Archive for the ‘Nancy Nix-Rice’ category

Patterns for wardrobe building

October 14, 2017

Nancy Nix Rice is publishing a series of posts on wardrobe planning. She has given much good advice on colour and proportion, and has just started talking about her idea of a 12-item core wardrobe.
Her typical core wardrobe consists of :
– a ‘Core 4’ of top, jacket, pants, skirt in a dark or light neutral colour.
– another Core 4 in 1 or 2 other neutrals.
– a knit top and cardigan in an accent colour.
– a top and skirt in a print fabric that combines all the other colours.
If the shapes co-ordinate well, she claims you can make nearly 100 different outfits.

I wrote on Nancy’s 12-item core wardrobe 6 years ago in a series of posts suggesting patterns (goodness, was it that long. . .). The links to her Lessons in these posts no longer work.
Nancy Nix-Rice : core neutrals, personalising colour and style
Adding colour and print
Extras (Nancy now includes many of these styles in her current pattern suggestions.)
Two-piece dresses
More thoughts

Note – My posts in these links were written years ago. Many of the patterns mentioned are now out of print, and the Big 4 have changed their sites so most of the urls have changed. So just take the images for styling ideas.

The patterns in my posts are not ‘high current’, but happily Nancy has recently published an interesting group of posts on patterns for tops, bottoms and layers. She doesn’t include some types of garment that I wear all the time, so I’ve added my own comments.

– – –


Nancy’s suggested patterns for tops
Disappointing for me as these are all knit tops, which I don’t wear.

I need a post on pretty blouses. For a start, Sew Over It is a pattern company that has several current ones.

My new favourite is the Liesl & Co Recital shirt – with frilly high collar, optional front tucks, princess front seams (good for fitting and for easy re-styling), back yoke – for me that’s ‘what not to like’.


I would add cuff frills, and back princess seams for easier fitting over my rear.
Yes, a blouse with frilly high neck and cuffs is my ‘signature’ garment, not something for occasional wear. But I do know it’s not to everyone’s taste.

Of course Nancy is choosing patterns which will work as core styles for the majority of people, not trying to cater to fringe interests !


I don’t wear dresses myself, so it took me a while to notice that Nancy doesn’t mention patterns for them. Her core wardrobes include a top and skirt made from the same fabric so they can be worn together with the effect of a dress, or with other clothes as separates.

Many other stylists do include one dress in their suggested basic wardrobes. True dress lovers want the convenience of ‘one piece’ dresses, and have favourite styles such as wrap dresses, sheaths, shifts, vintage, or tank dresses for hot weather. Shirt dresses are very current. There are quick and easy versions among Butterick’s Sew and Sew patterns. Two of the many indie pattern companies which specialise in dresses are Sew Over It (UK) and Colette Patterns (US).


Nancy’s suggested patterns for bottoms : pants, jeans and skirts.

Two very popular indie patterns for jeans are :
Closet Case Ginger Jeans – there are several variants of this pattern, and an e-book on sewing them.
Jalie Eleanore jeans for 20% stretch fabric.

As I’m pear shaped I always wear the most inconspicuous of bottoms, so I’m not complaining that there aren’t any more ‘interesting’ styles here (and I never wear a knit skirt – they cling lovingly to all the lumps and bumps which are in the ‘wrong’ places).

Anyway Nancy in her 12-item core wardrobe is concerned with having basics which you can wear over and over, and which co-ordinate with everything.
Your favourite exciting and interesting garments are add-ons with much more personal style and variety. Like my blouse, you may be the only one who loves them. And they may only co-ordinate with a few other items in your closet.
Unless of course you love athletic / pretty / arty / lagenlook /. . . in which case your whole wardrobe will be like that and you won’t be looking to Nancy for pattern advice 😀


Nancy’s suggested patterns for jackets

I’m a great fan / needer of layers. Nancy again suggests the most popular jackets. For a somewhat different selection of ‘current’ jacket styles, see about half way through this post.

Nancy doesn’t mention a point which I think is important for sewers – if you wear under-layers with sleeves, especially long sleeves, always check the armhole and sleeve width of patterns for layering over them, and go up a size in that area if necessary. For some reason, many jacket patterns assume you only want to wear a tank/cami underneath.

Nancy only shows one vest / gilet, and vests are my first choice when temperatures lower a little. Many jacket patterns can be made without the sleeves. Often if you look at the line diagrams of a jacket pattern you’ll find a vest version is included.

And Nancy never mentions pullover layers, which I wear all the time, especially slouchy ones, which she also keeps well away from 😀
Here are some of my past posts on these favourites (pattern urls probably don’t work now) :
Oversized tops
Fleeces and hoodies
Stylish fleeces and hoodies
Basic comfort styles – pyjamas for loungewear

I also now have some pinterest boards which are relevant here. This is just a selection :
Stylish big tops (style ideas).
Yokes and smocks (patterns and style ideas).
Over-sized jackets (patterns).
There are many many indie pattern companies which have patterns for casuals, both basic and chic/edgy. Some of my favourites are on my other pinterest boards.

– – –

Well, I’ve probably done the opposite of what Nancy intended, by vastly expanding your pattern options, instead of simplifying things to a small range of styles so it’s easy to know where to start. So Good Luck with settling on your own basic pattern choices.
Here in summary are Nancy’s posts :
Perhaps start from Nancy’s suggestions, and only expand outwards if you find she doesn’t cover some of your wardrobe needs.

Does the arrival of a change in temperatures set you off on a flurry of wardrobe planning ? Enjoy 😀

– – –

Patterns and links available October 2017

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‘Dressmaking’ book – classic styles

March 9, 2013

I’ve had many thoughts about this book, ‘Dressmaking’ by Alison Smith. A wardrobe pattern book with a focus on clearly explained technique.

This post reviews the classic style patterns in this book, with suggested alternatives. With comments on building a classic wardrobe.

Each wardrobe pattern book has it’s own style (see my posts.) Most are on casual or pretty styles. This is the first book on classic style, so it won’t be for everyone but fills an important gap.

– – –

The basic patterns

The ‘Dressmaking’ patterns are pure classics based on fitted blocks with fitted armholes, most with zip opening.

There are 12 basic scaleable/ download patterns :
(The second top actually buttons up to the neck.)





Plus instructions for simple pattern changes to make 19 variations. A good range within one personal style and ease level.

As my body shape is far from average, I’m not the right person to test these patterns to find how well they work. These patterns are such simple basic styles it’s easier to adapt my personal fitting blocks, rather than going through the fitting process with these patterns.

– – –

Fitted classics only

These patterns won’t warm your heart if you like casual slouchy/ body-con, frilly/ drapey/ vintage, or trendy styles.
No dartless styles with dropped shoulders. No raglan or cut-on sleeves.
No slimmer pants, or tops with generous or negative ease.
No notched or band collars (though sufficient instructions are there).
No dresses in dartless shift, wrap, or draped styles, and those can be more flattering for many body shapes.
Nothing on sewing knits, fleece, denim.

The late Shannon Gifford thought you need 5 basic pattern blocks : pants, a-line skirt, classic shirt, fitted tee, jacket. All but the tee are here.
I like to have basic blocks for drop-shoulder, raglan, and cut-on sleeves as well as fitted armholes. And I use a casual dartless block a lot. Some people like a separate block for slim fit pants like jeans. None of those are here.

If you follow designer fashion these patterns will look a bit dull. Nothing here if you want to mimic this season’s high fashion (see my review of seasonal trends). Or a tees-sweats-jeans or tunic-leggings look. Or a cascade cardigan or notch collar blazer.

The patterns are best suited to ultra classic personal style in woven fabrics.
For ‘modern classics’ including knits, see styleARC patterns.

Other personal styles

Using these patterns, you couldn’t copy the basic wardrobes from Janice of The Vivienne Files. Here’s her casual wardrobe , and here on a wardrobe as a background to accessories.
My posts on patterns for these are on a wardrobe of relaxed basics and a common wardrobe.

Staying with wardrobe pattern books which claim to teach you to sew :

If you like casual styles, you could combine the sewing instructions in this ‘Dressmaking’ book with Wendy Mullin’s pattern books. Her patterns have a wider range of style elements and basic blocks but sometimes poor sewing instructions (and beware the fit. See my wardrobe pattern book reviews – Index page 3).

What about flouncy or vintage styles for skirt and dress lovers ? Those can easily use the Steampunk clothing company production. The Colette Patterns or Burda Style pattern books might be a better choice, too. I haven’t seen the Colette Patterns book. I have seen the first Burda Style book, which isn’t right for me as it has brief written instructions with few illustrations.

Also Gertie’s new book for better sewing, which I haven’t seen as it isn’t my style or body shape. Here’s a helpful review.

For draped styles there are the ‘Drape, Drape‘ Japanese pattern books. I haven’t seen these books, but Japanese pattern books are usually very visual – many diagrams and few words. See Simply Pretty for extended images from Japanese pattern books, to see the instruction style (or get the Japanese editions of the ‘Drape, drape’ books 😀 ).

A Wardrobe of Classics

If you work through all the projects in ‘Dressmaking’, you’ll have a variety of standard fitted classic tops (5), skirts (6), pants (4), dresses (12), and jackets (4). (No classic casuals like tees, jeans, cascade cardigan.)

Co-ordinate fabrics and colours to make a wardrobe.

Using the patterns in ‘Dressmaking’ you can make clothes similar in style spirit to Nancy Nix-Rice’s basic starter wardrobe. Here’s the first of my posts on it. Better to read her complete set of newsletters.

Nancy suggests you use 3 colours : dark neutral, light neutral, accent colour.
And have a foundation wardrobe of 12 garments :
– top, layer, pants, skirt – one group in dark neutral and another in light neutral,
– top and layer in accent colour,
– top and skirt in mixed colour print.

You couldn’t copy Nancy’s suggested styles exactly using the ‘Dressmaking’ book, as there isn’t a pattern for notched collar or knits.
And Nancy doesn’t include any one-piece dresses.

Perhaps use Butterick 5760 wardrobe pattern for the further classic styles needed, once you’re familiar with the techniques in the ‘Dressmaking’ book. Add making a band collar, a more structured jacket, and a knit cardigan to your skill set.


Or just make the 12 dresses in the ‘Dressmaking’ book – plenty enough for a classic ‘dresses only’ wardrobe !
Once you’re happy with a bit of pattern altering, you’ll be able to combine patterns to add collars and different sleeves to these dresses. Though with only a narrow range of shapes.

– – –

My first posts inspired by this book were on sewing guidance for complete beginners and advanced beginners.

The technique instructions in this book – for intermediate level skills – are very good (I plan to write on this later). And they apply to any style. But the patterns won’t be to everyone’s taste.

I don’t wear such extreme classics, so need to adapt the patterns a bit. Lengthen the skirts and jackets, make sleeveless vests from the jacket patterns, taper the pants, make tunic versions of some dresses. . . (examples of all these pattern changes are in the book). Shortened versions of the waist seam dresses can be used for tops while peplums are so popular. With my personal style, body shape, and local climate, I’m unlikely to make any bare-shouldered styles, unless I just made them to try the skills involved.

I’ll go elsewhere for my favourite loose fitting layering top and jacket patterns. The same pattern altering and sewing techniques apply to the casual dartless block, but there’s no pattern here to use as a starting point. Other guides also needed for sewing a wider range of fabrics.

Even if ‘classic’ isn’t your style, they can be good to use as background basics. Here’s YouLookFab on using a few classic items with others.

The cover of this book claims it’s a ‘one step resource’. It isn’t that, but it is very good on the styles and techniques it does include.

– – –

Patterns and links available March 2013

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Nancy Nix-Rice’s wardrobe plan : more thoughts

November 12, 2011

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 ?

– – –

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.

– – –

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.

– – –

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.

– – –

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!

– – –

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 😀 )

– – –

Patterns and links available November 2011

– – –

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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Nancy Nix-Rice : carefully chosen garments : extras

October 22, 2011

Nancy’s ‘core’ wardrobe consists of 12 mix-and-match items (4 under-layers, 3 over-layers, 5 bottoms). Of course she does’t expect us to live in just 12 garments ! Even though she shows so many variations we could wear a different outfit every day for a whole season.

Nancy also shows how to add items so they expand the wardrobe options. Instead of becoming orphans. She relaxes the rules : extras don’t have to co-ordinate with absolutely everything you already have ! Basics are clothes that mix-and-match without much thought, and can be worn on most occasions you find yourself in. Extras still need to make part of several outfits, but they can be more individual.

Nancy’s examples continue with the same classic shapes, and add some classic relaxed styles : jeans, shirt, and a drape front knit cardigan. Three new colours and another print !

– – –

First four extras : two more pairs of tops in accent colours
(end of Lesson 24)

Here’s something for people who long to have more colour 😀
Under- and over-layer in accent colour 2.
Under- and over-layer in accent colour 3.

The key point Nancy makes is you get better use from these added items if they’re :
– pairs of related under and over layers.
– colours which combine with the colours you already have.

Nancy chooses two more sweater sets. Sleeveless shell and over-layer that closes to the neck. Such as Silhouette Patterns 195 Sweater Set.


Nancy chooses knits with texture, frills, and sleeve length variations for added interest.

You haven’t got to continue with the same styles as your original core. This could be the place where you add tops for different occasions – tee and hoodie for exercise, knit top and shirt-jacket for relaxed casual. Keep your blouse and jacket for looking competent or formal.

– – –

Fifth extra : print shirt
(Lesson 26)

Add a shirt which can be worn either as an under- or an over-layer. Gives a huge number of options. For this, the shirt needs to have unfitted waist – made from a casual-dartless block.

There are many many shirt patterns, from beginner’s camp shirt casual such as Kwik Sew 3475


to sublime elegance such as Chado Ralph Rucci Vogue 1215 (below) or Vogue 1054.


Male Pattern Boldness has had a shirt sew-along with many tips.

For fabric, Nancy uses another print that combines your first colours (darker and lighter neutrals and accent), for maximum co-ordination and interest.

– – –

Sixth extra : casual pants in your first darker or lighter neutral
(first paragraph of Lesson 27)

Nancy chooses corduroy jeans.

Jalie 2908 jeans was the top Pattern Review pattern for 2009.


Pattern Review have 85 pages of tips in a jeans sew along for this pattern. Male Pattern Boldness has also had a jeans sew-along. There are tutorials on making the front pockets here. And Jennifer Sterns’ jeans pattern gets many good reviews for the instructions.

Judith Rasband in ‘Wardrobe Strategies for Women’ says jeans aren’t basic, because you can’t wear them at any time in any place without wondering if you’re appropriately dressed.

Your preference for casual pants might be chinos, such as Palmer-Pletsch McCall’s 6361. Or yoga pants, perhaps Palmer-Pletsch McCall’s 6082.

– – –

Seventh to tenth extras : a complete Core 4 in a second darker neutral
(Lesson 27).

Your second darker neutral does need to ‘go with’ the first, if you want maximum co-ordination possibilities. But it gives you the option to add a new frequently-worn colour.

For styles, Nancy repeats the basic classics. Her ‘Core 4” consists of under-layer, over-layer, skirt and pants, see first post in this group.

You might choose any wardrobe pattern which includes all your core items.

But you could use this opportunity to add a different style. All in denim ? all in a pretty print ? all in sweatshirt fleece ? Just :
– make all four items in a closely related colour group.
– link the colour and textures to what you already have.
– choose styles that make the look more casual or more professional, prettier or more edgy, but not so different that they look incongruous combined with the other clothes in your main ‘core’ wardrobe.

And take care with co-ordination. It may be dull to repeat shapes, but it does make everything interchangeable easily ! (Here are some thoughts on reducing the number of shapes.)

– – –

Eleventh extra : drape front cardigan
(Lesson 27, after the new Core 4)

Nancy’s final piece is a drape front knit cardigan. In a lighter colour related to your second dark neutral. This is a modern casual classic, with many patterns.

Jalie 2919 was one of Pattern Review’s top patterns for 2010.


Simplicity 2603 was one of Pattern Review’s top patterns for 2009.


These patterns both have a long front drape. A short cascade front looks better on me, see my post on cascade jackets.

– – –

Nancy ends Lesson 27 with a summary of the complete wardrobe. In Lesson 28 she makes some suggestions about choosing your group of clothes from your own closet or shopping.

– – –

Nancy has added 11 garments to her core 12. Making 23 garments total. All fit onto a short hanging rail ! And she stopped counting how many hundreds of different outfits she could make.

Nancy’s choices for these additions continue the same basic styles as the core wardrobe, but with added colour :
– two sweater sets in accent colours.
– another ‘Core 4’ in a second darker neutral or ‘basic’ colour.
That adds 8 items.

She also adds :
– casual pants (jeans) in your first darker neutral.
– ‘casual/ dartless block’ shirt, in a 3-colour print.
– drape front knit cardigan, in a lighter colour related to your new ‘Core 4’.
Well, don’t leave these ’til last if you need casual clothes !

As usual, all Nancy’s ideas for combinations and styling with accessories are thought provoking and inspiring.

If you follow Nancy exactly, you’ll have 7 shells, 8 over-layers, 4 skirts, 4 pants. In 3 neutral/ basic colours and 3 accents.

Want to go in another direction ?
There are several interesting suggestions for small groups of garments, ‘capsules’, in the Wardrobe Builder section of the Petite Plus patterns site. These ideas can be used by anyone, not just people who’re that shape.

Nancy hasn’t included ‘statement’ pieces. These are of course very individual. Instantly recognisable, not co-ordinates. But they still need to relate to your basics in colour and shape, so you can wear them !

23 Garments in Nancy’s scheme ? Why not make it two dozen ? What do you dearly miss ? What would you like for your special free-choice Bonus Item 😀

– – –

Patterns and links available October 2011

– – –

Other posts in this group :
Neutral Cores, colours, personalising
Accent colour and print
More thoughts
And related post :
Two-piece dresses

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