Monday, August 6, 2012

The Great Fall Wardrobe Makeover, Part 1 - Looking at it all!`

Folks - a long post, the first of a multi-part post.  Put your feet up if you are inclined to read along, or run screaming!

As part of my vow to

a) plan my wardrobe more thoughtfully
b) spend less money
c) only buy what I was truly missing in my fall wardrobe this year

I decided to follow in the footsteps of my stylish mentors, Miss Fabulous Florida Mommy and Miss Dani BP Mop.

The former, in her thoughtful post "Planning your fall purchases, part one" (read it here in its brilliant entirety) and the latter, in her much heralded Frock Philosophy manifesto (read it here if you want to understand a wardrobe!) have been a HUGE inspiration to me this year, most particularly this summer as I begin to stop the madness of buying without a plan and then wondering why I have nothing to wear,  Or at least nothing I love or nothing that fits well or looks good on me!

According to FFM:

Step 1: Go through your closet to see what you already own.

Oh Lord!!!!!!!!!!!!  I hauled my scrawny butt (it is scrawny by the way) out to the back room and began to haul it all out.  The result was both humbling in the amount and shocking in some of the multiples.  Variations on a theme you might say.  Ahem...

The top of my bed....I know that I have a small closet and only a small storage space in the back room and many of you have much more storage space and more robust wardrobes than I and may think this a small pile compared to your closets, but I was GOBSMACKED by the amount of fall and winter clothing I had!!!!!!  Dear Lord!!!

In Frock Philosophy, Dani talks about colour theory and set theory.  The latter was particularly useful for me - I had never divided my clothing up by what it was supposed to accomplish in my life...

In the end, I chose to combine the two concepts to a certain extent.  I found it easiest at this point to divide the clothing up by colour family, although I did divide out my party clothes and a few pieces that I tend to only wear in the month of December.  Within the set theory concept, I have embraced the multiset concept - outfits or articles of clothing can fit within many categories and that, I guess, is really how one mixes and matches and builds one's wardrobes.

Considering this is my first time looking at my wardrobe in its entirety, I have forgiven my trespasses, and will be able to divide it even more fully as the fall arrives...

FFM continues:

Step 2: Try it all on.

She describes this as the UGH part of the exercise!!!  I think it could be more than UGH - I believe I might have sworn a bit!!!  However, this was an incredibly important part of the process...I realized why I kept avoiding things and I forgave myself for my wanton disregard for money and common sense.  I also decided that things could only stay chez WMM if they passed my 4 questions:

1) Does it serve some purpose in my wardrobe?

If the answer was no, I put it aside.  Thank goodness there was a party frock category - you recall my aspirational dressing.  There was also the odd item that served no absolute use in my wardrobe but made me feel great.  These were few and far between, but made me feel great and so got a pass!

2) Does it fit/is it flattering? 

If the answer was no - it was put aside.  This was hard - I realized that I had some multiples and that was actually embarassing.  This was a result of forgetting what I had or buying styles that were so similar that they could be mistaken for one another.  This does not make for an interesting wardrobe in my humble opinion.  Some things just didn't fit me well.  Others were old and needed to retire.  Someone mentioned last week about Tippis and capris.  I get their point!!!

3) If I love it, but don't wear it, what's it going to take to get me to wear it? 

Do I need to buy something that will match it so it is no longer an orphan?  Or - if I love it, but don't wear it, does it not fit with either the image I want to project at this point in my life?  Remember WMM - you want to enter your 50s looking elegant. You may love this, but you love a LOT of things!  Does it belong to another life or lifestyle?  Would Rita where it?  How will I feel having my picture taken in it?????  (That is another humbling experience folks!)

4) Is it the Image I want to project going forward?  If not, it was cast aside!

This is related to #3 for sure.  If you recall, I want to look more like this going forward:

Okay, this but with lower heels.....

and Miss Rita Wilson:

Rita Wilson Photograph

Now, I gave myself some kindness here as well.  I am not going to get there all in one season.  But this is where I am going and my wardrobe must go there with me....

At the end of the "Try it on" step, I had three items I was not sure about.  You will be my advisors here!  Please be kind, as I am not wearing a stich of makeup below, nor am I wearing appropriate footwear!

A Nicole Miller dress - a yes or no?  I think with a nice pair of boots, could be a yes....And a red lipstick.  It might help if i combed my hair...

A shot of the dress on a hanger:

A JCrew suit in super 120s in soft graphite.  I think this is a flattering cut.  But......

People - I put EVERY colour under this suit, nothing could make this look good on me!!!  Unless you tell me differently, this is going to the donate pile!  Am I not combining this with the right colour?  Or is it simply washing me out too much?

Talbots black watch "furry suit".  I know - together, this does not work, but separately?  Do I just  put a D0 Not Resuscitate on it and let it go???

Boy - I REALLY wish I had worn makeup....And this was only day 2 of summer vacation!!!!!

Be kind, but be honest!  DO NOT BE HONEST ABOUT THE NO MAKEUP!!!! REALLY!!! LIE!!!!!!

Okay.  Those are the things I wasn't sure of....or was particularly scared by...

So I flipped back over to Dani's colour theory:

I realized that my wardrobe has some basic colour stories in it:


This set is comprised of a lovely black lightweight wool suit, a lighter black skirt suit, a boiled wool skirt, some cardigans, my new snakeskin skirt, a lovely Judith and Charles Jersey/Black leather trim skirt and various trousers.

Various black cotton tshirts and sweaters and cashemere sweaters round this out.  It is not particularly exciting, but I think these are great staples in my wardrobe and I always feel very chic wearing them with the right accessory...


This set is comprised of a JCrew navy pinstripe 3 piece suit (jacket, trousers, little flaired pencil skirt), some royal blue and periwinkle sweaters, my Naomi polka blouse, a navy lace skirt from J crew and cute little navy lace Banana Republic Cardigan.

My new navy polka dot tie blouse, the navy feather paisely, the morse code schoolboy and matching capris...

A navy silk popover blouse by Michael Kors, a Navy wool schoolboy blazer, navy trousers, etc.

The navy/blue colour way is lovely and makes me feel good when I wear these colours...

These two colour families will form the "foundation" of my fall wardrobe.

I have two other more neutral colour families:

Beechwood (khaki):

I have had the beechwood 1035 blazer and matching skirt for about a year,  I decided to purchase the trousers as an early fall neutral.  I think this could be a good workorse for the office, mixed with other colours (including those above).

Likewise, with the greys.  I am not typically enamoured of grey, although it is one of the colours that is said to suit someone of my colouring (particularly in the charcoal shade):

This is a small group - a lovely polka dot grey/silver pencil skirt by Calvin Klein, the herringbone capris from JCrew last winter, a Michael Kors grey velvety blazer, a pair of Ralph Lauren wool trousers, J Crew charcoal pinstripe trousers, a plaid wool skirt from le chateau which I mostly wear on the weekends in the fall and a pale silvery-grey short sleeve sweater by nougat london with some flowers attached to it.  You see I have thrown in some periwinkle blue as the sight of grey alone leaves me bereft.....

Sooo - this is the beginning.  I have basics.  They all fit and they fulfill the intent of my questions above.  Tomorrow: my identified accent colours for the fall!


  1. That must have been a lot of work! Good job, though! The gray suit you asked us about, I think you should trust your instincts on that and say goodbye. I can see where charcoal grays would complement your coloring, but this shade of gray is not doing anything for you. Plus I get the vibe that you just don't like it very much. The Nicole Miller dress, that's a tough one. I am drawn to things like this. It is unique and unusual and I think that you should try it on again with different shoes and with any accessories you like with it and re-evaluate it. My gut on this one is to keep it. My gut on the Talbots furry suit is to say goodbye. Even though I can't see it that well in this picture, and even though I don't know what a furry suit is, it seems like the jacket has too much going on with the sillouette. Thanks for sharing the process, it's helpful!

    1. Thanks Cate! I think you are right on with the suit! This is a sad one for me - I am sure I got it on sale, but I should have sent it back the day I got it? Why do we hang on to things???? That could be a whole post in the psychology of fashion!

      As for the Nicole Miller - I am going to try it on the hosiery and shoes and makeup and give it another go. I am not sure - I think it is too much print for me when I see it like this!

  2. I think you look fantastic in the fourth picture with the long sleeve navy top and skirt. Navy really suits your coloring and your spirit seems to pop. Also in my opinion dark charcoal would be better than lighter (agree with commenter cate on that one). The Nicole Miller is too busy and I feel you get lost and all anyone sees is the dress. The focus should be on you. You should wear the dress, not the other way around. You are doing fantastic with getting your sartorial act together. Thank you for the post.

    1. Thanks ladies - I think the skirt in the last image is a keeper with a different jacket!

  3. You certainly took this job head on and I applaud you for that! You also have beautiful groups of clothes, and for that reason, I would vote no to the outfits in question. With all the other beautiful things, on what kind of day would you choose those items? Say goodbye and feel great!!!

    1. Thanks Suzy! I had a few "moments" when I put some lovely and crazily expensive things in the charity bin yesterday. But it felt great as well! And I kind of got a kick out of imagining some of the beautiful ladies that would wear some of these things in the future..

  4. I agree with the Anon poster. The first dress is just too much. The light grey colouring so close to the face in the second pic is not flattering (and frankly, that grey doesn't flatter many people, in my opinion). I would keep the Talbots suit and wear the pieces separately. Those are classic colours you will have forever. HTH

  5. I'm so grateful to Dani and FFM, I have done the same thing. I bought a lucite clutch and heels last year on my small budget - arrgh what was I thinking? Both are still to be worn!
    So this year, a jacket, two sweaters, tan flat boots and a navy clutch - these are my needs.

    I think the pic of you in the black watch skirt at the end is one of your best looks ever, so chic.
    I'm not the one to ask about the big pattern as they aren't my taste at all, so I'll leave that to a pattern lover.

    1. Oh Tabitha! I am SO with you! It is like the sickening longing I feel for the "I Married Adventure" clutch by Kate Spade!!! So superfluous! So amazing!

      Actually, looking at my clothes was sobering. There was a lot of money in those piles! And not a lot of thought at times. Suzy is right - there are some beautiful things, but they need to tell a story!

  6. I think i like the nicole miller dress on you,the shape and pattern is very modern.
    The grey suit i would give away,because just like rose said,there are not many people who can wear this particular color. i would also ditch the furry jacket.

    Love you in the last pic,navy is def. your color!

    1. Thanks Ina! I will try the skinny jeans option with the furry coat, but I think it is likely moving on...

  7. Now I feel behind-- must follow your examples, Dani, Tabs and WMM and get this done.

    Like the dark skirt with pearls on you and agree with others about the Talbot's fuzzy suit-- would lose that one as the sil ouette will never be what you are looking for here

    1. Thanks Lane! I am feeling like I am top of things, but honestly, it has been exhausting. There are still 3 more posts on this one topic! FFM and Dani BP have unleashed a monster!!!!

  8. Great job! I would say no to jcrew and Talbots but I like the dress, in fact I think this mod cut is perfect for you. You look great without make up btw, I dont think I spend a day without make up ever since I was 14! I would consider shortening the sleeves of the dress To 3:4, I think it would make a big diff and make the dress less overwhelming even if you lose some of the pattern.

  9. hi AJC!

    Thanks for the comments! I will try pinning up the sleeves and see what I think

    Some lucky person who can wear geek swill get a lovely suit!

    How was cape cod?

  10. I think a dark navy or a black blouse can make that 120s suit look great. Maybe even a shirt with some small/tiny polka dots:). So impressed with your clean out. I need to do mine by mid-September.

    1. Thanks A!

      I had to tackle it early as I am on vacation!

      At least I will know what to do next spring and summer!

  11. Hi WMM! Thank you for the link love and kind words! You are doing an amazing job sorting through everything and letting go of what is not going to work. I think you will be much happier with your wardrobe in the end. After all, you want it to be filled with items you love, that fit well, and you look forward to putting on. :)

    As for the items in question: the rule I follow is 'If in Doubt...Toss it Out' (donate, sell, etc.) If you are questioning something, odds are you aren't going to reach for it in the end. Plus you have many other beautiful items to wear that you DO love, so they will be chosen over the ones in question time and time again. This being said, I do think the skirt is quite lovely on you, so if you really feel you would reach for it then keep it, otherwise you should let it go along with all the other items.

    1. Thanks FFM!

      I let it all go except for the skirt! Am feeling very free!

  12. You should get an award for tackling this so early. It must have been so hot in that bedroom with the crazy heat in the East. I don't care fro the dress . Too much pattern. Navy looks great on you and I like the last outfit .

    1. Thanks Marsha!

      I think I am too tiny for so much pattern! I am going to check the sleeve like a la AJC's suggestion, but I think I will make someone else happy!

    2. I think the pattern would be destroyed if you cut off the sleeves. It's meant to be worn with long sleeves. JMO

  13. Good for you on getting a head start on this big project. I agree with Fabulous Florida Mommy - when in doubt, toss it out (but I like the fuzzy skirt-it suits you). I always use your strategy when I donate or consign, imagining how happy the next wearer of my item will be. Have you tried to consign any of your separates? I did that last year and was able to earn quite a bit from what was sold, which takes a bit of the sting out of the whole process.

    1. Thanks Julie!

      My consigner recently moved away, sadly!

      However, I have taken this on as a bit of a spiritual adventure as well, hence my decision to give it all away. I am shedding some old images here and embracing new ones, so "gifting" these items seemed the right thing to do. I just imagine someone opening those bags!

  14. I am probably in the minority, but if you like the fit and cut of the grey suit, I would try it with a rose/red or a rich navy top near your face, and black accesories. Or, what about with a black top and that new blue and white and black Madewell scarf you posted about the other day In my experiece, it is so hard to buy a flattering suit. Those long pearls are face brighteners too! I actually like the Nicole Miller dress, and the black watch skirt, but I am not sold on the jacket.

    1. Knityarns - I believe you saved the suit! Update coming!

  15. How amazing! What a huge job it is and I love your tackling spirit!
    Thanks for linking to me and thanks too for the lovely words. I really like your sets of black and navy, you have great wardrobe basics. Don't be hard on yourself for shopping mistakes, we all do it, and yes thank goodness for the party frock category!
    I am just back from Atlanta (and I have the flu! I'm sick in bed, thank you for the post which has distracted me from my nausea!). I have to say I saw 800 things I liked while shopping but I kept my color story in mind combined with FFM's shopping list theory, boy did that keep me in check. I didn't buy anything at JCrew although my husband did buy me the giraffe necklace (with the blush-colored glass beads) while we were there shopping with our son.
    I am going to check out your update on the gray suit, I like KnitYarns advice!

    1. Thanks Dani - too bad about the nausea! There is lots going around and what is it about travelling - all those new germs or something???

      Oh I am organzing as well! Not as beautifully as you, mind you, but I am organizing!

      Get well soon! We'll aim to chat later in the week when you are feeling better!

  16. I love your navy grouping - so many nice pieces and options to mix and match. And its a pretty color for you.

    Looking forward to your next post.

    1. Thank you! It has become a bit of a saga! Just wait til I pack for France next week! never has one woman made such a big deal about overhauling her wardrobe! That is either the joy or the curse of blogging!

  17. Try your new byzantine silk blouse under the grey suit. If the suit fits well it may be worth saving. There are lots of colors that go with grey -- coral, yellow, orange, cobalt. I'm not sure if any of the other colors work for you besides cobalt, but I'd give it a try. When I see women in suits I see quite a bit of black or navy. Mostly black. Grey is a nice alternative, esp if you have use for it.

    What an endeavor!


    1. ...p.s. pass on the Talbots jacket. The skirt looks great and you could wear a cardigan with the top & skirt. You don't have to have a blazer in every case. I'm not a fan of the Nicole Miller dress. Are you keeping it because of the name or you really like the abstract pattern? I ask because I've been guilty of confusing a name brand with whether it's right for me or not.


Kindness is a virtue...