Imagine you were tasked with purchasing an entirely new wardrobe. Fun, right?
But no. Turns out it’s daunting. Where to start, when anything is possible? As for any large undertaking, you need an anchoring principle. I suggest that you buy clothes you will fact wear. For clothes to be useful, they have to make it out the door. But sometimes I don’t feel like getting myself out the door. Hmm. So my clothes have to encourage me, to ensure that I will feel comfortable, appropriate and attractive. Over the years, helped in no small measure by the writing of this blog, I’ve developed an approach that works.
We’ll communicate in outline format, because, well, outlines help tame all life’s daunting phenomena.
A. Color and Silhouette First
Before you do anything go read Imogen Lamport’s blog Inside Out Style. She’s a style consultant. She’s even got e-books, if you want the advanced course. Here’s what she will sort out.
- First, what is your silhouette? Imogen classifies by shapes as letters. Are you an A? V? X? O?
- Second, how should you wear color?
- If you find all that Spring, Summer, Winter stuff too complex, as I do, just ask yourself, Blue? Or Yellow?
- Next understand where you sit on the vivid to muted spectrum. Pastels? Or jewel tones?
- Determine how much contrast you can handle in any given outfit. Shades of cream, or blue against orange?
- Finally, sort out whether you will wear patterns, and if so, whether you like large-figured or small, i.e. big repeating blocks or eensy.
It is much easier to face down racks of clothes with a logical framework behind your instincts. Kind of like life.
B. The Privilege[d] Secret To Wardrobe Success
No more imaginary wardrobes. No more purchases to compensate for something better addressed in other ways,i.e fights with loved ones, feelings of deprivation, wishing for whatever. Buy for your real life, and remember that under those clothes lives your psyche. One prone perhaps to hissy fits, crises of confidence, surges of optimism, or virtuous rages. Make sure you have clothes that support you from your worst days to your best.
1. Barely making it out the door
I revert to the clothes of my tomboy girlhood. Foot comfort, blues, and something to keep warm that didn’t belong to my son when he was 15.
2. Gunning all cylinders
Bootlegs serve my silhouette best, and I’ve dedicated large portions of my time to finding low heels that don’t look too Nanny McPhee. Here’s where investing in a classic jacket – Chanel-esque or tailored hunt blazer, or loose and Helmut-Langy, depends on your shape.
3. Rocket ship
Go for the gold. Find a piece that rocks your world, and wear the bejeezus out of it, like this paisley rainbow-colored Jil Sander dress. Add jewelry or accessories that make you blink. In my case, that means anything bigger than my fingernail. Make an impact.
C. The Specific And The Universal
Some principles are universal, some specific. Universally we can and should:
- Spend on shoes, jackets
- Find a good scarf for winter
- Buy pants and tops for fit first, ease of care second, fashion impact third
Specifically, however, I live in Northern California, and work in San Francisco. Here we love our jeans because we can wear them all year round. If you’re in New England, as you already know, you are going to have to add wool trousers to the mix. As for psychic comfort, dresses make me nervous. Perhaps they calm you. Understand your constraints, and adapt.
- Climate variations
- What is your clothing fuffy, pants or a dress?
- And, of course, what’s appropriate to the culture you inhabit?
D. On Beyond The Department Store
Finally, move beyond the stunned, blinking, defeated traverses of large department stores. Perhaps this has never happened to you. I bow. For the rest of us, two last research tasks complete our strategic preparation.
1. Find your designer cohort
This doesn’t mean you have to buy designers, just that studying the best will educate your eye, and help you determine what paradigms you prefer. Invest your time in reviewing the collections on Style.com. Look at S/S 2013, even though those shows happened a little while back. You will soon figure out if you like Raf Simons-style asymmetry, Oscar de la Renta effervescent ladyisms, or Miuccia Prada’s intellect. Then you look for similar pieces that cost less than two tickets to Paris.
2. Find your chain boutique of choice
We all need basics. Are you for J. Crew or Anthropologie? Talbots or Ann Taylor? Up a notch, Tory Burch or Karen Millen? If you know, a priori, which small stores are apt to carry goods you enjoy, shopping becomes infinitely more productive.
There you have it. Oh wait, one more thing.
Get a friend to shop with you. Everything’s less daunting with a buddy.