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Laredo to Paris. . .

Quote of the Week:

One could reasonably assume that the duster was, from the beginning, functional to wear and definitely always comfortable. So. . . just when did a duster coat become so fashionably chic?

Fascinating, isn’t it? How so many styles we wear today were originally created for a practical, specific purpose. So it is with the duster, a light, loose-fitting long coat. Originally, dusters were worn by cowboys in the 19th century in the American West to protect their clothing from trail dust.   At the turn of the twentieth century, both men and women wore dusters to protect their clothes from dirt and dust when riding in open automobiles.  Dusters were sometimes referred to as car coats or motoring jackets. So the duster coat, at least twice in its history, really was a “duster.”

Thank goodness the duster today creates drama in our wardrobe, regardless of what’s worn underneath. Because it’s cut long, loose and worn open without closures, unless you are using a button-up dress (unbuttoned, of course) as a duster, it’s very flattering on everyone, with or without a horse. From Dramatic to Romantic to Classic, there is a duster style to please every fashion persona and every figure.

Can’t end here without offering a few Duster tips for your consideration:

  • Check the length. Dusters can hang in there from anywhere below the knee to around the ankle but should never touch the floor on anyone of any height. Do not… I repeat do not take yourself out of the wearing of a duster because of height. I’ve seen dusters on pics of shorter fashionistas who look great in them. Big hint: if you are on the shorter side, wear a slim profile pant or skirt with the duster. Lucky you on the taller side, dusters look great with a wider leg pant.
  • Select a style and fabrication that suits your personality and needs. Are you having a “Downton Abbey” moment? Then go for the black lace duster just right of the more “Little House on the Prairie” look in the middle. Fabrication, of course, depends on the season of the year. A duster can literally be a winter coat or a summer bathing suit cover-up. They have style, function and purpose year round. How fun is that? A duster for every season and occasion!
  • I’m certain there are many more tips that I could offer up but I’ll stick to just one. Don’t limit yourself to what can be worn underneath a duster. Wear them over anything: skinny jeans, wide-leg jeans, shorts, trousers, pencil skirts, dresses and yes.. a bathing suit. I’ve seen them for every season, figure and occasion and they look smashing on all of us.

My interpretation of Coco Chanel’s quote is that fashion is more general or collective in definition. It’s full of trends that come and go giving us multiple choices to express our own individual style. With style, the emphasis is on YOU and how you are expressed by the fashion you wear. And, while it might be tempting to wear a duster to just camouflage or modify your pre-conceived notions of “figure flaws” – don’t!

Pick a duster to honor who you are at the moment and parade it with your own style.

Quote of the Week:

All well and good Mr. Kors.

For some of us, though, mixing and matching can be a scary, intimidating realm that keeps us from even trying. However, adding more color, texture and pattern to our wardrobe can be fun, interesting, definitely stimulating and worth the effort.

So, let’s be bold and step up to the plate and try a little mixing and matching. Let’s get ourselves out of a mindset that whispers in our ear “you could never pull that off!

Are you with me?

Today's lesson plan will offer up a few tips on how to take the intimidation out of that mix and match moment. By the time we're done, nobody will wonder if the lights went out in the closet this morning when we answered the question "What do I wear today?"

Mixing prints can be simple and subtle or big and bold. Wear what makes you comfortable and confident. I chose examples of fabric swatches that are fairly common to most of our wardrobes. Most of us might have something striped, dotted, checked, floral or plaid. These are basic and a great place to begin.

  • Keep your fabrics in the same color family. Match colors not prints. Always pick two different prints that share a single color. My swatches all share the color blue, navy to be specific.
  • Choose one print to dominate and one as an accent. If the stripe or floral is the dominant piece, then accent with a dot or plaid or another print which keeps true to the color of choice.
  • Mix prints of different scales like tiny dots with larger scale stripes.
  • Always treat stripes as a neutral. If hesitant, start with a stripe top, skirt or pant and pair with a polka dot in the same color tone.
Stripes and dots are an easy way to mix patterns. I’ll say again treat the stripe as a neutral and keep the colors in the same tone. Also, if you’re feeling unsure, you can always ground the two mixed pieces with a solid color as done with the jean jacket on the third model.
If you want to use the same print, invert the colors as shown on the first model. Navy dots on white blouse with white dots on navy skirt. Also fun to vary the scale – smaller dots on top with larger on the bottom piece. Plaids and dots or florals and plaids are two more easy patterns to mix. (Yes! That’s Sarah Jessica Parker in the middle photo)
You can also take two of the same print and invert them either by color or in a horizontal vs. vertical pattern. The animal print is by color. Both are leopard print but in light and dark versions. Cover a darker leopard print dress with a lighter leopard print cardigan. Or, with the blue stripe: make the top a vertical stripe with a horizontal striped bottom piece or vice versa.
Then, of course, the easiest of all is to find yourself a top or dress or bottom that already has mixed pattern. Pair it with a solid and you’re done!
And last, but certainly not least, always look to accessories to add pattern, color and texture to a mixed outfit. Even the texture in your handbag is considered a pattern to be mixed and matched. Just by adding a striped scarf to a dotted blouse you have started on the path to this fun trend in fashion.

So. . . there you have it. A few tips to get into mixing and matching your wardrobe. If an entire company can make a sock fortune by mixing and matching, certainly we can find two or three pieces in our closet to put together in new and creative ways.

I’ll leave you today with a poem that tickled my fancy! I love children’s literature.

Quote of the week:

Well drat! Wouldn’t you know! 

I just bought a brown sweater.

I wonder if the poet is equating old age with brown sweaters or, coincidentally, was it a brown sweater he put on that morning when he was feeling the aches and pains of being older. Even though an English major, I’m not one to over analyze so I’ll go with the latter and not get all caught up in symbolism. But he did give me momentary pause to question my new purchase.

FYI: The color itself is making a huge comeback for all seasons, including this spring and summer. As for me, I couldn’t be more pleased. Brown has been hiding out for far too long. And, as it is for every color, brown does come with its own symbolic associations. Brown is a natural color linked to the earth and equates to being wholesome, warm and honest. So there you have it!

But no. . . this post is not about the color of my new sweater.

It’s about the SWEATER! A cardigan sweater to be specific!

I set out in writing this post with the idea of showing how accessories can transform an outfit in an instant. In doing a bit of research, much to my surprise, a cardigan sweater was often listed as an accessory that can do exactly that. . . transform an outfit. Surprised because I’d never really thought of a sweater as an accessory.

A cardigan is a type of knitted sweater that was traditionally made of wool and designed with an open front. This popular garment wasn’t worn until around the mid-1800s so it has a short history. It’s named after James Brudenell, the 7th Earl of Cardigan, who was a British Army Major General during the Crimean War and led the charge of the light brigade. Supposedly, he invented the cardigan after noticing that the tails of his long coat had been accidentally burnt off while standing too close to the fireplace. Wow! Now that was one lucky Earl of Cardigan to survive both the war and the fireplace.

Pardon the history lesson. Hope you’re still with me and I haven’t put you to sleep. What can I say? I’m a compulsive looker-upper of minutiae.

While good at keeping away the chill factor and hiding our arms from those cropped and sleeveless tops, the humble cardigan sweater offers much more versatility to our wardrobe. They add elements of color, texture and layering to anything from a casual or even “dressy” dress to a t-shirt or collared blouse to a pencil skirt, high waisted pants or jeans. They are both ageless and timeless.  

From summer to winter, a cardigan can “crown” your outfit, no matter where you’re going or how old you are. Necklaces aren’t the only accessory to make a statement. Think of a cardigan as a “statement piece” in your wardrobe and give it the prominence it deserves.

As one of the most versatile fashion layers, there are so many different styles of cardigans and so many ways you can wear them that trying to define and illustrate all of them would be overwhelming so I put together a visual of a few possibilities.

Since one picture is worth a thousand words, I should probably quit while I’m ahead, as you probably “get the picture.”

Be they of short, long or even no sleeves as in sweater vest. . . be they cropped, jacket or coat length. . . be they asymmetrical or even in hem. . . be they hooded, shawl collared or no collar whatsoever. . . be they buttoned, belted, zipped or just plain open. . . be they striped, flowered, polka-dotted or solid. . . be they slouchy or tailored, think of a cardigan as any season’s investment piece and consider having several in your wardrobe.

the tale of “my new brown sweater”

My tale ends here with this pic (just in case you were curious). Yet one more boyfriend, my obsession of late. My new Karen Kane tie-front top and a pair of black leggings with those ankle boots make me eager for Fall dressing (no affront to Summer). While I would never wear a cropped top with a pair of leggings, the length of a boyfriend cardi covers all the parts I want covered and gives me permission to put the two together.

However, rest assured. . . I will be careful to keep my “tails” away from a fireplace.


Jenny shows us how to wear this wide-leg pant from Karen Kane!

Part Deux

Quote of the week:

Whew! Big sigh of relief.

After a day or so of downsizing my spring and summer clothes, I now have three bags full of donations, along with several ideas for how to stow away some of the autumn and winter clothes.

There are boxes made for under the bed storage and I do have one long rod available for hanging in my closet at the top of the stairs. So…I’m determined to keep only what can be kept in those two places.

But… why the relief I wonder after three bags full and new places to store the off season clothes.

Well… I’m thinking that getting dressed each morning will be faster, easier and less stressful because I now only own spring/summer clothes that I love, feel good in and look good in.

Guess I didn’t even realize that my closet (wardrobe) was causing some stress in that I was feeling a bit overwhelmed and just plain tired when I walked into it. Some of those items in there were even making me feel bad about myself and my body and guilty that I hadn’t been able to fit into them for a long time. It was definitely time to declutter and downsize.

Now I will wear and love the clothes in my closet! No more flipping past clothes I don’t like when I’m looking for my favorites. Instead, my clutter is gone and I’ve only kept the clothes I love!

I’m even hoping that I will save money because I’ll know exactly what I have, what I like wearing and what works for me.. This should mean that I’ll stop buying clothes that I don’t need or don’t work for me.

Whoa! Slow down Julie. Did I just write that last sentence? The don’t work for me part …. well, I’m reasonably good at that already but the don’t need part.… I’m the one who constantly tells customers to park that need word at the door when they enter. What fun is having a wardrobe based only on need?

Now that last sentence is pretty good. I’m going to have to remember it when the next customer says “I really don’t need anything.” My reply shall be. . .

    "What fun is having a wardrobe based only on need?"

Time to put back the "keepers."

Beauty tips for the closet:

Closets come in many shapes and sizes and there are umpteen organizational closet tricks and closet paraphernalia to help in finding solutions for each shape and size. I won't get into detail when you can see for yourself at any website from Ikea to Storables.

What I'd like to offer are three basic tenants that can help organize any closet of any shape and size. 

  • First up is the hanger. Years ago I invested in bunches of slimline velvet hangers, all in one color. Not only do they look pleasant but they give more room to every rod in my closet and they prevent slippage of garments to the floor. However, there are alternatives such as wooden and now plastic non-slip hangers. Whichever you like, investing in a good hanger and using the same hanger throughout the closet is well worth it
  • As much as possible, keep like items together in the closet. I know right where to look for all my pants, skirts, dresses and tops (I even separate out the kinds of tops like tees, turtlenecks, sleeveless layering pieces). This saves me lots of time and effort in finding an exact piece but it also helps when I want to put together a layered outfit.

  • And… lastly, color your closet. By that I mean within each group of clothes (be it tops or pants) hang them from the lightest of colors to the darkest of colors. As I re-hung all my spring collared blouses I started at one end of the rod with white and went to pink, yellow, orange, green, blue and finally black. Wow! I actually have one collared blouse in all those colors. Big surprise! Not only is this aesthetically pleasing (almost as much as a consistent hanger) but it too helps me find just what I’m looking for or finding the right color to go with something that I’m trying to match.

I hope my two-parter here on closets has been of some help when it comes to both downsizing the wardrobe and to putting back and re-organizing all the items you decided to keep.

Just remember… this doesn’t have to be a day long or two day long project. Pick one season’s clothes or one particular kind of item such as pants or tops and start there. The rest will follow when you see the happy result.

Sound Styles welcomes a new line of linen from at Land Downunder!