Archive for the ‘Nancy Nix-Rice’ category

Two piece dresses

October 8, 2011

The Japanese call a dress a “one-piece”. But many wardrobe planners suggest a two-piece dress, as it adds more options. Look at these pieces from Butterick 3037.


In a solid light wool or linen, they might be called a suit. In a pretty print, a dress. The print top with the linen skirt would be separates. I don’t think it’s helpful to worry about the words. Just think whether a top and bottom made from the same fabric, but too light and unstructured to be called a suit, would be useful in your wardrobe.

And what pattern to use ? Of course you could just make your favourite blouse/ top with a simple skirt in the same fabric. But what about specific patterns for 2-piece dresses ? Here are some pointers.

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Butterick 3037 in full has a good range of choices. A top with 2 necklines and 3 sleeve lengths. Straight and A-line skirts in 3 lengths.


If you like classics you could base a whole wardrobe round this. Remember an over-layer needs to be larger. Add pants with the same waist style as the skirt, to increase the options. Learn how to change necklines and hem shape (see my post on pattern variations), and you’ll never need another pattern 😀

There are some similar patterns in the evening sections of the catalogues. Skirt and bodice options. Make a knee length skirt and they’re wearable for day too. Here’s an example : Butterick 3843


There are few two-piece patterns in the dress sections of the catalogues. The best source is wardrobe patterns. Many contain a top and skirt that can be made in the same fabric. Not all, often the top is knit and the skirt woven. I’m not listing these patterns because there are so many, especially at Simplicity and New Look.

Here’s one example, Butterick 5147.


Tuck that top into a big New Look skirt for a vintage 50s effect.

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The trendy version of a two-piece dress is a tunic top over a short skirt. Here are some examples.

McCall’s 6288 by Rebecca Turbow.


Simplicity 2305 by Cynthia Rowley


Simplicity 2059 by Lisette.


And what about this, which intrigues my pattern loving self 😀

Donna Karan Vogue 1259


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Separates in different fabrics

Interesting, there are some patterns which include a top and skirt that the designer wants made in different fabrics. They are in the ‘separates’ sections of the catalogues.

Rachel Comey Vogue 1170.


Rachel Comey Vogue 1247


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Other styles

Try the two-piece approach for other personal styles as well. It may be easier to combine favourite blouse and skirt patterns.

If you like ruffles and wraps, how about Kwik Sew 3474 for example, with a mock wrap skirt.


A casual person might prefer a tunic over a longer skirt in a knit fabric. Simplicity 3568 perhaps.


For lovers of the arty oversized : here’s a wide top combined with a long handkerchief skirt.

from Wall London.

Perhaps copy this using the largest size of The Sewing Workshop Hudson top. And a DIY handkerchief skirt pattern. (or see this tutorial by Shams on her ‘tablecloth’ skirt.)

– – –

I used to think two-piece dresses are dowdy. But now realise I was looking in the wrong direction. This is just a sample of the interesting possibilities if you look beyond the dress sections of the catalogues. Check the separates. Or combine blouse and skirt patterns.

Two-piece dresses can also be good for someone like me, very different sizes above and below the waist. Easier to make two different size items than to try to join them together at the waist !

Judith Rasband has whole DVD, Look Changers, on the different ways you can wear a 2-piece dress. The particular styles may be dated, but the general styling ideas apply in any decade.

Doesn’t matter whether you call the two pieces a dress or separates made from the same fabric. Two items made from the same fabric have a stronger visual effect than the same two items made in different fabrics. Is that effect an option that you want to have available from your clothes ? If so, a top and skirt in the same fabric are garments you’ll want to have.

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Patterns and links available October 2011

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Nancy Nix-Rice : 12 carefully chosen garments : colour and print

October 1, 2011

Were you bowed down by all the neutrals that Nancy Nix-Rice started her optimum wardrobe plan with ? (previous post on the neutral core). I wear mainly neutrals so was happy with it all. But here at last, something for people who love colour and print. Nancy adds 4 more items, and shows how to integrate them with your basic Cores.

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Fourth step : a pair of tops in an accent colour
(Lesson 24)

Nancy next adds two tops in colour, both in the same or a closely similar accent colour.

Her example uses 2 garments in woven fabrics :
Under-layer – wide strap camisole.
Over-layer – long sleeved unlined blazer jacket.

Surprisingly difficult to find a wide strapped camisole pattern. Here’s Kwik Sew 2498.


Would you like a change of style for your over-layer ? Nancy Nix-Rice’s scheme uses over-layers with a closable front opening. Buttons or zip. So the garment can be worn alone for another look. The popular cardigan jacket styles with a continuous neckband or a cascade collar can only be closed with a belt, so won’t give you the number of alternative looks Nancy is going for.

You could use the long sleeved version of the Butterick blazer pattern I mentioned before. If you’re not a blazer person, Nancy (not Nancy Nix-Rice !) in a comment suggested Burda 8503. A good possibility with several necklines, sleeves, pockets – could be made in both blouse and jacket fabrics.


What accent colour are you going for ? Choose a colour that makes you feel good. A colour from your eyes will make them sparkle.

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Fifth step : a 2-piece dress in print
(Lesson 25)

Finally, Nancy Nix-Rice adds a two-piece dress. Two pieces so they can be worn separately to give other combinations. In a print that combines your three colours : darker and lighter neutrals and accent.

Nancy’s choice for top is a sleeveless shell with bow neckline. A couple of bow collar blouse patterns in the new patterns for this autumn. Here’s Simplicity 2151.


And Simplicity 2154 is just the thing ! Provides you with two over-layer designs too 😀


Make sure the bow works with the necklines of your over-layers.

Nancy uses a ‘slim’ skirt, though not tight.

I have a post planned on two-piece dress patterns. Though the challenge is not finding the pattern but finding a print in the right 3 colours and your favourite print style!

Nancy has good previous lessons on colour neutrals, contrast and prints. She has added excellent advice on choosing prints and accessories according to your facial proportions and facial structure (angles or curves).

– – –


So that completes your basic 12 wardrobe items. Which Nancy makes into 95 different outfits.

– 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 Nix-Rice has chosen very basic classics, essentially only 6 styles with slight variations :
– knit sweater set.
– woven sleeveless shell.
– woven jacket with short or long sleeves.
– woven skirt and pants.

So these key patterns, in your own choice of fabrics and sleeve lengths, plus a little knowledge about adapting them to different versions, are all you need to build your wardrobe 😀

On the other hand, Judith Rasband in ‘Wardrobe strategies for Women’ thinks you get most variety from a few clothes if each piece is clearly different in style as well as colour : “of two tops, one might have short sleeves and the other long sleeves; one might be made of woven fabric and the other knit; one might be a blouse and the other a shirt. . . Of two skirts, make one shorter and one longer, one pleated and one gathered, one a solid color and one patterned; of two sweaters or vests, make one a pullover and one a cardigan; of two jackets, make one a blazer and the other a wrap style.” (p.247)

Do you like variety ? Would you prefer similar or different ?

– – –

I have some comments on possible co-ordinated pattern sources and personal style, but these posts are getting so long I’ve separated that section off for later. Meanwhile, Nancy does give us a lot to think about. . .

– – –

Patterns and links available October 2011

– – –

Other posts in this group :
Neutral Cores, colours, personalising
Adding extras
More thoughts
And related post :
Two-piece dresses

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Nancy Nix-Rice : 12 carefully chosen garments : the Core

September 17, 2011

This year Nancy Nix-Rice is publishing an excellent series on optimising your clothes and accessories.

This summer she suggested a basic mix-and-match wardrobe of 12 items, combined into nearly 100 outfits.

Of course I thought it would be fun to look for patterns ! Though Nancy’s choices are such simple basics, if you have a pattern collection you probably have similar.

Nancy uses a ‘Core 4’ of basic clothes : under-layer and over-layer, skirt and pants.
She starts her wardrobe building with 2 of these Cores.

– – –

Step One : Core 4 in your best dark neutral : two tops
(Lesson 21)

Nancy starts with a basic group in your best dark neutral. She suggests your hair colour (Lesson 8).

In her Core there are two types of top, under-layer and over-layer. She suggests people with different styles might like :
– a T-shirt and hoodie.
– a tank and a linen shirt.
– a silk blouse and a tailored jacket.

The design of the over-layer is important. It :
– has a centre front opening which can be worn open or closed.
– ideally can be worn alone (perhaps with a camisole).
So you can get 3 different looks from one garment :
– worn alone.
– worn closed but not all the way up to the neck, so the under-layer shows at the neckline.
– worn open over the under-layer. (Nancy has a whole piece on the slimming effect of this look.)

Remember an over-layer needs to be large enough to wear comfortably over your under-layers. So it needs at least 1 to 2 inches more ease at the underarm.

All Nancy’s under-layers are sleeveless, but this isn’t essential. If you use under-layers with sleeves, the over-layer needs to have a larger armhole and sleeve.

The specific garments Nancy chooses are both knits in the same fabric :
– a sleeveless shell with jewel or scoop neckline.
– a short sleeved v-neck cardigan.

There are surprisingly few sweater set patterns which meet both over-layer ‘rules’. Many cardigans have too low and loose a neckline to be wearable alone. Kwik Sew 2759 is shown with the cardigan alone.


What are your ’go-to’ under- and over-layer styles ? I’m in the ‘short-sleeved top and shirt-jacket’ group. For a casual wardrobe you may like tee and hoodie. For a working wardrobe, you may want blouse and jacket.

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First Core 4 in dark neutral : skirt

To complete your Core 4 of dark neutral items, you need 2 bottoms. Nancy chooses skirt and pants, but says you may prefer :
– a short slim skirt and a longer flowing one.
– dress pants and casual pants.
– shorts and capris.

Nancy chooses a straight skirt with a couple of knife pleats from hip level, so it looks like a six-gore skirt. There isn’t a current Big4 pattern like this. Easy to achieve if you know a little about pattern making.

Cynthia Guffey has several skirt patterns with front pleats. Her pleats open lower and the pleats fold in a different direction but they could easily be adapted. This is s-4002.


There are several Big 4 patterns for multiple pleats, such as Butterick 4686.  These often have unpressed pleats, as short sassy styles.


There are many skirt patterns which add flare below hip level.  This gives a different silhouette. Simplicity 2451 was one of Pattern Review’s most popular patterns in 2010.


This first skirt is the basic skirt of your wardrobe. So choose your go-to skirt style. Do you prefer straight, a-line, flared ? thigh, knee, calf length ?

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First Core 4 in dark neutral : pants

Nancy’s first pants are a classic tailored style. A good starting point could be Palmer-Pletsch McCall’s 5239 for Misses sizes, McCall’s 5537 for Women’s sizes.
These include fit guidance, and three levels of sewing difficulty.


What is your go-to pants style ? elastic or fitted waist ? natural or low waist ? waistband or faced waist ? front or back zip ? narrow, wide or shaped legs ?

– – –

Step Two : tops for a second Core 4 in your best light neutral
(Lesson 22)

Your second Core is in your best light neutral. Perhaps related to your skin colour. Co-ordination is easiest if your two key colours are related : dark and light brown, dark and light blue, dark and light green, etc. Or closer if you don’t look good in high contrast. (More on colours later.)

To start this second core, add another under-layer and over-layer. Nancy chooses :
– a sleeveless knit shell with v-neck and twist trim.
– a woven fabric short sleeved notched collar unlined jacket.

Under-layer : There are many twist front patterns for knits and wovens. Most have sleeves. Raise the underarm if you want to make a sleeveless shell from a sleeved version.

An under-layer needs a twist that’s not bulky under a closed over-layer. And a v-neck that’s not too deep to show when the over-layer is closed.
Perhaps Jalie 2788 for knits (leave off the frill).


Any added style element makes co-ordination more difficult. Instead you could use another simple top with different neckline – boat, scoop, wide V ?

Over-layer : a short sleeved notched collar unlined jacket.
Many patterns for blazers. The easiest unlined one perhaps is the short sleeved version of the 2-hour jacket, Butterick 4138.


Hmm this one-button jacket isn’t ideal as it can’t be worn alone. Better a pattern which closes up to bust level.

– – –

Step Three : bottoms for your light neutral Core 4
(Lesson 23)

For her second skirt, Nancy chooses another pleated style, this time with box pleats from a lower level. You could adapt Simplicity 4881. Longer skirts are current, but you could make it shorter and leave out the extra seams and pleats.


What would be a slight variant on your favourite skirt style ? Or another skirt style you would love to include ? Or just change fabric type ?

It’s easiest to co-ordinate if all garments of the same type have the same silhouette, see my post. This isn’t essential. But if you choose one straight and one flared skirt, for example, they may not combine equally well with the tops.

Nancy doesn’t describe her second pants style. Use a classic pattern again. Or casual elastic waist pants.

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Your favourite background colours

For easiest co-ordination, Nancy Nix-Rice says it’s best to start with all 4 items of a core, or pairs of (top + bottom) or (under-layer + over-layer), in colours that are closely similar.

Nancy uses a darker and a lighter neutral for these 8 garments. But neutrals may not warm your heart. Imogen Lamport has a good section on colour personality. Perhaps your preferred wardrobe building background colours are ‘basics’ like plum, teal, peach, aqua, rather than neutrals. A ‘basic’ for one person may be an ‘accent’ for another !

(P.S. Imogen Lamport now has a video on choosing neutrals.)

Nancy mentions some problems when you use high contrast colours. Some stylists don’t use high contrast for this reason, see Imogen Lamport’s videos. No need to use high contrast if low contrast looks better on you.

The Second Core items are lighter, but don’t need to be exactly the same colour (though Nancy shows clothes that are). Add interest by varying the colour slightly. Or use another colour for some pieces. Different but compatible shades. Easiest extra colour is one related to your neutrals, such as rust with dark brown and camel. To follow Nancy’s scheme, choose colours close enough to keep your ‘Color Columns’. And background shades. Nancy adds accent colours later !

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Your own core items

Of course we haven’t got to follow Nancy’s suggestions exactly ! but use them for inspiration. So what is your core wardrobe group ?

Judith Rasband in ‘Wardrobe Strategies for Women’ has a smallest ‘cluster’ of 5 items : add another under-layer top.

Or make a slightly different group of 8, also with many combinations. A Nordstrom brochure on how to wear a blazer shows :
dark fabric : jacket, skirt, pants, wrap dress.
light fabric : top, skirt, pants.
evening fabric : tunic.

What are your own core basics ? dresses not pants ? tunic and vest as well as jacket ?

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Your own style

Nancy has chosen the most classic of classics for her examples. Not for everyone.
Do you prefer softer/ more relaxed/ sporty/ striking clothes ?
I’ve already written much about personal style, summarised in recent posts on choices and modern personal styles.

– – –


So far I’ve mentioned 8 of Nancy’s 12 wardrobe items. Read Nancy’s advice on combining and styling these. She makes 24 different looks from these 8 garments.

Nancy’s core wardrobe has two groups of basics : one group darker and one group lighter. Background colours rather than attention grabbing accents. Plus accessories which link the two colours by including both.

And everything co-ordinates with everything else. Easiest to achieve this with :
– few silhouettes.
– few fabrics.
– few added style elements.
– a small range of colours.

These background basics are very simple.  Not exciting statement clothes. YouLookFab has a piece on using classics as the background for other pieces. I have a post on the power of the boring.

Cheer up 😀 Nancy goes on to add colour and print to the background basics. My next post in this group is planned on that.

– – –

Patterns and links available September 2011

– – –

Other posts in this group :
Accent colour and print
Adding extras
More thoughts
And related post :
Two-piece dresses

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Nancy Nix-Rice’s minimum wardrobe : Accessories

August 27, 2011

Nancy Nix-Rice has been writing about a basic wardrobe over the last few weeks. (I’m planning posts on possible patterns).

Unusually, Nancy also makes suggestions for accessories.
And using accessory colours to integrate the colours of the clothes.

Colours :

  • dark neutral
  • light neutral
  • accent colour
  • accent colour 2 (optional)
  • mid neutral (optional)
  • Easier but not essential if the neutrals are related colours, such as dark brown/ camel, plum/ dusty rose, black/ grey.
    If you don’t look good in strong contrasts, use darker and lighter rather than dark and light.

    – – –

    Nancy’s accessory suggestions are :

    Belt : dark neutral [reversible to light neutral]

    Shoes : dark neutral
    Shoes 2 (optional) : light neutral

    Bag/ purse : dark neutral with light neutral trim
    Big bag/ tote : dark neutral

    Scarf 1 : dark neutral + light neutral (+ a touch of black if you have it in your wardrobe)
    Scarf 2 : dark neutral + light neutral + accent colour (+ mid neutral optional)
    Scarf 3 (if adding 2nd accent colour) : both neutrals + both accent colours.

    Pashmina shawl (optional) : both neutrals + accent colour

    Necklace 1 : dark neutral + light neutral
    Necklace 2 (optional) : mainly dark neutral
    Necklace 3 (if adding 2nd accent colour) : both accent colours

    P.S. Nancy now has posts on belts and bags to flatter your body shape.

    – – –

    Socks / stockings/ tights/ pantyhose need to co-ordinate in colour as well.

    For a current look, how about adding some leggings or opaque tights (don’t know what they’re called in the US) in one of your 3 key colours. Or in another accent colour if you’ve got the legs for it 😀

    This season you can wear ankle length leggings even under a calf length skirt.

    – – –

    For a current casual look : big scarves are a good way of adding character to a simple outfit. In flattering colours they draw attention to your face. There’s several marvellous scarf tying videos at Eileen Fisher.

    And there’s a fun YouTube video on scarf tying.

    (P.S. Nancy now has a lesson on scarf tying. And here is YouLookFab on scarf styles that don’t shorten your neck. And a website on 37 ways to tie a scarf.)

    The colour, pattern and texture of scarves usually make them the focal point of an outfit.
    3.1 Phillip Lim has a different approach this season. He uses scarves made from the same fabric as the garment they’re worn with. Good idea for using fabric scraps ?

    For a current business look : instead of neutral accessories wear strong colours to brighten up classic neutral outfits. Big bags and shoes in red, blue, yellow, green, orange, purple. See my post on classics for work. Though make sure there’s something else about your outfit that draws attention to you, not to your bag and shoes 😀

    – – –

    UK Vogue says the accessory styles for winter 2011/12 are :

  • Knee-high boots
  • ‘Hug and hold’ bags (basically this is a way of holding a large bag at the base rather than hung from the handle)
  • Mini bags (any style of ornate bag just big enough for a phone and lipstick – more considered as jewellery)
  • Choker necklaces
  • Hats
  • Add touches of sequins or fur as current trims.

    Changing from big tote to one of these Mini bags could be an easy way of going from work to dressy.

    Hats are usually in a dark neutral or an accent colour. Choose an accent colour that makes your skin look good. I find a light neutral more flattering – reflects more light on your face.

    – – –

    Accessories are a good way of introducing your own style when wearing basics.
    What are your personal favourite accessories ? see brief thoughts in my post on a personal wardrobe plan (about 2/3 of the way through).

    YouLookFab has questions about which shoes you like to wear.
    heels or flats
    heels – stiletto or stacked
    sandals or boots
    round toe or pointy toe

    And what is your personal style for jewellery ? I prefer bracelets and pins/ brooches to necklaces or earrings. But they’re not so effective for bringing attention to your face. I prefer collars for that. And there’s a huge variety of possible styles for each jewellery item – dainty or striking, angular or curved, modern or antique, in different materials. . .

    – – –

    There’s a good discussion strand on accessories at Stitcher’s Guild.

    All this has made me think. I realise I don’t usually consider accessories at all. I used to be a bag person, but not since I stopped working. I also used to wear a collection of brooches in different styles, to add a touch of ‘quirky’ to professional clothes.

    If we follow Nancy’s advice, it’s the scarves and jewellery in the right mix of colours that we need to keep an eye open for !

    – – –

    Other posts in this group on Nancy Nix-Rice’s wardrobe plan :
    Neutral Cores, colours, personalising
    Accent colour and print
    Adding extras
    More thoughts
    And related post :
    Two-piece dresses

    – – –

    Links available August 2011

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    Next week I’m planning to learn the latest Photoshop Elements. I’ve been using Version 2 and this is Version 9! Then hopefully there will begin to be images again 😀