Sunday, August 11, 2013

The Essential Wardrobe

Continuing with our exploration of joie de vivre, we must naturally pursue the topic of what to wear. It may seem counterintuitive, but I think that we often can't find anything we want to wear, simply because we have too many clothes. Much of what is in our closets and drawers are items that we never wear. Or if we do wear them, it is not because we love them, but simply because they are there. We are not choosing an outfit so much as dressing by default. Can you imagine having only those pieces in your wardrobe that you really like and feel great wearing?

I am arguing today for the concept of the essential wardrobe. First of all, if everything in your closet is jammed tightly together, you have too much stuff. Before anything else, put any off-season clothing away. I pack mine in plastic tubs and have my husband haul it to the attic. It is still summer, but we will be heading into a transitional time here in the Midwest. Some of your summer items will still be needed. You will need a few layering pieces, such as a jean jacket, a blazer, and cardigan sweaters. Ankle pants are still in style. I have two pairs from Kohl's that I have worn since spring, in a lightweight denim. One is a cherry red, the other a soft rosy beige. These can be worn right into fall.

When I feel hot I like my underarms to be free, so I wear sleeveless, floral dresses and camisoles/t-shirts, often with lace trim. If you get chilly, simply add a blazer, jean jacket, or cardigan! I prefer natural fabrics all year round, such as cotton and silk. Rayon also seems to breathe well. Wool is fine as long as it isn't itchy! A small percentage of synthetic fabric is usually okay as long as the majority of the blend is natural.

Now let's talk quality. This is key to emulating the French way of dressing. French women spend their money on high quality clothing but buy less pieces. They tend toward classic styles and neutral colors, using accessories to add a splash of pattern and color, or to reflect a current trend. They may wear one colorful item, such as a bright red skirt, while the rest of the outfit will be neutral. They do not purchase a ton of clothing every season in order to be up-to-the-minute in style. Being chic is more about a woman's individual personality and self-expression. The French woman knows what looks good on her and is never fashion's slave!

Lately I have been doing my makeup a la Jennifer L. Scott's "le no makeup" look. I'll talk more about the specific products I use and application methods in another post. The point is, I am customizing an easy makeup routine so that in a matter of minutes I can put my best face forward. I get dressed with the intention of this philosophy--always look pulled together. In order to always look presentable, getting dressed needs to be easy, which means paring down one's wardrobe to the bare essentials. You need items that you really enjoy wearing, that fit you well, and that can easily be mixed and matched. You need a few pairs of shoes and boots that can work into your wardrobe without fuss. Shoes make or break the outfit. Your essential wardrobe also includes paring down your shoes, scarves, jewelry, and purses.

Following the French way, you buy the best you can afford, and you can afford more expensive clothing because you prioritize quality over quantity! Today I am wearing a pink, white and black, cotton floral sun dress that I got from Good Will, which is a Kohl's brand. My hair is in a simple bun. I'm wearing silver, dangling flower earrings, my wedding ring, a pearl necklace, and a silver and pearl rosary bracelet. When I walked the dog today (in peep-toed, stacked black shoes from the Bass outlet store), I talked to everyone I encountered in the neighborhood, even people I didn't know. I felt friendly and confident. I was more open and genuine because I had taken the time to look pulled together--and that is joie de vivre.

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