Sunday, May 10, 2015

Simple Wardrobe Rules

No matter your budget, there is an overwhelming amount of choice when shopping for your wardrobe. Whether you’re browsing the mall, Forever 21’s website, the thrift store, or your sister’s cast-offs the sheer number of decisions that need to be made can turn you off from shopping altogether. I can’t help you with the decision on whether or not you should get a Cinnabon (do!), but instating a few wardrobe rules can make navigating the complex task of choosing clothing simple.

I used to buy whatever struck my fancy and fell beneath a certain price point, but that left me with a collection of items that were impractical and didn’t necessarily work with one another. It was an exciting wardrobe - until I had to put together an outfit. Then, I’d spend hours trying to find combinations that were work-appropriate, but still conveyed my aesthetic. I seem to have less and less time every year to shop and then dress myself, so I evolved a few rules to make shopping, and thus dressing, less complex.

My rules:

1. Limited color palette
2. Patterns for interest
3. Natural fibers
4. Comfortable shoes
5. Mental wishlist

A year ago, If you had asked me my favorite color, I would have told you, “rainbow.” I was always on the hunt for accessories in EVERY color to match my wardrobe. (Charming Charlie was a lifesaver.) After a few years of this shopping strategy, It looked like a rainbow threw up in my closet. While this was great for holiday and theme dressing, I started to crave a quieter, more sophisticated look.

After packing a few capsule wardrobes, I realized that I was beginning to gravitate towards a palette of neutrals, red, turquoise, and olive for mix-and-match options. I loved how easy it was to create outfits from my suitcase and didn’t miss my yellow jacket or orange shoes a bit. For the past 6 months, I’ve restricted wardrobe purchases to: neutrals (black, brown, gray, white, navy), red, turquoise, olive, and denim. I’ve purged a few of the brightly colored items, but there are still leftovers hanging in my closet. The beauty of my new palette is that the rainbow remnants are perfect accents to the more sober colored additions.

Rainbow Kasmira and Sober(er) Kasmira

A restricted color palette is the perfect starting point to go WILD with pattern mixing. Instead of using bright colors for interest, I use contrasting patterns. Leopard, black and white stripes, and red plaid all play nicely together. I get the “fun” I need from my wardrobe with patterns, instead of rainbow colors. When browsing the rails, I head towards the patterns in my palette first. Then, I check the fiber content.

Patterns keep a limited color palette interesting.

I won’t bore you with another treatise on my hatred of polyester. To sum up my feelings: it looks cheap, it feels cheap, and it is unbearable to wear in temperatures greater than 75 degrees. When shopping, I reject anything not made of cotton, linen, silk, wool, or leather. I do tolerate rayon and new-to-me lyocell. Polyester blended with cotton is acceptable for wrinkle-free fabrics and spandex blended with natural materials adds stretch and memory. My “no polyester” rule eliminates almost everything at the mall. No matter if I’m shopping at Forever 21 or Nordstrom, polyester dominates and I hate the stuff. Shopping is so much simpler when I skip the man-made fibers.

I miss the days of commuting to work in galoshes or flip flops (depending on the season), and then putting on my hooker heels for 8 hours of sitting at my desk. I looked so good in my office chair. My current role requires walkable footwear. I can’t tell you how angry I’ve been with myself when limping to a 4 p.m. appointment in 100 degree heat with my swollen feet threatening to burst my darling stiletto sandals. I’ve actually had to reschedule meetings when I couldn’t find parking within my acceptable walking radius. Shopping just the old lady brands makes the shoe selection process much less complex. I went to DSW recently and deselected every shoe in the store for either being uncomfortable, too casual, or just ugly.

Those heels tried to kill me. I could walk miles in my flats.

Suppose I walk into a store full of natural-fiber clothing in my favorite colors, but fun patterns, and also featuring comfy shoes. How do I deal with such bounty? I remember items on my wishlist. Currently, I’m looking for a red circle skirt and dressy, flat, black, knee-high boots. I’d also like to add another denim skirt to my collection. And I’m always looking for interesting leggings. A mental wishlist keeps me focused when faced with abundant choice.

Rather than finding my wardrobe rules constricting, I find them freeing. My shopping decisions are simpler and dressing is even easier. I’d rather free up my brain power for better use, like writing my next Toastmasters speech, looking for photo opportunities or plotting next year’s bucket list. As a bonus, I look pulled together while going about my adventures.

Over to you. I’d love to hear your wardrobe rules!


Cosmic said...

I'm with you with the polyester and synthetics in general(should be banned in clothing)!

Sheila said...

There are some polyesters which mimic silk really well - I have had to stick with poly blouses because I need to wash them (and I refuse to iron anything) due to my peri-menopausal flashes. However, I'm with you on avoiding them in general. I hate the smell of the malls. Gag! I don't like linen (see: refuse to iron), but I'm with you on all other natural fibres.

Rules for me:
- secondhand preferable, made in Canada or other first world country is even better.
- if new, must be made ethically, preferably in a first world country, but if not, the company must be committed to ethical practices (like Fluevog).

As far as colours and patterns, I'm game for anything, but if it doesn't fit and flatter me, it doesn't last long. Shoes have to be comfy - I recently consigned a whack of way-too-high shoes - but not necessarily flat.

Sonya Benson said...

Yes, I think that is really true about colour palate. It really does make shopping a lot easier. I stick to similar colours to you. I really try to buy only what I need, rather than just buy a load of random stuff and ending up with lots of wardrobe "orphans"!!! Eg, I need some black jeans at the mo, I will not buy a floral skirt under any circumstances. Comfy shoes are a must, as I have a school run to do. Accessories add colour, interest and (sometimes) sophistication. Good post! :)

Lola said...

I'm so glad to see that picking a limited palette is "legal!" Lately, I've been sticking to black, gray, purple, and turquoise. I do still have other colors (I am wearing a cobalt blue shirt right now - I might call that one of my core colors, also), but it's so easy knowing that things will go together. And also it's funny now because my friends all know those are "my" colors :o)

Anonymous said...

Great post! Over the years, I've come very close to your rules. Definitely agree on the natural fabrics! Most people think I'm weird for checking content and refusing an item if it isn't mostly natural, but my clothes last longer, look better, and I feel better in them.

I think my only issue is that my color palette is too limited. I'm trying to branch out a little bit. My reasoning has been I can easily mix and match those limited colors, but sometimes it's really boring.

I also now look for structurally interesting items or patterns or "neat" colors instead of just plain and "safe".

Linda Loui said...

I don't think I have enough shopping rules. I'm with you on the natural fabrics - I will make an occasional exception if I'm in an actual store and the fabric feels good. I've gotten some poly blouses and dresses that feel identical to my actual silk ones.
I don't limit my colors, but I try to be conscious of what I already have in excess (no more blue dresses, no more black blazers or shoes)and what I rarely wear (no more classic trousers or cardigans, bootcut jeans or 5 inch heels).

Kelly Roy said...

If it fits greatly, I keep it.
If it's man made fabric, I also keep it.If it makes me feel good and expensive, I keep it.
About color I'm not strict but if it's neutral is easier to combine and then let the accessories do the loud job. When I feel like loud.
This way I'm left with only 1/3 of what I owned.Now I shop selectively and I have freed precious time for other things in life.

Gervy said...

Great post! Fascinating to see that even in a wild and crazy wardrobe like yours there is actually quite a lot of method/discipline.