43 In Anatomy of an Outfit

Styling an “old jacket” in a fresh, new way

Chico's decorative jacket

New year, new styling of the Tribal Jacket

 

There was something about this particular Saturday when I woke up in the mood to wear rolled jeans and a cotton white shirt and a small cluster of narrow bangles. It had to be those bangles, and it had to be that J.Crew white shirt. There’s something about the rhythmic sound that the J.Crew shirt makes as I move through my every moment that comforts me. It’s like listening to Buddhist monks and their rhythmic chanting. Now to be honest, on certain days that rustling fabric might drive me nuts just like a day of chanting in the background could make me want to run into an action-filled superhero movie to try and drown it out. That’s why waking up desiring the sound of cotton rubbing against itself was a clear order I could not and would not deny. I needed that sound, that shirt, that day.

I might have been happy wearing just the shirt, bangles, jeans, and my buff-colored sandals but I wanted to add just a little somethin’ before heading out to have brunch with Russ at Della Fattoria in Petaluma. So I looked into the jacket section of the closet, which is on the far left, and saw my Chico’s tribal jacket. Hmm, I haven’t worn this all season, I thought. Not in spring and not so far in summer. I pulled it out, slipped it on, and b-o-o-m that was it. It had to be the tribal jacket. The fabric is a cotton piqué canvas. It doesn’t make sound but makes me happy.

There’s a textile artist in me. I used to make wearable art clothing back in the late ’70s and ’80s using a variety of techniques including quilting, appliqué, beading and trapunto. So anything that’s got creative stitching or rows of things or fanciful placement of buttons, sequins or beads has my complete attention. It’s a soul connection.

I have to show you some close-ups of this jacket. I think you’ll understand.

 

Chico's tribal jacket closeup

Varied rows of decorative stitching

 

Chico's two rows Tribal

Heavier stitching on the bottom

 

Neck edge of Chico's tribal jacket

See the sequins and beads?

 

The rest of the outfit

See the thin bangles? Maybe I liked the jacket with the bangles because the thinness of them is repeated in the thin vertical rows of stitching.

 

 

I added something that would bring texture to the outfit but not a lot of color. It’s the crystal pendant that I created months back. I like how it ties the jacket to the white shirt.

 

Chico's jacket looks tribal

I love the repetition in the edging along the cuffs, hem, and center of the jacket

 

Crystal pendant

My pendant adds just enough and not too much

 

See the woven bag I’m wearing? It reminds me of patterns I’d make in piecework. This is shaping up to be an artsy-fartsy outfit but in a subtle, kind of sophisticated, understated way. There are no bright colors. The only bright parts are my glasses (Uber Optics, my friends) and my lipstick, Power by Laura Mercier.

 

Patterns in tribal jacket

Loving the subtle but dynamic patterns

 

How cool is it that the shoes relate to the handbag? I had denim blue sandals that I could have worn, but that felt too matchy-matchy with the jeans. Better to keep the eye moving up the body; from sandals to handbag to jacket. I love getting the action to land up at my face and as quickly as possible. Denim-colored sandals would have seemed like dead weight at the bottom.

 

Handcrafted looks

Feeling my textile artist roots in this outfit

 

A couple of general styling tips to try at home

White shirts brighten. I love how a white shirt can brighten a look instantly. They’re like a breath of fresh air. Even though you only see the color on the collar, sleeves and a bit of the middle, it lifts energy up. I feel light and bright in this outfit, and it’s due to that shirt. Now some of you might think that the cream and the white don’t go together. I don’t want them to necessarily go-together. Just relating to one another is good enough for me. They can flirt, but no kissing; you know what I mean? That wall behind me is pretty perfect for demonstrating how colors hang out together, relating without looking matchy.

Finding shoes to relate to handbags. I’m absolutely amazed at how much I’m wearing my woven leather handbag this year after not wearing it once last year. And I give credit for that to my buff-colored Campers platform sandal, new this year. Usually I make Beauty Bundles with three or more items but I consider these platform sandals and woven bag to be a Beauty Bundle. No matter what clothing pieces I put on, this mini-bundle pulls a look together. Oh, joyousness! I wish there were a hymn about how colors and fabrics work together in concert. I’d be humming it all day.

 

Styling old things new ways

I confess I was not intending to write this post up as an Anatomy of an Outfit. What I meant to do was show you three examples of different pieces in my wardrobe and how I’ve styled them differently this year. I’ve decided not to even show you pics of how I styled the tribal jacket last year. They are so off my radar right now. Last year those versions were the cat’s meow. This year I’m turning away from them like a picky mature cat turns away from a bowl of dry food when what she wants is wet food.

If you want to see it, I won’t deny you. You’ll have to click here to see last year’s styling of this jacket. Or, a slightly different version (the accessories changed) is in this post from my Where I Shop Series which features Chico’s jackets including the tribal one.

This appreciation for how things can change so dramatically in a year came about last week when Erin and I styled summer outfits for a client I’ve had for years. Without buying anything new, I created a brand new summer wardrobe for her. The outfits were so grand that I woke up the next morning still thinking of them. I texted her: “Can you believe you never bought a single thing this summer but got all those new clothes?” She was so happy about that!

Sometimes when I’m restyling outfits, a client will say, “I can show you what you did with it last year.” She’ll hold up the Wardrobe Chart I filled out last year. “No thanks,” I’ll say. I don’t want to be influenced by last year. I’m about this year. I don’t create a single outfit that’s the same as a year or two ago. You probably remember this about me-I have a rule about ditching all the wardrobe charts that are older than two years. Right now I feel like I need to pull in the reins and insist anything that’s older than 12 months needs to be shredded.

Style and fashion changes. People change. New lifestyle activities enter into the picture. Often shoes and accessories have been added to the wardrobe in the last year even if no new clothes have been purchased. I’ll definitely want to work with those newer additions. Or sometimes in the current year, I lean on the client’s heirloom accessories to change things up. That’s been happening a lot!

Keep this idea of creating new looks out of older clothes in your styling tool chest. It may be time to look at that jacket, pant, skirt or dress with new eyes, with this year’s eyes. A little tweaking could bring beaucoup joy to you! I’m all for that.

Have you had some styling adventures so far this season? We’re eager to hear all about them; do share!

XO

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43 Comments

  • Reply
    Ramona Puckett
    July 3, 2018 at 3:48 am

    Love this! You’re so talented!

    • Reply
      Brenda
      July 3, 2018 at 8:33 pm

      Thanks, Ramona!

  • Reply
    Dorothy
    July 3, 2018 at 4:27 am

    Very nice! I really appreciate your approach: last year is last year. Let’s do something else this year! Thanks.

    • Reply
      Brenda
      July 3, 2018 at 8:33 pm

      I think we can build a whole campaign with that slogan right there! Let’s do something else, Amen!

  • Reply
    Jodie
    July 3, 2018 at 5:15 am

    That jacket is wearable art. And how fascinating that you used to make such things!! But, of course, you are so creative and talented, Brenda!!
    I love a white shirt too, although I don’t have as many now. My mom though? She as a boatload so this spring we styled them in 2 different ways!! They really are so versatile!!
    XOXO
    Jodie
    http://www.jtouchofstyle.com

    • Reply
      Brenda
      July 3, 2018 at 8:32 pm

      Your mom is so lucky to have you, and of course, you’re lucky to have her. Just love your blog!

  • Reply
    Jean Bontrager
    July 3, 2018 at 5:33 am

    Love this outfit and hearing the way that it came together! Your style is so relatable and just enough. Please keep at it, so that I keep at it!

    • Reply
      Brenda
      July 3, 2018 at 8:32 pm

      Ah, that’s so sweet! Okay, I promise to keep at it if you promise to keep at it too. Deal? Deal!

  • Reply
    Ann
    July 3, 2018 at 5:46 am

    Love it!

    • Reply
      Brenda
      July 3, 2018 at 8:31 pm

      xo

  • Reply
    Sandi
    July 3, 2018 at 7:25 am

    My favorite line in this great article is when you wrote about the white shirt/beige jacket “they can flirt but no kissing”. I love starting my mornings with a giggle and you gave me one. Thanks!

    • Reply
      Brenda
      July 3, 2018 at 8:30 pm

      Coming from you, it sounds funny. Glad you got a giggle. Are you ready for all the giggles this weekend when you and Paul are here? Our bellies are going to ache from laughing so hard! Can’t wait!

  • Reply
    Kim
    July 3, 2018 at 8:02 am

    I had to click through and see all of your looks. This one is my favorite, but they’re all very nice. It’s amazing what a pair of jeans can do, this wash is the perfect counterpoint for the artsy jacket.

    • Reply
      Brenda
      July 3, 2018 at 8:29 pm

      You’re so right, Kim! When I looked at the pictures again I was super happy with those jeans.

  • Reply
    Bettye L Rainwater
    July 3, 2018 at 8:04 am

    When I first started reading, I was like JACKET?? IT’S NINE MILLION DEGREES OUTSIDE! The banded design in the small pictures on my phone made it look like a down puffer jacket and I thought SHE’S GONE MAD IN THE HEAT, but it all worked out in the end 🙂

    I also like the “last year is so last year” approach and I always like to add just one or two new items to bring many of last year’s looks up-to-date in a fresh new way.

    I was really hoping for a close-up of the crystal necklace, it looks amazing!

    Stay cool!

    Bettye
    https://fashionschlub.com

    • Reply
      Brenda
      July 3, 2018 at 8:29 pm

      I’m always tickled when people think I’ve gone mad! You made my day! The Bay Area is so not a normal summer situation. On Saturday I left Sonoma and it was 92 degrees. I drove one hour (including parking) to a museum in Golden Gate Park, SF, and it was 67 degrees, a drop of 25 degrees. And 67 is pretty warm for a San Francisco summer day. I had multiple layers in the car and needed them! It’s hard to get used to but if you are in SF when the fog rolls in and the temps drop fast, you’re in trouble. Anybody coming to SF this summer? Bring coats!

      • Reply
        Bettye L Rainwater
        July 7, 2018 at 10:09 am

        I’ve always thought I’d do well in the pacific northwest climate. I get hot easily, I don’t LIKE being hot, and I’m not that big a fan of sunshine. I enjoy cool grey days and don’t mind frequent rain.

        But it’s all relative. It’s funny when I visit family in Southern California and it’s going to be 60 degrees and they’re like “bring your coat!” and here on Long Island when it’s 60 degrees we’re like “wear your shorts!” Ha.

        Bettye

  • Reply
    Vicki W Grant
    July 3, 2018 at 8:13 am

    The part that jumps at me is how your skin undertone echoes in shoes and within the patterning of the jacket. That subtle “Bingo” color scheme makes my eye happy. Instant cohesion.

    • Reply
      Brenda
      July 3, 2018 at 8:24 pm

      Instant cohesion. I’m learning new terms! To more Bingo moments!

  • Reply
    Cathy D.
    July 3, 2018 at 9:23 am

    It’s finally summer here, and my summer clothes are getting a workout. Last summer I spent many hours creating wardrobe charts for all my summer clothes. This summer I don’t like those outfits, and am creating all new looks with almost exactly the same clothes. I’ve never one this before, and it’s absolutely fascinating… and all due to your influence. Brenda, thank you so much for showing me a more interesting and flexible way to dress!

    • Reply
      Brenda
      July 3, 2018 at 8:23 pm

      I am overjoyed Cathy that this all makes sense to you. Woo hoo! Yes to rebooting one’s wardrobe!
      You’re inspiring others this moment, I know!

  • Reply
    Mary
    July 3, 2018 at 10:16 am

    Loved this post, tbh because it is kick-starting me into challenging myself to use items already in my closet to create new outfits without shopping! I LOVE to shop, but since not working as much I really don’t neeeeeed to purchase new things as often ($$-wise and fewer opportunities to wear new items) when I have ample choices already in my own ‘store’. Thanks, Brenda!

    • Reply
      Brenda
      July 3, 2018 at 7:35 pm

      Mary, I love that you have your own store. It’s great to think about it that way. We can all go shopping every day–right in our closets!

  • Reply
    Elaine @ Following Augustine
    July 3, 2018 at 11:14 am

    You’re inspiring me to go back to my closet and look at old items in new ways! Thanks, Brenda!

    • Reply
      Brenda
      July 3, 2018 at 7:34 pm

      Oh good, that’s what I was hoping for. Cheers!

  • Reply
    Heidi
    July 3, 2018 at 4:40 pm

    Hi Brenda,
    I agree with you about approaching things with a new outlook! Weight change, hair color change and something as simple as the recent discovery of a really great, supportive, comfortable, strapless bra has opened up so many new possibilities for me! Now, for the very first time in my life, I can consider wearing off-the-shoulder or strapless dresses! Wow! Not for everyday, and in a non-sleazy way if you know what I mean, but still- a fun way to introduce a new look into my wardrobe that I wouldn’t have even thought about before! That possibility is exciting to me, and has me looking at summer clothing in a new way!
    BTW you look terrific in that outfit and cute jacket, I like the fact that you’ve made it okay for the long sleeves to show under the cropped ones. I have always wondered about that with different cropped sleeve cardigan type sweaters and jackets that I have. Now I KNOW it’s okay!! Brenda said so!! : )
    Xo Heidi

    • Reply
      Brenda
      July 3, 2018 at 7:34 pm

      Heidi, I am marveling at your discovery. Who knew? Who knew a strapless bra, a great one, would bring such freedom! Let’s give Heidi a standing ovation! I’m sure it’s not sleazy and I always tip my hat to someone who is showing shoulders. Yes! And glad you got the answer about the long under cropped. Yes, you won’t be getting any fashion citations when you do this! Hugs to you, my friend!

  • Reply
    Kathy
    July 3, 2018 at 6:46 pm

    I am 7 months into my hair “chemical free” stage (going gray-au naturals). I seem to be disappearing during the process. By the end of the day I look tired (which I am) andcwashed out. Make up and lipstick are faint memories by 6 pm. I am struggling to stop the fade and remain vibrant-present at the very least. I am trying to incorporate more color in my outfits but am frustrated at times. Any suggestions would be appreciated.

    • Reply
      Brenda
      July 3, 2018 at 7:32 pm

      Kathy, lipstick is my miracle drug. I reapply throughout the day. That keeps color on my face and makes me look alive/not tired. Does anyone else have some advice for Kathy? Let’s help her out!

    • Reply
      stephanie ashworth
      July 4, 2018 at 7:45 am

      I went gray last year and you do have to change up your colors. On your face and your wardrobe. It was a bit of work but fun to see colors I could never wear as a brunette look great with gray hair. I recommend going brighter with your face colors. I used to wear a rose colored blush but now am pinky peach(Orgasm by NARS). My face powder which I apply very lightly has a slight shimmer. By applying it lightly it works for daytime and adds a lift. A bit brighter on your lipstick shade will work wonders!

      I applaud you for going gray. I was so afraid to do it but so glad I did. I feel empowered owning it! I get more compliments from men and young women on my hair. Isn’t that funny?

  • Reply
    Doris
    July 3, 2018 at 11:27 pm

    When I startet let my grey grow out I feared to fade away too. I discovered that if I colour my (blonde and thin-looking) eyebrows, they give a lovely and vibrant frame to the face. I use the brown colour of “swiss-o-par” and repeat it when the colour starts to fade (by summer sun or time); that together with a bit of lipstick really is a miracle drug too – and not much ado.

    • Reply
      Brenda
      July 5, 2018 at 9:04 am

      Gosh, I love these tips! Doris, I hadn’t thought of that but that’s very true about having eyebrow color to help frame the face. I mean that’s always the case but especially with the gray. Love it, love it, love it! Thanks for sharing!

  • Reply
    Trinnie q
    July 4, 2018 at 1:55 am

    What a great article! Love your look, and lots of laughs! I am currently working on restyling my winter wardrobe, as itis winter here in Oz. I am mostly succeeding! Stay cool over there. Sending love from Oz

    • Reply
      Brenda
      July 5, 2018 at 9:03 am

      Oh yes, this really works with winter clothes! In fact, I think there are more possibilities in winter. Enjoy, my friend! xo from Sonoma

  • Reply
    stephanie ashworth
    July 4, 2018 at 7:37 am

    I needed this! I feel like I am in a clothes desert. Shopping and shopping with very little to show for it. I’m headed in to the closet to see if I can’t pull something new together in there! Happy Fourth to you!

    • Reply
      Brenda
      July 5, 2018 at 9:02 am

      I LOVE it, Stephanie! My guess is you’ve got ten outfits in there that you could wear and enjoy over the next few weeks!

  • Reply
    Laurice Gilbert
    July 4, 2018 at 3:12 pm

    I’ve never worn white (or cream, for that matter) because I have pale skin and pale clothes make me disappear, but I really like your idea of having it just as neck and cuff accent with a bit in the middle while other pieces do the main work. I don’t need any more clothes, but if a white shirt should happen to appear I might just have to give it a go. You are always so full of good ideas for me to try.

    • Reply
      Brenda
      July 5, 2018 at 9:01 am

      Well, I’m so happy to supply ideas for you to try! That’s how it works for me too. I see something and then wonder if I could achieve that in my own wardrobe. A little fashion stimulation! Always fun to hear from you, Laurice!

  • Reply
    Jackie
    July 5, 2018 at 7:21 am

    Am I the only one bothered by the shirt sleeves hanging out that much below the jacket sleeves. Otherwise I love the outfit. But the length of the shirt sleeves hanging out kills the outfit for me.

    • Reply
      Brenda
      July 5, 2018 at 8:59 am

      I bet you aren’t! That sleeve proportion thing (long coming out of shorter) started several years back in layered t-shirts. It was one of those trends that I thought was absolutely ridiculous and would never stay around. (Sort of how I felt about skinny jeans when they first came out!) But my eye got used to it and then I started wearing it and loving it. I like seeing white coming below the edge of the jacket sleeve but you could make that much thinner by rolling that shirt sleeve up to kiss the edge of the jacket. If it was hotter outside, I’d have done that as well. For others who just hate the sleeve part but want the look of a crisp white shirt, I’ve actually cut the sleeves off a shirt that’s showing wear in the armpit area. Some of my clients like when I do this because it also eliminates the bulk of a sleeve under a three-quarter length jacket. Would any of these ideas help you, Jackie, and anyone who had that same thought? I love that you brought that up, Jackie!

  • Reply
    cindy hattersley
    July 6, 2018 at 8:00 am

    I love this outfit so much Brenda! You have made a Chico’s jacket look like it came right of f the runway. Love the textural feel of the entire ensemble!

  • Reply
    Nancy Molstad
    July 8, 2018 at 5:14 am

    Oh, NUTS!! Three years ago I wore an arty-looking jacket to an awards banquet where I was seen and photographed by many people. I donated it because I thought I couldn’t re-wear something that nearly everyone had seen me wear.

    Lesson learned: Just re-style! I could have worn that jacket with different bottoms and/or different layering t-shirts to other (less public) events and venues.

  • Reply
    Carol
    July 8, 2018 at 5:54 pm

    A little help please – I have a new accessory, a cane!
    Any style tips for carrying a cane? A crossbody bag is essential. So there seems to be a lot going on. Do you match your cane to your bag? Cane to your bottom? Bag to your top?
    Any suggestions are appreciated.

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