Sir David Tang and Only Using the Best Things You Have

5:00 PM 14 Comments

I must share this with you. As you know we subscribe to the Financial Times out of London. It’s really an excellent newspaper and their weekend edition is superb- particularly their Life & Style section, the House & Home section and their magazine How to Spend It. There are always thought provoking articles on art, food, fashion and a rather interesting column called Lunch with FT where they interview some person of note over lunch and also provide what was ordered. (I love knowing what people have for lunch and things like that. In fact, one of my favorite pastimes when standing in line at the grocery store is to observe what other people buy- it is very telling!). But I digress.

The first place I go to each weekend is David Tang’s column in House & Home. Sir David Tang is a business man (behind the famed Shanghai Tang stores, among other endeavors) that divides his time between Hong Kong, London and China. He runs an advice column on the subjects of “property, interiors, etiquette, home, parties and anything else that might be bothering you”. Not only does Mr. Tang possess a rapier wit, but his first class opinions on the above subjects are refreshing and unparalleled. I ran across the below question one week and found his answer to encapsulate everything I’ve ever expressed regarding only using the best things you have. Regard:

A reader writes:

In our household, Saturday breakfast is the sacred meal of the week, enjoyed at home around the kitchen table. My girlfriend makes an effort arranging the glassware in a certain order. I then have to rearrange the order of the glasses. This upsets my girlfriend, as she argues that caring about such trivial things at our own breakfast table, with no other company present, is petit bourgeois. Please advise.

Mr. Tang’s response:

One definition of a gentleman is that he uses his butter knife when dining alone. I tend to agree. I always succumb to my pair of ivory chopsticks and my best crockery and cutlery and linen whenever eating alone. Caring about how things look only when there is an audience is precisely to be petit bourgeois. I am very much from middle-class stock but I hate most of its ingredients. So you should insist on getting your breakfast table right, and observe to your girlfriend that by practicing the best, you won’t become phoney when you are joined by the Joneses and the Smiths.

I really couldn’t have said it better myself! When you use the best things you have and 'practice your best' on a regular basis, you slowly train your habits and your palate to appreciate quality. Those that save their best things for company are missing out on living a quality life and are, it has to be said, petit bourgeois.

I would love to know... are you using the best you have on a daily basis? Or are you saving your best for later?

I recently visited the Getty villa in Malibu and took some photos of Greek and Roman antiquities. The Greek wine vessels and implements pictured above are in silver and date back to 350- 300 B.C. It looks like the ancient Greeks appreciated fine tableware as well...

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The Extras in my 10 Item Wardrobe

9:50 AM 20 Comments
For this special Thursday post I thought I'd give you a glimpse of some of the extras in my 10 Item Wardrobe- many of which are investment pieces. Investment pieces can mean different things to different people- it all depends on what you have in your fashion budget.

Trench coat by A.P.C.

I love this coat. It is so well constructed and will probably last forever. It's a classic French cut and goes with everything...

Black Wool coat by J. Crew

I got this for our trips to London. J. Crew gives you the option of ordering coats in various thicknesses (I believe they call it 'thinsulate') depending on how warm you need to be... this one is very warm!

Grey blazer by Banana Republic

This is not an investment piece but it just a wonderful and versatile blazer. I recently wore it with black trousers (from my 10 item wardrobe) and a white silk tank to tour a potential preschool for my daughter and felt very pulled together.

Black sweater blazer by BCBG Max Azria

I really love blazers because they can dress up any outfit- especially jeans. The gold buttons add a special touch...

Black cocktail dress by Alexander McQueen

This was a present from Mr. Connoisseur from one of the collections right before Alexander McQueen's tragic death. Here I'm wearing it to the Project Runway premiere with Romi... I'll cherish this dress forever.

Royal blue cocktail dress by Temperley

This dress has such a regal feel. I wore it to a winter wedding in London last year. The fabric is very thick and luxurious and the jeweled bow brings me joy...

Black satin peep-toe pumps by Dolce & Gabbana

These shoes are classic, sexy and will go with most of the dresses I own, making them a wise investment.

Black leather medium height heels by Ferragamo

These shoes are great for when you have a daytime event that calls for heels and you don't want to go too high, or when you might be on your feet for a long time. They are so comfortable and very well made...

Black nubuck ballet flats by London Sole

I love these shoes and wear them all the time- they are comfortable and stylish and perfect for daytime.

White leather embossed faux-snakeskin handbag by London Sole

This is a great tote for summertime and the leather gets softer and more supple with each use.

Black leather doctor's bag by Monserat de Lucca

I love this bag and have had it for almost 3 years now- I will probably retire it soon and search for a new signature bag. I've always loved the quilted Chanel handbags but they are not in my budget yet... one day!

Tortoise shell wayfarers by Zooey Deschanel for Oliver Peoples

These are my signature shades- I love them so much I wish I'd bought two pairs!

I would love to know... what are your investment pieces?

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My Observations on the 10 Item Wardrobe

8:38 PM 16 Comments

The following are my thoughts and observations on the experience of the 10 Item Wardrobe:

Opening my closet in the morning makes me happy. Not only is it wonderful to see my items hanging so luxuriously in their own space (not jam packed next to each other) but it makes me inordinately happy to not wonder what to wear for the day. There are so few options, the choice only takes me a minute to figure out. Also, having a clutter-free closet boosts my mood. (It must be the feng shui of it all).

My desire to shop has not been strong. I did not expect this reaction in the slightest. I thought that after the first week with my 10 item wardrobe I would be begging for someone to take me to Nordstrom’s. Not so. There is something marvelous about having so little hanging in my closet- I am not in a rush to drop a lot of money and fill it up with clutter anytime soon. I know the urge to shop will return, but when it does I am hoping that I will peruse the shops with a very discerning eye and not over-purchase.

When I do go shopping I note that shopping is freeing. I normally never leave a shopping trip without purchasing something. I am interested in more expensive, quality pieces. I am more comfortable with window shopping for research purposes and not purchasing. I know that the next purchase I make will be a high quality choice and that I need to take my time to find what that is.

Acknowledging when an article of clothing is past its prime becomes easier. Last week I spotted a woman, who was wearing leggings, bend over and hug an acquaintance. She was in a room full of people and when she bent over she revealed three rather large holes in her leggings that exposed her backside! Clearly this is a woman who could benefit from analyzing her wardrobe. If she did so, she might have realized that her leggings were past their prime and could have avoided such an embarrassing situation. This poor woman’s ‘wardrobe malfunction’ has scared me into analyzing my own wardrobe. For example, I noticed that one of my favorite ‘extra’ shirts, a grey t from Splendid, was starting to look a bit sad. After one too many washings, it hung on my body in a very unflattering shape and just looked a little worse for wear. I believe the pre-10-Item-Wardrobe-me would have ignored the fact and stored it away just because it was kind of expensive (for a t shirt), but the post-10-Item-Wardrobe-me recognized that for my little grey t, retirement was imminent- and I got rid of it!

The ability to mix and match your clothing and create many possibilities is of the utmost importance. You should be able to pair almost everything together in your 10 Item Wardrobe- this is the only way to stave off boredom, eventually grow to loathe your clothing and utter those familiar words “I have nothing to wear!”

If you choose your 10 Item Wardrobe carefully, you literally force yourself to only use the best things you have and over time you become accustomed to it and can trick yourself out of ‘saving your best for later’.

To preserve your nice clothing while doing housework or other chores, wear an apron around the house. This was Madame Chic’s secret to keeping her clothes looking fresh while simultaneously taking on a lot of housework and cooking.

Getting behind in doing the laundry or dropping off the dry cleaning is not really an option- which can be a problem if you’re having a hectic week. I had a week where I got very behind with household chores (laundry included) and was ‘running on empty’ with regards to my wardrobe. I had to pull some items from my reserves to get by. Also- dropping off dry cleaning must be coordinated so that all of your dry cleaning is not out at the same time. If you do not have the laundry/ dry cleaning routine under control, adding more than 10 core items (20, for example) is probably the best solution.

If your fashion budget is on the lower end, avoid over-spending on the core items of your wardrobe.
Purchase the best that you can afford (which I will explain in greater detail in a future post entitled: Quality Wardrobe- How Much to Spend) but you do not need to make all of your 10 items ‘investment pieces’. Save the big splurges for the following items: coats, shoes, sunglasses, handbags, cocktail dresses, jeans, watches and jewelry. These items will last you a long time so quality is of the utmost importance. Also if the above mentioned items are quality, they can really dress up a moderately priced outfit and make it look quite expensive.

If you are still feeling resistance towards the 10 Item Wardrobe but are curious about its benefits, try it out the next time you go on vacation.
Scale your packing towards the length of your trip. For example, if you are going away for a long weekend, only bring 2 or 3 outfits. If you are going away 2 weeks, try packing your own 10 item wardrobe. You will experience the same benefit of doing the challenge in your own home and will have much less luggage to tote around (always a good thing).

With regards to maintaining and going forward you should adapt over time for what is right for you. If you are doing the experiment to the letter and are only using your 10 core items and you are having a wardrobe revelation carry on! If you find that you need to add more pieces into your capsule wardrobe to make it really work for you, then that is OK too. The exercise is extreme and even though Madame Chic and her family truly employed the 10 Item Wardrobe- it might not be right for you. Hopefully, going forward, you will take the best that this challenge has to offer by becoming more discerning towards the clothing you bring into your wardrobe. You will look at your wardrobe like you look at your home and not allow clutter into it. And ultimately, you will get one step closer to defining your true style.

I would love to hear your thoughts and observations on the 10 Item Wardrobe...

I recently visited the Getty Villa in Malibu and took some astonishing photos of ancient Greek and Roman antiquities, which I will be sharing with you in the weeks to come. The Marbury Hall Zeus is pictured above, dating back to 1-100 A.D.

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A Gentleman's Capsule Wardrobe

8:13 PM 7 Comments

Mr. Chris Cox is the style-guru, writer and editor behind Easy and Elegant Life where he inspires men (and women) to lead a luxe, calme et volupté lifestyle. His current projects include working on the Easy and Elegant Life book as well as developing the Icon Collection- custom clothing based on designs from the golden age of Hollywood and menswear. Here he shares his views on the perfect capsule wardrobe for a gentleman.

I am pictured above in England. Mrs. E. reminds me of this whenever I pack. Nine pieces of luggage.

As you can see, packing light wasn't always my talent. I still struggle to do it right. But, having carted that many clothes through Europe for eight months, I began to realize that you could get away with far fewer clothes as long as they made sense when mixed and matched.

So, what ten pieces, not including accessories, outerwear and shoes, would I choose to live with exclusively?

1) Midnight Blue Double Breasted Suit. Worn on its own with the white spread collar shirt, cufflinks and a solid tie, it is as formal as you'll need short of a tuxedo.

2) Subtle Plaid or Check Sportcoat. To wear with jeans or khakis, the trousers from the blue suit or grey flannels. Dresses up or down.

3) Grey Flannel Trousers. Always appropriate with a blazer (wear the coat from the suit), or a shirt and sweater.

4) Blue Jeans or Khakis. Jeans wear harder. Khakis go more places. The sweater or sports coat dresses them up.

5) White Oxford, Button Down

6) Blue Oxford Button Down. Both just get better with age. The sartorial equivalent of comfort food.

7) White Spread Collar, French-cuff (double cuff) Shirt. Formal and good-looking. It can be worn with the grey flannels and a blazer or the suit.

8) Striped Shirt, Moderate Spread Collar. To dress down the formality of the double-breasted suit and to add interest to the sports coat when you've a spring in your step.

9) V-neck Cashmere Sweater (red, light grey, navy, purple or black. Whatever catches your fancy.) Warmth without weight, delightful to the touch. Wear it as a scarf if you have to.

10) Dinner Jacket (Tuxedo). You will be amazed at how easy it is to get into events if you're properly dressed. If you can't afford to have one custom made, buy vintage and have it tailored. Brits will tell you that an old dinner jacket is smarter anyway. You'll need a vest or cummerbund, bowtie, braces and a dress set of studs and cufflinks to kit yourself out properly. Chosen properly, the cufflinks can be worn with your French-cuff shirt. Simple gold links are best suited for double-duty.

Now I recognize that the assignment didn't include accessories, but there are just a few I'd like to mention that will take you far.

1) A great scarf

2) A subtle bowtie. I like one with spots or stripes. Slip it into the pocket of your sports coat and you're always ready if you are required to wear a tie to get into a restaurant. With the suit and the white spread-collar shirt, you're ready for cocktails at the most swellegant establishments.

3) Several white linen or cotton handkerchiefs. Use one as a pocket square.

4) A good watch. I know that everyone has a smartphone, but a watch is one of the accepted forms of masculine jewelry. Choose a classic. I love a tank watch on a leather strap. If you go in for a sports watch like a Rolex or Omega, don't wear it with your dinner jacket. Unless you may have to make a fast escape into the water... .

5) One pair of cordovan penny loafers in oxblood.

6) One pair of darkest brown lace-up shoes.

7) One pair of black plain toe or captoe oxford shoes.

8) Waterproof overcoat. In camelhair, navy, grey or black. Have the wool waterproofed at the dry cleaner. Or choose a classic trench or Mac.

9) Either an umbrella or a waterproof fedora.

10) A pair of leather gloves to match your coat.


Customizing Your 10 Item Wardrobe

4:56 PM 10 Comments

Happy Valentine's Day! I hope you are having (or have had) a beautiful day with your loved ones...

Many of you have told me you’re intimidated by the idea of having only 10 items in your wardrobe, and I don’t blame you. It can be a drastic thing going from a 100+ wardrobe to only having around 10 core items, but believe me, this exercise is powerful- even if you only do it for a week. You can learn a lot about yourself and your style- what your wardrobe needs, about your resistance to wearing your nicest things (I still have a fighting urge to ‘save’ my best clothes for later) and about how you want to present yourself as a person…

Now that you’ve cleared out a lot of the clutter, it’s time to customize your 10 Item Wardrobe. This will all depend on who you are, where you live and what sort of lifestyle you lead. An attorney in Manhattan will, of course, have a drastically different 10 item wardrobe than a stay-at-home mom in Atlanta.

Your 10 Item Wardrobe will all depend on what your day usually consists of (Board meetings? PTA meetings? Working from home? Riding your bike?). Also take into consideration the season (Snow? Perpetual rain? Cool sunshine?). And of course, your style and personality… (Fashion forward? Classic minimalism? Bohemian?)

My 10 Item Wardrobe has been tailored as follows to fit my particular life situation: I am a new mother of a young baby, but I still like to look pulled together- so the majority of my wardrobe is casual sportswear with a slight dressed-up edge. I live in Southern California- which has a temperate climate even in the winter. I mainly spend my days taking care of the home and baby, on playdates , writing and going on walks and my choices for the 10 Item Wardrobe reflect my lifestyle.

Here is my current 10 Item Wardrobe for Spring. Every item in this selection of clothing can be mixed and matched, thus creating many sartorial possibilities- a must for any capsule wardrobe.

Sea green silk top

Beige sheer blouse

Navy stripe sailor top

Beige crewneck sweater

Sea foam button down tie cardigan

Lightweight pleated black trousers

Tailored black high waisted shorts

Sea green A-line skirt

Tan khaki pencil skirt

White jeans

The core items in this 10 Item Wardrobe are mainly from a moderately priced retailer and thus, are not 'investment pieces'. They are the best quality I can afford for my budget. My current fashion budget only allows me to spend big money on items in my 'extras' list such as: coats, shoes, sunglasses, handbags, cocktail dresses, jeans and jewelry because these last much longer. A good trench coat or handbag, for example, could last up to 10 years, whereas a silk top, when worn frequently, might only last two seasons. Every one's budget and situation is different- this is what makes sense for me. I will explore the nuances of one's fashion budget in a future post. And next week’s special Thursday post will show you pictures of some of my investment pieces (items not included in my 10 item wardrobe).

And for this Thursday I will be posting an article written by guest author Mr. Chris Cox from Easy and Elegant Life, who will be offering his thoughts on a gentleman’s 10 Item Wardrobe.

I would love to know… what will the key items in your wardrobe be?

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10 Item Wardrobe – Getting Started

9:21 AM 22 Comments

Last month I took the plunge and got started with my 10 Item Wardrobe. Many of you have expressed interest in this subject so I will be devoting the month of February to my findings.

The topics I will explore are: how to get started, customizing your very own 10 Item Wardrobe, observations on my month long experiment, thoughts on how to maintain your 10 Item Wardrobe and going forward.

Today I will discuss how I got started and how you can too. If you are interested in creating your own capsule wardrobe I highly recommend doing this experiment with me in real time! And as always I would love to hear your thoughts and comments on your experience.

As a side note, this series of posts is not just for ladies. Men, too, can benefit from a 10 Item Wardrobe and the philosophy of quality over quantity. Next week I will be posting an article by guest writer Mr. Chris Cox, from Easy and Elegant Life with ideas for a gentleman’s 10 Item Wardrobe.

So let’s get started.

Definition of a 10 Item Wardrobe

The 10 Item Wardrobe should not be taken so literally as to inspire panic. Remember, the French are not the sort to beat themselves up over a regime- certainly not over diet or exercise and definitely not over their wardrobe. So do what works for you. The point of the 10 Item Wardrobe is to ultimately free yourself from a jam packed closet full of ill fitting, underused or poor quality clothing. Your ultimate goal is to create a wardrobe that you love- where every item of clothing speaks to who you are. Also to create a space for your clothes to breathe- where there is no clutter.

Your wardrobe should roughly consist of 10 items (give or take- probably give), but those 10 items do not include outerwear (coats, jackets, blazers), accessories (scarves, gloves, hats, wraps), shoes and what I call under shirts- mainly t shirts, tank tops or chemises that you wear as layers or underneath a sweater or blazer. (I found it necessary to have several of these to avoid having to do laundry every other day and to prolong the wear on things like cashmere sweaters).

Also the 10 item wardrobe is assessed each season and items are interchanged accordingly. For example, if you do this experiment in the summer, you will not have 3 cashmere sweaters as part of your 10 items. Those can go in storage and in turn you can usher in 3 summer dresses to replace the sweaters (or whatever suits your lifestyle).

Clear out the wardrobe clutter

Before you finalize your 10 items, clear the clutter from your closet. It is very important to physically clean out your wardrobe and only have your 10 items (plus extras discussed above) hanging. It is very easy to think you’ll just wear your 10 items during the month but still keep your 50+ items jammed in the wardrobe ‘just in case’ or out of sheer laziness or lack of anywhere else to put your clothes. But the physical act of taking all of your excess clothing and getting rid of it or storing it elsewhere is very powerful and prevents you from ‘cheating’.

During the process of clearing my closet clutter I took the plunge and got rid of 70% of my wardrobe. This, for me, was a tremendous accomplishment. Giving my clothes away was so much easier this time and I attribute this to the physical act of taking it all out and assessing. When my excess clothing was all thrown on my bed and one by one I assessed each garment, I asked myself a few key questions that helped me to let go.

Wardrobe Assessment Questions:

“Do I still like this?”- in so many instances I was holding on to something because I paid a lot of money for it- not because I actually still liked it.

“Do I ever wear this?”- I had so many clothes that I simply did not wear- some I hadn’t worn in over two years! - and inherently I knew I never would wear again, but for some reason I couldn’t let go.

“Does it still fit/ look good on me?”- I did have a baby 6 months ago, my body shape has changed slightly and some of my pre-baby clothes simply do not fit.

“Does this article of clothing still speak of who I am?”- This is a very powerful question and in most instances the answer was a resounding NO. I was holding on to blouses and skirts that I purchased in my early 20s (I even found a few babydoll dresses- yikes!). A lot has changed since then. I am a wife, a young mother- I’m now 30 years old and my tastes are more refined and sophisticated. Those clothes were not right for the new me.

Getting rid of your excess clothing is definitely a process and I realize you might not be ready to purge everything the first time around. That is OK. I suggest taking out your entire wardrobe, asking yourself those questions and weeding out the items you know you no longer want. If you still have a lot of excess may I suggest storing the rest in space bags or a container in another room, or in your garage? Just keep them out of your sight. You might find you go for an entire year without thinking about them at all, in which case you know, you could probably do with out them.

Next week’s post: Customizing your 10 Item Wardrobe and pictures of my own capsule wardrobe for Spring.

I hope you’ll stay tuned!

My own wardrobe, with its 10 Items and a few extras (such as dressing gowns, etc.) is pictured above.


Coming Up on The Daily Connoisseur

10:17 AM 17 Comments

Thank you to everyone for your comments, input and support for my Top 20 Things I Learned While Living in Paris series. It was a lot of fun to write and as I have mentioned before you can expect the book version (where I will delve deeply into each topic) to be available at a future date.

So what’s coming up on The Daily Connoisseur?

The month of February will mainly be devoted to the 10 Item Wardrobe. Many of you expressed interest in this topic. I will be sharing my notes with you on what happened when I personally converted (and it is an interesting tale!)… I also will have a surprise guest writer who’ll be giving a gentleman’s perspective of a 10 Item Wardrobe.

Other posts I have in the works include further explorations on the topics of: cultivating an air of mystery, le no makeup look, combating clutter, and my notes on not snacking. As well as new topics such as French household efficiency, diet techniques and my search for a new signature perfume.

There will also be book and product reviews as well as interviews from connoisseurs in the professional world of skincare, haircare and makeup.

And as always, if you have any requests for future posts, please leave them in the comment section or email me at: jenncouture (at) gmail (dot) com . I have had a few requests already, which I will be addressing in the future- I love getting letters from my readers!

Thanks again and I hope you are enjoying a happy and prosperous New Year.


Jennifer xx

Gatsby is pictured above... sending you some love...

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