Last week a friend asked me about the “capsule” wardrobe. Its the thing we’d all like to have but never seem to truly achieve. It set off a train of thought. Magazines frequently give advice about how to build the capsule wardrobe but on its own, this is not much help unless you also know where to find the elements and then how to use them most effectively. So this is the first of a three-part series that aims to cover this topic from all those angles. It is by no means definitive – there’s no replacement for real life experimentation – but some of this might help avoid pricey errors.
So, how to plan your perfect wardrobe?
Start by getting your wardrobe in shape. Assess what you have and have a good spring clean. Be ruthless: you’ll thank yourself when you reclaim space and clarity. If possible try to edit so that you can see everything in one go. Then operate a strict policy of “one in one out” when you buy something new. Not only does it force you to value the new item against your existing stock (“do I really need another pair of black trousers?”) but it maintains total capacity at a manageable level.
Know your colour palette. Experiment and canvas friends to identify the best colours & neutrals for you and anchor everything else around them. This makes it much easier to mix things up and vary combinations.
Know your style. Are you a minimalist, bohemian, or ethnic style fox? There is a wonderful book covering this topic that I highly recommend: Amanda Brooks’s ‘I love your style’. Knowing your preference doesn’t mean sticking with it rigidly but it does help you to be a more discriminating shopper. Purchases that depart from your style comfort zone may need an overnight consideration: how would it combine with other things, how much will I wear it? Be discriminating about following trends – some will work but some won’t.
Think about the enablers and the mixers you already have. Enablers are neutral coloured items, basics, classics; mixers are animal prints, metallic, textured things. You need both, preferably in combination. Mixers are the tricky ones to buy and use – they tend to be eye-catching centrepieces so buy and use with caution; they’re usually best deployed one at a time or via accessories.
Bad taste has a place. It is often the slightly outre item that will really make something else work. It could be anything, from pink python cowboy boots to an enormous piece of ethnic jewellery or some dayglo sportswear. Remember Diana Vreeland’s dictat that bad taste is not the enemy of good taste – its no taste.
Advice on this topic is always incomplete without some attempt at a list. So here goes:
The first ten: a military-style jacket; a navy trouser suit; a smart leather jacket; indigo jeans; a black dress; fine knit, slim fit jerseys; a good overcoat; a good handbag, either in red or leopard print; a neutral knee-length skirt; black trousers.
The next ten: a denim shirt or jacket; a masculine shirt; a blazer; a “mixer” top (could be a print or coloured shirt, pyjama top, brocade, leather or suede); a boxy, cardigan style jacket; a light quilted jacket for layering; thin t-shirts for layering; a dress of colour or print; loose fit v-necks for layering or wearing as a scarf; a selection of accessories to inject colour.
The ultimate authority on this, for me, is Ines de la Fressange and her book, Parisian Chic offers truly unbeatable advice. Next up, the thrill of the chase.