Turn Your Wardrobe into a Wearable Magnum Opus
Monday March 18, 2013

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With street style bloggers becoming the new darlings of fashion advertisement and the latest trends becoming available hours after they walk down the runway thanks to sites such as Moda Operandi, seasonal trends are old before they are even new. However, believe it or not, the current evolution of fashion and where trends come from is a very good revelation for the shopper who is simply trying to purchase pieces that flatter her figure and wants to build a lasting signature style wardrobe.

The WSJ recently reported that due to “overexposed” state of fashion, the concept of wearing an item that is a few seasons past its birth date is actually more feasible and welcomed. Why? Nobody wants to be wearing the same thing as the next stylish person walking down the street. We all, especially simply luxurious readers, simply want to look our best at all times whether that means wearing the latest trend or not.

So how can we do just that? How can we ensure we are looking our best regardless of what we catch a glimpse of in the latest March or September fashion issue? Here is what I’ve discovered.

1. Have patience

As wonderful as it seem to be to be able to acquire a perfectly picked wardrobe with the click of your mouse, it doesn’t work like that. Even if you do have the money (and who does?), the signature style you wish to create will be diminished. Why? Quality purchases take time, thought and don’t all come from one designer, shop or season. The masterpiece which you are creating – your wardrobe – is a reflection of getting to know yourself, the life you live now and the life you wish to create for yourself.

A vintage find while traveling in Paris or a consignment bargain while strolling through Notting Hill’s Portobello Market at 1 of a Kind, is something you can’t find with the snap of your fingers, but instead over time and with discovery.

2. Remember what really matters

While looking as chicly stylish as one of Rachel Zoe’s muses may be desirable each and every time we step out of our homes, the reality is even the people whose fashion style we admire don’t look head-to-toe fabulous 24/7. The key is keeping straight in our minds what matters most – our behavior, attitude and rapport with those we interact with. After all, if our clothing rocks, but are attitude leaves something to be desired, it doesn’t matter what clothes we have chosen to wear.

3. Find a cobbler

While Carrie Bradshaw had more than 100 pairs of Manolos, we don’t all need to have shelves of shoes to exude exquisite style. However, purchase the best quality of shoes you can afford. Initially it may be hard to spend $200 on a pair of leather ballet flats, but you will be able to wear them for years with them still looking like new and your feet won’t hurt at the end of the day. Work your way through acquiring the 10 shoes every woman should have (see my list here), and take care of them once you own them. Leather boots? Polish them seasonally. Worn out heel? Take them to your local cobbler who can resole them for pennies compared to buying a new pair (my go-to cobbler resoled a consignment pair of Manolos for less than $15).

4. Keep a list

When it comes to any type of shopping (grocery or clothing), lists are a wonderful resource. It keeps us focused and reduces unnecessary purchases. Keep a list of your capsule wardrobe (click here to learn more about creating your very own) and the items you need to add or replace, as well as accessories that would beautifully complement what you already have. When sample sales or seasonal sales arrive, you can take advantage of the wonderful price reductions by knowing exactly what you want and not having to wonder if you are purchasing items because you like the price or the actual piece itself.

5. Ignore trends, unless . . .

. . . they work for you. Each season I do my best to help the subscribers of my newsletter navigate which trends to splurge on and which to have fun with (but save their money on). Why? Because so many trends (peplum, cut-outs, just to name a few), will date a wardrobe instantly the following season and will not be worth the exorbitant price. Others on the other hand – leather, stripes – can carry over from season to season if chosen properly. (Click here to take a look at the Spring 2013 Fashion Trends newsletter.)

6. Shop out of season or last season

Consignment shops and online sites are even more accessible with pieces from last season and beyond. Such destinations are a treasure trove for someone who is looking for fine-tune their wardrobe because you will be hard pressed to find someone wearing what you have just discovered. While it takes time to search all that they have, once you find something that is in your size and strikes your eye, your wallet will thank you. A few of my favorite online sites: The Outnet, Vestiaire Collective, Vaunte, Second Time Around, YOOX, Covetique.

7. Locate a trusted dry-cleaner

While some minimalists suggest purchasing only clothes that you can wash yourself, if you appreciate fashion and purchase what you are attracted to and what lasts, you will have certain items that will need a dry-cleaner’s attention every once in a while. Find one who you trust and place your clothing, which deserves to be properly cared for, in their hands.

8. Have a tailor to depend on

Just recently, I ripped a seam in one my favorite trench coats. As it was an investment piece, I was not about to toss it aside, but also couldn’t fix it myself. Upon taking it to my local tailor, she had it done in less than an hour. For under $20, I had my trench coat back looking as if nothing had happened. Also, for pants that are too long, dress hems that need to be nipped or an additional dart in a newly discovered top, knowing you have a tailor that you can depend upon will help you make a decision when you have finally discovered the piece you were looking for (minus one little fixable detail).

9. Shop regularly just because

Especially if you shop consignment, but even for regular boutiques, department stores and online sites, regularly shop their racks because you never know when an item you have your eye on will be discounted (often for a limited time or until it sells out), or when new items arrive that will sell out quickly due to high demand.

10. The power of quality

Over the past few years I have not only come to believe the mantra of quality over quantity when it comes to clothing, but live by it. I now have fewer clothes than I had before, but higher quality items thus allowing them to be wearable for season after season. I am still building my magnum opus, but I finally feel that for once I am actually making progress as opposed to taking one step forward and two steps back (by purchasing many, but cheap items that don’t last). Be willing to save up and purchase quality items, even if it means only purchasing one or two items a month.

11. The small details

“Shoes transform your body language and attitude. They lift you physically and emotionally.” –Christian Louboutin

When Vogue’s contributing editor Lauren Santo Domingo was asked to share her best advice regarding clothes shopping, she placed high importance on the details: accessories. Shoes, belts, scarves, jewelry, handbags, etc – can change and elevate an outfit immediately. So long as your capsule wardrobe consists of classics that are easy to mix and match and of high quality, the accessories you accentuate each ensemble with prompt the entire look to shine. Lesson – always be on the look-out for stunning shoes, quality handbags, chic scarves and statement making belts or jewelry. A simple way to change an outfit you’ve worn for years.

So as spring arrives on Wednesday, and even though the weather may be a bit fussy, take some time to go through your closet and assess what you really need to enhance your capsule wardrobe, what you can toss, what simply needs to be tended to and what type of accessories to shop for. And then, keep the list on you at all times. Before you know it, your very own magnum opus will begin to materialize.

While we are indeed the curator of our own lives and it itself is a masterpiece unique from every one else’s, so too can be our wardrobe with time, attention and care.


~Why Not . . . Create Your Own Style Commandments?

~Why Not . . . Prep for Spring?

~Why Not . . . Shop Consignment?

3 thoughts on “Turn Your Wardrobe into a Wearable Magnum Opus

  1. I have to chuckle to myself every time I read suggestions like “shop out of season” and “only buy trends that work for you”, “wear basics and use accessories to illuminate your style”. I’ve been doing that since I was at the tail end of my twenties. And I’m in my mid-forties now.

    Your list (and explanations) is great; I’m not knocking it at all. But in the last few years it seems like the rest of the world has started to catch on to some of those things. To me, it just makes good sense.

    I don’t buy a lot, but when I do purchase I spend a fair amount of money on my items and expect (hope!) that they will last for years. I have been buying signature jewelry pieces / shoes / bags / scarves for years and years, because I love them. I don’t worry about what’s currently “in fashion” – unless it’s something like a color I love, or a specialty item that is hard to find….and then I shop like crazy while it’s “in style” and wear it for years after.

    It sounds like you and I are quite on the same page! Thanks for such a great blog – been enjoying it regularly since I found it a few months ago.

  2. I cannot TELL you how fabulous you are for the first item: patience. I have been a personal stylist for several decades [yikes] and am so often amazed how our most of my clients want everything immediately. Find the ‘right’ pieces takes time, alterations take time [quality alterations] and building the looks takes even more time. In the end, they’re fortunately very happy but the ‘conversation’ about how quality wardrobes require some time is, well, trying. 🙂 kudos to you shannon.
    Esp because my personal favorite is #2!
    best wishes for your continued success ~

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