No tags :(

Share it


*** Two stories, but deceptively small. I snapped this photo from the tour bus window on the way to Pisa, in part because of the little red-headed girl in the driveway. Who knew that there were red-headed Italians? ***

Two things I remember best about Italy: 1) small living spaces and 2) beautifully dressed people. Strolling the streets as a tourist, you couldn’t help but notice how much better Italians looked in their clothes, which were so much higher in quality that they could have been made on another planet.

At the time, I couldn’t imagine where you would find such quality in the U.S., let alone how Italians stored all their stuff in such small homes. And then someone explained to me that most Europeans don’t have gobs of clothes. They have a few very good pieces that are worn again and again. Sometimes, they wear the same clothes two days in a row, if not more. I’m going to climb out on a limb and assume they do so only if the clothes are still clean. Either way, that concept is heresy to Americans!

On this side of the pond, wearing the same clothes too often is taboo, especially among style conscious people. We keep track. Or at least I do. I do my best to make it look as if there’s an endless supply of clothes that keeps me from ever having to wear the same thing twice, especially if I’m going out. (Tell the truth: don’t you?) To us, less is not more; more is more.

Wear the same thing to work two days in a row? The same dress to an annual event, where I’ll see the same people? Never! Only when I’m working at home will you find me in the same change of clothes two days back-to-back. Otherwise, I know exactly what I wore the last time I was with you. But why? It makes no sense, especially when I reflect on My Ultimate Tiny House Dream.

Coco Chanel had no such compunctions.

Wealthy as she was, Chanel was busy enough that she only had two or three suits which she wore pretty much all the time. She also had no use for a big house or multiple homes. Part of her genius was in knowing that more stuff only distracted her from what mattered most. (Her philosophy on rest shows a certain amount of genius, too.) Luxury, she felt, was the opposite of complication; it meant freedom.

When other designers railed against mass merchandisers copying their designs, Chanel ate it up. Knock-offs would never have the kind of quality she was known for, and she knew it.

I’ve been thinking about this since I splurged on a dress at Enza’s, a special boutique filled with unique, custom-fitted clothes of the highest quality. On last week’s visit, I looked longingly over everything in the store. It crossed my mind that I might be very happy to have one new dress a year if it came from Enza’s. What if I rid my closet of everything except a few well-made, perfectly-fitted garments, suited for long-term wear? I floated that idea with my friend Murph, who introduced me to Enza’s. Here’s Murph’s reaction:

Murphs quote

Yes…like the Europeans…not the throw-away American society.”

Isn’t that well said?

I’ve often wondered where tomorrow’s vintage treasures would come from, given the poor quality of most clothes we buy. Now, I wonder no more. They can be found in unique shops like Enza’s, where you can easily see and buy Chanel’s concept of luxury.

Local friends, here’s a footnote for you

FAS Invite

On Wednesday, September 10, the Fashion Arts Society of the Indianapolis Museum of Art is hosting a discussion of Gospel According to Coco Chanel: Life Lessons From The World’s Most Elegant Woman. Author Karen Karbo will join us at PRINTtext (652 East 52nd Street) via Skype for a fun event, where we’ll explore the many contradictions of She Who Was Coco. All the registration details are shown in the invite above. Come and you’ll be entered in a drawing for some great Chanel loot, donated by yours truly! Be sure to read the book—it’s quick and entertaining, and you’ll get so much more from the discussion if you’ve read the book first!

So many great things going on this fall with Fashion Arts Society. Check out the FAS web page for details on a forthcoming trip to Chicago.

How do you define luxury? When is the last time you wore something two times in a row? 

Life is short. Wear the good stuff.