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  • Writer's picturesallyinstpaul

How to Jazz Up a Simple Sweater and Jeans Outfit + DIY Jewelry

I took time off work between Christmas and New Years, so I was wearing some simple casual outfits with jeans and sweaters. Today I am sharing two outfits from my fall/winter capsule wardrobe that are a variant on the print scarf + animal print shoes formula I talked about in late November. The outfit formula used for these outfits is: classic pullover sweater + skinny/straight leg jeans + print scarf + fun flats.

Fall/Winter Wardrobe Capsule Color Palette
Fall/Winter Wardrobe Capsule Color Palette

I am guessing that I'm not the only one who has a number of these simple cable knit sweaters in various colors. They have a classic, almost timeless design that is versatile, non-memorable, and unobtrusive but can be a bit on the dull side because they don't have much in the way of built-in visually interesting elements. Such a simple sweater can be a real champ when worn with a statement piece, but how about pairing it with another basic like blue or black skinny or straight leg jeans? There is absolutely nothing wrong with this combination in my view, but it's not the most exciting outfit. However, once you add some fun accessories, this combo can easily go from "eh" to "ooh," creating a delightful outfit that reflects your personal style. Let's take a look at how I added personality and energy to a couple of sweater + skinny jeans combinations from my capsule wardrobe.

Sweaters + skinny jeans

Add Energy with High Value Contrast and a Finishing Touch with a Third Piece

In this first look, I leaned into some high value contrast black and white accessories to pop against the darker background of blue sweater + black jeans. Higher value contrast can add energy, excitement, and drama to an outfit, which I thought this one needed. The Alice in Wonderland themed scarf is clearly the statement piece in the look, showcasing a couple of my favorite John Tenniel drawings. The lightweight black striped denim vest was chosen more for style than for warmth as a low-key print third piece that adds structure and a hint of edginess to the soft sweater and jeans combo. Even though the vest's style is casual, it makes the outfit look finished and complete. (Sometimes people conflate "finished/complete" with "dressy" but they really have nothing to do with each other.) Together, the high value contrast and structured, vertically striped vest bring some welcome yang elements to the look.

Plus size outfit idea for women over 40
Capsule OOTD #24: 12/26/23

My all-DIY daily bracelet stack combines my cerulean blue/gold paper bead bracelet set {page to bead example here} with my black/white set. I really like how the paper tube bead bracelet has black drawing on a white background to match the scarf.

DIY bead bracelet stack

I also wore a new pair of bead soup earrings to match the cerulean blue/gold bracelet set. It's another easy-peasy 3 beads on a stick design using milky white and clear blue crystals from my bead soup with gold bead caps and a swirly gold spacer bead of the type I used as the center bead on the blue paper bracelet. That's one design trick I've been using in creating these earrings: when I have a metal focal bead in the bracelets, repeating it in the coordinating earrings.

DIY bead soup earrings
Design bead soup earrings for a paper bead bracelet set

Create Interest and Cohesion by Print Mixing Coordinated Accessories (An Accessory Set/Beauty Bundle)

My second outfit skips the top layer third piece but avoids looking boring or under-done because it's fully accessorized in a very coordinated way.

Plus size outfit idea for women over 40
Capsule OOTD #25: 12/31/23

You will probably not be surprised that I started accessorizing by selecting a scarf that works with the sweater. I have a LOT of options for red, but chose this lovely pashmina in a combination of rich shades of maroon, dark aqua, dark blue, and orange. These jewel tones are gorgeous for winter without having strong Christmas-y vibes (which I wasn't in the mood for on New Years Eve). I enjoyed accessorizing this accessory by adding a pretty gold-tone giraffe pin to my scarf. I avoid using pins/brooches because I don't like poking holes in my clothes, but this method avoids that. (I used the shank button technique here, and just threaded the elastic through the vertical pin bar on the giraffe and secured it with the button on the back side of the scarf.)

Plus size outfit idea for women over 40

These tweed loafers (which I have worn several times with capsule outfits already) looked fun and festive, sharing the same basic jewel tone color scheme as the scarf.

Plus size outfit idea for women over 40

I have a new paper bead bracelet set that I built my daily bracelet stack around. This one has a bit more random origins than my typical sets because I was curious what a particular page would look like when made into beads, then I selected a second page to go with it to make the set. But I didn't have any particular color scheme or inspiration garment/accessory in mind at the beginning. Even when the bracelets were made, I still wasn't sure what I was going to wear them with. Luckily they work well as neutral-heavy bracelets to balance the color in a stack like this.

Plus size outfit idea for women over 40

Here is the paper I was curious about, a full-page drawing in The Economist. With all the different shapes in the image, I thought it might make good beads. I really like the striped/speckled result!

DIY paper bead page to bead example

This is the paper I selected to go with it, also from The Economist. The color scheme seemed similar enough that I thought it would coordinate well even though it's not matching. This is a good example of how larger circles of color turn into stripes when the beads are rolled.

DIY paper bead page to bead example
DIY paper bead page to bead example

I had a lot of fun creating bead soup earrings to go with this bracelet set. When my inspiration piece has a lot of different colors in it, I like to create these very simple earrings in which I pick one bead (well, two for the pair) to represent each color and stack them up on a headpin. Because of the way working with bead soup limits my options, it pushes me to be more creative in putting together different shapes, sizes, materials, and finishes of beads than I might do otherwise. I often try a few different stacking orders for the beads to see which order I like best. I also often add matching small spacer beads at the top and bottom of the stack as a unifying element.

DIY Bead Soup Earrings
Design bead soup earrings for a paper bead bracelet set

I love how the various print/multi-color items I selected for this outfit go together, so I created a beauty bundle/accessory set from them! While it's perfectly reasonable to create bundles up front, in the build-as-we-go spirit of my accessory capsule for my capsule wardrobe, creating a bundle from a successful outfit also works. I really don't think I would have put these together given a blank slate, but it came together well organically.

Print mixed beauty bundle/accessory set

I think one thing we often forget to do is take note of successful combinations. Whether it's a Pleasing Pairing, a beauty bundle, an entire outfit...when you stumble upon something that works, record it somehow so you can do it again later. When we rely on our memories...well, I don't know about you, but I already have too many things I'm trying to remember, so I like to do my future self a favor by recording in some form of "external memory." How you record it is up to you - there are a lot of options: photo on your phone, note in a notebook in your closet, document/spreadsheet on your computer, using a special phone app, and no doubt others.

Let's check in with the capsule. With these two outfits, I added the red and blue sweaters from my capsule. This brings me up to 16 of the 32 cold weather items in capsule outfits, which is over half. (Others I have worn in capsule outfits but not yet shared.)

Capsule Wardrobe

Here is our updated accessory capsule after 25 outfits (not including the extra color modules). We are up to 17 bracelet sets, 21 earring pairs, 14 necklaces, 11 scarves, and 12 pairs of shoes/boots.

Accessory capsule to date
Accessory capsule to date

Do you like the sweater + jeans outfit formula? How do you personalize it for your own style? Do you prefer to use classic base pieces in the formula, more trendy ones, or a mix? Would you wear a print mix beauty bundle? Do you have any external memory devices you use with your wardrobe - either for tracking what you have or noting combinations?

Blogs I link up with are listed here.

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