Q&A Vol. I: On lifestyle shifts, clashing styles & ideal wardrobe sizes
For today’s post I thought it would be fun to do a little Q&A session with some questions you guys sent me during the past couple of weeks. The three questions below were all asked by multiple readers and touch upon issues that I’m sure a lot of you have or will come across during your curating journey.
Before we get into clashing styles, lifestyle shifts and finding the perfect wardrobe size, I just wanted to quickly say one thing about the Submit a Question feature and reader questions in general: I’m doing my best to answer as many emails and questions as possible, but please understand that I’m not able to respond to them all. I also cannot provide detailed consultations via email, so if you ask me to come up with a customized wardrobe structure, colour palette or style concept for you, I might give you a few pointers but I can’t do more than that. I’m currently working on some solutions for people who want a more personalized approach, but right now that’s still very much a work-in-progress. I’ll let you know as soon as that changes :)
Ok, now onto the questions:
I’m into two completely different types of aesthetics. Do you have any advice on how to merge them into one cohesive style? Is that even possible?
It is definitely possible to merge two types of aesthetics that don't have much in common into one coherent style concept. In fact, that’s what defining your own personal style is about: pinpointing your exact likes and figuring out a way to weave them into a story line and a unique look that is completely your own.
Now, the reason why this may seem like a tricky job at first is because we are all so used to classifying outfits and style elements as bohemian, preppy, classic, minimalist, French-chic and so on. We think “a fitted waistline + a flared, mid-length skirt” equals a 50s look, “clean lines + a monochrome colour palette + no accessories” equals minimal. Styles like these are to the fashion world what Baroque, Art Deco or Impressionism are to the art world: very distinct visual concepts that are usually tied to a certain cultural movement or era and can be clearly identified by a set of characteristics. Here’s my key point: For the purpose of developing your own style you absolutely do not have to stay within those predefined lines.
If you think about it, a style is nothing but a set of individual elements. To merge two different types of aesthetics you need to break them up into their elements, carefully select exactly which of these you want to incorporate into your own style concept and then figure out how to turn them into actual outfits. Let’s say you love a minimalist look but are also inspired by the 90s grunge scene. As a first step, you need to ask yourself which exact elements of those two styles you want to be a part of your own unique look. Which colours, shapes, textures, specific pieces, details, and so on. By doing so you are reducing those big, restrictive top-level concepts into a simple set of tangible elements that are much easier to work with. 90s grunge and minimalism may not sound very compatible, but a sleek pair of tailored pants + a heavy leather jacket definitely does.
Note that to create a wardrobe that reflects both of your aesthetics you also do not necessarily have to look for items or even complete outfits that express both styles in equal parts. Depending on how far apart your two aesthetics are, it might be easier to find ways to e.g. incorporate a few smaller grungy details into an otherwise minimalist outfit or the other way around. To maximise the versatility of your wardrobe I also suggest you build up a good foundation of basics that are relatively neutral in style and can be combined with either of your aesthetics.
Some related posts you might find helpful: Dissecting Mood Boards into Individual Elements: An Example, Wardrobe Essentials: How to Build a Solid Foundation of Basics.
I just had a baby/moved to a completely different climate/ started my first real job and can’t wear the majority of my clothes anymore. Help!
This question is a super common one and my answer pretty much applies to anyone who has just or is about to experience a major lifestyle shift.
One of my 10 basic wardrobe building principles is that every wardrobe should satisfy two major criteria:
- FORM (= it should express your style concept)
- FUNCTION (= it should be tailored to your lifestyle)
If you've just had a baby, changed jobs or moved to a different climate, the form requirement (i.e. your style concept) may still be the same, but the functional requirements your wardrobe needs to fulfil have done a complete 180. Now, because functional components account for 50% of pretty much every aspect of your wardrobe, there really is no quick-fix solution: After a major lifestyle change you will need to completely reinterpret your style concept using your new lifestyle as a filter, and possibly rebuild a large chunk of your wardrobe from scratch. Here are some pointers on how to get started:
- As a first step I suggest you closely define your new wardrobe needs by writing down exactly what you will be doing in an average three weeks and the functional requirements your clothes now need to fulfil.
- Then, go through your current wardrobe and divide your clothes into two groups: those that fit your new requirements and those that don’t anymore. You are probably currently underestimating how many of your old items you can repurpose and continue to wear, so do this step thoroughly.
- When it comes to lifestyle changes, the one aspect of your wardrobe that tends to be most affected is your go-to set of proportions. For example, if you used to live in shorts when you were a student but will soon be working in a corporate office you need to completely rethink your day-to-day outfits and figure out how to express your style in a way that is tailored to the environment you will now be spending a lot of time in. Consider your new routine and find at least 2 proportions that you can see yourself wearing a lot.
- Next, closely examine your style concept: what kind of colours, cuts, fabrics and details could you continue to wear, which may need to play a smaller role now and which could be tweaked slightly to fit your new lifestyle? For example, if your wardrobe contains a lot of thick knits and you are about to move to a hot climate (lucky you!), try to find a few lightweight fabrics that you like and could serve as replacements.
- Using your new proportions and your adjusted style concept, build a small, super versatile capsule wardrobe that you can wear during the first couple of months, as you continue to expand your options.
How many pieces do you think is ideal for an average wardrobe? How many pieces should I aim for?
Just like there is no single perfect wardrobe, there is also no single ideal number of pieces a wardrobe should consist of. How many clothes you should own depends on so many different variables that I really cannot give you an exact number. What I can do is show you how I would calculate the upper and lower limit of what’s ideal for you personally.
Minimum As a minimum you should own enough pieces to be able to fully express your style concept and have something to wear for all of your activities. Your minimum depends on two things: How many pieces your outfits usually consist of and your no-repeats period, i.e. how many weeks you want to go without repeating the same exact outfit and/or how often within a certain period you want to wear each one of your items. I’d say if you usually wear 3 items per outfit plus outerwear plus footwear, you should aim for at least 25-35 pieces. That should give you a good three weeks' worth of different outfits - if you choose your items well. If your outfits usually consist of lots of layers you will need more, if you don’t mind repeating outfits within a three week period you need less. These are just rough guidelines of course, if you want you can be a lot more exact about this and calculate your individual minimum by testing out different constellations of wardrobe structures (based on your chosen proportions) and outfits on paper. Here’s a super stripped-down example:
Let’s say you wear one pair of shoes, one piece of outerwear, one shortsleeve top, one longsleeve top (cardigan, sweater, etc.) and either pants or a skirt every day of the week, i.e. your outfits consist of 5 items every day. You decide you are fine with wearing each pair of shoes twice a week, your outerwear pieces once a week and every other item once every two weeks. For a three-week period you would therefore need 3-4 pairs of shoes, 7 pieces of outerwear, 14 shortsleeve tops, 14 longsleeve tops and 14 pants or skirts. Bear in mind that you really don’t have to be strict about any of this, simply using your numbers as a rough guide is totally fine.
Maximum While your lower limit is about how many pieces of clothing you need, your upper limit has more to do with how many you a) want and b) can handle. If you prefer a bit more variety, feel free to aim for a larger wardrobe, just make sure that everything in it is carefully selected by you and gets worn regularly. As soon as you start to lose track of what you own, stop wearing a big chunk of your wardrobe and just generally feel overwhelmed by all of the stuff in your closet, you’ve overstepped your upper limit and would probably be better off with even just a slightly pared down set of clothes.