Know first who you are and then adorn yourself accordingly - Epictetus

31 July 2011

A Few Things to Consider

 “French women don't try to look like anyone else other than themselves. They know who they are and make the most of what they have.”  
Nathalie Rykiel, daughter of designer Sonya Rykiel.
source: i like, i wish, i heart
There have been a few very interesting posts floating around in the last week or so about people stopping shopping all together or even just moving away from the whole 4-5 piece French wardrobe concept in an effect to curb their spending (again). And I have to say I feel a fair amount of affinity for what these girls are saying. I too set out on my blogging journey in an effort to define my personal style uniform and cure my chain-store-tourettes. And my bad habit of accumulating clothes in a manner that vastly resembles that of a schizophrenic monkey on acid. But I feel like I have gotten a little lost on the journey and I am struggling to prevent this blog from turning into a shopping list of things that I think should belong in the perfect “French Woman’s Wardrobe” rather than the search for style that it was always meant to be. Although I believe I have achieved a slight victory though in cutting down my accumulation of crap for the sake of shopping – my mother commented rather archly the other day, while listening to the news, that the current woe the local retail market is suffering has mysteriously coincided with my shopping hiatus. Very funny mum.

source: the fash pack
So let’s look at what I have bought this year:

-White silk shirt
-Blue checked shirt
-Merino boat-neck black jumper
-Merino boat-neck grey jumper
-Merino Breton jumper
-Merino panelled plum jumper
-Linen navy/gray stripe top
-Black wool/linen pants
-Leather shorts ($10 vintage eBay DIY)
-Faux leather ra-ra skirt (another eBay bargain)
-Taupe suede boots

Also some staples/replacements:
-Black loafers
-Breton tops x 4
-Jeans x 2
-Grey tee
-White tee

I can honestly say that for everything that I have added I have culled much more chaff. Some things were replacements – the loafers replaced a very dead pair of black ballets for example – and some things signified a slight realignment of my style back to what suits me and what I actually enjoy wearing. Having mostly avoided shirts, due to the aforementioned difficultly with my womanly parts, I have since embraced them with gusto – despite the current cold snap requiring constant scarf wearing, resulting in irritatingly squashed collars. In fact the only item I have not worn to death since I bought it is the linen top but that is because, after I bought it, the weather instantly became too cold to wear it and the shape doesn’t lend itself to wearing as an additional layer during our sub-zero mornings.

source: the cheap girl
Unfortunately, what I notice most is that there are still way more things on this list than I am happy with – for seven months of controlled shopping at any rate. In fact, I’m not sure that I am really shopping less, one of the aims I set out when I started this blog. However, that said, I am definitely shopping smarter. Every item on this list is honestly something that I will wear until it is threadbare and falling apart. While not everything is classic – ra-ra skirt and leather short I’m looking at you – they all fit together to make a definite style uniform that I am proud of and am fully utilising. On Friday night for example, there was no prevaricating over what I would wear out for dinner and drinks, no staring at my wardrobe thinking desperately ‘I should have bought something new’. Instead I instantly reached for my trusty high-waisted black jeans, my white silk shirt and my khaki blazer. Add to that some heels, a big colourful scarf to protect from the cold and the gorgeous (early birthday gift) necklace my good friend had given me earlier that day and I was good to go. Sure the other girls were more – for want of a better word – flashy than I, but I felt great: confident and sexy. And ultimately that was my aim when I set out on this little journey. No more stressing about my wardrobe and having ‘nothing’ to wear and certainly no feeling uncomfortable and out of place because my outfit was unbecoming and/or not my style.
An Evening at Chez Dumonet

All in all I have noticed a refocus in my attitude, now when I walk through most shops I don’t see fun, on-trend, must-haves. I see cheap, poorly-made, future-landfill.  A bleak outlook sure, but ultimately my style (and my wallet) will thank me for it... I think!
Have you ever had a major style rethink?
And was it worth it in the end?

 “French girls know themselves; they don't follow trends.” 
Lou Doillon
source: oh... a sparkle


  1. Your mom’s comment is so cute. ;) I think people need to do away with finding the clothes that “a French woman” would wear, but rather consider their own wants and needs in how they want to look. The great thing about having a closet full of great flattering well-made clothes, you become more selective of what comes in. You don’t want to hang crap next to your perfect things.

  2. I've ended up at the same place where you are I think - I still spend more money than I'd like to admit on clothes, but I never have to worry about what to wear anymore, and the things that I buy are things that I know I will love and wear for years and years. I plan on becoming more strict for the rest of this year, and will shop as little as possible from mid-August until Christmas :)

    p.s: I'd love it if you'd allow to post as name/url, as I really don't use my google account for anything blog-related. I'm sure there are a few others like me out there <3

  3. "All in all I have noticed a refocus in my attitude, now when I walk through most shops I don’t see fun, on-trend, must-haves. I see cheap, poorly-made, future-landfill." I couldn't agree more! It's amazing how things somehow managed to "transform" themselves during my style evolution. Zara used to be my dream store, but now when I go in (though you can still find some nicely made things) my eye mainly goes to the loose threads, uneven stitching and wear-it-once trendiness that's more off-putting than lust-worthy.

  4. I agree with what C'est Moi said. Particularly that quote too. My style rethink came with me having to pack one suitcase (albeit a large one) across the world. And yes it's been worth it because now, like you, I can pull out clothes from my suitcase wardrobe and feel like 'me'. Now all I have to do is to cull my remaining wardrobe when I get back.

  5. Pret: I honestly think of the 'French Wardrobe' as more of a metaphor for the perfect wardrobe balance of basic and hero items to aim toward rather than making notes on what I think others would wear and dressing accordingly - I made that mistake in my youth and I definitely won't repeat it. Haha. And I totally agree about the crap. It pains me to see junk hanging in my wardrobe now!

    Maja: Consider it done - I didn't even realise I had turned it off! Oops. And I am totally with you on the winding down of spending. No more shopping! ...Maybe ;)

    C'est: Oh yes, the age old Zara conundrum. I finally went into the Zara that just opened in my city... Epic fail. A sea of tacky polyester as far as the eye could see. But yet some of my fave blazers come there and I have worn them to death without an ounce of trouble. I think now I am just unwilling to spend hours hunting through the crap. Sigh.

    Suzie: Oh wow. One suitcase for a year? I don't know if I could do it! Have you seen Miss Sophie's post about having to do this over at Les Anti-Modernes? I envy the travel but certainly not the packing!

  6. I don't think I've ever had a major style rethink, I just sort of bumbled my way into my comfort spot. I felt a stronger urge to buy things last year because I had switched to a more conservative work environment and I didn't know how to adapt but I switched back to a more casual office and that's eased my urge to shop somewhat.

    I too love that feeling of knowing exactly what I want to wear, and feeling confident the whole time I'm wearing it. I'd like to do better in controlling my urge for new things but I definitely feel like the things I bought in the last couple of years were much better buys than before and they go further for me.

  7. Great post! I love that last sentence - 'future landfill' is *exactly* the phrase I keep berating my sister with for her seemingly insatiable Primark habit...

    Re: reduced shopping, I think that as your wardrobe gets fuller with ‘better’ items your need for shopping will slow naturally anyway – I’m pretty sure the 4-5 item wardrobe only works when you have pretty solid foundations in place already, which is what you’re growing now. Your Friday outfit is just perfect - all classic items, but together they feel like they make up a really personal style.

  8. Lin: you have great style so that was a very well aimed bumble you have going on there! I was in a really conservative office for 7months last year and it totally messed with my head. My inability to dress like myself in office hours made me buy way out things just to differentiate my casual wear. Big mistake! Thank heavens for casual offices :)

    Siobhan: Hi :) I just flicked over to both your blogs and I think we're having a fashion ESP moment! Haha. I am yet to tackle jewellery but it is definitely something else I want to address.
    I feel like my wardrobe foundations have definitely solidified and I'm sure my pace will naturally slow as I progress but shopping is a hard habit to break :/ We'll see how we go eh?

  9. i definitely can relate. i had a bit of a style rethink about 4 years ago, when in the process of moving apartments i realized that i had to throw out about 70% of my wardrobe because of fit and quality issues. the funny thing is, i sort of ended up going back to some of the minimalist style tendencies i'd always had, even when i was in college. i suppose that's what i've gravitated towards all along.

    it really is difficult to 'shop down' when you've disciplined yourself to try to seek out fewer but higher quality items. ultimately this is a long-term sustainable way to shop!

  10. This is exactly the issue that's been on my mind the past month! The French wardrobe is another style to subscribe to but may not work for others if they do not find breton tees and Isabel Marant to express their personal sartorial point of view.

    I guess it's a good foundation as a concept that should be tailored to each person's idiosyncratic taste!


  11. Miss Sophie: the challenge is on! I was always very minimalist too but fell into the habit of dressing like magazines said I should (ah teenage-dom). I must say I receive far more compliments now, especially along the lines of "wow you dress so well and so individually". It's great for the confidence :)

    Sam: Agreed. (Although I have always been a stripes girl ever since I was a little thing.) It is hard to break the habit of looking at other bloggers and thinking "how cool do they look, maybe I should aim for that too". In the end it comes down to making myself happy. And right now I'm quite happy with where I am. Finally!


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