Chic-Cheat Your Way To A Perfect Wardrobe

Can you imagine if we kept all our New Year's resolutions? I, for one, would be so bloated on kale and green smoothies that I'd have no room for all the artisanal muffins and homemade canned tomato sauce that would occupy my Saturday afternoons. What with my regular yoga practice, incredibly organized workday, extensive social group, and minimal Netflix watching, I would probably be more insufferable than aspirational (such is the deep, vicious cruelty of Gwyneth Paltrow's existence). But, there is one resolution — nay, revolution — that I am determined to keep.
It is not a lifestyle change, but a new way of life. It is a philosophy that runs deep. It is called Nü Woman, sometimes spelled Nü Womyn, or occasionally Nü Wümyn, but never New Woman. It is, essentially, a process of feng shui for one's closet.
As much as the presence of many of my coworkers here may inspire me to believe that, in fact, I can wear stripes with prints and an embellished baseball cap with a pair of Nike running shoes and make it look fly, recent reflection has taught me otherwise. While this might look great on someone like Connie Wang or Christene Barberich, I more often end up looking like some kind of confused clown. This isn't for lack of trying. Actually, my 2013 resolution was, quite literally, to dress more like a clown. Several pairs of polka-dot pants later, I felt like an idiot.
So, I'm starting a-nü. What began as a manifesto for shopping and dressing has turned into a life philosophy that dictates how I like my steak cooked, whether or not I wear a watch, and just how seriously I will commit to the facade that I very intensely and regularly read contemporary poetry. But, for now, we'll stick to the fashion part, and I'll cut to the chase:
IMG_6782Photographed by Isa Wipfli.
Nü Woman is a way of thinking about clothing that will allow every item in ones closet to match perfectly with its fellows, essentially rendering a bad outfit wholly impossible. This means you're working, aside from a few bright but simple statement pieces, with mostly neutrals. I've declared many times that this is the year for brown, and while it's not really catching on like wildfire, I think that if I just put down some good, old-fashioned marketing budget and spin this as "camel," "tan," and "beige tones," I'll be more than set. The ideal Nü Woman will mix her various shades of neutral with each other in monochromatic ensembles that can either be perfectly matched or spanning the various manifestations of a single color in delicate delineation.
Gretchen Jones recently started a blog that promises to be quite Nü in nature. Part of her goal is to "see what happens to my wardrobe (and sense of myself) when trends and statement pieces are left out." I think that's incredibly interesting; but, I'm not sure if it's entirely in line with the goal of my own project. Certainly, part of being Nü was inspired by the cringe-worthy experience of looking back at people's wedding photos from the '80s and wondering a.) why anyone would ever have found that fashionable and b.) how there is any lace/chiffon left in the world today. But, it's less about abandoning trends and more about reinterpreting trends in a way that feels timeless and, above all, subtle.
Once you've got your colors down, you'll need to accept the largesse of proportion that defines Nü-ness at its core. I won't ban skin-tight items outright, especially if paired with other balloon-like silhouettes, but I do recommend that you take a leaf out of Tilda Swinton's book and invest in one, if not several, palandrons. Side note: I just found out that palandron is not an actual word, but in fact something my dad made up to refer to my mother's collection of billowing muumuus. I'm still going to use it, because I think it's a very Nü word and I also think that if I said it to Tilda Swinton, she would know immediately what I was talking about without explanation (and Tilda Swinton just happens to be the Nü-est Woman alive).
Like Phoebe Philo's visions at Céline, some of what Raf Simons has done for Dior, and almost every single thing sold at Zara over the past two years, Nü Woman is minimalist with a playful and bold eye for silhouettes and depth of texture. In its minimalism, it can also be restrictive. It requires you to control yourself. The thing is, Nü Woman is far from a pure distillation of my tastes, because my tastes are wild and wide-ranging. I like geometric shapes and neon pink and Wildfox T-shirts that say ridiculous things on them. But, I think exercising restraint through Nü-ness is good for my character. It's also the only exercise I get, so, you know, this is really about my health.
Are you intrigued? Confused? Deeply displeased? Hit the next page (with the black arrows below the shopping credits!) for a visual whirlwind of cool people who embody Nü Woman style on a day-to-day basis.
IMG_6799_cropPhotographed by Isa Wipfli.
Susan Kaplow, vice president, editorial operations. You guys should all feel blessed to even be looking at a picture of Susan. She is the best and she inspires me in a million ways, but for purposes of this story, she is one of the Nü-est Women I've met in my journey. She always wears neutrals and she always looks perfect, and her skin is amazing with zero makeup. But, most importantly, she knows how to make an outfit interesting with just the simplest touch.
Hit the next page (with the black arrows below the shopping credits!) for more.
IMG_6953Photographed by Isa Wipfli.
Her iconic sneakers — how many top execs do you know who wear sneakers, I ask you?! — make even an all-black outfit stand out, and I'm a huge fan of her very fancy but still reserved choices in jewelry, particularly her collection of Arielle de Pinto pieces.
I think Susan may have described Nü better than I ever could when she called it a "no-look look." Her personal execution of the philosophy comes courtesy of Dries van Noten, Rick Owens, and Haider Ackermann, who she says is "so gorgeous...If I were a man I'd want to dress like him."
Aside from her sense of style, I think Susan also illustrates the aspirational nature of Nü-ness. She's a mother of two (and a surrogate mother for our entire staff), and she somehow does a major job while still making it home for bath time. Her morning routine includes very early yoga, "really artfully blended makeup on top of next-level skin care," two cups of Harney and Sons' Paris tea, and making her daughter's lunches before heading out the door in a well-coordinated, cool, and above all, comfortable outfit.
IMG_6894Photographed by Isa Wipfli.
Hit the next page (with the black arrows below the shopping credits!) for more.
IMG_6359Photographed by Isa Wipfli.

Ly Ngo, associate art director

Ly is probably the strongest example here of how Nü Woman can still be very trendy and encompass a strong sense of personal style. Though, honestly, I get the sense that Ly has been dressing this way regardless of the recent resurgence in '90s/Tumblr-core chic (and I mean that as the utmost compliment). She always wears all black, with amazing eyeliner, perfect red lipstick, and the most unbelievably impeccable hair. Honestly, I didn't know that hair that perfectly placed existed outside of the 1940s.

Hit the next page (with the black arrows below the shopping credits!) for more.
IMG_6305Photographed by Isa Wipfli.
Ly's consistency and commitment to an aesthetic is a huge part of what makes her so Nü. Her glasses and that beret are also statement pieces that, like Susan's sneakers or jewelry, set her apart from the very real danger of looking like a Zara mannequin.
Her list of inspiration alone is indicative of how thoroughly cool (in the Rookie-approved sense of the word) she is: Ly says she takes style advice from "old films, books, Twin Peaks, Isabella Rossellini, David Lynch, John Waters, the Internet, etc." Putting together outfits for her is pretty simple, as she wears almost exclusively black, and the result is proof of the changes I hope a Nü outlook on style can also enforce on the rest of one's life. As she puts it, dressing the way she does "frees my brain up for other ideas, everything matches, so it's pretty easy." I think you could probably guess this from looking at these photos, but in addition to an excellent vintage collection, she shops mainly at Acne, Alexander Wang, Zara, and Topshop.
IMG_6163_cropPhotographed by Isa Wipfli.
Hit the next page (with the black arrows below the shopping credits!) for more.
IMG_7061Photographed by Isa Wipfli.

Chloe Daley, editorial production assistant

Chloe here is the Parisian gamine of the Nü world. Her style is very playful with a vintage vibe, but as you can see, her proportions (the loose, turned-up jeans with a Danny Zuko dye job; that insanely cool vest) are spot on. Chloe can often be found in large, flowing, floor-length gowns and coats to match. But, the next day, she'll be in a cleverly cropped pair of pants and a turtleneck. She doesn't have the same unflinching consistency that Susan and Ly have, but she has such great taste that her outfits still always look awesome. Like me, she tends to veer away from traditionally "sexy" dressing, and says it's important "not to be afraid to be frumpy (cue the turtleneck)."

Hit the next page (with the black arrows below the shopping credits!) for more.
IMG_7132Photographed by Isa Wipfli.
Her super-pixie hair is also a testament to her willingness to go all the way with Nü-ness — and I applaud her. Hair is the final frontier.
I recognize that some of this might make Nü sound like it requires a massive (and massively snooty) budget, and it certainly is "upscale" in aesthetic. But, the truth is, it's quite possible to accomplish looks like these without selling (or taking a loan against) your first-born child. Chloe, who says she's currently "in a Jean Seberg meets Tilda Swinton phase," insists that given her lifelong obsession with thrift shopping, she "really can't remember" the last time she paid full price for anything.
IMG_7107Photographed by Isa Wipfli.
Hit the next page (with the black arrows below the shopping credits!) for more.
nunuPhotographed by Isa Wipfli.


Well, as you can see, I am still behaving ridiculously and acting like a literal clown most of the time. But, at least my outfit is Nü, right? This particular all-white ensemble is inspired by two surprisingly Nü women of the '80s: Sharon Stone in Basic Instinct and Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction. You would never think the '80s could fit this lifestyle philosophy, but there are a few select moments that really work, mostly involving monochrome and huge, huge proportions. I still haven't decided if shoulder pads have a place here, but there's a good chance they do, as long as you keep at least two arm's lengths from any scrunchies in your vicinity.

So, I've tried to tell you about this Nü idea. But, honestly, the best way to understand the philosophy is with a bit of Socratic dialogue. Hit the comments and tell me your thoughts!
IMG_6483Photographed by Isa Wipfli.

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