Deciding on an Ivey Abitz Wardrobe with A Little Help from the Designer Herself

by Kimberly from Pennsylvania

I would like to think I’m pretty good at putting outfits together, but in reality I’m probably hit or miss.  When my outfit is a good one it’s pretty great but some of my misses would make me eligible for that TV show with the secret footage. 


One huge mistake is not following the advice from fashion gurus.  Buy an outfit – not pieces. And what do I do? I buy pieces. I know I’m not alone. Many women do this. You end up with a great skirt but nothing really fabulous to wear with it. So not only does the skirt languish in your closet, but by not wearing it you have spent your money in vain.  

And you say you don’t have anything to wear. Now you know why.


No more bits and pieces of clothing for me. This spring and summer would be different. Yes, I vowed.  But now what should I do? After looking at the Ivey Abitz website for like the millionth time I turned to my new best friend. Yes. I decided my new style guru would help me look great and pulled together. After looking at the website and picking some of my favorites I complied a list and sent it to Cynthia Ivey Abitz. 


Through email we talked about my choices, fabrics, my likes and dislikes and of course my budget.  Then she sent me a list of what looked like a wonderful start to building a useful and pulled together look that I can wear for years.

By doing this I would have the basics to look great this spring and summer. But there is flexibility in this list. I originally wanted the Camilla Dress in a winter fabric but decided that a Baedeker Shirt would help me fill in gaps in my wardrobe better. Not only will it always go with my Ivey Abitz pieces but it also works well with my existing clothing. 

The point is I have a guide now. I know if I purchase something off my list (even though I really want everything) it will work.  And that’s what I need in my life. Stuff that works.

I Have Worn It Backwards

How many bartholdi overlays does one need?  

A LOT! 

i have many pieces of Ivey Abitz and as i have said before, i rarely if ever wear anything else. the designs i used to wear before discovering Ivey Abitz went to the dry cleaner and then were carefully covered – to the back of the closet went the *designer name removed*, the *designer name removed*, and even the other art to wear designers that i dearly loved and looked forward to every season (and bought way too much of). some are brand new with the tags still attached. anyway, that is another story for another time, maybe but you get the idea. there is no other designer out there that even comes close to Ivey Abitz.  

so the bartholdi overlay — first let me give you an idea of what i look like because i have “special needs”. it is because i am short. not just short. short is what?  5′ 3′?  i wish! no, i am really short. i am 5 ft. — just. i weigh between 100 and 105, so i am considered normal, but of course i am never happy (95 lbs. is perfection to me). that is still another story, but my point is that i do have short legs, so i am considered petite and i find it difficult to buy clothes.  some tall gals think that it is a drag being tall and would rather be petite but it isn’t.  no way-i think most people would agree that it is better for wearing certain clothes to be taller. the bartholdi overlay is great for everything every day and because of all the fabrics available…..well i have quite a few. the design is more than a vest but not quite a shirt or top. it is something like a tunic but more creative and with more options. it is….well, an original.  

as small as i am, i can wear it for many occasions and for many reasons. a fat day – they make you look thinner and taller. a thin day – they just make you look good. i wear platforms – i have discovered some comfy ones, so i won’t look so short. they give me a good 3 inches, and i pull jeans way down as far as possible and scrunch them, too. combined with the bartholdi overlay, i become magically….normal sized! 

i have worn the bartholdi overlay the way it is designed, and i have worn it backwards. i have worn it to formal occasions – i had the misfortune to attend 3 funerals over the summer, and in our community a funeral is a week long event, so i got a lot of use out of my overlays in the more formal fabrics and the taffetas. i went to my neice’s school play and wore my cotton yarn dyed bartholdi over a bartholdi shirt. i can and do wear them with just about anything. i love them with the eleanor shirts, which is a staple piece and i have several of those as well. 

then, in my mind is the mini me version of the bartholdi overlay, and that is the camilla vest. the day before yesterday i wore a camilla vest…somehow i managed to pull the ties under the sides of the vest, then over the cross piece in front and tied it over that piece. it is hard to explain, but it illustrates how versatile these whimsical pieces – out of the endless imagination of cynthia’s – really are.

A Queen of All She Surveys in Ivey Abitz

Just last summer I was sitting all alone at the end of a pier, waiting for a boat to arrive. It was 9:30 in the morning. I was having a moment of quiet (in a Camilla Shirt, natural hemstitch striped cotton, and Baedeker Skirt in black premium irish linen) and I was appreciating the solitude and beauty of the landscape.  

Then I heard, “A queen of all she surveys.” Then this man waxed on about me being a queen sitting there overlooking my domain or something. I laughed and his wife and friends joined him, and on he went about their travels, language, love of fine food and cooking. By the time they boarded the boat, they had taught me how to make wine vinegar. Now, I wouldn’t want to read too much into my shirt and skirt, but I think if I had been sitting there in a sweatshirt, jeans, and loafers, the conversation would not have started in the same way. I, of course, didn’t feel like a queen, but I did have that relaxed sort of sophisticated feeling that I have come to like while wearing Ivey Abitz, and that feels quite age appropriate for me.  

At the same time, I do not feel conspicuous in Ivey Abitz clothing. I lose the self consciousness that comes with wearing something that isn’t quite right or is uncomfortable. I feel very comfortable in Ivey Abitz designs.

More Everyday Experiences in the Camilla Shirt

I have now worn the Camilla Shirt on many, many occasions. I wore it to the local Opera House for an evening fundraiser. I wore it to a huge brunch for 80 people. I wore it to a large cocktail party of 50 people. I’ve worn it to town, to church, and to dinner. I have catalogued many different comments and responses. I can usually count on the shirt getting noticed, so retiring, wallflower, introvert types should be forewarned. Although I have some social anxiety, I am an extrovert, so I like it. 

I wore the Camilla Shirt to a fundraiser at the Opera House. A friend’s sister exclaimed over and over how “gorgeous” the shirt was. I thanked her over and over and, as usual, shared with her the story of Ivey Abitz, the design elements, the antique buttons, etc. Then she asked how much the shirt was. Her face froze. She exclaimed, “Then it’s even more gorgeous.”

Camilla Shirt – The Everywoman Shirt

The Camilla Shirt is a wonder. Every woman should have one. It’s an Everywoman Shirt. As I have said before, slipping it over my head creates a change. On the outside, I look slimmer because of the long lines of the front of the shirt. My neck visually lengthens because of the tall collar. I don’t know if I am like other women, but a longer neck seems to improve my entire appearance. Next, the ties. When I tie the ties gently in back, it gives me a slightly curved shape. If I am feeling too curvy for my own good, I loosen the ties, let the material fall loosely, and I feel more comfortable. The other thing I notice is that I like the side view of myself in the Camilla. I usually do not like this view of myself at all. My posture is rounding and I always look a little fat or…just unappealing. But in this lovely shirt, it is different. I look nice! The lines are beautiful. The material poufs out a bit and then gently tucks in under the ties at the waist which gives some interest and shape to side view. At first I thought it was an optical illusion but now I know it is intentional, smart design for women.