Art of Style Curating

I can tell you one thing. It wasn’t easy. Building my wardrobe has been and continues to be an ongoing process of curating and editing. Here’s how I took control:

  • I re-evaluated my shopping and spending habits. I used to think the “perfect closet” meant owning every possible top and bottom combination – a kind friend would’ve called my collection “eclectic,” whereas an honest one would call it a “hot mess.” My wardrobe was bursting at the seams and I still had “nothing to wear.” WTF. One day, I came across Dead Fleurette’s post on maintaining shopping resolutions and investing only in 4-5 items each season and felt inspired to do the same.
  • I had to let go of what wasn’t working, including the excuses. “It will come back in style!” “It’ll fit again someday!” “This will look cute for wine tasting!” “I can wear it when I’m pregnant!”

An easy nix? Anything that was beyond repair. GONE. As for the rest? I asked myself difficult questions when it came to keeping or tossing an item: Have I worn this in the past year? Does it fit? Will I ever wear it again? Does it fit my personal style? Is it comfortable? Am I holding onto it for any reason other than guilt or nostalgia? Do I LOVE it? If I answered “no” to any of these questions, I had to get rid of it. Despite my separation issues in the beginning, I eventually managed to edit down my wardrobe to pieces I truly loved and still wore (most important!).

With a smaller and more manageable wardrobe full of pieces I find inspiring, I no longer have “nothing to wear.” I splurge on quality, tailored items that I know I can wear to death and save on fun, trendy pieces for an instant wardrobe update. Most of the outfits I wear during the day can work through the night with a quick shoe change and an accessory or two.

  • I performed a wardrobe inventory. I looked at what I had and compiled a list of the missing gaps. At the beginning of my cleanse, my wardrobe required more foundational pieces – a fitted black blazer, a knee length trench, a slim cropped ankle pant, an ankle boot (in black and neutral), and a closed toe nude pump – and once I found those pieces, I began experimenting with other colors and silhouettes.
  • I figured out my personal style. As I was whittling down the contents of my closet, I made a mental note of my “go-to” items and decided what I liked about them. I noticed I tend to gravitate towards neutral colors and like to pull my outfit together with fun, statement pieces – such as a wide brim hat, a faux fur scarf, or a bold ring, etc. – to give it a personal touch or two. The beauty of it all? Even if I deviate from my neutral palette and buy a colorful, O.T.T. (over the top) print in the form of paisley genie pants (yes, genie pants), I know it will work with the foundational pieces I already have.
  • I followed the “one in, one out” rule. Every time I bought something, I got rid of something. My space wasn’t going to get any bigger and neither should my wardrobe.
  • I gave my compulsive shopping addiction a break. For a while, I steered clear of malls, online stores, and fashion blogs and vowed not to shop until I paid off my outstanding credit card debt. My balance reached “zero” in less than two months. I also noticed a shift in my shopping habits. I approached shopping for clothes the same way I do for furniture – selectively and carefully! Full disclosure: The impulse buy happens, but it rarely does and I don’t beat myself over it.

ON SHOPPING FOR INDIVIDUAL PIECES:

  • I look at the tailoring. Does it fit? Is the silhouette flattering on my shape? If it’s a jacket, I make sure it fits me in the shoulders. Any wide sleeve can be slimmed out with a good tailor, but alterations in the shoulders can be tricky and expensive.
  • I ask myself, can I boogie in it with ease? I’ll start doing yoga poses in the fitting room to quickly assess how the clothes move when I move. My favorite poses? Vrksasana (tree) and Trikonasana (triangle) for pants and Urdhva Hastasana for tops. If I could comfortably do the poses in the garment, then I buy it. Namaste.
  • I make and keep a virtual shopping list on my iPhone. It helps me remember what I need slash want. I refer to it often and update it with new items or remove ones I no longer want (yay, money).
  • If I don’t love something, it does not come home with me. If you’re single, apply that to people too. Just kidding. But if you want, I can get into that another day. Settling for “just okay” pieces (and people) can cramp your style and closet! Pool your funds together and buy a great investment piece instead of several “mediocre” ones.
  • I stick to a budget. Over the past six years, I parted with over 100 items. I sold whatever I could and put the money towards my “wardrobe fund,” along with no more than 10% of my salary. If I’m running low on my wardrobe fund, I refrain from shopping. I rarely use my debit or credit card and pay for all my wardrobe expenses with cash.

I save more, spend less, and can now afford a pair of Christian Louboutins (on the same salary!).

I even helped my boyfriend go through his closet and LOVINGLY forced him to make difficult (and, at times heartbreaking) and important decisions about the items in his closet. We set aside a few hours and made sure we felt motivated to dig in and get to work. Four large garbage bags full of clothes later, he could finally see the entire contents of his closet.

If you have 10-15 minutes, I highly recommend you read “Secrets of French Girls” by Ellen Wallace (via Dead Fleurette).

Some of my favorite excerpts:

Those French girls look better than we do. The women all looked pretty and sophisticated in a carefree, natural way. They had on clothes my American friends might wear: denim skirts, nice shirts with pullovers, and low-heeled shoes. There was nothing overtly French about their features and coloring, yet they looked Parisian to the core. None of them was doing anything an American friend might not try, but somehow the total look wasn’t the same.

So, a few nights later, I decided to proceed to step two: Ask the French. This task proved more successful, although I could see the Parisiennes were wondering why I was asking such elementary questions. One of the earliest lessons a French girl learns is to invest well in her clothes. “Chic is knowing how to buy something that will last,” Pascale told me. “My basics must last for at least five, and often ten or fifteen, years. By basics, I mean clothes that I can wear from morning through the night. Maybe in the evening I’ll add a special necklace and bracelet, or a dressy belt – the accessories make the difference.”

Judy feels that there are three basic differences between French and American women. “French women are more self-confident in general, and this carries over into dressing. They are willing to experiment – say, to roll up the sleeves of a silk shirt and wear it with jeans or stick a gold belt on jeans. I can’t think of any American woman who would do that until she had seen it in a magazine.

The greatest difference, she noted, is that looking nice has become a habit for French women. “At 9:00 A.M. at the corner market, I’m the only one with my hair in a ponytail and no makeup. American women either get dressed up – and when they do, you know they’re dressed up – or they simply ‘throw something on.’ There’s no such phrase in French! French women simply don’t go around looking sloppy.”

Another guest, Isabelle, had just come back from a vacation in Palm Beach. “In Florida everyone wears shorts and T-shirts during the day, then at night they dress up to seduce. In France, seduction is an all-day affair, part of your look, not just your clothes. It isn’t something you turn on and off.”