Friday, March 9, 2012

Textile Friday: The Core 60%

"Always wear clean underwear, you never know what's going to happen."
-My Aunt Mimi's advice to my 16 year old tomboy self on the importance of showers and regular laundry

          Welcome back! Last week you got your core color and 6-7 best colors. Now what? Color without fabric makes for some drafty days. Beautiful painted models are all very well for art shows, but the rest of us need a little help to look our best. How do you create this help without ruining your closet and pocketbook? You begin by building your core wardrobe. Every wardrobe is built on style and fashion. The core is the style part of your wardrobe and will make up 60% of your wardrobe as well as 60% of your clothing budget. You will buy 1 piece per season to go in your core wardrobe.
           The core wardrobe is the bulk of your clothing that you wear every day and primarly composed of solid colors, clean uncluttered lines, and good tailoring. Exclamation good tailoring! Tailored clothing will make you look 30 pounds slimmer. It should not pucker, sag, or pull. Put your money in clothing that makes you look good. You save your quirky taste or print you love for your fashion wardrobe. Look at yourself in the mirror when picking out style pieces and ask yourself, "Does this piece make me look good?"  Your core wardrobe should be easy for you to care for, clean, and as high a quality as you can afford. You may pick up your fashion piece for the season at a corner stall or as an impulse, but great care should taken when picking core fashion pieces as you can have them for decades.
          While fashion may change every season, in general style changes every generation (15-20 years). Another name some designers use is silhouette. The picture below is our current silhouette for women which just finished the drafting cycle in 2009-2011. Prior to that, it was done in the early 1950s, 1970s, and 1990s. In another 20 years it will change and all the master patterns will be redrafted probably around 2030. This accounts for any changes in population size such as height or weight. It is normally the result of several years of research. The data this revision is based on actually began in 2005.
         The core pieces of your wardrobe will follow these general lines. In order of importance, they are currently:

1. Coat (2-4): You will need at least one dressy coat and one casual coat. You can splurge and get  a raincoat, but many people combine their casual coat with their raincoat. Your dressy coat should be longer either 3 quarters or full to cover a formal tux (remember the tails) or formal opera dress. Many dressy coats are milk, fur, or wool. Your more casual coat can be shorter. Many are waist length.

2. Suit (1-3): You will need at least 1 good "interview" suit and 1 more casual suit. If you are in an office environment that demands daily suit use, you may want to add take special care to get extra separates that go with your primary suit. For example when buying your suit, buy a second pair of matching pants. Many good suits are traditionally wool, but Liz Claiborne has popularized cotton and washable suits in the 1960s-1970s which are an acceptable alternative if you are younger and/or can not afford regular drycleaning. Be honest about yourself about what your actual ability to clean is. Beautiful dirty clothes are not as attractive as slightly less expensive clothing that you can care for.

3.Dresses (1-3):  Go in an out of fashion, if you are man, you should substitute another suit or two for this or specialty . Dresses can be substituted around the world for any costume related to your culture. In some countries you may be buying a kimono, sari, or other traditional garment. Your opinion on dresses will determine if they are a core wardrobe item or not. Most women need a casual dress and an after 5 dress. You casual dress should be something easy to wear to a cook-out or afternoon event that can be dressed up with good jewelry to a more serious function like church. An after 5 dress is a period piece that changes with the seasons, I actually think of mine as a piece of fashion, not style, but then my normal life has never featured daily lascivious dinner parties.

4. Separates (15): In general this is the bulk of most modern wardrobes as they can be mixed and matched. Admittedly, I have more than 5 tops, this is one of the places I'm guilty of substituting dresses for separates as I'm not much of a dress kinda gal. You will need 5 tops: 1 dressy , 2 casual, 1 shell (sleeveless top meant to be worn under heavier items), and 1 shirt. I have closer to 5 t-shirts to get through a week of wash. Next you will need 2 jackets for everyday wear, 3 skirts, and several pairs of pants.

5. Handbags (1-3): Of the 3 handbags you should have, 1 will be for everyday use and should form part of your core wardrobe. It should be of leather and the best possible quality as it should last you many years without wear or tear. The other 2 are normally items of fashion that will generally be more updated. If you are a man substitute a briefcase or messenger bag for day handbag.

6. Shoes (5-6): My closet has more than 5 pairs of shoes, they are a personal weakness. In general you need 2 pairs for general everyday wear, 1 dressy pair, 1 evening shoe (must match you 5 o'clock dress), and boots or other shoes. Your two shoes for everyday wear are the core part of your wardrobe. They are often a pair of sneakers and leather close-toed work shoes. We will cover the fashion shoes next week. Core shoes need to be comfortable and not pinch or rub your feet. Shoes that are labeled "walking shoes" are often specifically geared to put up with the rigors of daily abuse.

7. Undergarments (7-15): If you are a man you will need 2 weeks of clean underwear (boxers, briefs, etc.) plus any specialty athletic wear like jock straps. Many men wear undershirts in addition to their normal clothes. You need at least a week's worth. You should have enough undergarments to last between wash cycles so that you are always wearing clean underwear every day. If you are a woman you will need at least 2 good bras for everyday use, 1 specialty bra that can go strapless, and at least 2 weeks of clean underwear. Swim suits, etc. are part of the fashion wardrobe and will be covered next week. Any good department store can generally help you get fitted with the right size and most have "clubs" where if you buy x number of items, you get a free bra, panties, etc. Jockey is my favorite as they have a line of machine washable stuff so I can just throw everything in the washing machine together, but good undergarments.

8. Hosiery/Socks (5-10): Like clean underwear you need at least 1 week's worth of socks. If you are athletic, this number will often double as feet sweat 1 cup of water a day. They are some of the most likely to be stinky if you do not take care of them. Good socks will be knit in the round. Athletic socks will be cotton and dress socks will normally be wool. Many good American socks now come with a lifetime warranty so it pays to shop around and buy American. An extra dollar or two on each pair may save you several hundred over a decade. Hiking/running stores seem to have some of the most durable in my experience. If you are lucky enough to live in North Carolina, you can drool over some of the sock outlet stores around Burlington. Yum, yum, yum.

             This adds up to roughly 40 items to populate a core wardrobe. This number has held true for over 200 years and you can read style books since the 1800s settle around this number for the well-dressed. Since core wardrobe clothing is made to last 15-20 years, if you buy 1 piece a season, then in 20 years you will replace every single piece in your wardrobe. There may be some common sense reasons to break this rule from time to time. It normally has to do with sales, your temperament, or the fact that many if us have to replace underwear more frequently than technically suggested. It may very well make sense to consider buying 2 bras when you get the 3rd free when you are replacing your bra. Or another year, when buying a suit, it often makes sense to go ahead and buy a second pair of pants so the following year you're not desperately searching for the pants mate. The most common example of breaking the 1 core item a season is many of my male clients would only shop every 5-10 years and instead of selecting 1 or 2 items at a go, they will replace their entire wardrobe at once.
           Do what works for you!
           Alright, I hope this has been helpful for you in building the style part of your wardrobe. This advice is all oldie, but goodie. I hope it saves you money and helps you dress better. If you would like learn more, Iowa College Professors have created a whole line of style and costume books worth reading. England also has some great books as well. Check-in next Friday when I cover the remaining part of building a wardrobe: fashion.

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