“The sartorial choices we make each day are merely a vehicle to a more substantive conversation we potentially can have with the world we navigate, but it is up to each of us to understand the purpose and power of the medium . . . along this journey, you will explore different colors, textures, designs, and ideas, and you will discover what is best suited to you. With each lesson you learn, you will shed what is unnecessary or irrelevant and become clearer about what will become your effortless style.” —from chapter Chapter 11: Effortless Style: The Truth, TSLL’s 2nd book – Living The Simply Luxurious Life: Making Your everydays Extraordinary and Discovering Your Best Self
Each of our lives is a book and contains chapters; how many, we cannot know in advance, but we do know there will be chapters, and we do know we will have a starring role in the narrative.
For me, the French, both men and women, embody effortless style that presents a self-respect, but also a subtle laissez-faire attitude conveying that the clothes are a must-wear, but most importantly the idea that the clothes are not the story, rather they are merely the introduction. In other words, as if to say, I am more than my clothes, but I need to ensure you take me seriously and understand that first impressions unconsciously begin the story of who I am. Part of this presentation, the first impression, is how each of us presents ourselves, and it is the art of dressing effortlessly that paves the way to feel at ease wherever we find ourselves.
In my second book (from which an excerpt is shared above) I go into great detail about how to attain effortless style, the evolution, mastering the art of dressing, and the life benefits when we do so, all of which while including specific clothing and accessory ideas, also dive much further below the surface and explore the substance of how we can genuinely feel at ease in the clothing we choose to wear.
Today however, I would like to list specific capsule wardrobe items that while they are each an investment, and may take time to acquire, are worth the search, time, your patience and your hard-earned money. Why? Simply, you will feel as though you are presenting your best self, and really, be able to completely forget about your clothing and just enjoy doing or meeting whatever or whomever is in your schedule for the day. Also, because you have invested, the guiding concept of living simply luxuriously comes into play, quality over quantity, and when you invest in something that tis well made, you will be able to enjoy wearing it for many years to come. Less shopping, more peace of mind.
As I mentioned above, our lives have chapters, and often a new chapter requires us to shift our clothing necessities – whether slightly or significantly. In fact, when I wrote my second book, to introduce chapter eleven, I share that my style was evolving during the first few years I arrived in Bend. And now, over these past two years of my stepping solely into writing and having retired from teaching after twenty years, my style is changing again. But, each time we evolve our style, if we have taken the time to truly get to know ourselves and are honoring our true personal style (as was discussed in this detailed post shared earlier this summer), fewer and fewer changes, and more and more of what our capsule wardrobe is is merely polished, refined and elevated. Whether in the quality of our purchases because we are more confident that particular investments will be what we want to wear ten years down the road or choosing very specific colors and silhouettes because we now know they really do flatter us well and are not being purchased to please the onlooker, but rather ourselves and how we enjoy moving through our day.
Let’s take a look at the list of Capsule Wardrobe items to include to create an effortless style year-round (the ideas and concepts of creating a Capsule wardrobe are also discussed in detail in TSLL’s 1st book).
1.A well-made pair of denim (without a lot of stretch)
I have been known to have far too many pairs of jeans in my closet, and nearly each time I would step into my closet, there were only about two or three jeans I would want to wear, that I would feel my best in, that would feel good to wear, but also feel like I was wearing jeans and not leggings.
Part of the reason I have found shopping for denim with less stretch than more is because of its fit and silhouette. This is also why we cannot look at the size or become fixated on it. If the style, length, waist-height and color/wash of the pair of jeans is what we love and makes us feel our best, then that is the one we should welcome into our closet, regardless of what the size says.
A significant component of effortless is finding peace within yourself and not trying to be what you are not, and this includes honoring where we are in our body at any point of our lives. A person who honors their body, dresses it well and presents themselves confidently and need not have to tuck or breathe uncomfortably to fit into a particular size, reaching such a point in our minds is a core ingredient to being effortless. I share these details because I have been there. I have fused and worried about the size in the past, but having shopped enough different brands, I also know that each company has a different size for similar measurements, and once you have found the brand that you love, stick with it, and forget about the size. With that said, I want to feel good in my skin, so if I notice I am not fitting in my jeans, I take note – how do I feel? why or what might have caused the change? Do I want to change or do I feel energized? Most likely, I recognize there has been stress for a prolonged period of time, and I need to tend to my eating habits, get more sleep all the while being kind to myself. Our clothes should be a system of support to help us look our best, not something that makes us feel critical of ourselves.
The reason investing in a well-made pair of jeans is worth it has to do with the denim retaining its fit, structure and wash. Again, cost per wear comes into play, and when you know you can confidently wear a pair of jeans five years later and it still looks and fits the same, you know you have invested wisely and actually saved yourself money in the long-run.
2. Sweaters and button-up shirts, dresses too, in one or two colors that flatter your skin-tone
Once you know which colors complement your skin tone and make your visage glow, radiating your natural beauty, you will be motivated to solely seek out these colors. For example, I have stopped my purchasing of anything white and now gravitate to ivory, off-white or cream. I have nothing against white, but it does not flatter me as it does other people.
Reflect back to moments when people complimented you on your clothing choices, specifically the color. Sometimes, we don’t realize how certain colors work with our beauty because we aren’t looking at ourselves. Not only will this boost your confidence when purchasing such colors, but it will also simplify the buying and selecting process.
3. Timeless outerwear
Investing in quality outerwear can take some time, but you know such a piece is quality when you see it being worn by someone else — the Max Mara camel wool-cashmere coat, the Burberry trench —and they will never go out of style because they are timelessly flattering. For each of the seasons, decide which type of coats, jackets, even scarves would complement your everyday, travel and formal attire. Make a dream list – oh, and note the colors that would be most versatile as well as flattering – then begin to save. Also, watch closely annual or semi-annual sales, shop designer consignment sites, and eventually, you will find and purchase what you know will be in your closet and worn for many, many years to come.
4. Simple, timeless jewelry
While I also almost included the adjective of small, I don’t think the size of jewelry matters. You might find your effortless style is to wear large, monochromatic necklaces with your work attire and that is effortless. Stick to the jewelry that you love, that adheres to your personal style and invest in top quality.
I gravitate toward small gold earrings and necklaces and I wear the same earrings over and over again. This wasn’t always the case, as in my twenties, especially while teaching, I wore costume jewelry earrings and the students loved them (nothing too loud, but they caught the eye). What I realized though was that my earrings were speaking louder than I wanted them too. The clothing and accessories we wear, as mentioned at the top of this post, should introduce us, not define who we are.
However, wearing something – a watch, earrings, necklace, bracelets or rings, conveys that you have intentionally finished your look, but don’t need anything more.
5. Stick to a limited amount of colors in your wardrobe
Keeping in mind #2 above, choose 2-3 colors and let those colors guide you as you add items to your wardrobe. For reasons discussed above, you are choosing a color or colors that flatter your natural beauty, and you have also simplified your decision-making because you will be able to mix and match to create different outfits, knowing the colors work together well.
6. A quality handbag(s) for your lifestyle
Assess what type of handbag you will need for living your life on a daily basis. Is it a tote to carry all of your items to work each day? Is it a crossbody bag because you work from home and when you leave the house, you only need your wallet and a few accessories? Is it a shoulder strap or top handle handbag because you need a bit more formality for your meetings and outings? Or maybe you need all three. Once I stepped entirely into writing and began working from home, rather than going to school and teaching, I realized I rarely use a tote other than when I travel, but what I really need is a slim, yet still substantive crossbody bag, something I rarely used when teaching because I would often do my errands on my way home from work. As I shared in a post earlier this year, I have been on the hunt for a quality crossbody bag that is dressed up enough, but also can be casual for daily errands. When I finally found exactly what I was looking for, and it arrived, it has become my go-to for evening and everyday. The color works with my wardrobe, my lifestyle and what I need to carry with me.
When you find the handbags – the style, color, size – that work with your lifestyle and you love them, save up and invest. You won’t regret it because you will have the bag with you for many years to come. But with regards to exuding effortless style, you will have an ease about you because you will have what you need with you, it can be worn comfortably with the life and outfits you move through your day with and in, and you are not trying to show off a fancy logo or label. The handbag is there to support your life, not show off, but indeed support you living your best life.
7. The finishing touch, the shoes – invest, invest, invest
A well-made shoe, pump, sandal or boot pays for itself in the cost-per-wear calculation. Having purchased far too many cheap shoes in my younger days, there is nothing like a supposedly ‘cute’ sandal that breaks while you are walking about the city of Paris while traveling, and you are one shoe shy of avoiding walking directly on the pavement/sidewalk. My point is, investigate the quality craftsmanship of the shoe, buy fewer, but buy well made, and you will have the pair for a nice long time.
From my Tropézienne sandals I purchased in 2018 that are now well-fit and wonderfully comfortable to my feet and look as good as they did four years ago, to my knee-high brown leather boots I purchased from DVF waaaaaay back in 2014, I still wear these shoes and they still look great (and they are worn often). They were not cheap initially, but they were definitely worth it once I was confident they were the best style and color for my lifestyle.
8. Rethink wearing black as a default
Many style posts out there will advise welcoming black into your wardrobe as a safe go-to in effortless dressing, but as I have grown older, I can tell that it does not complement all ages the same. Black, whether in our shirts, dresses, eyewear and yes, even makeup, accentuates wrinkles and lines, rather than highlighting the brightness and undertones in our skin. As an example, I am currently looking to upgrade my reading glasses, something I have had to wear since I was a young girl if I don’t have my contacts in from black to a soft nude/champagne. Why? to lift the face, rather than accentuate unwanted aspects.
Black in its proper place in our wardrobe is a fine idea, but don’t choose it as a default.
9. A tailored, and slightly over-sized blazer(s)
If there is one piece of a capsule wardrobe I see time and time again in person while in France as well as on French films, series and shows is women wearing blazers – for work, for personal outings – the blazer can be dressed up and down, but it always looks so effortless. Making sure it fits a little bit larger than we might typical choose enables you to wear multiple types of tops underneath – camisole to extra-fine sweaters, and paired with simple jewelry, jeans or pants, even a skirt, this is a wonderful timeless look that is comfortable and looks great.
Choose colors that flatter your skin tone, include spring and fall hues, because the cut of a blazer is timeless year-round.
The awesome truth about getting to know your personal style and then cultivating effortless style is that it actually requires fewer items which is a positive on many counts – sustainability and budget just name of few, but our time as well, the time we would have spent shopping constantly, but no longer when we become savvy at dressing effortlessly.
Also, embrace wearing the same outfit more than once a week. You can absolutely mix up the items and pair them with different tops and bottoms, but I mean seriously, wear the same outfit more than once a week. If it works, it works! If it is made with quality craftsmanship, it will be able to withstand your wearing it this often, and if you are dressing seasonally, you won’t be wearing it year-round which will give it a break when a new season arrives.
As I find myself polishing a bit more and investing a bit more, I am finding more peace and more confidence as I know what I am welcoming and what I am keeping is truly in line with what makes me feel my best self and adheres to an effortless approach because I don’t have to think about it once I purchase what I know will be what I love and look my best in.
~Explore and Shop Capsule Wardrobe Items in TSLL Shop (updated seasonally). And stop by on September 1st and April 1st each year for TSLL’s Annual Fall and Spring Shopping Guide.
~Every month, TSLL posts an Outfits for the Month, shopping investment finds and inspired by timeless, effortless styling approaches.
Explore all of TSLL’s Style Inspiration posts