I always, always loved Math class in school. As a kid, math was pretty easy for me. Nowadays though, besides balancing my bank account and adding up my cardio minutes, the only math I do is fashion math. And sometimes fashion math can be complicated. Especially spring fashion math.

I love the idea of fashion math, the phrase coined by Erin, the sweet and bubbly receptionist at my physio clinic a few years ago. I arrived one spring day breathless and late for my appointment, and regaled her with my tale of trying to find something to wear that morning. How I had piled on the layers, then added and subtracted and replaced layers because one was too light the other too heavy. I needed to be warm because there was a brisk early spring wind blowing that day, and yet not too warm since it was sunny. And I did NOT want to wear my winter clothes. I wanted to feel spring-y. And she laughed and said, “Fashion math can be hard.”

Adding up my layers.

I’ve been doing a lot of spring fashion math lately, cyphering out what to wear without resorting to wearing my winter coats. Thinking about what layers will go with what. How to be warm, spring-y, and still look good. And I’ve been pinning ideas to my Pinterest board.

I love a hoodie layered under a jacket or coat. The outfit on the left from Boden UK is similar to how I’ve been wearing my navy Veronica Beard jacket for the last couple of years, with a hoodie and white sneakers. The looser cropped pants update this look. I love it, but it’s not warm enough for right now. I’d need to add a light coat and definitely some socks. I love the very casual outfit in the middle, with the oversized blazer and sweats. Partially tucking in the hoodie makes this outfit look neater, and less slouchy. And I love the Celine look on the right. The bootcut jeans with sneakers I can totally do. And I love the long jeans with the short jacket. It’s not just about the layering, is it? But about balance, and proportion.

Adding or subtracting layers to suit the weather is the easy part. The hard part of fashion math is getting the proportions right. It’s not just about piling on the layers but about piling on the right layers, in the right way to look balanced. And the hardest part for me this spring is that my eye has changed. How I see what I’m looking at has changed. Since I let my hair go white, I no longer want to wear looks as polished as what I preferred to wear in the past. Plus changing styles have altered proportions. Coats and blazers have been getting bigger, and pants have been getting longer and looser. So a slim short coat with a pair of cropped skinny jeans looks wrong. A looser pant would be more current. Or a longer coat.

Here are some spring hoodie looks I’ve worn in the past.

In the shot on the left, I’m wearing a long-sleeve white tee, my navy Veronica Beard Scuba jacket with the attached partial hoodie, Current Elliot boot-cut jeans, Paul Green boots, and a Theory hooded camo jacket. Because the jacket is so light it doesn’t feel too bulky over the blazer, even with the two hoods. In the photo in the middle, I have on the same Veronica Beard jacket, with a pink Uniqlo hoodie instead of the attached hoodie, a short-sleeve Vince tee, Roots sweatpants (similar) and Stan Smith sneakers. On the right I’m wearing a light, hooded sweater from Aritzia, my black Helmut Lang blazer, Frame straight-leg white jeans, and Stuart Weitzman loafers. I’d wear all three of these outfits today. Although I might have to make the black and white look a little more messy… or something. I have ideas about that one I’ll try one day.

Meanwhile, below is a look I tried the other day. Not successfully, I should add, as you can see from the expression on my face. I wasn’t comfortable, and I hated the proportions of this aborted attempt at spring fashion math. Ha. I was too bulked up on top and too skinny on the bottom. I felt a bit like a spindly legged, fat-bodied spider. Albeit a two-legged one. My hooded sweatshirt was too big under my navy Moncler hooded anorak. I was seriously over-hooded. The colours work wonderfully together, but that is all. Please do not offer kindly suggestions for how this outfit might work. I’m serious. I will NOT be trying it again. Ha.

Out of proportion, over-hooded, and cranky.

This outfit failure did serve to reinforce for me that the two new items I’ve been considering for spring would really help to update my wardrobe. A pair of loose trousers. Dress pants as we used to call them back in the day. Loose, straight-leg, full-length pants. Hopefully with a flat front because pleats in the abdominal area do me NO favours. And a long, loose trench coat. One that falls below the knee, preferably, and is loose and a bit flowy. Loose pants and sneakers would look good with my Moncler anorak. And these Rag and Bone Simone pants and Paul Green loafers would look great with a loose below-the-knee trench.

My last hoodie try-on was an attempt to mimic that Celine look, shown earlier, which I love. So I wore a long-sleeve white tee and my new Club Monaco cashmere hoodie under this khaki suede moto jacket from Marks and Spencer (similar), my Frame high-rise boot-cut jeans, Stan Smith sneakers, and an old khaki and faded blue ballcap bought on a trip to the Yukon many years ago.

Now, let’s assess this attempt, shall we? The jeans and sneakers are great together. The sweater is a good length and weight to wear under the jacket. I love the proportions of this outfit. But not sure that the colours work. The green of the sweater is too cool and bright for the warm, dark khaki of the jacket, which almost looks olive-coloured in the photos. And the hat. Well, I’m not sure I want to wear a ball cap except when I’m walking. I’d probably eliminate that element of the outfit.

So 10/10 for appropriate layers for early spring, 8.5/10 for proportion, 4/10 for colour scheme, and 2/5 for that darned cap = 24.5/35 That adds up to a 70% grade. Seems fair to me. I didn’t hit it out of the park, if you’ll excuse the baseball metaphor, but I learned what I can and what I can’t wear together. I’m happy.

So yeah, Math is easy. But fashion math is harder than it looks. Especially this time of year. Adding and subtracting layers, getting the proportions just right. Keeping warm but not too warm, and up-to-date with the trends, but not as if one is trying too hard. It’s a balancing act. Now that I think of it, maybe advanced fashion math is more like Chemistry class than Math. Like balancing equations, so those molecules of sodium and calcium add up to the correct number of atoms on the other side of the equation. You know, balancing. Ah well, never mind.

And speaking of how easy Math is. Do you remember the fuss caused when Mattel introduced a talking Barbie, back in the nineties? Fuss which I agreed with, I might add. Along with other pithy phrases this “Teen Talk Barbie” said, “Math class is tough.” And she said it in a very specific voice, like someone imitating a “dumb blonde” in a not very funny “dumb-blonde joke.” The public, parents, and even kids rejected the idea that Math is necessarily hard for girls, and they definitely rejected “Teen Talk Barbie.” And the media were quick to jump on this blooper by Mattel, dubbing the doll “Bimbo Barbie.” Ha.

You know, as a kid who always loved Math class, I would have been so disappointed in Barbie if she had been a “bimbo”, if you’ll excuse the pejorative term. We appreciated smart women in my house. Thankfully my Barbie couldn’t talk. Except to say the things I made her say. Which of course were always really smart things. Ha.

Now it’s your turn my friends. Have you been doing any spring fashion math? Are you finding that your idea of correct proportions has changed lately? Do outfits that you previously liked look somehow wrong now?

P.S. Once again I apologize for the delay in posting. Lots of stuff happening this week that prevented me from finishing this post. Thanks for your patience.

P.P.S. The clothing links in this post are affiliate links. If you make a purchase after clicking my link, I will earn a commission.


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From the archives


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Making It Up As I Go Along

2020 has been all about change. Social change, and personal change, big, or small and inconsequential. We're all facing changes. And I think we're coping by making it up as we go along.

19 thoughts on “Spring Fashion Math”

  1. I much prefer looser legged trousers now & with your long legs you can’t go wrong . I like them with shorter tops fitting properly on the shoulders but falling a little wider at the hem . The shape & cut make all the difference I think . Funny how your eye changes though . One day it’s the bee’s knees , after a while it’s a little boring , eventually it can become laughable – like the enormous shoulder pads we used to wear . Oh hang on , I think they are coming back 😁
    Wish I’d been good at maths . My schooldays would have been so much easier .

    1. I like that proportion with loose trousers too, Wendy. I used to wear a tight-fitting, tucked in top with loose trousers back in the nineties when those “paper-bag” trousers were popular. But I think those days are over. Ha. I also love a short boxy top with loose, almost over-size jeans. Or a shorter, somewhat fitted but not clingy top would be good for me. If I could ever find such a thing. Just booked Stu for his COVID shot. April 4 and July 25. Now just waiting for me.

      1. So glad to hear your COVID news . I hate jabs but I fair sprinted into that vaccination centre . Everyone seemed so pleased to be there . Not the end of it all but we feel much safer now .

        1. I’m hoping that I can get mine booked soon and we are able to travel to new Brunswick by September. Mum has been struggling lately, and I really want to get down there.

  2. I so want to do Spring math…but woke up this morning to another foot of snow. Maybe next month I’ll be able to get out the old Math book. Until then pile on the sweater and cardi. Though I do tend to wear the pastel and lighter colored sweaters in the spring. Hope for warmer days ahead.

  3. I’ve used the term fashion math when discussing cost per wear on my blog, but you’ve given it a whole new meaning. It looks like spring might actually be here on the prairie though the forecast still calls for a few flurries later in the week. I’m mostly still wearing my winter wardrobe, but I’ve made the switch from boots to sneakers and it’s time to leave the winter coats in the closet. I guess I need to do some of your fashion math now!

    1. Me too, Elaine. Wearing my winter sweaters under spring coats, mostly. But we will have double digit temperatures for a few days so I may have to do some wardrobe switching over.

  4. The green hoodie is spring personified, and such a nice color for you! The balance of getting dressed in the spring is complicated for me because both of our “to the outside” doors open on to patios that hold the sun’s warmth, so that when you first go outside it feels much more balmy than it really is. So as in so many other instances, context is important.


    1. Our back door is the same. Then when I round the corner of the house I am usually into the teeth of a spring wind and I scuttle back to add a layer. 🙂

  5. While math has never been a strength, I will use it to amortize pricier items therefore justifying the purchase. I do enjoy the process of finding the right proportions though. Perhaps if fashion had been used as a tool in math class, I may have been a better student. I enjoy long over lean but when it comes to wearing shorter tops and blazers, I prefer the look of looser trousers or boot cut jeans. Wendy’s comment about shoulder pads made me chuckle. I purchased a denim drafting coat two years ago and needed to have it slightly altered. The Seamstress suggested adding small shoulder pads. She made a point of saying “small” as she must have noticed the ‘been there, done that’ look I gave her. They do make the coat look more tailored which I like and agree with Wendy, it looks like they’re coming back. Great to know Stu is getting his shot soon and you will be next, then a trip to NB to see your Mum!

  6. Well, we’re transitioning into the cooler weather down here with massive floods on the NSW coast ( where was it when we needed it for the fires last year !? ).

    Yesterday I tried on a sweater and jeans combo the first time this year and from the look of it, apart from the odd warm day I won’t be needing my summer wardrobe for some time.

  7. I’m always amazed how some outfits can get 100% one day , then barely scrape a pass, on others! That awful feeling when you reach for an outfit, often in a hurry and wonder what you saw in it previously…
    To be honest though, Sue. Since knowing you this has happened much less, as my choices are so much more considered and less random.
    I think I’ve mentioned before, that in reflection I’d buy something I loved, as if it were a piece of art, to be displayed. With little thought, of how the “display” may work! Now, I no longer just imagine an outfit but always try new items on with various things in my wardrobe, to see that they actually work on me … thanks to you!
    I’m wondering, will your mauve or pink hoodie work with your green jacket or are they too bulky? All your outfit choices here are “very you” and look great! I don’t dislike the one you styled with your Moncler anorak … it’s just less stylish than the others, I think, … more ordinary perhaps?
    Great news about Stu’s vaccine dates being scheduled! Hopefully yours won’t be too far behind … then onto New Brunswick! Any news on your mum having hers yet?
    Take care, Sue.

  8. Interesting post and comments. Lately I have felt “stuck” and really just wear the same uniform day after day. Getting my second shot Monday, so soon I will be out and about a bit more and will get “unstuck”. So glad Stu has his appointments and hope you and your Mom will soon. Prayers for your Mom and for you getting to be with her as soon as possible.

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