The brand aims for the same thing I hope for in my own wardrobe: versatile, high quality basics that are flattering, allow you to move and can be layered for endless combinations. Overall great public ethos; a company that cares about sustainability and depictions of women.
Eileen Fisher's goal, I've read, was to have a system. Tops and bottoms go together and mix and match. Each season, pieces are created that can be integrated into the existing wardrobe. Now, more pressed for time than ever, I find this deeply appealing. The reality is that I really don't have any time in the mornings to dilly-dally over what I'll wear.
Check out this video, "How To Get Dressed in Five Minutes" and this slideshow, "Cheat Sheet for Getting Dressed."
In the video, Eileen Fisher suggests three slim bottoms (pencil skirt, slim pants, leggings) and three tops (tank, tunic, dress). Add a few accessories and you've got a little basics capsule that will serve you all season.
As much as I can geek out over such a system, I don't think this particular system fits me. Leggings only flatter me if I've got shoulder embellishments of the linebacker variety and very, very high heels. A pencil skirt, though I love them, straightens my curveless frame.
Instead, I'd like to think we each have our own system, whether we're aware of it or not. Think about it: What are the shapes/colors of the three types of bottoms that you're most likely to reach for when you're running late? What shapes/colors for three tops you'll throw on when you've got five different functions that day and no time for a wardrobe change? In the comments to my skirt post, I enjoyed reading how each woman knew which specific shapes were flattering to her body and spoke to her personal style.
I suspect these are our tried-and-trues, the things that keep on truckin' on our behalf. Using Polyvore, I whipped up a quick "Work Capsule" including three tops and bottoms, a dress, an outer layer and a few accessories. I focused more on shape/color than specific pieces.
This falls somewhere between my ideal wardrobe and what I know I'll realistically be most likely to wear. Why this capsule works for me:
- Straight-leg pants: My perfect pant. A blank slate that makes me feel slim and tall. Black/grey, stretch twill, accommodates a range of tops that hit at the hip.
- Slim pants: Though versatile, a bit more trendy than the straight leg and is good for a range of top lengths from hip to tunic. Black; ankle or full length.
- Full-ish skirt: Body shape-wise, skirts that have a bit of flare/movement at the knee give me more shape. Neutrals (gray, black, navy, brown), that preferably hit anywhere from an inch above the knee to just below it.
- Silky tanks: Straight-cut, lightweight and glides over curves. Versatile, as will punch up a more casual look and still jive perfectly with more formal ones. Can be worn untucked over slim pants, tucked into a skirt and provides interesting layers under a cardigan.
- Sleevelees/short sleeve tops with color, shape, and maybe print in a forgiving fabric: Jewel tones with shape, including surplice, wrap, peplum, v-neck etc., preferably in a heavy knit of forgiving woven. Stark contrast of pastels against dark neutrals don't work well on me.
- Cute cardigans: Not necessarily a "top" (though some can be worn tucked in as one!), I wear cardigans with far more frequency than anything else. I'm starting to realize that all of mine are far too plain, really sinking an equally plain outfit into the Land of Boring. The goal? Get either incredible quality cardigans, i.e., cashmere, to make up for in luxury what I lose in aesthetics in a variety of jewel-toned colors, or find cardigans with wonderful details that add interest, like the silk yoke and contrast buttons above.
- Statement coat: Since the rest of my wardrobe isn't too colorful, I love a deep color or bold print (like high contrast plaid) and feel the most elegant in a slim coat (pinching in at the waist) that hits at the knee. It also brightens up an outfit I haven't had time to think about.
- Scarves: To add punches of color and print to plain outfits. I have lots of chunky long winter scarves, but I need thin, square scarves as they're more useful for this purpose.
- Hat: A knit beret, to fight the cold, in and out of the office
- Flats: Neutral color. A city dweller and transit commuter, I walk far distances and comfort is key.
- Black heels: Always classic, always feminine, always perfect for the office.
- An elegant messenger bag: I'm not sure such a thing exists, but again, a long strap is helpful when walking long distances and the bag should be large enough to hold files. It's easy to find a practical bag, much harder to find one that's both practical and pretty. Leather in the shades of brown feel classic, versatile, elegant and hip to me.
My casual capsule:
- Straight-leg jeans
- Slim capris: 3/4 length in a variety of colors, blacks, blues, white, red
- Jersey skirt: This is the skirt to "slob out in" in the book Three Black Skirts. The one I currently have folds over at the waist so I can control length at the hem and height at the waist.
- Loose-ish tees: In a variety of colors with clavicle-bearing necklines. Goes under everything, always comfy. A striped tee is always a winner.
- More fitted tanks/short sleeve: Even in the winter, I prefer wearing tanks and layering sweaters on top. Ideally tanks are in darker neutrals or jewel tones with interesting details (cowl neck, boat neck, henley closure, small print, etc.)
- Loose cardigans with pockets: Unlike the office-cardis, these are more staid; comfort and layering is key.
- Dress: I'm just now discovering the beauty of dresses. I'm aching for some in a small print that are highly versatile. The one depicted is jersey with a defined waist and a flared skirt and yet can be played up differently depending on the accessories.
- Sweaters: I don't have many pullover sweaters, but I suspect a few v-necks in gorgeous colors would be a wonderful addition to my plain casual capsule. If I throw on, say, jeans and a black tee, this emerald sweater would do wonders for me.
- Scarves: Same as for the work capsule, but more playful with color, print and fabric (i.e. circle scarves in jersey).
- Flats: In colors! Red and gold are my faves.
Most importantly, by thinking of what shapes/colors I'm most quickly drawn to, I can also fine tune my thrift shopping and sewing. Recently, while thinking these things, I've picked up two straight leg pants at the thrift store (which require altering) and a royal blue surplice top and a deep purple v-neck silk sweater that I don't know how I've lived without. On the sewing table: A sweater refashion project that will hopefully mark the beginning of my cute cardigan collection.
Another blogger has considered Eileen Fisher's system early this year. She had this to say:
They’re very simple styles so, using super quick patterns, you might be able to make a capsule from her ‘system’ in a weekend :D Though simple clothes do look best in quality materials and quality techniques.Check out her comprehensive discussion on tops and bottoms, with links to possible patterns.
But what about you? I love learning how folks put things together. Do you have an informal system/capsule? What clothes do you reach for in a hurry? Or: What clothes do you think will help you when you're in a hurry?
And finally, I'm sorry I've been such a deadbeat in the commenting department. I've just figured out how to put Google Reader on my phone, so I can read your lovely blog posts on the train! Unfortunately, no commenting ability. Grrrr. And I just can't bear to open my personal computer at home until Saturday morning. Bear with me until I get my technologies figured out :0