Archive for the 'Capsule Wardrobe' Category

A good outlook for investment in the sales

I’m currently in Milan on my first buying trip for next Spring/Summer.  I’m noticing that, although there are some interesting new fabrics around, colours are very similar to this season (with a few additions).

This provides an excellent opportunity for people who believe in investing in the best quality clothes they can afford to make some very astute purchases in the sales.

There are two kinds of shopping at our end of the market.  One is all about buying big brands.  People want the name; they may buy over the internet; they don’t care (or perhaps are just not aware) if it doesn’t fit them perfectly; and they assume, rather than understand, the quality just because of the name.  Given that many of the big “Italian” brands do very little of their manufacture in Italy, the idea of the Italian craftsmen in their brands is more than a bit hollow.

The second approach (which is what Confidence Tricks is all about) is about searching out quality and design, and clothes that look and feel fantastic, regardless of the name on the label.

It seems to me that we are going into an era where quality and value matter more. The dramatic changes in fashion that drive big brand sales are slowing down as people realise that what’s important is that their clothes look and feel great on them as individuals.

Often the biggest sale discounts are on clothes which will look most dated the following season.

So in this summer’s sale season, you will still find lots of discounted big brand names.  As always, if you’re going to take advantage of this, make sure you’re getting good value not just a big discount – a mistake in the sale is still a mistake.  (See my previous post about this)

But my advice would be to take advantage of the fact that this season’s high quality clothes will have an even longer shelf life and to invest in one very high quality item which you wouldn’t normally consider buying at full price – and feel the difference.

The Wardrobe sale begins on Thursday (30 June) 8am to 8pm.



Re-run: Sales shopping – how to make sure the discounts really are bargains

Earlier this week, I started writing a post about sales shopping, but realised that I’d written much of it previously.

Below, I’ve reproduced the one from last year – a timely reminder for readers who were here last year and, I hope, useful for all those who have discovered Confidence Tricks this year.

You can also read one from earlier this year –  Austerity, quality, style and the sales… how to bag a the right kind of bargain – which also seems to me to still resonate.

If you’d like to receive Confidence Tricks in your email box (I try to do a post roughly weekly), please do subscribe using the box on the right.

Oh, and while I’m plugging, the Wardrobe sales begins on Thursday 25 November from 8am to 8pm.  If you email and mention ConfidenceTricks, we’ll send you a VIP invitation.


Now’s the time to make sure you’re on the mailing list of the shops where you’ve had your nose against the window for the past few months so you get first shot at their sale.  More often than not there’s a preview day for mailing-list customers.

But, particularly if you’re taking advantage of the sales to buy quality pieces you couldn’t afford at full price, don’t get carried away just because it’s in the sale. A cheaper mistake that you never wear is still very costly.

Sale shopping should be viewed in exactly the same way as non-sale shopping – no impulse purchasing and a well thought-out shopping list.

Being well thought-out means knowing what you need and what it will need to go with.

So, for example, if you’re looking for a jacket to go with a particular skirt, put it on so that the sales stylist can see the proportions, give you good advice and prevent you making mistakes. I advise potential clients to photograph themselves (or better still get some one else to do it) in the pieces that they want to add to.  With mobile phones generally having cameras in them now, you can easily take a snap of yourself in the mirror.

Be aware of sale ‘bargains’ that don’t fit properly.  Many shops will put ill-fitting mistakes in the sale.  At the least, ensure that there is a tailor in the shop who can rectify any problems.

Shoes are a particularly good thing to buy in the sales, especially in neutral colours as they can last for many seasons.


How big is too big for a capsule wardrobe?

My thanks to Amber for her kind comments and question on the Fashion Forum page.

Amber asked “how much is too much” for a capsule wardrobe – and how many items should be updated each season?

I have found that when people feel they’ve over-bought, it’s generally because they’ve gone shopping without a good plan and budget for what they need. Or because they’ve not sought the help and advice of someone who is knowledgeable to help them implement the plan.

I think the ideal size of your capsule will depend from person to person.  There’s no hard and fast rules, here – the principle is that less is more so really what you’re trying to do is to make the most of your budget to create a working wardrobe with high quality clothes that will be sufficient for your lifestyle.

For example, if your job is one that involves travelling a lot, and all you’re really doing is travelling from office to airport, you could replace a heavy winter coat with a warm raincoat which has a dual purpose and can be used all year round. Accessorise with a scarf for extra warmth.

However, if you walk a lot, you’ll need a heavy winter coat.

If you’re going to be in hotels where laundry services can be dodgy, then instead of three shirts or tops for a typical week, you might need five or six.

If you’re starting to build a capsule wardrobe of high quality clothes from scratch, then the most practical place to start would be a coat or raincoat; a trouser suit and a skirt suit, made in fabrics that can be separated so that with an extra plain skirt or trousers you have virtually a whole week’s wardrobe; and shirts/tops as described above.

If your budget stretches to it, I’d go for at least three pairs of shoes (and I don’t include sandals or boots in here) as these are something that tend not to get replaced each year.  Having said that, as heel heights change you may need to add a pair each year.

If budget allows, I’d invest in a pair of boots in the winter as they can be worn under trousers or with dresses and skirts.

I’m not including evening wear as I don’t consider it part of a capsule wardrobe; although if you are short of money I’d suggest you ensure one of  the suits you buy is dark so it  could double up if you have an unexpected dinner to attend.

Of course, if the budget allows, a classic little black dress will last you for years – as it can be accessorised in lots of different ways.

Generally, we don’t think in terms of replacing items each season. Well chosen, the items in your capsule should last for many seasons, so what you buy each season should be adding to the capsule.

If budget is an issue, you can economise on tops, but even if you’re on a tight budget the three things you should invest in are jackets, skirts and trousers. And if you’re planning what you need in advance, you can make the most of the sales to pick up high quality clothes at lower prices that you’ll wear a lot; so get on the mailing list of your favourite shop and you’ll generally benefit from the first pick of the bargains.

(For more capsule wardrobe tips, click on the capsule wardrobe category link and you can read all the previous posts on the subject)


Choose a buckle that knows when to belt up

It is difficult to find belts that look classy. A belt is a very important accessory to an outfit, but it doesn’t need to be a statement in itself. Unfortunately, too many years of bling have led most manufacturers to eschew the simple and stylish.

For me, the beauty in a belt comes from a combination of the leather and the buckle. They should complement each other not fight for dominance.

Look for simple shapes of buckle. They should be smooth so they don’t catch on sweaters. Simple sculptural shapes can look fabulous; but for more everyday use I’d go for more classic geometric shapes.

Generally gold or silver in colour, although we sell a lot of what the manufacturers call ‘fucile’ – a kind of gun metal colour pictured below which is really useful because it can be worn with gold or silver jewellery and so is very versatile.

The hook belt pictured here has become something of a signature belt for the Sfera collection as it seems to have the effect of flattering the waist and minimising tummy bulges. It has been so popular that we now do it every year in different colours and leathers to fit in with the rest of the collection.


What to wear when travelling – the grand tour

With the sun streaming in through the window for two days in a row, thoughts turn to holidays. On the Fashion Forum, E asked for advice on what to wear for a bit of a ‘grand tour’ driving/sightseeing holiday, so here is an update on the travelling capsule.

Last year, I wrote about how to achieve a versatile wardrobe for a weekend away .

The advice in that post still stands: what you are aiming for is what I call Comfort Chic.  So check back to it and then read on here for the update.

If you’re travelling around at this time of year, you’ll need a lightweight summer coat. A classic navy blue blazer is very in at the moment. Or you might go for an edgy twinset, sweater or summer jacket like the ones pictured below.


Any of these can be worn with jeans or any narrow trousers in beige or white – well cut stretch fabrics are best if you’re going to be sitting down a lot – and with sneakers (check out Tod’s for a great range), a summer boot or a comfy flat or kitten heel shoe as shown below.


Add in some nice T-shirts – probably long-sleeved at this time of year; and a scarf, either a gauzy cashmere if it’s going to be cold, or linen for a warmer climate. Make sure the scarf has lots of fabric to soften the neckline of a mannishly cut blazer.

To finish off ad a nice big bangle and simple stylish bag for carrying around the daily necessities.


You might also take a look at my What to Wear When Travelling post from last year, which was mostly about flying, but most of which also applies if you’re driving around.


Jewellery for this season

This season, jewellery is all about ‘chunky’. The key issue is how you put it together. And, as with other parts of your outfit, you need to get the proportions right.

When clothes, like now, are made of technical fabrics and in sculptural designs, dainty jewellery doesn’t work. When wearing this spring’s clothes in particular, my advice is to concentrate on a good watch (a bigger watch will look younger, but try to find one that’s not covered in diamonds for a more edgy look), a bold ring (also not dainty), a chunky bangle and perhaps, a simple stud earring.

Chunky bangle

If your outfit has a big neckline, with a large collar for example, you don’t need a necklace. However, a simple body dress with a scooped neckline does. If you are going to wear a necklace, keep away from fine chains and find something a bit bolder.

Older women tend to wear a lot of jewellery from different eras – all together – and often don’t recognise that when fashion changes, so does jewellery. Sometimes wearing jewellery that was bought 10 or 15 years ago can really date an outfit – and you.

Unlike clothes, however, your jewellery pieces may come back into fashion – although the way you put them together with your current outfit may be different.

It’s quite similar to what we wore in the 1980s, but without the chunky earrings. Big earrings in particular will date you at the moment.


Re-introducing the capsule Wardrobe – the wardrobe clear out

Over the past couple of months, I’ve covered the main elements of the capsule wardrobe (apart from accessories which I’ll come back to in the new year).

Owning a well-thought through capsule wardrobe is a liberating experience – not least because it means you won’t feel the need to have a wardrobe full of clothes that you rarely wear in order to have the few that make you feel confident.

Using your capsule wardrobe will be much easier if you remove what you don’t wear – both for space reasons and psychologically 

So here’s how I do it.

Now you’ve got quality, you don’t need quantity
Chances are that if you’ve been buying clothes for years without a scheme in mind, you’ll find lots in your wardrobe that you don’t wear much – if at all.  If you’ve taken on board the capsule approach, you’ll understand that quality, not quantity is what ensures you look and feel great – a woman who dresses with styles does not need to wear something different to work every day of the week, but she will want to wear it differently.

Your capsule wardrobe is designed to make you feel confident – a good clear out will leave you feeling up to the minute and confident about the way you look.

Won’t they come back into style?
There’s a belief that if you hang on to your clothes long enough, they’ll come around again and be fashionable.

In fact they never come back identically; and there is usually quite a significant change, particularly in the length of the garment and the width of the shoulders, which will give away the age of your old clothes

Also, even if the clothes haven’t aged, you have. Wearing clothes that you wore 15-20 years ago actually ages you more.  While a good garment – like a coat, raincoat or evening dress can have an extended life span (and I certainly have items that are more than 10 years old), they tend not to be structured pieces, so it’s really the fabric and the simplicity of cut that give them their longevity.

The editing process
The process is very simple so long as you’re prepared to be ruthless.  Divide your clothes into three sections:

  • The first is the clothes you love; that make you feel good when you wear them
  • The second is the clothes you’ve not worn for a couple of years
  • The third is those that you haven’t worn for ages (or ever), but have kept because they “might come in useful” or because you paid a lot of money for them and feel you should wear them, but deep down know you never will.

Put the first section back in the wardrobe.

Put the third section into a big bag and take them to a charity shop, feeling good in the knowledge that someone else will benefit from them.

Try on each garment in the second section. Ask yourself whether wearing it makes you feel great.  If it does, put it back in the wardrobe.  If not, it joins the charity bag.  Do be ruthless though, otherwise it’ll just end up in the charity bag next time.

I do this every season.

The first time you do this, you may discard lots of clothes; afterwards you’ll be just editing around the edges to keep you feeling up to date.

What next?
Now that your wardrobe has only the pieces that you love, you can use this as the basis for managing your capsule going forward.

Use the predominant neutral colours you now have in your wardrobe to guide what you add over the coming seasons (you might want to take a look back at part 1 of this series for a reminder on the main principles of the capsule).

How long should you keep a piece? It depends on how long can keep the shape you were when you bought the outfit; whether the fashion for accessorising it has changed; and on the quality of fabric and the simplicity of the cut. But the most important thing is: do you still feel good in it.

I think that over a certain age buying  a new outfit every season is integral to keeping your confidence and self-esteem high.  Most successful men buy at least one new suit a season.  So should you.

The trick is to buy clothes that keep you feeling young and attractive – and to regularly edit your wardrobe as I’ve described.

It feels wonderful to be able to look at your wardrobe and be confident that everything in it makes you look and feel great.  Less is most definitely more.


I’m taking a short break over the festive season – ConfidenceTricks will be back in the first week of January. So may I take this opportunity to wish you a very merry Christmas and a happy, healthy, confident and successful 2010.


Re-introducing the capsule wardrobe: tights

The question I most often get asked about tights is: should they be worn to match the shoes or the outfit?

This is not a straightforward question as you need to think about the colour and the denier of the tight with the colour and proportions of the outfit and shoes; and getting the wrong denier or colour of tights can affect the overall look.

It’s always worth getting advice. I personally go to Wolford for both their advice and their product.

However, here are some guidelines which should help as you put together your capsule.

  • In general, the colour of the tights should complement the shoe before the outfit. This does not mean you need to wear a green tight with a green shoe or a red tight with a red shoe. Depending on the hue of the shoe, I might be tempted to go with a barely black, dark brown or a more natural tight with either of these. The best option may depend on the fabric of the outfit and even on the colour of the buttons.


  • A darker tight is always more flattering if your legs are less than perfect, which is why women with heavier legs prefer showing them in winter when they can wear thicker and more controlling tights.
  • The appropriate denier generally depends on the fabric of the outfit. For example, a tweed outfit, of which this season there are many, looks out of proportion with a sheer tight.  However, sometimes a thicker tight looks modern with a thin fabric.  Again, professional help will ensure you get it right


  • The whole denier system is a bit confusing – there are lots of different ones and they are sometimes inconsistent between brands.  My advice is to go into a shop and look at them with the salesperson with your outfit in mind (and possibly even in hand).
  • If this seems daunting, the best advice I can give is to ask the salesperson (ideally in a tights shop) for some help.  It will soon become apparent what denier works.

Re-introducing the capsule wardrobe – part ten: shoes and boots

Having the right shoes for your capsule wardrobe is vital to looking and feeling confident and successful. The first reason for this is at the other end of your body.  It’s rightly said that the comfort of your feet shows on your face – so uncomfortable shoes will affect the glamour of your outfit.

And the second reason to take care in your choice of shoes is that the wrong height or thickness of heel can turn an otherwise modern, edgy outfit into something frumpy. 

So it’s important to have shoes in your wardrobe that complement the pieces that you’ve bought for your capsule. That’s why I have always believed that shops which sell clothes should also sell shoes.

Your capsule should have at least one heel for more special or sedentary situations and something flatter for when you’re going to be walking a lot.

For your capsule, though, you might not want to buy a totally flat shoe as you want both shoes to be wearable with your trousers.  If there is too much difference between the heel and the flat shoe, it is very difficult to get the trouser length right for both.   If you finish the hems to be worn with a heel, the trouser is too long when you want to wear a flat shoe.

So instead of buying a totally flat shoe, think instead about a wedge or a very thick heel which is as comfy as a flat shoe.

  shoes2 shoes3

When it comes to shoes for dresses and skirt suits, I find that a flat pump which will be lower cut in the front than a trouser flat shoe; or a heel of around 5-6 cms is a comfortable working height and you can walk easily in and still look stylish.


It’s worth investing in a pair of evening court shoes, perhaps with a small open toe so that they can be used for summer or winter – either in suede or patent leather.  These last for years and can turn a little black dress into something more formal.

If you’re on a budget, stick to black or dark brown shoes for your capsule as they always last longer. However, if as now it is quite a monochrome season, a dark green or dark red can look very elegant.

shoes5   shoes6

In winter, boot are a great standby particularly in the comfort stakes as they give good support to the ankle and flatter most legs.  If you are “blessed” with thicker calves, you might want to seek out boots made of elasticated suede or leather which, although they are expensive, means that you are not excluded from boots with zips.


For those not so “blessed”, short ankle boots look good with skirts, dresses or trousers.

Keep the boots as simple as possible as they can detract from the outfit if too fussy.

Brands which provide quality, styling and comfort in my opinion include Unützer, Santoni, Walter Steiger and Tod’s.  Watch out for manufacturers who have been recently bought out – in my experience they often find it hard to sustain the quality.


Re-introducing the capsule wardrobe – part nine: raincoats

I find raincoat designers/manufacturers tend to concentrate on the new technology of waterproof fabric more than innovative and stylish design. 

This can be frustrating: I think the same criteria that one applies to a coat should apply to a raincoat.

As buyers, we are always offered beige, navy and black, or some flashy new colour which chic women are not interested in. Faced with this dilemma, we all tend to go for the quintessential stone coloured mac, although I’m always happy to offer my clients interesting fabrics in grey, or even a slatey blue. 


The recent fashion of the short raincoat – albeit very attractive – defeats the object.  However, women will suffer for fashion and buy a big umbrella

I have never understood why so many raincoats are belted and personally I will search high and low for a raincoat that has the same glamour as every other piece of clothing I buy.  Apart from Dusan, who uses unusual waterproof fabrics and good shapes, often  generously cut to go over many outfits, I haven’t been that successful so far.  I’ll keep you posted.