August 31, 2011

Form & Function

Via the always wonderful T Magazine
"I absolutely love fashion. I love doing new things and finding ways to swerve in a different direction. But one of the reasons why I try to use fabrics and cuts that don't go out of fashion is because I like the idea of women buying the clothes and then... I don't know what the word is... cherish sounds over-emotional for a relationship with a piece of clothing... but for a woman to feel proud, satisfied, comfortable and powerful in them, to wear them and get on with their lives." Phoebe Philo
In many ways this is the epitome of how a wardrobe should work. Who doesn't want to feel proud, satisfied, comfortable or powerful in their clothing? Every wardrobe has items that are relied on. The go-to pair of trousers, the timeless blouse, the flawless dress, that special something; that when you wear it, you are ready to take on... anything. 
For me these items have purpose. These garments toe the line between being highly functional (almost a bit utilitarian in some ways) and being luxurious in fabric and cut. One example that comes to mind is my beautiful Yves Saint Laurent dress, that is exquisitely cut, but has the deepest pockets. It's about finding garments that strike the perfect balance. Function doesn't have to mean that I sacrifice fabric, cut, or my aesthetic.  
This week there is a crispness in the air. It's downright chilly. I find myself reaching for one of my favorite practical garments- the trench coat. I know I mentioned it here, but trenches are one of my favorite transitional pieces. During an unexpected downpour* last week I grabbed a trench and headed off to a lunch meeting. My trench coats are workhorse items. I like that a well tailored trench is timeless. A trench coat that is tailored to perfection allows me to look effortlessly pulled together while embracing the elements. 
Do you have items that strike the perfect balance between form and function?
* I must confess I keep more than a few items at the office (wraps, black pumps, flats, blazer, cardigan and  trench to name a few)  just in case something unexpected is added to my schedule.


  1. I have to agree on the trench coat, and also my leather jacket - it just works. We are starting to experience the same colder weather here (the downpours are pretty much daily) combined with morning fog. The early morning frost must only be a few weeks away by now :)

    I would also have to mention the other "workhorses" - black skinny jeans, the perfect tees, and the office-friendly-yet-also-café-worthy dresses. They make mornings a lot easier!

  2. Oh most definitely. I still don't understand fully why anyone must sacrifice form over function. Indeed usually a product that satisfies both requirements is a sign that the product is well designed and therefore generally more expensive, which is why many might not be able to acquire such a product. I think the "fun-est" part of shopping is to find such a piece within the budget though!

  3. Those are words to live by. I think luxury and utility are increasingly synonymous in my life - I do keep a few heirloom items which I don't wear terribly often, but I expect the bulk of my wardrobe to be hard-working. I also see few reasons not to wear beautifully tailored clothes, instead of "saving" them for some occasion in the future. Obviously there are occasions where my job necessitates wearing clothes and shoes that I don't mind getting dirty, but one must still feel comfortable and confident. Life is too short to feel tortured by fashion ;)

  4. I love the look of a trench - equal parts utilitarian and film star glamourous - and wish I lived somewhere cool enough to need one. Like Ammu, with the exception of a few items bought more for their design and and "dream" qualities, all my clothes must balance form and function, or I won't buy them. I'm just not one to dress any other way.

  5. I love trench coats. I used to wear them once a week but sick of the snide comments--but I take full advantage on rainy days. One definite example of form + function in my wardrobe (aside from handbags and watches) is my Rick Owens hoodie. It's a basic item, but with unique details--plus it has deep pockets (as Rick Owens says: "Every jacket I make has interior pockets big enough to store a book and a sandwich and a passport") so I don't have to carry a bag. I wish there was more luggage out there that combined form and function (without being astronomical in price). I almost regret not buying the Le Sportsac trolley when I saw it going for 1/2 off.

  6. Everything must be functional in my closet! I think only couture would be allowed to be more about design than function, as in general clothes are here to serve us. :)
    I love trenches too, but my most treasured garment is my camel jacket, it's beautiful but warm and functional in the same time.

  7. Very wise words! Striking the balance between form and function is definitely something I try to keep in mind when shopping -- pieces in my wardrobe should be something I want to wear as well something that I can comfortably wear. For me, the luxury-meets-utility factor is a priority especially when shopping for bags and outerwear (though I've yet to find the perfect coat!).

  8. Maja Piraja- Yes! I’m a big fan of jackets- they really finish off a look.

    I think we still have at least a bit of warm weather left, but the storm ushered in this really refreshing crisp morning air.

    I like your workhorses. Dresses always top my list. I agree that a wardrobe that makes the mornings easier definitely serving a practical purpose.

    Joy- I often question this too, but I think people have such varying ideas on function. I think it’s a matter of look at your lifestyle and needs. At first glance a lot of the items that I consider functional someone else would consider luxury, but I like garments that are well thought out. I think it can be found at a variety of different price points, but it takes a bit of patience to seek out those items.

    Yes, finding the perfect item within budget is a very rewarding feeling. Below budget is even better:)

    Ammu- “Life is too short to feel tortured by fashion” --- Love that!

    You’re right- it does come down to feeling confident. I’m not one to “save the good stuff” for special occasions. I find that there’s a bit of excitement about the items I wear. I look forward to putting them on. I’m glad that you find your wardrobe to be hard working as well:) I can see you needing some items that don’t hinder you and that can get dirty ;)

    Oh yes there will always be heirloom and evening wear but don’t get as much wear, but they’re treasures. There’s no parting with them. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

    I agree with you about tailoring. That’s really what sets things apart.

  9. As much as I would love to have a closet filled with simple, well tailored, and classic pieces, the maximalist (or maybe the bombardment of fast fashion) drives me to add extraneous pieces, leading to a closet explosion (one that's going to happen very soon). I always try to think about closet space and functionality when buying clothes, but sometimes a giant sale or glasses of wine lead to impulse buys. Some pay off, but there are quite a few items that have yet to have their tags removed.

  10. lin- There is something really glamourous about a trench... I think it's important to have some "dream" pieces. I feel very fortunate that I have a lot of opportunities to wear my dream pieces.

    I like your conviction when it comes to shopping.

    Prêt à Porter P- That's so unfortunate about the snide comments. I'm sure you look lovely in your trench.

    The Rick Owens jackets and hoodies are the perfect example of form & function. I was actually thinking about that quote when I was typing this. His jackets last a lifetime.

    Good reliable luggage is such a necessity. Hauling luggage is one of my least favorite things- so I need something that I can maneuver.

    Ginta- "In general clothes are here to serve us"--- so true!

    I'm not going to lie I get tempted by beautifully designed garments. I'm a girl who gets dressed up all the time, but I draw the line when it comes to being cold or not properly dressed for the elements. Your camel jacket sounds perfect. Stylish and warm.

    Rachel- It's such a balance. Bags are the perfect example- you have to have the right compartments but not too many. Coats are so difficult to shop for. For months on end, all you see is a coat so it has to be warm, but something I enjoy wearing too.

    Kittenmasks- There's nothing wrong with being a maximalist. Everything doesn't have to be streamlined or classic. I think of style as an evolution. There are some items that we love for reasons that are hard to explain.

    I'm one for passing along an item that doesn't work for me to someone who will really appreciate it.

  11. You have such a clarity to how you think about style. I can tell you have style from your head to the tips of your toes.

    I liked that quote. I think you're onto something when you say that functional items don't have to be plain. Well done.

  12. Ann- That's very sweet.

    Yes, the article and specifically this quote resonated with me. I always think of Philo herself as the best advertisement for Celine. She just gets how to do sleek and pared down in a way that isn't too simple or boring.

  13. I'm quite similar to kittenmasks in that as much as I'd love that ideal French wardrobe, I quite like some maximalist garments to lighten up a very 'staple-y' wardrobe. If I had to name a garment that is a balance of form/function it has to be my leather shorts. They're a standard low-rise cut but in leather so it kinda adds a textural edge while being quite easy to wear.

    Btw thank you for the comment- I am really eager to go through all your posts. It's refreshing to read style blogs that are so well thought out and written. You have a new follower!


  14. Sam- I hear you. I actually hate the word staple. I do like pieces that are beautiful, tailored and feel good on... I love when a garment has that special something- even if it's something only I can see.

    You are so right- those items that pop really lighten up a wardrobe. It also takes confidence to pull them off, which is even more beautiful.

    Thank you for your lovely comment. I'm glad that I found your blog- as it's really well written and editing. I will be going through the archives this weekend:)

  15. Form + function is a well balanced outlook on style. I despise having my movement constricted, so when shopping I look for items of clothing that are comfortable enough to sleep in (I've done so in most pieces in my wardrobe) and still aesthetically pleasing. However, I do own things that are solely for function (rain jacekts and wind breakers) or form (leather pencil skirt or impossible to tie romper). Your trench coat seems to strike a perfect balance between the two.

  16. Austere- Your rain jackets an wind breakers seem so necessary for Portland. I imagine that these are essentials.

    Very interesting about not liking to feel constricted. It seems like you've found the perfect balance there. The leather pencil skirt sounds perfect- despite limited functionality...


  17. Magnifique

  18. DearCaroline- Thank you! Can't wait to check out your blog.