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The Curated Closet and Curating My Own Closet

As I’ve talked about before, I’m currently re-discovering my style in my stay-at-home life, in my post-baby body. I’ve never really quite been able to put a finger on what my style is, but it has been bothering me recently. The only style book that I’ve ever connected with is Women In Clothes (my review here) and it’s an awesome inspiration for letting your own freak flag fly, but it’s not so much help in figure out what your own freak flag looks like. Enter The Curated Closet by Anuschka Rees. It’s a great book that describes a really easy way to figure out your own style and to build your own wardrobe around it. No trying to make yourself fit into a prescribed category, no lists of things you need to have, no pressure to have a capsule wardrobe. I highly recommend it for anyone who wants a bit of help paring down their closet (without going all Marie Kondo on it) and rebuilding it in a way that is true to their own unique self.

Rees suggests you make an inspiration board of every outfit that catches your eye and then figure out what you like about it in a few different categories: Overall Vibe, Individual Items, Colors, Silhouettes, Materials, and Styling. I looked through my Style Inspiration Pinterest Board and the things I’m really enjoying currently in my closet and this is what I’ve figured out about myself. (This is definitely focused on a winter wardrobe since that’s the wardrobe crisis that I’m currently in the middle of):

Overall Vibe:
Punk grown up – I had a punk phase back in high school and I’ve noticed that I still wear a bunch of red and black together and swoon over black leather jackets and studs.
Bohemian – I think I really like the Boho look, but don’t think I really wear it. Tempted to give a few outfits a shot. I definitely had and loved a Boho/hippie phase all the way back in high school. Time to make myself some floral crowns again?
Layers – Whether it’s Boho layers or 90’s grunge layers, I like layered looks. I have a couple very layered outfits, but this is something I’d like to explore more.
Pattern clashing – I’ve noticed that I love pattern clashing but a close look at my closet reveals that most of my separates are solid colors. It makes it hard to pattern clash!
1970’s – A few folks have pointed out to me that my style trends to the 70’s which took me a while to accept because the clothes that I love to admire are often from decades before. But if I’m honest, I’m pretty casual and I do like a lot about the 70’s.
Florals – I like big, bold florals. Lots and lots of florals. Florals on everything. I have very few in my closet. This must change!
Feminine – I really don’t do girly, but an overarching theme does seem to be feminine.

Individual Items
Leather jacket – I’d love a leather jacket that actually fits me. I have a half hide of a red leather waiting in my stash for just such a project and I’m feeling the need for a black leather jacket too.
Floor length sweaters/coats – I’m really drawn to these and I think they’d work well on my tall frame, but I don’t have any so it’s time to make one or two to try them out.
Tailored wool – Coats, jackets, dresses, and skirts. Definitely something I crush on, though not at the top of my to-make priority list at the moment.
Cape – I probably could use some more practical outerwear at the moment, but some day I’m going to sew a cape (or two).
Gunne Sax dress – Super 70’s, but apparently I like 70’s.
Quilted garments – Quilts turned into clothing, not just quilted fabric.

Colors
It was a really interesting exercise to me to figure out a color palette since I’d generally say that I like ALL THE COLORS. But I think focusing on a palette that goes well together will make it a lot easier for my closet not to feel so disjointed. Right now I’m very much gravitating toward black and grey as my neutrals (even if I do probably look better in brown). No surprise that my staple colors are so saturated.

Materials
Embellishments of all sorts, especially embroidery, and textured fabrics such as brocades and jacquards catch my eye. I like denim as a good neutral fabric. Lace often catches my eye, but I almost never wear it myself, so maybe I’ll challenge myself to make a lace garment I’ll actually wear
Novelty prints and bold floral prints are clear favorites and I’m a sucker for colorful faux fur.
I love bulky sweater knits and would love to sew some sweater knit garments, but it’s so hard to find yardage of chunky knits in bright colors.

Silhouettes
I think this is where my overall vibe of feminine really shows. I love dresses and skirts of all kinds, but especially maxi skirts and maxi dresses. I’m also into high waisted garments, lots of layers, and asymmetry. It was also interesting to notice that I had pinned a whole bunch of garments where the back was the interesting part of the garment.

Styling
I have separate Pinterest boards for Hair/Makeup, Accessories, and Shoes, and though they aren’t that fleshed out at the moment, I’m kinda on a roll so they should be growing.
Ankle boots – I have 3 pairs of brown ankle boots but only 1 black. Time to go shoe shopping (one of my least favorite tasks as I have impossible to fit feet).
Big purses – I pretty much always carry a Presidio Purse around but my several Presidios are all fairly understated. Time to sew a new one in a more eye-catching fabric.
Scarves – I like wearing lightweight scarves through much of the year. An easy way to add a pop more color and texture to an outfit.
Lipstick – I feel so much more “dressed” if I have on lipstick. I pretty much only wear red or fuchsia, though I have an orange that looks good in the summer. I’m not that into makeup, so perhaps just having 2 lipsticks that I love is fine.
Colorful hair – I’ve been dying my hair all sorts of different colors (from natural shades of blonde, brown and red to very unnatural shades of pink, red, and purple) for about 20 years now. I have the most fun when there’s interesting color in my hair, even though it’s more work to take care of it. I’ve just started dying it bright colors again and it feels so good.
Necklaces – I love necklaces of all sorts, from delicate to clunky. It’s driving me a little nuts that I can’t really wear any right now as my munchkin just yanks on them. But that phase should hopefully pass soon.

Rees suggests that you come up with a descriptor for your style to help you going forward. I’m still not sure I can put words to my own style. Oversized 4-year old going on 80? Hallucinogenic Bohemian Punk? Betsy Johnson meets Lisa Frank meets Alexander McQueen?  If you have a suggested descriptor, I’m all ears!

The Curated Closet has a bunch of other helpful information in it, aside from the help to define your style. Rees walks you through paring down your closet (in short you sort things into Donate/Sell, Keepsakes, Trial Separation, Get Tailored, Repair, and Off-Season Storage pile). She has you analyze whether you’re building a wardrobe for you real life or your fantasy life (I may still be in a bit of denial about this myself). She helps you figure out your personal wardrobe formulas (that you are welcome to deviate from if you feel like it, of course). She offers suggestions for tweaking your wardrobe for work. She does talk a fair bit about shopping but most of it is relevant to a sewist making garments as well.

Do you struggle to identify your style or feel like you don’t have a cohesive wardrobe? Again, I highly recommend The Curated Closet if you have any similar struggles! Have you done a similar sort of wardrobe definition/revamp? (I know a lot of sewists followed along with the Colette Wardrobe Architect series a few years ago).

(All source images in this post can be found on my Pinterest boards)

Comments 10

  1. Erin, I’m going through the same thing right now! I’m a SAH parent whose lifestyle and body are pretty much at stasis (FINALLY), and I’m using Wardrobe Architect to curate a closet that works for me and, more importantly, delights me. Because getting dressed should be fun, right? ;) I pared down my wardrobe, and I’m excited to slowly build it up with me-made garments.

    RE: Your style: Could your style be Fancy Weirdo? Kindergartener with Money? Cowgirl Iris Apfel? My impression is that visual interest makes your heart sing. I love all your textures and bold color palate. Hot pink is a neutral, as far as I’m concerned.

    RE: Finding new shoes: I love that Zappos has free shipping both ways. I order multiple sizes of the same style to see what feels best. And I’m all about spendy shoes these days, because they wear so much better than bargain kicks. I like Fryes and Clarks for comfort.

    Good luck on this style mission! I’m excited to see what happens next.

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      Thanks for the suggestion on shoes. I’ve done massive zappos orders before but I get so discourage when I have to send every.single.shoe. back! Time for another go-round I guess…

      I dig the comparison to Iris Apfel. She’s definitely a style icon of mine!

      Best of luck to you too in rebuilding your wardrobe for your current life. I look forward to seeing where it ends up!

  2. This is interesting- I did a sort of capsule wardrobe in fall- and loved it, I love the idea of shopping in your own closet and storing things that just don’t feel right at the moment- but that might feel better in another season/size/style mood.

    I’m also a stay at home mom/artist, so it is very easy for me to slip into everything is ratched or comfy, i’m starting to figure out a studio uniform, and trying to wear the clothes i like!

    I think Funky Granny Punk sort of describes your style ( alternately Granny Funky Punk sounds like fun too! heehee ;) And I agree that hot pink is a neutral- I love patterns too- so I tend to think of all solid colours as neutrals!

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  3. Hi Erin, thanks for the very interesting post!

    I haven’t bought The Curated Closet book – yet – but probably will have by the end of the day! :-D

    I just started to pin some inspiration images to a My Style board (I grabbed a couple from your board ;-) ) and was amazed at how many things jumped out at me already, which I hadn’t consciously thought about before.

    It seems like a very sensible way of organising your clothes and I’m quite excited to do this especially since I’ve just drastically changed my hair length and colour, and suddenly the colours which used to suit me, don’t look so good any more. Great excuse for some new clothes and make up! Oh, and buying fabric which will suit me better! ;-)

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      Yay! Glad it could help you. Let me know how your style journey goes and what you figure out. I think it’s pretty interesting and now I just CAN’T WAIT to scrounge some time to sew a few things to fit my new-found style parameters :)

  4. The first thing to jump out at me is that I have that same brown leather jacket with the sweater knit shoulder pinned!

    I too have struggled with how to describe my clothing tastes and the best word I have come up with is simply eclectic. As I approach 40, I’ve been trying to let my freak flag fly a little more. It’s been kept in check for far too long because of my own insecurities.

    I have fashion boards divided by tops, bottoms, dresses, outerwear (the biggest one), shoes, and outfits. It has definitely taught me some things about my taste in clothing – it’s all over the place! Mostly, I love unusual and unique details.

    I really enjoyed your post and seeing another perspective on pinning down one’s style. Look forward to seeing more! Oh and Iris Apfel is one of my favorites too!

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      Nice! I think it’s pretty common for sewists to realize that they are drawn to unusual and unique details because they are how we can truly make our clothing one-of-a-kind. I definitely like them as well!

  5. I’m reading this book (as well as others) about style at the moment too! I know my wardrobe isn’t cohesive and sure as heck doesn’t reflect who I am and what I like so I’m really trying to sort that out at the moment. Being able to dial into the colours and silhouettes I like is really helping me form a clearer picture! I’m realising that I love a chic, classic wardrobe with an offbeat twist to it. My favourite garment at the moment is a grey toned leopard print pencil skirt! Silhouette and colours are corporate as heck, print is not!
    I have no suggestions for your look, although perhaps wonderland (as in Alice in Wonderland) ought to feature?
    I can’t wait to see where this takes you next!

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