Think of it as mass cooking, but for clothes. Some people spend their Sunday preparing loads of casseroles that they can pull out of the freezer for a quick weeknight dinner. But for almost a year, I’ve spent about an hour every Sunday checking the weather, important meetings, events, etc. And it has been a game changer.
It is an application that has its origins in fear. Fear of fashion. While I was the editor of Glamor, I attended biannual fashion shows in the fashion capitals of the world for 17 years. All this time, I never really got over the worry that my clothes didn’t measure up exactly.
As a working-class girl from the wrong area of Sydney who grit her teeth for teen magazines, I wasn’t one of those crazy creatures born with the cool gene. But I was smart enough to hire a fashion team of them and relied heavily on their guidance to help me dress for the dreaded fashion exam that was taking your place in the front row. I was so paranoid about the misunderstanding that I was planning every day’s outfit for these fashion shows with detailed lists.
Every outfit, down to the belt, the bag, even the scarf, was written down and then crossed out as it was systematically placed in my suitcase. If there were a lot of fashion dinners or fancy black-tie events, I needed a crisp evening look, and if there was a lot of walking around, I would make sure I had lots of comfortable yet stylish shoes. Back then, it was all a matter of praying to the BA baggage gods before arriving in a fashion capital with all my pre-planned ‘I hope nobody laughs at this’ look.
This ritual started a habit. I don’t go to shows anymore, but every Sunday for years, I’ve always had a rough plan in my head of what I’m going to wear each day of the week ahead. A few months ago, I thought it might be fun to take everything out of my wardrobe, photograph individual outfits and post them on Instagram. I called it #weekonawall and I was stunned that it formed a cult. To everyone’s surprise, I’m really sticking to the dress code of the week.
No one judges what I wear the same way anymore, I now have a full, versatile ‘portfolio career’ that changes every day. I am the CEO of the charity Children With Cancer UK, a three-day role I lead along with several other publishing and writing jobs. It’s a trick, but it can be done. If you are regular. Weekdays require particularly meticulous planning. The last thing anyone wants in the morning is to worry about what to wear.
Of course, there are those who like the Mark Zuckerburg route. Famous for his Facebook boss having a wardrobe filled with nothing but jeans and gray hoodies, he believes it’s trivial, a waste of brainpower to spend time deciding what to wear every day. Steve Jobs and Barack Obama also believed that wearing a uniform essentially freed your mind to focus on bigger concerns.
Great if this works for you. But what if you are a busy woman who also needs to enjoy a variety of clothes?
While my wardrobe isn’t devoid of options, over the years I’ve learned what suits my style and most importantly, what doesn’t. I encourage everyone to come up with your own dressing guidelines (if you can call them that) based on what you know makes you feel good, but some of these may apply to all of us.
My own ‘rules’ include:
1. Not tight, like most people, I prefer comfortable cut on most things
2. Statement pieces with quirky prints that can’t be tied to a season and can be worn or taken off. For example, a bold print on a trouser can be worn with satin tops and jewelry for the evening, or with knits and sneakers for work.
3. We all have our little obsessions. I’m shy about my legs and knees, so you rarely see above my calves even if I’m wearing a dress. Spend some time setting your own ‘rules’ and you’ll often create a versatile wardrobe that you’ll be happy to wear again and again, for years.
There will never be any pressure to wear designer from head to toe since I quit magazines for the philanthropy industry, but it was never really me in my old life either. ‘I am the CEO of Charity’ looks pretty much the same as ‘me the magazine editor’.
I guess they hired me because I’m a little different so it doesn’t make sense to be anything but myself. And that extends to my wardrobe. When I joined a national newspaper in 2018, I spent several weeks trying to dress as I thought would be expected of me as a woman in a newspaper – mainly pencil skirt and heels. I didn’t have enough of that to continue acting, and it was surprisingly miserable to feel like I was dressing up to play a role that wasn’t me.
It still matters to me what I wear and what it does for my identity. In fact, just the other day, one of the six-year-old patients we worked with had a big smile when she saw my ‘glitter shoes’.
This means you won’t see many standard “office” dresses on my #weekonawall especially during the winter months; I just can’t stand the look or feel of tights. My favorite look includes lots of colorful pants. I have embraced sneakers as a lifestyle and I think they can look professional if you combine them with polished pieces like a good blazer. I marvel at my 30s running all day on YSL platforms. Who was that girl? I’m usually attracted to timeless pieces: these JW Anderson navy blue pants with gathered ankles are a good example.
The benefit of being this organized has saved me both time and definitely money because I find it has the effect of reining in my shopping habits. Working for fashion magazines for decades means I have loads of clothes. Spending some time on a weekend, really looking through my wardrobe often reveals a forgotten jewel that feels like buying something new to wear. It feels better to reinvent and reinvent what I already have than to buy more.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: “But what if you wake up and change your mind?”
A: This would beat the object. I liked the outfit when I put it together the other day and now I’m looking forward to wearing it.
Q: “What if the weather makes the outfit inappropriate?”
A: It’s annoying when this happens, yes, but surprisingly rare.
Q: “Who has the time to bother to be so organized?”
A: Having time not to be. It saves me incredible time in the mornings. Those pants etc. A process that involves searching high and low is the only top I can wear with it can take over half an hour. Now I dress in 60 seconds.
Q:“How long does it take you to do this?”
A: From having a little mental checklist of things I might want to wear to ironing out everything I might need for a week to take it off, it’s an hour at the most.
My week in clothes
Scroll down to see my favourites, but it might be helpful to know my thinking behind them first…
Mine is pretty standard. A dazzling tailor-made suit with a sparkling knit. I like to wear sneakers for work, so I make sure they have as much interesting detail as possible so they feel like they’ve been considered rather than just a lazy option.
The scourge of my husband’s life is my love for a strange coordination. This one is from Mira Mikati, one of my favorite designers for monochrome craze.
Simple, comfortable black trousers from Cos with a slit twist at the front. The shirt is colorful, full of strange embroideries. I really like happy outfits.
I shoot the royal show Palace Confidential on Thursdays. Viewers love to comment on my outfits, so I thought these gem-encrusted jeans would get them talking.
I wanted to be a mix of writing and meeting, casual but still smart enough. The Paul Smith bag adds a twist to an otherwise quiet outfit.
Here is the squad: