On finding the perfect “…”

by jamie-lee on August 19, 2015, 14 comments

finding the perfect

image source unknown

I’ve been thinking a lot about perfection lately. The perfect candle, the perfect red lipstick, the perfect pair of ballet flats. It’s no secret that over the last couple of years, my wardrobe has become simple, easy, minimal even. I’ve been shifting my mindset to quality over quantity (although truthfully, to begin with, it was a bit of both…), and for the large part, I was consumed with the idea that everything I bought had to be perfect. The perfect leather trousers, the perfect button up silk blouse, the perfect pair of Chelsea boots. It’s the type of thinking that can only breed dissatisfaction (at least, that was part of my own experience), and I started to wonder, was I really any better off?

Kali of the Nife en L’air and possibly even Dead Fleurette (if memory serves me correctly) touched on this idea of finding garments and accessories which fit our definition of ‘perfect’. The minute specifications which can turn an ordinary white shirt into a seemingly spectacular one; ‘perfect’, even. The length of the sleeve, hidden placket or no, fit through the body, stiffness of the collar. Which when you think about it as a whole, seems completely arbitrary, if all you’re after is a simple, crisp, white cotton shirt.

I’ll admit it, I’m a type A perfectionist. I have high standards, particularly when it comes to my wardrobe, so the bar is already set when it comes to any new additions.

Having spent hours upon hours trawling through online stores, or digging through the racks at a local shopping mall, it started to dawn on me. Will I ever find something which embodies this definition of perfect? And what is that worth to me? Is it really worth the time that I spent searching for it (obsessively)? How about six months on?

What I found was that all this time spent hunting down the ‘perfect’ anything was essentially fruitless. At first, it seemed fulfilling, to find that something which was so attuned to your specific tastes that it felt like it must be fate. Okay, maybe I’m romanticizing it a little – it’s hard not to. The truth of the matter is, tastes change, the seed of a thought or an idea of a thing might not seem so desirable once you’re finally detached from the situation of searching, looking, and finding. Somehow, I’ve managed to reach a point where I’ve truly s-l-o-w-e-d down the influx of clothing into my wardrobe, and the Five Piece French Wardrobe Challenge works to support that and (hopefully) keep me on the straight and narrow. Rather than scrutinize my wardrobe for things I can part with, I look at the ways I can wear what I have.

2014 seems to truly have been a year of accumulating high-quality garments and simple wardrobe basics, which has to a large extent, worked in my favor (well, maybe not so much for my bank account – hah!).

One thing I did do was hugely change my approach towards shopping, focusing on the brands I know and can trust. I’ve stopped thinking in terms of ‘needing something now’, and instead, made do with what I have. There will always be time for new things, and a wardrobe can definitely wait. Truthfully, this was the biggest mindset to change, given that I was so prone to shopping on impulse for fear of missing out.

But back to the brands that I know. I’ve eschewed the practice of shopping around and instead focused on a few brands that I’ve found myself purchasing from again and again. It’s all about knowing what to expect when it comes to the fit, the style and the quality. I can easily pick out a few key pieces a season (we don’t need everything…) and be fairly confident that they’re going to work with what I currently have, in addition to fitting correctly. A lot of the brands are local, like Lover, Karen Walker, Ellery or Ruby, and the others, like 3.1 by Phillip Lim, Charlotte Olympia, J Brand and Everlane are easily within reach via the internet. I know that I can count on these brands, and I’m pretty happy to limit myself in that respect.

When making a new purchase, the questions I tend to ask myself now lean more towards: Do I feel comfortable in this? Does it fit my needs? and Does it blend in seamlessly with my current wardrobe?

If it fits my needs and looks good – perfect. If it’s unflattering, I’ll return it or won’t even hesitate to put the hanger back on the rack. Which… is pretty much what I was doing before, but without all the fuss over the minor details (and I know, I know, a small detail can make a garment!). It’s about finding something that is adequate, that is functional, and that won’t result in overthinking the shopping process – something that the very idea of minimalism should embody, yet in every example I’ve seen, has done quite the opposite.

We are so hard wired to consume, consume, and then consume some more that the mere thought that I was still trapped in this cycle had never occurred to me. Every day we are faced with hundreds, if not thousands of ads, and I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t give in to temptation every now and then. Through all of my obsessive searches, I’d uncover something new. Perhaps a chic French label I barely knew existed, and all of a sudden I’d be after one of their black skirts because it seemed better, newer, and more ‘perfect’ than the one I already owned. See what I’m talking about? It unnecessarily made me unhappy with what I already had, and just fueled the consumer within me. More so than that, it stopped me from enjoying the things that I already owned – which were lovely to begin with.

Kali describes it perfectly – the shift from perfection to adequacy. A personalization of sorts which tailors the purchases you make to your lifestyle, which has been a somewhat natural progression and describes my situation so succinctly.

If we just quickly get a little serious for a moment, when I was completing my post-grad Marketing studies, one thing that struck me was the comparison of happiness levels between two different types of shoppers: the one which would find something which met their needs (a cerulean blue jumper), and the other which would research and exhaust all options before finally making a decision. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the happier of the two was the person who spent less time focusing on the decision making process, and more time just getting on with it. Too much choice, is far from a blessing in disguise – it’s a hindrance, and of course will cause you to question whether you really did make the right choice in the end. And so, it makes you think, will all the research and active comparisons between four similar pairs of skinny jeans really be worth it?

All of this is not to say that I don’t love fashion, because the simple truth is, that I do, wholeheartedly and unreservedly. Instead, it’s more to do with tackling this idea of attaining perfection – in any area of our lives. And in case you’re wondering, yes, I’m still experimenting, if only a little. One of my (not so) recent purchases, an Ellery 60s style swing dress is a perfect example of this – it’s fun, it’s youthful, and it’s unlike anything that I already own. Truth be told, the thing I like most about the dress is that I came across it almost by chance, and it fit with my desire to add a few more dresses to my wardrobe (which I’m hoping will be work-appropriate). There was no planning, no agonizing over whether a similar style would be better; I liked it, I thought about it overnight, and the next day, I bought it. Simple.

Given that I know I’m not the only one who has been swept up in this trend of minimalism, I would love to know your own experiences; how have you approached finding the perfect ‘…’? Would you stop searching for perfection in place of finding something which is just adequate?

Closet Confidential TAG

by jamie-lee on August 16, 2015, 6 comments

I’ve written a lot about the different challenges that I’ve been undertaking in an effort to really reduce my spending on my wardrobe and focus on the basics or investment pieces as it were, and very little about much of what actually is in my closet. Verena of My Green Closet very recently tagged me on YouTube to share a little bit more about my wardrobe, so I thought I’d share it with you here too. I rather shamelessly enjoy watching videos like this (and makeup collection videos – even if they are terribly enabling!) so had a bit of fun rifling through my wardrobe to uncover the answers to these questions…

What is the oldest item in your closet?
There’s no one particular piece which stands out to me as the oldest, however I’d hazard a guess that it’s either a grey cashmere cardigan I have from Karen Walker’s ‘The Village’ collection, or the serpent lace dress from Lover. Both have fared pretty well over the years; the KW cardigan is still one of my favourites and has managed to survive many wardrobe culls over the years, and the Lover lace dress holds a very special place in my heart. It’s one of those pieces which always makes me feel good, and that I reach for when I have a special occasion coming up.

What is the newest?
The newest addition to my wardrobe is a pair of simple black pointed toe ballet flats from ASOS. I walk more than an hour a day just to get to and from work, so I wanted to pick something up that was work appropriate and that I wouldn’t mind thrashing a little bit.

What is the most expensive item?
I have a few items that I’ve really splashed out on, but I would say the most expensive would be my Proenza Schouler PS11 satchel. When I purchased it – four years ago now – it was a very big deal to me (and still is) to part with so much money in one go, but it has been very much one of my most loved and worn pieces.

What is the biggest bang for your buck?
I very rarely find myself wandering into chain-stores or fast fashion style outlets, as I prefer to invest in quality over quantity. But when it comes to basics, I’ve found some of the most durable and affordable pieces have come from places like Uniqlo or Zara. One of the ones which has really been able to do a lot of double duty has been a simple black muscle tank from Glassons. The cotton is so soft it feels almost like suede, and I liked the particular style I have so much that I bought three (!!) of them.

What was the biggest bargain?
I tend to find myself browsing eBay (or Trade Me in NZ) quite a lot, and it’s been the source of many bargains I’ve picked up over the years. The one which stands out the most to me is a grey wool flannel skirt from Karen Walker, which set me back about $20; maybe less… (retail, I wouldn’t hesitate to assume this would have been in the range of about $300 or so). This is one of those multi-tasking pieces which is so easy for the weekend with a loose fit tee or a jersey, or alternatively for the office with a smart pair of shoes and a silk blouse.

What was the biggest waste of money?
Many of the pieces that I would classify as a ‘big waste of money’ have since left my wardrobe so it’s not an easy one to pinpoint. For me it would be anything that was bought, and not worn at all, which unfortunately happened rather regularly before I moved to Australia. Currently in my wardrobe, the only piece I’m yet to wear that I’ve been holding on to for some time are a pair of calf hair desiree pumps from Charlotte Olympia. These are leopard printed with a mesh black pompom on the toe, making them one of the more unusual pairs that I own (unless you count panda flats in that category…), and I haven’t quite found the right occasion to wear these yet. I managed to score these for a very good price considering, so I’m hanging on to them in the hopes that these might see the light of day sometime soon.

What are your three favourite items right now?
I love a silk blouse as much as the next girl, but as of late I’ve been all about soft cottons and cosy knits. My three favourite pieces right now all seem to fit into this category. The first, is a stripey long sleeve midi dress from Country Road; the second, a grey supima cotton tee from Everlane; and finally, a mohair camel ¾ sleeve jumper from J. Crew. I’m working on putting together a Spring capsule wardrobe (yes.. another round of Project 333 is coming my way) and I have a strong feeling that all three of these will pop up in there somewhere.

I hope that you all enjoyed reading (or watching!) this tag! x

Purrrr-fect

by jamie-lee on August 14, 2015, 4 comments

charlotte olympia kitty leather card case

Charlotte Olympia feline card case

If there’s one thing I’ve been dying to get my hands on, it’s been this ever-so-sweet kitty card case from Charlotte Olympia. I wouldn’t class myself as a crazy cat lady by any means – yet – but I am rather partial to any feline-themed accessory that seems to cross my path.

My kitty flats have definitely gone the distance over the last three years; and somehow, I have a feeling that it’ll be no different with this cute kitty card case. The purr-fect winter pick me up if there ever was one.

Lavender

by jamie-lee on August 12, 2015, 5 comments

karen walker country road everlane silk cami celine trioEverlane silk cami, Country Road cardigan, Karen Walker skirt, Charlotte Olympia ‘virgo’ flats, Celine trio

Winter always has me getting a little bit of cabin fever. There’s only so many days of wearing the same black sweater and same pair of trousers that I can take. Our weekends have been blissfully sun-drenched for the last few weeks so I’ve been taking the opportunity to bare a little skin and soak up a bit of that beautiful winter sun where I can. Pastel coloured accessories optional, of course.

NARS Pure Radiant Tinted Moisturiser

by jamie-lee on August 10, 2015, 3 comments

NARS pure radiant tinted moisturiser review
NARS pure radiant tinted moisturiser review

I’ve been hunting high and low for a new base which doesn’t irritate my skin, and after months of going (mostly) bare faced, I decided to take the plunge and splurge on the NARS Pure Radiant Tinted Moisturiser. With such sensitive skin, I’m always hesitant when it comes to trying new face creams or foundations – which is a huge part of why I was so late to the beauty game – so it’s always a relief to come across something new which I can actually use on a daily basis.

I picked this up in the shade Light 3/Groenland and it’s a perfect match for my fair winter skin. It’s light coverage, and blends into the skin really well; but best of all, is that it really adds a glow that gives your face that ‘lit from within’ look. The product itself has a very light, mousse-y consistency to it that just seems to absorb into the skin rather than sit on top of it, like I find the Laura Mercier tinted moisturiser tends to do (although that is also much higher coverage).

I’ve been applying this one of three ways; with a flat top kabuki brush, with a beauty blender, or with my fingers, all with considerably similar results. Applying it with a beauty blender provides the sheerest level of coverage as the moisture from the sponge soaks up a little bit of the product, but I prefer the dewier finish it has over the other two application methods.

While I’m still cringing at the lost product in the swatch – oh the things we do for beauty… – there’s no denying that this has fast become one of my holy grail beauty products, I’ve seldom gone a day since without slapping a bit of this tinted moisturiser on my face. For a girl with oily/combination skin, I’ve always naturally gravitated towards face products that promise to matey my skin rather than bring the glow, like this so aptly does with its dewy finish. A product that lives up to both the hype, and its cult beauty status.