Slow Fashion October, week 1: What’s your look?

PLEASE NOTE: This mood board and palette are a nutshell version of my look. In no way do I think it needs to also be your look! Let’s figure out what yours is. But if this feels like you, too, by all means have at it!

Slow Fashion October, week 1: What's your look?

Here’s what I would love to see happen this Slow Fashion October. I would love for each of us to get (at least) one step closer to having a closet full of clothes that we absolutely love and wear and feel great in and feel great about. Clothes we want to take care of and mend and make last because we will be so sad when we’ve finally worn them out. If that means a rainbow of color and sparkle and skirts that twirl, then that’s what I want for you. If it means black trousers and white button-downs and grey sweaters, then that’s what I want for you. Whatever it is, it will take time to build it into just what it needs to be — slow fashion is slow — but we’ll talk through how to get started and how to get there, gradually. Because every closet that fills more slowly and thoughtfully, that lasts longer and suits its owner, is a chink in the fast-fashion industry. And chinks add up. So that’s what I want us to do this time around. Whether you’re brand new to slow fashion and trying to figure out where to start (in which case, here are some resources!), or whether you’ve been working on a slow closet for years (as I have), every closet benefits from a periodic assessment and course correction, a reckoning with the wrong decisions we are all capable of making, and a renewal of intention.

The key to having a loved, lasting, low-turnover closet is to put the right clothes into it. The right clothes for you. And the key to that is knowing who you are and how you like to dress; making good choices for your body and soul and style and lifestyle. So that’s where I want to start: with a little getting-to-know-yourself exercise.

About five years ago, Bob and I were in a little shop in Berkeley that he liked to pop into. He was on a hunt for a (California) winter jacket, and found one he liked on the rack — a waxed canvas utility jacket sort of thing in his favorite color, which I like to call smudge. He pulled it on over his typical logo t-shirt and baggy jeans (i.e., not a look) and turned to look at the sales girl to see what she thought. She cocked her head and made a slightly quizzical face and said, “Mm, what’s your look?” And we are still giggling about it to this day, simply because Bob doesn’t have “a look,” which is clear from looking at him. But the fact is, that was exactly the right question. The only way that jacket was a smart decision for him is if it not only fit him, physically, but fit in with his life and the rest of his clothes. And that’s the question I want you to try to answer for yourself this first week and on into Slow Fashion October. What’s your look?

. . .


Each Monday this month, I’m going to give you (and myself!) an Action Item — one step to take in the gradual process of better knowing ourselves and the contents of our closets, and making sure they’re compatible. So here’s the first one:

Make a mood board or pinboard that reflects your ideal style — colors, shapes, attitude. Think about how that has evolved over time, and the difference between what you like or admire and what actually feels like YOU — these are not the same thing. Just because something looks great on a friend or celebrity or passerby or pattern model, and you love it, doesn’t mean you would feel like you in it. Look for images that make you go Now that’s me right there; that is who I want to show the world. You might also be inspired by a landscape or a vintage car or a movie still; whatever speaks to you, not just outfit photos, but certainly that too. This may involve photos of clothes that aren’t necessarily slow fashion, and that’s totally fine — it’s not a shopping list! It’s just to create a visual reference for your style that can help you focus and guide your decision making. (For some people, this could be a single photo that says it all to you.) Tear out photos and put them in a file folder or on a cork board, or use Pinterest to find and gather things online, or a saved images folder on Instagram, or whatever works for you. Take your time with it — do it gradually, trying not to overanalyze what you’re throwing in there; reflect; edit. You’ll start to notice patterns: recurring colors or shapes or types of garments. Take note of that. Get it to where it really tells you something about how you want to dress. If you feel like you could use advice on how to get started, please feel free to ask below.

Those of you who are regular readers here will recognize this Action Item as part of the Wardrobe Planning process I put myself through a couple of times a year, and which has been wildly beneficial for me in shaping a high-functioning closet. (You can see my seasonal mood boards at Pinterest, but the one that speaks to me the most strongly about how I would actually like my closet to feel, in terms of color and mood, is called all things lovely.) For the sake of today’s post, I decided to put together a mini-mood board of just a handful of images that speak to me of myself past, present and future, and wound up with the 9 images above, which manage to say pretty much everything about how I like to dress!

. . .


I’m also going to give you some discussion prompts each week, as in years past. These are meant to get your wheels turning and also give you ideas for things you might want to share in comments, among your friends, or on Instagram with the #slowfashionoctober hashtag. This week’s:

Do you have a color palette?
Whose style inspires you; do you have a muse or icon?
Is there a brand you’re always drawn to, for their clothes and/or how they put them together? Why?
What shapes and styles of garments work best for you, your life and your body?
What are your clothing pet peeves? (lengths, necklines, sleeve types …)
What is your favorite garment or outfit (right now or always) and why?
What is the image you would like to project with your clothing?
Can you describe your style in five adjectives?
What showed up in your mood board that surprised you?
What’s an example of something you own and love (had to have!) but never wear, and why not?

. . .

Other than that last question, try not to even think about what’s actually in your closet right now — we’ll get to that next week. For now, just think about what a deeply loved and truly you wardrobe would look and feel like. And let’s talk about it!

For an intro/preview of what’s to come, where I’ll also collect all of the links to this month’s content, see the Slow Fashion October directory page.


PREVIOUSLY in Slow Fashion October: 20×30 outfits and afterthoughts

57 thoughts on “Slow Fashion October, week 1: What’s your look?

  1. Just switched my closet from Spring-Summer to Fall-Winter yesterday and only had a few discards. Slow fashion is taking hold and I’m felling better about my wardrobe.

  2. I always have a hard time answering questions about image for myself. I’m currently at home with my kids, so I feel like I’m at odds with how I dress in reality–jeans, stretchy pants, t-shirts–and how I would LIKE to be dressing. But even before this stage of my life, I’ve always felt like I tend to project different images of myself in different facets of my life… so my wardrobe has always felt a bit disjointed. Does any one else struggle with this?
    And I would also love to hear other’s ideas about how to dress for warmth in a way that’s functional, but still stylish. A big reason why I’ve stopped shopping retail is that so many fabrics used in mass produced clothes feel so thin–even sweaters!–and I never feel warm enough, whether it’s our overly-air-conditioned summers, or the colder months. At least with making my own clothes, I can choose more substantial fabrics.

  3. Thank you for this thoughtful approach. Now I am retired I realize I need less and can wear a sweater two days in a row! How did I get to this age and never determined “my look”? This will take some thinking….

      • I am in the same boat as you as a recent retiree. I did start running my work wardrobe down over the last couple of years but am currently reluctant to pass on the nice work clothes I still have. However, I don’t know if I am likely to wear some or any of them now. At the moment I am mainly wearing leggings and Mandy Boat Neck Tees while I too get to grips with what my style actually is, and what I need for my new life. I will definitely work through this list to see where that takes me.

  4. I have so many likes and so many ways of seeing myself. I also have a very hard time figuring out how it all fits together. I love to make my clothes but my time and energy have been somewhat limited. This will hopefully help me narrow down what to make that will be worth the time and energy I put into it.

    • I also struggle with having multiple aspects of myself that don’t seem to cohere into a single style, and it’s good to hear that I’m not alone. One practice that I’ve found helpful this time around is putting my absolute favorite photos from my mood boards that correspond to my various senses of style into a single “amalgamation” mood board. I feel like this is helping me start to discover ways to incorporate various aspects of my different styles into a single, cohesive aesthetic.

  5. Will I have to defend my dissertation? JK! There are a lot of great questions here. I think I will try my hand at a mood board and see what it says in response to the other questions. I have a long relationship to my clothing, but I’m always refining (or trying to!). I can easily say that Tilda Swinton and Frances McDormand are two of my style icons. Happy Slow Fashion October!

  6. This sounds like fun. My only regret/problem is that what image I would like to project may not agree with my body type/shape. Some things I love seeing on models look terrible on me. Awe, to be tall and thin.

    • You know, I honestly think most clothes look better on curves than on stick figures. Not looking the same as the model in something doesn’t necessarily mean she looks better in it than you do — just different. Just ask yourself whether you feel good in it, whether it makes you happy, and how it looks on anyone else is sort of beside the point! (I know, easier said than done. But true!)

    • I understand that sentiment, but, speaking as a tall thin person, I still can’t pull off looks like models I see. I think it’s mostly about attitude and confidence. I’ve seen plenty of women with curves or super short way more fashionable than me.

  7. –Do you have a color palette?
    Camel, black, and off-white, with bits of green, pink, and red thrown in.

    –Whose style inspires you; do you have a muse or icon?
    I don’t care if it sounds cliché: Audrey Hepburn’s personal style speaks to me more than anyone else’s!

    –Is there a brand you’re always drawn to, for their clothes and/or how they put them together? Why?
    Calvin Klein’s clean lines and smart use of fabric print and pattern have always worked for me. Ellen Tracy’s OTR garments are still well-made, and shoes and bags from Liz Claiborne and Etienne Aigner go with anything, wear well, are constructed well, and fit well.

    –What shapes and styles of garments work best for you, your life and your body?
    Slightly fitted, easy to clean, and multi-seasonal. What no longer works for me: higher heels, pointy toes, everything needing to be dry-cleaned, business suits.

    –What are your clothing pet peeves? (lengths, necklines, sleeve types …)
    I speak for all womankind when I say: GIVE US SOME DAMNED POCKETS! Second peeve: OTR sizing. Some of us are tall with broad shoulders, or short with long legs, or really busty, or not busty at all, or whatever average height is with wide hips and narrow shoulders and short arms…you get what I’m saying, here.

    –What is your favorite garment or outfit (right now or always) and why?
    An a-line skirt (WITH POCKETS) with a turtleneck and boots for cold weather, with flats or low heels and a boxy top for warm weather. It’s comfortable, it looks like you put in more effort to how you look than you actually did, and you can wear it pretty much anywhere.

    –What is the image you would like to project with your clothing?
    That I am happy in my own skin.

    –Can you describe your style in five adjectives?
    Feminine, unfussy, tailored, classic, comfortable.

    –What showed up in your mood board that surprised you?
    My mood board isn’t complete yet, but I was surprised that it’s basically a more casual version of the business attire I used to wear. Hmmm…

    –What’s an example of something you own and love (had to have!) but never wear, and why not?
    A navy and beige print wrap dress that I HAD to have, but have only worn twice. The sleeves are too long, the fit at the shoulders is too tight, and I have to pin it closed at the bust. It needs a complete re-tailoring.

  8. With respect to your mood board: On the last day of my first trip to Paris, we walking along Rue du Bac, and a very pregnant and very pulled together woman was walking toward me. My first thought: even the very pregnant French women look perfecf. My second: it’s Sofia Coppola! We sort of shopped along together (I was not stalking,really) for a couple of blocks. She was wearing slim black pants, a black sweater, ballet flats, and a very vintage military fatigue jacket. No jewelry, no obvious makeup, a small plain handbag: perfect minimalism with total poise and confidence as her only accessory. I have been aiming for that simplicity ever since.
    (She gave birth the next day).

  9. First, a question: What do you use to generate the colors in your palette? Is it a website?

    I have a simple wardrobe, and Lands’ End is the chief source. I wear LE sport knit pants and twin sets for most of the year. I wear simple tees during the summer, and I may wear turtlenecks or heavier sweaters in the coldest months.

    I work in an urban library, helping people on public access computers, so I don’t need or want to dress more formally, at least not like I did earlier in my work life as director of a small museum when I usually wore suits. I used to sew about a third of what I wore, frequently making skirt and blouse combos that could be worn together as a dress or separately. Now I never wear skirts or dresses.

    I often wear scarves or jewelry (many of the scarves are handknit, and most of the jewelry is handmade). I keep clothes a long time: a few of the twinsets are more than 20 years old. Most of my clothes are all cotton (wool makes me too warm or it itches, so I avoid it except for winter scarves). I have some handknit cardigans, and would like to knit more sweaters.

    Essential colors: black, khaki, taupe, vicuña, camel, stone, dark olive (I really like neutrals)
    Accent colors: red, jade, coral, shrimp pink, teal (light and dark), pumpkin, indigo, magenta
    Typically I wear neutral color pants and an accent color twinset, tee, or turtleneck.

    I used to have much more charcoal, light grey, navy, and wine in my wardrobe decades ago, but gradually shifted away from those colors. In the last year or two, I’ve acquired some new pieces in those colors, and they feel fresh to me (wine and light grey was always a favorite color combination for me).

    • I just use Photoshop, but a good old-school analog trick is to just go to the paint store and get paint chips to make yourself a palette. You could assemble that and take a pic of it to have on your phone. Or I imagine the paint companies probably have palette generators of various sorts on their websites at this point. (I should look into that!)

      • I saw a Sherwin-Williams app someone had once that let you take a pic of anything you like and would then generate a main color and accent colors. I didn’t get a lot of chance to play with it but I’m sure you could save combinations you like. It was actually pretty cool and easy to use, it could even pick multiple dominant colors from a picture and give you other colors that would complement all the colors in the picture.

    • I love dark olive, and used to have several key pieces in the color, but for some reason it’s become more difficult to find.

      I’m actually thinking of buying a pair or two of men’s dark olive trousers so that I can re-fashion them for myself!

  10. I think that the biggest challenge I’ve had in my 61 years has been the need to constantly re-define my style as I pass through different phases of life. From young professional musician (bohemian casual by day, evening dress for performances), to lawyer (thoughts of those 80s shoulder pads make me cringe), to stay-at-home mum newly transplanted from Ottawa to Washington, DC (overwhelmed by American consumer abundance), to menopausal hot-flashing Canadian returning home, to handknitting instructor and designer living next door to a UNESCO World Heritage site, my body has changed (including my colouring), my work has changed, and my needs and tastes have morphed over time. I think it’s true that we often become more content and comfortable with ourselves as we age, and that definitely plays a role in how we dress. These days, my wardrobe spans a relatively small colour palette (NOT all neutrals), most of my garments are hand sewn or knitted, and I’m proud to say that I own no high heels or tights. Progress!

    • They–whoever “they” are–never tell you that, do they? We expect that our hair will go grey, but no one told me that my skintone would shift!

  11. Yes! I’m 69 and moving away (somewhat) from knitting blacks and greys to more jewel-toned yarns for my older skin and greying hair.

  12. Such a great question. I’ve learned to ask myself a question “is it something I will wear, or do I just want to want to wear it?”

  13. I love the idea of gathering paint chips to make my color palette, thanks. My board shows repetitive images of leggings, long tops, and all of the 100 Acts of Sewing patterns (except the skirt). Since retiring in June 2017 my look has totally changed from jeans, tees, and cotton sweaters (perfect for working in a Scuba shop schlepping tanks, etc.) to leggings, dresses or jumpers over t-shirts. When I told a (non-sewing/knitting) friend that I’d cut out more clothes to sew she said, “Do you need more clothes?” I said, “No, I don’t need them but it makes me feel good to make them and I feel like I look good wearing them. So yes, I need more clothes, better clothes.” My colors are all over the map right now: black, white, red, navy, orange (orange???), brown. That is an interesting list of questions. I’ll be working my way through them this week.

  14. Slow fashion is a necessity for me, not only because of ecological & economical reasons, but because our NYC apartment has tiny closets. I like living in a smaller space, because we only acquire/keep what’s necessary (mind you, several thousand books are apparently necessary). I’m 56 and feel like I’ve finally figured out my style . .

    Do you have a color palette?
    black, grey, blue, purple, green

    Whose style inspires you; do you have a muse or icon?
    Vintage style, mostly. The character Peggy Carter from Agent Carter. Although I’m beginning to love 1930s more than 1040s.

    Is there a brand you’re always drawn to, for their clothes and/or how they put them together? Why?
    A few small labels: D L Cerney in the East Village in NYC; via internet an Etsy seller called Let’s Backtrack who sews simple cotton dresses herself in her home upstate; Loco Lindo who does vintage-inspired dresses in LA — when the prints aren’t too OTT, which they often are; just bought my first Christy Dawn and don’t think it will be my last.

    What shapes and styles of garments work best for you, your life and your body?
    Vintage-y dresses; straight or A-line skirts; slim but not skinny jeans

    What are your clothing pet peeves? (lengths, necklines, sleeve types …)
    Turtlenecks make me feel like I’m choking. The fact that waistbands of dresses & fitted tops often land on my lower ribcage (I’m 5 ‘8″ which isn’t that tall but is maybe 3 inches taller than what clothes are cut for) — as a result of which, I’m working on learning to sew so I can fit things myself. A long way to go on that, though.

    What is your favorite garment or outfit (right now or always) and why?
    A simple, pretty dress – so much easier than trying to figure out the top to work just right with the skirt or pants.

    What showed up in your mood board that surprised you?
    That I’ve been more consistent over the years than I’d expected. I’ve been keeping a pinterest board for maybe 4-5 years now and I’m surprised at how much earlier pins are still in line with what I like now.

    What’s an example of something you own and love (had to have!) but never wear, and why not?
    I bought a wonderful tweed wool swing jacket that I wore constantly the first year, but last year when I pulled it out, it felt like I was wearing a costume. The nice thing about true vintage is that I’ll probably resell it, so that I don’t need to feel like I’ve wasted anything.

  15. I really like the theme for the SFO, and will endeavour to follow along each week on my blog. This first question is already a great exercise.

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  18. So new to this. I heard you on Love To Sew Podcast and now I KNOW I need to clean out my closet. I definitely need some tips on where to start!

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  20. I always have a difficult time trying to narrow down “my look”. But in pinning a new inspiration board I realize it’s all me. I love vintage touches like lace, gathers and pintucks, ace & jig, toast, simple pullovers, separates, dresses, fisherman ganseys, denim, etc. I don’t think I have a particular look although I know friends say “this looks like you” and tend to think I do have a look. So maybe I do but I myself can’t define it. I do know my look has changed since learning to sew and on the path to slow fashion. I just have such a hard time buying clothes within my budget so I would much rather make them..or go without.
    Colors tend to be all the blues and dusty rose or peach but I have been having such an itch for red. I want to wear red, knit red, sew red.
    Looking forward to all the Slow Fashion October goodness!

    • Oh, that’s an interesting point. I get that a lot, too — “this is so you” — and I’m often surprised by it. It would be interesting to ask our friends how they would describe our style.

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  22. I once read somewhere that you can narrow down your style quite a lot by answering two questions:
    Do you prefer structure or drape?
    Do you prefer matte or shine?
    I am 100% drape and matte.
    I’ve been starting to put real effort toward making my closet line up with my “Uniform” Pinterest board, which is full of draped silhouettes in linen, wool, black, navy, and the occasional pop of color, and florals. I love a good floral :)

  23. I would love some tips on how/where to start my search for images for my mood board. I’m not really sure at all what my style is or how to describe it so I don’t know how to narrow my search at all.

    • I would definitely recommend Pinterest in that case, as it’s a web of interconnectness. You could start by looking through my pins or anyone else’s. If you click on any single pin (or posted image, in other words) it shows Related Pins below the one you clicked on, which will be a lot of similar things. And those will each have Relateds on them. Once you start a board and starting pinning some stuff, Pinterest will learn what to show you. So then whenever you log in and are on your own home page, the stuff it surfaces for you will be based on what you’ve told it you like. Does that make sense? Also look up any brand you like — like I often go to J.Crew’s pinterest account to look for images of outfits where I like how they’ve put things together — and that can be another good source. Does that help?

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  26. I love this theme! Lately I’ve been focused on color and it has really transformed how I think about my wardrobe. There is a four year old still inside me who wants to wear a rainbow every day. I was dead set against having a color palette for the longest time but limiting my choices makes getting dressed so much easier that I feel like smacking myself in the head for being so obstinate. A color palette also solves a lot of my analysis paralysis when it comes to sewing and knitting, choosing yarn and fabric used to be soooo much harder. All black and white is definitely not for me– too limited. I love the sophistication of black and I will probably never give it up entirely but I’m a fair skinned redhead and pure white looks artificial on me. True olive green– which is not really green but a dark shade of yellow– is my spirit color. I also like ivory, navy, indigo, camel, and ecru for neutrals and I like forest green, gold, azure, amber, peach, and strawberry for accent colors. I think I might be allergic to brown but I like brown-adjacent colors like rust, maroon, gingerbread, brick. That’s where I’m starting, I’m sure I will pare that list down further over time. Any new thing I add has to work with at least three other things I already own. My husband went to art school and is my personal color consultant, any lackluster or clownish pairings get the thumbs down from him. But I also trust myself and my instincts about what is wearable for me. I want my everyday clothes to be believable, if that makes sense– I know immediately when I put on something inauthentic because I feel like I’m wearing a costume. I keep returning to simple, comfortable clothes and a mix of modern and classic styles. I’m drawn to gamine and tomboyish looks rather than straight up feminine ones, I think because I’m small and young looking and wearing more womanly styles feels like playing dress up. I look for interesting versions of the things I like– slim or straight leg pants, button down shirts, pullover sweaters, long dresses, sneakers, oxfords– and new ways to mix them up. I still have a magpie heart and I lust after pretty things that I won’t wear, but if I notice I’m talking myself into a garment I try to walk away.

    If I had tried to answer these questions a couple of years ago I would have had an extremely hard time and a lot of anguish over it. Since then I’ve been trying to just notice and observe more what works and doesn’t work for me. It’s a slow, organic process. I enthusiastically endorse the thoughtful use of mood boards to accelerate the process of developing personal style without shopping compulsively. I churned through a regrettable amount clothing over the years in pursuit of a functional, expressive wardrobe. Much more sane to use Pinterest as a kind of virtual closet. Thanks Karen as always for providing this forum and so many good ideas and questions!

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  29. Colors: purple, teal, blue. Bright red and olive accents. Black, white, and gray neutrals.
    Inspiration: Definitely other makers. I’m always excited by @criswoodsews and Noodlehead.
    Brands: I don’t follow any RTW brands.
    Shapes & Styles: Tight pants with boots and a boxy top; or loose pants with sandals and a drapey top. Mobility and understatement are paramount.
    Pet peeves: If it doesn’t fit right; especially if it’s too short or tight or revealing.
    Favorite Outfit: skinny black pants and an oversized boat neck B&W striped top with Blundstones, a scarf, and a minimalist olive-gray rain coat. The clothes perfectly suit my needs, with nothing extraneous. I feel put together and autumnal.
    What is the image you would like to project with your clothing? Self possession.
    5 Adjectives: Clean, graceful, bold, confident, and thoughtful
    Mood board surprises: The warm, rusty golds that are so popular right now. I shy away from warmer colors because of my complexion, but love how they look.
    Love but never wear: I have a few oddball thrifted designer pieces. A Marni top with fascinating construction, but stains and an overly-revealing side slit comes to mind. And a turquoise leather handbag with giant silver leather edgestitching. Both are just a little too ostentatious and over the top and too delicate for my day to day life.

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