Use Benchmark Items to Curate Your Wardrobe

Schutz "Ella" Pumps, in Eclipse

There are certain items in my closet that are 'benchmark' items.   They are the exemplary pieces that I use to decide whether to keep, purge, or purchase other items for my wardrobe.

This is an idea I discovered on my own, a few years ago - although I have since seen other people talk about this same idea.    

The photos below are of the shoes that first sparked the idea for me:  my first pair of Schutz shoes.   Schutz makes some glorious shoes, and as of this writing, I own four pairs by this brand:  two pairs of pumps, a pair of flat boots, and a pair of flat casual sandals.    (Please note that I receive no compensation by saying this.   I really just love these shoes).  

These shoes are the 'Ella' pumps, and the color is called 'Eclipse'.   They are truly breathtaking!  The front part of the shoe is a dusky grey-blue, and the back of the shoe looks either charcoal or pure black, depending on the light.   The shoes are all-leather, including the soles.

These shoes make me feel fierce and amazing when I wear them, and I quickly realized, I wanted all of my shoes to make me feel this way.   

So when I look at adding a pair of shoes to my closet, or keeping a current pair, I ask myself...

Are those shoes as awesome as my Ella's?

'Ella' pumps, by Schutz

If the answer is 'yes', then the other shoes stay in my closet/are purchased.   Provided, of course, that the new shoes aren't a close duplicate of the Ella's.   I do split my wears in shoes, because I find it keeps my feet in good shape.

I started with shoes, but found that this idea could be applied to other clothing.   I compared other pieces - bottoms, tops, jackets - that I brought into my closet, to the Ella shoes, asking myself:

Are these on a similar plane of 'awesome', as the Schutz shoes?

Would I wear this with the Schutz shoes?

Rear view of the 'Ella' pumps

Not long after that, I realized there were other benchmark pieces in my closet, and new questions came out of this realization...

Norma Kamali for Everlast Skirt

This skirt, for example.   I've had this skirt, I don't know, at least five years now.    I've taken it around the world with me, and I pack it every time I travel, even if it's for a weekend.   It's my go-to skirt for everything.  It's Norma Kamali for Everlast, and I bought it new, with the tags still attached, for $29 on eBay.   This skirt is a chameleon:   whatever I wear it with, immediately looks great.   Fancy tops, bodysuits, jackets, heels, tee shirts, casual sandals, with a belt, or without.   I've worn this skirt to everything:  receptions, business dinners, cocktail parties, and BBQs.  

After five+ years, it's starting to show wear.   When it dies, I'm going to buy fabric and have something similar made for me.  

When I look at other skirts or dresses or tops, I ask myself:

Is this as versatile as the Kamali-Everlast skirt?   
Does it flatter me on a similar level to the Kamali-Everlast skirt?
Does this item look like it will have the same longevity as the Kamali-Everlast skirt?

Schutz 'Gilberta' pump, in black.

This is my other pair of Schutz pumps.   I stalked many pairs of these online, before scoring a new pair on eBay for $29 (I did a 'best offer', and was astounded when the seller accepted).

I wear these shoes to just about everything:  with ripped jeans and a turtleneck or tee for everyday casual, and I wore them last night to a huge holiday gala.     Like the Ellas, these shoes are leather, with leather soles.   They are lightweight, and very durable.

When I look at other shoes, or clothing items, to keep, purge, or purchase, I ask myself:

Are these as versatile as the Gilbertas?   
Are they as streamlined?
Are they as durable and easy to wear?

Using this 'benchmark' technique over the past several years, I've gradually introduced better quality pieces into my closet, and purged lesser-quality items as they have worn out.   

I feel I should mention... a benchmark piece needn't be expensive.   Several of my benchmark pieces (a St. John jacket I wear everywhere, a silk turtleneck sweater, a pair of coated jeans) were thrifted  or bought on eBay and cost under $30 each.

I hope you found this article useful!   So on to you... do you have benchmark pieces in your closet, that you use to help curate your wardrobe?


Pret a Porter P at: December 30, 2015 at 8:22 PM said...

interesting technique.
-ps. norma kamali is awesome. very under-rated and been doing the sportswear chic thing for a long time.

La Belle Demimondaine at: January 2, 2016 at 1:38 PM said...

Thanks :) I don't know enough about Norma Kamali, but it seems like her older designs are full of innovative, beautiful usefulness, and the newer stuff - Kamali Kulture, for example - seems kind of 'meh'. Is she a designer that lost control of her brand?

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