Fashion, explained #1: Allie on pairing colors, rethinking what you already own, and the best of the new trends


This is the first in an occasional series of fashion posts where we interview women who inspire us with their fashion philosophy. First up, my amazing friend Allie!

You know those websites that people go to everyday for a daily dose of inspiration? Well seeing Allie everyday is kind of like that. She puts together the most interesting outfits, pairing wardrobe staples in fresh ways through the use of color, accessories, and layers. She inspires you to look at your closet in a new way and try different pieces together, and to invest in a few key accessories and pieces that will take your wardrobe from basic to interesting.

If you don’t have the time or inclination to study this season’s trends or spend hours shopping, Allie is an excellent cheater guide to updating your wardrobe. I think nothing of copying her color combos and buying earrings from the cool new shop she found (although I’m careful to at least get a pair that isn’t exactly like hers.) Thank you, Allie, for sharing your advice on spring fashion with us!

What is your philosophy on pairing colors?

I like to pair muted colors with bright colors. Or “dirty” colors with “clean” colors, “yucky” colors with “pretty” colors; I think it looks sophisticated. In a painting class I took in college, the teacher had us pick from a bunch of color swatches a color we thought was really ugly and a color we thought was beautiful, and then we had to use them together in a painting. I chose this “ugly” kind of ochre/mustard yellowish brown, and a pinky purple for the “pretty” color. I was amazed at how good the dirty yellow looked when its role was to balance the brightness of the purple. And 17 years later, that “ugly” mustard is one of my favorite colors to wear; everything looks good with it!

Breanne also pointed out to me the trend of wearing variations of the same color together, like a dark green sweater with a yellowy green shirt underneath, or a cinnamon brown with an orange. Combinations like that always look sharp, and might help a color that is no longer “now” to extend its lifespan.
I think this sweater and this series covers pretty much every habit I have regarding clothes. It’s from J.Crew and I bought it at a consignment shop. It’s kind of an ugly color that is beautiful and I love it and it goes with EVERYTHING.

1. Scarf: from etsy.
2. Scarf: I made this at a craft day with some friends.
3. Scarf: from a boutique of local designers in San Jose, Costa Rica
4. Scarf: borrowed from my sister.
5. Belt: from an antique store

What colors should people wear more?

I don’t have specific colors, but I think people should stop thinking there are RULES for colors that Must Be Obeyed. There is no such thing as colors that do not go together. If you like it, wear it! If you’re not sure if you like it, just try it. What’s the harm? Sometimes I purposely try things together that I don’t expect to work, and I’m often surprised at what I end up liking. This is a good way, too, to get some extra mileage out of your closet. If you always wear the same sweater with one particular shirt, force yourself to wear it with something else.

What do you invest in, and what do you buy for cheap?

  • I invest in good shoes, and often have them re-heeled or repaired a time or two before I give up on them.
  • I always have my pants and skirts altered so they fit well; which adds $25+ to the cost but is 100% worth it.
  • I’ll buy something cheap if I think I’ll only want it for a couple seasons or if I think I’ll only wear it once in a while. This is also a good way to test if you like something; I once bought a pair of silver flats at Target and wasn’t sure what I’d wear them with. Turns out they went with so many things that after they died I bought a much nicer pair that was similar, because I was confident that I’d get a lot of use out of them.
  • Getting on the email list of stores you like is a good way to get coupons or hear about sales. It’s a balance, though, because it gets their stuff in front of your eyes more often, so you might end up buying things you wouldn’t have sought out.
  • If there’s something I find myself wishing I had, over and over, I’ll invest in a good one, or at least not feel guilty about spending money on it.

Where are your favorite places to shop?

  • Consignment shops/good used clothing stores: you never know what you’ll find! And you get really good deals often.
  • J.Crew, because they have great colors, and their stuff is neutral enough to go with everything. Usually I get their stuff on clearance.
  • I like to get accessories that are handmade rather than mass produced; I get them from etsy, or the Walker Art Center jewelry sale, or stores that stock that kind of thing.
  • Though I don’t often buy things at Anthropologie or small boutiques, I enjoy browsing them because I like to see what kinds of things they’re doing with patterns and colors. And sometimes I find a good sale.
  • Boden has well-made clothes and fun colors and patterns.
  • I like to visit local boutiques or hipster craft/flea markets when I’m on vacation. Then I feel like it’s ok to spend more than I normally would, because I’m on vacation. I was in Costa Rica this fall, and the only souvenirs I purchased were from a local design shop: a blouse and a scarf. They don’t look Costa Rican at all, but I get to remember a fun trip every time I wear them.
1. Shirt: Anthropologie (clearance). Necklace: my own creation (an attempt to get some neon & gold together).
2. Ship dress: Postella, from Karma (on sale) (I’m still looking for the right belt to go with this dress…). Sweater: J.Crew clearance (I thought it was a horrible blah pink when I first opened the package). Shoes: Camper (they’re very close in color to the sweater). Earrings: silvercocoon (I own 4 pairs of Tia’s earrings and counting…)
3. Sweater: Boden (another sweater I found disappointing when it arrived: “I don’t wear jewel tones!” And now I wear it with everything.) Shirt: Talbots. Earrings: etsy. Boots: Cole Haan (clearance)
4. Sweater: Piperlime. Leather earrings: silvercocoon.
5. Bird shirt: vintage, from a used clothing store (I’ve had several people tell me that their grandma had this shirt. I say, “Good taste, grandma!”) Sweater: Macy’s (clearance). Belt: J.Crew. Boots: Marmi (clearance). Note the feather earrings with the bird shirt: classy.
6. Dress: ModCloth. Sweater: Target. Belt: J.Crew. Shoes: Camper. Earrings: vintage, Everyday People.(I don’t wear cardigans every single day, I swear.)

What do you have a weakness for, accessory wise?

Earrings, earrings, and earrings. And scarves, and I’m branching into belts. A lot of my wardrobe is fairly neutral, style-wise, but then I make outfits interesting and fresh by trying new accessory combinations. Plus, it’s (usually) cheaper to buy a new scarf than a new sweater.

What trends are you avoiding?

I just do not feel comfortable in things that are longer in the back than in the front. I have a dress and a shirt like that and I always feel weird in them.

What are five things to quickly or easily punch up your wardrobe?

  1. Find a few pieces with patterns! Patterns are in. Right now I see a lot of stripes, but I’m hoping that will continue to expand into other patterns. Also, it’s easy to find patterned t-shirts but I hope more sweaters and warmer clothes come out with patterns. Dresses are great for getting some patterns into your wardrobe.
  2. Get a few accessories in metallic, fluorescent, leather, or wood (or a combination of all of those!) I’ve been seeing really interesting necklaces and earrings that are leather with metallic paint, or wood dipped in neon paint, etc.
  3. Take a chance on a weird new color.
  4. Visit some stores you wouldn’t usually shop in. Last summer I found several fun things at a Talbots; before that it never occurred to me to go in a Talbots.
  5. I’m excited by all the brightly colored pants lately. I don’t own any yet, but I’m keeping my eye out…
Here are some of my favorite earrings. They’re from:1. Craftstravaganza   2. Fiesty Elle  3. The Bibelot Shop (vintage remade)  4. silvercocoon  5. etsy 6. Target  7. silvercocoon 8. Walker Art Center jewelry sale  9. silvercocoon 10. made by me  11. Everyday People  12. some store in Boulder, CO 13. silvercocoon  14. made by me  15. somewhere in Thailand

Lately I’ve been really into stud earrings (not pictured here), which is partly because I just cut my hair short, but also because they’re very popular right now.

Any final pieces of advice?

Take risks: I’m fairly thrifty, so I often buy things online at “final sales” prices which means I can’t return them. Some of my favorite sweaters are ones that, when I took them out of the packaging, I thought, “oh no no no, this is not ME at all.” Like a dusty pink: no way; so outside my palette. But when I paired that dusty, almost neutral color, with a bright tomato red or a rusty orange or any number of patterned shirts, it looked so interesting. It helped me refresh several shirts that I was bored with: pair them with this weird new color. And it started a shift for me toward expanding my definition of “neutral” colors from just white, grey, tan, and black. Now I have a pair of shoes that dusty pink color and they go with almost every summer dress I have. Who knew?

Revisit your favorites: Breanne has been asking me for months to write about my fashion habits. I’m not used to writing about myself or being particularly introspective about my clothes, so I kept putting her off. But finally she stroked my ego so much, AND played the whole maternity-leave card, that I had to give in. I thought doing this, especially the photos, would feel kind of cheesy and/or terribly vain. But I have to say, pulling out all of my favorite clothes and favorite accessories was super fun! I’ve been feeling really sick of all my clothes (it’s that time of the winter) but this makes me feel better, and also reminds me that there’s a whole new season of clothes around the corner. And I’m going to print out Breanne’s very nice intro and post it in my closet so I can read it on those days when I think all my clothes are boring. Thanks, Breanne!

Also, many thanks to my b.f. Dan, who has great patience for taking photos, as well as mad skills in building amazing closets and jewelry boxes to organize all my stuff.

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  1. Thanks for this awesome post Allie and Breanne! I channeled Allie this weekend, pairing dusty mauve tights with pink shoes and a red and navy patterned dress. It totally worked. I’m drooling over that earring collection, and like Breanne, I’ve followed Allie’s stylish links and bought some of my own. (At least I picked a different color!)



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