I’m minimizing my closet and building a capsule wardrobe from scratch. Read the full series here.
As I said on Wednesday, I’ve decided to apply the 5-Piece French Wardrobe concept to my own wardrobe. This system relies on a strong foundation of basics, to which you can add five carefully curated statement pieces each season.
So, in order to get that foundation in place in my wardrobe, I decided start at the beginning and take a look at my personal style concept. My aim was to distill the overall look and feel that I’m going for when I put together an outfit. Doing that would put me in a better position to build a cohesive wardrobe from the ground up.
The most natural place for me to start seemed to be in defining my signature look or “uniform”. A signature look is a person’s flagship – it defines their personal style. Almost every style icon in history has a signature look that distills the essence of their overall style: just look at Emmanuelle Alt, with her skinny trousers and boxy jackets; The Olsen Twins’ monochrome, androgynous theme; Victoria Beckham and tailoring. There are countless examples.
A signature look is the perfect place to start for two reasons:
(1) it forces you to be very analytical about your style, about what you like and don’t like, and the way you want to express yourself through your style choices. It helps you to have a better understanding of your wardrobe as a whole, and so makes purchasing decisions easier, because you have a predefinition of the overarching theme.
(2) it follows that with a more cohesive wardrobe, there should be less of an issue of “nothing to wear”. You have a defined go-to look, and the pieces in your wardrobe mesh together better.
Once I started this process, I realized that this is something I already do almost unconsciously: I intuitively know which types outfits I feel best in, and gravitate towards those pairing. I buy a LOT of grey jumpers, and the outfits I pin to my pinterest style board have a distinctive look. So this process for me was about refining: finding a way to systematically explore my look every season, to make better informed purchases, and helping me to remove the surplus from my wardrobe that doesn’t fit my look.
Below I’ve outlined the steps I went through to develop my signature look.
1 Exploring My Style Concept | I started with my Pinterest style boards. I pulled out all of my favourite images – only the one’s that I felt really encapsulated my style (or my desired style) aesthetic, and start putting together a moodboard. I didn’t stop at pinterest – I collected images from my favourite blogs, tumblrs, instagram etc. I stuck to outfit photos – full body, close ups of details – and I aimed for almost all of the images to be of people wearing the clothes as opposed to product shots. I used Photoshop to create my moodboard, but you could also print images out and make a physical one if you prefer. I spent a couple of hours on this and stopped when I ran out of images – I had about 100. Here’s a snippet:2 Extracting Themes & Key Elements | Looking at moodboard, I could begin to pull out some themes. The easiest was colour. My board was very monochrome: lots of black white and grey, some cream, etc. This would make up my colour paletteNext, I went through each image systematically, and noted down the elements that made up each outfit (Image 1 : black t-shirt + black skinny jeans + black and white sneakers, Image 2 : t-shirt dress + geometric necklace, Image 3 : … etc). This allowed me to get a really good idea of all the common elements. Skinny jeans showed up many times in different colours, so did loose t-shirts etc. I pulled out these three looks as an example. they all have a similar feel – monochrome & muted tones, separates, unfussy design, and masculine elements – which makes up my signature look.Outfit One : Ripped Black Jeans + Grey Crew Neck Tee + Black Ankle Boots + Leather Jacket
Outfit Two : Blue Jeans + Grey Vest + Black Blazer + Superga
Outfit Three : Loose Fit Black Trousers + White V-Neck T-Shirt + Court Shoes
3 Refining My Catalogue | Now, one of the main aims of this exercise was to build my foundation of basics. I had a good feel of my general style concept, and I had lots and lots of outfit ideas that fit that concept.
The last step was to create a list of actual building blocks for my wardrobe. I started off by going through each outfit, and putting every item into a clothing category (tops, outerwear, bottoms etc.) Considering the number of outfits, there weren’t that many items on the list, because a lot shared common elements. As a general rule, any item that was common in lots of outfit (like black skinny jeans) became a basic, and an item I would definitely need in my wardrobe. I used my judgment for items that only appeared once or twice: some might make good seasonal statement pieces; others could be cut from list and maybe subbed for one of the basic to create a similar look.
I also looked at the mixture of components to make sure they suited my lifestyle – a lot of outfits included heels, but in my everyday life I do a lot of walking so I wear flats a lot more. There would be no point having a disproportionate number of heels that would be hardly worn.
The Result | I ended up with a manageable list of basics, investment pieces and statements, broken down into categories:Next week, I’ll share my final list for A/W 14-15 (I prob won’t be needing Birkenstocks in December). I’ll come back to this in Spring to make adjustments, because there will be variations to account for warmer weather, changing trends etc. Some of the A/W basics will go into storage (e.g. jumpers, wool coat) and other pieces will replace them (e.g. shorts). This is a perfect complement to the 5-piece French Wardrobe, because I can use the opportunity to plan out my five pieces for the next season.
I loosely followed this post from Into Mind to develop my signature look.