I've been really interested in simplifying different areas of my life. And since I'm also working on taking control over my personal finances and budgeting, I knew that my wardrobe needs to be a big priority, since it's basically the only area where I regularly overspend.
I'd seen Anuschka Rees's book, The Curated Closet floating around different Urban Outfitters locations and various areas of the internet, so I thought I'd pick it up and see if I could glean any useful tips from it. Although, I had to wait about a month to pick it up because it's a very hot commodity in the Seattle Public Library system, apparently.
I like Anuschka's approach to the book because she openly states that she isn't going to tell you how to dress, or what to buy, or that every woman needs a pair of skinny jeans, ballerina flats and a black blazer, like so many books before this have. But it kind of acts as a workbook to help you hone in and distill what your personal style is and what you specifically need to do to make your wardrobe work for you. I think that works because our styles, bodies, preferences, lifestyles, budgets and goals are all so unique.
One of the very first activities in the book is an exercise and a questionnaire to help you really assess your current wardrobe to really understand what needs changing.
The first part of it asks you to document all your outfits for two weeks, which I didn't do because I'm crazy and can tell you what I wore 10 days ago. But after filling out the questionnaire, I found the conclusions I came to (included at the end) were so helpful and illuminating that I wanted to share it here.
If you feel like something about your wardrobe or your relationship to clothing needs to change, whether it's a complete overhaul or something very minor, I recommend filling out this survey for yourself. It's a great pulse check to see where you're at.
What was your favorite outfit you wore during the last two weeks and why? How did that outfit make you feel?
- I layered a cream Frank And Oak shortsleeve mockneck under a gray knit wrap top tucked into dark wash mom jeans and medium chunky Vans MTE sneakers. Possibly the most normcore/fashion I have ever been. It made me feel good! It made me feel normal and practical, but in a cool way that still made me feel pretty! I also felt weirdly elusive, like "How did she put that slightly 'off' look together and still look good?"
- Actually, I just thought of another one that's tied for first. I wore a black knit wrap sweater with mid-wash crop straightleg jeans and nude slightly square-toed ballet flats and finished the look with medium-sized gold hoops. I wore this to meet my boyfriend Friday after work for dinner at Caliburger. I felt perfectly casual yet sexy.
What was your least favorite outfit and why? How did it make you feel?
- It was snowing Sunday morning and I had to dress to be outdoors to watch a bike race! I also had to get dressed super quickly so I threw on thermal leggings under jeans, a cami, thermal longsleeve top, turtleneck and an oversized Columbia fleece sweater. I fished the fleece sweater out of my clothes to donate pile, which was a big mistake. I'd but it there for a reason. We didn't end up going to the race because our car broke down so we ended up hanging out in the employee break room of a Home Depot (thank you Home Depot employees!) for like three hours. And although I appreciated the warmth, the weird outfit I put together provided me, I felt extremely uncomfortable, and unlike myself. I've learned over time that I don't love oversized looks on me!
On a scale of 1 to 10, how happy were you overall with your outfits during these past two weeks?
- 7 or 8. Because of the donation bag diving incident on Sunday. And because it's been a lot colder and I don't have the appropriate jeans to wear. The only jeans I have that fit me well right now either have rips in the knees or are cropped and expose my ankles to the elements! I have three pairs of jeans I'm taking to the tailor this week, so that should solve it.
Describe your current style in three adjectives.
- Sporty, feminine, simple
List your five most-worn colors during the last two weeks. How well do you feel these represent your individual preference for colors?
- Black, gray, white, pink & navy
What types of silhouettes and fits did you wear most often (for example, skinny jeans, flared skirts, loose tops, fitted blazers)? Why?
- I wore sneakers and flats exclusively, wrap tops, straight or wide-leg bottoms and mock necks.
- The sneakers I like aesthetically and they're also really practical for my lifestyle since my commute consists of public transit and a lot of walking and I live in a very walkable city where I don't own a car.
- I think wrap tops are so classic and look flattering on me since I don't have any boobies, really. So it shows a little skin while giving me a little shape.
- Straight and wide-leg bottoms look more streamlined and classic to me. I don't really like the way skinny jeans look on me.
- Mocknecks and turtlenecks because they're super practical, duh, and also v chic.
Do you tend to follow a specific formula for putting together your outfits? Do you have a uniform?
- I do have a bit of a uniform. My uniformula is typically top, pants and sneakers.
How much variety do you need? Do you enjoy wearing a wide range of different colors, silhouettes and details, or do you like having a signature look that you repeat with only minor variations?
- More recently, I've discovered that I don't need a ton of variety at all. I really want a mid-size wardrobe consisting of my signature look with some minor variations.
Do you prefer being overdressed or underdressed?
- I'm proud of my ability to sartorially read situations and dress appropriately for the occasion. The dress code at my last office was supposed to be heavier on the business casual side, but I always felt that even though if you broke my outfits down to its individual pieces, they were more casual than my coworkers', but the way I styled and carried myself in them, I looked more put-together than 98% of the office.
Do you want people to notice your clothes?
How do you usually style your outfits? Do you often tuck in your tops or roll up your sleeves? What type of accessories do you wear most often?
- I usually tuck in my tops and wear minimal jewelry — earrings and a watch.
Overall, how comfortable were your outfits? What qualities distinguish the most comfortable from the least comfortable pieces in your wardrobe, in terms of fit, material or details?
- Aside from a couple pair of new jeans that are pretty stiff that I'm trying to break in, super comfy!
Looking at the pictures of your outfits, how well fitting are your clothes?
- The majority of my clothes fit me really well. I feel extremely uncomfortable in ill-fitting clothes. I don't event like the look of rolling up hems and sleeves on clothes that are a little too big. So if it's an item I know I really want to keep, I won't hesitate to get it tailored to fit me, since I'm really petite. The only clothes in my closet that don't fit me well right now are ones I'm planning on getting tailored or will be getting rid of.
Subconsciously or not, our clothes send a message about who we are, our values and personality. What message does your current look send? What would you like to send
- For anyone reading this who actually knows me IRL, if I'm totally off-base, you can let me know. But I think the message my clothes send is that I put thought and effort into looking presentably while retaining my personality and being appropriate for the situation at hand. And really, that's the message I want to be sending, so yay me!
Imagine you had total confidence (and unlimited funds to overhaul your wardrobe). Would you keep wearing the same type of outfits as you do now? If not, what would you change?
- I would definitely keep dressing in the same general way I do now. The only thing that would change is buying even higher quality versions of some of the things I already own.
How easy is it for your to choose an outfit in the morning
- I'd say medium easy. I'm having a little trouble right now because of the aforementioned appropriate jeans situation. I tend to plan my outfits out in my lil brain the night before, but I need to be better about trying them on because sometimes I'll come up with combinations I've never executed before and it's fire and sometimes it's real bad and I'll have to scramble to come up with another outfit.
What percentage of your closet did you wear during the past two weeks?
- I'd say 30% maybe? And that's including like warm-weather clothing I'm not currently using.
How man different seasons do you have to dress for?
- 2.5? It's wet and chilly for most of the year in Seattle but there's also bouts of cold and then there's chilly and sunny with bouts of heat.
What type of occasions do you have to dress for?
- Work in a pretty casual office, working out, being an egg at home, casual social settings, job interviews and the rare more formal evening and date nights
How well equipped is your wardrobe for each of these occasions?
- I'd like nicer loungewear so even if I'm being a slob, I'm a sexy slob, y'know? I'd also like to have a few more options of interviews.
What is your stance on repeating outfits? Are you okay with wearing the same heat-to-toe look twice in two weeks? How about the individual pieces?
- Repeating individual pieces, I do all the time. Repeating outfits within a month of each other, I'm starting to get better at! I really should stop giving a shit because I never care when anyone else in my life does it. I usually admire it!
What is your typical shopping strategy? Do you prefer spending your budget on fewer, more expensive clothes or do you tend to spread it across lots of cheaper items?
- I totally used to have the mentality of buying as much as you can for as little as possible. But I've come around and am able and wiling to spend more on better and fewer items now.
What is your typical decision-making process when it comes to buying clothes? Do you often buy things on a whim, or do you tend to make sure you have compared all your options first?
- I've definitely gotten better at shopping around, searching online for different ways people have styled a specific item and comparing prices. Certain items readily available in the U.S. being sold through ASOS, a UK company, is so much more expensive, so it's good to double check before you buy! Sometimes the price on ASOS ends up being cheaper or worth it because I get the free 2-day shipping and super easy and free returns.
You and Clothes
What is your main motivation for spending time on your style? Do you use fashion as a creative outlet or an expression of your values and personality? Does dressing well give you confidence?
- Style gives me confidence and a way for me to express my values and personality, for sure.
Which emotions have the biggest impact on how you dress? Do you dress differently when you are very happy or very sad?
- I'll actually put more effort into making sure I'm wearing a tried and true outfit combination that makes me feel amazing on days where I'm feeling down because I feel like it actually helps pick me up throughout the day when I feel like I at least look great.
How much does a lack of confidence prevent you from wearing what you like?
- Very little. There's a pair of over-the-knee sock boots I bought a few weeks ago that I have yet to wear, but I think it's more that I haven't found the right outfit to style it with for the cold weather that I feel confident in rather than being afraid to wear it.
To what extent is what you wear influenced by the people in your life — that is, your close friends, relatives, acquaintances and coworkers? Do people you are closer to have a stronger influence, or is it the other way around?
- I'd say I have a stronger influence on the people in my life style wise.
Write down your style goals.
Take a moment to reflect on your answers to the questionnaire and then write a little summary about the current status of your style, wardrobe and your goals.
I was getting this sense before, but filling out this questionnaire really solidified for me that I'm so much more in tune with who I am, what I look and feel good in and what my personal style is than ever before. I used to have so much anxiety around my wardrobe and feeling like I never had enough or the right pieces to dress appropriately for the different areas of my life.
I'm also a lot better at accumulating higher quality items that resonate with my personal style and are flattering on me rather than chasing trends. Don't get me wrong, I still have my impulse shopping moments, but it's definitely decreasing.
In general, I need to work on being patient with finding the right pieces to update and fill my wardrobe holes rather than putting sartorial band-aids on them.
What do you like about your style and current wardrobe?
- I like that I'm usually comfortable and always look put-together no matter how casual my outfit may be. I think this is because my clothes fit really well (shout out to my tailor) and they're so ME that I look effortless and at ease in them. I also like that I have the confidence to wear pretty much whatever I want regardless of what people think.
Which aspects of your style and wardrobe need work?
- I need to work on cold weather clothing that I feel just as comfortable and put-together in. This is super important since it's gloomy for like 9 months out of the year in Seattle.
What new skills do you want to learn?
- I want to learn how to set and stick to a monthly clothing budget.
Phew! So, did this make you miss posting Myspace surveys on your bulletin or what? Feel free to leave your answers to any of these questions in the comments.