Unexpected Versatility: Creating Outfits not Capsules

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I’ve been wearing the LOFT Custom Stretch Trousers for several years. They’re machine washable, a classic professional cut, match some blazers, and the 14 petite is the perfect length for me with low heels. However, I craved a change of silhouette and on a whim tried the Banana Republic Ryan pants (also in 14 petite). These are the kinds of pants I have always steered clear from – they have side pockets which usually emphasize my lower belly, they’re ankle length which can shorten me and draw attention to my thick ankles, they taper slightly which is against the rules for tomato body figure flattery. But I got them… and I love them (see me wear them in this post). They were worn usually 2-3 times a week all winter and I loved how when I broke my toe they looked cute with my brogues and other flat shoes.

So when I saw the Ryan pants were available in navy pinstripe, I bought them (and the matching jacket). Before they arrived to my home, I regretted the purchase. I rarely wear navy pants because shoe choice is so tough. And I have a wardrobe based on black, how is navy going to work? Well they work, and they work better than the black pants.

Who would have thought a black basics-loving gal like myself would choose navy pinstripe over black?

Who would have thought navy pinstripe pants could be so versatile?

It’s easy to stick to basics. Black goes with everything, right? True… but it can get boring fast. A slightly different color, print, texture, or silhouette can really change things up in a good way. Going against the grain can give your wardrobe a new life and help you see the beauty that is already residing in your closet. How many times have you felt like you have nothing to wear yet have a wardrobe full of clothes that fit? It’s usually because what you own is either too boring, or you’re not shopping with your life or current closet in mind. In this day and age of capsule wardrobes being the cure-all, it’s usually the former. We buy what we think is versatile and simple, but after a couple months it can get worn out – literally, or emotionally. Enter the unexpected, the navy pinstripe ankle pant.

Below I’ve made eight different outfits that I have worn with these pants. There’s plenty more I have worn, and likely more I will create as the weather gets warmer. But it’s a good way to see how a non-traditional “basic” can be quite versatile. It also shows how you don’t need a capsule for cohesiveness in your wardrobe. Note how I don’t have a ton of variety – bold silver or delicate gold and the same shoes (which also mostly adhere to that non-traditional basic idea) can work in a variety of ways.

outfit 2pants | sweater | necklace | bracelet | shoes

The outfit is essentially what I wore in this post and have worn to work a couple of times.  This look shows how you can mix stripes with stripes.  I recommend mixing very clearly different stripes – a smaller striped top won't give the same effect as a rugby stripe.  And leopard print is a neutral, adding these shoes gives a very purposeful look.  Delicate gold jewelry is added for polish but they're small enough to not compete with all the other prints.

outfit 8pants | blazer | tee | shoes | necklace

Again, this is a variation of an outfit I have worn on the blog (see here).  While that outfit was done with gold accessores, I've most recently worn this to work with silver pumps and a silver collar necklace.  If your office is more conservative, this look can be achieved with a silk or crepe shell in most any color and a shoe in a light colored snakeskin.  I chose white, but consider pale pink or coral, and come fall this would look chic with burgundy or mustard and a cognac or camel shoe.

outfit1pants | top | necklace | shoes

This outfit I am wearing as I type this. I recently got this shell from Boden, and liked how the print worked with the pinstripe.  It shows how a pant like this can easily transition into summer.  I half-tucked this shell; it's tucked and bloused out in front and left untucked in back.  I also added this silver watch for a bit more shine.

outfit 3pants | sweater | belt | shoes | necklace

Blood orange is my signature color and I regularly look for pieces in it to add to my wardrobe. The color looks great with black and denim, but it also makes a great contrast with navy. This lightweight sweater from Ann Taylor is spring-friendly, but this look could be done with a blouse or knit with any sleeve length. The color could be different too, but the goal is a contrast and bold shade that takes the spotlight. Hot pink, turquoise, mustard, coral… choose the color that makes you feel good. I've also done this with nude pumps and a statement necklace.

outfit 4pants | shirt | belt | shoes | bracelet

I wear this look almost weekly because it's effortless yet chic looking, polished but comfortable. I bought a navy silk camp shirt at Ann Taylor several years ago and it has been a good buy, working with a surprising number of pieces in my closet (and I love it with black skinny jeans and black boots!). The gold chain belt is what pulls it together and makes it elegant, not disheveled.

outfit 5pants | tee | necklace | shoes | bracelet | bandana

I work in a casual office; I can only wear jeans on Friday but during the week it's not surprising to see coworkers in casual chinos and slip-on sneakers. So this is a look I can wear to the office, but have also worn on the weekend. I'll wear the scarf cowboy style; you could easily switch it out for a silk scarf and tie it at the throat for a different effect.  This could be dressed up with a sleeveless blouse in place of the linen tee, or dressed down with a pair of slip-on sneakers in place of the brogues.

outfit 6pants | denim jacket | tee | shoes | bracelet | necklace

Pinstripe is a work-friendly pattern that can have a punk or rock and roll edge. I like pairing it with casual pieces like band tees and distressed denim. This is a look I would wear on a Friday or the weekend, and have switched out a band tee for an ironic message or graphic pattern or even a solid v-neck. Adding the denim jacket is a way to temper a stripes with stripes look or a very bold colored top. This too would look cute dressed down with some Chucks or Vans.

outfit 7pants | shirt | shoes | bracelet | belt | necklace

Speaking of denim, this look was put together when I grabbed in the early morning light what I thought was my navy silk camp shirt but realized it was my dark denim Banana Republic shirt. The shirt is soft and drapes nicely, and I ended up really liking the combination. The heavier fabric needed a stronger shoe; the leopard calfhair is up for the challenge while still keeping the look appropriate for a business casual office. The gold accessories make the denim purposeful. Do note I tried later with my lighter colored denim shirt that has Western details and it did NOT look as good.  This works because the denim shirt I have is low on details, dark in color, and soft fluid material.  You could instead switch out this shirt for a button-front in white or even a bold color.

While my example is navy pinstripes, this could work with so many different things – a pair of red work trousers, a leopard print pencil skirt, cobalt ankle pants, or another neutral pattern like grey pinstripe, tweed, or windowpane plaid.  It's appealing to take a capsule wardrobe and use it like a recipe to sartorial freedom, but it can often shove you in a box that doesn't take into consideration your figure, your lifestyle, and your personality.  Use a capsule wardrobe as a concept to see how you can make a variety of looks from a few pieces in your closet, but know there is versatility past a monochromatic minimalist look.  You can have color, whimsy, and your personality and still create a lot of fashion without a bursting closet!

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  1. I’ve done capsule wardrobes for a long time now, longer even than discovering them on the internet. Outfits don’t work for me, I prefer to build the classic 3 pants 4 tops 2 shoes of yore. Because I know everything will go with everything instead of buying 1 pair of pants and making outfits.
    Although never a fashionista, I’ll continue doing capsule wardrobes because they work for me and are worn for years. This page used to be great inspiration, not anymore.

  2. I hate to the the bearer of bad news, but that bright orange color you describe as blood orange is absolutely nothing like the color of a blood orange. The defining feature of a blood orange is that it has flesh that is dark red, e.g. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blood_orange . Not every fruit sold in the US as a blood orange has flesh that color, because some are actually hybrids or are grown in an inappropriate soil environment that stops the proper color developing. However, an easy to remember rule of thumb is that if the shade can be described as ‘orange’ then it is NOT the color of a blood orange. As a Floridian with a garden full of citrus trees I’m going to suggest that you trust me on this. Alternately, ask a citrus expert (e.g. a citrus tree nursery) and they’ll tell you the same thing.

    If you are looking for a term to describe a dark orange shade then I would suggest calling it tiger lily, because it’s an equally pretty term and they are characteristically a bright darkish orange, see https://www.google.com/search?q=tiger+lily&biw=1426&bih=802&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiv8On4oaPNAhWHVyYKHYJABtsQsAQIJQ .

      1. With respect, I would suggest that the mis-use of the term by the sources you provide says more about their ignorance than it does about the conventionally understood meaning of ‘blood orange’ as a color. Insofar as fashion had a color authority I thought it was Pantone, and they don’t have a shade termed blood orange – I checked on their website. If we went around treating random statements by people on reality TV shows as the gospel truth then we’d be giving undue credence to a huge number of laughable beliefs!

  3. Hi Ally, I’ve bought Loft pants and jeans before, and they always disappointed me by stretching way way out only after a couple wears. You haven’t had that experience with these trousers holding their shape?

  4. Oh, I love every single outfit! Putting the navy shirt & the dark denim shirt with those pants–never would have thought of that but both are so classy! Now I want some of those pants but I have a pair from Loft that are navy with white stripes that go across. I can definitely see trying some of these ideas with those. Thanks Allie!

  5. I bought the Ryan pants after you reviewed the balk ones on your blog. And I too love them. So much so, that I bought the chambray and the cream coloured ones. I love them, and I have been wearing them once or twice a week. These navy ones are fantastic as well, if I already didn’t have a pair of other Banana Republic pinstripe I would have bought these too.

  6. Love this post! I bought this suit after I saw it on you and really appreciate these ideas for new outfit combinations. Thanks!

  7. A couple of years ago I started drifting toward navy from black. I started to notice that every time I wore navy, I got compliments. So I started added more navy, cobalt and blues into my wardrobe and now find navy to be my go-to. I’m not sure why this took me so long, as I’ve always worn blue nail polish and even like to wear a cobalt color in my hair. I think navy is less “severe” than black and it flatters many skin tones in a way that black does not; it’s neutral and a complementary color to browns, oranges and yellows. Since I’m no longer working in an office, the pinstripe pants here aren’t really a wardrobe need for me, but I did buy a pair of navy and white pinstripe linen drawstring wide-leg pants at Target this year and they are getting a workout as the summer is coming on in earnest here (high today predicted to be 99).

  8. So, I noticed that all of the shoes you paired with these navy pants are metallic, nude, or animal print. I recently bought my first suit and it’s a navy suit. I’m also a black-basics gal, but the navy looks better with my fair skin and light hair. The only difficulty I have is what shoes to wear with the suit… when I went for an interview in the suit, I wore black pumps and that was fine, but it just doesn’t seem right. Would silver or nude be better? But, are silver/nude too informal for the full suit? I got the job that I interviewed for, and I’m probably unlikely to wear the suit in full since it’s a business casual office (in the midwest). But I might wear it as separates.

    In summary: what shoes does one wear with a navy suit?

    1. I’ve worn black, I’ve worn brown croco, cognac, and burgundy. You can do navy, but it’s hard to match up, I’d recommend doing a texture (croco, snakeskin, etc.) over plain leather because if the color isn’t the same it’s not as obvious. I wouldn’t do silver with a suit, and nude can look a bit off unless it’s summer and you have a light top. Consider going with a camel, cognac, brown, and possibly with some texture. 🙂

    2. I love wearing nude or cognac pumps with navy. I have also worn burgundy and light pink ones too! I have even paired navy with my leopard print pumps.

    3. Burgundy is such a great color for shoes, but it’s not always that easy to find in the market. I guess people buy them and wear them forever so there aren’t a lot of them on the market.

  9. Love this post! To me, this is what a good capsule wardrobe is, pieces that can be worn multiple ways. And love the leopard shoes. I’d love to find a classic leopard flat that is NOT calf hair. I live in a rainy climate and those can’t be waterproofed. And allegedly, calf hair will rub off the heel when you’re driving. Have you noticed this to be a problem? I’d love to find out I’m wrong about the waterproofing and rubbing…

    1. I haven’t tried waterproofing, but I JUST replaced my Ivanka Trump pumps last month after about three years of hard wear – driving, walking in the city, being shoved in suitcases and tote bags, thrown on a closet floor. I found the toe rubbed off before the heel from driving, and even so it took three years to where they were just looking too raggedy for regular wear. Also, these have a leather strip from the back of the heel up to the top of the shoe, which may also help with that issue.

    2. Agree that this is an outstanding example of building a good capsule wardrobe. These are my favorite kinds of posts because they show how versatile a piece can be and give us a starting point to shop our own closets and create similar looks, or hunt for pieces that will complement.

  10. Pants have been my nemesis ever since I got a butt! Loft has been a constant go-to for pants, but I need to get a bigger size in the ones that I have and I well, just can’t get over that so I haven’t been in the store. But every single time I have to shave I just think about how I could have put on dress pants.

    The Adored Life

    1. I do wear more dresses and skirts than pants, but the LOFT trousers brought me over to pants (wearing a pair today!) and it helped me feel more bold about trying these Ryan pants. I got some other ankle pants from LOFT that were narrow and they’re awful – too tight in the calves and butt but too loose in the legs, etc. Look like weird leggings. So it’s all about those styles that accommodate curves. Check out the Ryan from BR, they’re on sale right now plus they’ve been having 30% and 40% promos for the past couple of weeks. The plain black ones may not be on sale but they’re stretchy and not lined, and that crepe fabric that works year round.

  11. Those are fantastic, and I’ve been dithering over a pinstripe pant! However, I’ve had the WORST time finding one that fits. Any hit on where one would find good-quality pants in a size 18? Everything seems to stop at 14/16, and larger sizes seem to assume that fat ladies don’t do colours that aren’t black pants and khakis. Frustration ensues!

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