Hello and welcome to blog #32. I’m 5 days away from leaving on a month-long trip to New Zealand and so my mind has wandered to packing and putting outfits together. I’ll post later this week on the joy and pain of packing – there’s something to look forward to, huh? Today I’ll focus on the idea of mixing and matching clothing to form outfits.
Sets. I had a friend in Sydney many years ago who was a “set” dresser. And by that, I’m not referring to her occupation. She had outfit sets (this top with those pants; this skirt with that blouse; and so on). And she never wore those items of clothing in any other way than those pre-set combinations. If Top A and Bottom A were a “set”, then Top A was never torn asunder from that set and worn with say Bottom B. Let alone Bottom C, D, or E, yikes abroad. Nosiree. Whilst one part of my brain loved the tidiness and symmetry of this system, another part of me resisted the rigidness that it imposed on her wardrobe. Why, you may ask, did she have such an inelastic approach to combining her clothing?
Fear. I’m not talking the kind of fear that has you waking up in a cold sweat at 4am. This is a smaller scale fear, which could possibly be downgraded to a general uncertainty, anxiety or doubt. My friend was quite simply frightened of making a mistake and looking like the girl that Mark Twain had in mind when he quipped “she looked like her clothes were thrown on with a pitchfork“. It was safer to keep her sets together. Even though she would never come up with a colourful, creative or even stylishly volcanic ensemble, she would also never come up with a mismatched one either. Better safe than sorry was her sartorial slogan.
Mix’n’matchin‘ packin‘. When it comes to packing, mix’n’match comes into its own. The only time you don’t have to worry about mix’n’matching when packin‘ is when you are holidaying at a nudist resort or you have a personal valet to lug your luggage in and out of taxis, on and off airport conveyor belts, and up and down hotel lifts (not to mention to offer a full unpack, repack, laundering and pressing service). Even for the shortest trip, it makes sense to coordinate your clothing so that you have the most number of outfit possibilities from the smallest number of clothing items. I have a packing chart that I found somewhere (in one of the 3 shelves of image/clothing books that I have in my library, which resides very hoity toitily in the garage). And it outlines the number of items of clothing (and which specific ones) you need for
- a leisure trip of 1 – 3 days, or 1 – 3 weeks
- a business trip of 1 – 3 days, or 1 – 3 weeks
- a leisure/business combo trip of 1 – 3 days, or 1 – 3 weeks
It’s very handy, and I have pulled it out to help me pull together what I am packing for New Zealand… but more on that later this week.
Combination City. One of the main reasons for learning to mix’n’match what you already have in your wardrobe is to increase the number of outfit choices you have. You know, how to have 108 outfits out of 4 items of clothing, that kind of thing. I don’t think it is mathematically possible to come up with 108 different outfit combinations out of just 4 items of clothing, but I’m willing to be proved wrong.
To me, this is one of the great joys of getting dressed — what new combinations can I pull together? What new way can I create of wearing this item of clothing? What can I pair these pants, that jacket, that top with, that it’s never been paired with before? It can make you discover an item of clothing anew — a pair of trousers you thought you had the number on can look quite different – fresh – worn with a new top or jacket (or top/jacket combo).
Jeans Illustrated. I pulled the combinations you see on the left here together myself. It roughly represents the direction I am taking to packing for this New Zealand trip — a truncated version for sure (there are more jeans, tops, scarves and jackets coming with me, although not more shoes) — but that’s pretty much the direction I’m headed in. I had such fun pulling that chart together! It shows how one pair of jeans can be used as a ‘base’ and a host of ‘top’ options can be used to create new and stylish outfits every day.
Wardrobe review. When I was an image consultant (for about 15 minutes in 1999 in Sydney), one of the things I particularly loved to do (and seemed to have some aptitude for) were wardrobe reviews. This was when you enter someones home, at their invitation and for money, and rifle through their closet to examine their clothing. Often the point of this exercise was three-fold (if you leave out Embarrassing The Client) which was:
- to chuck out stuff that has no business being there. These are items of clothing that are no longer ‘paying the rent’ and need to go bye-byes
- to see what could be revitalised by either revamping it, repairing it or re-pairing it with other items (in the wardrobe, or soon to be purchased)
- to identify gaps that need to be filled, the end result of which is a shopping list of clothing items
It was amazing to me how few combinations people were coming up with, and wearing, from their stock of clothing. Many clients could literally double or triple the number of outfits they could access, just by combining items that previously had never been put together. Clever, huh?
If you aren’t combining your outfits and are something of a “set” dresser, you might want to have another look at all that you have. You may have some hidden gems of outfit combinations hiding in there, amongst all the familiar items. And wouldn’t that be something to discover – new worlds of options in your closet, right now. Not only could you find some exciting and stylish combo’s that make you look good, but they’ll make you feel good, too.
And that’s what shopping your wardrobe is all about. Right?