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Personal Style | Using Minimalism In Your Wardrobe

an organized closet with shelves and hats on the shelves and dresses hanging on a rod

This is my final post in the PERSONAL STYLE series. Today I am talking about how I have been using minimalism to clear a lot of clutter from my closet that was hindering me from the dream closet I wanted.

Click here for Part One (about creating your own unique style description)

Click here for Part Two (about using colour theory to create a signature colour palette)

Click here for Part Three (about keeping comfort and confidence in mind while curating your wardrobe)

Should I Use Minimalism as a Tool to Curate My Wardrobe?

After collecting vintage clothing and accessories for over a decade, I came to the conclusion last year that my dream closet was always bigger than my actual closet. I probably came to that conclusion while hauling a suitcase full of out-of-season clothes from under my bed, or trying to reach a shoebox on the top shelf in my closet. No matter where I live, my closet is always just a bit too small and I am always having to cram in as many items as can fit (mostly hats), yet still having to store the excess in a dresser, and under my bed, and in the hall closet, and on the back of the door. . .

Along with this frustration over lack of storage space is the knowledge that I will probably always be a small space dweller and, as much as I love small spaces, they come with less storage space, which ultimately means you have to own less stuff. So, even though I love collecting vintage, I was tired of having too many pieces in too small of a closet; like many other people, 2020 became the year of the Great Closet Clear Out. It was actually my decision to start paring down the items in my wardrobe that sparked this entire series of posts. 

I wouldn’t necessarily call myself a Minimalist, even though that is what I titled this post, because when it comes to my wardrobe, or anything else, I don’t actually desire to get things down to the minimum. I like to keep some things around that aren’t useful and that I might never wear, but I keep them just because I like them. However, while Minimalism might not be a lifestyle choice for everyone, many of us could probably do with some simplifying and paring back of our wardrobes and other possessions. Rather than following a strictly minimalist approach, I prefer to follow this advice by William Morris (a designer who was key in the Arts and Crafts movement). I think he perfectly sums up how many items you should keep, “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful”. I think that is a pretty good description of what minimalism should be.

When you’ve gone to all of the effort to figure out your personal style, it makes sense to then apply this advice to your closet and remove the extra; keeping only that which you love and value.  You can look at it kind of like a stone carving- you’re getting rid of the excess to reveal the figure within. So for this last post in the series, I wanted to share my tips for how to pare down your wardrobe, in case you’ve ever found yourself in the same situation!

IDENTIFY YOUR PERSONAL STYLE, COLOURS & SILHOUETTES 

Once you’ve figured these out, and come up with a clear picture of your own personal style, it will be a lot easier to evaluate your closet, because you’ll have a clear vision of what you want your dream closet to look like.

When you are looking at your clothes from this perspective, you are choosing which items to keep rather than which items to get rid of. Selecting the items that you love puts a positive slant on the process and you can more easily evaluate the items left behind. I tried this method, and it really helped me to be more objective about those items I wasn’t sure about. Because I had taken the time to figure out my style description and colour palette, it was so much easier to part with items that weren’t fitting into any of those categories.

MOVE PAST THE SUNK COST, OTHER ATTACHMENTS & GUILT 

It can be really hard to get rid of items that cost you a lot, or that you are emotionally attached to (a gift for example), but it is freeing to simply accept that you no longer love something and move on.

I don’t regret trying out new things, or even making style mistakes, because from those fashion experiments I was able to figure out what my personal style and preferences are. Without trying new things, I wouldn’t have known, so that learning experience was valuable. However, keeping items that I no longer love just because I spent a lot on them or invested time into them (for example, pieces that I made myself) doesn’t help me in any way today. That money and time is already gone and it isn’t coming back by keeping the item, so sometimes it is better to be realistic about it, rather than feeling obligated to keep things that are just collecting dust.

I’ve also learned to move on from clothing pieces that bring me guilt or body insecurity. For example, keeping clothes that haven’t fit for years, and might never again, is not a great motivator to get in shape. Likewise, as I talked about in this post, there isn’t any point in keeping items that you don’t wear because they aren’t a great fit for your specific body type. For me, I decluttered two gorgeous vintage plaid skirts that I never wore. I really loved them, but every time I pulled them out of my closet I would inevitably decide that I didn’t like how the plaid looked on me, and I would end up putting them back in the closet. Instead of keeping them, and then feeling bad every time I didn’t wear them, I now plan on sewing some skirts with the plaid cut diagonally rather than horizontal, since I know I like that look a lot more!

2 skirts and 2 hats decluttered

It can also be easy to hold on to pieces “just in case” or because you’ve had them for so long without thinking about whether you still want to keep them. For example, I had some hats that I loved, but never wore. I kept thinking “one day, I will figure out an outfit to pair with that hat” but when I took a second look at them, I realized that I didn’t actually want to wear them anymore. Just because they were vintage and one of a kind didn’t mean that I had to keep them, if they didn’t really suit my style anymore. It’s OK to pass things on to new homes where they will be more appreciated when they don’t work for you anymore.

GET RID OF YOUR 80%

I have never been one who wanted to limit myself in the wardrobe department. While I am intrigued by the idea of a capsule wardrobe, I have never personally been interested in pursuing that. In fact a lot of my wardrobe advice from the past has been, “Why limit yourself?” I love to experiment and try new things and I never wanted to fit myself into one specific category, but over time that doesn’t always work well. For me, rather than having lots of options and coming up with new outfits all the time… I really just had too many clothes that didn’t go together, so I ended up mainly wearing the same few coordinating pieces over and over again. Instead of focusing on the versatility of each item I purchased, I was choosing variety, but when you have a lot of clothes that don’t coordinate, you end up having to get more accessories to go with each outfit, which then means you need to have more storage…it’s an endless cycle.

two stacks of clothing folded

It is said that we wear only twenty percent of our clothes eighty percent of the time, and that was definitely true for me. I had a closet full of clothes, but wasn’t actually wearing many of them on a regular basis. I realized that a capsule wardrobe is basically removing that eighty percent of clothes that you aren’t wearing, and focusing on your twenty percent. So, instead of having a closet bursting at the seams with clothing, I got rid of that excess and focused on how to improve that twenty percent that was left. And of course, there isn’t any set number of pieces; the perfect number of items for you might not be the same number as someone else.

ALWAYS KEEP WHAT MAKES YOU HAPPY

Don’t feel the need to get rid of everything you don’t wear; keep the pieces that make you happy. (Especially if they are unique, one-of-kind vintage pieces!)

pretty vintage dresses and bedjackets hanging on an old window frame over a bed

I have several beautiful evening dresses that I will probably never get rid of. I’ll probably never wear them either, but I love them too much to pass them on. I used to have a lot of evening dresses and then realized that I didn’t really need so many when I don’t ever (or want to) go to parties. However, when I pared down my collection, I kept some of my absolute favourite and irreplaceable ones. I like to hang them out on display where I can enjoy them.

DECIDE WHAT TO DO WITH YOUR DECLUTTERED ITEMS 

Having a plan for what you are going to do with the items you are removing from your closet can make it a lot easier for you to part with them. In the past I had kept a lot of pieces in my closet, even though I knew that they weren’t working for me, because they weren’t things that my local thrift shop would want, or I had spent a lot on them and felt bad about losing that “investment”.

While donations to thrift shops are great, sometimes there are better ways to pass on unwanted items. Selling clothing can also be a worthwhile thing to do, especially if you have rare or vintage pieces. Now that Poshmark is in Canada, I was able to sell a lot of my items there. It did take a lot of time, but it made it a lot easier for me to part with the pieces, since I was able to make back some of the money I had spent. I also know that each of the pieces (even the vintage “wounded birds”) were going to people who wanted them.

Some other options are to give them to friends or family or to have a clothing swap. I also like to donate some of the nicer items to our local women’s shelter- it’s a good place to pass on some of the prettier items.

PUT ASIDE ITEMS YOU’RE NOT SURE ABOUT

When going through my closet, I did see some things that I hadn’t worn for a very long time, but I wasn’t sure whether that meant it was time to part with them or whether I just hadn’t had an occasion to wear them lately. (Probably something many of us went through in 2020.) If you find items that you haven’t worn for months (years?), then take them out of your closet for a while to help you decide whether you still want them or not.

For me, I realized that I needed to move some pieces into my sewing pile to see whether there was something I could do to alter/mend the item to make it more wearable. Other pieces that I wasn’t sure of, got packed away in a suitcase for a while. This works because when you open the suitcase or box again in a few months time, you’ll either be excited to bring those pieces immediately back into rotation, or you’ll find that you completely forgot about them, don’t feel any attachment and can easily move them into the “donate” pile.

open vintage suitcase full of clothes

I also have some items that don’t fit at the moment, but I do still love them and am not ready to just move them out of the closet. (I think this happens to us all at some point or other!) Rather than leaving those pieces hanging forlornly in my closet, I moved them into my out-of-season storage, and I will reevaluate them next year.

WAIT A LITTLE WHILE BEFORE BUYING 

Especially when you live in a small space, at some point you have to curate your belongings to the amount of storage you have: your space dictates how much you can realistically own.  If you have a difficulty in not bringing in new items when you’re shopping, picture where you are going to put it or store it. Or, figure out which item is going to have to go out to make room for the new item. (“One in, one out”)

I now create a list on my phone of everything that I am thinking of buying, and I hardly buy anything right when I see it. Even when browsing on Poshmark or at the thrift store, I try to think of what I am going to pair it with in my existing closet. I often bookmark things and think about them for several days or weeks before going ahead with the purchase. I debate about whether I will be disappointed if it’s gone and oftentimes I realize that while I like something, I wouldn’t be sad if it sold out.

Of course, if you have a large closet with lots of space to spread out, then you don’t need to be as ruthless with what you clear out or bring in!

TAKE A BREAK FROM BUYING TOO

While keeping to the rule of “one in and one out” is great, that only works if you have a good number of items to start with. If you are trying to actively reduce the amount of items you have, eventually you’ll have to stop buying new things. I see so many decluttering videos that neglect to mention this key detail: you have to bring in less or you won’t end up with less.

using minimalism in your closet, a closet with empty hangers

While paring down my closet last year, I tried to also do a “low buy” year, to give myself time to actually go through and figure out the right size of closet for me. I’m not sure I was completely successful on that front but, nevertheless, by the end of the year, I estimate that for every four items of clothing that I decluttered, I only brought one into my closet. I was pretty happy with that ratio.

IDENTIFY YOUR WARDROBE GAPS

Over the last year of this process, I have gotten better at identifying the gaps in my wardrobe, and knowing when it is time to bring something new into my closet. When I was decluttering I came across items of clothing that I liked, that fit into my style and that made me happy, but I still never wore, and I realized that it was because I didn’t have anything to pair them with! I also have some outfits that always seemed like they needed a certain something to finish it off perfectly.

I was able to figure out some key items to put on my shopping list this year:

  • tops in colours other than black so I can mix and match with my black skirts.
  • brown leather everyday shoes
  • an everyday brown leather purse
  • a couple new everyday skirts to replace the ones that were threadbare
  • a vintage brown fur collar (OK, I didn’t need this one, I just fell in love with it when I saw it!)

flat lay of a purse, straw hat, shoes and clothes

Removing a bunch of the clothing I wasn’t wearing finally gave me the freedom to go and fill some of the gaps in my closet with pieces that fit my personal style, rather than being held back by my bursting closet, despite the fact that much of it wasn’t working for me. Also, because I took the time to evaluate what I was looking for, rather than just browsing at the thrift store like I usually would, I was able to wait and save up to get the few particular things I really needed (and wanted) rather than wasting my time getting a whole bunch of small new things I didn’t need. And because I made back some of the money from my old clothes, I was able to put it towards “investing” in pieces I actually needed.

So, while I wouldn’t consider myself to be a minimalist, I would still like to be purposeful with what I have in my closet. I’m sure this is going to be a process that I will have to revisit many more times in the future, but it’s a start! I want my wardrobe to be full of things that I love and wear regularly- not to be distracted by  clothing that I don’t love wearing!

How about you- have you ever done a complete closet overhaul? Do you have any tips for how you decide when it’s time to part with something, or when to keep it? Are you attracted to using minimalism in your closet or not?

 

Six Books to Read About Intentional & Sustainable Fashion

a stack of fashion books

I should have actually shared this post last week, as it would have been rather perfect for Fashion Revolution Week, but I guess today will do just as well. Fashion Revolution isn’t just applicable for one week in the year anyway, so perhaps this is timely, in case you have been wanting to read further about the fashion industry and how to put “sustainable fashion” into action.

I have a disproportionately large collection of fashion related books, compared to other topics at least, on my shelves. But as nice as social media and blogs can be for inspiration and information, there is still something special about pulling out a book and learning in-depth about a topic. So for today, here are some of my favourite books about sustainable fashion, as well as some of the books that sparked my interest in fashion, in case you are looking to add some books to your own library, or are just getting interested in sustainable fashion and aren’t sure where to start.

overdressed book cover

“Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion” by Elizabeth L. Cline

This is the book that started it all for me. A blogger recommended this book years ago (I think it was in 2012?) and I immediately went and checked it out of the library. It was an eye-opening look at what really goes on in the fashion industry supply chain, and is a deep dive into what happens before our clothing makes its way to the store.

overdressed book open to a page

While I had never been a shopaholic, or even very addicted to fast fashion, this book definitely changed the direction of my wardrobe, since I realized that many of the pieces of clothing I owned were from fast fashion brands. I immediately started looking at my clothing with new eyes- knowing the story behind the pieces- and changed my shopping habits for the better. If you are at all interested in ethical and sustainable fashion, this is definitely the place to start.

the conscious closet book cover

“The Conscious Closet” by Elizabeth L. Cline,

Also by Elizabeth Cline, rather than the investigative style of Overdressed, her follow up book about the fashion industry is more of an instruction manual or guide. I would say that this is probably the second book you should read once you’ve finished reading Overdressed and have become interested in ethical fashion. I have been reading about the cheap fashion industry for almost 10 years now, so this book was probably not as helpful for me when I read it in 2019, as it would have been if I had read it in 2012, because I was already familiar with a lot of the information within.

conscious closet book open to a page

Nevertheless, it does have some very good tips, so if you’re just starting out, this is also a good place to start to put the ideas into practice. She includes tips on how to change your shopping habits, create a more ethical wardrobe, how to sustainably pare back your wardrobe, as well as how to care for your clothes and other steps for getting involved outside of your own personal closet and shopping.

wear no evil book cover

“Wear No Evil” by Greta Eagen

This is another comprehensive “instruction manual” style book that includes many aspects of the fashion industry, as well as the beauty industry. I found this book extremely helpful when I first read it years ago (early on in my sustainable fashion journey) and I actually should read it again. I really like how she gives practical tips for how to move past the “awareness” stage to the “actions” stage.

wear no evil book open to a page

What makes this book so helpful is what she calls “The Integrity Index”, which is a list of sixteen attributes/categories that a garment could potentially fit into. While you are probably not going to be able to find a garment that ticks all of the boxes, you can start somewhere. For example you might not find a garment that is organic, natural fibre, recycled, closed loop, biodegradable, fair trade, and locally produced, but you might find one that checks off three of those categories. I found it so practical and helpful to pick the causes that are most important to you and use those as your guide while shopping, and she includes some very helpful charts and lists with suggestions to make shopping easier.

the curated closet book cover

“The Curated Closet” by Anuschka Rees

I don’t own this book, but I’ve checked it out from the library a few times and mentioned it before here (I probably should just buy it!). Even though I don’t own this one, I wanted to include it on the list because it has been a helpful tool to shape my closet. It’s not strictly a sustainable fashion book, but when you focus on creating a more intentional and curated closet, it is going to be more sustainable by default.

One of the biggest driving forces behind the cheap, fast fashion industry is the insatiable desire of consumers for more and more clothing. These impulse buys, in turn, push brands to create cheaper clothing and more and more trends each year in order to make more sales. But these clothes are often so poorly made that they degrade quickly or are flash trends that fall out of fashion so quickly that they need to be replaced- thus starting this unsustainable cycle all over again. By curating your closet to reflect your own personal style, with items that are thoughtfully purchased, you are going to automatically purchase less items and thus become more sustainable in the process. This is an excellent guide book if you are wanting to create a more streamlined closet by reducing the number of pieces you have as well as changing your shopping habits.

the one hundred book cover

“The One Hundred” by Nina Garcia

I got this book when I was 16 for a Christmas gift, and I have no idea why- I must have paged through it at the store and liked the illustrations. However, it is actually a fun book to read, and it sparked my interest in classic styles. While this book isn’t sustainability focused in any way, this book is about those timeless pieces in your closet that you always reach for over and over again. While some might say that 100 “must have” items is too many for a sustainable wardrobe, I think it’s a good start.

the one hundred book open to a page with an illustration of little black dresses

Rather than following this book as shopping list and going out and getting all 100 items to add to your closet, I think of this as an evaluation of why some items are so timeless and chic, and in finding the value in the items you have in your closet that you always reach for over and above other items. These are the pieces that you love and care for, and aren’t rushing to replace any time soon. Again, a more thoughtful and curated wardrobe is by default a more sustainable wardrobe, so it really is a good idea to reflect on what particular items are your most loved pieces, and why. And, of course, the alphabetical format of the book, witty quotes and illustrations just make this one all the better!

the sartorialist book covers

“The Sartorialist” and “The Sartorialist: Closer” by Scott Schuman

Finally, the last one on this list is the blog/book that started it all. I discovered Scott Schuman’s blog in about 2007 or 2008 (the olden days of the internet) and put his first book on my Christmas wish list when it came out in 2009. I wasn’t a very fashionable teenager because, while I liked fashion (especially historical), I had no idea of how to interpret my interests into a style that was wearable. His blog, and then later his books, about real people’s street-style showed me the value of breaking fashion rules, stepping outside of the norm and then going on to create my own unique style. Even though he never photographed vintage styles, without his blog I don’t know if I would have ever gotten interested in incorporating vintage into my wardrobe on a daily basis. And while I don’t wear strictly vintage looks anymore, without that early inspiration to dress in a different way, I probably wouldn’t have evolved to where I am now with my style.

the sartorialist book open to two photos of ladies

Scott is an excellent photographer and I love to look through these books occasionally to be inspired by all of the unique and different people in these pages. This book is 12 years old, but when I page through it, while I do spot some trends, it still seems as fresh as when it was first released. Again, this book isn’t one that promotes ethical and sustainable fashion in any way, but I think that it really demonstrates this quote by Yves Saint Laurent: “Fashions come and go, but style is forever”. When you aren’t concerned about the latest trends, but instead are choosing to wear your own unique, collected style you are, by default, creating a more sustainable wardrobe that is going to last you longer than any fast fashion trend.

So, there are some of my favourite books for learning about sustainable fashion. If you are wanting to learn about how to turn your wardrobe away from fast fashion, then these are a good place to start- though they are only the tip of the iceberg!

What are some of your favourite fashion books? Have you read any of these? Do you have any other recommendations to check out? 

Personal Style | Comfort and Confidence in Your Clothing

a woman wearing a khaki green sweater and a peach floral skirt with a collage about confidence in your clothing

Continuing with my PERSONAL STYLE series, today’s post is about the importance of keeping comfort and confidence in mind, while you create your own unique wardrobe. Click here for Part One (about creating your own unique style description) and click here for Part Two (about using colour theory to create a signature colour palette). Click here for Part Four (about paring down your closet with Minimalism).

Dressing For Who You Are & How You Live 

As I’ve been thinking about personal style lately, I’ve been realizing the importance of not just liking a particular style, but also feeling comfortable in what you wear. By this, not only do I mean physical comfort, but mental comfort; or in other words, confidence in what you wear.

Finding comfort and confidence in your clothing can look completely different for each person. Once you have narrowed down your ideal style vision and filled a scrapbook full of beautiful editorial images, it’s not going to be of any help to you if you aren’t going to wear those sorts of garments in real life. You need to also keep in mind the physical comfort of an item and how you feel while wearing it…and what is comfortable for one person to wear, might be just a fantasy wardrobe for another. And while dreaming up your fantasy wardrobe can be fun, it’s not very useful for creating a closet that truly reflects your personal style on a daily basis. Figuring out the clothing styles that you like to wear, and that make you feel good, is an important part of creating your ideal wardrobe.

So what do I mean by considering the physical and mental comfort of an item? For example, consider an outfit of sweat pants and a t-shirt. While we would consider that to be a physically comfortable outfit, I personally would never wear that because it’s not mentally comfortable for me. It specifically makes me feel very conspicuous and un-confident, and so it turns out to be an uncomfortable outfit.

On the flip side, another example could be wearing a bold statement piece, such as a hat. I love hats and when I wear them, I feel more like myself so, for me, that is a comfortable outfit. And while a hat may not be physically uncomfortable, many people wouldn’t wear dream of wearing a hat because it would make them stand out from the crowd and for them that would be exactly the opposite of comfort for them.

a woman wearing a vintage 1960's style pillbox hat and a woman wearing a straw boater hat

When choosing clothes that you both look good and feel good in, you need to keep in mind both of these types of comfort. Here are some of the things I have helped me see not just what I like, but what I actually wear on a regular basis, and then making sure that the things I wear are also things I like– those two don’t necessarily go hand in hand!

One thing that has been helpful is determining my body type. I had never heard of the Kibbe or Style Essence body typing systems until I stumbled upon them last summer, and I found them to be a helpful tool while going through my closet. There are several different body typing systems out there, which all feature a spectrum of body types, and while I can’t really figure out which type I am for certain, it doesn’t really matter. None of us fall into exactly one “type”, so as long as you get a general idea, it can be helpful. Like seasonal colour theory, I would recommend that you take or leave whatever works for you, and use it as a good starting point.

I haven’t been professionally typed, but I did a quiz and found this website, Truth Is Beauty, to be the most helpful for me. I fall somewhere in the Classic/Soft type, with a more rounded and soft silhouette. This wasn’t “news” to me, but it still was helpful. While I’ve generally always known which pieces I liked on me for silhouette (mostly through trial and error) I actually found this kind of body typing to be incredibly positive and helpful for how to dress your best. Instead of focusing on your body as something that needs to be tweaked and molded into the “ideal shape”, these systems focus on each body type as having their own strengths and unique qualities. There are specific styles of clothing that suit each body type particularly, so (rather than trying to squeeze into one specific fashion trend, doubtless ending in frustration and feeling bad about yourself) wouldn’t it be better for us to all suit the clothing styles to our bodies, rather than the other way around?

katherine helpburn, audrey hepburn and sophia loren

For a Dramatic body type, for example, there are the straight, angular pieces such as blazers and tailored pants like Katherine Hepburn wore.

For a Gamine, you have the classic Audrey Hepburn cropped boyish look that always looks undeniably chic.

And for the Romantic body type you have the elegant and sensual Sophia Loren silhouette.

(There are more body types than this, so make sure to check out the links at the end of this post if you want to read more!)

When you realize that each body type has its own strengths, it is freeing to embrace the garments that particularly suit your own body shape and make you look fabulous, instead of trying to force yourself into garments that would look good on someone else. It is incredibly liberating to realize that just because something works on everyone else, doesn’t mean it will work on you…and you shouldn’t feel bad about yourself for that!

One of the particular examples that body typing made a difference for me was when I thought about plaid. I absolutely love plaid, but I don’t always like it once I put it on. I realized that, of course, putting a straight line on a curved body isn’t going to look as amazing as it would on a dramatic body type, but if I turn my plaid on the diagonal, it doesn’t feel like I have a line drawn around the widest part of my body (and the same goes for stripes).

Knowing which garments particularly suit your body type is a very helpful tool for building your wardrobe because you aren’t going to end up buying things that end up at the back of your closet. And when you wear clothes that suit you well, you are automatically going to feel more confident and comfortable. Of course this doesn’t mean you can’t wear things that fall outside of your body type; of course you can! At the end of the day, if I love something I am going to wear it. For example, both these coats are boxy swing coat styles and they are are two of my favourite vintage pieces. Even though this boxy shape isn’t a recommended silhouette for my body type, I absolutely love these coats and there is no way I’m going to stop wearing them.

a woman wearing a 1960's swing style coat

On the other hand, sometimes even when things do physically fit you and suit your body type, you might not feel amazing in them. Just because something looks great on you, doesn’t mean you have to like it and wear it. My Gramma told a story about how she once complimented a bank teller on her burgundy suit, and the lady said that she always got compliments on it, but she didn’t like it herself. Perhaps she couldn’t afford to replace her work clothes, but wouldn’t it have been nice if she could have gotten something that she looked nice in, but also felt confident in? Many of the pieces of clothing that I have gotten rid of over the past year have been pieces that just felt a little off for me in some way, and I didn’t feel confident in them for some reason. Once I came to the conclusion that it was OK to not like everything the way I thought I would, it was freeing to be able to pass those pieces on to others, and look forward to creating a wardrobe full of pieces that I do feel comfortable in and love to wear.

In your wardrobe, when you find those pieces that you love to wear, the ones that always make you feel like a million dollars, stop and take a moment to think about why you like them. For me one of those pieces would be my circle skirts. The silhouette is a good one for my body type, and it always makes me feel great.  Knowing that I like this silhouette of skirt helps me as I add pieces to my wardrobe, since I can narrow my search down to pieces that I already know are tried and true winners, rather than having to sift through everything I come across.

On the other hand, for those pieces that you don’t wear very often, why don’t you like wearing them?

As I’ve taken this closer look my closet and evaluated why I like some things, and don’t like others, another realization has been that I don’t like wearing anything too fussy. I don’t want to have to fuss and fidget with things, because then I am automatically not comfortable- I’m too busy wondering whether my shirt is coming untucked!

Or maybe some items don’t fit you the way you like, or there is something you wish you could change about it. Can it be altered to fit you better? One of the downsides of off-the-rack clothing is that it is not made for you specifically, and as a result many of us are walking around in ill fitting clothing. It’s amazing how something as simple as hemming a garment can make a huge difference in how it fits and how comfortable it is.

collage of different garments hanging from a peg rack to illustrate personal style

Also, don’t forget to take time to think about whether the items you have in your closet actually fit into your lifestyle. While I do have those fantasy pieces that I never wear but will still never part with, these pieces are not the majority of my wardrobe.

For everyday wear at home I prefer to wear more serviceable cotton rather than delicate fabrics (when I’m working, I don’t want to be worrying about whether my clothes will get ruined) but I still do like to look put together. The majority of my closet is full of simple skirts and tops (and my favourite harem pants!). They might not make regular appearances here on the blog, but I am wearing them most days, and they do still reflect my own personal style more than the aforementioned sweatpants!

When it comes to creating your dream wardrobe, you want to make sure that your closet is full of items that you find not only physically comfortable, but that you feel good in and excited to wear. Your wardrobe should be full of pieces that make you feel like yourself, and you want to make sure that you are wearing your clothing, not having it wear you. The great thing about fashion and personal style is that you are the one who gets to choose what finding that confidence in your clothing means for you!

Have you looked into the body typing before? Which Style Essence are you, and do you follow those guidelines in how you dress? And do you have any favourite pieces that reflect your personal style and give you a boost of confidence every time you wear them? 

You can read more about the Kibbe body typing system and the Style Essences system here.

Five Garment Care Tips For Your Spring Wardrobe Transition

woman looking into her closet

Now that Spring has officially arrived, it is time for the seasonal wardrobe transition! I always enjoy the changing of the seasons, and all of the things that go along with that… packing away my cold weather garments and then pulling out my warm weather ones always makes for a rather fun afternoon task- it’s kind of like opening presents! Switching your wardrobe around for a new season does take a bit of time, but it is also the perfect opportunity for a bit of garment care and maintenance as well. Here is how I go about switching around my closet, as well as some of the tasks that I like to do each season to keep my clothes and shoes in good condition.

Depending on where you live, transitioning your wardrobe might not be very drastic, and if you don’t live in a climate with four distinct seasons, it might not even be necessary. (Or if you live in the Southern hemisphere, you’ll be pulling out your fall and winter clothes) Here in Alberta we definitely do have four seasons but, while it is now officially spring, we certainly will have some cold days left, so I am not doing a complete wardrobe switch.

There are some etiquette “rules” that I like to follow for my closet, just because they make sense for me and the climate where I live. According to Miss Manners, here are some seasonal wardrobe rules:

Straw should not be worn before Easter nor after Labour Day. 

-Velvet should be worn between October 1 and March 1.

-Furs should not be worn between the months of March to September

-White should not be worn after Labour Day, nor before Memorial Day. (This one is rather archaic, and a better rule to abide by, rather than colour, is judging the weight of the fabric you are wearing. Gauzy white linen is not appropriate for fall and winter, depending on the climate of where you live, of course, but a white wool coat or stockings is a completely different matter!)

clothes laying out ready to be packed away

I moved my strictly winter garments, such as my fur collars, winter coats, berets and lined boots into storage and then rotated my lighter spring and summer items into my closet. While I might not wear some of them right away, because we do still have cool days ahead, I brought them out so I have something to look forward too! I most likely won’t wear my straw hats until Easter, but it’s still nice to take them out and hang them up too. I also don’t have that much space, so I have to trade the items in and out, to fit them all back into my closet. I keep my in-season clothes hanging in my bedroom closet, and put the out-of-season clothes in a suitcase.

I did leave some of the more “seasonally ambiguous” items in my closet, such as my brown Oxford pumps. Rather than moving them out with the winter wear, I decided to keep them in since I might be able to wear them while the days are still cool.

straw hats hanging on a peg rack

Before I put each item into storage, I made sure to look it over and see if it needed any cleaning or other repair. There’s nothing worse than pulling your shoes or clothes out in six months for the next season, and then having to wait to wear it until you can repair it, or even worse than that, it has become irreparably damaged from sitting. So, here are five of my garment care tips to do before packing your winter clothes away for the season.

Doing Laundry

handwashing clothes in a basin

Depending on the soil level, I don’t wash my clothes after every single wear. Some garments can be worn a few times before they need laundering, and if your clothes are delicates then they will actually benefit from less washing. Before you pack the clothes away, though, make sure to clean them so they don’t sit with dirt or odours for months. Dirty clothes in storage can attract moths or other pests, and any light stains on the fabric might set over the months and become a much bigger issue for you later on.

If you have “dry clean” items, you may be able to spot clean them yourself. I don’t like dry cleaning my clothes, because it’s not actually really cleaning and the chemicals are so pollutant and unhealthy. Thus, I prefer to do most of my own washing, though sometimes dry cleaning is a necessary evil. You can often spot clean your wool or hand wash delicate items. If you do decide to wash a woolen item, and it ends up wrinkled or out of shape, you can take it to the dry cleaners for a “press only”. I have done this before with pleated skirts and they come back looking so much better than I could ever get them to look with my iron at home. Once you’ve cleaned your items, make sure they are completely dry before storing. If you are storing your out of season clothes in bins or boxes, you can also add in cedar sachets to keep pests out.

Brushing & Shaving Your Woollens

brushing a wool coat with a lint remover brush

Brushing wool is a new habit for me, and I learned this from the book How to Be a Victorian by Ruth Goodman. She talked about brushing wool clothes rather than washing them in order to clean them, and I had never heard of that! So, I have ordered myself a clothes brush with natural bristles (that is what she recommends in order to not damage the fabric over time) and once it arrives, I plan on brushing all of my winter coats before putting them away.

In the mean time, I will go over my coats with a velvet lint brush, as well as a pill remover/shaver. It’s amazing what a difference a brushing and shaving can do! A clothes brush works so much better than those sticky lint rollers, to take out the dust and dirt that collects. This is a good practice to get into a regular habit of doing, to keep your clothes in good condition, but it is especially important to do before you store your clothes.

Cleaning & Polishing Your Leather Shoes

cleaning your leather shoes

This is such a simple thing to do to keep your leather in good repair, but it’s the one task that I always neglect. I am trying to get better at doing this more frequently, but I always seem to procrastinate and put it off for far longer than I should. (This is probably because shoe polish smells like death…and probably brings you closer to death as well…?) Every time I do get around to polishing my shoes, though, I am amazed at the transformation and vow to do it more often! I haven’t tried any of the more natural leather conditioners yet, but I’ve ordered one to try on my purse. I think it’s a natural wax that doesn’t smell as bad as regular shoe polish, so maybe I’ll use it more often!

shoes ready to be polished

Cleaning and polishing or conditioning your leather is a good thing to do regularly, but is also very important to do before your put your winter shoes away. Salt stains from ice-melt burn leather and if left untreated can ruin a good pair of shoes (I’ve had that happen before!) and other stains will only get worse over time.

First clean your shoes with a leather cleaner and a soft rag. (I clean mine with a suede cleaner solution since that is what I have on hand, and it works well.) Once your shoes are dry, you can polish them with either a cream or wax polish in a matching colour. I’ve heard different cobblers recommend both options, so I’m not sure which is better!

polishing and shining shoes

I’ve also just started using a shoe brush that we got from my Grampa, and I have no idea why I was using just a rag before- the brush gives such a nice polish! I like to finish the shoes off with a little sponge for a nice shine, and then they are done.

polished black high heeled shoes

In the image on the left, the shoe on the left is unpolished, and the shoe on the right shows the difference that polishing makes! The final result is in the photo on the right.

For any shoes that need more serious repairs, you can take them to a cobbler for fixing. I am so hard on my shoes, and have really done a number on some of my favourite pairs (such as ripping the finish off the toe of the aforementioned Oxford heels!) but it’s amazing how cobblers are able to restore them back to – almost- as good as new!

Storing Your Shoes 

shoeboxes with shoes wrapped in tissue paper for storage

Once all of my shoes are polished and clean, I put them into shoe boxes with tissue paper in between to keep them from leaning on each other, and then put them back in my closet. I stack all of my shoeboxes on the top shelf in that inconvenient corner of the closet that you can’t quite reach, since it isn’t useful for storing things you actually need to access on a regular basis!

shoes in fabric shoebags

I don’t have quite enough boxes for all of my boots and shoes, since I only keep the shoeboxes with aesthetics. There were a couple of pairs of boots and shoes that I didn’t have boxes for, so I made some fabric bags to store them in, to keep the dust and dirt off, and they work just as nicely as boxes do.

Using Garment Bags

garment bag over coat hanging on a peg rack

Coats can get so dusty while hanging in the closet over the summer, so I put a garment bag over the top of them- especially after having gone to the trouble to brush them clean! It is important to use cloth garment bags, not the plastic bags that come over dry-cleaning, because plastic can trap in moisture and cause your fabric to get musty. Instead of purchasing garment bags, I made some for myself out of vintage pillowcases. I’ve been using pillowcases as garment bags for a few years now, but had never gotten around to actually sewing them into the proper shape, so I decided it was finally time to do that.

tracing a hanger to make a garment bag

To make your own, all you have to do is take a pillowcase and sew it into the shape you need. Pillowcases are easily found at thrift stores, or maybe you even have a few extra in your linen cupboard (or you can, of course, sew a rectangle of fabric to the width you need). Trace the hanger you will be using onto the wrong side of your pillowcase, and make sure to double check your tracing with a ruler, so you don’t end up with a lopsided angle. Curve the seam where it meets at the sides.

sewing a garment bag out of a pillowcase

Sew along the line, then open a little hole in the seam at the top, for the hanger to go through. I hand stitched the top edge around that hole to keep it from unraveling, and then trimmed off the excess fabric with pinking shears. Flip it inside out and pop it over your coats, and that will keep them nice and clean until next fall!

Once I finished these garment care tasks, my seasonal wardrobe transition was done. Doing these tasks adds some time and is not as much fun, but it is worth it! Keeping your clothes and shoes in good repair will reduce your wardrobe costs over time, since you won’t have to replace your items due to damage. And, not only will it save you money in the long run, but your clothes will look better too; wearing a pair of freshly polished shoes is always going to elevate your outfit!

Do you switch out your wardrobe seasonally? What sorts of garment care or maintenance do you do for your clothes each season?

Personal Style | Creating A Signature Colour Palette

painted signature colour palette

Continuing with my Personal Style series, today’s post is about how you can use colour theory create a signature colour palette for your wardrobe, that is perfect for you.

To read Part One, all about creating your own unique style description, click here. 

USING COLOUR THEORY TO PERSONALIZE YOUR WARDROBE

Partway through last summer I really got into researching colour “seasons”. I’m sure you’ve probably heard of this method, since it’s been around since the 80’s, but basically it is a theory that each person falls into a “season” or colour palette that compliments their natural skin tone, hair colour and features. The seasons are Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter, just like in nature, and each of those four seasons are further broken up into “Light”, “Soft”, “Bright” and “Dark” categories.

I’d never given it much thought before, but decided to look into it further after I had gone through my past blog posts and started thinking about why I didn’t like some of the outfits today, even though I had liked them at the time. That got me thinking about colour theory and whether I should go about creating a signature colour palette for myself.

Now, I have not actually gotten “typed” by a professional, nor have I actually put all of the results of my colour theory self-quiz into action. I have simply used these guidelines as a useful tool to help me create a wardrobe that I am excited to wear. Of course the great thing with fashion is there are no rules! I’ve used the colour seasons advice to help me filter out all of the excess and figure out what I want my own personal colour palette to be.

To begin with, as I was looking through some of the older posts that I didn’t like, I realized that part of the problem was certain colours I had chosen. After looking into it and taking a self quiz, I discovered that I am either a Soft Summer or a Soft Autumn. I can’t decide which, so I chose to put myself right in between both! Either way, you can “borrow” from neighbouring palettes, so it doesn’t really matter, and the most important takeaway for me is that I am a Soft season. This series of posts by Anushka Rees (the author of The Curated Closet), is really good for going over the different Seasons and I also really like the blog posts by Elemental Colour for vivid descriptions and examples of the Season colour palettes. I found their posts to be the most helpful in bringing the ideas of colour theory to life.

colour palette for "soft summer" season

So, what does it mean to be a Soft season? Well, I have very low contrast between my hair, skin tone and eyes. If you were to turn a photo of me into black and white, it would be mostly greys instead of clear black and white tones. How this relates to colours means that the Soft seasons look best in a soft, muted and earthy palette rather than in bold, clear colours. I always used to say that I liked colours that had “a bit of mud in them”, and it turns out that those are actually the best colours for my skin tone and hair colour. For example, I wouldn’t wear Kelly green, but I often wear olive. I’m not drawn to fuchsia, but I love desert rose. I hate royal blue, but love smoky blue…ok, you get the point.

I think that I fall a bit more towards the Soft Autumn palette, because as I looked back through my favourite outfits on my blog, I realized that some of my colour choices need to be a little bit warmed up. One of the reasons why I loved or didn’t love certain outfits was because of the colour combinations; while those colours would look great on someone else, it wasn’t great for me. For example, if I’m wearing navy, I need to warm it up with cognac, instead of pairing it with black accessories or other cool toned colours. If the outfit is too dark or too cool toned, it’s going to wash me out. Here are two such outfits, below, that aren’t my best. They aren’t terrible, but I think that these pink and navy shades would look so much better on someone with a Winter or Spring colouring.

vintage styled outfit

However, I don’t think I fall completely into Soft Autumn either, because some shades of yellow and tans with a yellow undertone make me look yellow. So, even though I love mustard, there are certain shades that don’t look great near my face. I can’t bear to get rid of mustard completely, but I have now relegated it to accessories. Also, I need to keep in mind the contrast of an outfit. In this outfit below, for example, the black and yellow are simply too bold for my muted, low contrast colouring. This particular outfit never really seemed right to me, and I think it is because of that high contrast. Instead of pairing two strong colours, I should have paired the mustard sweater with brown or olive and it would’ve looked a lot softer and I think I would have liked it a lot more. Also, the pink of this dress is so strong on me, as well as being cool toned, and it would look so much better if it was a bit desaturated and a slightly warmer shade of pink. This shade brings the pink tones out of my skin and as a result I look a bit pink while wearing it.

vintage styled outfits with a vintage dress and a sweater and skirt

Figuring out the “rules” of colour theory has really helped me to weed some of the things out of my closet that I wasn’t wearing regularly. Instead of approaching colour seasons as hard and fast rules, though, I have used them more to help me understand why some things weren’t working for me. Rather than going to my closet and saying “this isn’t in my palette, so I need to get rid of it!”, it’s been more of discovery of why something wasn’t working for me. As in the case of that mustard sweater, I had only worn it twice, and both times my outfit didn’t come out quite right. Finding out that dark yellow isn’t in my colour palette was more of an “aha!” moment for me to realize why it wasn’t working, rather than just deciding to get rid of a beloved piece of clothing. Of course, arbitrarily removing things that aren’t “correct”, just because someone said you should, is the exact opposite of how you should approach your closet! You want to love and wear the pieces in your closet, and if your Season isn’t one that makes you excited, then you should completely disregard those “rules”.

There are few examples of where I have disregarded these rules. One, this brightly coloured summer dress, below, that doesn’t go with anything else that I own. I only have one pair of white shoes to pair with this dress…and that’s it! I keep wondering if I should pass it on, but I actually do really enjoy wearing it. So what if it’s a bit too white and bright for my colouring and I can’t mix and match it with anything else I own? Another example is that I am, apparently, not supposed to wear black with my low contrast colouring, but it’s actually one of my favourite colours, so I just keep wearing it. I’m not going to go and get rid of my favourite sweaters and skirt and coat, just because they aren’t in my Season.

two photos of different vintage styled outfits

All in all, I mainly used these findings about colour Seasons to help me create my own signature colour palette. In the past, I wasn’t very interested in creating a colour palette for myself, however it can be a really great tool to use as you plan future purchases or sewing projects for your wardrobe. Anushka Rees, has a series of posts about creating a colour palette and Audrey Coyne, who has a really lovely YouTube channel, also talks about the benefits of creating a personal colour palette, and I’d definitely recommend that you check them out for further reading/watching.

Creating a personal colour palette can help when you shop, because you will have a starting point and can easily filter out whatever doesn’t fit in with the rest of your wardrobe.  Even though it might not be possible all the time to find those colours (really, why does every season have three colours to choose from, when we obviously don’t all look good in them!?!) this will keep you from getting distracted with clothing that won’t end up fitting in with the rest of your wardrobe. While I like lots of different colours, sometimes the fact that they didn’t coordinate with each other made it really difficult to mix and match my wardrobe and come up with new outfits using the same items. In essence, the more items of clothing that you have that don’t coordinate with anything else, will result in fewer combinations that you can wear.

For example (to pick an arbitrary number) if you have a 30 item wardrobe, and each item coordinates with the colours of the majority of the rest, you will end up with a lot of possible combinations without repeat. (This is the idea behind capsule wardrobes. I’m not very good at math, so I can’t figure it out, but I know that the number of unique combinations or “permutations” is ridiculously high if you actually do figure it out… )

However, if you have a 30 item wardrobe, but you’ve got a group of 10 items that coordinate, another group of 10 items that coordinate and a final group of 10 items that coordinate, but none of those groups of 10 coordinate with the other groups, then you are going to have a significantly smaller amount of combinations. You actually won’t be able to create as many unique outfits with this wardrobe, as you would with the first example, even though the number of items is the same.

Obviously, if you have lots of clothing, and you don’t want to limit yourself, then you totally could create 3 different coordinating wardrobes of 30 items each, but this isn’t something that I personally have the space for, which is why I initially started on this whole closet evaluation.

Of course, even with creating a signature colour palette, you still don’t have to confine yourself. Like everything else when it comes to fashion, you get to choose the rules you want to follow and which ones you want to break. I haven’t set a hard and fast colour palette for myself, but as a starting point I created this palette of nine colours, using the guide that Anushka shares in her blog post, in order to create a more versatile wardrobe for myself from this point on.

For my colour palette, I chose two neutral tones that I can pair with absolutely anything in my closet and ended up with Brown or Cognac and Cream.

For main colours I looked at which colours I already wear a lot of and chose Tan, Navy/Blue and Cinnamon.

And for accent colours, I ended up adding in the rest of my favourite colours that still coordinate and chose Black, Olive, Ochre and Buff/Peach.

my signature colour palette of 9 colours

I figured out which colours my neutrals were by planning a few outfits, as though I would be packing for a holiday and seeing which accessories I would put with all of the clothes I had picked. I realized that for almost every outfit, I would add either brown, tan or cream. I was a bit surprised to learn that, for me, black is actually not a neutral- it is a colour. Since I wouldn’t pair black with a lot of my clothing pieces, because it would have been too contrasting or too cool, it wasn’t a neutral for me. I ended up moving black into my accent colour section, which does make it a lot harder to shop, but I know that what I want to finish off my outfits with is brown or cognac. For example, when I was looking for my new everyday purse, I knew not to look for a black one because it wouldn’t end up going with the majority of the clothing I have, and I ended up finding a beautiful rich copper brown that coordinates with almost everything I own. (Except for that one bright dress of course!)

Of course, your “neutrals” don’t necessarily have to be neutral colours and could be any colour that you would pair with every item you have in your wardrobe. For example, someone might have a red purse and red shoes, and those would become their neutral; able to pair with all of the other colours in their wardrobe.

To figure out which were the main colours to include in my palette, I went through my favourite outfits again to see which colour combinations I liked from the past, as well as which colours I am naturally drawn to. Personally, I love neutrals, as this palette reveals! Whenever I’m browsing and I see an Autumnal hued or Neutral toned outfit, I fall completely in love with it. So, for me, choosing my three main colours of tan, cinnamon and a touch of blue was easy.

Finally, I added in my accent colours of even more neutrals with a hint of colour, including black, olive, ochre and buff/peach. I decided to move black to my accent colours, because over time I had fallen into the trap of accumulating way to much of it, which was making it impossible to mix and match. (A black skirt + a black shirt + a black coat + black boots is a little much…) Moving brown and tan into my main colours will definitely result in more versatility of the individual pieces in my closet.

Settling on this palette gives me a lot of different colour combinations. For example:

Cream + Brown + Peach          Brown + Tan + Navy          Cinnamon + Olive + Black

colour combinations for my colour palette

You don’t have to stick to certain number of colours in your palette either. Because I now have an idea of which colours look good on me, I can easily look at colours from outside my specific palette, and decide which others to bring in. As long as you are able to pair it with the neutrals in your current wardrobe, it should be good. For example, I have some lovely soft mint coloured wool in my fabric stash. (it’s not too bright of a colour of mint, so it will work for my Season). Mint isn’t in my personal colour palette, but I know that it will work well with brown and cream, so I am going to keep it, especially since I already own the fabric.

Also, don’t forget that, while it’s great to know which colours you look good in, you also need to choose the colours you like the best. It turns out that the colours and styles I was always drawn to the most often, really were the ones that suit me the best. Go figure! But just because a colour looks good on you, doesn’t mean you have to add it in. For example, grey is a good colour for me, but I’ve realized that I don’t particularly love it, so I’ve removed much of the grey from my closet.

Conversely, if you a love a colour that’s not great for you, keep it in your wardrobe and wear it however you like. I mentioned that black is apparently not the best colour for the “soft” seasons, because it’s too harsh. I, however, have black glasses and I do wear black a lot, and I really like it, so I have no intention of taking it out.

one 1970's outfit and one bookish styled outfit

About 7 years ago, I had a really good colour scheme in my wardrobe. It was filled with lots of neutrals, browns and blues, but then I started wondering whether that was too boring, and I started adding in other colours. In the end, though, I just ended up with a bunch of clothing that didn’t particularly suit my colouring or coordinate well with the rest of my wardrobe. I have gotten rid of so many of those items over time because, while I did like them, I realized that they just weren’t “me”.

There are certain colours that I am drawn to over and over again, and I realized that there was no need to try and reinvent the wheel; I had subconsciously chosen a combination that really worked. Instead of trying everything that you come across, knowing which colours work really well for you can help to clear out the distractions and focus on building a wardrobe that is a true reflection of your own unique style. At the end of the day, however, the most important part of colour theory is in knowing what you love and not getting bogged down in what you “should” or “should not” wear. But if you’re looking to create a more versatile wardrobe, creating your own signature colour palette can be a great tool to simplify things and help you focus on building that wardrobe that you will love to wear!

Have you looked into the colour Seasons before? Which Season are you, and do you follow the guidelines in how you dress? Have you ever created a signature colour palette for your closet?