Essentials 2021

Every year we get into deep conversations about this and every year it gets simpler for me...not least because my list of essentials grows ever smaller -- likely due to a change in climate with my move, and also the pandemic, meaning I don't really go anywhere! 

My list is awfully like Angie's and also is similar to Carla's -- and this makes me think this concept is just easier to grasp if you are a modern classic dresser with a limited colour palette. 

For me, it's blue and white, all the way, with stripes as a key pattern. My essential jeans are slim straights (cropped or not), even though they are not trendy. I've also added a pair of slim straight navy pants, which I find myself wearing more than the jeans these days -- they're that comfy! 

Footwear would once have included sandals and booties, but things have gone haywire with my injury, plus my new suburban location, and sneakers are pretty much the only essential at the moment! 

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2020. The year of gear.

Yeah yeah yeah. Fear, too. But for now, I am focusing on sartorial matters. 

In the past, I didn’t include gear purchases as “clothing” — gear was more along the lines of “exercise equipment” and I put it into the “healthcare” portion of my budget. But I noted that some forum members (Sal, Jenn, LaPed come to mind -- also maybe Carla??)  do include gear in their clothing budget. I've always been in awe of this, a little bit, because they also have relatively small wardrobes! So if you take away the gear -- there's not all that many items left for "regular" wear! 

Now I've been wondering if I ought to make this switch in thinking as well. because this year, my gear purchases far outnumbered my “fashion” purchases, not to mention the fact that I ended up wearing gear throughout my day far more often than I would have done in the past.

Part of this is just…COVID. Instead of exercising at a class or a gym, early in the morning, I’m exercising at home at inconsistent hours. I end up putting on the gear and wearing it to do housework as well as workout. 

In addition, certain purchases crossed over easily -- the Icebreaker shorts I bought for hiking turned out to be good enough looking to wear for whatever else I might want to do. 

I also need to factor in non-COVID-related lifestyle change. I moved to a suburban area and took up gardening and biking and increased my hiking so I needed different “equipment” than in the past. Hence -- purchasing to meet the need. 

Fortunately, I got everything on substantial sale, so while it added up to a hefty-for-me sum, I was still well within budget overall. 

Some of these items are still under consideration (i.e. they have not arrived so I don't know if I will keep). But am I nuts or am I nuts??? The thing is, I am wearing and USING it all. So I guess it was sensible. 

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Not a Walking Wimp: For Anchie

Anchie, I'm offering some additional tips/ ideas for urban winter walks for you. I posted some on Chris's great thread, but there I described my current winter wear for walks in a fairly temperate suburban environment; here, I'll tell you what I used to wear for a much colder and more urban setting. 

Like you, I wasn't big on true gear for my walks in an urban environment. Just didn't feel right. (I do wear much more gear now that I am walking in a different place with different kinds of roadways.) 

Here's the kind of outfit I tended to wear in Eastern Ontario's cold winters. I walked in all conditions. Even a few ice storms (I don't advise it.) 

The kinds of items you'll need include: 

1. Comfortable but fashionable footwear with a good tread. I highly recommend seeking out some kind of sneaker boot for this purpose. Either that, or an excellent low heeled chelsea boot. Examples in Finds. 

Make sure the footwear is warm enough or has enough room for good wool socks. 

2. Wool socks! :) 

3. Underlayers. I preferred to wear my regular casual clothes, more or less, with some adaptations. But of course you can also wear gear if you like. Anyway, beneath my regular clothes I often wore -- camisole or longer sleeved base layer, sometimes with long underwear -- heattech or similar. 

4. Clothes. I usually wore jeans and a wool or cashmere sweater. I think I'd be uncomfortable in office wear -- a bit too restrictive. But there are certainly some wool trousers and even jackets that could work. 

5. Coat. For me, usually a puffer. I have various weights for various purposes. I also have a "gearish" rainproof coat with cozy lining that I could wear in warmer temps if it was wet. 

6. Scarves, hats, gloves, sometimes mitts. 

I grew to love cold-weather walking. It's invigorating. And it makes the winter go by so quickly. 

Here I am in Kingston, late last February. 

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Fall 2020: Rescue and Release (Long)

Fall has arrived on Vancouver Island, right on schedule. As Angie already said, I'm so very grateful for the rain. 

This weekend I did my closet switchover, and not a moment too soon! Now that I live in a more temperate region, I actually keep more of my things in one closet across all seasons, but I do move them around, and wool and cashmere sweaters and coats go away in summer, while lightweight cotton and linen sleeveless items go away for fall/ winter. 

Last fall/ winter I put a number of items into my "to donate" pile -- but I wasn't able to take them until spring -- and then COVID hit and everything closed up, including, in our region, donation boxes/ thrifts. 

It seems I've lost some girth in the last four months, so several of the jeans I bought last autumn in the NAS no longer fit and will go to consignment/ donation now. Thank you and goodbye, Eileen Fisher BFs and Madewell wide legs. (Finds and Pics 1 and 2) You served me well and gave me and Angie some joy! :) 

Typically I'm a person who is glad to edit and quickly say goodbye to items that no longer work, but in view of my sustainability goals, I'm really glad I could dip back into the donate bin -- because despite having to pass a few things on, I've also managed to to rescue several beloved items as well as several still-good "maybes" to try them again. 

My rescues

Denim

  1. 2016 Rag and Bone Dres in burgundy. (Pic 3) Favourite fall jeans ever. Yes, they are a bit low waisted for my current preferences. But oh -- they are so comfortable, the colour makes and outfit, and they flatter me so well (now that they fit again).
  2. 2018 CoH Olivia jeans x 2 — in black (Pic 4) and mid -blue wash. These are now slightly loose (vs. slightly to very snug) and make a comfortable high-waisted slim straight (not calf-hugging skinny) option.

Also KEPT, despite size change: 

2019 BR wide legs, Paige boot cuts (so stretchy it wouldn’t matter). I think the BR jeans still work because they were slightly snug in the rise before — with a bit of girth lost they sit a bit differently and though they are definitely looser they don’t bag in the bum.

Trousers

  1. 2019 BR wide legs — had become snug and felt too short but now that they fit more loosely, they are cropped to a length that works for me — no need to purchase new trousers.
  2. Suit trousers — one pair Elie Tahari straights (2014) in taupe (was snug but now fits and can be called into use as part of my "relaxed suiting" capsule) and one pair Kit and Ace. (2016) This latter pair is still on the “skinny” side for current preferences but the fabric has stretch and they will be comfy WFH pants.

Shirts

  1. J. Crew Collection (2018) — not sure how long this will last — I love the colours but I’m not crazy about silk twill — I perspire in it.
  2. LL Bean Flannel (2013?) — it’s just soooo soft. Have tried to get rid of it multiple times but cant seem to say goodbye. Kind of like PJs for daytime. :) 

In general, I feel my closet is in a good place for fall so I won't need to make many purchases -- and those I do make will primarily be practical footwear and outerwear. Stay tuned for another post on that! Might need your thoughts and advice. 

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Which of your recent purchases reflects a newer trend?

By "recent" I guess I mean within the past two years. And by "trend" I mean...well, something that maybe makes this list of Angie's. Or others you might know about (and I don't!)

I'm a modern classic dresser who does indeed love to add a bit of "trend" every season. But looking back over my purchases, I can see clear patterns in what portions of my wardrobe lean to "trend" and which lean to more classic items. Of course, this will shift, depending on what the trends are and how much I warm to them. But here, for example, are some of my most "trendy" purchases of late. 

Ripskirt is a wrap skirt. (On Angie's list). 
Fair Isle sweater (winter before last). 
Cropped wide legs (I've been wearing for a few years). 
Belt -- western trend. 
Booties -- ditto. 
Sneakers -- platform sneaker trend. 

I actually have far more footwear and accessories that fit the description "trendy" than I do of clothing. Anything that is clothing, I will wear for years, trendy or no, whereas a shoe I might (and often do) wear out in a season, and a belt or jewellery I will save for another year if I tire of it and it's still in good shape, or I will happily pass along. 

I definitely prefer trendy denim, within certain parameters. I won't wear trends I don't like on myself, unless it's impossible to find anything else. 

How about you? Are there categories of trendier items that tend to find their way into your closet or is it a fairly equal distribution of different categories? 

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Benched

Do you ever feel like Angie is in your head?

How did she know I was asking myself that very question all last week? 

Currently, I own 3 pairs of shorts: one dressy knee length sarong short, and two bermuda-ish white denim shorts. I don't think shorts flatter me much but I wear them anyway for practicality's sake. 

I far prefer skirts for coolness but casual ones can be tough to find. So I only own a couple of summer skirts. My beloved J. Crew full skirt in Liberty cotton and a very old worn but trusty VC knit tube skirt that I can't seem to get rid of due to its use value.

Add to these two pair of wide leg culotte type summer pants. One (the Aritzia) is like a skirt (fabrication, lining -- it feels "dressier" although still casual.) The other (the J. Crew chambray) is more like a long short (or, truthfully, pajamas!!) -- much more casual. I wear those pants really only as at home loungewear. Or I might pull them over a swimsuit at the beach. Useful, but not really "fashion" wear, if you know what I mean. 

Lo. New house, new location, new lifestyle. Remember I told you I would need a "gardening" capsule? Well, I do need one. I have pulled an old pair of old jeans into commission and am using those for now, but in summer's heat, I might want something less heavy, and white shorts are not going to cut it!! :) 

Meanwhile, I've also discovered I need a true hiking capsule. In addition to suburban road and pathway walking, I'm doing a lot of trail walking. Again, optic white shorts might not be the best idea in these circumstances! 

Meanwhile, I am also strongly feeling the need for an addition to my very limited skirt capsule, since summer skirts and dresses are my favourite! 

So I've put in an order to a few places. For shorts, I am looking at a few -- one for at home and regular wear and two for gardening/ hiking. 

And for a skirt, I've put in an order to my fave Canadian designer, Comrags, for a summer skirt. You'll recall I bought a fab 2 piece dress from them on super sale this winter. Well, this item is from their summer sale. The original price of $270 came down to $70 and I could not resist for a pure cotton-linen skirt with an A-line shape and arty asymmetric pleats that will not date.

Incidentally, they were signatories to the letter that slim cat alerted us to. 

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My (current) sweatshirts/ hoodies -- and where shall I find my new one?

I like sweatshirts and hoodies both as fashion and as gear/ loungewear. I tend to wear them more for very casual situations but occasionally I'll throw a sweatshirt over a skirt for a fun juxtaposition (like a graphic tee with a skirt) and sometimes I'll wear a soft cashmere hoodie under a blazer. 

The first four are my current versions. 1 cashmere stripe from Boden (winter), one cashmere/ wool blend from Zella (very pilly, even with attention and care, but too darn useful to let go of yet!), one merino blend one from Icebreaker (mostly gear/ lounge; cross seasonal), and one cotton terry cropped one from J. Crew (more as a winter "tee" or a spring/summer "warmup.") 

I have to say my favourite sweatshirt ever was a BR one with sequins I had some years back. It was so much fun! 

I would like a new, brighter, spring-like one. Any suggestions for me? I think the bubblebum pink that Angie got from BR is adorable but too warm a pink for me? 

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Essentials revisited: a few discoveries

Angie, thank you so much for breaking your essentials down by category. This was really instructive for me. I've always thought I had a pretty good grasp of my essentials (at least for the past four years or so) but breaking it down this way led to further insights and an actual shopping list!

Here's my post from last year and you will see that many of the categories and specific items remain exactly the same. 

But this year, I've made a few changes and updates.  

First, the usual -- navy tops for a variety of seasons.   I feel pretty well set for these. I include versions from the uber-casual to the more refined, because they provide the "glue" for outfits at various levels of dressiness. (ETA -- I took out the denim because on reflection they don't serve exactly the same function. They might need their own category, though -- because if not "essentials" they are certainly "workhorses.) 

Next, white tops for various seasons. You will see there is a patterned top mixed in here -- that is because I wear it as a white top, pattern mixing at will, and wear it a LOT.  This makes me realize that a plain silk shirt in white would be useful to me. Currently, I don't own one. 

Blue outerwear. Surprise, surprise -- I need more of this! It's my goal to own a capsule more similar to Angie's. I really want a navy trenchcoat, a long navy military style coat, and a better pea coat. (The one I own is boiled wool, from consignment and while I love it and find it perfect for my climate, it does show its age a bit.) 

Highly current jeans: Like Angie, I feel best in slightly "trendy" denim (assuming I like the trend). Here, again, I can see holes. I need a pair of higher rise white wide legs for this spring/ summer, and maybe another pair of white. I still have a couple of older pair of mid-rise white jeans hanging around for use in a pinch, but it's time to start shopping seriously for white jeans that will work. I will also be on the lookout for another pair of higher rise looser straight blue jeans. These are a bit of a HEWI for me due to my leg shape (straights often fit me more snugly than ideal) but I will look. A higher rise BF style might be a better bet for me -- I just bought the Emerson's to see if they will work. 

Blue striped tops: no surprises here. I could use a lighter weight version for summer wear. 

Silver, grey, and white footwear: I don't own as much of this as a person might expect. It turns out that I often let my footwear make the statement, and prefer things that way. Some would even consider silver a de facto statement, but because it bookends my hair, for me it is less "flashy" -- or so I tell myself. :)  Anyway -- the blue striped sandals feel more "statement-like" even though they are blue. My EF sandals will be on their third season and are looking the worse for wear and quite worn down at the heel, so I am on the lookout for a suitable replacement. I will also keep eyes open for navy sneakers or sandals and white sandals. As well as for silver sneakers. 

Here is a surprise category, for me: SHORT seasonally appropriate toppers, blue or white predominating.  In the past, I'd have said "blue blazer" and left it at that. But my beloved blue blazer happens to be a longer jacket, and with the higher waists now current, I reach more often for a shorter jacket. My blazers are actually patterned, not plain -- but I wear them as faux plains. The denim jackets are great for about 6 months a year in my temperate climate and I still prefer the cropped versions (even though Angie tried to get me to go for an oversized one in Seattle -- I wasn't ready.) 

Silver watch and jewellery are another essential and signature category, but I don't have most of those items in Finds. 

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Coats and toppers FTW

I loved today's post so much it inspired me to take a look at my own golden-oldies. Very little in my closet (besides jewellery) is over 10 years because 2010 is when I lost weight and had to start my wardrobe from ground zero. These items are therefore 8-9 years old...but getting close to a decade and no plans to pass them on yet. 

And, guess what? Coats and toppers. :) 

I also have a lot more items that are 6/7 years old, because I did more of my buying in that period, and many items are still in play. But we are celebrating decades here, so...

1. Hilary Radley cranberry coat -- one of my first YLF purchases. Knee length, dramatic foldover collar, mixed wool/alpaca. This is such a lovely coat, I will probably never pass it on. :) 

2. Theory short trench -- gift of another forum member and I still love and wear this coat. Packs like a dream. 

3. Lole Katie puffer. I have worn this coat SO MUCH. I got thoroughly sick of it so it hasn't seen wear the past two years but I am keeping it because it is in great shape and fulfills a job. 

4. Vintage Biba kimono. Really fun piece to wear with sheaths or jeans as a summer topper. 

5. Classic London Fog trench. I wish it were navy, but until the "right" navy one comes along, this is a standby. 

6. Cropped denim jacket from The Bay. Distressed a bit but not too much and nice fading -- I love this jacket. It works really well with skirts/ dresses and higher waist pants/ culottes. 

 

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Then and Now

Carla started a trend! :)  Thanks for the brilliant idea, Carla. 

A few from my archives. 

1. Very first WIW photo.  June 2011. So...all items except the cardigan and shoes, thrifted. Wearing my worst colour (orange) as an experiment. The outfit was not a success. Even so...some constants: 

  • Cropped pants (I was wearing them even before Angie would tolerate them, LOL!)
  • 3 pieces. 
  • Daytime sparkle! (The top has sparkly threads). 
  • Ecco shoes. (Those slides were soooooo dated at the time. Did I know? Nope. ;) 

2. The updated version: May, 2019. New hair, cooler colours, more flattering neckline, longer cardigan. The top, though, like the first one, was a dud. Wore it only a handful of times -- it kept stretching out and just didn't make me happy. 

3. March, 2012. Mustard bag with blues and cool tones!

4. October, 2012: Fuchsia jacket. This was the "gateway drug" -- cheap as chips from H&M (literally -- $10) as an experiment. I learned that I adored wearing a bright jacket. 

5. October, 2019: Fuchsia jacket and mustard bag! 

6. April, 2012: Stripes, red, and denim jacket. The denim jacket is still in my closet all these years later. It was one of my first YLF purchases and has stood the test of time. 

7. Here it is in July 2019.

8. July 2013: the power of a black jacket, something sparkly, denim, and statement boots. 

9 and 10. Dec. 2019. Ditto!  

11. Jean jacket again, this time with Zara shorts  -- 2014...

12. ...and 2016...

13....and 2019....

I could go on and on and on..I didn't even get to the "big collar coat" photos or the "military detailing coat" photos -- there are a series of those, too.

The constants are clear to me, though. Blue (duh!). White. Brights as accents (mostly red and fuchsia.) Love of a 3rd piece (mostly jackets but cardigans in a pinch). Stripes and some florals. 

Jenni has broken down the number of items still in her wardrobe from pre-YLF days and early YLF days. I don't have any from pre-YLF days since I changed size significantly. But I do have a handful from early YLF days (denim jacket included) and, as you see, many items last for 5 years or more in the closet and get worn either in new ways or the same way....

Thanks all of you for patiently helping me to refine my style and special thanks to Angie for starting me off with a haircut and supporting all my experiments! 

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