12 Items Checklist for the Modern Day Nomad's Capsule Wardrobe
“Buy less, choose well and mix it all.” Vivienne Westwood
Hello and welcome to this blog post which I hope will become a favourite of yours, as much as it is a favourite of mine. In my article about the Top 4 reasons why you need a simple wardrobe, I mentionned about my late great grandmother who had a tiny wardrobe that would fit in that minuscule vintage that she could carry her around the house, long after she left her nomadic lifestyle and settled in the city. She also sometimes used it to rest her head and I thought it was the cutest sight ever. She would also let me seat on it. Talk about a versatile item. Most of my family who still lead a nomadic lifestyle in the Sahel area and further north in Central Sahara actually live with very little clothing and don’t need huge rolling suitcases to be able to carry them around. The idea is to be able to carry it on our own back if needed as you move around settlements. This is rather aspirational for me as my European wardrobe would never fit into such a small space as the tiny suitcase of my greatgrandmother. Just my winter coat and boots would take up the whole place! But my summer clothes would definitely make it.
Again, it is inspired by this and by the very modern life of a nomad I am currently leading from my Paris home that I came up with this list. I have read a lot on the subject over the last few years, from Madame Inès de la Fressange La Parisienne, to Nina Garcia’s The One Hundred to from A to Z of Rachel Zoe, but online, and offline, paper, on my iPad and audiobooks. I also spoke with a lot of professionals in the field, including Cécile Hasroyan. I went through my own clothes, did the wardrobe detox and managed to build a tiny wardrobe by Western standards that is incredibly versatile. This is how I came up with that list. Those items are in my opinion, the very foundation of any wardrobe and most of them (except for obviously the winter coat), I wear them all year long. I try in general to avoid any clothing that cannot be worn in at least 3 seasons. For example, even though my linen tank tops are obviously summer items, I still wear them in Spring and Fall and even in Winter with some layering. With airconditionner in homes during Summer and heating in Winter, it is more and more complicated to have specific wardrobe items for certain seasons.
This checklist is a simple guideline, as you should into account your own personal circumstances, preferences and lifestyle. Please keep in mind that I wrote this list with a European/North American continental weather in mind. Obviously, if I lived in Chad, the winter coat as well the trench, and probably my jeans will not be part of that list. But in my experience, the items listed below are the foundation of any wardrobe. As you build your wardrobe, remember that trends come and go, but real style is timeless. It is not how much you spend in your wardrobe that makes you stylish, but rather things that are in the right color for you, the right shape and material; and make you feel like your best self.
1/ Perfect Jeans
Those are the most central piece of my wardrobe. The tomboy in me still prefers pants over dresses and skirts. I own three of them and rotate them. I wear jeans almost everyday as I can wear denim at work unless I have clients meetings. So I get to wear all the three of my jeans every week. I buy all my jeans from the California based 7 for all Mankind. I discovered the brand when I lived in the US. Their jeans are top quality and their fit is perfect once you find the right cut for your body type. I like to think that their high wait slim jean Rozie has been tailored for me, and I got it in both denim (more casual) and black (dressier). I also own a Josefina slim boyfriend in a dark wash denim that I wear all the time. There is somewhere out there that perfect jean that has been tailored for your body. Do not settle for anything less than this one and only! If you are looking for a more affordable option, Uniqlo and Target are also good places to shop for jeans.
2/ White Button Down Shirt
I cannot get enough of the white shirt. Dress it down with a light jean, dress it up with a superfine wool pant, with a blazer, a jacket, a cardigan, a sweater, wear in tucked in, out, the sleeves rolled up or buttoned up, with cuffs… It is such a versatile piece, yet so often overlooked. I like a masculim cut (or why not an actual men shirt in a slim cut, so people will be wondering what you have been up to!). I love Anne Fontaine, she does the best ones. I love mine that you could see here, and no week passes without me wearing. So I had to get a second one, this time from Alain Figaret after stealing my husband's, to rotate it with my Anne Fontaine. On a side note, I also love my silk blouse that I got from Mo & Co, but I do not get as much use of it as my Anne Fontaine. It is dressier than my white button shirts and is also a very verstatile piece of clothes for days I want to preppier.
3/ Classic Handbag
I cannot stress enough the importance of having the one classic, timeless handbag that should look like you. I love my Prada handbag that I carry with me everywhere, almost every day. I took it to M. Pulin, my trusted cobbler in Paris near Madeleine to have the hole in the carrier at the right place, so it sits perfectly in my waist and my hand can grab it naturally. His shop name is "Pulin Bottier" and here is the address: 5, Rue Chauveau-Lagarde, 75008 Paris.
When you are picking a bag, make sure that the bag is proportionnate to your size. Please do not get a bag that looks like you can be can carried inside instead of you carrying it like I once did-yikes! Similar to choosing clothes that are are suitable for your body type, you should choose a bag that is proportionate to your size. I thought for a while that I could do with only one bag, but realized the same way we need to rest, my bag also needed to rest for few days every there and now. So, I got a second handbag in gold color from Barbara Bui, that you could see here.
If you only want to get one bag, choose it black. If you are looking for a second bag that you want in a classic color, gold, grey, taupe and red are all timeless colors.
4/ Blazer or Jacket
There is nothing quite like a jacket to complete a look. I actually like to build my look around the jacket I am planning to wear. Depending your own individual needs and lifestyle, this could be a leather (or simili) jacket, a jean jacket or any jacket that is perfectly perfect, makes you feel your best. I own a denim from H&M and a biker from Barbara Bui, but my absolutely favorite one is my Chanel tweed jacket that I used to illustrate my first article on wardrobe. No week passes by without me wearing it at least once. It is so timeless, and such a beautiful piece of art. I love the fact that mine is not lined, so I can wear it all 4 seasons, even in the middle of summer without ever being hot. I wear it in winter with my 10 years old black Qi Cashmere cardigan that litterally disappear under the jacket and keep me warm.
5/ Trench Coat
I literally live in my trench 3 seasons out of 4 in. No wonder it is the piece of cloth I choose to illustrate today's post. It is my best travel companion and I always make sure to pack it unless I am going to a tropical destination in the middle of the European summer. It is a mid-long Kensington from Burberry’s heritage collection. I would recommend getting your trench in black over any color as it is more versatile than stone or camel. Plus for me personally those two colors look terrible in my skin tone. I also love that my black trench is so low maintenance. Its color also help beautifully replace my winter coat, on days it is too warm for a cashmere coat. Many brands have great trench coat- this goes from Asos to Zara every year, so you have them for all budgets.
6/ Three Pieces Suit
Even if you dress casually or smart casual like I do in most days, a three piece suit in a classic color in superfine wool is a must. I wear each of the three pieces separately, the pant with any of my tops and other jacket, the jacket with any of my bottoms, and same the pencil skirt thatI love wearing with my white button-down shirts. I got mine from English house Joseph, that I love for their sleek designs. If you are ever travelling in Asia, I would suggest that you get your suits tailored there. It costs a fraction of what you will pay in Europe or North America and the quality is amazing.
7/ Winter Coat
A good winter coat will change your life. It is a piece of cloth that you wear for several months in a row during the cold months. I saved up the money I sold the clothing items I did not want after my wardrobe detox and got mine from Max Mara. It is my only winter coat, but I love it, and can’t get enough of it. It is Max Mara's classic wrap coat with a hat for those light rainy days or super cold one. I love how it is effortlessly elegant. It is made of 100% cashmere and as it ages, it is more and more beautiful. If there is one item together with your shoes and your handbag, you should pay more than less it is your coat. If you look after it properly, it will keep you warm for many years to come. It is definitely better to own one quality coat than two or several so-so ones.
More than the brand, I would recommend that you check the material to make sure that it has a decent amount of cashmere or other types of wool, and is not just polyster or nylon. Not only it will keep you warmer, but it will last you longer, and at the end of the day, it will be cheaper in the long run.
8/ A Dress
Of course we have all heard of the little black dress, get yourself one in a classic shape that flatters you and that you can wear. I have a long sleeved black dress by Kenzo that I bought almost a decade ago and never grew tired of it. I put it aside every there and now, but always go back to it.
If you do not want the black dress, get yourself a beautiful dress that you love, in your colors and that flatters your body shape. A white dress, if you are ready to handle its high maintenance is always a good bet.
9/ Cashmere Sweater
I love my black Eric Bompard sweater. I love that second skin feeling it has, so soft and luxurious. I love it so much that I got the matching tank top for added cosiness while travelling in air conditioned planes or during cold winter days. I even got it in dark blue as cashmere, which is a natural material needs to rest in between wears. The two sweaters are my go-to tops in winter. I also always pack one of them when I am travelling, in case the temperature drops. This year, I decided to knit my own cashmere sweater for extra cosiness when I am at home. I just got started and very excited to see it coming in the upcoming weeks!
Cashmere is expensive, but you can keep it for decades. We have several cashmere items that are well over a decade old and that we have worn quite heavily, but with they look and feel amazing. The wonder of cashmere is that the more you wash it, the more it softens, and become even more luxurious. Bompard have twice a year sales that include their most classic lines. I never buy mine full price. Galeries Lafayette, Monoprix in France and the Japanese brand Uniqlo make cheaper alternatives of decent quality.
10/ Quality Tops and Tee-Shirts
I swear by my Majestic Filatures tee-shirts. They are very well made in great cuts. They are prewashed so they don’t shrink and for the dyed ones, the color will not fade as quickly. I love that they took such a basic item and made it so luxurious using beautiful material, such as silk, cashmere and linen. I also buy them on sale, they are often 50% of the original price.
Breton tops are always classic and I got mine from Petit Bateau, during the sale season in the kids section. Other good places to shop for basic teeshirts are Monoprix (check their linen and organic coton lines), Target in the United States and American Vintage. I have also been surprisingly happy with some tee-shirts from Uniqlo and H&M. The material is often not nearly as nice as Majestic and they do not last as long, but depending on your budget and if you choose wisely, it may be well worth it.
11/ A Great Pair of Shoes
My go-to shoes are my slippers from English shoes maker Church. They are slip on, easy to wear and take off. I actually have two pairs, my everyday one is the sovereign model that are made up of leather covered with grey canvas. My second pair is covered in velvet and with Swarowski elements. So they are much more luxurious and dressed up. They are flat but have some support contrary to ballerinas that I stopped wearing for over a year now, after my physiotherapist and doctor advised me to do so (for many years). I love my slippers, as they are simply perfect for my lifestyle: casual, yet sleek and elegant.
Other pair of shoes that I love and wear pretty much all year long, are my derbies army from Saint-Laurent, my Agnes pump as well as myYazz Leopard print sneakers from Jimmy Choo and of course my good old converses. I also keep a pair of sneakers for working out from Asics, wellies from Hunter for rainy days and dark grey Dakota boots from Hermès.
12/ A Scarf in Your Very Best Color
As now you know your best colors, even if you do not wear scarves everyday the way I do, you should get yourself a beautiful scarf in your very best color. It could be depending on your personal style and budget a silk scarve such as a carré Hermès, a shawl from Louis Vuitton, a pashmina or something beautiful that you could pick up during a travel. It will add color and style to your simplest look. Plus, because it is your very best color, it will make you shine each time you wear it, and you will want to wear it all the time.
I did not include in my list underwears, socks and pyjama. But you should be giving very careful consideration to those items, as you wear them as those closest items to your body and are right against your biological skin. They are also usually the first things that you put on in the morning and the last thing you remove, before putting on your pyjamas.
I like getting my underwears and lingerie from Princesse Tam-Tam and Aubade. Italian house Intimissimi is also really great for beautiful silk top that you could use both as sleepwear and as a sexy top with a jean or even to make a dark pant suit more feminine. They also make awesome pyjamas. I also love shopping pyjamas (and otherwise!) at Anthropologie. Talking about lingerie, make sure that you know your bra size by getting fitted by going to the lingerie section of any department store depending of where you live such as Galeries Lafayette, Le Bon Marché, Le Printemps, Harrods, Saks, Nordstrom , Bloomingdales, any of the lingerie store (Princesse Tam-tam, Aubade...). They are way many women who wear the wrong sizes of bra and you do not want to be one of them!
As for your socks and pantyhoses, Falke, Tabio, Chantal Thomass, Doré Doré , Wolford and Dim are all excellent choices. I also like japanese brand Uniqlo for their minimalist designs and good value for money- their heatech collections are lifesavers in Winter!
This is now a list I wanted to share with my readers here in my blog that bridge the tiny wardrobes of the people of the Sahara with the modern day nomad women.
What do you think about this list? Do you have your own list? Please share your thoughts below in the comments section. Please do not forget to suscribe to be notified when my article about detoxifying your wardrobe and finding your very own signature look go live in few weeks!