Can a clothes-horse/clothes hoarder find sartorial bliss in a whittled-down wardrobe down? Aurelia d'Andrea is about to find out.
I'm having one of those days. So far this morning, I've tried on roughly eight outfits. None feels "right." Not the dress and boots, not the skirt and sweater, not the cute jumpsuit and heels. How can it be that with literally dozens of pants, tops, dresses, jackets, and jumpsuits to choose from, I continue to reach for a plain-jane t-shirt and jeans that doesn't reflect my creative spirit? Is this the definition of "giving up"?!
. . . .
I have been in love with the idea of fashion and style since I was a very young girl, dreaming of wearing my own version of the princess dresses worn by heroines in my favorite fairy-tales. Developing personal style starting young, too; I'm sure I was the only 8-year-old in my 4th grade class wearing a long lemon-yellow flowergirl dress to school in mid-winter, or trying to emulate the styles in high fashion magazines on a budget of $1. (My weekly allowance at the time.) I still love long dresses, and have at least a half-dozen in my wardrobe to prove it.
Over the years, the passion for fashion didn't wane; it simply morphed into a slightly more sophisticated obsession rooted in vintage looks from the '40s, '50s, and '60s--my favorite sartorial eras. Color, texture, and a history really speak to me from an aesthetic perspective, and have provided a framework for my unique look.
Stepping into fully fledged adulthood, I found it difficult to shop in "regular" stores; there never seemed to be anything "me" in Macy's or Nordstrom. Flash forward to the 21st century and the rise of fast fashion chains like Zara, H & M, and even Forever 21 (which I lovingly refer to as "Forever 41"), and suddenly, new clothes with sophisticated cuts, colors, and patters and extremely cheap prices began to find a place in my wardrobe.
Today, my clothing rack (this is Paris, so no closets to speak of) bows under the weight of the claustrophobic collection of coats, jackets, dresses, jumpsuits, blouses, and pants. Below, rows of heels I never wear sit prettily, and forlornly, waiting to be caressed from the inside out by a pair of feet. With all this wearable bounty, why is it, then, that I never seem to have anything to wear? My default outfit these days consists of an embarrassingly bland combination of jeans, t-shirt, jacket and boots. I blame winter. But if I'm going to be perfectly honest with myself, the truth is I tend to gravitate toward the same wardrobe items year-round. Maybe it's part of the maturity process, or maybe just laziness, but a wardrobe bursting at the seams doesn't seem to be working for me anymore. It's just overwhelming.
After hearing a lot of buzz about the phenomenon known as the "capsule wardrobe," I'm going to give it whirl. If you're not yet familiar with this sartorial simplification process, it involves whittling one's wardrobe down to a handful of basics--ideally, high-quality foundation pieces built to last--to which you'll add seasonal newcomers to keep the wardrobe looking fresh and stylish. Shoes and accessories complete the tableau. The emphasis is on quality, not quantity, and while my brain understands this on an intellectual level, trimming the fat from the rack is already proving to be a daunting process.
While I work through the essential and surprisingly emotional exercise of paring down, I haven't let go of the fantasy element that clothes offer. Right now, my jeans might be Madewell, but tomorrow, they could be Stella McCartney. My actual wardrobe is a work in progress--a clothing de-construction zone, if you will--but my aspirational wardrobe is in place, ready to make my life amazing, just like the princess dress fantasies from my childhood. These 15 basic pieces--some cheap, some spendy--might be the foundation of a whole new approach to personal style. We'll see.
My Capsule Wardrobe Essentials