The Ease of a Minimal Wardrobe

I have a bit more than what you see here–but not much more.

Six years ago, I had twelve huge boxes' worth of clothes, shoes, and accessories. Today, my entire wardrobe could probably fit into one (if I really smushed it in, that is). I've long come to the realization that I actually despise having to think about what to wear. I've spent the past three years culling the best of my wardrobe and happily bidding farewell to the rest. Getting rid of old clothes feels like shedding off the many skins of the past. It's highly therapeutic and cathartic in that way:

Arrivederci to the many Prada sleeveless shift dresses that I will never wear ever again!

So long to all of my H&M and Zara emergency mistake purchases!

Au revoir to my vintage Courrèges silk faille top that would look so much cuter on my friend Amandine!

At the end of the day, I'm left with very few basic pieces, but they're the ones I love to wear most often. That's the goal, really, to just have pieces of clothing that are versatile and mix well together, then scour for inspiration* to fill-in-the-blanks with for the rest. How great would it be to just pack up everything in a giant suitcase and go, knowing you'll look good anytime, anywhere? 

My current wish list includes: a nice handbag, a nice jacket or blazer, a nice overcoat, and a nice pair of statement earrings. Once I have the baseline covered, I'd like to throw in: a really interesting pair of shoes, a special dress, a really elegant and sexy top, some one-of-a-kind vintage pieces, and well-tailored pants. Adding jewelry to the list might be a little bit of a reach, I think, but I do love great jewelry!


*I've always liked Angelina Jolie's monochromatic, anonymous style; Vanessa Traina has an unfussy yet chic and pulled together look; Emmanuelle Alt and Barbara Martelo nail it with everyday looks. If only I could emulate any or all of these muses...

 

A Quiet Birthday Pasta Extravaganza

I find myself being drawn to low-key birthday celebrations more and more every year. All I wanted this year was to have a very good pasta dinner with my boyfriend and his niece who's visiting from Copenhagen. I chose Angelini Osteria because of their specialty dish–linguine with Santa Barbara sea urchin, a favorite of mine–and also because it's small, family-owned, and anti-trendy. 

Everything we ordered was fantastic and reminded me so much of the osterias I dined at when I traveled to Italy years ago. During my first visit to Milan, I remember that a friend recommended we meet for dinner at "one of the best restaurants in the city". Like a typical New Yorker, I dressed to the nines, thinking it would be a glitzy and glamorous place. Instead, I found myself at a discreet restaurant in an alleyway where I stuck out like a sore thumb amongst the locals who were quietly dining in their cashmere sweaters and loafers. 

It's been some time since I've gotten dressed up like I used to. This past Thursday night, I wore an oversized black cashmere sweater (a birthday gift from my beloved earlier in the day), black leather pants, and simple black suede strappy sandals. I find that there's a certain elegance to feeling comfortable.

We all shared the linguine with sea urchin–which appeared as a special on the menu, the lasagna, and the bombolotti all'amatriciana. I forewent wine for water the entire evening. For dessert, there was a hefty serving of tiramisu with a candle on top. The waiters sang "Happy Birthday" to me in their charming Italian accent. By the time I blew out the candle, my birthday wish had already come true.

 

The Myth of the Eternal 24-Inch Waist

Once upon a time, I had a 24-inch waist. It remained that way for years throughout my twenties. A burger and a side of fries couldn't put a dent in my flat stomach. F you, carbs!!! Heh, heh, heh! "Just wait," my older girlfriends would say. I brushed off their warning and considered myself one of those blessed ones with high metabolism and good genes.

To seal the deal and ensure that I would never allow my waistline to grow beyond this most ideal measurement, I had all of my Prada, Yves Saint Laurent, Balenciaga, and Chanel clothing specially tailored to my skinny-minnie figure. These beautiful clothes were practically sewn onto my body. I wanted to be able to wear them forever, thinking they'd seal in my figure for good. 

Then, I turned 29.

I guess your metabolism does slow down. Even I, who foolishly believed that I was invincible to this fact of life, could not escape it. After being lazy about working out for three months, I found myself with fifteen extra pounds on my hands, or, more accurately: on my cheeks, tummy, hips, and thighs. Disastrous reality. It was a new me, alright. So new that I needed an entirely new wardrobe to match. Nothing zipped up.

Those three months off the track equated to nearly a year of blood, sweat, and tears in the gym. I've lost ten pounds and, as I enter my thirties, I'm now between a 25- and 26-inch waist. Those last five pounds will be the death of me, I tell you!

I learned that nothing lasts forever. Whatever became of those clothes? I certainly didn't account for the fact that my sense of style has changed. As for the 24-inch waist? Who knows, maybe I'll get there again. 

 

 

 

How To Dress Like a Chic Parisian Woman

y friend Didit is in town from Paris.* As an haute couture designer (click: Didit Hediprasetyo) and an honorary Parisian, it's only natural that I look to Didit for insights on what makes a woman's style chic. Specifically Parisian women. What's their secret? I pondered this over brunch with him this past Saturday, as we sipped on our virigin Bloody Marys at Five Points.

"So, how are the chic women in Paris dressing these days?" asked, swirling around the ice with my straw.

"Like men," he deadpanned.

"Really? I've always imagined them looking like Emmanuelle Alt... Skinny gray jeans and a t-shirt with a sharp Balmain jacket and a pair of sexy heels!"

"Sexy heels? They wear shoes like this." He gestured down at his black leather brogues. "And boyfriend jeans," he added, "Everything is a bit boxy and baggy, but you have to have a nice body to be able to pull it off. Not everyone can."

"What about beauty?" I wondered, as I proudly showed off my glossy, seashell pink nails, ""Look, I just got Shellac on my nails!"

"They don't care about manicures so much," he remarked, "I think they do it themselves. Manicures are so nice, though. That's what I love about coming to New York. There are nail salons everywhere." He took a moment to gaze down at his hands. "And they don't wear much makeup, but they do love a smoky eye–although, not so much eyeliner."

After brunch, it was his turn to ask me a style question.

"Where can I find a good thick black sweater?"

I, of course, knew just the place. "We must go to the Acne store in SoHo. They have the best selections of sweaters!"

And so we went. I made a beeline for the women's section as he perused the men's. Just as I predicted, he found not one, but three ideal sweaters. One in particular caught my eye. It was a beautifully textured black cotton sweater that was thick but not too heavy. "I think I have to try this one on," I gasped.

When I emerged from the dressing room, he nodded in approval. "Oh, Jess... This is chic." I turned around in the mirror as he pushed the sleeves up my arm, which were ever-so-slightly too long. The look was nonchalantly oversized. "Really? You think so? You don't think it looks too masculine?" I asked, even though I knew it was a done deal.

"You can wear this casually with white jeans or to dinner with tailored pants and a pair of earrings. For spring, you should wear it with shorts!" he exclaimed, taking a step back while still nodding, "Yessssss... You'll wear it all the time!"

I wore my men's sweater to lunch at Soho House today, with skinny black pants and a pair of heels. For the record, I received compliments from four men, all of whom wanted one for themselves.


*Didit and I first met in Paris in 2008 when I was covering Paris Fashion Week for an online fashion industry trends resource. I was staying at a crap hotel at the time and, after a casual gathering at his beautiful apartment in the 8th arrondissement, which was outfitted with elegantly minimal Christian Liaigre-designed furniture, he graciously invited me to stay in the guest room for the remainder of the trip. How lucky I was! It was better than any hotel I've ever stayed at in Paris. When he visits New York, he stays down the street from me at the Mercer Hotel—which I must note is also designed by Christian Liaigre.

On Traveling Light

It was my second day in Puerto Vallarta. I came down to the pool in the afternoon and saw one of the travel writers from my group stepping out of the water--an older woman who also lives in New York. She waved me over to a lounge chair next to hers. 

"Is your name 'Barbie' or 'Bobbi'?" I asked, unfolding my towel, "I've heard people call you both."

She shook her head, "It's neither. It's 'Babbie.' B-A-B-B-I-E. And it's not a nickname–it's my actual name."

We ordered Sauvignon Blanc and shared a bowl of ceviche with tortilla chips. At one point, Babbie asked me what I was wearing to dinner later that evening. I told her that I hadn't thought about it yet, and that I might just wear the same polo dress that I had worn the night before. "I didn't pack much. I'm the kind of girl who doesn't mind wearing the same dress over and over again," I said, "I think it's the sign of a good dress."

She nodded her head in approval, "You may have packed lighter than I did! I have a story about that. I met Bianca Jagger in Acapulco ages ago. This was before she met Mick. She was being kept by a man who owned a very famous hotel there. She had this black dress. You could tell it was $3,000 and from Paris, like Givenchy or Yves Saint Laurent. Someone must've bought it for her. Anyway, she would wear this dress every single night, and she looked so chic. I couldn't tell you the words we exchanged to each other...But I've always remembered what she wore."