Pardon the dramatic lighting — I got so absorbed in this activity yesterday afternoon that I forgot to finish and photograph it before the light was artfully low in the sky. When I posted about Into Mind the other week, I mentioned that it got me (for the first time, really) to stop and think in a very focused way about what kinds of silhouettes (or profiles or ensembles — whatever you want to call it) actually work for me. This is a step beyond my old three-outfits rule — that I’m not allowed to buy anything unless I can make three outfits I love using pieces I already own — and into the realm of making sure the things I intend to make will fit into my smallish wardrobe in a truly useful way. I still have some thinking to do about color (although being a minimalist does make that part simpler) and fabrics, but for right now I’m just thinking about literally how I dress and how I want to dress, shape-wise, which aren’t precisely the same thing.
Anuschka has a newer post up called 24 outfit formulas for spring and I do like that method of stating combinations — mine would be “slouchy jeans/pants with a floaty top” or “flares with a fitted sweater.” But for this to be of maximum usefulness to me, I decided to think of it in terms of the “bottoms” I’m partial to right now, and to look at how those work across the four seasons of the year. And rather than scour my Style board for combos I like, I decided to sketch them all out using actual garments I own or mean to make, so it’s as specific to my closet as possible. (Which I had a ton of fun doing thanks to the brilliant Fashionary Panels.)
What you’re looking at are my four preferred bottoms (base layers, foundations, building blocks)—
ROW 1: I’ve been wanting to learn to wear skirts and dresses for years — I’m such a pants person — but the Nashville heat is going to force it on me. What I have in mind is a simple floaty — not too full — knee-length skirt that I can make in the same fabrics as some of my forthcoming tops, for mixing and matching, as well as a sack dress or two that can be layered over in other seasons.
ROW 2: Shorts are challenging but, again, necessary in my new climate. So I’m embracing the narrow bermuda short. I have a pale camo pair I bought last summer, and I plan to buy another pair in army green. I’m loving the idea of them with simple woven pullover tops, from long-sleeved to sleeveless, as well as my knitted linen tank, instead of t-shirts or ribbed tanks.
ROW 3: My wide-leg trouser jeans are my favorites but I think of them as difficult to wear. The past several years, I’ve kept it to fitted sweaters plus boots with either a chunky sole or heel. Limited, right? Right now, they’re looking really good to me with flat oxfords or sandals and the same floaty little tops I intend to get me through the summer. And in the fall/winter I can add a shorter sweater — fitted or boxy, cardigan or pullover.
ROW 4: The slim/slouchy variety of jeans and pants I live in, which I find incredibly easy to pair with everything all year long. Androgyny is my happy place when it comes to getting dressed.
And then from left to right across the four rows is an example of how I might wear that bottom piece in spring, summer, fall and winter (except no winter for the shorts). The spring column is about light layers and bare legs/ankles with closed shoes or boots. Summer is all sleevelessness and sandals. Fall is a lot like spring but with heavier top layers — e.g., the woven raglan top in the spring shorts outfit get replaced with a raglan sweater; the vest becomes a cardigan, etc. And winter is for longer, heavier sweaters layered over the same tops from the rest of the year.
What thrills me most about this combination of things is that they’re almost entirely interchangeable. The fitted cotton fisherman sweater in row 3 (an L.L. Bean favorite of mine) goes with every skirt and pant. You can take any of the tops in the spring column and put them with any of the four bottoms, and so on. So that’s my challenge to myself, now that I have it boiled down to this level of simplicity: For anything I’m thinking of sewing or knitting, I want it to fit into at least three rows and two columns of this matrix.
Clearly this is hugely helpful in determining and prioritize what it is I’ll be making. I realized the other day that I have only one short-sleeved top in my closet at this point, whereas I’m in a pretty good shape in the sleeveless category. I also have several button-down shirts but only one that’s a long-sleeved, collarless, lightweight woven top like the one in the first shorts outfit (and it’s a loud pattern that almost never gets worn.) Also, I’d been planning to make mostly longer sweaters but I see now that shorter and boxier is better and also what I’m lacking.
So my next step will be to narrow in on a few different pullover tops, a skirt pattern for making in two or three fabrics, a dress and a couple of sweaters. And then I can work out what the color and fabric for each of those should be!