“For someone who works in fashion, you don’t really seem to shop that much,” a friend pointed out to me recently.
I didn’t take her observation as an insult, but rather an affirmation for a different direction I had taken in terms of acquiring new additions to my wardrobe. Sure, I might still spend an hour perusing new arrivals on Net-A-Porter and regularly slip into any and all boutiques under the precipice of “research,” but it’s not like I’m pulling the trigger on a pair of new suede sandals every week.
It’s not quite breaking news, but being an active member of the fashion media requires dressing up at least a few times a week. It’s an occupational hazard, if you will. My weeks are usually packed with breakfasts with various industry friends, dinners to fête a designer collaboration, cocktail parties to toast a brand launch, galas for the industry’s beloved charity of the moment and so on. For some, a new outfit is requisite for each event — along with the necessary documentation on Instagram or maybe even a snap from whatever professional photographer is hovering nearby.
There’s a real, often unspoken, pressure to constantly shop for clothing, padding your closet with look after look of on-trend outfits. To put it frankly, getting dressed for this job can be anxiety-inducing.
For a better idea of these pressures, consider the scene from the second row during New York Fashion Week. You’re seated directly behind an Insta-famous blogger and physically ducking to dodge the flash of a camera so as to not photobomb the internet star in a paparazzi snap. It’s obvious that she’s being handsomely compensated by the designer to not only to show up at the fashion show, but also to dress head-to-toe in their creations. Seated next to the blogger is an international editor with a seemingly unhealthy obsession with Gucci. Almost every inch of her body is covered in interlocking G’s. Across the runway is another editor, who is a walking advertisement for Céline.
It’s in that setting when you begin to wonder if your Balenciaga handbag from seven months ago looks dated or if that one editor-in-chief notices that your Altuzzara trousers were acquired from a sample sale two seasons ago. It can be all-consuming and has, for me, resulted in quite a few mid-fashion week emergency shopping trips, from which I’ve emerged with more than a few questionable pieces — including at least one ill-advised corset.
After a mere ten seasons of heightened fashion anxiety, I began questioning these recurring feelings of needing to buy everything—and that haul needing to be fresh from the runway. Why couldn’t I wear my absolute favorite dress, even if its silhouette wasn’t highlighted by Harper’s Bazaar as one of the season’s top 20 trends? And really, who actually cares what year my handbag is from, especially if my non-fashion friends constantly compliment me on it?
That was when I decided it was time to make a change. I was going to bring the personal part back to personal style—and I most certainly wasn’t going to care if my outfits were in-season or not.
Now that I had settled upon changing my approach to dressing, how would I actually roll this plan into motion?
I started with a slight obsession with those impeccable women who boast about having a minimalist closet. The type quoted in magazines for owning just three dresses, two pairs of trousers, three blouses and a singular pair of jeans. That streamlined style seems so smart in theory — and for anyone who has wrestled with an insultingly small Manhattan closet — but wasn’t quite right for me. In order not to get bored with my wardrobe, I need at least one leopard print dress, a floral frock, and at least two pairs of slightly unreasonable pants. Plus
a host of graphic t-shirts, both thrifted and purchased from souvenir shops around the world, to keep in rotation. Not to mention at least a dozen pairs of shoes for the months of October to April; and another dozen for the remaining part of the year.
Then, I began to toy with the idea of becoming unrealistically strategic with my purchases. What if, I wondered, I made a mood board at the start of each year, based on a rotating cast of timeless style stars? I could look to Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen for the devil-may-care getups of trend-averse caftans and linen trousers. There would also be plenty of musing over icons such as Lauren Hutton, Grace Kelly, Ali MacGraw, Jackie Onassis and so on. I’d even start feverishly saving pictures on Instagram of home interiors from the ‘70s; those living rooms done up in shades of camel or candy-colored pastel kitchens could easily shape the color story of my closet. In my mind, I would stay true to these inspiration boards — allotting myself a budget and being hyper-specific about each purchase, to make sure it worked with the idea of the season.
Not long after that plan was set into motion, I remembered that sweet, sweet moment when an impulse shopping trip is worth it. Like that one time I found a pair of mint condition Miu Miu leather boots at a thrift shop in the Hamptons or that rust red linen top from Ulla Johnson that I discovered tucked into the corner of a Barneys in Los Angeles. I can clearly recall the victorious feeling of scoring those purchases and the moment I realized they would become a facet of my style for years to come.
Ergo, there must be other emotional ways to acquire clothing—that wouldn’t entirely drain my savings account the way an unplanned shopping spree tends to. And while on a market appointment, I discovered exactly that. Kate Birney, a publicist at The Outnet, told me all about a clothing swap that she set up with another friend, who also works in fashion.
“We were always purchasing similar pieces for events, important meetings and work trips,” she explained. “So my friend and I decided to start sharing outfits in an effort to save money. Whenever one of us has something coming up, we do a swap and instantly have a new outfit.” Kate noted that she rarely gets tired of her own clothing now.
While I’m envious of that concept (and the Ganni dress Kate was wearing while telling me this story), I simply didn’t have a friend who would fulfill the role of my sartorial twin.
But it did bring me back to the idea that style should be more like an extension of your personality, rather than a heavily regulated mandate. So I knew that in order to change my mindset, I needed to be realistic about my shopping habits. For me, that wasn’t going to include strictly enforced rules or a Marie Kondo’d closet. But it could include a little something from each of the aforementioned ideas.
I would consider how I wanted to dress for the season to come, without obsessively consulting trend roundups. I would allow the occasional impulse purchase — at least when it “sparked joy” — and I was going to start borrowing pieces from my most fashionable friends. But I was also going to keep my purchases to a minimum, buying merely what felt right and nothing more.
With all of those changes also came the decision to cut fast fashion from my diet. Since I was going to focus on items that were more timeless and were purchased to wear for longer than four months, I had no use for Zara or H&M and their shoddy runway knockoffs that would inevitably start falling apart at the seams after two wears.
This particular choice falls in line with the mentality of blogger Samantha Angelo, of The Eye Travels, who recently told me that she would rather invest in one quality piece than scoring 10 items that were merely average.
“I strive to get further and further away from fast fashion, focusing my attention and interest on talented designers who I admire, those that are creating one-of-a-kind handcrafted pieces,” Samantha noted.
By following Samantha’s advice, I noticed that my shopping choices have become greener. Not only was I eschewing fast fashion’s throwaway styles and often dodgy manufacturing practices, but I was holding onto clothing for longer periods of time. The items that I was discarding were of high quality and could easily be resold on The Real Real or Vestiaire—these pieces weren’t going to end up in a landfill anytime soon.
But most importantly, I realized that my entire take on shopping and getting dressed had become mindful, something it never was before. And there’s something so powerful to know that each dress, summery silk tank and beloved pair of jeans in my closet was there for a reason. It made getting dressed easier each day and it minimized those breakdowns where I whine about hating everything in my closet and ending up an hour late to an event. Now, regardless of what season my dress is from, I know I’ll love it for at least a few years to come.
Words: Dena Silver
Copy Editor: Sonjia Hyon
Photo 1: Style Du Monde
Photo 2: Adam Katz