How To Get the Wardrobe of Your Dreams

fashion pug has her ideal wardrobe

I was not a stylish kid. Pretty much the opposite. My shirts were baggy comfortable and I distinctly remember a pair of jeans that got hemmed with glue and that I wore way past them being highwater length. I’m sure there are pictures of those days somewhere; but because the word “selfie” let alone the ability to take one didn’t get big until I was way out of college, they are pretty easy to keep hidden. Wearing a nice fitting shirt wasn’t even on my radar, let alone getting some wardrobe of my dreams.

The Origins of Giving a Damn

I know that not giving a shit lasts well into adulthood for most people, and I applaud them. There’s no sense getting wrapped up in needing these kinds of clothes or looking this kind of way if it doesn’t make you happy and how you are now should suffice for the professional world. But for lots of reasons, some healthy and some not, I got wrapped up in actively crafting how I presented myself.

Do you know how hard that is to do with 0 direction? Really hard. How are things supposed to look? To fit? Where do I find them? How do I even know what I like? Questions for the ages, and ones I’m not even sure I’ve figured out now, or if I’ve just given up on answering all of them. Following fashion and trends doesn’t help, or at least, it didn’t help me. Ruffle sleeves? Turtle necks? Kick flares? I am 100% not into what’s “hot” right now, and also not into chasing the latest thing only to have to re-up next season. More than anything I want a uniform, a template for how I look and dress that I can apply when I go hunting for clothes that fit that mold.

The Answers to the Ideal Wardrobe

As much as there are any.

Dannielle Owens-Reid always has fantastic advice, and this video on crafting an ideal wardrobe is no exception:

In my experience, figuring out how I want to look and gathering the resources to look that way was probably a decade in the making. I learned how to sort of put on makeup. I learned what kinds of clothes I liked and didn’t like, and what clothes worked well together and what didn’t. I learned how things were supposed to fit, and wasted many hours in many stores trying on things that didn’t. I learned to get mad about the frequent “advice” to find clothes that fit the biggest part of you then tailor the rest, but not so mad that I ever taught myself how to hem my jeans or take in the sides of a blouse. I learned that liking how things looked as body-less pieces of clothing, or as clothing on models, could be and often was a totally different thing than liking how they looked on me.

I wish there was a faster way. There is a little bit, with the beauty of YouTube and the internet, but unless you find your doppleganger and they have already done all the experiments so you don’t have to, you won’t emerge with a neat little list of all the items for the wardrobe of your dreams. So you still have to run that gauntlet, however you are able to, balancing your time, money, and how much you really give a shit.

It’s okay not to care. And it’s okay to care. With this more than anything I agree with Dannielle: looking how you want to look makes you feel good, and feeling good is always a valuable investment.

Ura-Harajuku

One of my favorite places in Tokyo is “Ura-Harajuku,” or “the back of Harajuku.” Harajuku is the famed fashion district, composed of a small number of streets crammed with a large number of shops – and even larger numbers of people – selling cool, cheap fashion. Harajuku’s all well and good, I like it okay, and if I can go on a weekday when the crowds won’t sweep me off against my will, I’ll swing through. But I’m a much bigger fan of Ura-Harajuku, the winding back streets that hold all sorts of treasures without half the people.

Dragging my friend Eric along, our first stop was the converted apartment building that now serves as a three-story short-term-rental art space. I can never remember it’s name, but if you stumble on it you can’t miss the big yellow brick of a thing. Since neither of us remember exactly where it was (“Over… that way… ish.”) our meandering walk took us past the little cafe you see above.

It’s a treehouse.

Eric: I thought this was a unicorn!

Me: …what?

Eric: You know, something people say they saw but that doesn’t actually exist.

But no, it’s true, there is a cafe with a tree going through it. We didn’t go in, but next time!

In late February, the gallery space was at about 2/3 capacity, and the only people around seemed to be the handful who’d rented out the space. Even then a few gallery/shop spaces were totally empty, and I had to just leave my money behind when I wanted to buy a postcard.

After poking through the gallery – where Eric was pounced by some photographers to fill out a survey, and I was not (“It’s because you’re Asian, they think you speak Japanese.” “That’s racist!”) – we spent the next hour or two just meandering through the back streets. Ura-Harajuku is a weird little part of town, compared to the rest of Tokyo. Most of the buildings are pretty squat and short, and the architecture isn’t what you typically see in Japan. There were a lot of more Western-style buildings, as well as some just sort of quirky looking ones. Presumably the sky high property values mean that anyone building in Harajuku is willing to drop money on building precisely what they want, and what they want tends to be outside the norm.

As you can see in the top center photo, there’s also a mysterious place in Ura-Harajuku called “The Spiritualism Sanctuary.” There were all sorts of signs outside the locked, camera-monitored gates admonishing people not to take photos or stroll on in. So of course I snapped a photo, and immediately a voice came over the intercomm shouting “No photos please!” I jumped, Eric laughed, and we scurried off before men in white coats came out to tell us all about their cult, if only we’d come this way and sip this funny smelling drink… But seriously, what is this place? Even the internet doesn’t know, which in this day and age is just damn strange.

But aside from that little hiccup, Ura-Harajuku is a sanctuary of quirky (and/or fabulously large and luxurious) housing, cute cafes, and artsy little clothing, stationary, and life goods shops. There’s a lot of thought and care put into the presentation of all the spaces, and though our poor student selves wouldn’t necessarily venture into Ura-Harajuku for shopping any more than we would its luxury brand neighbor Omotesando, it is always a treat to just look. I find something new every time I go.

Shimokitazawa with Joy Li

Shimokitazawa is a cute little neighborhood west of Tokyo known for fashionable secondhand shops, restaurants, and cafes. I’d heard good things, but I’d never made it out there because insert excuse here. But when my friend Joy Li, the awesomely creative mind behind Studio Joy Li, made a surprise visit to Tokyo and wanted to go, well, it was time!

After a minor train accident–we missed our stop, and were of course on an express train, so ten minutes later when we finally got to the next stop…– we arrived and had lunch at the Rainbow Kitchen, a veg-friendly cafe that Joy had read about in the Sunday NYT. She’d clipped out the article, which had reviews of a few restaurants in the area. We were looking at it at our table when the server came by, and she recognized her restaurant and the staff person in the photo! Asking to borrow it, she went back and showed everyone in the kitchen, the returned, refusing to take the original when we offered it because she’d already made a copy. We had fun telling her she was famous in America now that they’d made the NYT. They had no idea a reporter had even been in there, let alone written an article about them.

Afterwards we walked around and shopped, naturally, and caught up. It’s been years since I’ve seen Joy, and she’s always a blast to talk to. At the end of the evening we went on a grand quest for another of the restaurants in the article (which, of course, had no addresses, just walking directions that were sometimes easy, sometimes not so easy to follow), an Indian place. We never did find it, after multiple loops through the darkening streets of Shimokitazawa, but finally we came across a different Indian place and decided it’d to. It was small, quiet, and delicious, though I was a little over-optimistic about how much spicy I could handle in my curry. I spent the rest of the evening eating very, very slowly.

On our way out, Joy paid for dinner with a 2000 yen bill– and was surprised when both the restaurant proprietor and I were amazed and started taking pictures of it! I had no idea 2000 yen bills existed. Well, now an Indian restaurant in Shimokitazawa is the proud owner of one.

Shimokitazawa is definitely worth a visit for foodlovers and fashionistas. It felt less picked over than Harajuku, and on a Saturday afternoon it wasn’t nearly as crowded as other hot spots inside the Tokyo circle. I’ll be back again for sure. It’s a nice way to spend a day.

Sunshine

*These are all ID wallets/coin purses. The bears and chocolate bars had a clear card slot on the back so you could put in your school ID, train pass, etc. They’ll clip to your bag so you can have them hang on the outside for easy access.

I took a walk to Ikebukuro’s Sunshine City (essentially, a mall) on Saturday. It was a beautiful, crisp autumn day, and Sunshine City was the right ratio of busy-but-not-packed that I had a pleasant time wandering and looking at cute things. Some of the cute things included the following:

Also:

Soy smoothie! My prayers have been answered! I wasn’t hungry so I didn’t get one, but damn if I won’t be back.