09 Mar 2017 • • by Heather Lou

Refining My Personal Style // Lessons From the Curated Closet

Self drafted white linen shirt dress pattern-21

I've mentioned the book The Curated Closet a few times on the blog now. Based on the wonderful Into Mind style blog by Anuschka Rees (which was one of the inspirations behind the Wardrobe Architect series on the Colette blog a few years ago), it promises something elusive: that with some thought and analysis it is possible to dig down and actually figure out a definable personal style.

The idea that I could somehow figure this out was extremely appealing, since I've often had a hard time defining what my personal style actually is  (as far back as 2014 I've wrestled with it here on the blog). My style has always been pretty eclectic; as someone who has always loved fashion and getting dressed, my style has changed and morphed more times than I can count, especially as I moved through my "Who the hell am I?" twenties and into my "No but seriously, WHO AM I?!?" early thirties.

For the most part, I am a lot less stressed about who I am and what my style is and says about me these days. Is it the benefit of getting a little older and caring a lot less what people think? Or having a career that really fulfills me and takes up a lot of the mental energy I used to spend thinking about getting dressed? Or perhaps it's being in a strong, committed relationship with a man I don't need to impress or dress up for in order to be loved. (Personal confession time: When I was younger, I feel like I rarely "dressed for other women", as the saying goes. In my hunt for a partner over the last 15 years, I think I was often getting dressed with the intention of finding a ma-yan. Now that I've found him, I've discovered that clothing is completely irrelevant to keeping our love going, although I'm sure that cleavagey top I wore on our first date didn't hurt our chances).

Basically, I am much calmer about fashion than I've ever been before. I'm a homebody in a relationship who works a lot and has two dogs; it's kind of hard to freak out about what to wear when you're just going to the park for an hour or cooking dinner at home. What I need from my wardrobe has become really clear, and those needs are pretty simple.

What I wanted to do was really refine my current ideas about style and fashion into a cohesive vision that would let me build a highly functional wardrobe perfectly suited to my lifestyle. I wanted to get rid of all the filler, and create a more minimal closet filled with only things that I really love and that actually work for me. As much work as it turned out to be, I am really grateful for all the exercises in The Curated Closet, since it really forces you to think about your lifestyle and wardrobe in a highly analytical and borderline obsessive way (if you want to get truly nerdy about it, Anuschka created a PDF workbook that I found really helpful).

One of the first things I did was go through my dozens of public and hidden pinterest boards to pull out the images that really spoke to me in a meaningful way. This is a pretty intuitive exercise, and what surprised me is how clearly themes started emerging, and what ideas have been pretty consistent for a long time (I will clearly never stop loving 70s fashion).

What is consistent: I am undoubtedly attracted to neutrals, since my boards were dominated by grey, cream and black. Comfort and coziness were well represented; I clearly have never seen a slouchy cashmere sweater I didn't want to immediately jump into. I like layers and texture, playing with volume and proportion. I love things that are covered up and sexy at the same time. I like flashes of skin in unexpected places. I worship at the altar of natural fibers, and am drawn to clean, modern shapes without a lot of fussy, extraneous detail. Even when a particular style plays with a more avant garde or menswear inspired sensibility, it is still feminine and a little glamourous. I am also having a real moment with unfitted silhouettes, and love the comfort of unstructured dresses and tops.

If I had to define my current personal style, I'd describe it as "cozy minimalist chic". Here's what it looks like.


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These images really capture what I find alluring right now. Here is the overall vibe I'm going for:

  • That elusive Parisian chic
  • Beautiful but refined details
  • Monochromatic with pops of intentional colour
  • Clean and minimalist, nothing without purpose and intent
  • Comfortable, soft, cozy, warm
  • Understated 1970s inspired glamour
  • Subtle sexiness
  • Thoughtful proportions and layers


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I definitely have strong feelings about shapes and silhouettes. While I used to really love the waist defined New Look style, I am much more about interesting pants and looser fitting dresses and tops these days. I think this is definitely the result of not having a nightlife or office job to dress up for; I'm all about comfort. Here's what I want to wear:

  • Oversized sweaters with slim fitting pants
  • Boxy oxfords with skinny jeans
  • High-waisted pants with cropped shirts
  • Full skirts for dressing up
  • Sack or trapeze dresses
  • Structured or architectural shift dresses
  • Maxi skirts and dresses
  • Flared jeans and tshirts
  • Maxi cardigans with comfy pants for a luxe homebody look
  • Jumpsuits with full legs
  • Slim oxford shirts with boyfriend jeans
  • Unfitted coats
  • Camisoles tucked into jeans
  • Blazers with slim fitting tops and jeans
  • Flowy caftans

In terms of individual items, these are the key ingredients in my wardrobe:

  • High waisted skinny jeans
  • Maxi skirts, sweaters and dresses
  • Oversized oxford skirts
  • Slouchy sweaters
  • Statement coats
  • Sack/trapeze dresses
  • Silk camis
  • Striped tshirts and shift dresses
  • Jumpsuits
  • Jean jackets & blazers
  • Wide legged, cropped trousers
  • Comfortable but stylish lounge pants
  • Simple tops with dramatic shapes

I did a massive closet purge this year, and plan on doing another one this spring since we'll be moving and I want to really downsize just about everything I own. I'm so happy I took the time to really think about what I want out of my wardrobe. I feel much more confidant now that I have a clear vision moving forward, and have a really clear sewing agenda I'll be talking about in an upcoming post.

It's funny to think about all this stuff in relation to my business, since I can't help but design sewing patterns that reflect my taste, even when I'm trying to think about what you would also like to wear. Having said that, I have started and abandoned quite a few patterns that I felt were probably a little too specific to my particular lifestyle (the tote bag you can carry your dog in comes to mind, haha), so I would hope that even if you don't closely identify with my own personal style journey, you'll still find designs that will work for you. The beautiful thing about a well designed pattern is that it theoretically should be able to work for anyone, since we're all putting our individual stamp on it.

Have you done a similar analysis of your wardrobe? How would you define your personal style? I love hearing about how people have defined this process for themselves!

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