The power of edited style

By Caitlin Kelly

I loved this, a quote from the late Andre Leon Talley, a somewhat mythic figure in American fashion circles, who recently died at 73:

I grew up in a stylish family — a mother who sported silk saris in the 60s, with a glossy black mink, a father in the most elegant of shirts and shoes and a step-mother whose costly clothing filled multiple garment racks, most often described as “chic.”

So I’m deeply fond of style — but, working in an industry that doesn’t pay a fortune, acquiring it frugally.

The quote above really resonates with me.

This year, I needed a pretty winter hat, blue. Good luck! The choice was beanies, beanies and more beanies (a simple knit cap Canadians call a tuque). I despaired of finding one that was flattering and affordable. I found one this week, on sale in Greenwich, CT, and paid a fortune — because it’s cashmere, two-tone blue and exactly what I wanted. Sometimes frugal is over-rated.

At this point in my life, time really is money. I don’t enjoy wasting hours and hours shopping, whether on-line or in-store; once I find what I want, I’m doing it!

I really appreciate the discipline that editing always imposes — it may not look like it, but by the time you read any of my blog posts here, I’ve revised them many many times!

The writing is easy.

The editing makes it readable.

Scored this terrific tribal rug at Doyle auctions for $850 (including buyer’s premium and tax.)

I’ve lived in the same one-bedroom apartment (!) since 1989 in a rivertown on the Hudson, with easy access to Manhattan, gorgeous views and sunsets, and in a charming historic town. Our street is hilly, quiet, winding and completely residential, our housing costs, for this area, manageable. Moving never seemed appealing.

But sharing 1,000 square feet with my husband — and we both work at home — means very carefully editing anything we choose to bring into our home, what we keep and what we discard. (And yes, we have multiple external storage spaces, including a garage!)

We have a gallery wall of art and rotate other pieces in the bedroom and hallway and sitting room, whether our own photos, our photo collection, posters, prints.

We’re both very thoughtful about what we look at, including furniture, rugs, lighting. Less is more, and better quality always the best option — I’ve found many great things at antique shows, auctions and flea markets, i.e. for not a huge amount of money.

Our gallery wall — different art now and now the wall is pale gray (Skimming Stone, Farrow & Ball)

I do the same with my wardrobe and accessories. I find life simpler and more efficient to own only things I really love and enjoy using and wearing.

I lived in Paris at 25 and have been back many times. Classic French style — buying fewer/better quality pieces — is very much my own as well; I have a pair of monk-strap shoes I bought in 1996 that still look new (hello, cobblers! tailors! dry cleaners!)

I prefer neutrals: black, cream, navy, brown, gray, green. I own almost no prints or patterns beyond those on a scarf or maybe a sweater. This allows me to buy and keep clothing for a long time that still looks great with the addition of that season’s colors or accessories without spending a fortune or shouldering the guilt of consuming “fast fashion”, a huge burden on the environment, both in its production and destruction.

Even though I live in NY — with every store imaginable! — my go-to brands are still often Canadian, Aritizia, and Ca Va de Soi (lightweight sweaters.) Canadians typically earn smaller salaries than Americans with similar jobs, and and pay fairly high taxes — which makes frugality and selectivity, of everything we purchase, a smart choice.

I’ve also bought and worn quite a bit of vintage clothing, now more than a decade enjoying a triple-ply cashmere cardigan found in a consignment shop in…Greenwich, CT. It’s a massively wealthy town about a 20 minute drive east of us, whose designer “cast-offs” are of astounding quality as a result. I have no shame or embarrassment buying and enjoying what other women have worn and enjoyed, as long as it’s in excellent condition — and I often re-sell it later myself.

One reason I’ve always been wary of owning a house is the overwhelming potential cost of furnishing it, at least to my standards! All those windows and walls and beds and linens. Whew!

I’m not a Marie Kondo person or Swedish Death cleaner. I just hate mess and clutter and excess.

Living smaller/better/heavily edited works for me.

How about you?

17 thoughts on “The power of edited style

  1. I’ve been editing for my next move. Just need the essentials, bed, couch, (footstool, desk and swivel chair, dinette,- all thrift store finds) lounging chair. Table for my conversational books. I like dark wood. Just noticed the other day though that since the 80s I have a thing for flowers. I bought a lamp in 1983 with pink, orange and blue flowers growing on a vine. Looking around my place today I have pillows with flowers, curtains with flowers, still life with flowers and drops of rain, oriental tree pictures, flowered dresses and blouses and pants! And I like people pictures. Original art of people walking to visit neighbors, a lady painting her toenails. old women sitting on a bench,, portrait sketches, a painting of my father. Old family photos, a small wooden oriental lady and an onyx female figure.. Been wondering what this says about me. Thanx for your post.

  2. yes, I’m an editor. I only keep what I truly like or love. not really a kondo-ite either, but my space is small and I prefer having fewer favorites over many fillers.

  3. I’ve been sharing 560 square feet with my partner, working from home…(or should I say ‘living at work’?)…since the shutdown. We’re moving from California to Virginia in five months and I’m obsessed with editing. What do we take? What do we leave? Our new home will upgrade us to a little more than double the square feet so our bedroom will no longer be Ben’s office and I’ll have a dedicated space in which to teach my zoom yoga classes. But while I’m obsessed with ‘editing out’ on this coast, I’m also thinking about what I need to bring into our lives to create a beautiful home on the other coast.

    1. Big move!

      I guess it also depends how much you want to (or can afford to) move with you — and make some decisions later when you get there and see the new space.

      I think the 2 most important essentials are color (of everything: ceiling, walls, floor, furniture, art, rugs) and REALLY good quality lamps and lighting (NO overhead lights!) People tend to get these two factors quite wrong and spend $$$$$$ on a sofa or rugs when the physical container (as it were), if really well thought out, will feel so much happier — then you add carefully within it.

      Feel free to email me for help when you arrive!

      1. Thank you! And you are so right about color – something that is easy for me to overthink. You might be hearing from me in a few months. 😃

      2. People tend to freak out over color (and it’s not easy!)…two things to consider are what’s outside the windows (and how the interior colors relate to it) and the quality of the light — northern quite different from southern. One of my favorite words is metamerism (how light affects our perception of color.)

      3. ‘Metamerism’ just passed ‘murmuration’ as my new favorite word. You’ve given me so much fun stuff to think about! Thanks!

      4. Cool! There are also lots of great books out there that helpfully discuss color (and interior design.) It became a LOT less overwhelming when i studied it formally at design school.

  4. David Holzman

    I’ve edited added sugar out of my diet, and I don’t miss it. Periodically, I have to edit coffee out, and I do miss that greatly. But having edited out sugar, I suspect, reduces the amount I have to edit out coffee.

    I have the same stuff on my walls that I’ve had for two decades. Probably slightly more than half are photos I’ve taken of classic cars, a couple are Steinberg imitations by my sister, one is a portrait of me at six drawn by Mika Brzezinski’s mother, and a caricature of me by Shary Flenniken, who drew it on the business section of the SF Chronicle unbeknownst to me as I labored over organic chemistry in a coffee house in Berkeley lo those many years ago. When I looked up, she held it up for me, and then she gave it to me! And I gave it to my mother, and now like a photo of the asteroid Ida, with its moon, Dactyl, which I gave to my father maybe in ’96, that portrait is mine, alas.

    Periodicals are one of the banes of my existence. They come in faster than I can get rid of them. Every now and then I toss a bunch of them, but they are always making inroads on the floor.

    Anyway, it sounds like you and your husband have a nice existence in a pleasant part of the world, which is nice to hear. And, yes, Greenwich is rolling in dough.

  5. I’ve been enjoying your blog posts for several years now as well as the thoughtful comments of your readers. One thing (among others) that struck me in this post was where you mention that by the time we read a post, you’ve edited it several times. I only recently started blogging (last fall) and I’ve been operating under the assumption that to get blog posts out frequently, you just need to well…write them and get them out! I do very little editing. Maybe I’m doing it wrong. Anyway, I always look forward to yours!

    1. Thanks…

      NOooooooooo! It’s much better to polish every post as many times as needed (and that can be a dozen or more!) before publishing. I used to post 2-4 times a week. Now only once.

      I’m a career journalist, so my reputation relies on my published work — so sloppy or careless writing isn’t an option for me! I think bloggers assume readers don’t care or won’t notice, but I think they do. We have SO little attention span left now anyway.

      Thanks for the kind words!

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