After sharing my post last week with tips on how to make shopping more enjoyable, a member of my Facebook Group had some questions regarding the importance of having a plan and vision when you shop. She was struggling to fully understand how I establish a clearly mapped out vision and a solidified plan, and that I see ideas in my head about the types of looks I picture myself and my clients wearing along with inspirational images I use to create outfits. Not to my surprise, she was making this a much harder process than it needed to be.
It seemed she was putting the cart before the horse, crafting lists before her plan and vision seemed set, and working too hard to find her vision —like there was some sort of correct answer— when her inspiration should be something that flows naturally. How can you make a list of needs if you don’t know what you are shopping for? The point of this exercise is to look for the things that pull and grab you and the things that light you up or strike a feeling of connection. In this, there is no right answer. As I explained to the group:
“My inspiration is Italian style. I like classic, sprezzatura, high-end looks that are refined, luxe, neutral, elegant with touches of classic American preppy style thrown in that has effortless ease but still looks luxe snd expensive. I will often look at Italian street style. For summer, I have been looking at Italian coastal looks. This also fits with my casual lifestyle and the extreme heat of NY summers. I know the colors I wear for summer, which are navy, white, denim, orange, olive, khaki, yellow, and maybe some other pop accents, along with some really refined prints. I don’t stray. This makes shopping and managing my wardrobe easier.
Given my preferences, and the look of this style, I have and have been buying all classic pieces, like linen button-downs I can effortlessly wear, easy chinos, pull on linen pants, gauzy tops, driving loafers, cognac sandals, some scarves, simple jewelry and minimalist pieces, a classic denim jacket, an easy dress like a simple midi t-shirt I can do a million different things with or an elegant caftan-ish style, maybe linen, I could put with a popped collar denim jacket. I want it all to look like a studied carelessness. That is what sprezzatura is.
It’s not necessarily about taking inspiration literally and creating exact looks but creating a feeling or a look inspired by that and then distilling shopping choices through that filter. If I see something, I will stop and think, does this fit the narrative I am creating? If it doesn’t, I move on. If the colors don’t work, I move on.
And that narrative I speak of, it should really get you excited or make you feel really inspired. You should want to live in the world you are inspired by and don’t be afraid for it to be fantastical. And then what you do is you interpret it for the life you live.”
I closed with:
“You making it too hard.”
The trick in all this is not to take literal inspiration from these images but to look to things that resonate with you. You’re not necessarily looking to duplicate a particular style as much as you are looking to find yourself within that style. As I find things I am drawn to, I look for the consistencies within them, make the connections, and read what these images are trying to tell me. I do the same practice when clients show me their images. It’s why I have clients do a similar practice when they start working with me. They may not be able to articulate their style verbally, but instinctively, when they let themselves go, they can through inagery.
How I am Developing and Refining My Wardrobe for Spring
Designers start this way, with inspiration, so it is ingrained in me to think in this manner. I understand that, for me, this is easy but for others, it might not be. So if you need more help in understanding this practice, I am taking you on my journey as I am building my wardrobe for the upcoming spring season. I am laying out my wardrobe pieces, sharing my inspiration, my shopping plan, and information about my style in general. My ongoing plan will be to update you as the season goes on so you can see how my wardrobe continues to develop, how I pack for upcoming trips, dress for events, and so on. While I love sharing about clients, their style, and shopping, privacy restrictions keep me from sharing too much information about them, so by sharing my own wardrobe and experiences with you, I hope to be able to give you more helpful information.
Unlike some bloggers who take outfits photos, I don’t know how they do it, I can promise you, this is not something I have the time to do. God bless them for being able to take those beautiful photos. Where do they find the time? When I can, I will try to snap photos, but I can’t run a business and see clients and take the time out of my day to pose for photography. Instead, I will share layouts of my wardrobe pieces and, when I can, snap photographs.
How I am Creating My Style For Spring
I am in a rebuilding year with my wardrobe. Like everyone else, my wardrobe took a backseat during the pandemic, and now, post-pandemic, my life looks very different. I work mainly at home now and I rarely see clients in person. Yet, I am dressing better than ever. I am finding this to be the case with most people. After two years of slumming it, everyone wants to dress again, not as they did pre-pandemic, just a nicer version of casual. Pre-pandemic, the idea of days spent in joggers and yoga pants seemed novel and fun, and after two years of endless days wearing just that, that plan feels more like a prison sentence now. So it makes sense that we’re looking to elevate what we’re wearing day-to-day. We just want to feel better about living our lives again. So it’s been fun revamping and rebuilding my wardrobe back from this new perspective.
I also just did a major wardrobe purge last weekend where I got rid of three large bags of clothing. I’m a harsh purger. If I don’t absolutely love something, it goes. My husband and I share a very small closet in a pre-war apartment that was built when people had sparse wardrobes. I also hate clutter, don’t hem and haw over clothing, don’t get caught up in the guilt of mistaken buys and don’t let myself be ruled by pieces that don’t have value in my life. Clothing in my closet must earn its place.
About My Style and My Life
Even though I live in New York City, Brooklyn to be exact, and work in fashion as a personal stylist, my life is far from glamorous. I live in a very casual part of Brooklyn (the part with all the brownstones, right near the Brooklyn Bridge) where nobody dresses up and where hipsters all lived before it got too expensive to live here. I joke that people here pay a lot of money to look like they didn’t try at all. I have worked from home for the past 19 years and I see clients pretty much exclusively online. I walk everywhere and need to wear comfortable shoes for the most part and I live a pretty average casual life, preferring quiet evenings with friends over crazy nights out, and live a relatively well-rounded happy, healthy, casual life.
Being 48, I have no interest in discomfort or uncomfortable clothing. I know what I like to wear and what makes me most comfortable. I’m done finding myself in the sense that I know who I am and make no apologies for that, but I am always open to learning and trying new things.
I am also exceptionally busy. My business has grown exponentially in the past year and I usually work 12 hour days and most weekends. I don’t have the time or bandwidth to devote to shopping which is ironic considering my profession. Basically, I shop when I am not shopping for clients or I shop parallel to them finding things for myself as I find things for them. Fashion is not my hobby or pastime, it’s my job. I have other things that interest me than just clothes. In terms of my wardrobe, I need to be able to get dressed, look good fast and quick. Everything in my closet needs to work together quickly, easily, and simply because while I don’t have time, I do have standards, and a developed taste level.
My style has always been classic, sportswear driven and timeless but not traditional or staid. I spent the majority of my fashion design career as a sportswear designer. I’m not big on fleeting trends or caring about what everyone else is wearing. My style has never been overly curated or super done. I don’t wear a lot of color, and I’ve always been drawn to the European way of getting more with less in your closet that is of higher quality. I like pairing refined investment pieces with low-end to elevate less expensive pieces, I shop resale quite often, like extending the lifecycle of clothes, prefer natural fibers, avoid lots of embellishments or novelty details, like clean lines, classic colors, and use color in my accent pieces and not my clothing. I like smart, intelligent design with a little irreverence thrown into the mix.
My favorite designers and brands I wear include Akris, Max Mara, J.Crew, Vince, Tod’s, Aquatalia, M.Gemi, Stella McCartney, Quince, Theory, Eileen Fisher, and Everlane. I mainly wear earthy colors like camel, olive, rust, golds, and yellows, along with navy, grey, and teal. I don’t wear black, at all.
What I Wore During the Winter/Spring Transitional Season
To give you some context about my style. These have been some looks I have worn casually as the weather has begun to change and it is still cool out during this mercurial time in the mid-Atlantic part of the country. I am a jeans person through and through, favoring jeans and a tee-shirt over most other things as my home base look. I find it easiest to start with one or both pieces as my base and then layer as needed to build interest. I also like to wear things multiple ways. Even though I don’t wear a lot of color, I keep my color palette very tight and mix the colors I do wear to create visual and harmonious interest in my classic pieces and so I can get dressed quickly and effortlessly.
My Inspiration for Spring
For Spring, as I mentioned, I am inspired by Italy, particularly what is known as sprezzatura which translates as studied carelessness or nonchalance. I am creating a style that looks polished but easy, refined but laid back. Generally speaking, I always aim to create looks that don’t come off as overly curated or too planned yet still manage to be really stylish and sophisticated.
My Spring/Summer Wardrobe
These are all the pieces currently in my wardrobe for spring and summer. Some pieces I will wear straight through from the beginning of spring and into fall. Other pieces will get put away once it gets hot and won’t be worn again until the cooler weather comes back.
Jackets and Cardigans
Jackets and cardigans I will only need for the first part of spring and after that they won’t be of much use except for keeping me warm indoors. I don’t need many jackets and cardigans for the season but I do find them useful for layering.
The first jacket is a Weekend Max Mara parka that has served me well for years during early spring and fall. Next is a recent acquisition from The RealReal, a navy and cognac cardigan from Akris Punto that I love and will wear as a topper until it gets too hot. Following that are my two Quince merino cardigans that are so well made and so incredibly affordable. Next to those is a plum cardigan I got for next to nothing a few years ago that almost got the chop during a recent purge because it has started to show signs of wear. I kept it around for one last hoorah before it goes off to live on the farm to frolic with all my other cast-offs. The Akris Punto nautical stripe cotton/linen jacket is a recent acquisition that I coveted when a client bought it a few years ago that I recently found on Poshmark. Next to that is a denim jacket from J.Crew and, lastly, my Stella McCartney Florence navy blazer I searched for years to find resale and recently acquired.
For now, I feel covered in jackets and cardigans for the spring. I may find a need for a shorter cardigan at some point, but I will wait to see if the need presents itself.
Pants and Jeans
I have a pair of wide-leg cotton cropped pants I bought last year from Mango that are shockingly well made and work when I want to look nice but casual. Next is a cute pair of kick crop white denim jeans from J.Crew that fit well and aren’t too sheer. Following that is an old pair of Everlane kick crop jeans. Next, straight leg jeans from J.Crew, a pair of girlfriend chinos from J. Crew, an olive and navy pair of cuffed linen-cotton drawstring pants, my Akris Punto Franca pants for dressier needs, a pair of lightweight pull-on lightweight trousers in navy (close to getting the chopping block), and these two ridiculously cheap pull-on linen pants I found on Amazon last year for next to nothing that are perfect for days I want to be super comfortable but don’t want to look like a complete slob. I was shocked by how much wear they got and for the price, the level of quality. I wore the coral pair to death last year and just purchased the grey pair.
This season, I felt drawn to pants that looked effortless but not too casual. It was the first time in years that I bought a pair of chinos and a pair of white jeans. Once the weather gets too hot my blue jeans won’t come out of my drawers until it cools off. I feel set on pants.
While it doesn’t seem like a lot, I have several of my favorite Vintage t-shirt from J.Crew in grey, white, and navy. I won’t wear any other colors this tee comes in so I don’t buy them. I also own this basic tank that comes in an inclusive range of skin tones from Old Navy which I usually wear as undershirts under my sweaters in the winter. For spring and summer, I might wear them under cardigans or blouses. The Graphic Tee in one I got a few years ago from J.Crew and it’s still in good shape. My husband is of Italian descent and I love French Fries…and Italian guys in general, it’s more of a t-shirt I wear for a giggle.
I need a few more t-shirts. See more on that below.
I don’t wear a lot of colorful shirts. I’m not one to wear a lot of prints or patterns unless they are really eye-catching and at least look high-end. I really dislike floral prints unless they are incredibly gorgeous and you’re never going to find my closet jammed-packed with novelty tops in the colors of the rainbow or with lots of different details. Some people find tops like those versatile but I find them limiting. I also love the sophistication of collared shirts but this is the first time I’ve pushed for something so polished in the summer. It feels right, so I am going for it. It fits with my inspiration and vision for my style, so I’ll report on how it works out by Labor Day. I have had this chambray shirt from Lord & Taylor in my closet for years. I just got this short-sleeve style from J.Crew and I just picked up this Frank & Eileen cotton button-down. The Everlane GoWeave layering piece is a few years old (its days may be numbered, and the next is the Quince washable silk tee which is next to a Quince linen button down. Both are new and great. The linen blouse is roomy enough for a large chest and the linen looks good even when a bit wrinkled. The last top is a drapey and easy style from Madewell.
I still need some more tops. I’d like one more easy Frank & Eileen collared top and maybe another relaxed blouse in a color I’d be comfortable wearing, like taupe, or, perhaps, a sophisticated print that falls in nicely with the colors of my wardrobe.
For years, I basically rotated jumpsuits a few days a week and this year, following that plan again felt like a rerun. I happily got rid of all my jumpsuits that were showing serious signs of wear and kept just this one from Eileen Fisher which I still love but don’t wear regularly. I still have only three dresses in my closet, one sweater dress from Rails, a ruched M.M. Lafleur dress from a few years ago, and a cotton shirt dress from Number 45 London that I can grab if needed this spring. If I really need a dress to wear somewhere, my plan usually is to rent something. I’m just not much of a dress person and my thoughts are below on the only addition I’m considering adding.
Shoes are where I tend to have the most fun in the spring and summer. Of course, you know I went a bit crazy with M.Gemi’s Felize driving loafers and got a pair in Saddle and Magenta and also found a Pink Blossom pair (pair of the top) on Poshmark. I purchased the yellow Aquatalia wedge sandals a few months ago which I am excited to use as go-with-everything colorful sandals. My cobbler is currently stretching the front strap of the flat Aquatalia cognac sandals next that are really elegant and lovely. I’ve had these flat yellow Everlane slingbacks for years — which I don’t have much occasion to wear, but I do like them. I have my Tree Runners from Allbirds, a pair that probably won’t get much wear once it gets very warm. The Eileen Fisher Sport Sandals I got from Poshmark and my Gold Birkenstock Gizehs will be worn to death once it gets hot. I have my Aquatalia loafers in a taupe-y grey which won’t get worn much once it gets very hot, and my old pair of Cole Haan mule loafers get called up and worn from time to time when the look is right. I just bought the gorgeous rust pair of Eileen Fisher heavenly wedges that are insanely comfortable and next to those are my tried and true beloved Melanie slip-on sneakers in grey from Frye which I will always own. Lastly is my newly acquired pair of heeled sandals in beige from Loro Piana because I needed a new pair of heeled sandals for dressy occasions.
Once the hot weather strikes, shoes that are closed-toe won’t get as much wear. the heeled Loro Piana sandals will come out occasionally but they will be good to have on hand when needed. Plus they are Loro Piana. Need I say more? For the most part, I am done with shoes but have some thoughts below. it’s always hard to turn down a gorgeous pair. It will be more a want over need in this case.
A few months ago, I got rid of most of my colorful jewelry. I just wasn’t feeling it anymore and found myself favoring pieces that were minimalist and modern. Shopping at major department stores for jewelry hasn’t been all that fruitful for myself or my clients, so I’ve been enjoying shopping independent artisans at places like Etsy. These are some of my newest acquisitions that are much more in line with the direction of my style and not expensive at all. I recently acquired these link drop earrings, this natural horn ring, this link necklace, link hoops, a natural horn statement necklace, tortoise hoops, gold geometric studs, and silver bar stud earrings.
I consider myself good on jewelry for now and will add as I see things that I am drawn to as I find them. I am not on any active search at the moment.
As with my jewelry, I just recently did a refresh of my scarves. I had been wearing the colorful scarf I knit to death for winter and it got repetitive because I basically eliminated all my other winter scarves. I have two beautiful Etro silk scarves that I broke out for fall now that skinny and square shapes are making a resurgence, and I recently bought a 100% cashmere camel scarf by Saks on Poshmark a few months ago, which I love and you can see in my fall outfits above. I went to Etsy for some scarves and just added these to my wardrobe. This olive green paisley scarf, a floral voile scarf, a vintage mid-century feather scarf, and this fun abstract square scarf.
I will probably add some more scarves along the way as I find them and they work with my wardrobe.
I can’t remember the last time I wore a belt, so this is the first belt I bought in I don’t know how many years. This cognac style from J.Crew made the most sense to start with and it won’t be the last.
All my handbags I have pretty much had for a while. The teal bag is an Ines de la Fressange from Uniqlo I purchased a few years ago and I love hard. It goes with everything, the color is stunning and it holds a surprising amount. The next bag is a versatile style from Tod’s I purchased from The RealReal and has made me a true fan of Tod’s bags. They’re now all I want. The next two bags are the Everlanes Form bag and the Form Mini Bag. I don’t use The Form Mini all that often as it’s not as practical as I hoped. It was on the donate pile and got a stay of execution at the last minute. I am giving it one more season to prove itself.
I need more bags, see more on that below.
Additions I am Considering
It’s likely I could get through spring and summer without adding more things, but it’s also fun to add some things from time to time and I want to always be adding in a focused way. In keeping with the list I have running on my phone, here are some things I am still on the hunt for or have plans to buy in the coming weeks and months.
- A Colorful Handbag. At the moment, I have myself on a waiting list for this bag from Tod’s at The RealReal. Ideally, I’d like it in orange. It would pop into my wardrobe perfectly and I love this style.
- A Navy T-Shirt Midi Dress. I’d like a navy t-shirt midi dress that I can style a bunch of different ways and forget about it. Currently, this style from Marine Layer is at the top of my list as the reviews for the Frank & Eileen t-shirt style dress indicate it doesn’t work well for large chests and at $178, I just can’t wrap my brain around spending that much money on a shirt that is essentially a very long t-shirt. I haven’t yet found any other styles that I’m loving all that much.
- A Caftan-Style Dress. I’m also intrigued by the Ever by X Dress in the midi-length that you can style seven different ways. It speaks to my less is more approach to my wardrobe and I like the look, but I’m also not sure if I’ll look like a big bloated marshmallow either. I have the yellow selected for now, but I vacillate between that color, the Cumulus Cloud, and, of course, the navy.
- A Taupe T-Shirt. I would like to add a t-shirt in a taupe shade, like this one from Aritizia and I will probably just buy that one. If J.Crew made their Vintage tee in that color, I’d already own it.
- A Breton. A Breton tee would completely fit my style. I just haven’t decided if I am committing to the Boden style or another brand yet.
- Navy Quince Silk Washable Tee. I will also be adding another washable silk tee from Quince in navy because the tops are perfect for times you want a simple layering piece and a tee shirt isn’t dressy enough.
- Scarf Print Wrap Skirt Midi. I’m also feeling inspired by the idea of adding a scarf print midi skirt, maybe a wrap, that I can style with a denim jacket and a white tee or a button-down white linen shirt and sandals. This inspiration surprises me because I normally hate skirts and I’m not big on prints, but the muse wants what the muse wants. Of course, my expensive taste wants one like this style from Johanna Ortiz, so I am keeping my eyes out on The RealReal or Poshmark to see if something might come my way. If the right one doesn’t come around, I’ll let the whole thing just pass me by.
- More Belts. I’d also like to add a few more belts, maybe in olive and navy and perhaps a pop color like red or orange.
- A Durable Crossbody. I’d like another crossbody that is in a durable fabric, like nylon. Longchamp doesn’t make their Le Pliage NEO Flat Crossbody any longer, so I am looking for one resale in a color I like because I like the flatness of the style.
- Another pair of Birkenstock Gizehs. Once summer is in full swing, I live in my Birkenstock Gizehs. They are my most comfortable walking shoes and despite their durability and the fact that each pair lasts quite long, I have not been without a pair in my closet since 2008. I will grab these shoes more often than any pair proving that having more than one in my closet wouldn’t be splitting my wears. I always like to try a new color and this year, I think I’m going to get their Grey Alloy Patent.
A Look at Some Quick outfits Using My Spring/Summer Wardrobe
It can be hard to see how a wardrobe comes together when you just see clothing pieces laid out, so I threw together ten quick outfits to give you some quick ideas. In the future, I will share some more when I have the time. These took me less than five minutes to build and that is the point of keeping things tight and simple, things come together fast. My husband and I have a trip to Toronto coming up in June, along with some other plans. My hope is to keep you all looped in as my wardrobe continues to evolve and I do more with it. My hope is that it helps you with your own planning and vision for your wardrobe. Cheers and let me know if you have any questions!
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I am also somewhat large chested and have been “taught” to avoid crewneck tops. Yet I notice that you don’t shy away from crewnecks. What’s your take on necklines for busty women? V-neck sweaters are a lot harder to find (especially in petites without a dropped shoulder), and I usually end up with a button-up blouse under them. Sometimes a crewneck would just be easier!
Hi Barb! Well the response the older part of me has is, “life’s too short. Wear the crew neck!” I used to be much more black and white about that too and I’m sure in photos a crew doesn’t look as good as I think it does, but I’ve also seen myself in photos where I thought a V was the way to go and it wasn’t much better. This was the case with a merino sweater I was wearing. What I learned from that was the answer isn’t completely black and white. In t-shirts, I always go V, but in other things I vary. Sometimes, we large busted gals can get a bit myopic about out chests (understandable) and forget that the rest of the garment can have an effect on how our chest looks.
Another thing to consider is back size, or number of the band you wear. I’m a 34G and while that’s not tiny, it’s a lot smaller than a 38G, for example. A 38G would be a 34I cup. So having a smaller back, my G isn’t as large. I’m also tall at 5’7”. Do crew necks still work for me despite all that? Maybe not as well as I think they do, but, as I said, I’m just at the point in my life where I can’ be run by it anymore. As long as I don’t look disproportionately ridiculous, I can live with it. It’s not like wearing a V is going to magically make me suddenly look tiny chested. Know what I mean?
I hope that helps!
In big boob sisterhood.
Thanks for your quick and detailed response. I’m a little over 5’ 2” with narrow shoulders and short arms; I almost always need petite sizing on top, usually 12P or PL. I guess I need to get better at taking selfies to see how the various necklines look on different tops. I enjoyed reading about your process for putting your summer wardrobe together and look forward to more such posts in the future!
I would not consider myself extremely large breasted (34 D) but I still find that a crew neck style makes me feel like I have a uni-boob!
In t-shirts, I definitely find this to be the case. When I am wearing a boat neck, not so much. It all depends, really. It also depends on the overall cut of the top, not just the neckline, for me.
A v-neck or a scoop looks so much better. I am only 5’ 2”
Bridgette, I really enjoyed your article and I’m looking forward to following you wardrobe plan!!!!