Tuesday, 24 January 2012

wardrobe reinvention--without the classic white shirt

There have been a lot of fashion-specific New Years Resolutions floating around the blogosphere lately. There's a recession-friendly trend towards wanting to build the kind of wardrobe that will last for years. However, I notice that those in style circles, when discussing wardrobe building, frequently talk of a) cleaning out your closet and getting rid of at least a third of your stuff and b)repopulating it with white button-ups and little black dresses and black pencil skirts--the "basics."

This may work for some, but outside of office wear it definitely doesn't work for me. LBDs are classic, I guess, but they really put me to sleep. And isn't fashion supposed to be fun? Here are my alternative pointers to wardrobe building.

Photobucket
with a box-dived parasol this past summer, originally and uselessly bought in 2004

a) Unless you have to, don't get rid of all your stuff

If you're bored to tears with your clothes, put them in boxes, stick them in the attic or wherever, and leave them to marinate for a year or two. Things that don't fit or are unsalvageable should certainly go, but anything you've ever loved or which is really good quality should stay. Trends and silhouettes come around. I've put everything from vintage lumberjack shirts to berets to leather ankle boots in the "to donate" pile. Luckily, in each case, someone in my family rescued the above items, and where would I be without them now? If you've read my posts from Canada, you'll know that half my wardrobe is a result of "box-diving" in the attic, including my New Years Eve dress. It's amazing how exciting your old stuff can be after an enforced absense.

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box-dived sandals and bag.

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Who knows how many times this hand-me-way-down wool shirt escaped the donation pile?

b) Buy things you love, and the occasional basic to support them.

I don't love little black dresses, at least, no more than little yellow dresses. I suppose I could wear an LBD every day for a year with a different coloured scarf and call it an outfit, but yawnnnn.

I do love dresses though. I want to fill my wardrobe with good-quality, exciting dresses in whatever colour they come in. I know I love dresses the best of all the different fashion items, so they don't need to go with everything... everything needs to go with them.

The basics for me come into play in the form of tights, shoes and sweaters. Here I make sure (or I try) that I have black and brown and red (a neutral colour) shoes, grey tights, and so forth. A wild dress will always have its place in my wardrobe. A wild cardigan may cause problems if it doesn't go with the dresses (which are the priority).

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Whose basics? These would make it into my suitcase before an LBD anyday... Calivintage, The Styling Dutchman, and me, back in August.

This is just me, I love dresses. If your passion is shoes, you might want to build a wardrobe from the feet up. If you find you gravitate towards patterned and colourful tops, you'll probably need neutral skirts to go with them, and vice versa. Keeping this in mind helps streamline a wardrobe and makes the decision as to what can and can't come in easier. I can easily justify a new fire-engine red dress, but turquoise floral shoes might be a little more difficult.

My own fashion New Years Resolution is to buy only one item per month**, which should limit the amount of time wasted thinking about things I "need", while still giving me something to look forward to. I know that several months will be claimed by dresses... and I'm looking forward to it.

What do you think of my "prioritizing a fashion item" technique? Do you have any tips for making a capsule wardrobe without getting boring?

**excepting perfect basic cardigans when they show up (almost never). I never have enough (currently only two) and they are a basic, after all!

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40 comments:

Closet Fashionista said...

That is so true! I would prioritize funky blazers, shoes and dresses....so true almost all of my sweaters are really simple because they are what I throw over my dresses ;)
http://www.closet-fashionista.com/

Catita said...

that parasol must be the prettiest one I've ever seen!
xoxo
Catita

Annebeth said...

we are like, the same person. Basics are for boring people, for sure. You know what you get when you build your wardrobe on basics? A mega boring wardrobe that only gives you boring, basic outfits. I basically build my style around pieces that I love. Every individual piece I buy is a piece I love, which makes the outfits I put together consist of awesomeness, simple as that. And yeah, I focus my style around blouses, skirts and dresses: the rest needs to follow!

C said...

These are some great tips! I still to this day don't have a LBD.

Emily, Ruby Slipper Journeys said...

@Annebeth: Hehe, I know! Plus, most of those "basics" they mention look best on off-duty models, which is cool for them, but, you know...

@C: I actually have three! But none of them is basic and the one I wear most has a big yellow bow!

Maria Elyse said...

I love your concept of building your wardrobe around what you wear the most. (Blouses, dresses, or shoes, etc.) Every person's basics are different, depending on your tastes and lifestyle- I love that you pointed this out! I really hate it when people post New Years wardrobe resolution posts and say that you must get rid of the vast majority of the clothes you don't wear. Just because you don't wear them/love them now doesn't mean you won't later!

Wonderfully fabulous post!

xo
Maria Elyse
www.uneasyimpressions.blogspot.com

P.S. I loved your Dickens-inspired outfit from last week! (Though I didn't comment on it, sorry!)

Jane said...

I love this post, I've seen all those "invest in basics" resolutions on the blogosphere and I was left thinking that everyone's wardrobe was going to look the same! I really like your technique, since I love my fancy dresses.

Laura (White Winters) said...

I really like your philosophy on building a wardrobe that you will love. I think I may have to adopt your buy one item a month idea soon as I am finding that I don't have any more space.

Laura
whitewinters.blogspot.com

Emily, Ruby Slipper Journeys said...

@Laura: I know! Damn living out of a suitcase!

The Daily Fashionista said...

Perfectly perfect post!! Your words ring true to me!! I basically got rid of everything boring and basic after being in my corporate job just long enough where I felt like I can dress the way I want (within reason) without being a slave to The Limited, New York and Co, or Banana Republic. And I wish I had an attic to keep my "unwanted for now" things.

Terri said...

Well, I'm searching for your parasol...and I will snatch it up when I find it.

I agree about the dresses. Before I began blogging, I only owned one dress and that has definitely changed.

I'm keeping an official list of things I'm looking for this year. After last year, there aren't actually many gaps left.

Che said...

I like your alternative :] I don't really like pencil skirts or button up white tees.

elanor, said...

if i really think about myself and what i wear and like, your alternative makes WAY more sense to me anyway.

LOVE this post!
xx

Ashley said...

I'm also obsessed with dresses. I find myself easily shelling out $100 on a well made, interesting dress. Good pointers, em, especially the one about don't just go around throwing your whole closet away!! I wish my mom had kept more from the 60s and 70s.

Laura said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Laura said...

Hear, hear! I LOVE these resolutions - they're pretty much how I operate already. I have one black dress, and it was my grandmother's, so it's special. I don't see the need to rush out and get more black dresses. Yellow, on the other hand...

Tights, shoes, and sweaters make up a huge portion of my wardrobe. I was actually slightly appalled when I realized how many tights I actually own...some of them almost beyond repair. Oops.

thejoyfulfox.blogspot.com

Caitlin said...

that parasol is amazing!

i totally agree with boxing up old clothes. i SO regret some of the clothes i've donated over the years.

and i'm not sure i could do the only one new item per month. i have no self control i guess! ha.

Georgia Rose said...

Thank you SO MUCH for this post! I have made way too many mistakes by selling awesome things I temporarily got bored of, and will now never get back- my yellow 1950s kitten skirt, my green balloon-print dress, my perfect black lace-up boots, and a myriad of other amazing stuff that now resides in other people's wardrobes. I've now learned to pack things in boxes and put them in storage/the linen closet/under my bed. This week I put 15 dresses into our family's storage units- things like my white lace 1960s wedding dress that I never wear, but I just can't give up. I know I'll be overjoyed to open it up some day!

CessOviedo said...

And for posts like this is exactly why I love your blog and style so much, it really shows you have fun with what you wear, I'm part of that group of people that lives off basics, so I admire your style so much!

Cess O. <3 The Outfit Diaries

Monique said...

I like the idea of just buying one quality piece a month. I may join you in that venture. I use to be afraid of prints and then I went a bit too crazy with prints now adding basics to my closet has set up a sort of equilibrium. I also thing it's just wear one is mentally. I use to wear colors to cheer me up but now I'm overwhelmed by the young energy around me and the darker more solid colors are quite grounding.

Monique said...

oops that's *think...

rose said...

Hola emily mui bela sua para agua. Besos
Rose jp

Emily, Ruby Slipper Journeys said...

@Ashley: I'm glad I'm not the only one who's happy to part with vast sums of money for the right dress! ; )

@Laura: Yellow forever!

@Georgia Rose: Damn! I wish I'd been around to snap up that balloon print dress...

@Cess: You have basics, but I also see you in lots of fun, interesting and colourful clothes!

@Monique: That's a very interesting point of view, that the children and causing you to head towards more grounded colours. I agree that too much of anything can be overkill, and sometimes I do want to wear jeans and a t-shirt.

Michelle said...

Great post Emily! I really wish I had a more adventurous cupboard but I generally buy those dreaded basics when I need something. I am trying to play around a lot more with colour and mixing patterns but that generally only happens in summer. As a current student I stick to jeans and neutral jumpers. I saw a quote on pinterest a while ago "life is too short to wear boring clothes" and I am slowly (very slowly) working towards that.

Good luck with your one item focus this year. I look forward to see what you add to the wardrobe.

Emily, Ruby Slipper Journeys said...

@Michelle: I definitely did that for years. I think I've just realized that (for me) the neutral jumper thing makes me presentable, but not happy, every day. Even just having a crazy patterned shirt collar peaking out from under the jumper improves my mood. I won't lie though, on days when I have no motivation I definitely reach for jeans and a grey sweater... Sometimes clothes definitely have to take a back seat!

Carrie said...

I LOVE those sandals that you found in the box - I mean, I seriously love them. Guess that means I'm a shoe girl. :-)

I'm currently on a purging streak - not just in the closet, but throughout the whole house. For too long I have thought, "But what if I need it someday" and my home (and closet) have become cluttered.

When it comes to clothing, specifically, if I have a question about something, I DO have a box in my closet where the questionable item goes. If it sits there for a year (or longer) and I never once think about it to pull it down, then it goes out. Someone else might love it a whole lot more than I do. I also know that my style has changed a bit over the years, so when I put on clothes that I wore 10 years ago, it's just not ME anymore.

For the record, I don't own a LBD. {GASP} :-)

caitlin said...

buying one item a month is a good plan--i need to figure out a similar fashion diet, but considering that most of my clothes are thrifted that might not be the best plan for me (maybe one "new" thing per month?)... anyway, i totally agree. the "basics" are totally yawn-worthy. give me a fun dress anyday!

Natalie Suarez said...

super duper cute!! i love this! xx

natalieoffduty.blogspot.com

Natalie Suarez said...

super duper cute!! i love this! xx

natalieoffduty.blogspot.com

Nina the Little Nomad said...

I'm always determined to cut down on my wardrobe but can never brings myself to do it. I think I'm going to start doing what you do and box a lot of old things away and rediscover them later. I have a thing for charity shop jumpers and dress with pretty tights so I think I'll make that my main focus :)
xxx

Tomz said...

i luv that umbrella, and the third picture appeared in sum precious previous issues

Emily, Ruby Slipper Journeys said...

@Tomz: Yep, all the pictures of me appeared in previous entries. I'm just demonstrating that I (sort of) practice what I preach.

Amber said...

this is an excellent idea. I plan on going through my closet and getting rid of the things that no longer fit or are just torn up. Otherwise I'm keeping my clothes and plan on incorporating better quality items.

Emily, Resplendent Tranquility said...

For me, basic cardigans are typically items I love and my wardrobe staples. My style resolution for this year is to incorporate several better quality blouses and dresses into my wardrobe that will pair well with any, if not all, of my cardigans (and serve me with numerous styling options).

Zane said...

great post, love it

dusanabotswana said...

well I certainly don't need to tell you what I've prioritized for my style. since then I've def noticed that I do stay away from say, crazy patterned shoes that I may have wanted before, and even super glued brown suede on some blue plaid ones haha. But def important that you say if you ever loved it, I def try to get rid of things I was always neutral about. I always love how you go against the grain on things and your fun dresses!
http://dusanabotswana.com/

kori said...

This is a great post! Thanks for sharing. I've been trying to create the kind of wardrobe where I love each piece, whereas a few years ago I didn't like anything enough to store it. Some day I may have enough stuff that will be box-diveable items instead of getting rid of it all. I love the photos of your box dived stuff! I want a pair of brown sandals like yours!

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Isabelle said...

A little late to be reading New Year's resolutions in July, but waw: everything you say is so true! It should be an all year long resolution. And those LBD's, they are indeed supposed to be "classic" and "never out of style", that's probably why I own five. That I never wear. Or feel boring when I do wear them. Anyway, great post and I will definitely try out your boxing tip! I too build my outfit around one or two pieces I love (could be shoes, could be a dress, could be a blazer, ...) and go one from there. Cool to see other people do that too! :-)
http://becausefashionthatswhy.blogspot.com

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