some belated thoughts on silhouette variety

Along with Angie's post on outfit variety last month and Una's (and others') posts on her silhouette challenge (1 | 2, WIWs: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7), I've also had some thoughts on variety. The idea of silhouette variation has driven my outfits for several years now, but it's not something I've fully hashed out. So I'm glad to finally get some motivation to write it all out and have it in one place.

When I think about where I get my variety, quite a lot of things come to mind -- style, color, print, structure, fit, silhouette, proportion, dressiness, juxtaposition, layers... However, if I really bear down on what's most important to keep me from feeling bored/rutted, it's silhouette and proportion. I could keep other elements constant and change just silhouette/proportions and feel fairly content; but changing just colors/patterns in the same basic uniform? I'd be bored in a hurry. Of course once the weather officially turns for worse there's an extra handicap there to consider, and that's a whole challenge in and of itself!

I didn't actively participate in Una's challenge, because I vary silhouette quite a lot during a given week already. But as always, seeing everyone's WIWs and reading their thoughts was super insightful! What this all did make me realize is that, for me, "silhouette" is less about an encapsulating silhouette formula (like, say, tunic+skinnies+boots) and more about just the bottom half.

And that a dozen new tops doesn't come anywhere near as wardrobe refreshing as one new type of pant! I suspect that part of this is due to the fact I tend to be drawn to the same styles of tops, which I've tried hard to improve over the past two years (some interesting posts on the subject by Angie, exactly one year apart: 1 | 2). That's not to say that my tops are necessarily basic or plain, they just tend to be of smaller silhouette variety.

These days my bottoms include: skinnies (normal, roomy, slouchy), relaxed, slouchy tapered, BFs (full length, cropped), flares, wide legs, cropped, culottes, various lengths of baggy shorts... And I'd be happy to add a few additional styles (upscale track pants are top of the list). And and that's not even getting into skirts, which I don't love nearly as much as pants/shorts and yet still manage to have a good variety.

The shoes are a lesser part of the variety, but since I'm a shoe gal you know there's variety there anyway. The main shoe variety seems to come from shaft height (tall boots, mid-calf boots, booties, shoes, sandals) and heel height. Because of that there ends up being some overlap on what feels "different" day-to-day. E.g. A heeled bootie is about the same variety as a pair of pumps, flat booties are often the same as a pair of flats, all tall boots are the same, etc.

More importantly, when reflecting on what I have been wearing the past year, I was thinking that my bottoms-to-tops ratio must be fairly evenly matched. I had expected it to be something like 1:1.5, but when I actually looked at the numbers much to my surprise I found that in reality it's closer to 1:2.25. This solidifies another hunch I've had: I generally have good tabs on what's in my wardrobe and what I wear, but if I was that off in my ratio thinking then I need to get some serious culling going with my tops -- clearly there must be a fair number I'm just not wearing any more. This will be my goal through the end of the month: to really get in there and get serious about each top I have in my closet.

For fun, I'm including my last four week's work outfits. The first week had no weather handicap (rare and awesome!), week two had mild rain, week three had snow, and week four had heavy rain. I tend to default to skinnies+tall boots in the rain, but there are certainly other options. Thankfully I now have a good assortment of booties, along with some varying types of bottoms that work with them. I just need to remind myself so I don't get stuck all winter!

All in all, I have really enjoyed seeing and reading about everyone's experience with this, particularly as someone who makes doing this a key stylistic priority. And even though I have confirmed to myself that bottoms variety is my most important tool to keeping from feeling rutted, I have no plans to stop all those other varieties that I enjoy ;)

If you made it this far, thanks for reading! As always, comments, critiques, thoughts and questions welcome ^^

EDIT: Ok well I did a little number crunching and thought I'd share. Across the four weeks, I wore 62 different pieces across clothing, shoes, necessary accessories (hats, tights, giant scarves..). 13 different bottoms (5 repeated). 13 different footwear (5 repeated). 27 covers both tops (18) and toppers (9), almost as much as bottoms+footwear!

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31 Comments

  • Suz replied 4 years ago

    Aida, this is such a juicy post!! I want to come back here when I have had a chance to think a bit more. I have recently come to some similar conclusions about what gives me that sense of variety (silhouette) and where the variation has to occur for me to feel it most intensely (like you -- bottoms -- which is why I don't get bored as easily in summer.) Wonderful insights and I will be back to comment more later on. 

  • Alassë replied 4 years ago

    No wonder I feel like you dress with great variety! High five to another silhouette vary-er. (Side note: how wide is the leg opening on your flares? They look great.)

  • Joy replied 4 years ago

    Aida, thank you for this post. There is much to consider. I think my lack of boredom is part bottoms and footwear, but also part toppers of jackets and cardigans worn indoors and part changing up color and pattern combinations,but I need to consider this further. In today's outfit I wore Ponte pants that are in regular rotation this time of year, but pairing them with an oversized sweater added fun for me. Tucking into tall boots is also not something I've done very often.

  • Suz replied 4 years ago

    Okay, I finally got to look at the photos. WOW. That is incredibly variety, and you wear it all with such panache. What a treat to see so many of your outfits lined up like that. You have a closet that is both broad and deep. It really amps up the fun factor. 

    I have been doing some tracking of my own of late. I've learned that while I wear almost everything (special occasion wear excepted) there are a lot of tops that I don't wear very often. I've been thinking about whether they need culling. But at the moment, I am disinclined to let them go. I still like them; I just don't have occasion for them, somehow -- and, as you said of yourself -- I seem to feel the variety more from changing up the bottoms. This really surprised me, actually -- you'd think it would be more apparent near the face. But then, on the whole, and most days, I prefer not to wear a lot of pattern near my face. (Scarves or collard of tops excepted.) That's not universally true (and in fact, this week, I've worn pattern up top quite a lot and enjoyed it) but it is a fallback tendency. 

    ...a dozen new tops doesn't come anywhere near as wardrobe refreshing as one new type of pant! 

    I think this is largely true for me as well, although some oversized sweaters have helped to address that to a degree. Something else that has shaken this a bit for me this year is my renewed attachment to cardigans. I had banished them completely for several years, but this year found some styles I like for work at home -- partly to rescue some of my otherwise orphaned button front shirts. And lo - it has worked!! Like crazy. And as a side benefit they've given me a very different feeling about the top part of outfits. Probably because I hadn't been wearing them for so long. Hmm. 

  • catgirl replied 4 years ago

    This is so true, and it's one of the reasons my wardrobe feels limited in winter - less ability to vary bottoms both in clothing and footwear. You rule these looks and your analytical side really must help to get this down right.

  • Firecracker replied 4 years ago

    Interesting analysis! I haven't tried the silhouette challenge, but it got me thinking about silhouette anyway. I think I would have a lot easier time putting outfits together if I had some ideas about silhouettes that work for me. The thought of doing this kind of analysis makes me want to take a nap. But it's fun to read about your discoveries. Your wonderful outfits do show a lot of variety, and yet a coherent style. I'm impressed.

  • deb replied 4 years ago

    Firecracker, I am with you. I really like the idea but am not that inclined to actually make the effort. Love reading all of the others posts ad give them kudos for all of their work.

  • thimblelina replied 4 years ago

    I think you're the silhouette Jedi of YLF Aida!

  • CocoLion replied 4 years ago

    Yes, you've always showed great variety in your silhouettes and what I love about all of your outfits is that they scream, I have fun with fashion, no apologies!

    Center outfit in final picture is bringing me back to the 80s in the best possible way.  It's not so much the individual pieces, but the whole of it AND the attitude that says, I'm on the guest list at Area...

  • Sterling replied 4 years ago

    First off, fascinating post.  Great insights.   I will be following your threads very closely this month gain further insight into myself. 

    I am in awe of your very cohesive, yet creative, silhouettes. You have a strong grasp of your style and what works on your body.  That is called "style" in my humble opinion.   

    My project this month is to pin "style silhouettes" and to write out, actually write out, the style components of each silhouette.  Skirts, for example.  There are so many possible styles to choose from, but I only wear pencil skirts.  I may buy other styles to fulfill some imagined fantasy, but I won't actually wear them.  This is important information for me.  Quite by accident, I also discovered that I favor pencil skirts that are knee length.  Again, I might buy different lengths, but I wear the knee length skirts by far the most.  

    Once I understand my personal style silhouettes I am writing out why that style works for me emotionally.  WHY do I keep reaching for the knee-length skirts when I have other lengths in my closet?  

    I am NOT developing a uniform.  I am merely mapping out what I wear and what I don't wear and why.  I don't plan on making any more purchases until I complete this project.  

    Anyway this is a long way of saying I admire many of your style silhouettes and would pin them as examples in my project folder.  

  • Sterling replied 4 years ago

    I found your blog.  I bookmarked it.  

  • E replied 4 years ago

    How interesting! You and I are polar opposites; I'm happy w just a handful of silhouettes as long as I have different colours and textures to choose from. And I like having a lot more tops and toppers for that variety than bottoms, although at this point a new skirt would open up many more new outfit possibilities than yet another blouse. ;)

    Still, I enjoyed reading your analysis and seeing so many outfit posts together at once!

  • kkards replied 4 years ago

    i've been following the silhouette challenges with interest. so interesting how each of us thinks about, and reacts to the same challenges. for me, l'm not looking for a lot of variety in my silhouettes as long as i have different textures, and/or items to change up my daily outfits. 

  • texstyle replied 4 years ago

    It's funny Aida, I love your fashion and outfits so much but for me, I'm so much more like E in that I prefer to change out colors/textures and don't like to experiment too widely on my silhouettes. I mean I will wear skinnies, and straight legs and cropped pants but that's really still "skinny" as an overall "look." I have purchased wider leg pants but they seem to sit in the closet looking lonely. I never wear skirts or dresses. I purchased some track style pants (thinking at least I'd use them for hiking when it's too cold for shorts), but alas I haven't even put them on once yet. It has been really warm here, so that is part of it (the pants are thick).

  • torontogirl replied 4 years ago

    Hi, wow, you are a true fashionista in the very best sense of the word ... So creative and varied, yet there is a something "signature" about your look. Amazing! Although I tens to choose between either dark wash skinnies or the other dark wash skinnies for bottoms, I agree that a different look of pant can have a huge impact which you demonstrate to great effect!

  • Tania replied 4 years ago

    I appreciate your thoughtfulness.  It's been helpful to read everyone's insights as I get a better sense of style. 

  • Angie replied 4 years ago

    Aida, GREAT post. You are the forum member with the most outfit variety of them all. Truly. I hereby crown you Queen Outfit Variety, and all your outfits are killer. (Do you get bored of me saying that?). 

    Your new epiphanies are very meaningful. Unlike you and Suz, it seems that I'm content with variety in colour, pattern, fabric, texture and fit. Although perhaps the fit of something qualifies as a change in silhouette? It probably does. Hmmmmm. 

  • Aida replied 4 years ago

    Thanks for all the insightful replies and discussion! How interesting that some of us prefer variation on top and some on bottom; I wonder if that's related to one area being easier to fit than the other? I also just realized that I didn't wear any of my skirts/dresses this past month, which of course adds even more variety.

    Alasse, I think the opening on my flares is 19" or 20". EDIT: Just measured, it's even wider: 22".

    Joy, you raise a good point -- Sometimes adding one very new shaped top can be just as good for refreshing existing bottoms. And shoes nearly always feel like refreshers, particularly more trendy styles. I use both methods as well, but definitely find that overall pants make a bigger impact for me, which is a bit odd since the bulk of my bottoms are some variation on skinnies!

    Suz, high five fellow bottoms variety gal! (Not sure how we can phrase that better, heh.) It sounds like your disinclination to purge those tops is right; if you still like them, even if they don't get worn a lot, I think that's OK. The ones I in my closet I'm not really liking so I think they need to go. If that means a little less tops variety while I search for replacements, so be it. At least I know that shouldn't bother me too much! And interesting thoughts about cardigans, I've been feeling similarly. Except that I haven't bought any new ones, I just keep looking at them. I think I'll bite soon. Hopefully I can find one during the end-of-season sales. I don't know that it'll change how I feel about my bottoms, though!

    Una, right! Determining the kinds of bottoms/footwear combos work for our winter climates can be tough, but if you can find a few beyond skinnies+boots it really helps. The boots aren't often negotiable, so I try to get the variety through different styles/shaft height/heel height. Now that I have more booties (instead of just tall boots) I can wear more types of bottoms. Although I still seem to wear my skinnies most, hmm.

    Sharan and Deb, hah well this has been a long thought in the making. That's part of the beauty of the forum though, when we all share our thoughts we all benefit. You can always use the silhouette changeup here and there as you feel!

    Thimbelina, Denise and Tania, thank you! ^^

  • Aida replied 4 years ago

    Sterling, your project sounds like it could yield some very useful insights for you. At the minimum it should help you identify what your core essentials are, which should help make it easier in determining whether or not to add new items, or even help with wildcards. I hope it goes well!

    Eva and Kkards, texture is becoming more important to me with each passing season. I don't know that I'd be happy forgoing it entirely but I think I'd last a lot longer without feeling off if I stuck with the bottoms variety ;) Truthfully, I wouldn't want to remove any of the ways that I get my variety. The bottom variety and proportional play are just the major things for me.

    Texstyle, you know I think overall I tend to favor a more limited silhouette range as well (in particular, button-up shirts, fluid sweaters, and skinnies). In the month's outfits above, I've got skinnies on in half! It's the variety across the other half that does it for me. I hope you'll give those track pants a go when the weather allows for it. Even if it's something you only change up now and then, it can be big fun.

    Torontogirl, your choice of bottoms sounds like my sis. Would you believe I don't own a pair of dark wash skinnies? Most people do, but for me they just don't feel right so I don't wear them. I'm a firm believer in the idea that whatever works for you is what you should do!

    Angie, I humbly accept my crown, thanks very much ^^ Believe me, I have zero desire to give up things like color, pattern and texture. In fact, even among my bottoms I need variety across those things to really really feel my best! Surprisingly, currently I don't have enough texture variations in my fall/winter bottoms which is something I would like to work on for next season. I would think that fit could qualify as a change in silhouette, just perhaps a more subtle change. I mean, a fluid v-neck sweater has a very different feel than an oversized v-neck sweater; but of course, it's a smaller difference than say bodycon skinnies versus baggy BF jeans. As with everything, it seems, this is yet another thing that falls on a spectrum. I don't really think of your style as being limited in silhouette though Angie, you've got a great range. And probably a pretty good range in your bottoms, since (like me) you posted about being drawn to the same styles of tops. I know we've both been working on diversifying there. Have you found that you've simplified your options on bottom now that you have more variation in tops?

  • Sara L. replied 4 years ago

    Interesting read!  I agree that new bottoms can really invigorate existing wardrobe pieces such as tops.  I think shoes can have a similar effect but you have to be careful about how shoes and bottoms relate to each other (I.e. boot cuts needs different boots than skinnies).  I love looking through your pictures and the variety of outfits you put together.  I really want a pair of winter shorts and lighter colored boots now (but no shopping for me until after Xmas, so I'll just have to be patient).

  • E replied 4 years ago

    Aida that makes sense! And I do wear different silhouettes; I would be unhappy if I had to choose either full skirts OR skinnies OR dresses OR full wool trousers in the winter forever. And I also vary whether I'm wearing a standalone jumper/buttoned up cardigan/long sleeve tee/long sleeve blouse or sleeveless/short sleeve blouse & cardigan/jacket on top or long sleeve top underneath. I'm even starting to play w tucked vs untucked more than before (I used to always tuck into skirts, never into trousers). So I do vary my silhouette in some ways for sure!

  • Caro in Oz replied 4 years ago

    Fascinating read - thanks for sharing your thoughts. You made me think about where I fall on this scale & I don't think I need a lot of variety. I'm a very happy camper when I get my variety from texture & a change of jacket & shoes :) 

  • Gigi replied 4 years ago

    Aida, what a wonderful post! This is very helpful to me. And I absolutely LOVE your outfit with the shorts, gray tights, and white moto.

    I have found that when winter sets in, I get bored because I shy away from skirts because of the cold. So that removes a lot of silhouettes, especially because I wear a wide variety of skirts. But this year I am going to try to be more creative. Some forum members have suggested layering tights over leggings to get the necessary warmth to wear a skirt, and I hope that works! (Haven't tried it yet.)

    I do tend to be a bottoms gal too. I have much more variety in my bottoms, I think. In answer to your musing about whether a preference for changing up tops vs. bottoms has to do with what is easier to fit, I am much easier to fit in bottoms than in tops. So maybe there is a correlation?

    Your post also made me realize that when buying tops, I need to look for new fits. I easily get in the same boat as you, with buying the same type of top over and over. Getting a really new style of top will freshen up everything, won't it? :)

  • shevia replied 4 years ago

    I am joining you and Suz on team bottom changers (?!). In my case it is definitely related to the part of my body that is easier to fit. There are more sorts of tops I don't want to try than bottoms. Funny, I always thought tops gave more bang for the buck since that is what people see more. Jackets can do a lot, but even with these I feel I am more limited than with bottoms.

    Anyway, back to you! Like Denise, I was really struck by the middle on in week 4. I like the long sweaters - interesting because I wouldn't think that would appeal to me. But I also like the cropped over blouses, the white one is week 3 is my favorite of those. I also like the fake (I assume) fur thing in week 3.  The floral top made me smile, because you told me about it when we met. Truthfully I like them all, your royal highness of beautiful variety!

  • Angie replied 4 years ago

    Aida, I haven't. I still like lots of variety in the jeans and trouser dept. And I keep my range of top styles fairly narrow - although their fits vary, as does the colour, texture and pattern. Although others might find my style boring - I don't. So clearly I have sufficient variety - which is all important when I wear jeans and trousers almost exclusively for 8 months of the year. 

  • rae replied 4 years ago

    I know this post is about the pants, but I am falling over myself for that oversized scarf and your bootie collection! Ugh, you can wear every color so well. I really really love the winter shorts, too. Fabu!

  • AnnieMouse replied 4 years ago

    I love how well you've articulated things I have thought about myself over time - I love the IDEA of a limited closet, but UGH, I cannot deal with the reality of one. 

  • Aida replied 4 years ago

    Sorry for getting back to this a bit late, I do appreciate all the comments and wonderful conversation! Thanks also for all the winter shorts love ^^ Very interesting to read your thoughts on how this might be related to "easy to fit" areas; most of us who like bottoms variety do find bottoms easier to fit.

    Sara, you would totally rock a pair of winter shorts! And I know that you've already got some cute footwear that would work with them, so I don't think you need to worry there (unless of course you need an excuse for more shoes; slouchy mid-calf boots are particularly fun with winter shorts. Just sayin.)

    Eva, right! You definitely do vary your silhouettes, but in more subtle ways. So you're on the less extreme end of the spectrum. Interesting that you're playing more with tucking, I wonder if that's due to climate change? I would guess that in a very hot climate tucking just doesn't feel comfortable ;)

    Caro, that's wonderful that you know that about yourself! I think most people are probably very happy getting variety through footwear and toppers. I used to think I was like that too, it did take me quite a long while to realize otherwise. In fact, even though I have a fabulous collection of toppers, I have to really force myself to wear them. I always enjoy it when I do, they're just so rarely my first thought.

    Gigi, have you looked into getting fleece lined tights? I don't need them in my climate, but I know some of our proper cold weather forum members love them for cold weather. I think they are very opaque, so you'd have to be OK with that, but I bet that would open a lot of options back up for you. Of course you might need more wintery weighted skirts/dresses. I would think that layering tights over leggings would show the legging seams through, have you tried it yet?

    Jaime, "There are more sorts of tops I don't want to try than bottoms" pretty much sums up how I feel as well. As you said, you'd think that tops would be more impactful since they're seen much more! And maybe they are to others, but they don't seem to be to how I feel. Not sure if that's a true disconnect or not. (We really do need a better name than "bottom changers", don't we??)

    Angie, interesting and thanks for the answer. I haven't found it to be the case with myself, either. I wonder if the fact that we both wear primarily pants for most of the year plays into this as well.

    Rae, hah thanks ^^ I'm digging the BIG scarf this year after two winters of being off my scarves. I am a little concerned that at some point I won't be able to get any bigger for more drama but we'll address that canyon when it arrives ;) Thank you also for the color compliment! I do look really hard to find shades in each color that I can wear. I really feel like there are shades of every color out there for everyone; it's certainly tough sometimes to pinpoint and then track them down, unfortunately.

    Annie, while I do keep my closet itself somewhat limited my wardrobe is by no means minimal. I think I'm in the 250-300 items range, BUT I am of course limited by the physical space my closet allows. So I have a set number of hangers, and once full it becomes one-in-one-out; I don't limit myself per category or anything, so for example I could bring in a new top but remove a dress. And I have a set amount of space on the floor/rack for my shoes. Once the space is full, that's it. Of course I am lucky in that my closet is rather large so it can accommodate my moderate wardrobe size needs. But I do find that sticking with the limitations due to space is VERY helpful in keeping everything organized.

  • replied 4 years ago

    Aida, I read all of your posts, even though I don't always comment.  It's because you are way out of my league in the variety and experimenting departments.  It takes great confidence to play around with different looks - something I don't have and am petrified of doing.  I love looking at what you do, and how you wear things , and even though I may not copy a look for myself, I like to think I take away a little something every time.  I don't seek out variety in my wardrobe.  I have a very few, ok, one, silhouette I like and I base everything on that . (volume on top, lean on the bottom).  I suppose I'm odd in that I don't get bored or tired of working a look - I do it until something better or more interesting comes along. Accessories and jewellery are my silhouette variants!  

  • Aida replied 4 years ago

    Lisa, thank you for the very sweet compliment. Probably a mix of confidence and just the right amount of crazy ;) I'm happy to hear that you are able to take something away from my posts! There is certainly nothing wrong with having a uniform silhouette; in your case, you do seem to play a bit with the type of volume you've got on top so you might have more variety there than you think. And that look totally works for you so it's great that you rock it! I'm always impressed with uniform dressing, even though I know it doesn't work for me. So I get my little fix of uniform dressing for weekend wear, where I pare down my options dramatically; it's usually enough to keep me both happy on the weekend as well as get me ready to switch things up come the start of the work week.

  • Beth Ann replied 4 years ago

    Wonderful throughts, Aida, and the "illustrations" are worth a thousand words!
    I agree that changing bottoms is a bigger impact in the wardrobe, for sure!  I think I'm very consistent with "my" colors: (sapphire/cobalt, black, purple, red, teal/turquois, raspberry).  I'm discovering that texture and fabrication are key for my satisfaction.  I like the visual depth that different textures add to a look, but also like how it feels to wear them.

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