Sunday, January 12, 2014

Thoughts on building a basic wardrobe ~ OOTD ~ another installment on the wardrobe series.

I've read dozens of books on French Chic and French Dressing and as a result I have learned a lot.
Getting dressed for an occasion used to be such a chore for me...I would be stressed to the max.
I always struggled in this area and wondered how other women managed to look so pulled together and I couldn't help but feel inferior by comparison which honestly is not a great feeling at all.

I remember all too well how I would stand in front of the closet on the afternoon of an event or date and after looking through the garments I'd find myself muttering "I have nothing to wear!"
Then I'd race out in the car to the nearest shop in hopes that I'd find "the perfect solution."
Sadly I'd lay down my cash on a whim and a dream for a garment that promised to be the ticket to being suitably attired.
(I wonder now...could the sales clerks feel my desperation?)

After years of blunders (not to mention the hundreds of dollars) I can now identify some of my mistakes...

I bought garments on a whim, many were sale items and odd in more ways than one.
They were Orphans looking for a new home and I was their new mom!

I'd choose cheery patterns with no thought of what I would wear them with.
I purchased far too many things in a wide array of colours, many of which did not work with any other pieces in my wardrobe. (Quelle suprise!)
I never shopped with a list or bought any of the basics that I "needed"
I let myself fall into the big vortex of the power of persuasion...
the trendy, the now, or what the retailer was trying to get rid of by offering it to a witless shopper such as myself.

In the past few years I've completely reformed.
Thanks to blogs and books and an honest re-evaluation of myself.
It was fun, but it was also hard work.
To cut through the emotional part of shopping and get real.
To really look hard and pay attention.
To come to terms with my budget and lifestyle.

The French Chic approach to having fewer items that revolve around a neutral colour really works.

I chose basic black as the colour which I wear....initially I chose it because it helped camouflage the extra 35 pounds that I was carrying and now I choose it because it simplifies getting dressed and it is the most versatile colour that I can own and accessorize.

Accessories are where I dare to add some fun and personalize my look.
Like candy delights there are many options ~
from pearls to chunky beads, bangles and brooches,
thank goodness for scarves! my beloved scarves  ~ Hermes, vintage and new.
Wearing the same thing many times with different accessories makes it look fresh, never stale.

So picture this scene...
you stand in front of your closet and know that you have to be ready and out the door in half an hour.
You got a text saying "Check this restaurant out (a link attached) we'll be by to pick you up in 30 minutes!"
Are you in a state of panic?
I used to be frantic trying things on and when they didn't work I'd be throwing them on the bed or the floor.

Today I look at my basic blacks and decide what to choose.
Will it be a skirt, a dress, leggings and a tunic top, dark denim jeans or dress pants?
These all hang in my closet and they fit and yes they are all black.

There are black tops, a couple of black sweaters, a black and white print top which all can be mixed and matched.

Most of the shoes I own are black.

The new kids on the block are the Amalfi's and they are sooo comfy.
I LOVE the gross grain bows.

My handbags are all black too...
it might be fun to add a bright colour but in the past when I have done this I grow weary of them.
This may sound very boring but it works for me.

I wore this combo on New Years Eve.
The skirt is a thrift shop find and the lace top was purchased at Winners.

Black and white work well for me.
White shirts, white tank tops pearls and black bottoms are made for each other.

I am remembering my teen years when I was a waitress at The Oak Bay Beach Hotel!
We wore black uniforms and white aprons!
I think we were paid $3.75 hour plus tips.
My tips weighed down the pockets of my uniform and when Mr. HB came to pick me up after work we'd head straight to the Oak Bay Avenue A&W where we'd be served by wait staff at the drive in wearing roller skates!
(Burgers, fries and root beer but I digress!)

For dinner out celebrating my BFF's birthday...
 I opted for a black tunic top by Jones of NY
Legging by C'est Moi
Boots by Hush Puppies
Scarf by Echo
pearls an anniversary gift from Mr. HB 
(3 years ago)

I got dressed lickety split.
Having basics in black really help.
I can be ready in no time.

I had extra time to read my book before the car arrived.
I threw on my Chillax coat, grabbed my Roots cross body bag and I was out the door.

I felt good.
Not overdressed or under dressed.

The Chanel lipstick made it's debut.

I am loving the new perfume Mitsouko by Guerlain.

The grey hair is really making a statement.
I feel like I have grown into myself these past few years of exploration.
I had to listen to my head and pay heed to my heart.

Growing older is not as intimidating as I thought it might be...
acceptance and knowing and
understanding one's limitations
coupled with realistic expectations are helping me to realize my next chapter.

"Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty."

  ~ Henry Ford ~

I have a book where I write down every single wardrobe purchase.
I keep track of what I need and it really helps me from getting distracted or over spending.
I save money every month with a look to the future...
and ponder the possibility of a Chanel hand bag...and yes it would be BLACK!


  1. How good that you have got it together. But you said it well about cutting through the emotion of shopping. It's so psychological isn't it?? I am trying to find a balance myself. I used to make huge efforts in my twenties and early thirties then went thru a sloppy phase but I do want to reach a middle ground. Ps the lipstick really suits you!

  2. You are looking so chic--an inspiration as--once more--i need to make up some clothing donation bags. Hopefully, what I have left will look as good as what you are wearing here.

  3. You are looking wonderful these days!
    Great minds think alike, my post is pretty much about this thing, it's how I dress.
    I have four Chanel bags which I rarely use, I have vows to try to use them more this year, if not then Ebay it is. I rarely carry a bag, only if I'm I'm going to London for the day.

  4. Leslie, you look great. Black and white suits you, I believe, because of the high contrast of your pale skin and dark eyebrows. I wonder if now that you have the basics figure out out, you will start experimenting to find your 3-4 reliable colors. I remember, for example, a pistachio green that looked great on you? Felicitations on your journey, it's been lovely to see you sort this all out.

    1. I second everything you said, Lisa. And our Hostess looks great with a few of those russet orange shades amongst the black. And the pistachio. Those 3-4 reliable colors are wonderful to add, once one has the basics chosen.

  5. You look lovely Hostess, and like you, I'm learning my lessons about not succumbing to colors and trends, and how much better a wardrobe works when it's *simple.*

  6. You do look lovely! Truly lovely. I enjoy seeing the photos of you.

    Like you, I have chosen black as my basic color. It's just easier--and more economic in the long run. I enjoy my scarves too. But, unlike you, I STILL have my weight to lose. I'm working on it with WW.

  7. You look just beautiful, L! I don't think I could ever limit myself to a mostly black or even blacka and white wardrobe, but I love how you accessorize with your scarves (buy a coloured purse!).

  8. I am so impressed and you look absolutely marvelous. Black is my basic color too and for more casual wear blue denim. I haven't come as far as you have, but I am trying, you are a great inspiration.

  9. I have been reading those French books too, and it has really helped. I love the idea of a basic, classic wardrobe, and then having fun with accessories. You look great.

  10. You look glowing in these pictures. The black and white suits you. Have you written a post on how you maintain such lovely skin?


  11. You look beautiful in these pictures! Love your wardrobe ideas.

  12. I just found your link to your skin care posts. Thank you for all the work. I have just cleaned out all of my lotions and potions from last year. Unfortunately I'm allergic to scents and have just read the book Toxin Toxout and am going to try to be more conscious of the chemicals in the products I buy.

    1. Glad that you were able to find those posts. I am loving the L'Occitane Divine cream. I have a sample of the Divine serum and am thinking that I'll add that to my regime. In winter I find my skin tends to be a little dry.

  13. Hi Hostess, I have never read any of the French "style" books but you have made me curious now! What would you recommend I start with?
    A simple wardrobe that lets you feel confident and with more time to focus on what you really love...sounds good to me!
    Thanks, Renie

  14. I enjoy reading about the changes you've made over the last year. You must feel very, very well!

  15. You look fabulous in today's photos, Hostess!

    Thank you for sharing your insights into shopping the sales and the perils of going shopping for a special outfit when you need one desperately.

    I've also learned alot from the French style books. They have helped simplify my wardrobe and I actually wear everything that I hang in my wardrobe these days.

    SSG xxx

  16. Ah, Mitsuoko is lovely! Try Vol de Nutt as well, it's not quite as old, but quite, quite lovely. There is something magical about the Guerlain base....

  17. You're looking so lovely. Well done, weight loss, wardrobe and hair!

  18. The black and white looks lovely with your grey hair. While I do like your colourful fitness clothes, your signature look is so French. What is encouraging is that you have lost a significant amount of weight but your face looks even younger than before! Truly inspirational!

  19. I too have narrowed my wardrobe color palette -- mostly black, white, grey, and some color -- so I also no longer stand peering into the depths of my closet, waiting for a miracle. Everything works with everything else so dressing for any occasion is very simple. Ah! Oak Bay Beach Hotel -- I had the most delightful tea there over looking the gorgeous gardens nearly 40 years ago.

  20. You look terrific, Hostess, including your hair. How wonderful to have the freedom you have claimed with your wardrobe. Bravo! I, too, am using books on French style to whittle down my wardrobe, adding only what is needed. I am a sucker for colored shoes, however, and have a little fun building a neutral outfit with shoes as the accent.

  21. This is so exciting. You look gorgeous! I love the black and white. The lipstick color is perfect.

    A tunic, leggings and boots together is a great look. Have fun!

  22. I love what you said about growing into yourself. You've definitely found what works for you. Well done!

  23. You look radiant in these photos -- and it's obvious that you've really found a style of your own, adapting the French chic to our westcoast lifestyle.

  24. You're looking lovely in these photos. Your grey hair suits you well. Black, grey and white are the foundations of my wardrobe, too. As I pare down and really think about my wardrobe purchases, I find it easier to get dressed and feel good about what I'm wearing.

  25. I want to second (and third, and fourth…) what everyone else just said about your focused wardrobe, and I'll make an addition. When you settle on the basics of your wardrobe and a directed style aesthetic, you get to make fun choices (and $$$ investments) in fun things like an Hermes scarf, a pricey lipstick that is YOUR color, shoes that had panache to an otherwise understated look, etc. AND the bonus, and really the point, is now that your mind and emotions are relaxed and confident about your look, you can concentrate your energies on wonderful books to read to delight your mind and your friends, activities that support your values and world view, and all around being a better person. Instead of a poor, pedestrian replica of a celebutante constantly worrying about her clothes, you are a confident woman with meaningful things to add to the world…and look fabulous doing so.

  26. I like your comments Rebekah! I couldn't say it any better myself.

  27. You have kicked started the New Year,resolutions solved you look fanastic.

  28. Really enjoy your posts on the basics of your wardrobe. There is a question I have been meaning to ask you about the walking shoes you show in some of your posts. You mentioned they are Lands End - what style are they and are you happy with them, since I know you do a lot of walking?

    1. The LE shoes are really supportive and yet light. I bought mine in grey with a purple accent. They were new last springI think they were called trail shoes. I looked inside the shoes and they have nothing else to identify them specifically. I hope you find a pair that work for you. LE has a great return policy too and if you are in the US it is much easier than being here in Canada where it is only available online.

  29. where would I purchase the perfect white shirt? I too have lost weight and retired - and am headed for an entire new wardrobe......isn't it fun?

  30. I bought that white shirt at Talbots years ago...It is rather large on me as I have kept it from before the WW but use it as a jacket over a white tank top. Like you I am on the hunt for another one! Let me know if you find a great source!

  31. Oh and yes this new phase is a lot of fun and we have the time to hunt for things rushing about in a panic!

  32. One (and there are many) thing that stood out in your most recent post, is how clearer your skin appears. Wow - the weight loss, combined with your WW's diet has been awesome for you - BRAVA!!!