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How to Wear Black and White Print Scarves with Soft Coloring for SIA: Abigail Rose

Terri at Meadow Tree Style is the curator for this round of Style Imitating Art (SIA), and she picked the 1786 portrait of 14 year old Abigail Rose by an anonymous American painter. She chose this work because she has an abiding interest in early American art, from the era when American had no art schools and almost all artists were self-taught. (Terri is a retired art teacher.) She identified many elements of the painting that could inspire an outfit: "earthy greens, dusty reds, small snippets of black, scarves, lace, flowers, music, lockets, and pendants." So many possibilities with this painting!


When I saw the colors of this painting, I immediately thought of my recent post about selecting a scarf for a fall sweater + pants outfit featuring olive and rust combinations. I specifically remembered this flat lay with an olive sweater, rust pants, a black and white scarf, and black ankle boots and thought, I am on a roll with these SIA prompts! Last time, I was able to use my pre-planned Halloween work outfit with the painting that Salazar selected, and now I will get to turn one of my fall outfit flat lays into an outfit of the day for this one. I'm lucky that the SIA bloggers have been picking fall-color-friendly art works lately!

This is one of those examples where the flat lay may not look like much because the pieces are so simple, but I was pleasantly surprised by how good it looked on. The combination of colors and textures is visually interesting, and the items are given some shape and dimensionality being worn. It doesn't hurt that the aloe vera green sweater (the one under the vest in the flat lay; it was too cold for the open weave one) matches the green of my eyes and the rust coordinates with my lip color.

Plus size fall outfit idea for women over 40
OOTD 11/14/22

Terri walked us through some details of the painting that were very interesting to read about. Here is a close-up of the simple black ribbon around Abigail's neck, the red rose she is holding in her hand, and the gold locket with a soldier in a red coat (even though, as Terri points out, the portrait was painted 3 years after the Treaty of Paris, which ended the American Revolution against the British "red coats").

I represented these elements in my outfit with the simple black DIY braided t-shirt headband you've seen a million times (OOTD #2 here shows it well), black leaf/branch earrings that mimic the shape of the rose leaves, and the pièce de ré gold White Rabbit pocket watch pendant in which the White Rabbit is wearing a red jacket! I don't know Abigail's history with the red-jacketed solider, but I have talked about my love of all things Alice in Wonderland in this post on favorite movies.

Plus size outfit idea for women over 40

Terri identified the small decorative box as a Battersea box...which I hadn't heard of before, but is a small enamel or porcelain covered box used primarily as a snuff box but with sentimental value and a bit of culture cachet; they were made starting in 1753 but fell out of favor around 1840. The music is Amity and Psalm, which I wasn't able to discover anything about online. I love that Terri notices the artist's "lack of anatomical knowledge" in drawing Abigail with a boneless hand.

I represented the greenery on the box with the green jade chip bead bracelet (a gift from my husband) and the sheet music with the black and white DIY tube paper bead bracelet (previously used to represent newsprint in this SIA). I filled out the bracelet stack with an olive/black bead from Christopher & Banks and the DIY bead bracelet with cat charm made for my Halloween/SIA outfit a couple weeks ago. One of my goals for my DIY jewelry is to make pieces that I will wear again and again, so I'm happy to see these bracelets used for multiple SIA outfits.

DIY Bracelet Stack

We don't know what shoes Abigail was wearing under her long green skirt, but probably not a pair of bad-ass black ankle boots with silver zipper details. I had envisioned these in my original flat lay as a way to repeat the black from the scarf print, and I really liked them in the outfit.

Plus size outfit idea for women over 40

Now for the scarf! I picked this one from the flat lay outfit idea because the sparse plaid pattern reminded me of the windowpanes behind Abigail in the painting, not because it is a scarf that is super-flattering for me to wear. It does work better on me than many black and white prints, however!

You may be familiar with the concept of "soft" versus "bright/clear" personal coloring as well as "soft" versus "bright/clear" colors. Here is a quick run-down. I fall into the "soft" category because I have hair, skin, and eyes that are all in a similar medium-light value range. If you compare my value (dark/light) to the "soft" coloring of Mischa Barton in these greyscale photos, we both have medium-light skin in that 6 range on the scale. Mischa has darker eyes and areas of her hair (down to about 2) than I do (down to about 3-4). Her value contrast is about a 4 (6-2) whereas mine is in the 2-3 range (6-3 or 4). Mischa is also wearing eyeliner, mascara, etc. in this photo that also adds some value contrast whereas I am not wearing any eye makeup. So if Mischa has "soft" coloring, then I definitely do. According to Imogen Lamport, that puts me in the Low Value Contrast category. And from my color photo, you can see I have a lot of pink in my skin tone (whereas Mischa is more neutral) so I am also Color Contrast Dominant.

Mischa Barton source:; Value Scale source:

So what does that have to do with black and white scarf prints? Generally, people with "soft" coloring/low value contrast do better in prints that mirror our own coloring/contrast. But black and white is a high contrast combination so it can be more challenging for people like me to wear, especially near the face, because it can overpower our more muted appearance.

This particular black and white scarf has a couple things going for it that make it easier for me to wear, though...

(1) It has a light background with a sparse black print, so the overall value is still rather light, which works with my overall medium-light coloring.

(2) The background is a soft ivory color rather than a bright/clear white, which works better with my soft coloring.

(3) The way the plaid is woven into the scarf (as opposed to a print that is printed on top of fabric), the black areas is more muted where the black is woven with the ivory and only dark in the few places where the black is woven with black at the crossing points. This means that the scarf has light, medium, and dark areas that "stair step" down, Imogen Lamport a way to make a high contrast print work for anyone.

For further reading on choosing prints based on their elements, Bridgette Raes has a terrific post. I used her methodology to analyze a bird print cardigan of mine in a previous post.

Of course personal coloring is not the only factor when choosing prints! There are also big personality and situational factors that come into play, as explained by Imogen Lamport here. And fortunately we do NOT have to prioritize maximizing the "flattering" quality of an outfit every single day! I think Angie Cox's "just flattering enough" concept that she applies to figure flattery in outfit proportions/silhouettes can also be used in making color/print decisions. For me, this black and white scarf print (which isn't ideal for my low contrast or high color factor) is just flattering enough with this outfit - I don't feel dragged down or washed out in it. Would a different scarf look better? Very likely...but I liked how this one worked in the outfit and for the SIA challenge.

I am sharing this analysis of the black and white scarf print NOT to tell you what to do! But if you find that a print seems to not be working for you and you're not sure why or you're in the market for a new print item that you want to look flattering on you, the correlation between your own coloring and the print (overall light/dark, value contrast, and color contrast) is something to consider.

Now for another outfit...

Two days earlier, I had worn this outfit of the day with a similar color scheme, though darker...a maroon sweater and dark forest green pants topped with another black and white scarf, this time featuring Alice in Wonderland quotes with various drawings by John Tenniel from the original edition of the books. The white background of the scarf is much brighter, which I think overpowers my own coloring a bit, but at least the black images are finely drawn with a lot of it a bit of stair step between light and dark...rather than very starkly black with maximum contrast. This scarf falls into the "I absolutely LOVE it and that trumps all other considerations!" category.

Plus size outfit idea for women over 40
OOTD 11/12/22

The cheetah print shoes and mixed metal bracelet (from Christopher & Banks) are pretty low-key by my standards, but I did have fun with my earrings! I pulled out this DIY paperboard pair that I made to accompany my outfit for the Castle and Sun SIA (tutorial here). Another instance of re-wearing a DIY SIA piece, hurray!

And after reading so many times about Bettye's t-shirt + pullover sweater layering issues, I was amused to discover that when I put my sweater on over the layering T, it looked perfectly lined up to my eye. Of course Bettye is about 20 times as particular about this as I am, but still...I liked it. And what is this grey T that layers so neatly under my V neck sweater??

I mean, of course it's a rabbit. Other people wear lacy lingerie or whatever under their normal clothes; I wear aggressively cute rabbits. Technically, I suppose I wore a ridiculously adorable girly rabbit T in secret and an old-school White Rabbit overtly. So yeah, it's basically just rabbits all the way down.

Speaking of rabbits and Alice in Wonderland, now it's time to make our Rabbit Imitating Art selection and "improooove" the artwork with it! I was inspired by Abigail's red rose and white fischou (a shawl knitted in fine wool, says Terri) to select this soft and lovely red-eyed white Netherland dwarf rabbit.

Red-Eyed White Netherland Dwarf Rabbit

Our rabbit brings a glowingly bright, round, textured element to this portrait and definitely picks up the shades of muted red throughout. He also obscures Abigail's "boneless" hand. No doubt Abigail would have appreciated a sweet bunny to keep her company (and give her "boneless" hand something to do) during the boring process of sitting to have her portrait painted! Unfortunately for Abigail, the Netherland dwarf rabbit was not developed until the 20th century.

Abigail Rose "improved" with rabbit

Thanks for joining me today for this Style Imitating Art + Rabbit Imitating Art post!

To see other outfit interpretations of this artwork, check out the review on Meadow Tree Style.

Have you determine whether you are "soft" versus "bright/clear" coloring? Light versus dark overall value? High, medium, or low value contrast? High, medium, or low color contrast? Do you make decisions about what to buy/wear based on these factors? Do you go for maximum flattery or just flattering enough or meh, who cares as long as I like the outfit?

Blogs I link up with are listed here.

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