Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Creating Columns Through Value Rather Than Color

Short post today. I like to watch the Fashion, Style & Wardrobe board over at the Stitcher's Guild forum. As the name suggests, this forum attracts all types of needle-wielders. The Fashion, Style & Wardrobe board has some great threads on wardrobe & capsule planning so you know it's like heaven to me. The Fabulous Doctor Elizabeth has run the various seasonal 6PAC sewalongs for years now. The idea is that if you sew along to the suggested 6PAC formula, six easy and coordinating pieces every three months, at the end of the year you will have a fabulous wardrobe of solid basics to complement and support all of your fun 'frosting' and 'dessert' pieces.

The Autumn 6PAC 'recipe' reads:

"Here is the autumn recipe:  pick a dark neutral, a light neutral, and a colour.  These should all work together in a way that pleases you (be it with minimal or strong contrast) The way we define neutral, after much discussion, is "a colour you would wear a pair of trousers in".  Thus, if you would wear bright pink trousers, bright pink is a neutral for 6PAC purposes!  However most people find more success with traditional neutrals such as black, brown, navy, stone, taupe, olive, plum, cream, or white.Sew up as follows:1 - a jacket or cardigan in the dark neutral.  In my opinion, you should sew this first as it sets the tone of the whole collection.2 - a bottom (trousers or skirt) in the dark neutral3 - a top in the light neutral4 - a bottom in the light neutral5 - another jacket or cardigan in the colour6 - a top in a "linking print" or the colour"

In this 6PAC's discussion, many semptresses brought up the whole 'matchy-matchy' idea lurking in this formula. The implication is that you'll make a third layer and bottom in the same excat color (possibly the same exact fabric), then a top and bottom in .... the same exact color, possibly even the same exact fabric....and a lot of posters opined that this would be (excruciatingly) boring to sew as well as too 'matchy-matchy' to really feel modern.

How to get the outfit cohesion and visually lengthening effects of wearing 'all the same same' without, well, wearing all the same same? And having to look at the samesamesamesamesame...... while sewing? By choosing fabrics all in the same value, while varying texture and hue. "Hue" is the actual color (red, charcoal, acid green, etc.) while "value" is where the fabric falls on the light/dark range. To illustrate this principal, which i've relied on for decades, i put together a few outfits illustrating this idea.

You can see that i've pulled all the color/de-saturated the hue in each look as well, which helps to make this aspect easier to see. You can do this yourself in any photo editing program (insert the name of your own photo editing software instead of GIMP, which i use). edited to add: Carol in Denver left some great techniques for 'seeing values' from the quilter's perspective in the comments: "Quilters look through clear red transparent film to see differing values, or take a black and white photocopy of a group of fabrics to discern differing values." Thank you Carol, both techniques would work great with outfit photos as well, and you could use the red film with your mirror. end edit.  You can also just stand back and look at your fabric or outfit through squinty eyes, through your eyelashes. Or, take a look at things in deep twilight, or at dawn's first light, when there's just enough light to make things out but you can't see any color. Like with any other skill, practice makes improvement.

Outfit details from top left, top to bottom in each look: Navy lightweight linen, charcoal cotton ribknit, heavyweight black linen; navy lightweight linen, charcoal cotton ribknit, dark wash denim; black/white stripe light weight cotton, black/grey print with taupe/grey embroidery in lightweight cotton jersey, mid wash coton denim; light sage silk broadcloth, stone cotton bengaline. 

I hope this illustration gives you some ideas on how to create 'columns' that are more exciting to sew, and fun to wear, than 'all the same, all the same'.


  1. I like your thinking on this subject! I like to wear three or four MUTED colors at a time, in unequal amounts, that is, a main color, secondary and third colors and an accent. It is the accent color that makes an outfit sing! Cooler weather works best for this plan; summer's heat reduces the number of garments that can be worn at one time.

    Quilters look through clear red transparent film to see differing values, or take a black and white photocopy of a group of fabrics to discern differing values.

  2. It is always a happy day for me when there is a new post on your blog! I think that you have done an excellent job of explaining color "value" and I'd not have thought of using de-saturate to show how that works (since I tend to work with color in a somewhat instinctive fashion) I wish that I lived near or visited the Bay Area more often, as I think we would have a lot to talk about - I love your approach to wardrobe planning and personal style!

  3. This is really interesting and shows how you approach style as both an art and a science. And I love that site, Artisan's Square, even though I don't own a sewing machine!

  4. Your post are so interesting, i learn new things every time you post! Thank you, i will be mulling this info over today ;)

  5. It works and it's way more fun to sew or wear. YEAH. Thanks.

  6. Hello Carol! that's a great approach you've described, very unique and flattering on the right coloring as well. Score! :) and i'll have to edit your quilter's tips into the post, thank you so much.

    aw, Alison, you made my day :) i feel the same way, just about you - if i get up near you i will definitely get in touch, and let me know when you next get down here!!!

    Hi Patti! well, i don't know if it's all the way to 'science', but art and design definitely have theoretical ideas useful to the fashion maven ;) "...even though I don't own a sewing machine!" Yet. heehee!

    Hi Nikie, always special to have royalty visit :) thank you, it takes me so long to learn anything, and i get so much out of other's experiences that they post, that i like to try.

    Hi Myrna! it IS more fun, complete agreement! Thanks to you!

    Happy Day Everybody! steph

  7. Love this idea!

    Am on the capsule wardrobe path yet again, and will try this tecnique.

  8. Looking in the mirror through red film - wow, what a great trick.
    I've been explaining my latest wardrobe experiment much like you did. I've been going for the same or similar color or colors that are the same light or darkness. Not anything to do with slimming or lengthening. I just am interested in exploring calmer outfits. I tend to have 2 style personas: one who likes a lot of contrast and the other likes a lot of pattern and texture mixing so that it looks like an integrated (subdued) whole. I'm kind of anti mix and match, capsule wardrobing (for me) because selecting "best" options and sticking to the lower contrast removes so many possibilities. Helps me clear my thinking.

  9. Hey, I hope you are ok, Miss Stephanie!