In January I will turn 35. With 2 children under 5, one breastfeeding and a generally older and curvier body shape , it probably isn’t any wonder that I’ve been feeling a little fatigued by my wardrobe recently.
I went to an excellent talk at Stylist Live a couple of weeks ago given by Alexandra Fullerton, Fashion Director at Stylist Magazine. Whilst true that each bit of individual advice she gave wasn’t groundbreaking, hearing it all together as she presented it spoke to me and I was particularly taken with a couple of specific pieces of advice. I haven’t covered everything that she said, just some of the things which resonated personally, and which given a lot of you are also in similar post natal situations, I thought might also resonate more widely. I did rather envy Alexandra’s clothes budget mind you – I might not want her 100 pairs of jeans but I wouldn’t mind a few more options than I have now!
Know your own style
Alexandra suggested each of us spend some time thinking about how we want our personal style to be defined and try and sum this up in 3 words or phrases. Then, try and make sure that everything we buy and wear fits these themes somehow. Obviously there will be occasions for very trend led items or one off pieces but in general try to focus on the 3 phrases when shopping and evaluate whether what you are buying fits. Quite similar in a way to the so called ‘elevator pitch’ that it is recommended we all have as a neat and concise way of describing ourselves, skills and interests (and I don’t mean the wife mum uummm that so many women seem to use).
I’ve been giving the sartorial elevator summation a lot of thought recently (I’m still getting up multiple times a night so may as well use the thinking time usefully whilst doing my pelvic floor exercises) and I’ve come up with the following which I think defines my current style:
- Leopard and stripes are neutrals
- Practical doesn’t have to mean frumpy
It’s not perfect and it’s not as succinct as Alexandra’s “denim, 60s and tomboy” but for now, I think it will do. I’ve always been a cold person (even my humour is extremely dry, haha) and it’s taken a long time to work out how to be warm and comfortable but also feel pulled together and good about my outfit. I’m particularly fond of a good pair of shoes and while I do love a heel sometimes, I really do prefer a flat and I am pleased to be finally able to buy interesting ones.
Clothes have a shelf life
Another quite obvious statement you might think but somehow not one I’ve been able to get behind very often. There’s a lot of things in my wardrobe which fitted well once but are just a little worn out. Alexandra reckoned a white tshirt might only last 20 wears before it starts to look tired and grey, and that things at a relatively low price point (and probably even more expensive things) need replacing fairly regularly. Call me naive but after growing up with the mindset that everything should be kept lest one might need it again, I’ve found it particularly hard to cull old favourites even when they are clearly past their best and have discoloured, sagged or simply don’t really fit properly with my new body shape. I don’t wear them mind you, so with that in mind I have been trying to move them out of my drawers and wardrobe and into the cellar before sending them for rag.
I had actually already embraced this after reading Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying. I’m still working on the getting rid of stuff but I LOVE the idea of folding things and having them vertical in the drawers. I line things up by colour which is (a) very pleasing and (b) shows just how many black vests I have, but also means I can see which things I never take out of the drawer and perhaps should be dispatched and the space used for something I do actually enjoy wearing.
Outerwear is important
I’m not sure when I started to think of outerwear as part of my outfit. Whereas once I just used to have one ‘winter coat’ I now try and make sure whatever coat I am wearing forms part of my outfit, particularly if I am going somewhere where I know I won’t be removing it, such as the school run. I also am trying to embrace the idea that coats also have a shelf life, and update some of my old favourites which with an objective eye, really are past their prime. With that in mind, when J D Williams approached me about a style post and I looked at their women’s winter coats I put the above steps into practice. I ended up choosing a black cotton parka with a furry hood and a tie waist which is cosy with a jumper under it for the school run whilst still looking put together but can be styled in many different ways for a more interesting look.
Here I wore it with some super comfy and flattering black skinny jeans from Monki and a simple black Gap tshirt and flat black laced boots. Nothing fancy, nothing hard to find, but I like that (I think) it looks pulled together but is still really practical for herding a 6 month old and a 4 year old round an event at Kew. This particular parka is great for Autumn as it is warm but not a huge bulky winter jacket. With a jumper underneath and zipped up it is cosy but styled over a tshirt and open as I did here, it is lightweight enough that I didn’t feel hot. It also has big pockets meaning you can pop in keys and a card and phone for the school run without needing to always take a handbag.
Photo Credit: Julia at Stylonylon