Foundations: Building a Fall Wardrobe From Scratch...

{L'Academie via  Revolve Clothing }

{L'Academie via Revolve Clothing}

As you might have seen in this post, I'm on a clear path to start fresh when it comes to my wardrobe. Only this time I'm armed by what to add to an emptied closet versus what to keep in an overstuffed one. I'm very nailed down in my personal style and preferences, it's just a matter of aligning my creative vision with the reality of what is actually in said closet. The edge I have here is the idea of a truly blank slate. Imagining (or making it a reality) that I'm beginning from scratch.

What, exactly would I bring into a new, fabulous and EMPTY closet? What anchor pieces would be deserving of the privilege of becoming mainstays in my newly pared down, completely curated closet? Since I'm in a fall state of mind it makes sense to offer you my perspective on my autumn must-have list. But remember, this is a strictly pared down version of a closet. There shall be no "fluff" here. My only two area of "wiggle room" are blouses and jackets. I love classics in my denim, my tops (think: black and white fitted tees & long sleeved tops) and dresses. But when it comes to blouses and jackets I love to add variety to my life. So those two areas aside we're looking at adding as few pieces as possible and trying to stick to the below list as much as possible. 

The criteria? Here are a few:

  • Classic, timeless pieces: No trendy goods allowed.

  • Versatile: every item should be able to mix and match with many other pieces in closet

  • Well made: no poor quality pieces here. Invest in the best possible pieces

  • Color restriction: Focus on black, white, pink and a few fun animal print pieces

  • Fit is everything: Never compromise on fit. Ever.

  • Know thyself: have your ideal look in mind and stick with it. No compromises.

You may wonder why this is such an obsession of mine. It's simple - I only want excellence in my life. As the years pass and my collection of goods have changed, I've evolved. It's time to shake off some of these "old personas" and old memories. I love the feeling of letting go of things. I'm not a hoarder and I find donating and selling things very freeing - so long as I am ready to release them. Applying the Kon Mari question "Does it spark joy?" to each item, I am left with a firm "No" on many pieces in my closet. Thus, the idea of repeating this process in the future in not an option. We rebuild from scratch now and don't look back.  We fill the closet with joy inducing pieces designed (intended) to last me for ages. A "collection of friends" in my closet waiting to say hello each morning and come out at play. Sounds fun, right? Joyous, right? So this, friends, is worth the work and the slow investment process of acquiring those new "friends" (a term borrowed from Diane von Furstenberg) for my closet. 

These guidelines in mind, here's what I'm loving right now:

BUILDING A FALL WARDROBE FROM SCRATCH








These won't all be "allowed in" but these are a few key pieces I'm evaluating as I map out short and long term additions. The handbags are clearly investment pieces. Solid black tops are key foundation pieces for me, and I'm a real stickler for fabric and fit. Denim is always a good investment and I'm delighted to have two brands I adore (AG Jeans fit me like a glove and WHBM offers several styles I adore). 

The key here. Know thyself! Know what you love and focus on those things with unwavering attention. Don't haphazardly build out your wardrobe. Craft a very specific vision of the woman (or man) you wish to be and add in only those pieces that support that vision. Trust me when I tell you that clothes do indeed make the (wo)man and you'll feel better about life and your place in the world when dressed in accordance with your idealized view of yourself. 

Sometimes, those internal changes are kickstarted by an outward shift. Don't be afraid to raise your standards. And certainly don't be afraid to donate all those clothes and begin anew. A new you awaits!!

Foundations: Building a Killer Collection of Chic Jackets & Blazers...

kerr.jpg

You'll often find me flipping much of my wardrobe on ebay, poshmark & others. But several categories of my closet are strictly off limits: shoes, handbags & jackets. Those items are cherished, carefully selected and fit me like a perfect white tee (which is an entirely different post you should look for in the coming weeks).  

So... how do YOU build a small collection of jackets & blazers you adore? A few rules of thumb apply. 

  1. INVEST IN THE BEST
    Dolce & Gabbana may very well not be in the budget. But I bet you can snag a great deal on a solidly made jacket on sale at J. Crew or at Nordstrom Rack. The point here is to find a great deal of a very well constructed classic piece. Spare your cash & skip the poorly made pieces. Take time to inspect seams, interior construction and lining. All of these elements matter.

  2. KNOW THY SELF
    Know your style AND get to know what different brands offer. Theory is a brand well known for killer basics, but perhaps you're on the petite side (like myself). In this case, familiarize yourself with brands that cater to your body type. I've found incredible pieces that fit me fabulously at J. Crew, WHBM and Ann Taylor. All of whom offer great buys for those of us with smaller frames.

  3. FIT IS EVERYTHING
    Here's the harsh truth: fit is everything when it comes to jackets & blazers. Sleeves can be tailored, waists can be nipped in, but shoulders must fit from the moment you discover a piece. Be sure your natural shoulder width works with the cut of the acket. And don't forget to inspect the view from the back. Beware of puckering or drooping when viewed in the three-way mirror. It never lies.

  4. CONSIDER A LITTLE NIP & TUCK
    While shoulders should fit from the get go (refer to Rule #3), you may want to have the sides or sleeves of a jacket taken in to get the perfect fit. But beware: carefully consider the jacket needing significant tailoring. I've often found that the cost to do so could have been avoided if I'd simply coughed up the cash to invest in a better brand (see Rule #1 above)

  5. SHAKE IT OFF
    Cherish those moments alone in the fitting room or changing area. Take a few moments to raise your arms or shimmy to the beat to see how a jacket moves with your body. It might seem "tailored" for a second and feel like a straightjacket when you raise your arms. Conversely, "roomy" one moment may feel boxy and shapeless when you go to wear it to lunch the next day. Evaluate how you look and feel in motion in clothing before buying.

The above are shopping tips, now let's get to the business of building that killer collection of jackets. Here's what I love owning: 

NOT-SO-BASIC BLACK

Don't underestimate the power of a fabulous black jacket. Paired with jeans & heels or a dress and pearls, these pieces are key to any woman's closet.  It doesn't matter if you're a self-employed artists or a corner office queen bee, you'll need at least one of this wardrobe essential. I love having one summer weight and one light wool blazer for cooler months. 

TERRIFIC IN TWEED

My favorite jackets are my chunky tweed pieces. Some are cropped with embellished crew necks, some are East Coast prep, others are in-between. Their real charm comes from their versatility. Again the "jeans & heels" vs "dress & pearls" question comes to mind. This category of jacket pairs well with both and makes for a smart fashion acquisition. Think of this as your Coco Chanel moment. I like to let freedom rule here. Over time add a wide variety of styles to the mix. I find these useful in every season, and once you begin adding them you'll feel the same way.  

Since a range of options abound here, I'll tell you some of the hallmarks I look for: raw or frayed edges for modern edge. I strictly choose cropped or belted & flared styles. These are the most flattering. That said, I have only one belted, as the cropped variety is so much cooler and flatters my frame the best. Bracelet sleeves (those falling between elbow & wrist length) are a girl's dream come true as it keeps you from looking like you're going or coming from a board meeting. And color. I love color here. Think pink, minty green, icy white or (since it is tweed) a melange of colors all woven together. Bonus points if a jacket has metallic threads woven throughout. Those are the best.

My go-to brands for these is Milly , Rebecca Taylor or Nanette Lepore. All three of these offer incredible construction and a surprisingly tailored fit. While stepping more into the investment category, these are impeccably made and require zero alterations to fit your body flawlessly. At least that's been my experience. But J. Crew, Ann Taylor & WHBM cannot be underestimated. I have at least one amazing tweed jacket or blazer from each of these brands that I wouldn't trade for anything. Fit & quality are supreme! 


 

DECKED OUT IN DENIM

Like Yolanda Foster, white denim reigns supreme in my world. But then again I live in the warm south. The key for me with a denim jacket is details. I love mine cropped and not too distressed. Also (despite what might be trendy) I'm not a fan of denim on denim UNLESS it's white paired with blue. But: fashion is fun so set your own rules. Regardless, these pretty pieces pair as well with sundresses as they do with more dressy options. Consider adding one white and one darker rinse version to your wardrobe and watch the myriad options present themselves. Caution: shy away from faded denim & any vests. Not chic. Not timeless. Not investment pieces. 

THE NOVELTY PIECE

Another favorite category: anything goes. I love having a heavily embellished jacket to toss on over a simple tank & jeans for a "where is she going?" effect. Or how about a Barbie pink blazer? Why not, right? The novelty blazer will quickly become an "outfit making" addition to your wardrobe. Word to the wise: add these in slowly and only when you really fall in love with a jacket. That said, there are no rules. Boleros, ostrich feather cropped pieces and other wildcards all are welcome. 


Keep in mind, these are not outerwear pieces. These are lighter blazers & jackets intended to be part of your ensemble. By building a stable of killer jackets in your closet you'll find it gets easier and easier to pull together a great look with minimal fuss. My collection of blazers & jackets have proven invaluable for years and still stand the test of time. Experiment with brands and fit to determine what really works for your body type and your personal style. Decide what you love and make plans to acquire your staples first and your wildcards later on. Build this collection slowly and with a discriminating eye, investing only in pieces that truly make you happy. 

One of the best tips I ever received about buying jackets was from a salesgirl who wasn't afraid to push the boundaries. She demonstrated the cool "it girl" appeal of what looked like "little old lady" jackets on the rack. It's that effortless mix of a nonchalant fringed tweed jacket with sky high heels & skinny denim that looks so great together. It's youthful and fresh and fun. My perspective on tweeds and less typical jackets was forever changed and my eyes opened to the stylish possibilities. Since then I've been a self-proclaimed connoisseur of jackets and my closet thanks me daily. 

Now... happy hunting to you all! Don't be afraid to experiment! 

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Foundations: Preparing for a Fashionable Winter...

As many of you have observed, I've been refining and refining my closet for a few years. This past summer I stumbled upon the most effective method of all for finally cropping it down to a tightly edited closet. It was the pivotal moment in the lengthy personal wardrobe purge. The result? Peace of mind and a walk-in that brings a smile to my face daily. 

So now I'm "there" on my goal of a slimmed down wardrobe. Excess has been eliminated and I love what is left. One advantage is the ability to clearly see what needs to be replaced, updated or added to (more fitted black tees, please!). The other clear advantage of the streamlined result is this: as each new season approaches I can see exactly what is lacking and where the "holes" are in my bulletproof closet. Hence, my current situation. 

Why am I lacking winter foundational pieces? It's that spicy Dallas weather. It is so unbelievably hot in Texas each summer that I can hardly imagine cold weather. It makes it almost impossible to imagine what is necessary for cold winter days. The idea of nailing down tall boots when it is 98 degrees is unreasonable at best, torturous at worst. 

That said, when the mercury does drop it drops with urgency. Chilly weather descents upon our pretty city with a major attitude. Days are suddenly overcast and dreary (where art thou, great sun?), and the brisk air is unforgiving. Very unforgiving. Suddenly it is crystal clear what timeless pieces I'll need to add to the mix to pull off this season and many winters in the future. 

Those just joining in should know I'm an investment shopper. Fewer, better, more fabulous additions to the wardrobe are all that are allowed. No fast fashion fixes. No placeholders. No ill fits. No substitutes. Examine each potential new acquisition and take care to source the best of the bunch, considering personal preferences and budget. 

So... what is on the present list for the season? Here it is...

Simple, straightforward and relatively easy to find.... right? It would be if I were merely plugging holes. Remember: this is finding the perfect item at the perfect price in the perfect size. Simple. But simple is not always easy.

I'll tackle a few of my fashion targets in a moment, but explore them more deeply in separate posts. After all, the selection process is a thorough one. You might wonder how (or if) I can shop online for such key pieces. My answer? A few factors come into play here: 

  1. SIZING 
    I'm petite, but it only matters in terms of pants and certain jackets. Eve so,  shopping online is pretty much a necessity as finding petite jeans is rarely an option even in the best of stores.
     
  2. KNOWLEDGE IS POWER
    I live for and adore reading customer reviews. Criticisms and praise over items (as well as details such as age and body type) offer tremendous wisdom.
     
  3. SELECTION
    No store will ever offer as to choose from much as the great wide web. If it's out at Neimans, Shopbop may well have it. One I hone in on an item I search far and wide to pin it down in my size. 
     
  4. KNOW THY SELF
    I know my key brands and am always adding a few more trusted labels to the mix (as others are shuffled out).
     
  5. TRY & TRY AGAIN
    Be willing to experiment by ordering several pairs of jeans or a few jackets to see which suits you best. Know the return policies, abide by the basic tenets of being a good customer and simply ship back (typically for free) the items (new with tags, of course) that did not fit. I try to ship back the very next day to avoid any hiccups, but you often have as much as 30 days or more to make decisions. 
     
  6. CONVENIENCE (OR NECESSITY)
    I have two very small girls at home. While I have to take them out to try on shoes and help me find new moisturizers etc, I order online quite a bit. Why? Delivery straight to my door (and return pickup from home as well) are a dream come true. Why run about unnecessarily? I adore shopping and do plenty of it, but there's also a certain thrill in opening those glamorous ribboned Net-a-Porter boxes after the doorbell rings. 

With that... here are a few current contenders for the vacancies above in my wardrobe...

FASHIONABLE WINTER INVESTMENTS


 

ESSENTIAL RELATED READING: WARDROBE MANAGEMENT

RELATED READING: FOUNDATIONS

Foundations: Fashion Investments You'll (Actually) Love Forever...

{image credits 1 // 2 // 3 // 4}

By now you might have read dozens of curated closet tales similar to mine. It begins with a desire to put your wardrobe through the rigors of a CrossFit style program. Using a simple yet direct approach, you whip your oversized collection of fashion goods into such fine shape you can't help but stand back and admire your hard work. Sleek, fine-tuned and beautiful, a strong wardrobe is the result of a disciplined approach to shopping and investing. Gone is the excess of items that go unworn. Gone are the weak links in the chain in the form of space-takers bought with great optimism that you never actually wear. Gone are the "what was I thinking?" regrettable items that needed to be discarded. The resulting wardrobe is high-functioning, joy-inducing and packed with beauties that are as pleasurable to wear as they are to admire on the hanger or shelf.

ONCE YOU'VE KON MARI'D YOUR LIFE... WHAT'S NEXT?

Now the fun begins... a lifelong process of carefully adding in new investment pieces you'll (actually) cherish forever. This is a very different approach to fashion. There is no space in your life for "not quite right" items or missteps. There are only a carefully chosen group of "wow" pieces that (at least for me) will be adored for a lifetime and worn over and over again. Why does this matter? These accessories and statement making items are definitely in the line of investment pieces. Think: buy once, cry once - never need to replace because the style is so timeless and the craftsmanship is fantastic. Thus, their "cost per wear" within reason even if their investment price gives you pause.

My belief is that each new acquisition should make your heart sing and your stomach flip. There are no so-so selections. Each and every addition to your newly toned closet (more on that here) is a stunner and worth appreciating for its sheer beauty. Here's what I'm loving right now...

Rather than the staid khaki trench, I love the idea of this Burberry rose-hued lace version with traditional styling details and impeccable tailoring. This offers absolutely timeless sophistication with a fresh spin on tradition. Now, the bag. Saint Laurent is my current love with the Kate bags being the best of the bunch. Easily switching from double-strap shoulder bag to cross body form, these black leather bags go from tourist the city to elegant dinner without missing a step. In black and gold you'll be favoring this bag forever.

In the same vein, diamond stud earrings are never, ever going out of style. Find a pair you adore and cherish them. No accessory is as versatile as a scarf. Worn around the neck, over the shoulders, around the waist - you name it. The right scarf is a colorful pop that "makes" your look. I'm loving this floral silk scarf for the endless options it affords. Finally, shoes. While nude pumps have their moment, a pair of classic black pumps is an absolute must in your life. Manolo makes them perfectly. Worn with a dress, a skirt, jeans, pants, a jumpsuit - there are no limits. Invest in a very high quality pair and take great care of them. 

MY "LOVE FOREVER" FASHION INVESTMENTS

6. Chunky Gold Link Bracelet (similar here & here) // 7. Black Cashmere Sweater (similar here & here).  // 8. Black Bootcut Jeans (similar here & here) // 9. White Bow Blouse (similar here & here) // 10. Prada Saffiano Tote in Blush (similar here & here)


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Foundations: Flared Pants & the Curated Closet...

{images via  Diego Zuko }

{images via Diego Zuko}

By now it's long overstated that we (the collective we) adore the insouciance of our French counterparts, gifted with making the simplest outfit radiate confidence and genuinely effortless style. Drawing upon Paris Fashion Week for inspiration, I've rounded up a handful of items every wardrobe should possess: feminine blouses, incredible shoes, beautiful bags and terrific top layers. These five pieces all but guarantee your everyday fall/winter look exudes European sophistication and model-off-duty cool.

Today's topic of discussion? Pants. The specific challenge we must ask of ourselves? Do these flared hemlines make the cut in the completely curated closet? I've thought long and hard about this. I've enjoyed the parade of fabulous looks during Fashion Month. And I admit I adore the look

While skinny jeans and jeggings still hold their coveted place in your closet, the idea of pants with a bit of movement is wildly appealing right now. The carefree "oh, this old thing?" look is more believable when your pants have a sensual flow to them. A bit of movement. A fluidity. Smart investment. Eternal style. Of the moment energy. A little bit of ankle showing makes these fun to pair with pretty shoes too.

A WORD ABOUT SHOES

The cropped silhouette allows for almost ANY shoe to look brilliant when worn with these kicky pants. Stilettos, boots, chunky heels, loafers, ballet slippers - they all play well together. Ultimately it's about the statement you're trying to make and the vibe you strive to exude.



STYLIST TIPS

Stick to denim or black pants to give these fun pieces more timeless appeal. I've noticed that my black items and my jeans almost ALL make the cut even during a super deep closet edit. Bonus points for black denim - the best of both worlds! Raw edge looks are having a glorious "moment" but veer towards the trendy side. Still, I adore them and you can cleverly have a tailor hem them up once the "moment" passes.

SHOP MY FAVORITES