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PacKing liSt

By Rosie Dalton


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Three simple concepts have impacted my approach to style perhaps more than anything else. The first was published in 1979, Joan Didion’s Packing List. The second was introduced to the world in 1985, Donna Karan’s Seven Easy Pieces. And the third is a more recent concept, the Five Piece French Wardrobe. Together, they each espouse the idea of a streamlined capsule wardrobe – a personal uniform.

In her seminal book of essays, The White Album, Didion shares her Packing List. This list above was kept taped inside her closet door and it included nine different fashion items – like 1 pullover sweater and 2 jerseys or leotards, for example. This rotation of versatile pieces served as Didion’s style armour, for when she had to leave town on a writing assignment at a moment’s notice.

Three simple concepts have impacted my approach to style perhaps more than anything else. The first was published in 1979, Joan Didion’s Packing List. The second was introduced to the world in 1985, Donna Karan’s Seven Easy Pieces. And the third is a more recent concept, the Five Piece French Wardrobe. Together, they each espouse the idea of a streamlined capsule wardrobe – a personal uniform.

In her seminal book of essays, The White Album, Didion shares her Packing List. This list above was kept taped inside her closet door and it included nine different fashion items – like 1 pullover sweater and 2 jerseys or leotards, for example. This rotation of versatile pieces served as Didion’s style armour, for when she had to leave town on a writing assignment at a moment’s notice.

“A woman is her body, her sensuality, and her tailoredness, so I combined them together.”

Six years after the Packing List was published, Donna Karan introduced her Seven Easy Pieces – a bodysuit, skirt, tailored jacket, dress, something leather, white shirt, and cashmere sweater. This streamlined uniform was designed to take a woman from day to night, office to party. “Every woman was dressing like a man. She was walking down the street in a shirt, tie, and suit because that’s a ‘businesswoman.’ I said, ‘That’s not a woman.’ A woman is her body, her sensuality, and her tailoredness, so I combined them together,” Karan says.

Whatever your uniform, though, there is wisdom in this highly curated approach. It is also the concept behind the Five Piece French Wardrobe, which advocates for a seasonal wardrobe that consists of a core rotation of five key pieces. Each item should reflect your lifestyle and be versatile enough to be worn a few different ways, depending on the mood and occasion.

I was thinking about these concepts as I packed for my honeymoon a few months ago. Which was also when I was putting together the OTC Style Study. And I realised that, whether your capsule wardrobe consists of nine items or five, the principles of ease and versatility should remain constant. And if it fits inside a carry-on suitcase, then even better.

Six years after the Packing List was published, Donna Karan introduced her Seven Easy Pieces – a bodysuit, skirt, tailored jacket, dress, something leather, white shirt, and cashmere sweater. This streamlined uniform was designed to take a woman from day to night, office to party. “Every woman was dressing like a man. She was walking down the street in a shirt, tie, and suit because that’s a ‘businesswoman.’ I said, ‘That’s not a woman.’ A woman is her body, her sensuality, and her tailoredness, so I combined them together,” Karan says.

Whatever your uniform, though, there is wisdom in this highly curated approach. It is also the concept behind the Five Piece French Wardrobe, which advocates for a seasonal wardrobe that consists of a core rotation of five key pieces. Each item should reflect your lifestyle and be versatile enough to be worn a few different ways, depending on the mood and occasion.

I was thinking about these concepts as I packed for my honeymoon a few months ago. Which was also when I was putting together the OTC Style Study. And I realised that, whether your capsule wardrobe consists of nine items or five, the principles of ease and versatility should remain constant. And if it fits inside a carry-on suitcase, then even better.

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