In my last monthly outfit recap, I alluded to being a bit bored with my closet (or perhaps just looking for distractions) and wanting to tackle a new wardrobe challenge. The usual suspects – like Project 333 and seasonal capsule wardrobe – hold little appeal for me at this point, and I still haven’t found an alternative that looks fun and interesting. What I have been doing in the meantime is think about ways to pare down my closet and become more intentional with new (thrifted) purchases. Even as I go through this process, I know that, at a certain level, it’s futile. What underlies my organizational urges is the desire to control my environment (hello, my name is Type A, nice to meet you!) – a desire that will never be fully satisfied because life doesn’t work that way. But, since this blog is a place where we can all analyze the minutiae of our sartorial lives in glorious detail, I thought I would share some of my process/thoughts on the off chance that some of you might also be interested in looking at your wardrobe situation from new perspectives.
First, let me say that my process is a bit of mish-mash of exercises gleaned from a variety of sources, including Into Mind and Colette HQ’s Wardrobe Architect Series (thanks *** for the recc!). I claim no credit, and zero originality. If this topic is of interest to you, I highly recommend checking out those wonderful resources – and if you have others, feel free to leave your suggestions in the comments. Onwards!
Developing A Vision
I’ve talked before about how much I have struggled in the past with the (self-imposed) task of defining my personal style. I don’t think I’m the only person who’s found it near-impossible to approach that question head on. There are so many plausible answers; it is especially difficult, I find, to distinguish between the person you would like to be and the person you actually are. Side-stepping a potential philosophical morass, I’ll simply say that approaching the issue indirectly has been infinitely easier.
I know the “mood board” is a popular concept, but I find it unhelpful, and here’s why: counter-intuitively, I am more inspired by photos of styles different than my own. When I look at those kinds of outfits, I find it easier to analyze them, piece by piece, and identify what I like, what I don’t like, what I could borrow, what I would tweak, etc. Faced with a photo of an outfit I want to emulate, I lose my critical facilities. For me, a mood board would quickly become a “make this outfit happen NOW!” exercise in frustration. And often, the outfits over which I drool are not even necessarily things that would work for/on me — the person wearing them simply exudes some quality which I long to embody.
So, rather than distract myself with pretty pictures, I chose to think about the following questions (from the Wardrobe Architect series) indirectly related to personal style:
When you are wearing your favourite clothing, how do you feel?
Confident, comfortable in my own skin, elegant, polished, comfortable. My clothes are a second skin, if that second skin was an invincible, aesthetically pleasing armour.
When you are wearing something that is not quite right, how do you feel?
Ill at ease, uncomfortable, over-dresses/under-dressed, shabby, fussy. I am everyone’s poor cousin from the country.
Who do you consider to be your style icons? What is it about them that appeals to you?
Cate Blanchett, Tilda Swinton, Audrey Hepburn, Michelle Obama. They are not so much style icons — they each have their own style, which is not necessarily mine — as women whose style I admire. Their style seems natural, instinctive … dare I say it, effortless. They exude confidence and a rich inner life, a mystery that arrests your attention.
What are some words that describe styles that you like in theory, but are not quite you?
Gamine, minimalist, WASP-y
The Anti-Style Persona
Using some of the answers to the questions above, I decided to create a list of things that are definitely NOT “me” — the outlines of an anti-style persona, if you will. This was a very easy exercise, and I’ve been using the list extensively when I go shopping these days. It has been tremendously helpful to focus on these “no go” criteria when assessing potential buys versus the more amorphous and ill-defined concept of my personal style. (I find it easier to justify buying something if the question is “where would I wear this?” because I am very good at coming up with creative answers. Blame my inner writer.) Here’s what I’ve got so far:
– bright green (OK in accessories)
– skater dresses
– peep toe shoes
– flared pants
– pussy bows (long-standing prejudice, fwiw)
– low necklines
– neon colours
– body-conscious silhouettes
– very full skirts
– bright orange
– animal prints (except leopard print shoes)
– pastel colours (except blush pink)
– round toe flats
– mini skirts
– round cowl neck tops
– fussy details
– low waisted pants
It’s a work in progress. I also have a list of “probable no’s” — things I’m currently considering adding to the above list.
– turquoise (I love the colour, but not on me)
– shorts (I generally hate short hemlines, could live without shorts in the summer probably)
– wrap dresses (this one hurts, but there is literally one wrap dress I enjoy wearing — not a DVF)
– bootcut jeans (I’m a ride-or-die skinny pants lover, but may embrace these again?)
– deep V necks (they don’t do much for my very modest bust)
– platforms (not a huge fan of walking in these, and they seem to go in and out of trend every so often)
– jewel/bright purple (I love other shades better on me — see below)
Cardigans are my main experiment right now. I find them more comfortable to wear than blazers, but don’t love the look anymore. It reminds me of old Adina, who was hardcore librarian chic. I rarely wear them anymore, and probably would not buy new ones, but I’m trying to decide whether to exclude them from my outfit formulas (see below) for good or not.
Also in conjunction with the above, I decided to update my wardrobe colour palette, and my core silhouettes (a concept explored by both Wardrobe Architect and Into Mind).
Wardobe Colour Palette
Got this narrowed down to 17, including neutrals, core and accent colours I should probably split the “blue” category, but that would add at least 3-4 more colours to the mix so … maybe not.
Neutrals: black, grey, white, navy, camel
Core: blue, mustard yellow, dusty purple, burgundy, teal, orchid, forest green, olive, plum/eggplant
Accent: red, persimmon
These are my core silhouettes, aka outfit formulas:
1) sheath dress + blazer
2) A-line dress + blazer
3) skinny pants/jeans + camisole/top + blazer
4) skinny pants/jeans + shirt + sweater
5) skinny pants/jeans + casual top + casual light coat
6) skinny pants/leggings + tunic top + coat/blazer
7) pencil skirt + camisole/top + blazer
8) pencil/A-line skirt + sweater
These can be adjusted for weather (more or fewer layers) and occasion (casual vs. dressy options), but basically describe 95%+ of my outfits. As much as I enjoy experimenting, I think I need to remember that there is a reason why I always end up gravitating to these silhouettes over others — they simply work best for my body and lifestyle. The results might not be Vogue material, but will hopefully make me feel, what else, but comfortable in my own skin.
Ok, your turn. Know a fun wardrobe challenge? I’m all ears. Alternately, have you done any closet exercises similar to the above? I would love to hear any success stories/style epiphanies.