Clothes must fit perfectly. Okay, there are two things I’ve learned on this point. First, I will only buy things that fit more or less perfectly. I used to be terrible for talking myself into buying something that wasn’t quite right because it was on sale, or I liked the colour, or I thought there was some way I could make it work by wearing a belt, etc., etc. I now know that I’m just throwing my money away if I do that. I’ve become choosier about what I invest in, but I’ve noticed that my instincts for what will really work is much sharper. The thing about perfect fit is this: you know instantly if an outfit fits you properly. You look fabulous, and you feel beautiful. Instead of talking myself into something, these days I listen to that intuitive judgement. Second, I’ve been won over by the European tendency to have clothing tailored. I know that sounds contradictory, but in fact it’s a complementary practice—I find an item that fits me perfectly, then I take it to the tailors to have it tweaked. It’s amazing what a big difference a few small adjustments can make. Really. I do this with blazers, trousers, jeans, blouses, dresses … it’s a habit now, a normal extension of the shopping process, and because I spend so much less by buying only a few high-quality items each season, adding in the cost of tailoring still works out to less than what I used to spend. And I look better—and feel better, because tailored clothing is comfortable clothing.
Clothes must be in good condition. Before shopping for the season, I go through what I have and decide what needs to be donated. This does mean being a bit ruthless. If something has lost its shape, or is faded, or is wearing thin, then it needs to go, no matter how well it’s served me and how much I love it. From there, I can see what I need to a working wardrobe.
A working wardrobe, for me, means that everything goes with everything. I used to think this just meant co-ordinating colour, but I’ve figured out what may actually be obvious to others—texture and cut matter just as much. For colour, I do follow the one-base-colour rule, and I’m really boring in this regard: black for winter, white for summer. For texture, I like lightweight cotton and linen for the summer, and I love merino wool and cashmere in the winter, and even tweed (I have a wonderful skirt in grey herringbone tweed). I’m a recent convert to silk, which I’ve always been a little scared of because it’s so expensive and seemed easily damaged. I have two silk shirts (washable silk, that is) at the moment, and they’re proving to be hard-working trans-seasonal pieces. As for cut—I’m no expert, but this goes back to the question of fit, I think, and I do find it means ignoring trends, at least somewhat. I’m still learning, but cut is all about shape, and shape affects how successfully different items can be combined, e.g., I really like floaty cardigans, but these look best with skinny jeans or simple skirts, rather than equally floaty dresses or skirts. Unless I want to look like a meringue. Well, no, I don’t.
Shoes and bag matter because they go everywhere and are always visible, even under the long raincoat that is often so necessary in the west of Scotland. And, for that reason, my coat(s) matter a lot to me, too. This is where to invest, at the risk of stating the obvious. These pieces work hard, and with shoes, in particular, your body relies on them to stay healthy and well (i.e., I want to be able to walk when I’m 80!!).