“… to look elegant by wearing something simple, how to look sexy without being naked, and how to look feminine wearing masculine-inspired outfits.” – Giorgia Tordini.
After many many mistakes and spending money on things i hated after a month of purchase, i have reached an equilibrium. How to not makes these mistakes is very well illustrated by books on personal style or all the books which claim to help you find your inner French soul or blogs like A Simple Luxurious Life. Here is my take on it all.
1. Personal Style Above All
“You have a uniform for whatever period you are going through in life. And you need a uniform to get your work done. ” – Charlotte Gainsbourg, writer, poet, singer, actor, style muse.
All the women who come to my mind, when i think of being well dressed, have a great personal style. I can attribute them to a certain role and i definitely don’t imagine them having a schizophrenic wardrobe that follows every whim and trend out in the market. Audrey Hepburn, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Emmanuelle Alt, Alexa Chung, Kate Moss, Olsen Twins, Jennifer Aniston, Patti Smith.. all have strong personal style. They didnt dress like a hippie one day, and like a tomboy the next. All of them have a uniform of sorts and can be associated with strong elements of personal style. Patti Smith shopped in thrift stores when she was a young starving artist. And she dressed similar throughout her life. Not that change is bad but she learnt to embrace her style and refine it over the years Versus changing at every whim/temptation/purchasing power.
2. Take lifestyle into consideration
I teach at a state university. Going dressed like a hippie gives out a different vibe compared to a more classic wardrobe. And for a person who spends a lot of time in a lab, wearing silk and pearls may not be the most appropriate attire. And buying items that don’t suit your lifestyle results in an unused closet and clutter. I have bought bohemian clothes that I quickly grew out of. They looked frumpy on me and hence were hanging in my closet untouched. It took me some time to realize I need to donate them in spite of the money spent.
3. Invest in Classics
Classics is a very very ambiguous word. Many fashion blogs\magazines would put out things like a trench coat, nautical stripe shirt, white blouse, etc as classics. But this may differ from person to person based on their personal style. Things that I have worn out and repurchased are what I define as my classics. My classics are oxfords, ballet flats, black trousers and button ups in blues, grays, greens and black. I have acquired get enough of these to not have the “I have nothing to wear” moments.
4. Understanding quality
Growing up, going shopping with my mother was war. Things i liked were vetoed based on ‘bad quality’ way too often, according to my younger self. Mom would quickly assess the stitch count per inch, fabric, thread count, the way the buttons were sewed in, hems, etc in the stores and refused to settle for mediocre make. I forgot all these lessons when I moved away from her roof and her supervision. I have clothes I had to get rid of after a few washes because of how bad they looked (Shame on you Free People ! ). I am making an effort to understand quality and training myself to let go amazing pieces if the quality doesn’t match the price. One of my prized possessions are my Campomaggi Brown bags. They have traveled everywhere with me, housed my heavy DSLRs, recovered from spilled liquids with grace, reluctantly held contents of those girls who keep asking me if i can carry their stuff, … has been a total workhorse and survived it all. Thats quality. Will save purchases worth the money for a future post.
5. Accessorize with restraint.
Thanks to my mother’s influence, I have stayed away from glitter/sparkle for a long time. You see a lot of chunky jewellery in India and it really turns me off. Over the years, I have seen the other side – dainty jewellery, personal talismans worn with non chalance, subtle but tasteful sparkle ….. Accessories can add that little something to a wardrobe consisting of classics. Accessories are size and age proof purchases. I want to look into building an accessories closet.
6. It is okay to be inspired and change a little.
Every time i travel, I do get inspired to add new pieces. Every time I visit my aunt Renu, I am tempted to start dressing like her. Coming back to the US after a trip to India and wearing my overly monochromatic wardrobe feels very dull for a few days. But it always subsides after a few days. I have bought a bright pink dress inspired by Freda Kahlo. And out grew it in no time. I have gone through an all purple clothing phase. An all black phase. And out grew it too. Avoid dramatic changes and U-turns. Take it slow.
7. Have a Plan
Building a wardrobe that you love shouldn’t be a by product of a credit card with no limit. Maybe one item a month that lasts the test of time and is well loved…. Or saving up for that classic bag that is well made and wears well with time…… I have done a year where all I purchased were workout clothes. There was a shoes and accessories year. This year, I plan to find great vintage finds that can add some history and character to my rather simple wardrobe.
8. Prepare the canvas and know your body
What ever be the style of clothing, everything looks better on a toned body and with glowing skin. And happy people are beautiful people. Eating healthy, exercise and good personal relationships are absolutely essential. If I ignore these areas, there is no real pleasure in playing dress up. While there are no set rules, we know that certain silhouettes don’t sit right on certain body types. I want my clothes to flatter me and fit me right. And color theory has great wisdom on colors that work for different skin tones. Style muses exist to teach me these good combinations.
9. Care for your investments
Denim lasts longer when it doesn’t see the inside of a dryer. Silk blouses need to be air dried after wear and hand washed. Steaming your clothes keeps them from looking frumpy. Leather needs to be cleaned and sprayed with a protectant from time to time. These are lessons i had learnt the hard way. We are busy people but its our hard earned money at end of the day.
I have a pretty good size closet with a good range of classics that work for me. It kills my desire to acquire more when I can see what I have. True story. And clutter is very stressful. Have an organized closet makes my bedroom much more loved and appreciated. I love having my girl friends over to talk fashion. We play dress up and go over special pieces. An organized closet makes it possible.
I intend to write some wardrobe related stories and wisdom acquired through the years. And keep track of purchases here as a part of my being accountable to my resolve to Simplify.