Beth-Ann kindly suggested I post a few more looks and tried to explain my style objectives clearly. I'm not at all sure of my objectives, so perhaps it helps to explain my current practices and how they've resulted in my closet being a grab bag of avant garde retro classics that I love to wear but struggle to style.
Disclaimer: this is long and involves advanced wardrobe diagnostics. If you can't be bothered to read, scroll down to the eye-candy and shoot on my outfits.
Here's how I roll:
- I try to practise slow fashion. I don't like rapid turnover and I prefer to keep things for as long as I can.
- My budget is not unlimited and I like to buy the best quality I can afford, which means lots of thrifting, vintage and designer outlet bargains.
- I tend not to have a "shopping list" and my strategy is quite reactive. I'm more likely to spot something and know that it will work than go looking for something in particular (because when I do, I almost never find it).
- I buy things based on quality, fit, colour palette and wearability rather than any notion of a particuar "look" or persona.
- I don't work in a formal office with a well-defined role that I have to dress for.
- I love experimenting with new styles and I'm really attracted to the unusual and original.
- I try to future-proof my wardrobe because I don't want to look dated, so I try to steer clear of obvious trends.
- I sew a lot, which means I often make the things I want to make rather than to fill a particular need.
So I've ended up with lots of things I like, mostly nice quality and a few real trophy pieces. This becomes a problem when garments become part of an expressive collection rather than a working wardrobe, but I'm working on that.
Here are five looks from late October/early November when I was on an arty/eclectic kick. These are essentially smart-casual weekday looks I'd wear to work with close colleagues, meet with friends and maybe go out in the evening. I'd wear some of these in the classroom but not to meet business clients. I do have a load more business approriate looks, which tend to favour classically masculine tailoring: blazers, pant suits, brogues etc. There's also the more sporty/hipster/urban strand, which overlaps with what you see here.
1. Vintage silk shibori haori with Uniqlo HeatTech shirt, skinny pants from Marks & Spencer, Underground creepers.
The haori was a HEWI which I hunted high and low through many, many kimono dealers before finding it. It's not hard to wear but it's more of a summer piece than winter. Worn over a couple of essentials: black turtle neck and slim black pants.
2. Striped Pirate cardigan by All Saints, waxed cotton dropped crotch pants BYBROWN, boots by Maison Martin Margiela.
A FFB. These pants are the best. I have another pair in gold. The All Saints cardigan is ancient but still going strong. The boots look a bit beat up in the picture, but they've just come back from the cobblers Looking Like New.
3. Self-made skirt with short sleeved jumper from COS, layered over grey marl t-shirt.
I am loving this skirt, which I made very recently. A surprisingly fun layering piece under an oversized winter coat. Definitely a weekender.
4. Vintage '80's Kenzo jacket, jeans by Isabel Marant Homme pour H&M, hat by Uniqlo, creepers as in 1.
This is probably the most controversial of these looks, but also the one I like wearing the most at the moment. The silhouette of the fitted cropped jacket and men's jeans feels just so, and both pieces fit like they were made for me. But it's definitely advanced pattern matching and not exactly trendy. That's my default hat.
5. Self made top and skirt, boots by Maison Martin Margiela again.
This is becoming a go-to day-to-evening choice in the colder weather. I love the complimentary colours. The top is an absolute winter workhorse.
So, where's the problem?
I'm trying to strike a balance between a lot of contradictory patterns. I like to keep things I love for as long as possible but I also like the challenge of unusual statement pieces. I want to future-proof things but I keep getting distracted by new trends. I want to make sensible purchases but my shopping strategy requires me to know what's right when I see it and make quick decisions. I want to look authentic, not eccentric. I want to distinguish myself but not stick out like a sore thumb. I want to wear my clothes and not the other way around.
The biggest problem right now is styling. I need a better feel for what works together, and how I can work the things I love into looks that feel contemporary. I'm trying to find a way through this that will lead me to silhouettes and colour palettes that really work for me, figure out which are the key pieces that are pulling their weight, and build more sensible strategies from there. I'd like to develop something that resembles a philosophy or signature look, but I don't know if that's at all realistic given the diversity of content.
If you've read this far, thanks for sticking with me. I'd love to read comments from people who recognise the problem of accumulating things that really work over a number of years but still keeping it fresh. I'm feeling very uninspired by what I see in high fashion right now, so I'd prefer to develop my own personae using the materials to hand. Angie's wisdom has helped me a lot in the past, but right now I need to take stock of what I have and try and make sense of it. I think this may take a couple of years.