Fashion Strategy: Versatility

March 5th, 2009 - filed under: The Fashion » Clothing and Accessories

Being an Ethical Sartorialist is a multi-pronged approach to fashion and lifestyle, and one of the major tenets aims to maximize versatility in order to minimize consumerism.  The key to a low-consumption closet is to build a core collection of diverse pieces – ones that can be worn year-round and in multiple styles.

Everyone has their ubiquitous basics, like plain solid tees, nice neutral slacks, and the ‘little black dress’.  But these are just clothes, and what you need to target now are garments.  A garment that dresses down with sandals and a sunhat on a warm spring day, and dresses up with a chic watch and a smart vest for a professional rendezvous, and also layers well with knits to keep you warm in winter.  These targets are not just casual clothes.  Because really, when you put on clothes, you’re just wearing clothing.  But when you put on a garment, you’re on your way to an outfit, and that’s the difference between getting dressed, and dressing up!

For a low-volume / high-impact wardrobe, you’ll need your boring basics, your incredible accessories, and a small significant stash of these magical, morph-able garments.  So, what lends an item this ultimate flexibility?  The most important criterion is this: how do you feel when you wear it?  Believe me, the blouse may match everything in your closet, but if it makes you ‘feel fat’, it’s never coming off the hanger.  Conversely, it doesn’t matter if it’s a chartreuse crinoline – if it’s comfy and it makes you feel like a million bucks, you’ll rework your whole wardrobe just to wear it every day.  Your first priority should always be your own comfort (that’s physical *and* emotional, my dear).

So secondarily, you’re aiming for a quasi-statement piece that will focus an outfit.  It can’t be so neutral that it’s boring, but also not so wild as to pigeonhole it.  Your standard basics will fill in as needed to cover your skin, and your standout accessories will style the overall look.  Your glorious garment, however, holds it all together and elevates it into an aesthetic masterpiece.

This garment may be the perfect blazer, one that fits as though tailored by a lover.  The right blazer can plop over a men’s undershirt and baggy denims for a perfectly disheveled Sunday brunch.  That same blazer could equally as effectively – and stylishly – ward off the chill brought on by the strapless sweetheart neckline of your Saturday night cocktail number.  Now that’s perfect versatility.

And of course, there is the quintessential chameleon: a pair of painted-on skinnies.  Skinny jeans are more adaptable than wide-legs because you can casually pair them with slip-ons and a tank top for daytime, but you also can wear them under knee-boots and a chunky sweater come nightfall.  If you must pack light for a last minute trip, skinnies are your very best friend.

Other dynamic apparel may include a funky fun vest, one-of-a-kind vintage boots, and of course, the perfect dress.  Which leads me to my visual aide – an example out of my own closet – my cotton light grey empire waist spaghetti strap tunic dress.  Whew!


I got this baby for 6 or 7 dollars last spring, and I swear I’ve gotten more wear out of it than anything else I’ve ever owned.  Not only is it perfectly suited to my body type (it makes my boobs look great), and not only does it stand up solo *or* amongst multiple layers, AND not only is it the perfect shade of match-anything grey – but because it’s comfy and lovely and wearing it makes me feel damn awesome, so I do!   This is versatility:



I love this dress so much I wore it, and it alone, while primping for my wedding!



It looks awesome paired with bright pops, shown here under blue and over red.



Simple in summer – over a black tank top and flip-flops, Honeymooning in Mexico.



All the way to the dead of winter, for President Obama’s inauguration this January.


I can’t even begin to show the infinite ways I’ve worn and worked this one treasured dress.  But I think you get the idea, no?  Now be off, you fabulous beauties, and find those golden garments!


  • Amber Kaplan

    I love the concept of “garments”! Ladies are a bit luckier in this regard though…I mean how awesome is it to put on one piece of clothing (a dress) and be dressed?! What are your favorite thrift stores/consignment shops in Portland? I could supply the list for LA and we could definitely come up with some gems for SB!

  • Sayward

    @ Amber – You know you helped inspire this article, Lady!
    We should compile a nation-wide list of the best thrift stores for each city. With our forces combined, and all the people we know all over, it could actually be a pretty cool resource!

  • Maria

    I just adore yout boots.

  • Sayward

    @ Maria – Thanks! I searched for years before I found them secondhand in my size. =)

  • Tatianna

    Your style is unique and creative!