, medium, or thick (coarse/wiry)
  2. length of hair: short (above chin), medium (chin to shoulder length), or long (below shoulder)
  3. fullness of hair: close to the head, moderate volume, or voluminous
  4. density of hair: thin and airy (you can really see the scalp), medium (some air space between strands), or thick/compact (can’t see scalp)
  5. hair color relative to skin: light, medium, or dark
  6. skin opacity: translucent (visible veins in wrists, temples, and eyelids), opaque, or leathery

OK, now count the marks in each column. The extremes cancel each other out and make a medium. For example, my hair is medium thick, short, with moderate volume and density, dark in color relative to my skin, and my skin is translucent. The short hair cancels its darkness so I have 1L, 4M, and 0H points. Possible results are all light-, all medium-, or all heavy-weight, combination light- and medium-weight, or combination medium- and heavy-weight.

So today I’ve learned that I have a surface quality that is a combination of smooth and textured because my skin is smooth and my hair is slightly wavy (when it’s long enough). My textural weight is a combination of light- and medium-weight.

100_0284SPW view 4

I wonder how far I can push the textured bit, considering that it’s only the slight wave of my hair that brings it in. Does that mean my best bet is mostly smooth with only a touch of texture, like the cardigan on the left above? Or does the heathered yarn give it more visual texture than it would otherwise have? Compare and contrast with the solid-colored all-over textured wrap on the right – what do you think?

Well, that’s it for the exercises in the book. The next task is to put all the findings together and form a sewing plan for a fall mini-wardrobe that will address at least some of them. I’m already looking forward to it.

See you soon!

The Triumph of Individual Style – part 7

We’ve looked at face and body lines, shape/silhouette, length proportions, balance points, symmetry/asymmetry, and scale. Now let’s move on to chapter 6 where we examine coloring.

This is another heavy-on-information chapter. It starts out with a color wheel and a bit of color theory. We learn about:

  • hues  – pure pigments organized into hue families (reds, oranges, yellows, greens, blues, and violets);
  • color temperature, both psychological (how colors affect us) and relative (how they appear in comparison to other hues of the same family) – warm(er) or cool(er);
  • value – the lightness or darkness of a hue relative to another hue
  • resonance – refers to how a pure pigment was altered to get a derivative hue: washed (added water), tinted (added white), shaded (added black), toasted (added brown), and muted (added complement);
  • intensity – relative brightness of a hue: high (pure hue is bright, its resonances as not as bright – think lemon yellow or magenta) or low (pure hue needs to be lightened to appear brighter – think indigo).

The color chart that follows is amazing, showing the various derivatives of each hue, labeled with resonance, relative and psychological temperature, and even arranged along gray scale. I discover new things in it every time I study it.

The next part of the chapter is about creating your personal palette of colors. In this section, you use the color samples included in the book to match your skin, hair, and eyes. I cannot recommend this at all. When I tried it a couple of years ago, I couldn’t get any decent matches. Maybe it was the light, maybe the color samples are too small, maybe I had no idea what I was doing. In any case, I found this particular bit an exercise in futility and frustration.

I decided a personal color analysis by a trained color analyst would be much more valuable. With my coloring (very dark hair, very dark eyes, very pale skin), most people think Snow White and automatically put me in True/Cool Winter. I wore those colors and then decided to see for myself. As it turns out, I am a Bright Winter.

After PCA

I recommend that you make an appointment with a good color analyst (you could check out for a list of Sci/Art analysts as well as Christine’s own students) and ask her to explain to you exactly what to look for as she changes the drapes. Seeing it with your own eyes, happening in your own face in the mirror, is a very empowering experience.

Back to the book now, we’re going to look at the color palette. I’ll be using my Bright Winter color fan. The color temperature here is neutral or combination, containing both cool and warm hues, though still heavily weighted towards cool (Bright Winter is warmed by a little sunshine from Spring’s influence but it’s still Winter). The values range all the way from white to black, with a lot of medium value hues in between.

Color contrast is interesting. According to the book, if your skin, eyes, and hair all light or all medium or all dark, your contrast level is low. If your skin, eyes, and hair are light and medium or medium and dark, your contrast level is medium. If you only have light and dark values, your contrast level is high. And lastly, if you have all three values, then your contrast level is medium/high and you can wear light, medium, and dark colors all at the same time. I think I fall into the high contrast category.

I’m going to stop here for a moment and go back to that amazing color chart, where I see that the pure red pigments are all medium value, the blues and violets are all medium to dark, and the greens are mostly medium to dark. Oranges are not in my palette at all because there is not a cool version of orange. The basis of my wardrobe is black and dark gray. The only pure hues that will provide the appropriate contrast level, other than white, are lemon yellow and sap green. This likely explains my lifelong attraction to bright yellow-green. (That said, I’m not going to wear black, white, or yellow-green lipstick, so some of those medium values are still going to be useful.)

Another Bright Winter with a high contrast level might want to wear white every day. She could then choose among the dark greens, blues, and violets to get the right contrast level. (Hmm, now that I said that, I really like the idea. I might explore this for a summer wardrobe capsule next year.)

This next part is best applied if you actually did the personal palette exercise from the book. Each of those color samples is labeled with its hue family, temperature, and value. You select the samples that match your skin, eyes, and hair. Then you paste them into an empty color wheel and a neutral family chart provided for that purpose.

Now you look for your color harmonies – monochromatic, complementary, analogous, triadic, or neutral. The evidence of my attempt at this exercise shows that my primary color harmony is neutral, with analogous or triadic secondary.  The idea is to repeat your natural color harmony in your clothing. As each harmony has a different effect (neutral is elegant/sophisticated, complementary is dramatic/intense, analogous is friendly/calm, etc), you are again encouraged to choose what you want to emphasize.

Last but not least is intensity, which may from natural coloring or from personality. Personal intensity comes from an intense, magnetic personality or from a sparkling, energetic personality. In terms of natural coloring, a complementary primary harmony and high contrast level are both high in intensity so if you have one or the other, you’ll be looking at bright colors and/or lustrous, shimmering, or shiny fabrics. Based on the high contrast level, my intensity is high. This is what the personal color analysis showed as well – bright colors work best for me.

And that, my dear readers, is it for this chapter. Next up will be texture.

See you soon!