Variations of the relaxed wardrobe

Following on from the 12 clothes Janice of The Vivienne Files suggested as a relaxed starter wardrobe, she added a group of 4 accessories. And I need to add some layers as I don’t live in a hot summer climate.

So here are additions to my pattern suggestions in my previous post on this.

Here’s Janice’s starter group of four, as a reminder of the style. (clothes from L.L.Bean)

image from The Vivienne Files with permission

She has posted another version of these casuals, for the whole summer, here and here.

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image from The Vivienne Files with permission

Janice is always good on suggesting accessories. Here she completes the casual red group by adding hat, scarf, and choice of tennis shoes or flip-flops.

Changing the scarf and shoes is an easy way of completely changing the look of an outfit of simple basics.

I usually carry a straw basket, and they would work well with this group. Or a fabric tote/ messenger bag/ backpack. Make them with your scraps 😀

How about new McCall’s 6577 for both hat and tote.


UK Elle July 2012 issue has a big fabric hat in pink and white stripes 😀

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Add a layer – many options

This capsule is very oriented to summer wearing when you only need only one layer, with occasional use of a knit cardigan or shirt-jacket for cool evenings. See my previous post for pattern suggestions.

I don’t live in a hot climate, and need a layer. When you have a layering piece to work with as part of your outfit, I think the layer you choose can make a big difference to the overall style.

Continuing with Cutting Line patterns, for a layering jacket that closes fully there’s Pure and Simple.


If you’d like your capsule to have ‘sports luxe’ style use a hoodie – see my sports luxe post for patterns. Or a stylish new pullover hoodie for wovens, Butterick 5791


For a softer style I might choose a cascade/ drape cardigan. Definitely not a fitted blazer with this wardrobe – these clothes are too relaxed 😀 If you like the notched collar effect, choose an oversized boxy jacket to go over loose fitting tops. So many BMV patterns have appeared since I last wrote on big jackets, I’m planning a separate post on cascade and boxy styles !

For a more unusual look, Eileen Fisher this season frequently uses a poncho as her covering layer, in a gauze, mesh, or a very light knit. Cropped to elbow and waist length.

For a pattern, cut your own rectangle by direct marking on the fabric. Or possibilities in new Butterick 5790.


Or what Eileen Fisher calls a ‘box top’, basically a poncho with side seams. Simply sew up the side edge part way.

Eileen Fisher March 2012

Or try Elizabeth Gillett’s ‘jacket’ version, new Vogue 8820 View C.


For outerwear I would of course choose a parka. See my post on parka patterns. Or Sewaholic Patterns’ new Minoru jacket is popular.


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A vacation/ holiday group

This red relaxed group could make a good holiday-vacation travel wardrobe.

Add an outerwear jacket to carry on the journey, swim suit and pareo, some camisoles or shells (one in a dressy fabric) – none take much packing space.

Plus another layer in flat-packing style which could double as a robe. Such as a kimono (see my post) or caftan. Or another style made from rectangles.

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Widening the style reference for your summer wardrobe

Janice of The Vivienne Files followed her post on building a wardrobe of red relaxed clothes with a related group in black and grey. Those are closely fitted styles, including a blazer, slim pants, leggings, and short tight skirts. More trendy-edgy than many of her recent selections, she calls them ‘less conservative’.

Perhaps she and I use the word ‘conservative’ with different meanings – for me it is a rather negative word ! I don’t think the clothes in the red-based group are ‘conservative’ in the sense of old-fashioned and fuddy-duddy. I think of them as the simplest of relaxed basics.

In fact June 2012 UK Elle has a lead article on ‘sports luxe’ – now called ‘haute casual’ to make it look new – so perhaps we wearers of these relaxed shapes are ahead of the game 😀

Think of the black and red groups as week/ weekend, city/ suburb, or town/ country selections.

Janice has several more posts illustrating her theme of building a wardrobe in groups of 4 :
camel and grey
teal and navy
These are also more trendy and stylish.
The ‘red’ group I’ve focussed on is best for relaxed wear.

These wardrobes all have the same basic ‘Four by Four’ plan : one group of 2 tops 2 bottoms in one main colour, another group of 4 in the second main colour, a third group of 4 tops in mixed colours with added accents, plus 4 accessories.

This is a very simple wardrobe building scheme. My final posts inspired by this wardrobe from The Vivienne Files are planned to be about simple personal wardrobe building.

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Many more variations possible by changing the colours, fabrics, prints, jacket and accessories – for different looks from the same group of simple shapes. (I’m planning a post on this season’s colours, prints, fabrications.)

Which would be your favourite style choices for colours, fabrics, layer and accessories, for adding your personal touch to these casual basics 😀

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Links and patterns available June 2012

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Explore posts in the same categories: personal style, specific capsules

7 Comments on “Variations of the relaxed wardrobe”

  1. sara Says:

    What’s missing for me is dresses. They are really all I want to wear from Spring through Summer and they are often overlooked in these types of plans. I wear tank dresses with a cardigan or lightweight stole, or if I’m going to be out in the sun, I wear tunic type dresses with long sleeves to protect my fair skin from the sun.

    • sewingplums Says:

      Not to worry Sara – have a look at The Vivienne Files other posts. She suggests many other wardrobes which are based around dresses and how to style them. This casual group is quite unusual for her.
      The important thing is you know what’s right for you – so you can recognise which wardrobe plans are helpful for you and which aren’t.

  2. gelasticjew Says:

    I am now mentally going through my summer closet, making up possible 4 by 4 collections and noting what I need to make or buy to complete them. This is very helpful! I think this is the first way of thinking about my wardrobe that works for my style and my way of thinking about things.

  3. Janis Says:

    Love that Eileen Fisher “box top”! What a quick and easy top to make, too! I’m on it!

  4. LadyD Says:

    Looking at the ‘core of four’ image….hmmmm…well none of those would flatter me and I’d feel sooo scruffy. But then my idea of casual is a shirt dress or 50’s inspired top and maxi skirt.
    Oh and I always layer up (permanently cold even in summer) I think its essential in the UK climate.

    • sewingplums Says:

      Yes, that particular group of 4 is not at all to everyone’s taste 😀 It’s good to be clear about what you like to wear so you don’t get distracted by other suggestions.

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