Wardrobe Architect 10 & 11: The Capsule Palette & Planning Your Pieces

Yes, I’ve merged episodes 10 and 11. Why? Two reasons: every time I tried thinking about 10, my thought process went via 11; and since I’ll be NaNoing next month, who knows what kind of condition I’ll be in for sensible forward planning by then?

Brawling or Fighting Men in Medieval Dress or Costume
Bright red with pale pink! And lime trim! With bright blue sleeves and a clunky anklet! Wardrobe genius.
The task (I was going to say the main task, but there is only one) for episode 10 is to select a capsule palette from your chosen colours for your next season’s wardrobe. Since, as previously mentioned, I’m not looking to revamp my wardrobe twice a year in perpetuity, I’m going for one capsule-sized wardrobe that will just keep working forever (with natural die-off and replacement).
I call it “ambitious simplicity”.

The task for episode 11 is basically to match up your chosen garments with your chosen colours.

So here’s how I see this working. The two long, full skirts would both be dark browns, but probably of different hues or textures. Neutral, is the main point.
Also neutral: the coat, the jacket, and the four sorts of footwear, plus the other kinds of things you only want one of, or want to wear with everything (see Miss Silver’s sixth precept).

Elin Wägner och namninsamlingen 1914
The three warm woollies – the shawl, the cardigan and the waistcoat – would be in the near-neutrals: mahogany, forest green and aubergine. Mahogany shawl, I think; forest green cardigan and aubergine waistcoat. (Or possibly vice versa.)

The half dozen long-sleeved shirts could be any colour, but it’s the best place for statement colours: rich reds, hazel, plum, deep rose, buttery yellow. Any Of The Above, in fact; or even the ‘metallics’ as long as they’re not actually shiny. I love deep gold and coppery bronze but I don’t care for glitter. I could even add other colours if I felt like it, as long as they work with dark brown and at least one of the near-neutrals.

Thus, each outfit would consist of a colourful shirt, a warm woolly that goes well with it (e.g. deep rose shirt with aubergine waistcoat, hazel shirt with forest green cardigan, rich red shirt with mahogany shawl), and a skirt – plus coat, shoes etc – in the classic brown that goes with everything.

Friedrich Eduard Meyerheim Heimkehr vom Feld 1849
Goat optional.
The three summer dresses would be best in lighter colours, to reflect the summer heat. Buttery yellow, deep rose, and perhaps calico or hazel. Making sure that the shawl would work with any of the colours would ensure a warm layer was available if the evening turned cold, and of course the brown sandals will work with any of them.

The downside of all this is how far it is from my actual wardrobe. But at least it gives me something to work toward! Little by little, as my present wardrobe wears out, I can add items that fit the plan, whether bought second-hand, made myself, or ethically acquired new.

How do your colours and garments match up? Feel free to take a couple of months over this – we won’t be moving on to the complex question of accessories (the last step!) till December.

Wardrobe Architect 4: Proportions & Silhouettes

I must admit I struggled with this month’s exercises. In the first place, there’s the confusion of the terminology. Both ‘proportions’ and ‘silhouettes’ seem to be referring to the shape of garments that you wear together. Jeans + t-shirt + sneakers, for example. I might call it an ensemble, but regardless of the label you choose, that’s what we’re talking about.


The second problem I had is that at first I could only think of one ensemble that I wear – leaving aside for the nonce such things as headwear (always) and footwear (socks and slippers, mostly; shoes or boots outside).
I wear a long-sleeved full-length dress pretty much every day. But there are variations on the theme. With or without belt; with or without cardigan/jersey; skirt full or straighter. Occasionally short sleeves in summer.

Then I realized that there are other ensembles I wear – sometimes. Tunic over full skirt, tunic over loose trousers, tunic over laplap (straight wrap skirt). But I don’t want to include these in my wardrobe architecting, much as I enjoy wearing them, because they leave me stranded without pockets (cue Scarlett-O’Hara-at-intermission moment again).

What else is there? Then I remembered: one of my dresses has fasteners all the way down the front (it was designed to be a throw-on layer over less-modest clothing), and I often wear it half-open over a full skirt, in a vaguely Elizabethan sort of way.

Portrait of Mary Tudor, Queen Mary I (1516 - 1558), circa 1550s
As the dress contains the all-important pockets, this is a satisfactory outfit, even allowing for different combinations – had I more than one of each sort of garment, which I don’t. I have occasionally worn the dress with loose trousers and a tunic or long slip, but there comes a point where you wonder if you are still wearing a dress, or just adding a light coat with convenient pockets.

Of course, if we’re talking about what we’d like to wear, I’d love a dress designed to look like a full skirt and matching waistcoat, which could then be worn over a variety of shirts – allowing for a simplicity approaching or even exceeding that of my husband’s wardrobe.

Not that I have ever seen such a dress, mind you, in person or otherwise. But I have hopes that one day, as I pursue my sewing endeavours, I will eventually gain the necessary skills to make myself one of these dream-dresses (with perhaps a matching jacket).

English women's riding habit c 1890 LACMA
What are your favourite ensembles (/silhouettes/proportions)? What ensembles do you as yet only dream of?