This isn’t what you think.
This isn’t a post about how to dress like a man. Nor is this a post about how to please a man.
This is a post about what I have learned about style from men. Most specifically, my husband… since he has great style, and I pretty much see him every day. Over the years I’ve seen his style mature and unlike trying to observe myself (which is harder to do than it sounds) it’s been interesting to see how a person builds a wardrobe. Especially one with a consistent style, with pieces that can be worn season after season.
Well, from observing my husband this is what I’ve learned…
1. Set Limits
Perhaps men have it easy. Their trends do not move as quickly as women’s trends move. Their color palette is much more limited. I’ve heard men bemoan the lack of “selection” compared to women… because you know, they don’t have skirts, dresses, pants, and shorts to chose from. Well, they could wear dresses and skirts, but that’s up to them to decide. Anyway, the moral of the story is men outwardly have a limited palette, yet still differentiate in their own way by getting creative within certain limits.
When setting “limits,” it’s possible to identify the things that work the best. What color palette do I gravitate towards year after year? What’s the least amount of colors I can wear without getting bored? Is it possible to narrow down the types of silhouettes I wear (dresses, skirts, trousers… what types of shirts do I wear a lot of) I know a few women who always wear black, sometimes white or grey, but they keep their wardrobe very simple while simultaneously creating an iconic look for themselves. My husband also subscribes to this way of thinking, however, his range is a bit broader than a single color. But the range is specific and identifiable.
2. Build a Classic Foundation
The day I met my husband he was wearing nautical stripes. He still wears nautical stripes today. It’s kind of his thing. In his wardrobe, there are loads of variations of the nautical stripe, above are three sweaters with the stripe. He also wears a lot of shawl collar sweaters, both styles have been around for decades. Of course the cuts and fabrics vary over time, but the general outline of what works pretty much stays the same.
What are the “workhorses” in a wardrobe? A silk blouses, tee-shirts, chambray shirts? Skinny jeans or pencil skirts? Hone in on the classics and don’t be afraid to get different variations of them. I’m always amazed about how many different combinations my husband can come up with with his wardrobe. From the four sweaters I selected above, you can pretty much see that anything that will go with one sweater will go with all the sweaters. Which brings me to the next point.
3. The Modular Wardrobe
( Wearing from top left: Madewell Chambray Shirt • Raoul Leather Skirt • J.Crew Pumps • The Kooples Silk Blouse • Zara Denim Skirt • Vince Camuto D’Orsay Pumps • H&M Blouse • Jil Sander Skirt • Prada Pumps • 14th & Union Cuff)
When I started putting together my wardrobe and seeing what were the pieces that I had the longest, and began to notice a recurring theme. The pieces that survived the longest (and got the most wear) weren’t the crazy “trend” pieces that made bold statements (ahem, color blocking! sequins!)
Honing in on classic pieces with a limited color palette, I began to notice how interchangeable my wardrobe was. Look at the three looks above. Switch any of those pieces to make an outfit that still works. Building a wardrobe around a certain strain of logic isn’t always easy since we have so many great new designers and trends popping in and out, but… it’s still doable, in fact, it’s easier to determine if a trend is right for me when I can identify my style. And it’s easier to appropriate a trend the stronger my own sense of style is.
The Benefits of Committing to a System
Knowing where I am style-wise, it makes it easier to determine what to splurge on, what to save on and what to skip altogether. That white skirt above is a Jil Sander skirt purchased in 2007. I wear it several times a year, so if something happens to it, I know I can invest in a white a-line skirt without feeling like it’s taking too big a risk. The same goes for chambray shirts (I have six) or the white button down (I have five) which all get worn throughout the year.
I really believe that style comes evolves out of wearing a certain set amount of clothes. More clothes do not mean more style (although shopping IS fun). I know this from chasing loads of different styles and not always feeling the most comfortable…. which is fine, because now I KNOW what I like instead of guessing. Committing to a system has helped me to feel more confident in my choices, they may not be the most trendy all the time, but I know I love them. At the same time, a good foundation can also be updated with trendy pieces, a statement cuff here, a pretty belt there, the latest “it” bag, and so forth!
Do you have a system for how you dress? Do share![Top image credit: The New York Times & Second Image credit: Pinterest]