I started creating my mini wardrobe nearly two years ago and thought it was time to give an update on my thoughts about it after seasons have passed. My first post on my minimal wardrobe was over a year ago. So it is time for an update.
I was inspired to pare down my mismatched, ill-fitting, poorly planned wardrobe after reading the book Lessons from Madame Chic by Jennifer L. Scott.
I went through my entire wardrobe and donated or sold pretty much all of it. I had a lot of clothes that I had nothing to wear with, did not fit, or flatter me, were outdated, and simply items I did not like. I found it amazing how little of what hung in my closet that I actually wore.
I began cultivating a wardrobe consisting of about ten basic items, I leaned heavily on French fashion. Breton striped shirts, white jeans, and red, white, and blue as my core colors. I settled on ballet flats, espadrilles, a pair of oxford shoes, and healed boots for my feet. I wore scarves as a daily accessory.
As seasons changed, it did not take me long to realize the practicality of what I wore was also vital in my life.
Some beautiful French staples that didn’t work for me:
Scarves quickly proved to be annoying as I am constantly wiping floors due to people messes. The scarf would dribble and dabble in soapy water, and get in my way as I bent down so often throughout the day. A scarf out on the town is perfectly nice, but since my life is spent 95% at home…scarves ended up being constantly removed until I gave up on them.
I also invested in a really nice white blouse. I loved it, but found it impossible button to keep clean, and it would often wait a while on a hanger before I had time to iron it. The upkeep of a white blouse in my life was also out of the question.
Blazers and sports jackets have never suited me. I feel stiff and unnatural wearing them. But I did give them a shot. I love the look of a brown wool plaid blazer with a warm wool skirt, leather gloves, and tall boots in the autumn….jeans will work too. I also like a blazer with jeans. Mixing the casual and dressy create the perfect blend for all occasions. But on me? I found myself constantly shedding a blazer throughout the day, simply because I find it constricting as I work. Eventually, I never even tried to put on a blazer and just gravitated to my favorite black cashmere sweater…over and over.
Espadrilles were bad news for my feet and also very unpractical for my daily life. I bought two pair of beautiful and good quality espadrille shoes for the summer. A black pair by Andre Assus and a beige pair by Kanna from Spain. The hard soles of the espadrilles were very uncomfortable and hard on my back after a day of wear. I also find my life in the summer involves walks in the woods, pushing little folks on the swing, and time both in and out of doors. Making espadrilles wear out and become dirty very quickly. Espadrilles also are a heavy shoe and I found them too stiff for my daily work. So, I bought a nice pair of Clark sandals and wore them for the rest of the summer, shelving my espadrilles.
Leather jackets can look smashing and chic when paired with pretty much anything. So, I bought one. But friends, it just wasn’t me. I felt unnatural and not myself when wearing it, even though I got a business cut instead of a biker design. I found I never gravitated toward wearing it, and it hung lonely in my closet. So, I sold it last year and have not missed it at all.
Silk…I will try to wear silk again later in life. I love silk, even a touch of it gives any outfit instant luxury. I however, cannot keep up with its care. It spots easily, even with just water. It melts under a hot iron. Silk should not be cleaned by any other method than the dry cleaners, and that only on rare occasion. I have hand washed a silk blouse from time to time to save money, but know from my textile classes, that I am damaging the delicate fibers and slowly dissolving the strands of silk with each washing. Silk simply doesn’t work into my hands-on lifestyle right now.
My journey into chic French classics was not in vain. I discovered a few sticking traits in my wardrobe that I love to wear every day. And I certainly received an education concerning what doesn’t work.
What I held onto in my journey into the chic French classics?
A matching wardrobe! Everything in my wardrobe works with each other. I don’t go shopping without an idea what I need. And I don’t desire to buy clothes that won’t work with what I already own. I have a wardrobe pallet of black, grey, white, navy, and blush pink right now. I like the soft, muted tones.
A good quality purse! I love my patent, cherry red, Burberry purse. It might not be Chanel, but it is well made, and it’s size is adjustable, so suits my needs when I go out. Yes, I only own one purse. I bought it on Poshmark used for several hundred dollars. But it was in amazing condition and would have been an impossible purchase for me at it’s original price tag. I am hoping my Burberry purse will last me until my children are grown. Then I will look for something a little smaller and perhaps in a more finesse design. But that will all be when I am no longer packing items for my children on a regular basis, and have sippy cups, diapers, books, and crayons to tote on the go.
Breton striped shirts have always been a style I gravitated toward. I own two from Boden. One is navy and white stripe and the other is grey and navy stripe. I also bought them used on Poshmark, but am comfortable paying $20 for a great quality shirt and getting snot on it, than if I got the same shirt new for $75.
Cashmere is a recent discovery of softness. I love the cozy warmth a cashmere sweater brings. I seek out middle-of the road cashmere. So farm I have yet to buy a sweater from Naadam or Everlane, but they would be a brand I would gravitate toward. I found a really nice Elizabeth and James black cashmere cardigan on E-bay. I got it cheap because a button was broken. But it probably would have cost several hundered new. My other two cashmere sweaters are from L.L. Bean. One is a blush pink hoodie and the other is an oversize taupe with a turtleneck. Older J.Crew cashmere also has a good reputation, but the newer cashmere is not as fine. I would not buy cheap cashmere from Pure Collection, Gap, Charter Club, or Banana Republic. I would imagine any cashmere sold under a fast fashion label would be thin, would pill, and would itch a little.
Simplicity is something that I love about French fashion. I do believe over-accessorizing simply looks gaudy. I do not need a necklace and a scarf. I do not need sunglasses and a hat. I do not need a watch and a bracelet. One piece of jewelry is ample for any look. I need simplicity in my life, and the French have licensed me to do so.
Mixing casual and dressy pieces to complete the perfect look. Dresses with sneakers, blazers with jeans, silk with denim, skirts with a graphic T-shirt…are all examples of well thought out looks that ultimately provide balance. Not that every outfit must be contrasted in that way, but I find it helpful to keep in mind that dressy and casual can be mixed instead of living in their own quarters.
It is hard in our culture, but I am walking away from Polyester…ok… to be perfectly honest, I do have three polyester dresses in my closet at present, but they are moving out soon. I got a couple for my birthday and absolutely love the prints, but due to the fast fashion and cheapness of the garments, I do not expect them to a long life in my closet. Polyester, is essentially a fine plastic filament. It is like wearing a plastic bag for clothing. It does not allow the skin to breath and so can cause body orders to incur. It seems like an unhealthy fabric to be wearing. It is also extremely cheap. So, other than some experimental breathable Polyester that has just hit the market, (it won’t be in shops I can afford for some time), ALL clothing made with polyester is cheap, no matter how much it cost. I cannot tell you how many shops I have been saddened to see beautiful garments made with the plastic. It immediately puts the entire brand in the mode of fast, cheap, fashion…even if the price tags don’t read that. Someone is making a killing. As I am writing, I see a need to expound on fabrics more, but that is for another post.
Levi Jeans are truly the best. I find the fit and make of classic Levi’s to be the best jean. I don’t wear any other brand. Levi’s wear out into a beautiful distressed look too. Some jeans simply look worn out. But Levi’s tend to look like they were made that way. I have three pair of jeans. A dark skinny Levi, a light distressed skinny Levi, and a dark boot-cut Levi.
A little black dress is a favorite of mine, even though it is not a truly a French staple. Other than my two cheap polyester dresses, I currently own two other dresses…both black. One is made by Boden. It fits and flatters beautifully. I bought it on E bay for under thirty dollars. The other dress I have is a fancy Swiss Dot black dress made by Anthropologie…yes, cheap, poly fabric, but the cut flatters me and I typically wear it for the times I dress up. I am going to hang onto that dress until I can find a suitable quality replacement.
And that is my mini wardrobe going on over a year and a half now. I am so grateful for the time it has saved me and the lessons I have learned by owning a minimal item wardrobe. I have more fun being creative with my clothes than I used to. I also feel sharp in each outfit I own and don’t have to wonder if it looks good on me. Everything in my closet fits! And moving to better quality items had opened my eyes to the value of buying something beautiful that will last for generations. If I care for my sweaters, they are perhaps something my daughters can enjoy wearing someday. My Burberry purse will probably withstand ten more years of life and I can still sell it for a good bit to put toward another great handbag. My feet don’t hurt from poorly made shoes. My jeans fit and flatter, even if I gain ten pounds. I love mixing and matching my clothes! I never ask myself…”Does this shirt go with my sweater? Because everything does! I am very happy with my choice to own a mini wardrobe.