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You could almost think about managing your wardrobe like making chili: you probably have a recipe and anything outside of that isn’t really chili; it’s an imposter. In Shocked: My Mother, Schiaparelli, and Me, Patricia Volk reveals her mother’s philosophy for looking crisp and fashionable at all times: every woman should have 24 padded hangers. Each one should hold a piece of clothing that a) she absolutely loves and b) looks fabulous on her.

In her new memoir, Volk contrasts her mother’s conservative attitude toward clothes to the galactically adventurous Italian designer Elsa Schiaparelli. Audrey Volk thought clothes should flatter the person; Schiaparelli saw clothes as an art form that should make a statement.

The senior Mrs. Volk’s efforts to remain chic made her a slave to fashion: she turned over her entire wardrobe at least once a year. Her ideas are so different from how I think about fashion that they almost seem quaint. To each, his own!

Twisting the Volk philosophy

As a twist on Volk’s 24-hanger plan, here’s a practical iteration I have faith in: buy one great investment piece and wear it 24 ways—or at least a number greater than one. Better yet, blur the lines between twisted-Volk and revelatory-Schiaparelli: let that investment piece make a real statement.

This amortization philosophy helps me reconcile many purchases I might bypass if I was only considering the cash outlay. (For years, my father has used this rationale for guitar purchases. Why can’t I?) A $99 skirt like this one from Soft Surroundings is suddenly more affordable when you realize you can milk it for five different looks. In my mind, it’s not a $99 skirt anymore; it’s a $20 skirt.


I love a long skirt in all seasons. Even though Soft Surroundings sponsored this post, they couldn’t make me love them if I didn’t already.

What makes Soft Surroundings stand out for me as a fashion retailer
1) awesome long skirts 2) tops that flatter a mature figure like mine without being dowdy.

I liked the pen-and-ink style skirt in this post so much that I started digging around Soft Surroundings for other skirts. I’ve already purchased two more. Both will be summer workhorses, but in a different way than this one.

Who are you more akin to––Volk or Schiaparelli? What’s the best summer workhorse hanging in your closet and how do you style it?

Life is short. Wear the good stuff.

P.S. I actually thought I was smiling at you when we made these photos! I had a very sobering weekend and I think it still shows here. This post was sponsored by Soft Surroundings.