Nancy Nix-Rice’s wardrobe plan : more thoughts

Nancy Nix-Rice gives us the simplest guide to a co-ordinated wardrobe. Of course when we know our own colour preferences, which garments we wear most of the time, and our personal style, we can make our own choices. And still take inspiration from Nancy’s ideas.

Here’s a summary of her 12-item basic wardrobe (making nearly 100 outfits). She uses three solid colours: darker and lighter neutrals plus an accent. And a print with all three colours.
– 4 under-layers, in each of the 3 solid colours and the print.
– 3 over-layers, in each of the 3 solid colours.
– 2 pants, in each of the solid neutrals.
– 3 skirts, in each of the neutrals and the print.

Nancy chooses simple classics, essentially only 6 styles with slight variations :
– knit sweater set.
– woven sleeveless shell.
– woven notched-collar jacket with short or long sleeves.
– woven pleated skirt and classic pants.
So to mimic her plan, we only need a small group of patterns.

If the details of Nancy’s plan are not right for you, what are the general principles ?

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What are your core garment types ?

Are your core wardrobe needs a top, jacket, skirt, pants, as in Nancy’s examples ? Butterick 5333 is one of many possible wardrobe patterns.


Or perhaps you usually wear top, skirt, dress, jacket. Here’s one example, Butterick 5147.


I wear multiple layers : shirt/ blouse, tunic, vest, casual jacket, pants. Simple versions of my basics might be :


Textile Studio Mandarin shirt 1213,
Butterick 5390 tunic,
Simplicity 2285 vest (I picked this one because I’m working on it for Kenneth King’s faux-fur class at Pattern Review – recommended),
and Butterick 5429 jacket and pants.

I do own a couple of skirts, but they’re not part of my everyday wardrobe. I can remember my last dress, which went to the charity shop 15 years ago.

Perhaps you wear a simple threesome : knit top/ tee, jeans/ casual pants, cardigan/ casual jacket. Or white shirt, blue jeans, navy blazer.

What are your most frequently worn garments ? see my personal wardrobe plan post.

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What are your go-to styles for your core garment types ?

How about Nancy’s core components but in a different style ? Eileen Fisher’s ‘system’ also consists of over- and under-layers, skirt, pants, but in ‘Easy Luxe’ casuals (see my posts on her capsules under Wardrobe Plan in the index).

Eileen Fisher winter 2010-11

Or perhaps you prefer a softer frillier ‘girly’ version of the dresses wardrobe.

I listed a few style options for tops, skirts, pants in my first of these posts about Nancy’s suggested wardrobe.

A blazer has been the key over-layer in recent seasons. There’s currently a good video on styling a blazer at Jones New York. But your favourite over-layer may not be a blazer. I always reach for a shirt-jacket. What is your go-to outer layer ? Here are some options :
Woven or knit ?
Fitted, loose, over-sized ? Length ?
Straight, flared ? curves, angles ?
Soft, crisp ? unstructured, structured ?
Lined, un-lined ?
Dropped shoulders, fitted armhole, raglan, cut-on sleeves ?
Front closure : buttons, snaps, zip, hidden placket opening, wrap ties, up to the neck or lower ?
Simple, or extra style elements such as a yoke, or princess seams, or jeans jacket seams, gathers, ruffles, twists ?
Collar or collarless ?
Collar : notched, mandarin, funnel, convertible, shirt band, shawl, hood ?
Pockets ? what style ? where ?
or perhaps you prefer a wrap, shawl, or cape ? (even though they’re not wearable without under-layer as Nancy’s scheme requires).

More ideas for variations on one of the cores ? see my recent personal styles post.

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Possible co-ordinated patterns

Are there easy routes to co-ordinated patterns, if classics aren’t for you ?

The designers who produce a small set of basic patterns choose similar styles to Nancy’s group. See Nancy Erickson and Cecelia Podolak. Nancy Erickson has booklets on altering her basic patterns to make dozens of other styles.

Making the simplest versions of your core wardrobe could be a good starting point for your own pattern drafting. If you haven’t got many fit issues, simplify the fitting stage using a fitting aid – see my post on easier fitting shells.

Co-ordination may be easier if items come from the same designer. Many pattern designers include simple basics in their range. Such as Palmer-Pletsch and Nancy Zieman at McCall’s, or Connie Crawford at Butterick.

Among independents with a good group of basics, there’s Louise Cutting, Dana Marie, Loes Hinse (also recent patterns), Saf-T Pockets, Silhouette Patterns. And Jalie or Christine Jonson for knits.

There are more comments, plus descriptions of some wardrobe pattern books, in my post on reducing the number of shapes. Wardrobe patterns are the easiest way to co-ordinate. Among the Big4, Simplicity-New Look has the widest variety of styles.

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Do you prefer more or less variety in colour, fabric, style ?

What are your most flattering colours ? I said a bit about colour in my first post of this group.

Nancy Nix-Rice’s wardrobe is based on neutrals. Here’s a video by Imogen Lamport on choosing neutrals. About 60 % of the clothes Nancy suggests are in neutral colours, about 40 % have accent colours. But of course you can choose your own proportions. Do you love or hate wearing neutrals ! Would you like no accent colour ? all colour 😀 I wear neutrals with occasional accent colours. You may instead want lots of bright colours.

Nancy has groups of garments all in exactly the same colour. I wouldn’t be comfortable with this. I prefer to wear a range of tonal variations around a main colour.

What are your favourite fabrics ? I usually wear textures for added interest (especially sweater knits), rather than prints. Sequins, shine, leather, fake fur are current for garments or trims. (P.S. There’s a fascinating new newsletter from Nancy on personal texture. There’s no way of getting my hair to look smooth and sleek 😀 )

Do you like many different styles, and a wide variety of looks ? Nancy Nix-Rice repeats very similar styles in her 23 garment selections. I may not have the same core wardrobe items as Nancy’s choice, but I do wear simple repeated styles. A big long scarf is an easy way of looking current. You may want much more variety or complexity!

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Getting it all together

Despite all the differences, I’ve done so much wardrobe pondering before this that I found it quite easy to relate my own preferences to Nancy’s scheme. Hey, I already have most of them, or on a list of planned clothes purchases and fabric buys 😀

This season, getting a basic set of TNTs is the theme of the Stitcher’s Guild Sewing With A Plan for 2012. A core of neutrals plus a coloured twinset is the basis of the winter 6-PAC devised by ejvc for this year. We’re all working on getting our wardrobe basics right 😀

You Look Fab has an interesting modern take on the twin set – a woven blouse and knit cardigan in the same colour.

Sort out your TNTs or personal blocks, pick a few patterns from your favourite designer, or one wardrobe pattern for wovens and one for knits. Select your three colours and four or five fabrics. Whoosh around the accessory shops. And off you go into integrated wardrobe heaven 😀

Or for something completely different, how about a core wardrobe of just 1 item! Look at The Uniform Project :
1 dress 365 ways
(see View by Month for all the photos). Notice she chose a multi-function basic garment : it can be dress/ tunic/ under- or over-layer.
(Hint : you do need a lot of interesting extras 😀 )

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Patterns and links available November 2011

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Other posts on Nancy Nix-Rice’s wardrobe plan :
Neutral Cores, colours, personalising
Accent colour and print
And related post :
Two-piece dresses

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Explore posts in the same categories: co-ordinates, Nancy Nix-Rice, personal style, wardrobe planning

2 Comments on “Nancy Nix-Rice’s wardrobe plan : more thoughts”

  1. Diane Says:

    I’ve been enjoying your blog for months. This entry must have taken an amazing amount of time and all of the information is greatly appreciated!

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