I am still learning to dress myself for summer as a grown up. I can't really just wear spaghetti strap tank tops and short shorts, like I did as a teen in the desert. My junk in the hood -- aka giant heaving bosoms -- is tricky to dress in skimpy breezy pieces without some homegrown tailoring and enough coverage to conceal a decent bra. Alas, the trials of being curvy! But as soon as cooler weather kicks in and I can start layering colors, textures, patterns, and shapes, I feel like a champion stylist. And while this may only be true in my own little world, I thought I'd share the way I put together a more cohesive wardrobe. I have a few rules that I put together before shopping, to keep myself from buying too many of those pretties that look great on the rack and are totally on sale, but I’ll never wear because they don’t go with anything I own…
1. Color: Pick your palette based both on what looks great on you and what you love. I look fab in lavender but really don’t like it, so it never makes it in my bag. Similarly, I love a green-yellow ochre color, but it makes me look like I have malaria, so I limit it to accessories and accents that aren’t next to my skin – like a belt, brooch, shoes, or bag. My palette is based on deep jewel tones, with lighter versions for summer. Indigo, cobalt, leaf, crimson, rust, plum. I mix these with my favorite neutrals: charcoal, dove, coffee, slate. While black can be fabulous, make sure it is a quality fabric so it doesn't fade and look cheap after that first wash.
2. Texture: Texture is my favorite way to make a few otherwise simple pieces into a really fabulous outfit. It brings interest to a more monochromatic outfit, makes cheaper pieces look luxurious, and is just plain old fun. My standbys include tweed, knits, silk, lace, linen, jersey, velvet, corduroy. If you aren’t used to playing with texture, try a monochromatic look with a few different textures or just mix one or two on a simple base – tweed vest, t-shirt, corduroys and funky jewelry. Soon you’ll be blending as many as you can, and throwing patterns in for a bit of zest.
3. Shape: I like pencil, circle, and a-line skirts, and prefer a higher waist. For pants, I like a trouser cut with a straight wider leg, or a skinny cut, and again a slightly higher waist. My tops are structured and tailored or semi-fitted with some drape to them. Some of them I tuck in, some I belt, some I layer to have a few different hemlines. I have sort of an apple version of an hourglass, and pick shapes that minimize the waist but boost the curves. Straighter figures work well in simple straight cuts with drape-y fabric to show off those lean lines, and top heavy or bottom heavy figures can use either a fuller or more a-line skirt to balance the top or a lower waist and more structured shape to tone the lower half down. And skirts are always my answer to a fat-day -- they can shrink the tummy, hide the thighs, and camouflage the rolls... especially when it is cool enough to wear tights -- gotta love those control tops!