Translating Inspirational Styleboards to Realistic Wardrobes: Victorian Tea Party, But Make it Athleisure

Okay, this is indoors and not a garden, but it was the best painting from the board. “Afternoon Tea” by French painter Frédéric Soulacroix, ca. 1900

This is the third post in this series, where I walk through examples of turning fantasy style inspiration boards into more practical wardrobes that are cohesive but not repetitive.

  • See the previous one, a circus style board translated to smart casual officewear + casual weekend outfits, here.
  • In the original post, I didn’t build a full wardrobe for a hypothetical person, but I walked through how I figured out out what pieces to buy that would have the most impact in taking my own wardrobe closer to a Storybook Witch vibe.

Click here to get a PDF guide to translating inspiration boards into wearable wardrobes

The general process I follow is pretty similar to the wardrobe-building advice in The Curated Closet. There are lots more of resources and tips on the author’s website.

The general steps are:

  1. What are the recurring visual elements in the style board?
    1. Colors, fabrics, silhouettes, styling choices
    2. What makes this distinct from other similar styles? (moved this to after step 2 here – with all of these I think it matters more that all of them get considered; not necessarily getting the exact order)
  2. What is the lifestyle of the imaginary person this wardrobe is for?
    1. Office? Bike commute? Active job? Tolerance for fussing with clothes? Dry cleaning okay? Do they party? Attend operas? How often? Do they have furry pets that shed a lot? Young children?
  3. What subset of the visual elements should we focus on to keep the wardrobe cohesive?

Identifying Recurring Elements

Click the image to open it in full-res in a new tab, or view the Pinterest board.

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Colors

  • creams, whites, beige
  • pastel floral colors
  • quite a lot of green and lighter blue – think of a lovely spring day

Fabrics

  • Sheer layers
  • Lace
  • Airy fabrics
  • Silk

Silhouettes

  • Nipped in waists
  • Full skirts
  • High necklines or sharp v or square necklines
  • Graceful gathers and drape
  • Voluminous sleeves

Styling Choices

  • Hats! Hats were an integral part of outfits back in the turn of the century.
  • Skirts and sleeves are poofy, but there aren’t really layers
  • Note that this is sort of a smorgasboard of Edwardian and Victorian and beyond sort of old-timey looks. We just like that vibe, we’re not looking to pass as time travelers.

Considering Lifestyle

Here let’s say the person this wardrobe is for has fully committed to athleisure. Leggings forever, leggings are life. Sneakers only, things should be easy to move in. Their day-to-day activities don’t require anything remotely formal. But they adore the bubbly elegant aesthetic of the moodboard and really want to bring that into their life.

They don’t mind showing a little skin, but since this is their daily look and not just for a gym workout, there should be some sweaters and jackets as well.

Accepting reality

Obviously spandex leggings and high-tech sneakers were not a thing in 1904. This is not going to be a direct mapping involving layers of silk crepe and cotton lawn and corsetry and extravagant sun hats. However! There are still some elements that we can pull in (discussed in the Items section) that can collectively hint at the fact that your true soul is eating muffins and sipping tea with the characters of The Importance of Being Earnest and not juggling a conference call while trying to do meal prep and keeping the dog from chewing furniture and worrying about the government shutdown.

And remember, here’s we’re trying to create an aesthetic at the wardrobe level, not focusing on constructing individual outfits to be as evocative of the theme as humanly possible. 1) this is easier and 2) it makes the style more wearable and easier to integrate with other sorts of pieces that are either more minimal or of another style.

Distinguishing the Style

Again, there’s going to be a fair amount of overlap with any sort of aggressively soft and feminine style, but to give the wardrobe a bit more focus, we can decide on some things we are not going to include in order to reduce elements that may skew it in other directions.

From ballet style

Soft frothy pastels and floral motifs and athletic cuts are also strongly associated with ballet. In order to steer a bit away from this, let’s avoid anything with mesh or sequins.

From sexy undergarments style

Corsetry and yards of lace are both elements that conjure images of fluffy Edwardian blouses and parasols. However, if we are going with more skintight athletic wear items, then these can easily move into a lingerie aesthetic, so let’s avoid lace-up and lace elements.

Keeping Things Cohesive But Not Repetitive

Rehashing the point about color palette from before, because that’s still the main principle I used here:

  • Keeping a limited color palette is the easiest way to get a cohesive feel in a wardrobe that may otherwise be eclectic
  • A limited color palette doesn’t necessarily mean a neutral palette. You can pick warm earthy desert tones, neons with blues and black, colors that remind you of a tropical vacation…. you name it. Just keep some constraints on some dimensions of the color.
  • To create a wider feeling of colors, include at least one that’s dark, medium, and light value.
  • Don’t fall into the rut of only having color variety in one category of your wardrobe. Try and have as much of your palette as possible in each category.

Here I’ve gone with pretty much the description in the first section:

  • light pinks and mauves
  • sky blue
  • soft greens
  • white and beige
  • with some burgundy and deep green thrown in to round out the values

I started out focusing on creams, pinks, and purples, but realized it would read a bit too regrettably-gendered-childrens-toy-line so I decided to add the blues and greens.

Another thing I did here to keep things simple was limiting the floral prints to accessories and bottoms, but avoiding tops. I don’t think this should be generalized into its own rule, but I felt that floral tops was a bit cliche and has the potential of being a bit mumsy, so I limited it to pants and accessories. I think this also makes it easier to mix-and-match because you rarely have to worry about clashing prints.

Items

I got the majority of the athletic items from Athleta and Lululemon because those stores tend to carry some slightly more interesting designs than say, athletic wear from Target. Many of the sweaters and accessories come from H&M because they have a large stock and provide flatlay photos of the products. The direct link to the item is provided when possible on each individual pin on the Pinterest board, but this is not an endorsement of any of these items. This exercise is for identifying style elements, not how to shop for specific items.

As in the previous post, the way I did this was to just start pinning any old items that felt like they strongly fit the prompt from each category, while periodically assessing the saved stuff to see if a particular niche needed to be filled. E.g. “there should probably be a pullover top”, “this could benefit from something with a bit of natural texture”, or “there should be a shoe with a darker color value”. This is similar to how I’d recommend filling a real wardrobe, though at a much faster rate (don’t buy a whole wardrobe in one go, obviously). For transitioning an existing wardrobe to a style, I like to figure out which pieces would initially make the most impact + fill holes and start with those (see Bringing the aesthetic of a Pinterest style board into your wardrobe).

Click the image to view the full-res version in another tab.

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Short Sleeve Tops

To preserve some element of the yards and yards of beautiful fabrics in the original board, I made sure that many of the tops had some interesting fabric manipulation going on – ruching, twist-front, pinch-front, etc. The green one was thrown in because with all the stuff going on in the rest of the wardrobe it seemed like a plain tank would be a helpful base item.

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Long Sleeve Tops

Keeping with the romantic vibe, I picked some tops with elegant wrap and ballet necklines (which is flirting a bit too close with ballerina style, but I did say I was just going to avoid mesh and sequins 😛 ) and a prim mock neck.

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Sweaters

I figured sweaters are comfy and would be a good way to work in some more textured elements and buttons from a non-athletic garment selection. The balloon sleeves are a nod to the poofy styles of yore and the fancy cable-knits reminded me of garden trellises and just botanical textures generally.

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Outerwear

Continuing the mock-neck motif here with the warm-up jackets. The drop-shoulders and slightly poofy sleeves of the pullover bring more on theme than a plain crew neck. The raincoat is sheer, which is a nod to all the light summer fabrics in the original board.

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Floral Bottoms

And here is the floral explosion you were all waiting for. I was pleased that I found some in slightly different scales of floral. Not that we can mix these anyway, but generally I think having different scales of prints also helps keep a capsule from feeling terribly repetitive.

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Solid Colored Bottoms

Not much to say here. I did end up swapping a pair of pink joggers for the green ones. I didn’t want to do green originally because it felt too pedestrian, but the pink just gave me too many ballet warm-up vibes so I switched it out.

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Dress

I did work in one dress, for those times when you feel like wearing a dress! This one was from an activewear brand so it’s all stretchy and has pockets.

Shoes

Worked in a light and dark option as well as a print. Looking back, I think some taupe classic Blundstone chelsea boots would actually have been a great addition to this wardrobe in terms of practicality and bringing a sort of earthy vibe (and not feeling too modern either – Chelsea boots date back to the Victorian era!).

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Accessories

Focused on headgear since hats were such an integral part of fashion back in the day, and it’s also a less fussy way to accessorize than adding a bunch of bling. I noticed that I forgot to include the burgundy headband in this collage, whoops.

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More Accessories

I didn’t go ham on the jewelry like in the Circus themed post, but I thought it would be nice to have a few things that were more directly relatable to the board. I tried to find a water bottle that was reminiscent of a fancy porcelain teacup as well.

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Bags

Went with some natural fabrics here to really bring the garden to the garden party.

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Outfits

Given that most of the bottoms were just leggings, I didn’t think it was necessary to make like 50 outfits with this one to communicate the spread of possibilities. I went through every top, layering piece, and outerwear and made an outfit from them, making sure that all the bottoms and shoes were incorporated at some point in turn.

Click the image to view the full-res version in a new tab, or view them on the Pinterest board.

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And we’re done! That was a pretty fun one to go through. Remember, athletic wear doesn’t need to be all dark and intense, and capsules aren’t a concept limited to business casual. Which outfits or items did you feel best communicated the aesthetic? Are there any pieces that you might add?

Some of my favorites:

I’m personally a huge fan of balloon sleeves, and I like how the beige of the hat and shoe complement the floral print. The hat is also a fun nod to the eveningwear trend of the time set by Poiret.
A bright winter white and icy blue to keep the spirit alive when it’s very easy to default to a black and gray look

Thanks for reading! Let me know if there are any other styles you’d like to see covered in this series. Otherwise I was thinking the next one should probably have a more modern bent since this and the circus one both overlapped in having a historical theme.

13 thoughts on “Translating Inspirational Styleboards to Realistic Wardrobes: Victorian Tea Party, But Make it Athleisure

  1. Holy cow! I did not know what to expect when I read the post title, but was continually impressed by each piece in the collection! You have a real talent for translating a mood board into reality! I can’t wait to read the circus post!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. OK, I went into this post thinking there was no way athletic clothing and Victorian tea garden any kind of over lap and….you completely blew me away with this. The tea garden vibes came across so strongly and yet it wasn’t a litral translation of it and seems like something that would be super fun to wear. (The wrap and hat are so cute.). I really loved your idea of doing just the bottoms printed and I was so surprised by how much the warm up jackets mimiced the silhouettes of the Edwardian period. Amazing! You are really strong at translating these style boards and I am just so impressed!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks! I wasn’t sure how this one was going to turn out when I started, but I figured it would be an interesting exercise because it would really force me to distill the elements of the aesthetic. I’m glad the results seem to still read as edwardian garden tea party to other people too! I always spend so long staring at these while I make them that I can’t feel quite sure I’ve lost an objective eye for it, lol.

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  3. This is so amazing, I can’t believe you were actually able to create an Edwardian garden party athleisure wardrobe, I thought the title was a joke. You’ve got a definite talent at boiling down the elements of an aesthetic and an eye for using them to build something that calls back to the original idea!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. LOL I guess it does sound really far fetched, but I suppose that was the point of doing that particular combo! Glad to hear you think the final items were able to visually relate back the original ideas.

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  4. This is so incredible! You’ve completely inspired me to do a wardrobe analysis and consider how to create the looks I’d love to be able to wear. I’m digging back into your old posts and hoping you give a beginner’s guide or a peek into your early process. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts!

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    1. Thank you! I listed some resources I found really helpful through my wardrobe overhaul in https://mgetsdressed.com/style-resources/

      I think to summarize I would recommend

      – Reading The Curated Closet by Anuschka Rees (a lot of the content is available for free on her website) and doing the exercises there, and
      – logging a photo of your outfit every day even if you don’t post it anywhere and periodically then
      – periodically reviewing them and taking notes on what you liked, didn’t like, and whether you felt you could try styling something differently, if some item is not working for you, if some item would make a big improvement to many of the outfits, etc

      I think a full “how to get started on a wardrobe overhaul” is a good idea for a post. I haven’t written one yet! I do have this post https://mgetsdressed.com/2018/09/15/bringing-the-aesthetic-of-a-pinterest-style-board-into-your-wardrobe/ which just focuses on how I strategically incorporated a style into my own wardrobe but there are a lot more things to consider besides looking like your styleboard when doing an overhaul.

      Liked by 1 person

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