“… 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 peals may not be the most appropriate attire. And buying items that dont 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 gotten myself to get enough of these so that i dont worry about “what to wear today”, every morning.
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 sowed 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 travelled 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. No bling-bling. But accessorize.
Thanks to my mothers influence, I have stayed away from glitter/sparkle for a long time. It has been changing lately since i see how tastefully women do accessories to accent their outfits. Thanks Pinterest. Do one standout accessory well. Its an art. And these are size and age proof purchases.This is one way to make it all my own by adding unique accessories.
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. Visits to India make me want to go hyper colorful. Coming back to the US after a trip 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. All blue phase. And out grew it too. These days, not so much anymore. It has made shopping easier and less time taking. When i get ‘inspired’, i pick up an accessory instead of outfits.
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 got were workout clothes. A year where all i got were shoes. My this years plan is to acquire accessories.
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 shapes dont work for certain body types. Most of us want our clothes to flatter us. And color theory has great wisdom on colors that work for different skin tones. I pick my colors better since i learnt about it and make less mistakes. After years of Free People clothing (big waste of money for the quality they sell), i have been consistant with liking clean and minimal lines for a while now. I think this works best on my current body shape and life style.
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 dry cleaned. Steaming your clothes, keeps them from looking frumpy longer. 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 money end of the day.
10. Organize, Organize !
I have a pretty good size closet with a good range of classics that work for me. I have no urge to go shopping when i can see what i have. When i cant see them, i feel the urge to go and get more. True story. And clutter is very stressful. Have an organized closet makes my bedroom much more loved and appreciated. And i love having my girl friends over to talk fashion. And a messy closet is a no no. I currently have it all color coded and it looks rather beautiful. I need to keep it this way.
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.