The Wardrobe Edit: Season 1

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About three months ago, I cleared out my closet and decided to change my shopping habits. From that point forward, I would buy fewer, better-quality clothing and end up with a minimal wardrobe of classic, versatile, and well-constructed pieces. Here's a little update on how the wardrobe edit has gone so far.

My modus operandi is the 5 Piece Wardrobe method, which I tailored to my own needs. Strictly speaking, 5 Piece Wardrobe means purchasing just five items per fashion season (spring/summer = season one, autumn/winter = season two) in addition to your basics. But, because my wardrobe needed significant replenishing, I'm considering each season three months long. The trade-off is that I'm strict about what I include in the five items and what I consider a basic. The five items extend to anything wearable: accessories (shoes, jewellery, etc., outside of a few basics) count.

Over the past three months (March, April, May), I purchased:

1. Slouchy Grey Sweater
2. Lightweight Spring Parka
3. "Gizeh" Birkenstocks
4. Chambray Buttondown
5. "The Rocket" Jeans

Perhaps a couple of these could be basics, but I limited my "free-pass" basics this season to: t-shirts in neutral colors and a pair of black ballet flats.

My new shopping strategy means picking quality over quantity, sticking to a plan, and resisting the urge to impulse-buy. My plan for the five items changed a few times, but in the end I was extremely happy with the items I purchased. (Also, by some miracle, there's color in my wardrobe!) I did have some moments of temptation: recently I wanted to cheat on my 5 Piece Wardrobe resolution in order to buy this, these, and this. The advantages of shopping this way? I only buy things I know I'll wear for the long-term, I think more about constructing outfits when I go shopping, and I feel truly satisfied when I add an item to my closet. As I continue building a solid wardrobe, I hope to purchase fewer items each season and become more informed about where my clothing comes from.

So now we switch seasons: onto warmer, no-coats-required weather and the hunt for the perfect day-to-night skirt. What have you been wearing lately?

Defining Your Style

If you're trying to streamline your wardrobe, it helps to define your sense of style and stick to it. That's one of the main challenges I've faced so far in my Five Piece Wardrobe mission. There's little room to flirt with fleeting trends -- with a strict limit on how many items I can add per season, I can't really afford to purchase an item I won't wear more than a handful of times. In fact, ideally every item I purchase coheres with the other items in my wardrobe. (This is slightly easier when you remember that basics are your best friends.)

There are a few tips that have helped me define my sense of style and ensure I'm satisfied with every item in my closet.

1. Know which cuts, shapes, and colors flatter you, and which are better in theory or on others. This takes a bit of trial and error and a lot of honesty. I know that no matter how much I love them when I see them, I generally avoid riding boots, pastels, collared button-ups (with rare exceptions), and anything too frilly.

2. Collect your ideas. Create a board on Pinterest dedicated to defining your style. Pin only things you'd really wear on an everyday basis to this board (save those fabulous evening gowns for a different board). Look for inspiration by searching your favorite brands and style icons. Look at everything in unison, and edit accordingly. When I'm shopping, I keep this board in mind; if the item in question doesn't fit into the aesthetic I've defined via the board, it's probably a no-go. Lately I've been pinning away to my style board on Pinterest: it's currently filled with black, denim, stripes, and probably a bit too much knitwear for my own good. The picture of Doutzen Kroes in REPEAT makes me want to head to the beach with a giant cashmere scarf/wrap, an item for all seasons. Too much to ask?

3. Deliberate. Love at first sight might truly exist (at least, when it comes to clothing!); nevertheless, these days I rarely purchase an item the first time I see it. And if I do, I don't snip off the tags and wear it straightaway. Sometimes, after trying it on a few times with the other items in my closet, I find it's not the best fit.

Any helpful tips for defining your style? 

Choosing Wardrobe Basics

Ever since I started editing my wardrobe, I've been giving more thought to my wardrobe basics. These items serve as my go-to pieces and the foundation for everything else I add to my closet. As I mentioned last month, I'm doing the 5 Piece French Wardrobe; basics don't count towards the five items I purchase per season until I've checked off all of the items on my list.

So what's on the list of basics? You can see an example here, but your list will depend on your location, lifestyle and personal preferences. I think of basics as the pieces required to have a functional, comfortable wardrobe. Usually, it's ideal to choose your basics in neutral colors (gray, black, white, beige). As for how many of each basic you need, the numbers will vary by individual, so set a quota based on what you need each season and then stick to a one-in, one-out policy. This will ensure you don't overbuy basics, just because they're basics (guilty!).

Here are a few things to consider when shopping for basics:

-Shape: Do you prefer fitted pieces or a slightly less structured look? What cuts and necklines are most flattering and practical? Does the shape of each basic work with the other items in your wardrobe?

-Versatility: Can you wear each basic with multiple outfits? Can the basic work as a layering piece with other items in your wardrobe?

-Comfort: Are the fabric and fit comfortable enough to wear for long periods of time? If you feel at all self-conscious or fidgety wearing the basic, it's probably best to pass on it.

-Longevity: Will the fabric hold up to frequent wearings and washings? Is the item truly basic enough to wear for months?

-Care Instructions: Before purchasing any item of clothing, I always check the washing instructions on the tag. I usually avoid dry-clean only pieces unless they're things like coats that don't need to be washed frequently. Note that some "dry-clean only" items can be hand washed.

The point of 5 Piece Wardrobe-ing is to have fewer, but higher quality, items in your closet. The same goal applies to choosing basics: they are the most essential part of my wardrobe, so when possible, I choose quality over quantity. Every once in a blue moon, I splurge on a pair of dark-wash skinny jeans that last for years without stretching or fading. My favorite shop for tees and sweaters is Aritzia, but I've also found great basics at H&M, J. Crew and Zara.

At the moment, my typical uniform involves denim, tees and sweaters. Along with those, I toss on a black jacket that I can dress up or down and my favorite black ankle boots. I plan to share a more in-depth list of my basics soon.

What's on your list of wardrobe basics?

Jacket | Sweater | Jeans | Striped Top | Ankle Boots

The Wardrobe Edit

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I'm currently in the midst of annual wardrobe spring cleaning, in which I go through all my clothes and donate the items I no longer wear. I always feel a bit of buyer's remorse when I realize how much I clear out, so from now on I've promised myself to stick to one style resolution: "Less is more." A minimalist wardrobe makes a lot of sense to me because I gravitate towards a simple, clean look, and even though my closet feels cluttered, I tend to reach for the same favorite pieces over and over again. Conclusion: I don't really need that much stuff, just good quality things I'll wear until they're worn out.

There are a couple of different "movements" in the blogging community that have inspired me to edit down my closet and adopt a more minimalist attitude towards wardrobing. First, Cuyana's Lean Closet Series spotlights bloggers at various stages of creating and maintaining a "leaner" closet. Another idea you might know is the 5 Piece French Wardrobe, popularized by Sabrina from AFTERDRK. The 5 Piece Wardrobe entails some strict rules; most importantly, you cannot buy more than five items in a season. Practicioners of the 5 Piece Wardrobe define "season" either as a fashion season (six months!) or a calendar season of three months. Basics like socks, tees, underwear and gym attire don't count; everything else does. As you can imagine, editing down your wardrobe means really planning your purchases... no impulse buys allowed! It also means being pickier about what you purchase, always choosing quality over quantity.

I started 5 Piece Wardrobing at the beginning of March (for now, I'm using the slightly more forgiving rule that a season = three months). The sweater you see above is item 1/5, so I have an allowance of four more items until the start of June. Next on my shopping list is the perfect pair of black ballerina flats, to wear with ankle-skimming skinny jeans in the warmer months ahead. I want to invest in a pair that I can keep for years; Repetto is on my radar, and although these Unützer ballet flats from Peter Hahn are a pretty penny, I love the fact that they're made at a small, family-run workshop in Italy. Buying fewer goods gives you a little more room to invest in higher quality fabrics and ethical production practices, something I am admittedly very ignorant about.

I'll be sharing my minimalist style adventures here. Anyone else doing something similar? And if you have suggestions for the perfect ballet flat, please send them my way!