Always Be Overdressed

One of my life philosophies is to always be overdressed. This may be rooted in the fact that I grew up in Geneva, Switzerland, where everyone is, by average US standards, overdressed.

One of my life philosophies is to always be overdressed. This may be rooted in the fact that I grew up in Geneva, Switzerland, where everyone is, by average US standards, overdressed. After 20+ years in the US, where yoga wear is considered stylish outside of the yoga studio, and sneakers are worn off the running path, I have had to create a daily motto for myself to maintain these Swiss standards in my appearance. 

Dressing (up) is not about pretention or vanity, but about how I present myself to the world, and hence, how I behave. Every occasion is made more special by a nice dress or powerful pant suit and the perfect pair of shoes. I reminded myself of this yesterday when I had a 3:30 am wakeup time to fly across the country for meetings. All I wanted to do was to wear comfortable (of course presentable) clothes, but I reminded myself that in particular because of my wake-up time, it behooved me to pay extra attention to my outfit.

Why? 

1. When I dress up, I want to live up to my outfit. If I look good, if I feel beautiful, I want to behave that way. I am less likely to be rude when I am wearing fancy shoes. I am more likely to smile and be polite when I am wearing a fancy dress. After all, when I dress up, I am putting my best self forward – and my behavior needs to be coherent with my appearance. 

2. When I dress up, when I look good, people compliment me on my outfit. That means two things. First, I am happy and I feel good about myself, so I am nicer. Second, I smile and say thank you after each compliment, and the more I smile the easier it is to keep smiling (no matter my wakeup time). 

3. When my husband and I both dress up for date night, I feel that we are doing something special for each other – we are putting effort into how we look, for each other. That makes me feel good, like he did something for me, which in turn makes me act nicer, and less likely to pick a fight. It also makes it harder to pick a fight because he looks so good!  

Somehow, how I dress really does make a difference in how I feel, and thus how I act. It is not about expensive clothes. It is not about vanity. I have come to think of it more as a uniform. When I put on something dressy, I am putting on my “best behavior uniform.” And it works every time… 

The beauty of lingerie

In two weeks, my husband and I will celebrate our fifth wedding anniversary, and this past august we celebrated our 16thanniversary together. There are a million reasons why I love Guillaume but ranging in the top ten is definitely the fact that he buys me beautiful lingerie. Come to think about it, I haven’t had to buy a single underwear in over 15 years.

I love picturing Guillaume in a boutique, choosing outfits for me, imagining how I will look in them. It does wanders for my body image. It makes me feel desired and makes me want to be as desirable as possible for him.

Feeling sexy and beautiful underneath my clothes is not only for Guillaume, mainly it is for me. At work (I work in a hospital) I usually can’t wear sexy clothes (especially not in the O.R.) but wearing lingerie underneath my scrubs makes me feel attractive and asserts me in my womanhood. It also contributes to keep me giddy all day, as if I was constantly holding a very crispy secret all to myself.

Thanks to Guillaume I have the most exquisite drawers of lingerie with all the colors of the rainbow. Not only bra and underwear but thong, bustier, corset, lace, briefs, tulle, push-up, shorty, body suit, full cup, half cup, soft cup, nightdress, suspender belt and much more. Some of my favorite brands are Simone Perele, Aubade, Chantal Thomas, and Agent Provocateur.

Whether it’s your hubby or yourself buying lingerie, I strongly advise you start exploring.

Another thing I love about my husband and that does wanders for my body image is that he is a photographer and loves taking pictures of me. But that will be a story for another post.

Less is More

Ada Polla share her thoughts on how less is more with a few
key signature pieces in your wardrobe.

My grandmother and my godmother both taught me that it is best to value quality over quantity. In life in general, and in your wardrobe in particular. Both always told me that the perfect fitted back slacks would serve me better than 5 cheap pairs bought in trendy colors. As such, I pride myself on a wardrobe that is filled with items I love and wear – and not too many of them.

Nonetheless, my interpretation of a “minimalist wardrobe” was recently challenged when my girlfriend Jenn Mapp told me about her 35 items. She recently decided to simplify her closet (thus her life), and pare it down to 35 items. And she loves the result – not just in her closet. Intrigued? Read on…

AP: What made you decide to reduce your wardrobe to 35 items?

JM: For most of life shopping was my favorite pastime. Now I have a toddler and an infant, a full time job and own a small (but charming!) house. This translates to no time, minimal storage and considerably less discretionary income. Earlier this spring, while searching Pinterest for closet organization tips, I discovered several boards dedicated to the idea of a minimalist wardrobe. The notion of turning my massive, unmanageable closet into a curated collection of seasonal apparel just felt right. Within a few days I ruthlessly edited my clothes down to 35 items and consigned, donated or stored the rest. My life has improved immeasurably.

AP: What are your 35 items? Does this include accessories, shoes, lingerie – everything?

JM: I define “35 items” as the apparel hanging in my closet — business casual separates worn mostly to work. My 35 items do not include accessories because these are my signature outfit makers and without them this would not be a plausible fashion experiment – for me.  Workout clothes, lingerie and sleep items do not count. However, my entire fashion collection now fits in one side of an Ikea Pax wardrobe. This makes me very proud.

AP: How has your life changed since undergoing this fashion experiment?

JM: In so many ways! Obviously I’ve saved money and time but I’m also happier and more present. You don’t realize how much energy it takes to manage possessions. Most tangibly, my fashion experiment motivated me to start a blog. I assumed #jennmapp would be a fashion blog cataloging multiple outfits created from 35 items but I’ve found that I am more inspired by the psychology of the process. Curbing the impulse to shop parallels instinctive behavior in every aspect of my life.

AP: Any tips on how others could reduce their wardrobes?

JM: Sure, how about a random numbered list? The internet loves a list.

  1. Purchase or borrow an inexpensive rolling rack.
  2. Assemble your entire wardrobe in one place.
  3. Automatically move formal or cocktail attire, out of season clothes, ill-fitting or damaged items to the rolling rack.
  4. Consider every item that remains. These will make up your current season collection. If you love it, you will know in one second – leave it in your closet. If you experience any hesitation towards an item, put it on the rolling rack.
  5. Ruthlessly edit until you are down to a collection that feels right. You will need an adequate assortment of tops, bottoms and outwear. Consider your lifestyle. Depending on the size of your wardrobe, you may require several rounds of edits.
  6. Store, repair, consign or donate the rest. Just do it.
  7. Repeat every three – four months, filling in gaps as needed.

As I listen to Jenn in awe, she concludes: “You only think you need hundreds of items. You don’t! I guarantee you only wear 30 – 50 pieces as it is. Closet reduction is an excellent exercise in defining your value system. If you read this and are inspired to act, you are ready. Take the plunge. If the idea doesn’t resonate at all or seems inconceivable, well someone has to keep the economy afloat, right?”

Right!

Resources to help you achieve this minimalist wardrobe:

http://jennmapp.tumblr.com/

@tinclosettonsofstyle

Project333.com

Theunfancy.com

That one special pair of jeans

We all have that one special pair of jeans we love. That one that makes our legs look longer and thinner, our buttocks look rounder and firmer and our waist look smaller. We wear down those jeans until they have so many holes, we decently cannot go outside in them anymore. When we finally decide to part from them, we shed a little tear because we know how difficult it’s going to be to find another magical pair of jeans.

For me, that one special pair of jeans has always been from the brand 7 for all mankind. Every time I enter another store that sells jeans, I always try on a pair or two thinking that maybe this time will be different, but each time I come out empty handed.

For my past two birthdays, my husband bought me jeans from 7 for all mankind and to no one’s surprise, they fit me perfectly. He got me crops that I don’t usually go for, but it seems that whatever the crop, they fit me just right. This year, the gift was even more tailored made for me than the previous ones because the brand created a new crop, the Roxanne crop, and surely that’s the one my husband got me. So now, not only do I have that perfect pair of jeans, but it has my name on it, literally.

Another advantage of the Roxanne crop is that, it’s either made specially for small people or maybe it’s supposed to end above the ankles on tall people, anyhow, it’s the first time I haven’t had to shorten my jeans.

What about you? Where do you find that one special pair of jeans?

Closet Resolutions

Last week, Roxane wrote about the liberating effect of cleaning out her closet. 

I am proud to say that my closet is quite edited, and quite minimalist. However, her blog post, and my friend Erin’s commitment to look as fabulous as ever during her radiation treatments, made me think. I do have some work do to in terms of my clothes and accessories. I have a few things to purchase, and I own a few things I never wear that I should wear.

Last week, Roxane wrote about the liberating effect of cleaning out her closet.

I am proud to say that my closet is quite edited, and quite minimalist. However, her blog post, and my friend Erin’s commitment to look as fabulous as ever during her radiation treatments, made me think. I do have some work do to in terms of my clothes and accessories. I have a few things to purchase, and I own a few things I never wear that I should wear.

So that you can hold me accountable, here are my closet resolutions for the rest of the year.

Items to purchase:

  • Two pairs of skinny black pants. I own two, but they are 5+ years old and now more grey than black.
  • A full (tulle-ish) skirt. I am not sure I will dare to wear it, but I really want it!
  • Two three-quarter sleeve tops, in black. Nothing is more elegant than three-quarter sleeves.
  • A beautiful belt with a chunky buckle. Believe it or not, I don’t own one.

Items I own I need to wear:

  • My black Hermes cuff. It feels so showy… but it’s too gorgeous not to wear.
  • My long pearl necklace, one of my favorite gifts from Mom.
  • My white button downs. I own two (from Suistudio), and somehow I never quite know what to pair them with. But apparently, these go with anything.
  • My black jeans with holes. Holes…
  • My Chloe boots. They are greenish-gray… not my color. I will have them colored black and will wear them all fall long.

What are your closet resolutions?

Closet detox: how liberating!

One of my sisters, Cyrille, introduced me to the Mari Kondo decluttering method, after she herself had several coaching sessions with @Clarity. Last weekend we detoxed my entire wardrobe.

First step: take all my clothes off their hangers and out of my drawers. The pile was surprisingly huge! Second step: try on every single item in order to sort them out. Here’s what I did not keep.

  • Comfort clothes I used to wear on those gloomy days when I feel tired and ugly. Since they actually make me look the way I feel, I thought I rather not hold on to them.
  • Clothes that make me look like a teenage girl; I can be fun and colorful and still look like a woman
  • Clothes that are not the right size; when I see that one pair of jeans I don’t fit in anymore, it makes me think my body isn’t how it should be.
  • Clothes showing a worn-out fabric
  • Clothes in which my husband did not find me beautiful

One thing I love about my wardrobe is that it’s out in the open rather than hidden inside a closet or dressing room. But this means it’s appearance must be beautiful and spark joy whenever I enter the room. Some of Mari Kondo’s tips helped me transform my wardrobe in a work of art:

  • Organize your clothes by color, starting from darkest, through colors, up to white
  • In your drawers, roll your shirts instead of piling them on top of each other; that way you see each of them much better
  • Only place one item per hanger.

If I was a Mari Kondo purist, I would have accomplished this decluttering exercise alone with my coach, but my husband participated in the process and I loved it. I always ask him how I look when I get dressed. And I think that, all these years, he thought that the only appropriate answer was “absolutely gorgeous”. But you should have seen the number of stuff he made me donate! Apparently, it was a good idea for us to create a space where he felt he was allowed to give his opinion freely. Now that’s done, we can go back to him saying “gorgeous” each time I pop the question.

When I had finished sorting out all of my clothes, I was astonished by how much I was parting with and still my wardrobe was full. I hadn’t realized how quickly you accumulate stuff without even noticing it pilling up. Decluttering was a real breath of fresh air in my bedroom and I now feel so much lighter and happier!

Photo by Guillaume Varone