Back in a different phase of my life, I used to watch a lot of episodes of What Not To Wear. In the show, the hosts would go through a person’s closet, and toss almost everything as being too old, unworkable, unflattering, etc. They would then give this person (almost always a woman) $5000 to go purchase a new wardrobe, with guidance from the hosts about what worked and didn’t.
I found the idea of building a wardrobe rationally, and all at once, so you were looking for combos that worked together, appealing. (The professional styling advice would be nice too!) I think a lot of other people do as well, which explains the perennial popularity of “capsule wardrobes” — the idea of having, at least for a time, only a small number of things in your closet, and only things that you actually wear.
(Real Simple, for instance, runs a story along the lines of “5 items that will take you through the whole work week” approximately every other month. M.M. Lafleur had one of their staffers write about wearing a mere 5 items to work for the whole month of November).
So Sarah and I were excited to welcome Courtney Carver to Best of Both Worlds this week. Carver is the author of the new book Soulful Simplicity, and she runs the website BeMoreWithLess.com. She is the creator of Project 333, which encourages people to choose 33 items to wear for 3 months. Box everything else up. See what works, see what doesn’t. You’ll learn more about your style, and as you repeat the process, you’ll hone your wardrobe down to what looks great on you and makes you feel good too.
That’s important, because wardrobe stress has a cost — especially for professional women. Time spent getting dressed is time not spent doing other things: working, hanging out with family, relaxing. Mental energy spent debating what works each morning is mental energy not put toward solving your most important business issues.
Anyway, I’m not particularly a minimalist (Sarah finds the idea much more appealing!) but I do know there are items I wear over and over again, and also items I buy and then just don’t wear.
For instance, I’ve bought a fair number of skinny jeans because they’ve dominated the pants options in stores for the past decade. But the truth is, I don’t like them. I tend to wear straight leg jeans. Good to know that.
I also hate uncomfortable shoes. I’ve bought a reasonable number of nice heels for speaking, but then I found a pair (Clark’s) of bone-colored heels that are quite tall (there’s a platform under the toe) and that I can actually wear for longer than 2 minutes. So now I pretty much don’t wear any of the others.
Then there’s the cashmere sweater debacle. I like how they look and feel…in the store. Then at home they pill, and apparently we had moths in the closet because now all my cashmere sweaters have holes in them. Sigh. The winter tops I wear most often turn out not to have wool.
What have you bought — or kept buying — that you never wear? Have you ever tried a capsule wardrobe? What are your most versatile pieces?