Essentials vs. statements -- why bother categorizing?

In Rachy's what is a statement thread, catty asked: 

"At the risk of being provocative, what are people hoping to achieve from this exercise? It seems like there's a lot of confusion and even angst around putting a label on the clothes that are already in our closets. So you decide your khakis are essentials and your scarves are statements, then what?"

It's a great question. One reason I can see for spending some time thinking about this is that (in my case, at least) it helped me conceptualize my closet across varied seasons. Knowing your essentials can help you hone in on a signature style, if that is something that matters to you.

Angie's blog post itself offers another excellent reason: 

  • They are fabulous items to duplicate in the same or different colours.
This is important for those people who tend to duplicate a lot and find themselves confused about why sometimes this strategy has worked for them and sometimes the second item has languished in the closet. Ink and navy merino and cashmere crew neck and boat neck tops (in winter) and linen tees (in summer) are essentials for me. It makes a lot of sense for me to duplicate ink and navy tops in my closet and to get them in fabric weights, because I will wear a navy top as an essential in all seasons. Note -- not just any navy/ ink tops. Only those with certain necklines make the grade. This is important. 

In other words, to be effective defining your essentials requires a broad overview of the closet as well as a kind of granular analysis. If I ignored the neckline issue I might find myself with a lot of barely worn U-neck navy tops, and a feeling of frustration about my lack of ability to create satisfying outfits.  

Still another reason? People's closets tend to be off kilter in one of two ways. Either they tend to over-purchase essentials so that everything is a bit dull...or they tend to over-purchase statements and nothing works together and they wonder why the heck that is. If the first crowd could identify their statement items and within that class, which ones they truly wear and love, they might make smarter purchases of new statements (with less guilt about it). If the second group could identify their essentials, they might buy a few and bring their wardrobes into working order. 

Also, for some people, the analysis is just plain fun. Not an occasion for angst but an absorbing puzzle. 

I'm sure there are other reasons I haven't thought of -- can anyone offer some? 

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Cross-seasonal essentials in 4 season climate

I really loved Angie's blog post on essentials yesterday. For years I have been thinking about this on a season by season basis -- because I have four (or maybe 6) distinct seasons and honestly, what's absolutely crucial in the sense of keeping me alive in one season (the puffer coat) is blessedly forgotten in another!! So I had struggled a bit with the concept. 

Angie's post yesterday was a lightbulb for me because her list struck me as quite different from most I've seen, which are either too granular or irrelevant to my lifestyle or climate. I liked that she included categories of item (this makes sense to me) but also specified a bit within categories. So -- trendy jeans, but not all trendy jeans, some being more statement-like.

And I liked that she identified her essential footwear by colour vs. style. This was a lightbulb moment for me. It's impossible for me to go by style because, well, in my climate I need so many different styles! But I can identify the colour of footwear that is a necessity in my closet. Bingo! 

The idea of categories helped me to see what it is I wear and need to make outfits work across all seasons. I still have a few questions, though, which I'll append at the bottom. 

My list looks similar i some ways to Angie's, no surprise there. It includes:

Accessories:

  • Silver watch
  • Wedding ring/ chunky ring
  • Silver stud earrings 
  • Belt (for wearing with denim)

(Sorry, don't have Finds for all of these, but you get the idea.) 

Pewter/ silver/ grey footwear with about a 2 inch heel (or lower).

Whether sandal or bootie or shoe, a must-have in any season as it bookends hair and blends well with blue denim.  

Ink/ navy blazer

I don’t wear it every day or even every week, but it's absolutely crucial in my closet. 

Trendy jeans

My jeans capsule is really important. I like to incorporate trendy styles. My statement versions right now are flares, culottes, and plaid ones. 

My essentials at the moment are slim straight crops and slim BF crops. 

Ink/ navy turtleneck/ slashneck/ crew tops, in all seasons.

White or light crewneck or slashneck tops, in all seasons.

These come into their own more in summer for me. I don't wear white as often in winter. 

So, a few questions: 

Here are items I considered but did not put into my list of essentials, even though they are backbone items. 

Striped Mariner sweater/ top. I wear one of these several times a week in spring/ summer/ early fall. But never in winter. Then, I tend to revert to a brightly coloured cashmere tee, which serves a similar purpose. Not "statement" exactly -- but "interest" in an outfit. So is it essential, or not? 

Denim jacket -- falls into same category as above. Essential in spring/ summer but not other times. 

White footwear: This is becoming an absolute need in warmer weather. LOVE my white sneakers. But I haven't worn my gorgeous white booties. Weather forbids it, honestly. So...Not an essential, right? 

Silk blouse/ shirt: I don't wear one every week, but without a silk top I am utterly at a loss at certain times -- it is a fallback feel great item that makes me feel more dressed up in denim and that I use in every season. Essential, or not? 

Sheath dress: this is a "special occasion" essential. 

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WIW: ink uniform, kitchen sink mix my way, lilac coat.

I haven't posted a WIW for a while. My teen has the DSLR again to shoot movies -- I think maybe I need to get a second one for myself! In the meantime, my phone will have to do. 

Here is what I wore to a talk at the university's creative writing club yesterday. FFB smart casual -- ink blazer, turtleneck, denim crops, booties. It was bitterly cold and I needed a puffer coat and hat and mitts. Not a particularly imaginative outfit but one that always serves me in any winter occasion. I notice that especially for presentations of this kind I have a uniform and I truly like to stick with it. Lately the uniform is becoming even more ...um...uniform...in the sense that I like to keep most everything to ink blue. I do love to wear colour at other times -- but oddly, both at home (for work at home) and for writing related speaking gigs, I seem to be drawn especially to dark navy/ ink. I must do some meditation on that. 

On a warmer day I got to wear a raincoat (!) and play with kitchen sink maximalism my way. Stripes, plaid, necklace. That's a lot for me! 

And a photo of the lilac coat back in January in Toronto. Love that coat so much. 

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Indoor booties

I haven't set up the DSLR again yet but will try to do that soon and take more outfit pics. I've been wanting to record more regularly. In the meantime, I got fed up and found a way to wear my as-yet-unworn silver booties -- inside -- to a book club meeting. Ha! 

Also another outfit with the long sweater, which is getting a fair bit of use these days. It is three years old and still going strong. I wore it a lot the first year, less last year, and more again this year. Funny how that works. 

1/2: bookclub -- Out of Print tee, BR sweater, Fossil belt, R&B Dre burgundy jeans, Topshop booties.

3. AT shirt, BR sweater, Ecco booties, Kit and Ace trousers. 

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2017 Style goals...and a wrinkle

Grab a cuppa if you have time for another reflective post! Herewith, some further reflections on my style in 2016 and goals for the year ahead. 

What did I do well?

  • Got a hair update that adds instant drama.
  • Purchased a few key statement items (gilet, bag, watch, ring) that will have wardrobe longevity.
  • Kept footwear up to date. I spend a big proportion of my budget on footwear and it’s worth it…at least in my mind. (More on that later.)
  • Edited assertively and replenished where needed. A third of my wardrobe was refreshed this year. Purchased and retired/ donated/ gifted approximately 50 items.


What did I wear that made me feel great?

  • Skirts and dresses in warm months.
  • Cropped jeans and trousers in temperate months.
  • New denim silhouette (culottes) and new dress trouser silhouette (culottes).
  • Brighter and/or more saturated colour.
  • Black, ink, silver, white, grey, and patterns incorporating black and white or silver and white. Slam dunk with my new hair.


5 Adjectives to describe my aspirational style:

  • Modern
  • Precise
  • Playful
  • Bright
  • Bold


Goals for 2017

  1. Purchase mindfully. I want to continue to have fun with fashion but want to do it in a way that does not cause suffering for others or our planet. Each of us makes our own accommodations in this regard, but I want to purchase more locally made, more ethically made fashion. Also, I'd like to reduce my purchasing while at the same time honouring my deep pleasure in embracing trends. This is not an easy balance to strike but it is one I want to work towards.
  2. Add more colour (especially red). Brighter or more intense versions of my old favourites seem to be best now. Clearer colours are better than muddier. This will be an ongoing process.
  3. Aim for drama. I need to think about a variety of ways to incorporate this. Cut, style, colour, scale. 
  4. Wear the heck out of my dresses, skirts, crops, culottes etc. in warmer weather when I can. 
  5. Continue to dress practically for my climate and lifestyle but to push the edge towards “dressier” where and when I can. 

Goal 5 is the problematic one.  I already tend to wear wool coats vs. puffers when I can, jackets vs. cardigans when I can, silk shirt vs. t-shirt, when I can (and so on) but, of necessity, I also dress from the ground up. So, practically, "getting dressier" means wearing my dressier footwear vs. my more rugged and practical footwear. Angie suggested I just do it and accept that the footwear will become worn out faster. 

This is a great idea in theory, but people -- see below!! These are my sidewalks on a good day in winter! I cannot bring myself to wear a selection of my precious booties out there (see Finds).  Instead, I'm wearing clumpy snow boots, or at best, weather proof darker boots or motos, which in turn means a more casual outfit overall. And I feel a whole lot less fab. Ugh. :(  If I worked in an office, I would simply take my shoes to the office and wear my boots outdoors. But I work from home, so I wear slippers. Lately I have been wearing some of my booties occasionally indoors, just so they get worn at all. Oh, and I bought another pair of snow boots with good ice grips. Because I need them. Grrrr.....

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"Style is character:" Discuss (Long)

Yes, I've been reading Joan Didion. ;) 

But I've also been thinking about style personae and descriptors, partly for selfish reasons (I was feeling I'd outgrown the "urban prince" moniker) and partly because it's that time of year when we assess other forum members have also been talking about them. 

Angie's current descriptor is "Urban Pretty." At first that might seem like a contradiction. But "urban" does not have to mean gritty and RATE. Here, it encapsulates the sophistication, modernity, and graphic crispness and quickness that is her style; "pretty" describes the softness, femininity, lightness, brightness, and freshness that is an equal part of the overall impression she creates. 

And then there is Staysfit, whose descriptor is "Genuine Composed." "Genuine" speaks to the practical, comfortable, and approachable aspects of her look; "composed" refers to her organization, coherence, and thoughtfulness. 

Here's the thing -- these labels are pretty darned good descriptions of their characters as well as the "surface." I haven't met Staysfit in person but I have enough evidence from her forum participation that she is extremely thoughtful. She is open without being an over-sharer, highly organized, and she labours against sometimes considerable personal odds, yet maintains an enviable serenity, and yes, composure. 

Angie, meanwhile, is vivid, curious, no-nonsense, and exceptionally smart, yet also warm, light, (i.e. not somber), youthfully energetic, and fresh as a spring flower. 

When I asked for suggestions for a new style moniker for myself, I was extremely flattered when Angie offered up "Relaxed Radiance," but at first I wasn't sure it fit. Partly that's because these style descriptors or statements seem more static to me than the style personae, which are characters, who can act, if you see what I am saying...it's the difference between an adjective (e.g. "pretty")  and a noun (e.g. " princess"). I still find that is true. It's easier to ask oneself, in a store, "Is this what an urban prince would wear?"  and then visualize it, than it is to ask "Is this what an urban pretty would wear?" What's "an" urban pretty? It doesn't make sense. 

At the same time, the more I thought about this, the more I thought that the statement or descriptor may get at something even deeper. 

Am I "relaxed" in real life? Um...no. I definitely get stressed out! But Mr. Suz has often told me that the world would never know that --  it's not that I deliberately try to hide it, but it rarely shows on the outside. And I am fortunate that even though I have experienced serious bouts of anxiety in my life, it is not a constant companion for me, as I know it is for many others.

Anyway, as far as style is concerned, "relaxed" could refer to the generally casual nature of my clothes. This arises from real life circumstance. I work from home and live in a small, student-oriented city. But believe it or not, I am usually more "dressed up" than the people around me. The thing is, I'm okay with that. I'm the kind of person who will get down on the floor with the kids even if I'm wearing a dress; I'll wear a silk blouse and tailored jacket, but hop up on and sit on a desktop to give my lecture if I'm teaching just as easily as if I were wearing a hoodie.  This in itself speaks to a certain level of relaxation that goes beyond casual clothing, I think. Maybe it's about being okay with who I am. The grey hair is another indicator. I am who I am. I don't stand on ceremony. I like to dress up, but I'm not stuck up. 

As for "radiance" -- that is of course an extremely flattering descriptor and I'm less able to judge it in relation to myself. I know I'm blessed with a big smile, though, and I also have metallic hair (and often, metallic shod feet) so there's always an element of shine. I am not sure I can parse out the deeper implications of this. 

Moving on from me, me, me  ;)  all of  these style statements or descriptors involve an inherent tension or hint of juxtaposition. "Urban" and "Pretty" don't immediately seem like comfortable companions -- but it's in the disjunct that the style emerges. Ditto for "Genuine" and "Composed," which if you think of it is almost an oxymoron. (Genuine being "natural" and composed being a quality of art.) "Relaxed" and "Radiant" are perhaps less obviously in tension but I think it's still there...relaxed seems to imply a softness? or calm? and radiance is vivid and energetic. 

Anyway. This has become long. If you read this far, thank you for indulging me! And I would love to know your own renewed style descriptors or your style personae, if you have them! And I'd love to know if you think these give you insight into who you are as a person as well as how you dress. 

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New Year in Blue

Happy New Year to all. 

Last night Mr. Suz and I stayed in, cooked ourselves a nice supper, and watched Netflix. But staying home is no reason not to dress up, right? Right. 

It was one of those nights where you try on 6 outfits and nothing feels right. Either the fit was off or the colour felt wrong or the shoes didn't feel right, or who knows what? Even though I wasn't going out and nobody but Mr. Suz and the cat would see me, I was grumpy. 

So, back to the FFB blue sheath. This dress never lets me down. Thank you, David Meister. 

I admit I put on loungewear for the movie. ;) 

ETA: New Year's Resolution -- get the DSLR back from DD and take pictures with that instead of my phone! 

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2016 My Year in Style

I love this time of year for the opportunity it offers us to reflect and to consider where we want to go in the year ahead. Thanks to Angie and others who have started posting your thoughts about this. Your thoughts spur my thoughts and that is a gift. :) 

Here are some of my favourite outfits of 2016 and my reasons for picking them. I apologize in advance for the photo quality of some and also for the length. 

#1 is a spring outfit showcasing my new blue moto jacket, a long sought item that has become a workhorse. It's very soft and pliable, which makes it a good jacket for indoors and out. 

#2 Most of my photos date from after my hair transition. Switching to a silver pixie was the best and most important style decision of my year. As Angie often says, everything follows the hair. I like this outfit because I adore the feel of the dress against my skin (silk) and also the cut.

#3 As with #2, I love how the hair brought new life to an older item. I learned that black and white patterns are now my friend as long as the scale is right. 

#4  This outfit combines new with old (something I love) and showed me that with my natural hair colour I can do higher contrast than I used to find flattering. It was super comfortable in sticky heat. 

#5 I owe LisaP thanks for finding this fun top at the Bay. It was such a hit for me this summer. The over-layer was its own "3rd piece." 

#6  I adore CoH jeans and these are no exception. Silver has become a core neutral in my closet. Grey is very flattering, of course, but I find I need to combine it with white or ink, or else I feel "lowered" in it -- however kind it is to my skin tone. I need some contrast or brightness to feel like myself. Silver amps up the "bright" in grey. 

#7  How could I not feature the controversial denim culottes? They're actually a bit more like a wide leg flare than a culotte, I think. Anyway, I enjoy them. I have successfully worn them with tall boots in the cold as well. Score! 

#8 This may not be high fashion but it is so, so me, and pretty representative of my "at home" or casual travel style. Super comfy CoH jeans (cropped), super comfy Ecco sneakers (walked 10 miles in them that day), older LL Bean Mariner sweater, great bag. Love. 

#9 Hard to see, but I'm wearing a silk shirt (again, the feel against the skin!), burgundy Dres (fit is sublime!), great bag, great booties. Silver belt. Simple but a bit luxe. I had a Theory trench to top it. The day was rainy. 

#10 Aforementioned CoH white crops and Ecco sneakers and a denim shirt in dark blue -- much more flattering now than muddy chambray. 

#11 This was an Annie Lennox inspired outfit that I wore to a WritersFest event -- so much fun. With my grey hair, black has earned a new place in my closet. I still plan to keep it quite minimal, but I won't be shying away from it as much. 

#12 How could I neglect the famous gilet? Love this piece so much, although I have to confess it has not yet had many wearings. Our climate and my casual lifestyle are largely to blame. I'm not worried, since it will have long wardrobe longevity. Wore it with a fave pair of jeans and a silk shirt here. 

#13 This outfit showcases my love of new trends. Finally found a pair of wool culottes that work well. Also combined with older pieces and great new red booties. 

#14 Here's what I wore on Christmas Day -- glammed up denim, as per Angie's ensemble. With my grey hair I find I can wear a wider range of reds, from burgundy through to cranberry (my old favourite), true red and even bright tomato. This one is a bit on the blue side but close to true. 

 Overall...short grey hair adds a bit of drama/ boldness, which seems to call for greater drama/ boldness in kind — either via contrast, depth/ brightness of colour, or cut. So my favourite outfits usually showcased one or more of those elements.

I feel like I need a new style moniker but I haven’t had much luck developing one yet. “Urban prince” seems a bit tomboy for this leg of my style evolution. I considered “glam gamine” (Viva’s) but it seems off, too. I’m more 60s mod than 70s glam. I do love me a great flare jean and a midi skirt, but the old romance of the boho dance has never really been mine.

I'm still tweaking the hair a bit. I haven't quite found the exact style I want for it. A bit longer than its first iteration, and a bit shorter, maybe, than I've been wearing it of late. The most recent cut is close, but not quite right. Suggestions gladly taken. :) 

Thanks for reading and looking! I'd love to hear your thoughts. :) And I look forward to reading about others' style journeys. 

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Happy Holidays!

We celebrate Hannukah in our house as well as Christmas. So this is what I am wearing to wish everyone who celebrates during this season joy and laughter and the return of light. Have a wonderful break!

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How I wear a plaid shirt

Chris's question gave me today's outfit. 

In fact I just took this shirt out of storage. I usually only wear it in true winter because it's pretty warm. But today is one of those warm fall days where layered over a cami it might work on its own with a topper when I go outdoors. We'll see. 

What I might wear, sometime -- with the gilet (too dressy for today's activities) and/or (just for Approprio) with the pink jacket (once I deal with the buttons.) 

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