Tough questions include: favourite film, food, drink, country, etc. Harder still, perhaps, is being asked to describe your personal style. I know many people with fabulous wardrobes for whom every piece is a snug-fitting puzzle piece into an overall look. That is to say, they could throw on any combination of the clothes they own and walk away with a consistent vibe and effect. Louche (big sweaters and cardigans, loads of billowing); put together (ironed shirts, tailored trousers, and a sense that they can be called on to attend a wedding at a moment’s notice without an outfit change); athletic (sweatshirts, sweatpants, other things that involve sweating), etc. I, however, find myself struggling with that sort of aesthetic purity.
What I want to look like is a character I lovingly dub the Monastic Minimalist. Think clean lines, unfussy details, practical but luxurious fabrics, and a sense of eternal ease and relaxation. To help, imagine a triumvirate of Céline, The Row and Lemaire. Really, all I want is to live a life in clothes that whisper, not shout. Perhaps it’s to do with age and searching for identity, but the thing I crave most now are clothes that convey self-assuredness and security.
In this vein, I’ve found myself staring at my wardrobe and wondering what these pieces of clothing reflected when I first bought them. I recall my first expensive purchase: a black corduroy trucker jacket by A.P.C., spurred by the desire to look like a French guy in a beat up denim jacket and skinny jeans. Never mind that the fabric was wrong – the style was somewhat accurate to the vision. That was followed by a spate of skinny fit raw denim jeans that I have since given up – all to hew to an image of long skinny legs that I plainly didn’t have. Then, a brief spate of romanticising holidaying and linen shirts. After that, a venture into androgyny and seeking out sexiness in forgiving womenswear (I still deeply treasure an MM6 shirt with a sheer back panel). After that, an attempt at looking like a Dries Van Noten woman which resulted in a lot of weather-inappropriate coats that I’ve since mostly left for colder days.
Which brings me to the now: the Monastic Minimalist. That sense of implacable calm that the Olsen twins have nigh-mastered; of tightly disciplined freedom that Phoebe Philo brought to the world; and of the impossibly chic throw on and go sensibility of Christophe Lemaire’s pieces. I’ll still fuss over which white shirt to wear, which often feels antithesis to the spirit of having less and thus bypassing the agony of choice. There are times when I want to show up and show off a little, which also feels anathema to what should otherwise be a well-dressed wallflower.
It’s a lot of pointless self flagellation but I think I’ve come to an answer for the time being. Perhaps this identity is more philosophically-inclined than it is purely aesthetic. Forgive the pretension, but let me explain: the thrust of my search is in its attitude. And maybe there’s something to actually not fussing over the specific what’s-what of your clothes and letting them define you on visual terms. There are certainly tougher questions to answer than ‘what should I wear today’, but for now, the joy is in the search. The way forward, it thus seems, would be to continue with happy abandon and not fuss over which of the many answers we own is correct – whatever that means.