When I was about 12 years old mother gave me once a piece of fashion advice. Its doesn’t matter, she said, if you have 10 tops hanging in your closet. People on the street will only see that one badly made.
It took me a better part of 20 years to follow her advice. I remember going to an outlet during my holiday in Miami and coming back with…stuff. Lots of it. I eyed up a silk forest green shirt from Dolce & Gabbana but I didn’t get it at the end because I thought it was too expensive. Still, I don’t remember any other stuff I got save for a grey jumper from Gap, which I gave away after a few months anyway. I bitterly regretted that I wasted the money instead putting it towards the shirt, which I bet I would still be wearing today.
There is something about quality- you instantly know it when you see it. It’s about the cut, fabric, stitches and that small detail, sometimes just a zip or a button in the right place. Chose well and you will get that high quality, low maintenance look favored by the cool girls.
I’m sure that you’ve read all about that insouciant, nonchalant Parisian style. Say Parisian and you conjure images of bed headed, effortless looking beauties straight from Isabel Marant catwalk. The truth is, it’s a style that’s build around great quality basics. Get them right and you will be the best and most effortlessly dressed girl in the room.
Here’s my list of essentials:
1.Great coat. If you only buy one thing in winter, make it the most expensive coat you can afford. This is something that general public will see you in 80% of the time for some five months of the year. It will instantly elevate your outfit to another level. What’s the point of wearing an expensive dress under a dowdy coat? If you go for something classic, it will last you a number of years. Trust me, if it’s truly great you will not want to buy another one for sometime. I bought my Burberry navy wool trench on sale last year and despite falling for cheaper, “now” coats, this is the one I choose when I want to look sharp. It somehow tucks me in, in all the right places and makes me look slimmer. I will be wearing it for many years to come.
2.Cashmere jumper. You know when they say that a good quality one will last you for several years? It will if you take care of it (I’ve put couple of mine through a washing machine on hot cycle. Big mistake). But equally important is the cut- a few inches can take it from frumpy to cool. My current obsession are jumpers from Joseph- they make me look slimmer (minus 3 kilo slimmer) and are my default item for every occasion from getting Sunday newspaper to anniversary dinner with my man. There is something about the sleeves, slim and super long that make the whole silhouette look slender and kind of effortless looking. I used to hand wash my cashmere jumpers in a special shampoo and then dry them flat on a towel. I got lazy so those nice guys at the dry cleaners know me by my first name.
3.Tailored jacket. I used to lust after YSL tux before I got my Burberry one (on sale at £140 down from £500- stay tuned for my second part of London shopping guide if you want to know where to get those bargains). It’s a piece you will throw on for an instant put together look- doesn’t matter if you are wearing a pair or ripped jeans and converse sneakers or a dress with heels. Whatever version you choose- whether its a fitted or ”oversized’’ one, make sure it fits on the shoulders otherwise it will look like a hand me down from a bigger sister. Wool and wool blends are great- they won’t make you sweaty and shiny. I’ve seen a great looking tux from Rag & Bone on sale but would you really pay $240 for polyester? No, thanks. I often jazz my tux up with a belt I steal from The French (boys’ old battered belts are the best but also look for a new season updates i.e kimono belt).
4.Leather trousers. The quality pants, made of soft, buttery leather are painfully expensive but so worth it. Stuck for what to wear and going to a party? Just put on leather trousers, denim shirt (try raw denim for an instant next season update) or that James Perse tee and you are ready to go. Your look will convey certain nonchalance, kind of “I grabbed the first thing from the pile and happen look the coolest in this room but do I care?” look. Everyone else will look overdresses and contrived in comparison.
5.Great t-shirt. I used to believe that no t-shirt should cost more than £15-£20 and even then I thought it was steep. That was until I got my first American Vintage tee and noticed the differences in cut and quality of the fabric. It translated into how beautifully it hangs on me, revealing a little bit of collarbone, slouchy in all the right places without drowning my frame. My recent acquisition is a super soft grey tee by Zoe Karssen. The trouble is that once you cross a certain price threshold, what’s stopping you from paying for a tee the same price that for a pair of jeans? Somebody please tell me I don’t need Sabeen by The Row in my closet!
6.Mid heel shoes. I got my first pair by accident by which I mean that I didn’t set out to buy anything other then my usual high heels. I was so used to buying sky high stilettos that I’ve never really realised how liberating mid- heels are. You can navigate the streets looking chic but don’t need to lean on anyone for support. Sure, I still can’t resist the pull of high heels but I try to get something lower for an every day use. I started to get really annoyed when I spot a pair that looks great but is completely unwearable. Recently I saw a pair of Isabel Marant runway boots on sale and rushed to try them on lest someone gets there first. They were so high that I would have to have a driver to ferry me from place to place. I felt oddly betrayed- I’ve always thought that a woman designer would know what other women need. When it came to choosing my Rockstuds by Valentino, I happily chose the low heel version knowing that I will be able to wear them every day. Because that’s the thing about great basics- there is no point in saving them for better tomorrow. Better tomorrow is now.
7.Great bag. Sure, I’m not telling you anything new here. Don’t fall into the trap of buying the latest It bag. For me, it only signifies that its owner tries too hard. As opposed to shoes which should be in pristine condition, good bag looks even better with age. I love inconspicuous looking classics but that’s not always possible when for example the bag of your choice sports a double C logo (Guilty as charged. But I bought my bag second hand in a dress agency in 2007 and it gets better with age so I’m not looking to update it yet). In any event, an older bag conveys nonchalance and confidence, saying to the world that the wearer knows her style, has faith in her choices and doesn’t need the latest arm candy to convince others of her taste.
Now imagine you have a few minutes to pack for a surprise trip to Paris. Or perhaps you know you are going to bump into “the one that got away” on the street. Would you wear those pieces? You would be so glad you were wearing them.
The photos were taken this summer in Montmartre, Paris. I’m wearing Isabel Marant pour H&M silk top and leather pants, Burberry tux, Valentino courts and Chanel 2.5 handbag.