living better with less: buying what lasts

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(photo courtesy of NY Magazine.com)
 
Wanted to share a snidbit from NY Magazine’s interview with Julie Gilhart, former women’s fashion director at Barney’s. I totally agree with her answer to the following question:
 
You’re a big champion of eco-conscious fashion, but it can be really difficult to convince people to buy something eco-friendly when their top priority is looking good. How do you reconcile that?

Well, it’s really about making conscious decisions that aren’t wasteful. Like with Lanvin, one of my favorites, there’s nothing organic about it. But Alber [Elbaz]’s clothes tend to be very well made, and they never go out of style. So in Lanvin’s case, you’re buying a jacket that you can wear for years. I have a jacket that I bought that’s from 2001, and I’m still wearing it. It’s very difficult to buy 100 percent organic or sustainable, but the number one conscious decision is to not buy more than you need, and to buy things that last. If I had a choice to buy a T-shirt that’s made in New York City versus a T-shirt that’s made in China, and they’re very similar, I’m probably going to choose the one that’s made in New York, you know? And if I choose the one that’s made in China — and that would be because it has a certain look, or a certain fit, or a certain price that’s appealing — then I’m going to buy it and keep it and wear it for a long time. It’s just about not being wasteful.

 

q + a: building my wardrobe part 3

(top left: J Crew, Banana Republic. top right: Martin Margiela. bottom: Marni, Mint, Dries Van Noten.)

(my favorite skirt, Laura Whitcomb of Label)

(honeycomb laser-cut dress by IAN RN)
(one of many silk cami’s from Jean Yu)

(my version of a sweatshirt by Dries Van Noten)

I don’t have a suggested list of ‘must have pieces’. I believe you should figure out how you want to look and find pieces that support that look. The reality is not everyone has the same needs for their lifestyle, desired style, body-type, and not to mention weather!
 
For my lifestyle, body-type, and location, my personal must have pieces are:
  • jeans; this year they’re all skinny black jeans (the 4 pairs I have)
  • nice pants; not worn too often, I have 3 pairs; 2 wool, 1 silk
  • tanks; both loose and fitted (I prefer them instead of T-shirts)
  • cardigans; all weights, all lengths, multiples in same colors
  • trench coats; all weights and lengths, even ones not for the rain
  • flats (though not ballet flats)
  • tall boots; to the knee looks best on me
I do not own:
  • rubber flip flops
  • sneakers
  • running /yoga pants
  • sweatshirts or hoodies
  • cotton-ribbed anything (universally unflattering and doesn’t wash well)
When I first went through the process, I had too many fancy clothes and shoes I had no occasion to wear, no matter how dressed down I styled them. Rule #1: don’t buy super fancy clothes I won’t wear…
Considering the change in seasons, it took me about 3 years to get to the point I really loved my wardrobe, though I didn’t consider it ‘complete’.
 
I live with what I have to see if I need more of a particular thing like cardigans which I wear everyday (I have about 8 black cardigans). I tend to wear the same thing over and over.
 
I love J Crew, Alexander Wang, and Rick Owens for simple tanks, J Crew for cardigans,Barneys CO-OP for their selection of jeans, Sigerson Morrison and Loeffler Randall for shoes and boots.
 
I don’t like online shopping looking for ‘bargains’. A bargain for me is something I love and wear time and again, not something that was on super sale. If I do go online, I stick to jcrew.com, net-a-porter.com, and barneys.com.
 
I like designer consignment stores as the pieces are carefully edited and many things look like they’ve never been worn. My two favorite shops are in Bklyn, and Soho.
 

q + a: building my wardrobe part 2

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(I think this pic of me is funny. Yes, it was a halloween party and I went as myself)
 

My processes are drawn from my own experiences. I’ve always been neat and organized but defined my sense of style and created home(s) and wardrobe without following any set guidelines. I wrote out the general processes for you and my clients to benefit from, but now here are some more personal notes…

– The biggest thing is not being influenced by others on how I should look. Growing up, people (strangers mostly) told me I was too thin, too pale, I shouldn’t wear black or white… bla bla bla! I’m naturally thin and pale, and after being insecure about it, I decided it was healthier to work with what I have instead of fighting it.
 
– My look is mainly ‘chic’ and ‘well-put-together’ for work, casual, and/or special occasions. My casual dress has always been more dressed than others (I prefer the word ‘dressed’ over ‘dressy’ or ‘dressed-up’). I’m not talking being dolled up all the time, but my idea of comfortable is not sneakers.
 
– I’m tactile so if I don’t like the material, I don’t bother with it. My clothes are mostly merino wool, cashmere, cotton, silk, and the new rayon and polyesters that look and feel like silk. Yes that means almost everything I own is dry-clean only, but I hand wash most of it.
 
– I’ve never been a big fan of color though I have worn it before. I like subtly and neutrals are more ‘chic’ than loud colors and patterns. Though I have a limited palate, I prefer to mix it up over being matchy-matchy; I’d never wear my ivory heals with my ivory handbag.
 
– I shop by myself. Friends put their values on you, so to avoid the awkward conversations of why I do or do not like something, where to shop and how much to spend, I shop alone.
 
– As most chain store clothes do not fit me (I’m short and slight), I tend to buy designer clothes. Still, over 1/2 my wardrobe has been tailored. Not only for fit, but when necessary, I have pieces I’m not wearing altered so I like them more.
 

q + a: building my wardrobe part 1


Abbi asks “I would love to know more about your wardrobe! It always looks so lovely in photos. You mentioned a few posts ago that you invest in your clothes over other things like fine art, etc. I’m trying to revamp my wardrobe (with basically no money) and am wondering what your tips are for shopping and what types of pieces you think are essential. To borrow from the book “Nothing to Wear?” I have too many (cheap) “frosting/flair” pieces and not enough “cake/foundational” pieces.”
 
Abbi, check out my series ‘How To Build and Edit Your Wardrobe’. This should give you a good basis to start, but I’ll do a post(s) elaborating on how I did it with my own wardrobe. Though I’ll warn you, I don’t love most of the ‘Must Have Lists’ out there as I personally don’t own a white button down shirt or a blazer…
 

my idea of ‘original art’


Since I showed you the art I made for my bathroom, my friend Kate who’s an art consultant, wrote about it on her awesome blog Art Hound. While I appreciated the post, I have to respond to her statement “As Laura would undoubtedly agree, original art is ideal but just isn’t an option for her at this time.”

While I live on a limited budget, it’s not that ‘original art’ isn’t an option, it’s just not a priority and that’s a big difference. Art comes in many forms, not just paintings, drawings, or sculpture. The ‘art’ that is most relevant to me and I opt to invest in is the design of everyday things, clothes and jewelry. Case in point, my recent purchase of this necklace by Etten Eller.
Not saying that Kate meant the statement viciously, she’s very lovely and I didn’t take it that way. I just thought it was a good opportunity to repeat what I’ve said before and will say again; figure out what matters to YOU, whatever that may be, and don’t be overly influenced by what other’s think is important.
 

taking life advice from karl lagerfeld?

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(photo by Karl Lagerfeld)


In the March 2009 issue of Harper’s Bazaar was a Q+A with Karl Lagerfeld. Although he’s a fashion God, I doubted the relevance of his advice for the average woman. Boy was I surprised! His no nonsense, practical advice was totally refreshing. Karl telling someone to go deeper and not take fashion as ‘end-all-be-all’?! Love it…

HB: Bright red lipstick, major chandelier earrings: I am constantly searching for fashion pick-me-ups. What do you think are the newest mood boosters?
 
KL: I am not sure the new ‘mood boosters’ are in fashion! This is perhaps the moment to think things over. Is your life that flat that you need a new lift all the time? Some people would call you superficial, but as your doctor, I say: Try to look a little deeper into yourself. Fashion is important, but it’s not the only permanent booster. Change your hairdo. Reinvent your look. Start at the beginning. Look at yourself honestly, and don’t ask me to tell you what you want to hear. I am not here only to please you. My job is also to tell you that it’s time for a little change. I hope you don’t mind.
 
Check out the rest of the article here.

living better with less… new clothes


I did this last year but thought I’d share this money saver with you now…
 

I was sick of my spring/summer wardrobe and eager to go out and buy all new things. Lacking the funds to do so, I went through everything piece by piece, trying on what I hadn’t been wearing. It seemed the problem wasn’t that I didn’t like my clothes it’s that I didn’t like the way many things fit. To the tailor I went. Much cheaper, quicker, and less stressful than going out and buying all new things.

 

how to edit and build your wardrobe step 1: do your homework

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Building your wardrobe is like anything else important in your life: it’s best with a clear plan that allows for flexibility over time, with the understanding that it’s not going to be perfect overnight.

 Your wardrobe should be a collection of your favorite pieces, to be mixed and matched allowing you to look and feel your best. The following steps done in this order will help you achieve this:
 
1. DO YOUR HOMEWORK: Determine your desired image
2. EDIT WITH PURPOSE: Remove what doesn’t work
3. LEARN FROM YOUR MISTAKES: Create personal shopping rules
4. SHOPPING SMART: Buy only what you love and fits your desired image and lifestyle
 
Step #1. DO YOUR HOMEWORK: Determine your desired image
you need: pad and a pencil
 
Before you edit your existing wardrobe, you need to know your desired image. Make a list of adjectives you want your look to project for casual, business, and dressy outfits.These may be the same or completely different for each category. For example, when casual you’d like to look sporty and fun, but for work you want to look well put together and chic. Be honest and thoughtful with yourself; your style should reflect your personality and lifestyle.
 
Know your lifestyle. Being realistic about your lifestyle makes it easier to shop for it. Are you a stay-at-home parent taking care of a baby or toddler or are you running around with older children to various activities and school functions? Do you attend many formal social functions? Are you a business owner who doesn’t need to dress in formal business attire? Note: A common mistake people make when they don’t have a strict dress code at work is dressing too casually. Remember: “Dress for the job you want, not the job you have.”
 
Start an inspiration file or board to help you achieve your desired look. There are no rules for finding inspiration; look at everyday people, celebrities, characters from movies, places and/or eras in time. Look at nature and art for colors and color and texture combinations. Find designers whose look you like and follow their work season to season. (Go to style.com to see pictures and videos from all the runway shows.) Note: When looking at other people, make sure they have your body type or similar shape. What looks good on a tall, thin person won’t necessarily work on someone shorter with curves.
 
 

how to edit and build your wardrobe step 2: edit with purpose


Step #2. EDIT WITH PURPOSE

you need: full length mirror, large bags or boxes, marker, pad and pencil, and digital camera.
If you have a friend who understands the image you’re trying to project, will be honest about how you look, and is knowledgeable about tailoring (bonus), invite them to help you through the process. If you don’t, then do it on your own.
 
Label your bags or boxes SELL, DONATE, RECYCLE, DRY CLEAN/TAILORING.
Go through your closet, piece by piece and ask yourself in the following order:
  • Does this fit my desired image? If yes, continue
  • Does this fit my lifestyle? If yes, continue
  • If no: Can it be styled in a new way to fit my desired image and lifestyle?
  • How do I feel in this? If positive, continue
  • Does this fit, or can it be altered? If yes, it’s a keeper

 
DON’T
  • Pull Everything out at once. Go thru piece by piece pulling anything out that you know you want to sell, donate, recycle, or bring to the dry cleaner or tailor, leaving the keeps and maybes in the closet.
  • Feel bad about wanting to dress better. You deserve to feel and look your best.
  • Let guilt make you keep something based on the amount of money you’ve paid for it, or because of who gave it to you.
  • Keep anything that you don’t feel comfortable wearing.
  • Rush the process. If you are unsure about something keep it until you can decide for sure, once it’s gone, it’s gone. This is a process that can take time. It’s ok!
DO
  • Make immediate decisions first. Get rid of anything you know without a doubt you don’t love first, leaving anything you’re unsure about in the closet and keep moving.
  • Try everything on!! Your body changes over time, something that may not have fit properly the last time you wore it may fit nicely now (and vice-versa). Why you haven’t worn something is more important than how long it’s been since you’ve worn it. You’ll learn more about this in step 3.
  • Downgrade. work shirt is now for whatever reason, not appropriate for work anymore but still fits and you feel good in it. Designate it for weekend or to wear around the house.
  • Have something tailored or altered in a way to make it wearable. Shortening a hem or having sleeves shortened to 3/4 length, or having a dress made into a top or skirt.
  • Separate out sentimental pieces that you’re keeping but won’t wear again. These pieces need to be properly stored away, not taking up valuable space in your closet.
  • Keep in mind that not every piece of clothing needs be worn all the time. Those special pieces that you love but only wear once a year or two years can be kept.
Take inventory of what’s left. Go back to what’s in the closet (keepers and maybes) and organize by category (shirts, skirts, pants) in color order light to dark. Put a colorful wardrobe in rainbow order: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet. You can also break it up further separating work, casual, and dressy. The purpose is to make it easy to see what you have and what you may need. Once it’s in order, go thru the process again, trying things on to see how things look and fit and can be styled in a way that works for your lifestyle and desired look.
Go through bags, shoes, accessories, and undergarments last. Anything that doesn’t fit, has holes or stains should be discarded. Some things can be repurposed; cotton socks are great for polishing or as rags for general cleaning.
 
Find the holes in your wardrobe. Look to your inspiration file to help you experiment combining colors and pieces you may haven’t in the past. Take pictures of the outfits you put together – believe me, you will forget. Write a detailed list of anything that will supplement what you have left. Example: “This outfit would be great if I had a light cropped fitted black cardigan.”
 
Before you go shopping, you must learn from the previous mistakes you’ve made… That’s Step #3… 

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how to edit and build your wardrobe step 3: learn from your mistakes

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Step #3. LEARN FROM YOUR MISTAKES
you need: full length mirror, pad and pencil
 
Make a list of the reasons why you are getting rid of what you’ve edited to create your personal shopping rules. Identifying your bad habits will help you avoid making them in the future. In the next post I’ll give you some basic rules that everyone should adhere to when shopping, but now you need to find those specific to you.
 
BAD HABIT EXAMPLES
  • Continuing to shop a certain brand or at a certain store that you always have, but for whatever reason doesn’t work for you anymore.
  • Buying pieces that are uncomfortable; specific fabrics, style and/or cut like high or low waisted pants, stilettos or too high heals.
  • Buying pieces that don’t flatter you; specific colors, style and/or cut like crew or v-neck tops, cropped pants, certain length skirt/dresses.
  • Buying something you think you’re supposed to have, but actually don’t love wearing; specific colors or type of clothing like button-down shirts, turtlenecks, pinstripes.
  • Shopping with someone who influences/pushes you into buying things you ultimately don’t love.
 
Anyone can give you tips on how to edit your closet. The point of these posts is to help you figure out what does and does not work for you so you don’t continue to edit bags and bags full of clothes every year. To help you save time, energy, and money and to help you look your best.