I’ve been known to complain loudly and often that “I have nothing to wear” whilst standing in front of a full to overflowing wardrobe. Lately these complaints have become louder, more frequent and peppered with emotions such as boredom, frustration, anger and general fed-uppedness. Top of the range #firstworldproblem I know, but if you fancy a bit of low-brow self-indulgent fluff, read on. Heaven knows we could use some light-heartedness after this week of craziness and confusion when #firstworld became #trumpworld, and fluff became a hair-style. Sorry where were we? Wardrobes. Focus.
So anyway I’ve always complained in this way but since I’ve had kids and changed body shape/size/percentage body flabbiness 47 times things have gotten BAD. My wardrobe has been an incoherent mess for about 5 years now. It’s full of clothes that are too big, too small, too stained, too skimpy, too MUCH (I am unlikely to rock my amazing sequinned technicolour top at the park). Plus, there are the clothes that I used to wear when all I had to worry about was looking good enough to pass the peep-hole test at 161 (which I did - everytime) or fit in with my fancy carpark friends at Flemington. Since I’m a long way from the peep-hole AND the carpark I have no use for a lot of things. And even if I did, the peep-hole guy would probably reject me on the basis of my outfit being sooo decades ago. Hence this: time for a wardrobe detox.
When I booked my appointment with Caroline I wasn’t really sure what I was getting into. I had visions of her scoffing with horror at the state of my wardrobe and telling me to chuck everything and start again. I imagined she would provide me a mile-long list of missing essentials such as a Burberry trench, a Birkin bag and a vintage mink - all of which I might dream about but could never actually afford. To my relief, this is not Caroline’s agenda at all. I’m sure if my budget allowed, she might recommend a few high-end classics but in fact her wardrobe audit is all about making the most of what you have, seeing potential where you might not (hello little-black-dress crumpled in a corner), and generally turning your disorganised mess into an ordered, cohesive cupboard of wearable items.
I’m a lady of staples - I’m good with jeans, boots and a shirt. But living in Paris has made me realise this is not enough if I want to feel good about how I look and mix it with the everyday fashionistas I sit next to on the bus, see at the school gate and admire from across the street. The French and their fashion sense is world-renowned and it’s because they take care. They don’t over-think it BUT they take a moment (much as they would match the right Brie to the right Bordeaux), to construct an outfit that will see them saunter the streets of Paris with an air of confidence and comfort, knowing that they will not be held responsible for bringing down the beauty of the city that surrounds them. Best leave that to the tourists and the rest of the blow-ins.
So what did Caroline do? After she recovered from the shock seeing my tip of a wardrobe she did exactly as she says on the packet:
Sort out the pieces you keep, the ones you don't and those that need fixing.
She immediately pointed out that my pile of ‘around the house clothes’ was too high in comparison to everything else. I said goodbye to at least half it. Bye-bye oversized Bonds hoodies. It’s been great but, I don’t need 4 of you. Bye-bye threadbare t-shirts. A couple of fix-it pieces were identified including a jacket missing a button and a shirt that could be dyed. Several items need dry-cleaning or anti-balling treatment.
Identifying your classics and special occasion outfits
It was nice to realise I have the basis of a good wardrobe. I’ve got a couple of good jackets that I hope to keep for a long time, lots of different blouses and shirts for mixing and matching. I’ve got a few dresses that I love but I’m tired of wearing. Caroline showed me ways to give them new life - such as changing up the shoes, the jacket, the accessories. This was invaluable as it opened my eyes to be more creative. A dress is a dress but it’s the way you wear it that creates the impact.
Organising your wardrobe into sections
Caroline was very clear about what constitutes your summer wardrobe as opposed to winter. Apartment-living requires clever use of space. This means putting everything in your summer pile out of sight (perhaps in a vacuum packed bag) waiting for that moment the cherry blossoms let you know it’s time to branch out. I’ve found dressing to be far more seasonal than at home, which I think is explained by the fact people walk everywhere instead of jumping in a car from one heated/air-conditioned place to another. Even though Melbourne gets cold, my very warm puffer jacket was only worn on freezing Saturday afternoons at the footy or at an outdoor soiree. In Paris, what I wear is completely dictated to by the weather because I am literally in it, every day.
Re-discover forgotten clothing
Caroline helped me uncover a multitude of hidden treasures - a pair of jeans I’d forgotten I owned, some shoes collecting dust, and a coat that is more versatile than I remembered.
Identifying the "missing pieces”
Several gaps were identified in my wardrobe but luckily the situation was not as dire as first feared. She listed jeans, tights (different colours and patterns), knitwear and tops (in particular colours and cuts), winter dresses (eg long knits) and a versatile pair of sneakers/trainers that will go with every outfit. She gave me tips on where to shop (including but not limited to H&M, Zara and Uniqlo) and shared some of her knowledge on lesser known shopping pockets of Paris (Caroline also does fashion tours and personal shopping). Her recommendations were curated according to my style and budget. Phew!
Personalised take-home tips (these ones are specific for me):
- Iron more things more often.
- Hang more things more often.
- White shoes should be white.
- Install a full-length mirror where you usually get dressed (so you may at least notice that your shirt needs ironing or that ORANGE really doesn’t suit you).
- Know what your best feature is and dress to that (mine is height).
- Remember this (oft-said and very true): “beauty is in the detail.”
I was pleasantly surprised when, at the end of our rendez-vous, I was handed my "colours chart." Remember when “colours” parties were all the rage? My Mum would come home with a swatch of coloured fabric to pop in her handbag and guide her future shopping choices. In hindsight I think these parties were a guise to escape home-life and eat Cheezels for a few hours on a Wednesday night, Tupperware style. That said I was pretty chuffed to get printemps (springtime) - a range of soft pretty colours to brighten my otherwise black-on-black Melbourne look. Caroline said she was not professionally trained in this area but that she backed her expert eye to pick the colours that suited me best.
Overall the wardrobe audit was really fun and it was enormously helpful to learn what suits me and what does not. Caroline herself is super-stylish (as you’d expect) and I’m more than happy to take advice from her! In my opinion it’s worth the financial outlay for the “wardrobe audit” with the view of saving money in the long term. The idea is to shop smart not daft. Et voila! Expense justified! See what I did there?
How’s your wardrobe looking? Have you ever engaged a stylist? Did you find it valuable? What is your favourite item of clothing that you just couldn’t live without?