The power of the boring

Here’s the power of simple items to add flexibility to your wardrobe. By instantly adding many more different outfits. Of course this is classic wardrobing advice. But I find it helpful to be reminded.

People who like ‘statement pieces’ won’t be happy with this idea 😀 Nor is it much use to people who live in such warm climates you never wear added layers.

Following on from my post about some basic wardrobe capsules with trendy styling for the coming summer, here’s another group of quiet soft casuals. This is my favourite capsule from the new Vogue January 2011 patterns :


shirt Vogue 8716.
top Vogue 8710.
vest Vogue 8713.
jacket Vogue 8714.
pants Vogue 8715.

From these I could make 3 outfits of 2 pieces :
top with pants
shirt with pants
jacket with pants.
(If you use a vest style with front closure so you can wear it without a top under, that would add another look.)

A choice of pieces to layer over the top – big shirt, vest, or jacket, which give very different looks. So that adds 3 more outfits. 6 different ones in all. Layer vest over shirt, 2 more outfits.


I’ve only shown the basic looks which include the top and no third layer vest, or the drawings get a bit big !

In an ideal layering wardrobe (see my take on the Sewing Workshop version) the jacket layers over the vest layers over the shirt layers over the top. To give the maximum number of different combinations and levels of warmth. But that isn’t possible with this particular pattern group.

If you made a second version of any of these layering pieces, their style elements are so distinctive it might be obvious you were wearing something similar, even though the colour or fabric had changed.

But if you add another tee and pants, the number of different outfits increases dramatically.

This shows the power of the boring.

Add a second top in a clearly different colour/ print/ texture. That adds 5 more looks, so the number of outfits goes up from 8 to 13. The diagram only shows the 8 outfits which use the tops. There are also the 2 made from the shirt or jacket with the pants. And the ones with vest over shirt.


Add another pair of pants. The 16 basic combinations are in the diagram, plus 4 from the shirt or jacket worn with a choice of pants, and more from vest layered over shirt.


(The added top and bottom can of course both be the same colour/ print/ texture.)

You’ve added 2 simple garments, making 7 items in all. And the number of combinations has gone up from 5 items making 8 outfits to 7 items making at least 25. A powerful example of the effectiveness of supplying yourself with basic co-ordinates.

(P.S. As an extreme example of this, see Janice of The Vivienne Files make 208 outfits from 33 garments.
And another post from 2015 at Vivienne Files on getting 45 outfits from 9 garments which shows photos of all the outfits (good for travel).
3 second layers (which can all also be worn alone)
3 tops
3 bottoms
18 2 item outfits
27 3 item outfits.)

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Even for very simple items with almost no added style elements, you choose your own best colours, and the silhouette/ neckline/ sleeve and body lengths, etc. that are right for you.

And this approach to increasing the effectiveness of your wardrobe needn’t fill you with gloomy despair at its lack of creativity. Have a look at Marcy Tilton’s gallery of what she has done with her Vogue tee patterns (many pages of them). And her CD on fitting, making and decorating tees.

Or Shirley Adams’ Alternatives 500 pattern with multiple different version of a shell.

There’s an almost infinite number of ways you can embellish and add interest to a simple top 😀

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Patterns and links available February 2011

Explore posts in the same categories: specific capsules, wardrobe planning

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