Madame Chic Book

Creating a Capsule Wardrobe: Defining “Good” on You


If you’ve read me elsewhere, you know that I continue to be intrigued by the wisdom imparted by Jennifer L Scott in “Lessons from Madame Chic.” And I swear I’m not getting paid to write about it – I even ordered this book myself in hard-copy form. You know that I mean business about decluttering my closet and creating a capsule wardrobe when that happens!

Anywhoodle, I came across a passage where Jennifer was in Paris and meeting her host who quite bluntly told her that what she was wearing was essentially the worst thing on the planet. This seemed to shock Jennifer because it was well-made and an expensive fabric. Her host pointed out that the color was like death on her (paraphrasing), and that we know what looks good on us, so why would she continue to wear something that was a disaster.

And at this point, I came to a screeching halt. Where normally I am nodding along in agreement and taking notes on my impending French make-over, this section got me underlining, circling and adding exclamation points in my notes. Because I just don’t agree. Not always.

Case in point: I fell in love with this one particular shirt. It’s well-made. It is a softer than soft fabric. It’s stripey – and who doesn’t love stripey? It isn’t binding in any way (in fact, it’s a swing shirt) which means I can eat in it, bend in it, work in it, etc. It’s made by BCBG, so I felt a little on-point style-wise. I loved this shirt. I felt kicky and fashionable wearing it.

And then I saw a picture of me wearing the shirt. Awful.

You see, while I’m not Christina Hendricks, I do have a rather generous chest-al region. One of the reasons I loved the shirt was it fit well over the girls. But I forgot the #1 rule of dressing for breasts – loose, flowing fabrics often make you look like you are wearing a tent. Those perky, long and lean models in the pictures don’t tend to have this problem.

Why didn’t I try it on? I did. I tried it on, and I thought it was delightful in every way. Because I was looking at it with “I want this, and I feel like a very fashionable princess” eyes. So, no, I didn’t know that it didn’t look good on me. I’m sorry, Madame Chic, you don’t always know.

I don’t think I’m alone in this. I finally got a chance to leaf through some of the Oscar dresses (I know, I know, that was a very long time ago), and I feel like some of the women must have fallen into the same trap. They put on a gown and the “I’m a princess” blinders fell over their eyes. They know it is quality. They know it’s a designer that everybody loves. Sometimes it is impossible to look at something objectively. I know once they hit a certain level that they are supposed to have people to give them helpful feedback, but even that doesn’t always do the trick.

I suppose Madame Chic’s rebuttal would be that eventually you do figure it out, and then you should learn from your mistakes and never wear that pea green sweater set again (or in my case, that stripey swing sweater). Maybe. Or more likely, I’ll try to rationalize keeping it by saying that it will look amazing if I just lose a little weight. What can I say — the “I can wear horizontal stripes” fantasy is strong in me.

How about you? Have you ever found yourself in love with a particular piece of clothing only to find out later that it really isn’t your best look? What was your first step in creating a capsule wardrobe that fit your life?

14 Replies to “Creating a Capsule Wardrobe: Defining “Good” on You”

  1. haha After living out of a backpack for 6 months I have no idea what fashion is anymore! Everything is about comfort/ function and what doesn;t smell too bad! I have become that person hahaha. I go home in a few weeks just for a few days and everything is going in the bin! Maybe I’ll treat myself to something nice 🙂

    1. My idea of fashion involved determining which t-shirt is clean and which jeans fit. So… I have a lot to learn. 🙂

  2. I do have a few items that are old favourites but probably not that flattering, however I try to purge my wardrobe regularly and give old clothes to charity. I lived in France and whilst many of the women are very chic, there are some who aren’t at all interested in fashion. So I say, wear whatever makes you feel good!

    1. I think purging my old stuff has been key. Of course, I really do live in clothing that can go from home to a hike, so fashion continues to miss me. 🙂

  3. Fashion is such a subjective area. What is fashion for one could be an antithesis of fashion for the other. Paris of course is the chic centre of the fashion world and sets the trends.

    1. It’s true! California style, in general, is so much more laid back than almost any of major city. I can’t say it is chic, but it is fairly comfortable.

  4. I love dresses and tight black dresses which probably not look too good because I am a pale skinny girl and in that, I will look even more pale and skinnier. I have never cared about fashion and usually just buy and wear whatever I like and feel good in.

    1. I couldn’t tell you what the trends are most of the time. I’m so out of it! But I am trying to make sure that what I do keep from the purge my closets are going through fits and is something I’m willing to put on — because there is very little point in keeping things if I’m never going to wear them.

  5. Yes!! I honestly think that looking at photos really gives us a better look at how we appear. Sometimes we have to look back at what we worse and learn a lesson for next time! 🙂

    1. Do you remember the movie Clueless? There was a scene where Cher took photos of her holding up dresses to get the idea of what it would look like on her before her big date. She might have been on to something!

  6. I used to fall in love with clothes and some of them didn’t look good on me. I still bought them and suffered thinking that I didn’t match them. No, that I fell in love with myself I only buy clothes that make me look beautiful.

    1. That’s an interesting way of looking at it! I think I just didn’t really pay attention before, and most of the time now I choose comfort over everything else.

  7. I definitely love a good closet purge. I have my own favorite style, but it isn’t necessarily in fashion. Since I live out of a backpack a lot of the time, I try to keep it simple. I’m guilty of holding on to things until I lose a little weight… Maybe someday still 😉

    1. I’m trying very hard to be practical and not at all sentimental about what remains, but it’s hard. There are definitely still goal clothes in my dresser. Whoops!

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