Sotto voce style

I'm becoming ever quieter in my clothing.

Perhaps it reflects a time of life. "Fun" clothes might get a try-on but don't make it to the cash register.
I leave riotous colours and pattern-mixing to those who wear them joyfully.

Subtle colours–whether light or dark– endure; intensity tires.
But not all neutrals are pretty. Grey, everywhere this spring, can illuminate or drain.

Below, clothes I would (and in one case, did) buy. Above, pants and shell from Yeohlee's Spring '10 collection.

na Karan leather envelope jacket in whisper grey, $2,895 from Bergdorf Goodman. Palest grey washes out the face less than white.

J. Crew sepia Unagi tweed pencil skirt, $115. This rich shade is superb with black, navy, ecru, palest grey, and very hard to find.

Call it sepia, vicuna, cuivre, I adore this colour.

Happy Birthday, Dame Westwood

Vivienne Westwood, who turned 69 this month, designs some of the smartest clothes around for the money, mostly in navy and black.

For example: Viv
ienne Westwood navy wool-blend wide legged pants. It's the double inverted pleat down the front of the wide leg that suffuses me with pleasure. $445 from Net-a-porter.

I chose J. Crew's linen "sweatshirt" in mushroom, $70. The brown, which has a hint of red undertone, to wear with a black jersey skirt and multiple strands of pink, copper and green-gold pearls.

Lafayette 148 Mandarin Collar Jacket (price, $498 from their web site) in iridescent olive, a non-obvious neutral, a colour with depth and life.

Also available in plus sizes, and a matching ski
rt to make a suit.

Blue and white, skies and clouds. Vivienne Westwood again: an asymmetric blue-striped cotton dress, $445 from Net-a-porter.

The exceptions: Asian and Indian

I can embrace colour and pattern, but like it best in ethnic expressions. W
arm-weather holiday clothing is where colour comes naturally, patterns drop in for cocktails.

For a summer dinner party, I'd wear Diane von Furstenberg's Indian-influenced tunic, price, $200 from Net-a-porter.

Where did my unaccountable passion for Asian prints, like this Citron Santa Monica kimono jacket come from? Go figure.

A well-balanced border print: the way for the pattern-
shy to add interest.

The shawl, to replace a jacket for the coming months. So easy to tuck into a bag for travel. Shown, ivory and turquoise handloomed cotton ikat shawl, $25 from eBay seller fromsilkroad.

Last week's New York Times Style section reported that North American women are shopping again, celebrating the first signs of economic relief with big prints and colour. Whether nurtured by hot pink or navy, I'm all for a collective lift of mood!

I bought one of those Thai silk scarfs, in a soft blue-violet. Whooo, wild!


Susan B said…
Once again, you've shown some really inspiring choices, Duchesse!

Neutral doesn't have to mean boring, as these attest!

I'm crazy over that sepia color too, and am really digging that Lafayette 148 jacket.
mette said…
I´m quite with you until the Asian and Indian tunic section. They are just too exotic for me. The leather jacket looks great, simple yet ageless. The color, which is lovely, makes it a challenging piece to keep clean. But then again, we are grown-up women ;)
I have been seeing a lot of grey this spring, even on very young people (women and men). I love grey, but indeed it is hard to define what makes the grey, pale, medium or deep, that makes our various skintones luminous from that which deadens and drabs. Grey is lovely with reds and multicoloured scarves as well.

My favourite there is the so-called sweatshirt; moreover it is most reasonably priced. I fear it might be for longer-bodied people than myself though. That is a colour I associate with very expensive garments, or those I see when in Italy. I imagine that a linen knit would be a lovely thing to wear in the summertime, and a great choice in situations and countries where we might want to be more covered?
materfamilias said…
Some rich depth to these so-called neutrals -- lovely!
Obviously, not the direction I've been going lately, but I still rely heavily on neutrals and love to see such great examples of inspired garments that take those neutrals out of the box.

But amused to see that the word verification here is "abbesse"
Belle de Ville said…
My wardrobe has always tended to the preppy/classic/understated. Now, as my style has evolved,other than with my work wardrobe, my goal is to dress more "Auntie Mame" and less "Sotto Voce".
Bring on those exotic Asian fabrics and big jewelry!
Duchesse said…
Pseu: Thought of you when I saw that jacket!

mestcan: No, the Asian prints are not "you". I've had good results using Scotchguard or other brand of protector spray on pale suedes, then brushing after wear.

lagatta: J. Crew linen knits are really nice to wear, (if you call customer service you could get length measurements) but they do have to be drycleaned or handwashed carefully. I lost one by putting it in the machine on delicate but not in a lingerie bag.

Belle: As I age, might let Auntie out more for day trips. Right now she gets a scarf before 5 pm., if she's good.

materfamilias: This is coutnerbalance to that colour, fun to watch but not me.
Duchesse said…
lagata: Often with neutrals one has to spend a fair bit to get above the dull, drab ones. The marvelous greys are often Italian fabrics. Black can survive in lower priced clothes but navies are hopeless when not rich enough.
s. said…
What fun! The ethnic prints are a bit much for me at this point, but I admire them on other women.
Frugal Scholar said…
Love the JCrew shirt and the scarf--quite a frugal purchase.
Beatnheart said…
neutrals with bold necklaces and earrings and braclets...add a scarf..perfect boots
Tiffany said…
Oooh, I love that J Crew skirt and the sweatshirt too! I'm very pattern-shy myself, but I can appreciate those designs and how good they'd look on others.
Mardel said…
Although I tend to be attracted to color, the neutrals are so necessary to pull everything together and as usual you have uncovered an exceptional collection. That soft gray jacket is fabulous, and the J Crew pieces are surprising, colors I would usually associate with a higher price point
If you go over to Une femme d'un certain âge, you'll see how Déjà Pseu has used neutrals to underpin a VERY colourful cardigan - and orange Fluevog shoes!

The mushroom JCrew sweatshirt is an unusual (and very attractive) colour that could also suit a more colourful skirt than the black jersey one, especially in the summertime. But from what I can tell from the Internet image, the grey version is also a rich and luminous grey.
sallymandy said…
The mushroom sweatshirt is indeed a lovely color.

I like the black and white ethnic tunic. Just enough spunk and pattern, but the color scheme keeps it very manageable.
Duchesse said…
lagatta: That's the point, I don't *want* to combine with more colour, far preferring the quieter effect.
Oh, I certainly understand your point - I'm like that too and every time I spend time in France or Italy I get more sotto voce, understanding the drama of LESS colour. Just pointing out that these beautiful neutrals or subtle colours can also bring out brights.

The only "colour" I'm wearing right now is deep-red (sort of cherry-red?) sandals. Other than that, a black skirt, Paris-roof-grey top, black jacket, and silver earrings.
Rubiatonta said…
I'm headed in the "more color, please" direction right now. After months and months of miserable weather, I like to lighten up my wardrobe of black, grey, and taupe just a bit. (Though even in the dead of winter the neutrals are accessorized with lovely art to wear scarves/jewelry).

That said, I'm getting very persnickety about what I want wear -- an artist friend is doing a painted silk top for me, to my measurements, so I've decided to forego the usual assortment of "disposable" summer tops in favor of the investment I'm making. I think it's worth it to have something to wear that I feel wonderful in. (And it's still going over black linen pants or white jeans!)
LaurieAnn said…
I love the sepia skirt. You are so correct about that color being hard to find; I'm always looking for pieces in tones near to that shade. Have you visited Garance Dore's blog recently? She has some lovely pictures of women on the street wearing the new Celine-esque style of camel with denim or camel with black. The women in her shots look very chic, some are more "strict" than others but I like the looks.
Duchesse said…
LaurieAnn: Garance's beige-and-jean looks are very much my taste even though can't wear those paler, yellow-based camels. The quality of the clothes is inspiring too- Thanks!

lagatta: Your present outfit sounds like heaven to me, la petite lagatta in grey, black and cherry!

Rubiatonta: How I would love to see that top (and I would not be the only one)! Sounds like a marvelous choice.
I love so much of Vivienne Westwood's designs. The number of times when I'm polyvoring and I pick a Westwood piece is uncanny!

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