The cultivated wardrobe

On Sunday, I’ve had an impromptu trip to the London Fashion Weekend at the Saatchi Gallery (which gave me an excuse for lunch at Partridges, as you do). The London Fashion Weekend is the current season appendix to the main fashion week. Hardly a secondary event, it’s a favourite among fashionistas, bloggers and the press as it’s a chance for last minute seasonal shopping of discounted designer gems as well as interesting talks and independent designers’ catwalk shows. It’s also a chance for outfits photos next to the entrance banner. And for me it’s always an occasion to get some stuff out of the wardrobe that normally doesn’t get worn.

It would surprise people who have known me in the past 5 years that I’ve ever worked in the field, given that my current wardrobe is more classic and business oriented than what I used to wear a decade ago (even if I’ve never really worked that much in corporate and now I run an artsy business).

It was an interesting topic of conversation with one of the designers at the event, who looked very fashionable in a silk kimono. I tried to get her opinion on what I should buy pointing out the way I was dressed was not representative of my day-to-day style and she said she, too, dressed the part for the weekend.

I can be surprisingly self-conscious whenever I am not dressed like a cutesy version of Margaret Thatcher. In a sea of trendy stuff I have been hunting for a brand like Winser London, with classic and classy knitwear staples. Seriously a threat to my wallet, as I really wanted to buy the entire stand, and only came away with a Parisian style minidress because really I own too much and I have a bag of clothes that I need to put on Tradesy and never get around to doing it.

I’ve also bought a headband from Her Curious Nature, a hard choice among a huge amount of really beautiful pieces, but I’m not Blair Waldorf; I don’t have a headband for every outfit and probably wouldn’t wear a headband with every outfit although that might change.

As I grow older, and as I’ve been involved in the area of sustainability for at least 5 years now, I’ve noticed I have lost an interest in fashion itself in favour of style. Growing up with people working in the field I have become accustomed to recognising styles and the artistic element of creating an outfit, but I often get the impression that year in, year out, things either go back to basics or they are innovative for the sake of innovation and that, to me, isn’t always a good thing.

I think I dread the day the shorts suit will become an acceptable look in the City. Buzzfeed ran a satirical article about David Cameron’s shoes if judged the way we judge Theresa May’s and while it’s a valid point (we judge women on the way they dress a lot), I think at the same time women are allowed a bit more creativity without compromising their professionalism (unless you’re the Daily Mail, which doesn’t accord women any professionalism in the first place anyway).

The standards of a man’s appropriate attire are, paradoxically, stricter than a woman’s. A lot of the criticism of inappropriate attire for women seem to revolve around the woman’s body rather than any serious concerns with the image projected.

There are groups that have actively worked to change the expectation of what a professional woman looks like, and many business women have helped push the idea that you don’t have to give up your femininity to be successful, paving the way for a new style of business attire that is more feminine than 1980s power suits. I believe I fall in this category, although I have one or two regular shirts. A few weeks ago I was thinking about whether I could pull off a very feminine dress at Party Conference, which is an event where most people would go in business attire except maybe Owen Jones (who has been seen in pictures of the various conference seasons in jeans and a shirt). My dear friend Helen thinks I can because it just suits me. While I have a few more classic dresses, I don’t spend much time in an office, so my style becomes flexible as a result. I don’t own much specifically casual for my free time either, so everything overlaps in a mixture that is very me.

I don’t follow many fashion and beauty bloggers, preferring to engage with more broadly lifestyle ones. One reason for this is that I can’t relate. Maybe I’m prejudiced, but I find there is a recognisable blogger’s style, and very few tend to break the mould. I can even spot bloggers taking blog pictures in real life settings. It’s like a fashion niche on its own. Maybe it’s just that those who are serious about blogging really are a certain type of person, definitely not one I am…I stare at my Type the Hype planner thinking I’m just someone with a blog who doesn’t really feel like a blogger. I’ve even become a devotee of Laura Mercier‘s make-up, and there is nothing that screams “natural” more than that.

A fashion blog I would follow would be a Duchess of Cambridge-watch type of thing. Sneak peek into M&S new cashmere collection. Is a Burberry coat still worth your money? What to wear to a shooting (by the way, kudos to the style consultants for The Riot Club for not dressing the guys in the clay shooting scene as if they were shooting pheasants in Downton Abbey).Truth be told, I have never thought about looking for any bloggers beyond established publications catering to this niche. Maybe there are, talking about the wonderful art of millinery in advance of race and wedding season, and the importance of a good pair of gloves in winter. There is a lot of interest in vintage and retro, and it often feels like you can’t have timeless fashion that is modern while quintessentially traditional: either you are modern or you are stuck in the past. However, when you look at many traditional brands still going strong it’s evident that you certainly can.

Maybe it’s growing old and not-so-slowly approaching the big three-zero, but I feel more and more passionate about promoting a different approach to what we wear. I’ve recently watched “Dior and I”, a documentary about Raf Simons’ first Haute Couture collection at the maison. It was a good reminder of a truth I knew already, having watched my mother carefully work with fabric since I was a little girl, whether it was a dress for me or a couch for a big hotel in Zermatt: we should be more appreciative of the time and effort that gets put into the making of the things we take for granted.

P.S. If you know any blogs of the kind I would like link link link in the comments or on Twitter please 🙂

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