Posts Categorized: tutorial

How to Mix Neutrals

I’ve begun updating some of my greatest hits posts so they’re more current. This is one of them!

how to mix neutrals

At this point, my palette is ALL neutrals with splashes of navy, burgundy, and olive here and there, so this is a topic that’s close to my heart. There’s something so chic, elegant, and relaxed about mixed neutrals and I find that combination of traits irresistible.

When I set out to create a wash of neutrals, here are my personal rules of thumb:

THREE OR MORE TO A BATCH

Already Pretty outfit featuring leather jacket, heather gray tee, cargo sweatpants, long pendant, J.W. Hulme tote

An outfit comprised entirely of neutrals will look sophisticated and intentional if you include at least three distinct colors. In the outfit above, I have on a brown leather jacket and boots, gray top, and olive pants. I might be able to add one more neutral as an accent – the grayish-blue of the tote kinda fills that role – but any more than that might tip the scales into neutral overload.

This is a very loose guideline, since many outfits with only two neutrals look very chic. The key with two is to repeat at least one of them somewhere within the outfit. Like so:

asymtunicjacket_outfit

Black jacket, gray tunic, black leggings, gray bag. The repetition makes the look unified and the choices seem intentional.

If you’re mainly interested in mixing just black and brown, the easiest shortcut is to pick ONE shade of brown (either chocolate or tan, not both) and utilize it at least twice within the context of your outfit. Or if brown is the base color, utilize black at least twice within the context of your outfit. Again, that repetition creates intentionality. This formula constitutes a great way to practice mixing neutrals and train your eye to accept shades of brown and black as complementary.

LIKE UNDERTONES

Already Pretty outfit featuring waxed denim moto jacket, Woolovers turtleneck sweater, plaid slouchy pants, ankle boots

Cool grays and warm cognac browns can definitely be mixed, but I find it easier to pair warm with warm and cool with cool. Look at the neutral garments hanging in your closet. You should be able to tell which ones have cool undertones (whites, blues, and greens in their color mixes) and which ones have warm undertones (reds, yellows, and ivories in their color mixes). Pair like with like and you can’t go wrong.

TEXTURAL VARIETY

Already Pretty outfit featuring olive green jacket, tan knit dress, brown ankle boots, brown tassel handbag

Since neutrals are soft and easy on the eyes, all-neutral ensembles can read a bit bland. A great way to spice ’em up is to add a variety of textures: Leather, wool, slippery silk, nubby tweed, rough linen, smooth cotton. Pieces with embroidery, pick-stitching, and other 3D detailing also add textural interest.

One of the things I like best about my all-neutral wardrobe is that everything goes with everything else. Shapes may not be complementary and the occasional warm- or cool-undertone gray stirs up trouble, but overall I can wear everything together and it works. Neutrals have a reputation for being dull, but they needn’t be. Mixing them skillfully is easy to do, and can create some seriously chic looks.

Related Posts

Reader Request: Low-vamp Shoes with Skinnies

flats and skinnies in winter

Reader Amelia left this question in a comment:

How on earth do I wear flats/Mary Janes and socks with skinny pants/jeans? Every style image I see of that combo involves no socks or boots. Sometimes I don’t want to wear boots (think fall or spring) but it’s too cold to not wear socks. How do I do it?

In my opinion, this question extends to all low-vamp footwear and all ankle-length pant styles. The real issue is covering the bridge of the foot and keeping it warm. So. Quick answer: I don’t know. This combination stymies me, too, and I can’t say that I’ve found a solution I feel is both aesthetically pleasing and practical. So I’ll throw out a few suggestions and work-arounds, and rely on you to offer your input in the comments!

Nude fishnets or nylons

This is the solution that most folks offer, and it has some merit. The idea is to give your feet a bit of coverage but perpetuate the illusion of no socks/hose. But even close-woven microfishnets don’t actually create much of a barrier between foot and elements. Nude-to-your-skin knee-high trouser socks are probably the easiest and warmest solution.

Foot liners or Key Socks

Neither of these solutions actually gives you full foot coverage, but you do get some padding and warmth for your footbed. Liners come in all colors, materials, and fabrics but they tend to peek out from most flats and heels. Key Socks are basically foot liners with part of a trouser sock attached at the top, leaving the bridge of your foot exposed. So, ya know, only slightly helpful.

Funky socks

I have a hard enough time working tights (and therefore colored legs) into my outfit equations, so I’ve never even dabbled in funky socks. But if your outfit is more casual, you can certainly let a cool striped pattern peek out from your Mary Janes or flats. So long as your feet fit and you won’t stretch the shoes too much.

Ankle boots

Yep, we’ve already arrived at alternatives. I’m happy to wear tights with my flats, Mary Janes, and heels all winter long because they offer uninterrupted coverage from knee to toe. But I just don’t do the skinny/ankle pant and low-vamp shoe combo once it gets cold out. Instead, I opt for higher-vamp shoes like ankle boots, which cover the foot up to a much higher point and can be tucked under pant hems or worn with cuffed skinnies and thick socks hidden underneath.

See what I’m saying? Nothing earth-shattering or truly elegant here. So, my dears, help us all out! Do YOU have the magic solution to wearing low-vamp shoes and ankle-length pants in cold weather? Any other suggestions besides these? Let us know in the comments.

Images courtesy Nordstrom (left) and Banana Republic (right)

**Disclosure: Actions you take from the hyperlinks within this blog post may yield commissions for alreadypretty.com. See Already Pretty’s disclosure statement for more details.

Related Posts

Reader Request: How to Fit a Blazer

Reader Jamie left this request in a comment:

Not sure if you’ve covered this in your posts before, but would you do a post on how to determine proper blazer fit? I have an expensive blazer I bought at Filine’s Basement over 10 years ago, but have NEVER worn it. It’s a navy blue wool Ralph Lauren made it Italy blazer, really nice, lined in silk. I’m struggling with the fit, it seems almost too long, almost covers my whole bum, even though the sleeves are the right length. And I have no idea what to wear it with.

SUCH a great question. I adore blazers and jackets, as I feel they can add structure and polish to virtually any outfit … but they can be tricky little beasts. Finding blazers that fit off the rack is challenging for most women, regardless of size or figure shape. I always recommend thrifting for blazers because they can be annoyingly expensive and are durable enough garments that they can typically last through several owners and still hold up. But thrifting for blazers exposes you to an even wider variety of  lengths, styles, and fits from bygone eras, many of which will seem almost perfect. But not quite.

So let’s start with how to determine if a blazer fits YOU.

Shoulders first

Again, very few women can waltz into Ann Taylor, grab a blazer off the rack, and have it fit perfectly in every way. And, in my experience, even women who can fit blazers relatively well often encounter shoulder fit issues. Blazers can be altered, and when you find one that fits almost-perfectly you should definitely consider getting it tailored. But shoulder alterations are complex and costly, so if you can find a style that fits your own shoulders and needs some tweaks elsewhere you’re in good shape.

The shoulder seam of the blazer should hit right about where your own shoulder ends. If it falls closer to your neck, it’s too small. If it juts out over where your shoulder begins to slope downward, it’s too big. Hug yourself while wearing the blazer. If it pulls a little, that’s fine. If it pulls a lot, it might not be your best bet. (Hug gently. You’ll be ever so cranky if you hug yourself and rip a seam. Plus you’ll be mad at me. So, ya know, go easy.)

Although full-on shoulder pads aren’t common now, a little padding or added structure in the shoulders isn’t unheard of. If you are self-conscious about your broad shoulder line, seek unpadded styles. If you wish your shoulders had a wider span, padded blazers can work wonders for ya.

Sleeves next

Sleeve alterations are relatively simple, although they’ll be more expensive if your blazer is lined. Regardless, be sure to consider sleeve fit. 3/4-sleeve styles have considerably more leeway, but full-length sleeve fit is fairly specific. (I’ll admit to letting this one slide myself, but I mostly cover my tracks by cuffing.) A full-length blazer sleeve should hit just a little bit above the top joint of your thumb if you’re standing with your arms at your sides. Your wrist itself should be covered. Simple as that.

Then bust

In most cases, if a blazer doesn’t fit you in the bust you will TOTALLY know it. In my case, there is often excess material that causes extremely amusing sagging. Like someone has tacked wet Ziploc baggies to my chest. For women with larger busts, you may experience pulling. A blazer that fits properly in the bust will cover about half of each breast (measured from vertical outside working in toward the navel) and skim over the covered area without bunching or wrinkling. Ideally, it should fit beautifully both buttoned and unbuttoned. However, a blazer that fits great buttoned but looks wonky unbuttoned won’t be as versatile as its opposite. In my opinion – and Angie’s got my back on this one – a blazer that fits properly in the shoulders, bust and torso but cannot be buttoned all the way without some pulling is just fine. Most of us wear our blazers unbuttoned most of the time anyway, so if it comes close but can’t quite button properly, you’re good.

And, of course, torso

Again, you’ll likely know, here. But generally speaking, you want the blazer to follow the natural curves of your body without pulling or sagging. If you’ve got wrinkles at the sides or across the back, the blazer is too small in the torso. If you’ve got gobs of extra fabric around your midsection, the blazer is too big in the torso.

Other resources on fitting blazers properly:

Now let’s talk blazer styles.

Pants blazer vs. skirt blazer

If you’re wearing a skirt and top, you want your top to be relatively short – between two and three fingers’ width below your navel. If you wearing pants and a top, you want your top to be longer – between two and three fingers’ width above your crotchpoint. This also applies to blazers. Let’s take a look:

Proper blazer lengths for skirts and pants

Although the blazer on the left is being shown with pants, it’s actually more suited to being paired with a skirt or dress. It hits higher on the hip and is shorter overall. The blazer on the right will look slightly off if worn with a skirt, but is a good length for wearing with pants. So, shorter blazers with skirts/dresses, longer blazers with pants. This is NOT a hard and fast rule, of course, just a guideline. Much will depend on your figure and preferences, but in working with my clients I’ve found that most look best pairing short styles with skirts and long styles with pants.

Buttons and stance

“Stance” describes the highest point where the blazer buttons. Blazers with higher stances tend to have more buttons – at least two or three. Lower stances are frequently one-button jobs. Let’s look:

blazer button stance

The blazer on the left fits beautifully … but that high stance can look a little dated and matronly. The blazer on the right also fits well, and the lower stance seems more modern. NOW. I realize that bust size and stance interact. Busty women may find that low stance, single-button blazer will open up awkwardly at the chest while higher styles sit a bit quieter. Other busty women may find high stance blazers intolerable due to where the bustline falls. It’s all extremely personal. Some three-button, high-stance blazers are gorgeous – I own a few myself! – and if that style works for your figure, then by all means wear it. But if you’ve got blazers in your closet that aren’t getting worn and you can’t figure out why they seem “off,” see if it’s high stance.

Overall length and shape

Length and shape are other factors that may make your thrifted or decades-old blazers seem dated or frumpy. Yes, it’s true, “boyfriend” EVERYTHING means that long, loose styles are everywhere we turn. But today’s long/boxy will look slightly different than 80s long/boxy. Well, most of the time. Let’s look:

blazer fit

I’m flabbergasted to report that the blazer on the left is current. Designer even, and expensive as hell. (Theory, if you’re curious.) To me, that super long, super boxy fit is very vintage, although most 80s styles have more buttons and a higher stance. The blazer on the right is also current and also long – appropriate for pants – but more fitted and contemporary looking. Now, again, you get to have taste. If you love the look of a oversized, loose blazer, embrace that look! But if, as Jamie did, you feel like your butt-covering blazer might date you, opt for shorter, more fitted styles moving forward.

Finishing touches

blazer lapels buttons pockets

Lapel width, button or closure type, and pocket design and placement can all affect how a blazer works with your shape. With lapels, consider scale: Petite women often favor smaller lapels or lapel-free designs which work with their smaller frames. Flap pockets can jut out awkwardly if placed wrong, but can define and complement your curves if placed correctly. And button and closure style and placement will impact the overall look and fit of any blazer.

And even though that post was impressively long, it is far from comprehensive. Definitely check Angie and Kelly’s posts for more details and information. As always, none of my figure flattery advice posts should be considered gospel, including this one, and I fully expect you to read them with a grain of salt. Style “rules” are merely guidelines, no matter who is dispensing them. I trust you to use your judgment. And I trust you to take what applies to you, discard the rest, and assume positive intent.

So! What fit challenges do YOU face when shopping for blazers? Where are you willing to compromise? Anyone out there a stickler for stance? Lapel width? Let’s hear it all in the comments!

First four images courtesy Macy’s, next two courtesy Nordstrom, final two courtesy Macy’s.

This post has been revived from the archive.

**Disclosure: Actions you take from the hyperlinks within this blog post may yield commissions for alreadypretty.com. See Already Pretty’s disclosure statement for more details.

Related Posts