The New Year and An Approach to Style That Works, even in Tough Economic Times
Wednesday January 11, 2023

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The Financial Times predicts a slow down in sales for fashion brands in 2023 as prices will increase on the clothing and the brands we prefer, but inflation will reduce our ability to spend. As expected. Not a surprise, and while this may come as bad news, if we have been applying the approach of building a capsule wardrobe, we are breathing a whole lot easier at this moment when it comes to our wardrobe in 2023.

The last recession most of us around the world went through was in 2008, and at that time, there was a big push and more awareness brought to building a capsule wardrobe, for good reason. As well, less attention and applause was given to displaying labels on our clothing and accessories, and fashion became more about style and gradually began the shift away from seasonal trends that drain our pocketbooks twice a year even if what we have in our closets is just fine.

Many fashion writers, the FT’s Lauren Indvik being one, currently and confidently exclaim that we are in a post-trend world, and largely, I think they are correct. And I think this is a very good thing. Why? Well, that is what I want to talk about in today’s post, as both the absence of trend-following and investing to build a capsule wardrobe gradually over time all play to our favor when the economic daily realities shift and not in our favor for a temporary moment in collective history.

As shared in my second book, Living The Simply Luxurious Life in chapter 11, “Effortless Style: The Truth”, it is a journey to cultivating our own effortless style and is moreso to do with the understanding of ourselves as it has to do with our sartorial preferences. Initially, knowing how to dress and present ourselves to the world with effortless style feels far from its namesake – effortless; the ease gradually comes as the decisions become easier, the choices, while still plentiful generally for the public, narrow due to our self-awareness and grounded sense of self.

Clarity about What Works for You

Beginning with our lifestyle and career, what we need to feel comfortable and our best takes time to realize as we become acquainted and then an expert in our field. As we journey into our careers, we begin to have signature choices. Choices that make us feel confident and almost forget about what we are wearing so we can focus on doing our job well.

If we have changed careers, or have begun new chapters (i.e. retiring, or beginning a new career after retirement of another career), there is a bit of a readjustment period. Gradually, however, as I was speaking with a friend about this during the holidays who recently stepped into a different career after 28 years as a teacher in home economics (so cooking, prepping, cleaning, let alone instructing), we begin to ascertain what we love to wear, and this often happens more quickly than we may have suspected if we know ourselves well.

If after a couple of decades we have made a career or lifestyle shift, yes, what we need may change when it comes to clothing items, but the knowledge we have about brands, sizes, fits, etc. travels along with us, and that saves us time.

For example, I know which brands, while purporting to sell oversized clothing, will actually never make a sweater or shirt long enough for my arms. So while the adverts are enticing, I quickly click away because they will never fit my body size. I also know which brands of denim make a quality pair, that while the initial price tag may be spendy, are well made and hold their form and thus will be worn for many years, making the the jeans themself (due to cost per wear), quite affordable. This takes time, making a few mistakes in purchases (hopefully all returnable) along the way, but it an investment in our knowledge as we proceed forward into the brands both old and new, knowing which to invest in and which to appreciate from afar.

I wrote last year about Finding Your Personal Style and how this will set you free from worrying about trends, and that is why once we gain clarity, the decisions become easier, saying no becomes easier, and trusting what we have in our closets is what we will wear and look our best, while letting go of constantly feeling we have to shop. If a recession occurs, either directly or indirectly affecting us, we can rest confidently that we have shopped well up until this point, and perhaps there will be a pause in our shopping, but that pause will feel quite short if we already have gradually build a capsule wardrobe that we love.


Buying Well

It won’t surprise you to read that when we buy well, we buy clothing that will last far longer and look its best for the duration. Well refers to the fabric and craftsmanship as well as the fit so that it moves with how we move through our life and day, rather than constricting or confining which can result in tears and fabric damage.

For example, Eric Bompard’s cashmere may initially seem steep in price, but their sweaters as well as the scarf and stocking hat I have purchased over the past 10 years are each still with me and feel good against my skin keeping me warm and not irritating in any way. These items feel like a second skin and allow me to move about my day – indoor or out – effortlessly.

On the other end of the purchasing spectrum, I have a cashmere trench coat, that thankfully was a gift from a former sponsor. I say thankfully because I learned upon wearing it that the design didn’t fit for ease of wear for my lifestyle: there were no loops for the belt, and as I selected a size larger than I typically wear in order to fit my arms made the shoulders fit oddly and the look is not flattering. I cataloged this knowledge of the brand, not necessarily as a detriment of quality, but of details I need when buying investment items when it comes to important aspects of a particular clothing item and its functionality (loops for the belt) and fit in the shoulders. The cashmere fabric was top notch, but the style and design were not for me.

The information we learn along the way makes investing in items that we know we will wear and feel our best in worth the price tag for a host of reasons.


Having Patience

Once we have clarity and know what type of fit we need, we may either find exactly what we want but not be able or want to pay the full price, or we may not be able to find what we know will work. Applying patience is necessary and a crucial ingredient for a successful capsule wardrobe.

I say this as someone who knows this truth in theory but hasn’t always practiced it; however, just this past year I saw it bear fruit in my own wardrobe as I applied what I knew to be true. Over the past summer and early fall I came across a handful of items that would fit what I needed – skirts, tops, and shoes – but I wasn’t ready to pay the full price. I saved each of these items in ShopTagr (an app/plugin that alerts you to price drops) and waited. I waited until Black Friday and nearly all of them when on drastic discount. Knowing that often what I want is scooped up quickly and goes out of stock, I trusted that these items were what I needed to fill gaps in my capsule wardrobe and ended up saving more than $600 off the regular price in total and adding items that will be worn for years as well as pair with other existent items in my wardrobe to mix and match for multiple outfits.

Sometimes patience is forced upon us as priorities change, budgets change, economies change, etc., which is why the approach to style discussed today is one to adhere to over the long duration of our lives when it comes to are sartorial choices. And when patience is not forced, but solely practiced, we save money and rest easy knowing what indeed will go the distance and be a long-term wise purchase for years of effortless style.


Yes, Hop on Sale Opportunities

As mentioned above, sales are a great thing. Currently Les Soldes are taking place all over France, and as is the annual tradition for the previous spring and fall collections to be up for sale, everything. Yep, everything (learn more here). Which makes it even more wonderful that trends are going by the wayside because it no longer matters what the new collections bring if we know what sings for us in our capsule wardrobe. Now, it must be pointed out that stock may run out, so being prepared to be disappointed when what you want is not available in your size any longer may happen as the collection will no longer be made and attention is paid to the new upcoming season. All the more reason to take the opportunities of sales seriously, and if you know what you need, to pounce on the investments, even if the discount still keeps the price high.


But don’t Hesitate to Spend Full Price For Quality

With that said, sale or no sale, we must want to wear the item as it is at full price, and if we love it, know it will be worn for years to come, is well-made and will fit well on our silhouette. If we have the money in such a situation, this is a no-guilt purchase.

Again, 2023 may not be the year you can pay full price which is why this post is being written. Rest easy in this truth. I myself am pulling back on the reins a bit this year when it comes to wardrobe exploration as I have other priorities – travel being top of my list, but I am more at peace with this knowing what I have purchased up until this point will carry me forward well and more effortlessly than ever before.

When you are able to purchase what you need and can do so, do so. It is during just such times as we are entering that we will be glad we did because retail prices on the items we love, staples in our wardrobes such as shoes, handbags, coats, sweaters and more, do not go down over time. They rise, and so if you purchased well and cared for your full priced item you purchased years ago, that price will seem cheap today.


The Sartorial and Style Goal

In a recent end-of-the-year Style article in The Financial Times, the fashion editors interviewed a handful of men on what they predicted they would be doing regarding their style choices in the new year, and one man’s response in particular caught my attention. He was dressed in a timeless style of straight-leg, slightly loose trousers in a neutral hue, a blazer in a deeper brown and a simple luxury t-shirt underneath. He looked both elevated and posh but at the same time casual and relaxed. His response (I paraphrase), “I don’t see myself buying much in the coming year ahead as I have bought well to create a wardrobe that works for my life.” *drop the mic and walk off the stage*. This is the end goal with every purchase we make, to arrive a this point: To not live for fashion, but to cultivate a style and live our lives not worrying about what we wear from day to day.

Admittedly, as was shared above, reaching this point takes time, but it can be reached, and I think it is important that we shift our perspective about style and wardrobe shopping away from being a hobby and instead have an end-goal in mind if we truly want to live with contentment. Not that we won’t need to update from time to time, or repair, but to free ourselves and our minds to pursue more deeply the purposes in our lives that bring true fulfillment. Investing in our dreams, no longer consumed with what we are wearing.

As I recently overheard a hair stylist in the next station next to mine, a talented magician with hair and highly sought after for both her expertise and the relationships she builds with each individual client, she stated that when she is sick or unwell, she feels and looks horribly, but as her client in the chair reminded her – a woman in her 50s, maybe 60s – ” . . . which is why its all the more important to be loved for who we are rather than what we look like”.

This is not to say we should look slovenly and be okay with not minding how we present ourselves, but we should not be all-consumed, even prioritize our wardrobe over who we are, how we engage with the world, and how we invest our time and our hard-earned money.

The picture you see below captured me in early 2019 wearing a navy DVF wrap dress and brown knee-high boots. I still have and wear the boots which I purchased nearly 10 years ago, and while the dress is too short for my liking now, the w-neck, wrap silhouette is something I continue to gravitate toward in items I have welcomed into my capsule wardrobe over the years. As well, navy is a staple color that mixes and matches well with nearly everything else in my wardrobe, so while I may be five years younger in this pic, I see a woman whose style is being honed and that knowledge carried forth as well as knowledge learned leading up to that day applied thoughtfully.

During this time five years ago, I wrote a post discussing just this topic – is spending money on our wardrobe and paying it so much time and attention hurting or helping us as women. Women in particularly, but anyone who prioritizes their wardrobe when it comes to spending hard-earned money, this is an important question to ponder. It has been argued that by distracting women with beauty and clothing, we (i.e. women or anyone who is prioritizes these expenditures) expend less interest in matters of importance that would in the long-term improve the quality of our lives and of future generations not only for women but all people. This is a consideration that merits far more time and expertise than this post contains, but no doubt a thought I continue to consider seriously (and perhaps you do as well) quite often over the years. Even though my post was written a handful of years ago, it still holds truths worth pondering.

Now what would a Style post be without some items to peruse? Keeping in mind the topic and points shared above, I have shopped a few items as many brands are still holding sales as there remains a glut of inventory, but I predict this glut, once sold will result in a slimmer selection of items as all brands adapt to the new post-pandemic shopper. If anything fits your budget and your lifestyle, be sure to consider purchasing. A few items are not on sale, but quality investment pieces to consider.

But first, to ground ourselves in being rational and constructive in our approach and utilizing our awareness (and because a Style post never excludes a good book!), a book to pair with our Outfit of the Month. 🙂

Loeffler Randall Whitney Toffee Kitten Heel Boot (many sizes still available), 40% off

La Ligne, Camel & Navy Jack Sweater (other color combinations)

~Ralph Lauren Polo Striped Cotton Jersey Crewneck Tee

Joseph Luxe Cardigan stretch high-neck sweater, 60% off (all sizes available)

I have this sweater in eggshell blue and LOVE it. I purchased one size larger per order instructions. It fits beautifully.

~ J.W. Anderson Dark Green small embossed leather tote with chain, 30% off~

I am going to leave you with the final items I found below. These coats, I have shared this before, but as I type I am wearing my gray version just as confirmation – yep! fits well :). I LOVE this coat. Long-sleeve, loops for the belt and hits right at my knees. Only available currently in beige and navy, but if you need a cashmere-blend coat and don’t want to pay a HUGE price-tag, this is a great coat for timeless style. I purchased mine about 5 or 6 years ago and I will admit, I will not pay the full price ($800+) on this as there is only 10% cashmere, but for less than $400 on sale, it’s a good buy, and I have worn it oodles of times and received many compliments. (I wear size medium and am 5’11” tall.)

~Theory Beige or Navy Double-Face Wool Cashmere, 65% off~

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8 thoughts on “The New Year and An Approach to Style That Works, even in Tough Economic Times

  1. My favourite newspaper, the FT. It was necessary reading material for my economics degree!
    Is that really you Shannon( only joking 😀) Your hair is gorgeous there. I digress. Joseph has always done great knitwear. I still have pieces ftom the 90’s. Thay sweater is gorgeous. 8 can just see you in it.Investing in good quality clothes will last for a lifetime. I’ve always bought the best I can afford and am still.wearing clothes from years ago. I had a.capsule warfrone long before it became fashionable. I don’t need to buy much now . I just freshen my look with basics and accessories now. Never underestimate the impact of accessories as they make or break an outfit . King Charles III wears a camel coat he’s been wearing for years and he always looks great in it. I like the story you mentioned of the gentleman sartorial.style. My husband has a capsule wardrobe and he always looks dapper. I think most men buy less than us ladies.
    I’d like to recommend a small female English sustainable brand for sweaters called Navy Grey. They have some of the cosiest sweaters . Their wool can be traced to specific flocks in Yorkshire. Enjoy the rest of the week .
    Kameela 😀

    1. Kameela, I totally agree, always buy the best you can afford at the time. Push that if you can ,(DO NOT OVERSPEND!!), and be prepared to not spend anything for a year. Sales are key. If you know your type, (and why don’t you?), trends don’t matter, shop ‘after-season’ that is correct for you, not the biggest discount. If you are in a vocation or job that requires stress on your clothing, all the more reason to buy the most durable and best you can. But that’s a point where you can go with not expensive pieces and if you take proper care of them, they can last several years.
      Although if you are dealing with eradicating acres of poison ivy, do as my SIL does, get stuff from Goodwill, because you’ll have to burn it later.

    2. Thank you, Kameela, for the recommendation of Navy Grey. I will check their knitwear. I am looking to replace my old, much worn and loved grey wool jumper. It was good purchase at the time – it lasted me more than 15 years. Yep, that’s right, 15 years of good service in the cold German winters. 🙂

      1. You’re very welcome Isabel. There isn’t anything more comforting than a cosy sweater which feels like an old friend. I hope yoy’ll find something you like. Not sure if their sale is still on. Another sweater company I like is Arran woollens. ( Ireland).They are at a good price point. Happy sweater hunting. Have a lovely week and stay warm and cosy . Kameela xx

  2. Shannon, fabulous advice, as always. And wow, do I love those boots. Fantastic price. Alas, my arches need flat soles now. But seriously everyone, grab now, GORGEOUS!
    RL forever, love the coat, searching for something similar– a camel button up that I bought in Geneva a billion years ago and stupidly gave away. It’s become A Quest! (I bought in a department store for less than $200 USD, looking for same. HAHAHAHAHAHA.) Much love to the puppers.

  3. Shannon, thank you! This is exactly the approach I have been taking for the past 2 years or so, and I am not there yet but I am making slow progress to cutting down and cultivating my wardrobe so I have what you describe. A chic wardrobe of high quality basics and elevated items, so that whatever I have to dress for I know I can go to my wardrobe, pick out some items that match well together, dress and be on with my day. I always recall something you shared in your first (I think) book – that a woman should be able to dress well, so that she can get on with her day and forget about what she’s wearing but know she looks good (I paraphrase). This is what I want when I dress, there is nothing worse than when you feel uncomfortable or not well dressed and put together and all you can think about is this very fact, rather than focus on the task at hand.

    I also agree that this year I will have less disposable income to spend on clothing. But the items I will buy I will make sure are high quality, make me feel good and are durable for my wardrobe. I don’t use shoptagr but I do utilise the wish list you can set up on the net-a-porter and John Lewis apps. I check back monthly to see if any of the items I have my eye on have been reduced. Just yesterday I ordered a top I have saved from net-a-porter at 65% off!

    This is such a valuable post and message, as at its heart it is about being financially savvy with something we often see as “fun” or a hobby like you say. I don’t want to spend my life shopping and spending money on endless clothes, but I do want to look chic and feel good
    Sarah

  4. Agree, agree, agree!

    I am a fan – and a practitioner – of the capsule wardrobe concept. It is something that I always did, very naturally all my adult life, without really having a name to put to it, or even knowing that this was a thing. It was just my way, which admittedly was a weird way of doing things while my peers were stuffing their wardrobes with fast fashion clothes. Anyway, it was thanks to the capsule wardrobe concept that I came to meet TSLL in the first place, so it is a double positive thing for me… 🙂

    It is a method and a project for the long run, so it will require some planning and patience, for savvy purchases, but the freedom it brings to one’s life is worthwhile. Indeed it holds up to the most unexpected life events and to the toughest financial years.

    My favourite item on this post was the Timber Brown Shoulder Bag – what an exquisite bag. Pity I do not need a shoulder bag at the moment. 😉

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