Can you imagine how pleased I was to read an article entitled: How I Found My Personal Style When I Let Go of Most of My Clothing? And even more excited to meet its author? The person who wrote this thoughtful piece is Jenny Williams; I connected immediately with Jenny and her message, which may sound familiar, from recent conversations I have had about Zero Waste, with Lauren Singer and Daniel Silverstein. Jenny agreed to share her story on TFIO. It is a lovely reminder how fashion is one of our universal connectors. Here is that conversation with Jenny:
MKG: You have embraced the concept of less-is-more, when it comes to clothing and personal style. What does that mean to you?
JENNY: I think getting dressed in the morning should be a creative jump start to your day. It should be an expression of your personality; since it automatically sends a message to the people who will be seeing you, and you want it to be accurate.
Since I have started to focus more on quality rather than quantity the past few years, I have found that I feel more creative when I get dressed in the morning. Having more options does not mean that you have a more versatile wardrobe; in fact, a larger wardrobe overwhelmes me and stifles my imagination. I feel more ‘myself’ when I am working with a smaller wardrobe. That is liberating!
MKG: Tell me about that ‘coming-of-age-moment’ when you purchases your pink coat from Anthropologie? Where were you in your life and why do you think you were ready to understand that spending more for a single item could be worth it?
JENNY: Actually, when I bought that pink coat, I don’t know that I was ready to understand the concept of spending more on fewer items. I bought that coat because I really, really wanted it. It wasn’t until later, when I started to wear it all the time, that I realized I never got tired of it. And if I never tired of it then maybe I could be content to wear other pieces in my wardrobe more often. I had just moved to Washington, D.C. to start my first real job. It was an exciting time in my life. That coat reminds me of my style revelation, and it represents the first time in my life that I was truly on my own, making my own decisions.
MKG: How many years ago was that? Do you still wear that pink coat today?
JENNY: That was 2009, so this will be my sixth season wearing that coat! If you consider the cost per wear, I think I have reached the point now that I am wearing it for free!
MKG: You mention reading a book called, Lessons from Madame Chic, written by Jennifer Scott. What is the core message? What can we, as Americans, take away from that message?
JENNY: Such a great book. Jennifer Scott talks about a lot more than a capsule wardrobe. I would say her core message is that simplicity is key to living a chic life. And by chic, I think she means a life unburdened by what society tells us we need to live well. Living more simply allows us to focus on what is important in life (developing relationships and loving our families). While Scott uses her French mentor as her example for living this chic lifestyle, I don’t think it is a French idea only. But the truth is, we Americans get caught up in the busyness of life and forget that we have a say in how we live our day-to-day. It sounds cliché, but it is a timeless message.
MKG: What are the essentials we should have in our wardrobe?
JENNY: I think this differs for everyone. If you Google ‘capsule wardrobe ideas,’ you will get the same thing: a white button-down shirt, great-fitting jeans, a basic t-shirt, maybe a classic trench, etc. But the thing to remember about curating a smaller wardrobe is that being content with your options is the end-goal. I am drawn to interesting pieces more than the basics, so I wear my sweater with bohemian fringe more often than I do a plain white tee. When figuring out what basics should go in your wardrobe, I would start with looking at what you love to wear the most. Focus on the shapes, styles, and colors that look best on you and go from there. That ensures that your capsule wardrobe doesn’t look like everyone else’s, and that you will always look great. It’s a win-win!
MKG: If you could go back in time and speak to your younger self about clothing and personal style, what would you say?
JENNY: I would say don’t worry about looking back at pictures of yourself and saying, ‘what was I thinking?’ When you get older, you won’t take your younger self so seriously, anyway. I would also tell myself that defining one’s personal style gets easier the more you get to know yourself, so hang in there.” ~ Jenny Williams
Jenny started writing her website, Jeneric Generation, while she was living in Washington, D.C. and working on Capitol Hill (in a very uncreative job, says Jenny!). Jeneric Generation is about using creativity to combat everyday mediocrity. Jenny met her husband in DC, and two months ago, they decided to move to Jenny’s home state of Oklahoma. They are enjoying the slower pace and the extra time to work on their creative projects, as they prepare for the birth of their first child in March 2015.
I wish Jenny all the best!