Does it seem superficial to begin this blog with a focus on the appearance? Perhaps a little? For a long time I certainly downplayed the importance of this aspect of life.
Of course the outer appearance will always come second to the inner being but the two have a very close relationship. What we wear affects how we feel, how we think, how we interact with the world around us. I realised that if I get this bit right it actually frees my mind up to stop thinking about my appearance and think about everything else!
Only recently have I discovered the many benefits of a capsule, quality, French-style wardrobe and, as with so many newly converted, am a zealous advocate of this approach. Often born of necessity (limited space in tiny but enchanting apartments) and maintained as part of an ongoing life edit, I now realise that many of my French friends have shown me over the years the benefits of having fewer, better quality, truly loved pieces of clothing.
The turning point
‘You’ll see I only wear gray or blue suits…I’m trying to pare down decisions… I have too many other decisions to make’ ~ Barack Obama
My mornings were often spent searching through piles of clothes in the hunt for the day’s perfect outfit only to end up in the same black trousers and nondescript top. So many clothes but nothing I wanted to wear. The answer? Care less about the appearance and wear the first thing to hand? Buy more clothes, hoping these will be the magic outfit that eludes you every morning? I certainly tried both of these approaches.
The stress of choosing every day and then of spending that day feeling not quite right bothered me. I wanted to feel relaxed and elegant, especially at work, but never seemed to quite get there.
It was actually the Madame Chic series by Jennifer L Scott that shifted my mindset on this. I’d heard the phrase capsule wardrobe many times and always enjoyed adopting this approach for holidays but it wasn’t until I read Scott’s books (generally just amazing inspiration for living a French life) that I considered taking that approach to my daily wardrobe.
I realised that less clothes wasn’t so much about less choice but about less stress. It was about deciding ahead for the season what your outfit choices would be and that by having fewer of these, you could give each one special attention and make it that elusive magic outfit.
Where to begin?
‘Be yourself, everyone else is already taken’ ~ Oscar Wilde
My starting point was to remove everything from my wardrobe and only put back in the things that made me feel like the very best version of myself.
Everything else either went to the charity shop or was stored away for another season. There were a few things I couldn’t decide on. The general advice on this seems to be that you should store things you can’t bring yourself to part with for six months and then after this time, if you haven’t missed them, you give them away.
When I looked at what was left, I felt my very small remaining collection truly represented my style. These pieces were going to be the building blocks of my new capsule wardrobe.
Rebuilding your wardrobe
‘Elegance is Refusal’ ~ Coco Chanel
I then had to commit to these pieces, to ignore the messages from the world that I needed to keep up with the latest trends, to buy, buy, buy. This was the hard part but I began to learn that unless I was happy with the outfits I had I would always be striving for something that just eluded me. If I invested time in pairing items with the right pieces and took time to choose my accessories, I actually discovered what I loved had been there all along. It had just disappeared amongst the mass of stuff.
I found that by editing out all the things that I’d acquired for the wrong reasons (looked amazing on someone I admired, were in the 70% off sale, were in the latest fashion pages etc etc) I was left with an emerging picture of my own style.
Once I had taken the time to understand this I could begin adding pieces and outfits slowly and carefully to build up a versatile and much-loved capsule wardrobe. In my research I came across Project 333 (you choose 33 pieces, including shoes and coats etc, that you wear for 3 months). I have found this to be a good number for me, enough to offer choice but not on an overwhelming level. I have just chosen my items (31 to be precise) to take me through from April-June and I can’t wait to wear each and every one of them.
I am nearly a year into this way of running my wardrobe and can honestly say it has changed more than just the way I look!
Bon chic, bon genre!