27 In Anatomy of an Outfit/ Styling Tips

Anatomy of Her Outfit: A study in contrasts

Lunch box handbag

Check out my lunch box, or is it a handbag?


I love catching the Petaluma Antique Faire. It’s held the last Sunday in April and September. Mark your calendar for September 30th to catch the next one!

Personally there are four great things about the faire.

  1. Russ and I love poking around and brainstorming things that could work for our home.
  2. We meet my longtime clients (three related families) who come up from Los Gatos, San Francisco, and Mill Valley to spend the morning there. They’re great at antiquing!
  3. We go to Della Fattoria with the whole gang for brunch. Good food, good stories, great laughs.
  4. Many people attending the faire wear very creative outfits. People watching is fab.

This year didn’t disappoint. Fun items 1-3 were as great as ever. And I got my fashion fix when I ran into and talked to this woman at the faire. I loved her outfit and I’ll tell you why!


Wide leg culottes in a '70s print

Wide leg culottes get my attention


You know me, I’m kind of shy with strangers, but when this woman started walking away I just had to stop her and hope she wouldn’t find me rude. “Excuse me, but I really love your pants!”

“Really?” she said with a smile.

I’m so sorry I didn’t ask her her name. I already felt like I was being a bit intrusive as most people there are on a serious hunt for hidden treasures. I won’t overlook that detail again!

So what do you want first? The details of her outfit or what attracted me to her?


What I learned about her culottes

Let’s start with the culottes which grabbed my attention. I first saw her standing still from the back. I thought she was wearing a skirt. But when she moved I realized she was wearing wide-leg culottes. That earned big style points for me. Many people are timid about wearing culottes. You don’t see them out in public that often.

Here’s her culotte story:

I literally took these pants off the curb. My friend was tossing them out on the street with other things. I took them home and cut them down and added the cuff. They are so comfortable. I ended up making a pattern and I’ve got several now. I’ve made them out of lots of different fabrics including pretty tablecloths and lightweight tapestry fabrics.


The fabric is bonafide polyester. It has to have been from the mod ’70s. I made myself an A-line dress in high school in a print that wasn’t so different from this one. I asked if I could touch it. Yup, polyester alright! Nothing would dare wrinkle this fabric. I love how they really held their shape.


Showing skin when wearing culottes

Love how she’s showing skin at the bottom


What tickled me about how she put this outfit together

So now I have to tell you all the things I liked about this outfit on her.

I’d guess she’s around 5’1″. Clearly she’s not going for that rule that shorter women should avoid wearing long skirts or long dresses. I loved the amount of skin showing between the cuff and her open-toed sandals. I always like seeing skin somewhere near the bottom because it makes us jump to the skin on the face and neck. It ties an outfit together, makes your eye go up and down. That open space near her ankle gave the outfit a lift. The culottes didn’t weigh her down because we saw skin.


The top half is all classic

Classic elements on the top contrasted with party pants


Another thing that delighted me was that from the waist up she’s in classic pieces. A white collared shirt, a black pullover sweater, and diamond stud earrings. Her hair is pulled back into a tight, low ponytail. The shape of her sunglasses are classic as well. If she’d swap her party pants for a classic trouser she could be going to an office. She could be a lawyer. But not on Sunday in her mod culottes. She brings the party with the bottom half.


She showed me the clean, smooth waistline


I liked how the black and white pieces up top played against the psychedelic print on the bottom. That contrast was delightful.

And I loved seeing her oversized tote bag slung over her shoulder in red and white polka dots. Not tiny polka dots but grand ones. This is a functional tote as she’s prepared to pack some purchases in it. But in this case I think the tote serves her in a functional and fashionable way. The oversized tote brings a dramatic but playful flare. One could easily imagine a person 5’9″ carrying off the scale of this tote. But someone eight inches shorter? There’s another rule that petites don’t have to follow. You can be petite and wear large prints.


A fun fashionable accent in a tote

Her tote is functional and fashionable


While the print in her culottes were loud, she was actually very soft-spoken and proper, very ladylike when I talked to her. She seemed calm and like it would take an awful lot to get her frazzled. Loud and soft. Again, that volleying of contrasting elements is what makes this outfit delicious.

She also puts the kibosh to the oft quoted rule that if you wore it the first time around, you can’t wear it the second time. I’m guessing she could have been old enough to have worn this print when it was first trendy. I used to preach that rule: Let the young people play with the trend that you played with once before. I NEVER say that anymore. I think we can wear trends when they come back again. We’ll always do it with a modern twist.


What about the lunch box?


Decorated lunch box becomes a handbag

Will this lunch box appear in outfits soon? You betcha!


In case you’re wondering, I bought that lunch box for twenty bucks. I’ve been wearing it as a handbag the last two days. You’ll be seeing it in outfit pictures soon!

So let me ask you a few questions: Do you wear previously owned clothes? Do you buy things at antique faires or garage sales? What do you think about the “rule” that you should wear a trend once, not twice? Let’s share stories!



You Might Also Like


  • Reply
    April 30, 2018 at 10:27 pm

    I like your shoes! Care to share your source?

    • Reply
      May 1, 2018 at 6:31 pm

      AGL sneakers from years back.

  • Reply
    Jill McIntosh
    May 1, 2018 at 1:40 am

    Love the print on the culotte and I would never have thought of putting the classic twist on the top but looks great.

    • Reply
      May 1, 2018 at 6:31 pm

      I know! When I was writing this post and really studying my photos of her I realized just what she’d done. Brilliant!

  • Reply
    May 1, 2018 at 2:35 am

    I go to antique shows to buy jewelry, furnishings and sometimes clothing. Whatever catches my eye and intrigues me — like your lunch box/purse. Mostly I wear contemporary but antique items are often more interesting and add a focal point to what otherwise might be common and bland. I am small and like oversized, one or two items in an outfit work well, but I would feel uncomfortable wearing the 70’s skirt the woman is wearing. But if it were in a flowy fabric, or slightly smaller scale, I might wear it.

    • Reply
      May 1, 2018 at 6:30 pm

      Kay, I am often in awe of the beautiful tailoring in antique clothing. It sounds like a cliche but they just don’t make them like that anymore! Or maybe they do, just at a price that’s out of my reach. Thanks for sharing!

  • Reply
    Cathy Heine
    May 1, 2018 at 3:33 am

    Oh my goodness! Love that lunchbox purse. My mother, sister, and I spent a lot of time painting lunch boxes as purses one year! So fun to see this one!
    Another year it was box purses. Go to the craft store and buy the bare box, hinges, handle, and decorations. I still have the one my mom did. She decoupaged it with pieces of greeting cards.
    Thank you for your posts! I look forward to each one!

    • Reply
      May 1, 2018 at 6:28 pm

      Wow, you made them! How cool is that! I love the idea of using pieces of greeting cards that I’ve saved because I love them so much. That’s a craft I never learned. But it’s never too late, right?

  • Reply
    May 1, 2018 at 4:20 am

    This lady carries off this outfit fabulously! I love buying previously worn clothes, but I gravitate towards the scarves and high end brands. Years ago I scored 2 gorgeous Hermes scarves at just $2 each! Last month while on holiday in Germany, i bought a vintage sage green trench coat in spotless condition for 30Euros – very happy with my “souvenir”.

    • Reply
      May 1, 2018 at 6:26 pm

      Oh my gosh, that sage green trench coat! See, I don’t do this enough. I’d like to do it more. Having a souvenir like that is terrific. Wait a minute! I did score a Dries Van Noten jacket on my trip to Santa Fe at a consignment store. Every time I wear it people compliment me. It is easier to pay for gently used high-end items than paying full price right off the rack.

  • Reply
    Sandy Miles-Blaxland
    May 1, 2018 at 5:36 am

    That lunchbox is wonderful! And yes, yes, yes! I adore garage sales and thrift stores. Most of my clothing come from there. Before I moved back to Newfoundland almost 2 yr ago, I purged drastically, going from a 3 bedroom house to a small 2 bed apt. But thanks to garage sales and the local Salvation Army store, I’ve been able to replace items I didn’t think I’d miss like my rice cooker, large blender …….. and every vintage, colored glass I can find! As for trends, I think that as “mature” women, we can wear whatever makes us feel good in our own skin. I always remind myself not to judge others by their clothing just because I wouldn’t wear it. We are all unique and wonderful!

    • Reply
      May 1, 2018 at 6:24 pm

      Your last two sentences are ones that I try to convey all the time. I ADORE seeing others wear things I would never wear. It would be so boring to me to see mini-me’s running around. Variety is the spice of life! No judgement.

  • Reply
    May 1, 2018 at 5:38 am

    I wear lots of vintage items which I mix with new things. I have a great tweed coat from the 1960s and a vintage polyester print skirt from the early 70s (I guess) and some beautiful vintage tweed and velvet skirt suits. I like vintage hats too. I must admit I did shy away from embroidered jeans when they came around the second time, because I wore them the first time: but generally I think we should all just wear what we LOVE!

    • Reply
      May 1, 2018 at 6:22 pm

      I hear you on the embroidered jeans! I held back and held back and then I did it, still with reservations, but ended up loving them. Unfortunately I’ve put on a few pounds and they’re tight around the middle so hopefully by June I’ll be in them again!

  • Reply
    Sandi Mcdougall
    May 1, 2018 at 6:43 am

    Being the shorty I am, I loved the article about the woman & how you explained the elements that made it amazing. Your lunchbox purse looks like fun & adds a fun punch to your outfit. Funny, I was just thinking about you & purses yesterday, as I rarely change mine (other than for the season) and use a couple of the unique ones to hold Kleenex boxes, etc. in my home.

    • Reply
      May 1, 2018 at 6:21 pm

      Now that’s new to me! Purses as Kleenex boxes! I need pictures, Sandi!

  • Reply
    La semaine d'une gourmette
    May 1, 2018 at 8:18 am

    I love love love vintage. Alas, I’m selling some very beautiful things I have that I can’t and won’t ever be able to wear anymore – they are several sizes too small now, I used to wear them many years ago: a fab black sleeveless knee-length wide-skirt silk gauze dress from the 1950’s, two black crepe knee-length dresses from the 40’s, a beige and white dress from the 60’s (I think) with a faux vest (it’s actually attached to the dress), things like that. But I still have a few things (amongst which the red short straight 60’s leather coat I’m wearing today). But around here, real vintage is hard to find nowadays.

    • Reply
      May 1, 2018 at 6:20 pm

      I’m really imagining that red coat you’re wearing. Sounds great!!! How fun that you had those great vintage pieces and enjoyed them when you did!

  • Reply
    May 1, 2018 at 2:34 pm

    Heck yes, I shop @ thrift stores, consignment shops, and estate sales for everything but shoes, sox & underwear. And 9 times out of 10, when someone compliments something I’m wearing, it’s the previously owned stuff. As for that “rule”…. I would if I could, but (1) I can’t fit into my stuff from back in the day (and interestingly, neither can my daughters!) and (2) during the first round of fads in the 60s, 70s, 80s, even 90s…. I didn’t have much money so my stuff was of cheap quality. I wouldn’t wear it now.

    • Reply
      May 1, 2018 at 6:19 pm

      You make great points, Nomi! I love hearing about the compliments!!

  • Reply
    Elaine @ Following Augustine
    May 1, 2018 at 3:10 pm

    I love shopping thrift stores and much of my wardrobe is second hand. As for the wear it once, but not twice, trend “rule”, I admit to being a bit hesitant about wearing things that were fads when I was much younger, but never say never! I was a bit late coming to the bell sleeve party this time around because I wasn’t sure I could pull off a style that I wore in the 70s. I finally broke down and bought a top with bell sleeves awhile back though and I enjoy wearing it.

    • Reply
      May 1, 2018 at 6:19 pm

      Funny, I think I missed the whole bell sleeves the first time around. It took me a minute to find one that seemed practical as in not falling onto the veggies with added olive oil on my dinner plate. In fact, I’m wearing it right now and quite enjoying it because it’s different and fun to try new things.

  • Reply
    cindy hattersley
    May 1, 2018 at 4:09 pm

    To be honest (other than companies I work for), most of my clothes come from Ebay. I have never really scoured resale and vintage stores (I just don’t have time until I retire!!) ebay and Etsy are my go to’s. I loved that that woman was party on the bottom and business on top…she has style!!

    • Reply
      May 1, 2018 at 6:17 pm

      Now I totally admire your ability to find clothes on ebay and Etsy. I’m impressed! The idea of doing that from the computer is overwhelming to me but I’d love to learn! You’re inspiring me to try!

  • Reply
    Lisa White
    May 1, 2018 at 6:31 pm

    First….LOVE the Lunch Pail hand-painted bag. Clever, unique and charming! As for the subject of your post…the petite woman in the amazing culottes….I totally get her! One of the hashtags I use on my IG posts is #stylehasnorules. It is because we adapt rules to fit our tastes and even through them to the wind if it suits us. I adore culottes, maxi-dresses, maxi skirts, wide leg high-waist pants… I am a Seventies girl (wink on the girl part) I graduated 8th grade in 1969, high school in 1973, college in 1977. It was fun the first time around and even better the second. In fact, I am still wearing some of the pieces I purchased from that period of time in my life…lay-aways for those expensive Parisian pieces. I am 5’2 and 1/2 inch….love platforms under those long, wild paisley wide leg pants with the high waists. So much better the second time around. I do shop The RealReal for pieces that I cannot afford new or lucky enough to find on sale. I troll Ruby Lane for Bakelite and try and add a piece or two each year, I love ebay for the those second hand/sometimes new Japanese designers I so very much love. I have been very pleased with those pieces. Finding independent designers on IG has been fun. I feel that I have touched all corners of the globe through IG and the many generous women who share their style/resources! Yes, Yes, and Yes to all the questions you have raised! Love this post!

  • Reply
    Alice Webb
    May 2, 2018 at 5:46 pm

    Oh, yes to thrifting! My favorite pieces were discovered on treasure hunting days and my favorite game is to put together a fabulous outfit and then total up the cost of it. If it’s under 30.00 head to toe, I WIN! My long, full floral skirt with a pleated, soft white blouse and gold sandals? 23.00 and compliments everywhere I wear them. No guilt when its a rescued treasure.

    Now I need culottes…

  • Reply
    Laurice Gilbert
    May 7, 2018 at 2:38 pm

    Oh yes – earlier this week I was wearing a long-sleeved maxi-dress with a shirred bodice, from the 60s (I think it originally belonged to my sister). Over it I wore a calf-length sleeveless vest from the 70s. I don’t recall where that came from (possibly my other, younger, sister), but it has a row of tiny self-covered buttons and self fabric loops – very much the 70s look. I was going to give it away, but I re-invented my look recently and retrieved it from the thrift shop bag. I’m glad I did. I felt tall and elegant and moved a bit like Darth Vader – very bad-ass for someone only 5ft 2in.

  • Leave a Reply