"I have never known a really chic woman who's appearance was not, in large part, an outward reflection of her inner self." ~Mainbocher
I think I've been reading books on personal image since I first began to read, and every now and again, usually in the older books, I come across this concept- sometimes called French, sometimes European. In these books anything even vaguely European seems automatically to be seen as very 'chic.' It's the idea of the extremely streamlined wardrobe with all personality being in the various accessories. I've been to Europe, and I suspect this 'concept' came about as a result of the closet size in most European abodes more than anything else. All that beautiful historical architecture includes NO room for closets. Regardless of the reasons of origin it definitely has its advantages.
Start with the extreme, streamlined wardrobe- we'll use the ever popular and sophisticated all black. In and of itself not terribly interesting, but it has the advantage of being easy to assemble- it doesn't require a lot of time or effort. Done right it's also a very strong, personal fashion statement. It's also safe if you're color blind, or just feel overwhelmed by the concept of combining colors. Or just hate shopping. With all black all you need worry about is design lines. You don't need to buy very much at all- if you buy fairly good quality fabric you should be able to dress many garments up or down with accessories according to occasion. Also, since it's all one color, you'll be able to mix and match all pieces, so that's taken care of. Voilà- tiny wardrobe.
If the idea of this kind of simple wardrobe appeals to you, there are other options to explore; all black and white (if you can wear that much contrast,) shades of all one color; all denim and white, all denim and black, all shades of cream and tan, and so on. You get the idea. It's all about simplicity.
For now we'll stick with the all black option. So, you have your terribly chic, teeny-tiny, streamlined, all black wardrobe. Now we add accessories with the simple goal in mind of relieving all that black and creating interest. The black background now becomes your 'canvas,' so to speak. Now you get to express your aesthetics, your mood, etc. You can choose all one color accessories, as every other color 'goes' with black. You can decide on a 'theme'- all nautical accessories; all accessories with a 'circle' theme; an Indian influence, a certain texture, etc. You can choose a 'style'- today (or maybe every day for you) you'll do vintage- all 1950's. Maybe it's bohemian for you. Or a pronounced status image. Some might like handmade jewelry, and the all black wardrobe serves as a perfect backdrop. As always, I'm sure there are more options than I could ever dream up.
This idea, by the way, is also very handy when you're in the process of losing weight. Especially with the all black concept. Buy very few garments in your current size, rely heavily on your accessories that don't need to be replaced as your size changes, and when ready, buy the minimum in the next size down. See? Clever.
The only downside to this concept is that if you don't really work the accessories to their full potential you risk feeling constrained with all that black. (Or whatever color you've chosen.) It can quickly go from 'chic' to 'severe' or 'boring.' You have to shop for new accessories on a regular basis to keep things new and interesting- much like you would otherwise with shopping for new clothes each new season. Some of the differences are you don't necessarily need to try them on, size isn't an issue, and you can get away with spending considerably less than you would for new clothes. Or you can splurge- the accessories in this scenario will be showcased by the simple backdrop, so theoretically they can have more 'impact.'
Anyway, it's just another option. Even if it's not for you, it may be just the thing on a day when you're feeling overwhelmed by life, and just don't need to make any more choices. It's also a great space-saving way to pack for traveling…