For a long time, the question of what my “style” is has vexed me (ironic, I know, given my profession!). Prior to learning to sew, it felt like a moot point anyway: there was so little available in shops to me, that I basically wore whatever was available and fit, which meant I mostly wore Boden wrap dresses and camisoles. But of course, sewing changes the whole equation! You can have any garment, in any size, in any colour, in any fabric… it’s a little overwhelming at times.
So when I recently heard about the book “The Curated Closet“, by blogger Anuschka Rees, I was intrigued. It’s a book to help you define your style and build your wardrobe. She has guidance to help you put together a capsule wardrobe (in line with this month’s theme!), but the book is not prescriptive in any way. Rather, it’s about sharing a process by which to assess your clothing preferences and lifestyle, evaluate how your wardrobe is currently serving you, and then how to bring it all together. It works equally well if you’ve got a corporate job, go to lots of parties, are around kids all day, or are super tempted to wear yoga pants and work from home all day while drafting patterns (ahem).
When I set out to read The Curated Closet, I had two open questions: first, how well would she deal with non-sample size bodies? I have zero tolerance these days for any whiff of body shaming. And second, how would it apply to those of us who sew most if not all of our clothes?
The verdict: very well in both cases!
The Curated Closet for curvy bodies
The first key point is that because Rees’ book is about a process and not a formula or “style guidelines”, it can fundamentally work for anyone of any size, shape or stylistic inclination. She tends towards minimalism, but actively encourages you not to limit your wardrobe if that’s not what makes you happy. I was really impressed by the methodical approach, which gives you structure without telling you that you desperately NEED a little black dress for all occasions.
She writes a lot in the book about the role of clothing in our self-image and confidence, much of which resonated with me. There’s only one part I found that explicitly deals with body shape, which is where she answers a reader question “Help! I like styles that don’t work for my body shape!”. I thought her answer was pretty great:
“In recent years we have all been so inundated with typology-based advice, from various body-shape theories to super in-depth color analysis quizzes, that the idea that only a small set of clothes and colors works for each person has become widely accepted. And that’s pretty sad. ….. If something is your style and you love it, I believe you should wear it, regardless of whether it supposedly “flatters” your body or doesn’t. Plus, if we are being honest, to flatter almost always means “makes you look thinner” and that definitely shouldn’t be your prime objective when it comes to getting dressed” (p. 57).
The only reservation I had as I went through the book was the step where she encourages you to go into stores and try on lots of different garment shapes, silhouettes and colours, to see what suits you. Yeah. Even remembering having to go shopping in clothes stores sent a shiver down my spine; the more I thought about it, the more I realised that there are practically no in-store shopping options for me in Boston, which is a pretty major city. It’s totally absurd – I’m a size 16/18-ish at the moment, which is eminently average in America, but the idea I could walk into a store and have a range of high quality, diverse, garments to try on is ridiculous. Sigh. But luckily for me, I sew.
The Curated Closet and sewing
Which brings us to the next consideration: sewing. If you sew, that’s fabulous news, because our non-sewing friends are restricted by what’s available in stores which makes doing The Curated Closet process much harder. Instead, we can identify gaps in our closets and then go off and make them. I found that there were only a few sections in the book that weren’t so relevant for me – for instance, I don’t need a guide to assessing the quality of store-bought clothes, because sewing has already taught me that. But the vast majority of the book is totally relevant, and it simply means that instead of a to-buy list, I have a to-sew list.
The one additional step I do recommend for sewists, is to apply the same process to your fabric stash as to your wardrobe. Once I’d edited down my wardrobe to reflect my actual style (and what a relief it is to look in there and ONLY see things I like!), I realised that unless I did the same with my fabric, I’d end up back in the same place I was before. As I went through my stash I looked for:
- Prints and colours I would no longer wear (as I approach 40, my desire to wear cuter prints is definitely diminishing)
- Fabric where I don’t have nearly enough to sew a garment (when I started sewing I always seemed to buy 1 yard of things….)
- Fabric that isn’t totally comfortable to wear (bye bye, most of the poly!)
I did reserve back a few things I wouldn’t wear myself for gifts for others, kid sewing, or pocket bags and facings and so on.
As I went through, I also took the opportunity to catalogue what was left, using the Cora fabric stash app. I’m a total convert! You take a photo of each fabric, and then fill in various fields about length, colour, content etc., along with notes about what you plan to do with it. Now I am left with 35 pieces of fabric, and I can search them any time I want. So much better than fearing a fabric avalanche every time I go in my sewing room….
So my final verdict: The Curated Closet is a fantastic option if you’re a methodical thinker who’s dying to define or revive your personal style. It’s body neutral-to-positive, and I can’t wait to complete the entire thing!
Have you read The Curated Closet? What did you think of it? If not, does the concept appeal to you?