If you've read a few of the style/colour type books which have come out since the 1980s (and of which I have an entire library! well a bookcase anyway), there are 3 things which come out over and over.
- flattering colours (variations on Color Me Beautiful)
- body shape and what clothing styles work for that shape.
- personal style e.g. natural etc (and to a certain extent lifestyle)
Building a successful wardrobe needs you to have started to find the answers to the above whether you are going to sew or buy your clothes, or a mixture of the two. I sew, thrift and buy RTW to get my wardrobe and this works well for me. I also do a bit of jewellery making but don't knit.
I'll come straight and say that I have spent a lot of time on this and in the end did spend the money to go and have a fairly basic consultation with the UK Colour Me beautiful people. For me that was worth doing as my colouring - medium brown hair, pale ivory skin, green eyes can be seen in lots of the different categories. Some of my confusion came from some of the techniques in the books - which looks better - light baby pink or warm camel? - answer neither, so not very helpful!
When I went for my consultation the lady said emphatically that I was Warm and Clear - Clear Spring or Brunette Contrasting Spring. I already knew that pastels (baby blue, baby pink etc were hideous) and black was bad by the face, but I'd been all over the place colourwise (as can seen in my stash!!). Some of the colours I had worked out were good myself were in the palette, and with a little tweaking I am really enjoying my colours now.
If you don't already know which are your best colours its worth trying to find out what works as it saves you a lot of time when sewing or buying clothes.
Nancy has several posts on finding your colours.
Using your colors
There are various different approaches to body shape, good old HOAX and the different sorts of fruit. I'm not sure we all clearly fit into one or another and some of the more complex ones like Trinny and Susannah's Body Shape Bible are still not perfect.
Nancy has a few posts on this - Figuring out your Figure
and Styles for your shape
I don't really match any of them exactly, so decided I'd go with the most prominent bit of me - ie the widest bit as the indicator. Viewed from the front the sides of my thighs are the most prominent thing, and I always carry excess weight however much I manage to lose. Viewed from the side I have a little bit of a rounded tummy (made more obvious by a tipped pelvis) and a very round bottom. I don't have much bust, but I do have relatively broad shoulders. This fits most into the pear or “lower body dominant” shape as I also have 'sturdy' legs, though it is offset a little by the broad shoulders. I think Nancy's 5 categories are pretty useful as long as you then personalise it for yourself.
I also had the opportunity about 2 years ago to be a guinea pig for 2 ladies training as Style Consultants with UK Colour Me Beautiful, and somewhere have a little booklet of the flattering styles for me.
I took lots of clothes with me so I could try them on and they could say why things worked or not. I deliberately took some items I never wore to discover WHY they were wrong and that was very useful. There are loads of books on this topic. I found the original Trinny and Susannah book, and Style Rx most helpful out of my huge library :-)
Nancy now slightly dated book 'Looking Good' is also pretty good for this sort of stuff.
You can work it out though by looking at what clothes you have that make you feel great, or get you those 'have you lost weight' type comments.
Examples from my journey are short neck/broad jaw/forward head, so need open necklines like V, scoop, cross over, loose cowls etc - no turtlenecks or classic round jewel necks for me.
Because I am heavy in the butt/hip/thigh area I keep my pants/skirts in fairly plain/dark fabrics and always avoid shiny, print or bias cut on the lower half. I also keep my hemlines below mid calf whether crops or skirts as I just don't have the legs for it. In the winter with opaque tights and fitted knee boots I can take the skirts to just below the knee I discovered this last winter.
I therefore keep all my interest in tops - either knit tops or jackets in bright coloours, prints, texture etc and tie them into the bottoms with colours in the print, necklaces or scarves.
Obviously for those with different body shapes than mine you need to find your own set of best shapes.
This needs to take into account the first two categories but also both the lifestyle you live but also your personality. Lots of places have categories like Tailored Classic, Sporty Natural, High Fashion Dramatic and Feminine Romantic (examples from Nancy's book 'Looking Good'). Nancy hasn't covered this yet, but still has 20+ weeks to go of the 52 :-) so she's probably got some planned.
I found my best fit in the horrendously flowery and 80s book 'Metamorphasis' by David Kibbe. This has a wierd yin/yang scale basis but basically allows some mixing of the usual categories and in short I am a Natural with a big dose of Dramatic. ie my shoes are comfy, but heck they are leopard or red or something, and my tops are natural fibres like viscose (rayon) knit but in very bold prints teamed with enormous necklaces.
I wouldn't necessarily recommend Kibbe's book unless you can find it for 5p on Amazon used books, as its very based on body shape rather than personality and is dated, but my category works very well for me so I am pretty pleased with it. I reread it last week after several years and its still spot on.
Of course this needs to take into account your actual lifestyle - again something Nancy has a good section on in her book 'Looking Good' and I daresay will therefore appear in her posts at some point.
The basic approach is drawing a 'Lifestyle Pie' and a 'Wardrobe Pie'. The 'Lifestyle Pie' shows the proportion of your life that is Professional, Social, Sports, Family for example and things like Anytime Casuals, Classic Sportswear, Evening Dressy, Active Sportwear as cothing categories. The idea being that you need to have clothes to fit the life you actually have, which is pretty obvious but we don't always do, especially if life changed a lot.
Phew that turned out a lot longer than I expected! I realise I have used myself as an example here, but that's becuase I've had lots of years dressing myself now :-) and pretty much none with anyone else. Hopefully there are some useful bits for people there though.