Sunday, 11 December 2016

Book Review: The Curated Closet by Anuschka Rees

Following the success of Marie Kondo's "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up" and the trend for all things chic, minimal and Scandinavian, comes the first book from personal style writer Anuschka Rees of the popular blog INTO-MIND, whose tips and tricks for building a simpler and more streamlined wardrobe have now been compiled into one easy-to-read guide. I've been meaning to review "The Curated Closet: A Simple System for Discovering Your Personal Style and Building Your Dream Wardrobe" since its launch in September, and with 2017 fast approaching (where has the year gone?!), now seems like the perfect time to be promoting a more conscious, considered approach to shopping into the New Year.


The concept of a capsule or "curated" wardrobe isn't new - there are many bloggers out there doing a similar thing, but what sets Rees apart is her background in psychology, which enables her to cast a critical eye over the process of buying, encouraging you to ask "why do I need this?", rather than just relying on a 'one in, one out' rule or keeping below an arbitrary number of items. Rees' personal experience is one that everyone can identify with - the rush to 'get a good deal' even if it means bad quality, feeling pressured into buying 'seasonal must haves' even if the trend doesn't suit you, or investing in 'essentials' which might not fit your own style or routine. By encouraging her readers to recognise such learnt behaviours and setting out a new style framework based on personal needs and likes, Rees gives her readers the tools to "discover and refine your personal style, overhaul your closet, and learn how to shop in a smarter, more thoughtful way".

"I didn't have a strategy. I bought clothes on impulse...I've learned how to buy less but choose better. I own fewer clothes now, but I actually have something to wear."


The principles behind "The Curated Closet" might be based on more complicated psychology, but the book itself is incredibly easy to follow, with 270 pages of tips, techniques, step-by-step instructions, creative exercises and infographics, all mixed in with some beautiful photographs of product close-ups and inspirational outfit ideas. How-to guides don't often appeal to all readers, as everyone learns in a different way, but I really liked the range of ideas and exercises included in "The Curated Closet", such as simple pie charts for the more visually-minded and checklists for the list-makers amongst us. Two of my favourite exercises were the 'Style Goals' (p35) - spending time thinking about your current style and what it should look like in the future - as well as 'Things I Like' (p66), a summarised list of key pieces which can be continually revised based on the status of your wardrobe.


Although I loved the book and will definitely be using it to re-evaluate my own style, I didn't think it went far enough to address the elephant in the room: the reason why it's important to "shop in a smarter, more thoughtful way" - because the current fashion system is inherently unsustainable and based on selling as much as possible for as little cost as possible. If Rees is serious about promoting a more mindful attitude to shopping, then "The Curated Closet" should have functioned as a platform to introduce the world of ethical and sustainable fashion to a new audience, and I thought it was a real shame that this was not touched on at all, despite the fact that Rees' blog includes some great posts on the topic (check out "30 Ethical Fashion Brands You Need to Know" and "5 Ways to Build a More Ethical Closet"). I was also disappointed that the "Closet Detox" section (p100) recommended throwing away "ripped, badly stained, or worn beyond repair" pieces, with no mention of textile recycling points or ideas to 'down cycle' items into cleaning rags or other similar items.

Overall I thought "The Curated Closet" would be a great addition to any bookshelf and a brilliant Christmas gift for a fast-fashion addicted friend or relative. As a personal style guide, it has everything you need to start building a better wardrobe, but as a guide to "smarter shopping", it's sadly a missed opportunity to promote more mindful and sustainable practices.

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