29 In Anatomy of an Outfit

Anatomy of Fall Fashion Outfits: Styling a skirt two ways

When I came off the elevator at Nordstrom, Corte Madera during the Anniversary Sale and saw rich fall fashion colors on the racks, I was stunned. I haven’t seen these autumnal colors for a long time. It used to be standard to see terra cotta, ochre, bronze, olive green, and pumpkin shades at this time of year but we’ve been through a long drought. I’m happy to announce that the harvest has come in!

I knew right away who would love these colors: my client Veronica. We made an appointment to shop the sale and then set up a time to style outfits for late summer and early fall.

One asymmetrical skirt styled two ways

We were happy to pick this luscious skirt up at the Anniversary Sale price. It’s by Vince, is pleated and asymmetrical, and they call the color teakwood.

Today I’m taking you deep into the closet to show you what happens once an item has been purchased and you’ll learn why we’re never going to call this color teakwood again!

Styling strategies revealed

When we’re back in the closet styling outfits, we come up with our own names for things. It has to make sense to the client when she reads her Wardrobe Chart listing the ingredients of every outfit.

Neither Erin, Veronica, nor I looked at this skirt color and thought “teakwood” so we changed it to caramel. We agreed to call this skirt the Vince Carmel Pleated Skirt.

And that’s the name that goes inside the wide rectangle box on the Wardrobe Chart. You can see the categories on the left that we’ll be filling in.

Just a note about the Underwear category: sometimes an outfit needs a slip or Spanx or certain lingerie. We don’t want a client to be wearing a skirt in public only to realize the light is pouring through it.

If that category is blank, we often creep into that boxed area to write in more accessories. You’ll see!

Styling skirt outfit #1

We’ve decided on the bottom piece so next, I look in the closet to check out tops. I couldn’t resist this Vince striped T-shirt, also part of the sale. They called the color combo natural and teakwood. We asked Veronica what she’d like us to call it and she said ochre and cream. Perfect!

fall fashion stying
Building a fall outfit

The easy fit silk-blend T-shirt gave the skirt a dressed-down feel so I followed that lead. I’d build an end-of-the-summer or early fall outfit to wear while the days are still pretty warm. This caramel sandal fit right into my plan.

Next, I wanted to figure out the outerwear piece (jacket, sweater, coat). Veronica’s Kut jean jacket had the perfect casual flavor. It’s on the dark side which balances the color of the skirt.

Once I put the jean jacket on I knew I wanted to belt the T-shirt. We haven’t belted anything in a while, but luckily when I went to Veronica’s belt bin looking for something brown, there was this thin brown patent leather belt that I remember adding to her wardrobe several years back. Yay! It was time for it to come out and play!

fall fashion skirt
Creating an interesting proportion

Keeping an eye on proportion

I love how the T-shirt section of her outfit is divided. Take a look at her shoulder line, her waistline, and the T-shirt line that hits her hip. The belt cuts the top into a one-third two-thirds block. Two-thirds is above the belt, 1/3 is below the belt. That’s a very pleasing proportion.

Now, look at the top versus the skirt. The top covers about 1/3 of her body and the skirt takes up about 2/3s of it. Again, a very pleasing proportion. As a rule of thumb, you want to avoid a 1/2 and 1/2 proportion.

Adding the rest of the accessories

I’m just coo-coo for Veronica’s chunky fossilized coral bead necklace. It’s been in her collection for decades. It brings light to her face and repeats the cream color in the T-shirt.

Another thing that delights me is the mix of stripes in the T-shirt with the circles in the beads. Straight lines and circles. Veronica is one of the most delightful people I know so to bring “delight” into her outfit tells the truth about who she is.

Because she lives in Mill Valley near the Golden Gate Bridge, she always has to be prepared for the fog rolling in. That’s why I gave her a scarf to add to her outfit. I pulled this long-time favorite Hermes pleated scarf from her collection.

Pleated scarves are so easy to manage. All I did was place it around her neck and loop it in the front. If she wants to she can tie it closer to her neck to keep the wind away. Or she can keep it loose, more at a necklace length.

Just an aside about wearing a scarf and necklace together

She wouldn’t need both the beads and the necklace to finish the outfit, but I enjoy how they play well together. Neither piece is in conflict color-wise from the rest of the outfit so they can be enjoyed at the same time. They’re both so well-loved and we should be wearing the things we love, right? That’s rule #1!

Adding another casual element

Because I’m looking at this outfit as an end-of-summer/early fall outfit, I went for her Chico’s mustard yellow crossbody bag. I like the light color of it which is perfect in transition. Plus, it has a casual feel to it with the mocassin stitch all the way around it. It’s bright and cheery like she is.

Wearing darker sandals in early fall

Why the Wardrobe Chart comes in handy

Clients will say, “I love this outfit you just made. I’ll never forget how to put it together.”

That, of course, is false. By the time we’ve completed a styling session, we’ve created many memorable outfits; the details will get fussy fast.

That’s why I always chart outfits. If a client prefers pictures of the outfit, Erin will do that, but it takes several pictures to truly capture the details.

If you look at these quick pics we took of this outfit there’s so much you wouldn’t see like the bracelets we added, the Greek gold pinky ring, the ivory bangle, the Patti Crandall gold earrings.

Even if we take pictures, I love having the Wardrobe Charts to back them up. Most of my clients prefer this method. (Have you tried it yet?)

I want to leave the client’s closet knowing that she could 100% absolutely recreate the outfit we were loving at the moment it was created.

One day three weeks from now Veronica can look at this skirt hanging in her closet, decide she wants to wear it, look in her wardrobe binder, find all the components and be dressed in five minutes.

You can download these charts from my checklist and charts resource page.

If you’re curious about the details of the outfit and have a hard time reading my notes, here’s the list of ingredients.

  • Vince Caramel pleated skirt
  • Vince ochre & cream striped tee belted
  • Narrow brown patent belt
  • Kut jean jacket
  • Prada caramel sandal
  • Hermes pleated scarf knotted
  • Fossilized coral bead necklace
  • Patti moonstone gold earring
  • Ivory bangle
  • 5 (set) silver and gold bangles
  • Greek gold pinky ring
  • Chico’s mustard crossbody bag

Fall Fashion Outfit #2: Same skirt, different styling

As you can see, each Wardrobe Chart has five columns. That means for every bottom (key piece) I can write in five different outfits using the same key piece. I feel it’s important to have three outfits for every key piece. I want your wardrobe to be filled with value.

This time I wanted to make an outfit that will be more of an October outfit. This version isn’t casual; it’s more uptown.

Fall fashion stying tips
Fall fashion colors delight

Veronica and her husband lead very social lives. She’s got plenty of opportunities to wear outfits like these. She’s a gracious hostess and a generous friend. They take classes, attend lectures and the theater, do lots of traveling. One of her four daughters lives in Europe. She’s active with her grandkids. She’s a very active septuagenarian.

Focal points delight the eye

This Sol Sisters necklace is a fine focal point for this outfit. Isn’t it gorgeous against the Theory Terra Cotta (our name for it) fine knit V-neck sweater? I added in some chocolate brown in her shoes and handbag, and this Hermes shawl adds more color and design to delight (there’s that word again) our eyes. Yum, yum, super yum.

fall fashion accessories
Using accessories to create focal points

Here’s the list of ingredients for this second outfit using the same skirt

  • Vince Caramel Pleated Skirt
  • Theory Terra Cotta v-neck fine knit sweater
  • Hermes square scarf/shawl with the orange border
  • Sol Sisters leather tassel double necklace
  • $5 symphony bangle
  • 5 (set) silver and gold bangles
  • Greek pinky ring
  • Chloe brown satchel bag
  • Cole-Haan brown wedge patent toe shoes

Veronica will wear this for dinner at a nice restaurant in SF with friends, the theater, or any other social event on her busy calendar.

Wardrobe Charts
Wardrobe Chart captures the details so you don’t have to remember them

Thanks to Veronica and our guest contributors

I want to thank Veronica for letting me share with you what goes on in a styling session. I realize these may not be colors you wear but you can use some of the same techniques to build outfits you love and will wear in the coming weeks.

ONE MORE THING. You may end up wearing the outfit in slightly different ways than the way you charted it. But once you’ve got one option written down, it makes it easier to build on that confidence and make adjustments as you roll into the new season.

More fall fashion to share!

You’re in for a treat. There are seven other blogging buddies who have fall fashion tips to share. I love these collaborations. Although this will be my official start day for babysitting Viv while her mommy is working, I’m going to be reading every post while she’s asleep!

Enjoy what these style lovers have to say about fall fashion.

fall fashion

Here are links to the bloggers sharing their take on fall fashion.

Brenda-1010 Park Place

Mary Ann-Classic Casual Home

Annie-Most Lovely Things

Kim-Northern California Style

Cindy-Rough Luxe

Janet-The Gardeners Cottage

Susan-Une Femme d’un Certain Age

What do you love about fall fashion? Is there something you can’t wait to wear? Do share!


Fall fashion tips

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  • Reply
    the Gardeners Cotttage
    August 22, 2019 at 6:55 am

    oh i love this. esp the first 2 outfits. i learned so much! x

  • Reply
    August 22, 2019 at 7:44 am

    Oh Brenda this was a perfect point by point post and one that explains the mind of a stylist and empowers others to feel more freedom to possibly venture out of the box we put ourselves in . Truly an informative and educational post. Thank you for sharing your skills.

    • Reply
      August 22, 2019 at 8:16 am

      So glad you enjoyed the behind the scenes look at what we do. And isn’t Veronica the best? She’s such a delight to dress!

  • Reply
    classic casual home
    August 22, 2019 at 7:46 am

    This is so helpful and organized. I never thought to start with the bottom piece and proceed from there. Thanks for doing this with us, Brenda! And thank you beautiful, Veronica!
    Mary Ann

    • Reply
      August 22, 2019 at 8:18 am

      Seeing it through your eyes right now, you’re right. It does make it easier in my mind to start with the bottom first. It comes from one of the earliest things I learned, that you should have three tops for every bottom. It made sense thirty-some years ago and it’s how I continue to work. Thanks, Mary Ann

  • Reply
    August 22, 2019 at 8:00 am

    Wow. So much to love and learn in this post. Thank you.

    • Reply
      August 22, 2019 at 8:19 am

      Another tool or tip for your styling toolbox, Alice. Great to hear from you! Hi to Ellen too. xx

  • Reply
    August 22, 2019 at 9:35 am

    Brenda, I am 71 and new to your site. You are wonderful! Do you write about plus size (big hips). Thank you for all your information. I look forward to your e-mails.

  • Reply
    Annie Diamond
    August 22, 2019 at 10:04 am

    I love these looks Brenda! So chic and ageless!

  • Reply
    August 22, 2019 at 10:06 am


  • Reply
    August 22, 2019 at 10:20 am

    I always learn so much from your posts. I love hearing how a pro puts outfits together. I just kind of wing it. Sometimes it is good and sometimes not so good!! Love that skirt! Thanks to your client for sharing her lovely style!

  • Reply
    Karen Bowers
    August 22, 2019 at 10:36 am

    Thank you! I love seeing the process! I’ll be downloading your wardrobe sheet to use!

  • Reply
    Briar Gregory
    August 22, 2019 at 11:12 am

    Your step-by-step explanations are just sooo helpful, Brenda. Your client looks wonderful- so stylish. Starting with a bottom piece is a quite different way of approaching outfit-building that I’m going to try today!

  • Reply
    Leslie Larkin
    August 22, 2019 at 12:00 pm

    I love the outfits and colors, especially the second one.
    Would this work for petites?

    • Reply
      August 22, 2019 at 12:26 pm

      Oh, I should have mentioned her height. She’s 5 feet 2-1/2 inches. Yes, it will work on petites!

  • Reply
    August 22, 2019 at 12:29 pm

    I wished I lived closer to you because you’ve shown me what a keen eye you have and how you could bring me more for my clothing dollars with your insightful styling. The chart is brilliant. I especially love the details you focus on, the stripes versus the circles of the necklace and the third, two-thirds rule. I’m bowled over! We cross paths sometimes on IG… obviously not enough… but I’m signing up for your blog and look forward to getting to know you better. xoxox, Brenda

  • Reply
    August 22, 2019 at 3:25 pm

    You are so right about forgetting an outfit. I had a lot of compliments on my outfit yesterday so I must write it down! As to the key piece – I suppose that could be any clothing item? For instance the Jean jacket could also have it’s own chart?

    • Reply
      August 22, 2019 at 3:28 pm

      Oh I have gone back to the comments and see you start from the bottom piece. Do you ever start from say a very special jacket?

      • Reply
        August 22, 2019 at 4:57 pm

        Yes, I do. I’ll make adjustments on the Wardrobe Chart putting the special jacket in as the key piece.

    • Reply
      August 22, 2019 at 5:01 pm

      Yes, you can try it that way. Remember that the jean jacket would go in the outerwear box so if you were scanning your wardrobe charts you’d stay focused on that section and look for the jean jacket that way. My clients usually go back to the original way and just scan. Try it both ways and see what works best for you.xx

      • Reply
        August 22, 2019 at 10:24 pm

        Thanks Brenda. I’m inspired to go play in my wardrobe 🙂

  • Reply
    August 22, 2019 at 4:50 pm

    Love both outfits and how different they are from each other. You have a real gift for explaining how versatile individual items can be and how you can use them to change up a look. The tiny details, the explanation about proportion; these make such a difference to my understanding of how to put an outfit together. Thank you, Brenda, sharing these elements so generously with us. xo

  • Reply
    August 22, 2019 at 4:52 pm

    Awesome post! I am signing up to receive more posts. I love how you focus on the details ie proportion, mix of pattern etc. Those things we tend to forget and can make the most expensive ‘looks’ seem dowdy. Thank you to your client for graciously allowing us into her ‘closet’.

  • Reply
    August 22, 2019 at 5:17 pm

    Brenda I loved this and seeing what you do. She looks terrific and I agree with you about the fall colors. I am so excited to see all the lovely tones back. I like how you mixed the necklace and the scarf on the first outfit. To me this look is very French, especially with the bag and the jean jacket. I could see this on the streets of Paris. So fun to link up with you all and see what everyone’s idea of fall trends are! x Kim

  • Reply
    Susan B
    August 22, 2019 at 5:30 pm

    Absolutely brilliant styling, Brenda! Two very different looks, both look great for her! I think I may need to create some charts like that for some of items I’m adding to my wardrobe…

  • Reply
    Cathy D.
    August 22, 2019 at 8:49 pm

    Brenda, thank you so much for this interesting and very useful post. It’s inspiring me to get busy with my fall outfits, and I still have some of your blank wardrobe charts ready to fill in. I have a few transitional pieces I bought last spring that are still unworn because I have difficulty putting new outfits together. You’ve given me a lot of good suggestions!

  • Reply
    Kimberly Malkiewicz
    August 23, 2019 at 5:44 am

    Oh, man! I totally overlooked this skirt from the NAS. Would you say it’s worth it at full price? I’ve never been a fan of acetate. I think I need to chart my outfits!

  • Reply
    August 23, 2019 at 7:36 am

    Total educational experience for me & you know how happy I am that these colors are in! I am wearing teal flat front pants, teal v-neck T-shirt, cognac cardigan, and mustard sandals to meet my nieces daughter Elenor Lee Smith today. Can you see the smile on my face? 😉

  • Reply
    August 29, 2019 at 2:56 pm

    Thank you for this tutorial! I am sure I will refer to it again. It was helpful to see that individual items from stereotypically youthful brands can work for all of us.

    Thanks to Veronica too for modeling so well!

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