Do you wear 20% of your wardrobe 80% of the time? I used to do that but now I’m focused on buying less, but better quality pieces that I wear A LOT. I’ll always mix high and low but I make sure the “high” pieces work really hard. I’ve built my signature style around some eclectic standout pieces that I wear multiple ways. Here are a few tips that I’ve learned along the way:
STATEMENT MAKERS: The best pieces I’ve ever bought are always the most unusual. Safe classic items, such as a tailored black blazer, have their place (more on that below), but I’m a big believer in buying eye-catching pieces that are capital F “FASHION”. This neoprene jacket with a removable ruffle lapel by Montreal-based designer Marie Saint Pierre is a perfect example. I bought it for evening initially, but I’ll also slip it on over jeans, or a sleek black pencil skirt for a work function. I know that this piece is going to have a long life in my wardrobe. I’ll wear it a lot this year and then tuck it away for another year before it goes back into rotation. I’ve learned the hard way never to get rid of these really unique pieces – they can always be styled in creative ways because they are so different. I’m still pining for a couple of cobwebby knits by Lida Baday that I gave away many years ago.
I’ve paired the jacket with a classic jersey tank dress by Alexander Wang and Stuart Weitzman Cling boots (so much more comfortable than heels), plus, my forever-best metallic clutch by Roger Vivier that goes with everything.
I couldn’t resist this black sleeveless jacket (the feathered panel hem is irresistible) by Toronto-based designers Greta Constantine. (I’m with my friend Susan Langdon at a Canadian fashion event.) A classic leopard patterned clutch breaks up the all-black look.
I also collect toppers by Belgian designer Dries van Noten. I love the unusual patterns and embellishments and how versatile they are – over jeans and boots one day, then a black jumpsuit and heels the next. To make the most of my statement making jackets, I’ve built a foundation of simple WARDROBE STRETCHERS all in black. I buy the best quality fabric that I can afford for these essentials, knowing that it will stand up to constant wear and cleaning. My checklist of must-have pieces: long sleeved t-shirts; slim trousers; pencil skirts; shift dresses and jackets. I have a couple of standby black jackets – tailored in wool and sleek in leather that I can wear with everything.
A sleek black dress is one of my smartest wardrobe stretchers. This one by Donna Karan cost a small fortune but it fits like a dream and goes with everything. Here I’m keeping it monochromatic with an oversized coat from Judith & Charles (the shape is perfect as I can wear it over multiple layers) and standout sparkly jewellery by Alan Anderson. I’ve also worn it with a black jacket for a stark work look; with a jean jacket and boots for a night out with the girls; and under one of my favourite Dries van Noten coats.
My top tips that maximized my wardrobe:
- Buy the best quality fabric you can afford. It will keep its shape after constant wear and cleaning.
- When buying statement pieces, make sure that you can style them at least 3 different ways. For me, that’s 1) cocktail chic; 2) work; 3) jeans.
- I never used to wear jeans until I found a few brands that fit me well (J Crew and Anthropologie) and now I live in them. My strategy is to pair them with my statement making jackets for a dressed-up casual look. I’m not a sneakers and hoodie kind of dresser.
- Invest in key accessories that you’ll wear long term – such as my metallic and leopard patterned clutches above. I use them for evening and also with jeans. The leopard clutch doubles as an iPad case.
- The right underwear gives you a smooth clean line that makes all the difference in fit. Get fitted for a bra – you might be surprised by the size you should be wearing. I also invest in long lasting tights with built-in Spanx.