The Curated Closet Series No. 1

Confession: I love clothes.  I’m sure this is pretty obvious, but I’ve never really admitted it.  So there, I said it.  I love clothes.  It hasn’t always been a happy relationship, though.  For most of my life I couldn’t afford or fit into many of the clothes I actually wanted.  In some cases, the clothes didn’t even exist.  Anyone remember trying to find mid-rise jeans in the early ’00s, when all of the stores only sold low rise?  Ugh. #SayNoToCrack

So when I started making some money, and then sewing my own clothes, it opened up a whole new world of possibilities.  I could have all of the clothes I’d only dreamed of before – and I did.  I quickly filled my once-sparse closet, then moved on to other spare closets in the house before caving and buying a standing clothing rack that’s now sitting in the middle of my bedroom.  It’s a sad, overwhelming situation, since I don’t even wear half of the items regularly.

This past May was the first time I’d really paid attention to my wardrobe choices.  It was mainly because of Me Made May and the fact that I was recording every single thing I wore in order to keep myself accountable. Long story short: my most-worn handmade items were my jeans and two button down shirts.  Not at all what I would have described as “my look.”  I kept telling myself throughout the month that I needed a style edit, but never really committed to figuring out what my style was.

I have changed a few things, though. I’ve been more conscious about what I make and what I buy.  I make far fewer impulse purchases of fabric, patterns, and notions.  In fact, I haven’t purchased any new fabric in over 3 months.  I try to take my time and make a well-fitting, long-lasting garment that I know I’ll wear.  I sew muslins and tweak the fit as I go.  Overall I’m happy with my new approach, but I still can’t decide on a cohesive look.

So I’m going back to The Curated Closet (by Anuschka Rees) and starting fresh.  Usually when I feel like I need a wardrobe overhaul, I end up dumping out my closet, donating a ton of stuff, and then struggling to figure out how to actually wear what I have left.  Add to that the eventual regret that comes with throwing out pieces I actually loved wearing, and it’s really just a recipe for disaster.  Please tell me you’ve been through this struggle too!

This book is different, though.  It has a nice and slow approach to finding your style, and no “one size fits all” guide for dressing.  Because honestly, if I see one more Pinterest board telling me I absolutely need a white button down and leopard flats, I’ll totally lose it.  I mean, I have leopard flats and I love them, but still, I don’t think rules or formulas are all that helpful.  I guess I just don’t like following recipes.

So far I’ve completed the first few tasks: documenting my outfits for two weeks and then answering a set of questions based on these outfits.  As it turns out, this is an exercise in identifying the problems in my wardrobe.  I won’t force you to look at everything I wore, but here are some of the decent selfies.  I’ll also note here that, in order to keep it as “real” as possible, I didn’t force myself to get dressed if I wouldn’t normally (like on a lazy Sunday), and I also didn’t impose any me-made vs. RTW rules (there’s some of both).

Friends, before we get started on the analysis, let me just say one thing.  My life is pretty boring.  I’m mostly a homebody and my rare outings, other than for work, are usually for a family event.  That being said, I don’t think I am a particularly boring person.  I like to learn and I’m not afraid to try new things.  When I do go out, I enjoy traveling and exploring new places (when I have the budget for it).  While I’m less adventurous now than I was, oh 5 years ago, I still like to think I have a zest for life.

So all of this is to say that I don’t think my wardrobe reflects who I am.  Since sewing (and thus fashion) is such a big part of my life, I feel like my clothes should, at the very least, express my personality.  The book, in its status quo questionnaire, asks you to define your style (based on your two weeks of outfits) in three adjectives.  I chose: contemporary, modest, and casual.  And I think that’s pretty true.  I was most comfortable in skinny jeans/pants, with simple button down blouses or knit tops.  Nothing vintage, risqué, or fancy about that.

However, this is not necessarily how I want to define my style, if that makes sense.  I’ve felt this way for a long time, and I think that the multitude (two pages!) of questions in this section helped me to make some sense of what’s not working in my current wardrobe.  For example, I learned that I tend to gravitate towards pants and simple tops because they are comfortable and easy to wear for my lifestyle.  Often, though, this is where I stop.  I don’t generally add layering pieces, like sweaters or blazers, and hardly ever wear accessories.  Because of this, I think my look isn’t as put-together as I’d like it to be.

Also, as much as I tell myself that I love prints and colors, I don’t have a lot of it in my closet.  The same goes for interesting details, like rich textures, embroidered collars, scalloped cuffs or monogrammed pockets (don’t judge) – I could easily add them because I make my own clothes, but for some reason I don’t.  Maybe it’s because I’m in a rush to finish, or I worry I’ll ruin the garment.  These are things I need to start thinking about as I plan my future projects.

I noticed that I have a lot more summer clothes than winter clothes – probably due to the fact that I have more sewing time in the summer.  And I also realized that I don’t give color much thought when choosing fabric or projects.  Even though I think I look best in warm tones in shades of peach and rust, I end up sewing with a lot of cool blues and greens.  And the amount of black in the pictures above kind of shocks me!  Not at all what I picture myself wearing in my head.  It’s sort of crazy to think that you have this mental projection of yourself that does not match what others see.

At the end of this exercise, you’re asked to set some goals for yourself.  I’ve decided that my primary goal is to create a wardrobe that expresses my personality.  To work towards that goal, I’d like to learn how to choose pieces that perfectly mix and match into my wardrobe.  Also, to learn how to pair different prints and layer items in a way that looks like it is intentional and not like I got dressed in the dark.  And, finally, how to style my hair and do my makeup to match the look I’m going for.  I realize that last one is not really a wardrobe goal, but it is a style goal, and I think it will help.  And you’d never know it by looking at me, but I hoard makeup almost as much as I hoard fabric!

Has anyone else worked through this book?  What are your thoughts?



  1. Tanit-Isis

    That actually sounds like a fun approach to style—normally I shy away from anything resembling wardrobe planning because I’m all “I don’t wanna follow your rules!” I know my “look” tends to ebb and flow over time—and I know what you mean about the things you actually wear not projecting the style that’s in your head.

    Have fun! I’m curious to see where this takes you. 🙂

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      I know what you mean! I feel like I kind of know what I like, but I need some guidance to make it all work together. I’m working on a “style file” of looks now and I can already tell I’m all over the place!

  2. Sophie

    I have the exact same problem and anoushka rees’ blog has been so helpful in getting down to the specific issues. A colour palette that feels really “me” is now at the core of the changes I intend to make. Also, I love wearing woven shirts, but my closet is full of knits, all of them bought with “have to have something for playing with the kids”. I should never have let house-holdy practicality govern my fashion choices! That was bound to lead straight to the Land of Blah.

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      Oh I’m glad it’s been working for you! I keep hearing good stories, so it’s all really encouraging. Practicality can really get you! I’ve always worked in labs that had strict dress codes (for safety) – so I wore jeans and black dress pants almost daily for years! Very blah.

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