Here’s the thing I discovered when I cleaned out my closets. I have no clothes for the life I am actually living now. Uh, Houston, we have a problem.
Although I’ve added clothes since my life went off-road about five years ago, I’ve never done a massive closet clear out. As a result, there are still lots of clothes in my closet that I no longer wear (suits) or rarely wear (black tie dresses). It’d be great to have some new things but, instead of my usual m.o. (buying things I like with only a vague idea of what I need), time and money dictates that I need to find a new approach to the whole idea of creating a wardrobe.
The usual approach is to start with a list of basics and fill in what you don’t have. I hadn’t found that method very effective. For example, while I love a black suit — and a black jacket and a black skirt and pair of black pants are all things I would like — I don’t need them to fit together into a suit in quite the same way that I used to.
After scanning blogs and websites, flipping through books (I found this one especially helpful), and combing through magazines, I came to the conclusion that I needed to figure out a uniform. Not in the military kind of way but more of a formula for dressing that will result in my spending money on things I actually wear all the time and, hopefully, less time spent lamenting that I have nothing to wear.
For that, I had to figure out what it was that I need clothes for. I sat down and considered what it is that I do. After writing down all the things I did in the last year (yes, I actually went through my calendar from 2012 to figure this out), I discovered that my life breaks down into five types of activities. Once I had that figured out, I started to consider the things I’d worn doing those things — what had worked? what had I felt good in? I used Pinterest, creating five boards, one for each type of activity and then I let myself play, surfing the web and virtual shopping, pinning things I liked and, since I was hoping to use it was a resource later, that felt within my price range. (If you’re not a Pinterest user, you could do the same thing by spending a day going to stores, trying things on and making notes of what you like but LA isn’t really set up to make that kind of day fun in the same way that it would be if you lived in NY or Paris or London.)
In my experience, what I always find funny is how it quickly it becomes clear what I like. I’ll look at my boards, go through the list of things I liked while I was out shopping, shuffle through a folder of things I’ve clipped from a magazine and discover, whoa, I’m liking ankle boots with Cuban heels. The only difference, and this is a big one for me, is that now, since I’m shopping with a purpose — to create a wardrobe of clothing that is useful as well as just pretty — the guilt that usually accompanies my shopping experiences is disappearing. I’m looking at things I know will work in my life, in my wardrobe, and that I’ll get a lot of use out of.
Here’s how it broke down for me:
- Work at home / errands / shoots / weekends / research / site visits — What I do most of the time is stay at home and write. While I suppose I could spend my time in my pajamas, on the few occassions that I’ve tried that I just felt slothful at the end of the day. So pajamas are out. It has to be comfortable and casual without being sloppy and, since my house is invariably chilly (yes, even in the middle of summer), some layering is a good idea. I’m a big fan of Uniqlo’s super skinny fit jeans. They come to my ankle so they look good with flats or heels; they tuck into boots easily. So these are the lynchpin. From there things fall into place: ballet flats or wedges (like these Martina wedges from JCrew) for most days; sneakers or Bensimons for weekends and shoots and days when I’m hanging out with Little e or Non-Prophet; boots, ankle or knee-high, flat or heeled, for colder weather. On top, long sleeve t’s and light sweaters (especially boyfriend-style v-necks) in winter, drapey t’s in warmer weather, topped off with a scarf or a cardigan. To mix things up, there are black jeans, grey jeans and white jeans and a pair of skinny black pants I picked up at the Gap a few years ago. (JCrew’s Minnie pants are similar)
- Lunches / interviews / important meetings / drinks — From time to time, I have to venture out into the real world and look a little nicer. Basic uniform still in place, I can pull on a jacket, swap in heels, and consider a blouse (I’m loving this one) instead of a sweater.
- Evenings / cocktails / dinners out — Though the lunch uniform can work for this category, sometimes, especially for industry events, I have to kick it up a notch. Though I could use a few items (like this basic black dress and a few nice tops), I’m pretty set in this category. I’m also good to go if things get really fancy. You need a date for an awards ceremony? Not only am I ready, I will kill it.
- Loungewear – What? I don’t own sweatpants? Apparently not. Or any regular hoodies. I’m planning on a trip to American Apparel to grab some hoodies and sweats in their California Fleece line to take care of my needs in grey, navy and black.
- Sportswear – Though I’m not particularly sportif, somehow my sports clothes comprise the perfect capsule collection. They can take me from yoga to hiking to running and everything mixes and matches. (Also, apparently I’m a Nike girl all the way). As soon as I can stand on my own two feet and start running again, a new pair of trainers is on my list.
So, my basic uniform, pictured above
Jeans – Women’s skinny fit straight jeans, Uniqlo
Wedges – Women’s Merona Melinda Wedge, Target
Scarf – Southwestern Eagle Scarf, Forever 21
Necklace – Sparkling teardrop chain necklace (similar to an amethyst one I designed), Forever 21
V-Neck Sweater – Autumn Cashmere boyfriend sweater in banker’s grey, Bluefly
What about you? Do you have a uniform?